Immigration Reform?

By: Attorney Erin J. Lee

It has been over a decade since the last major comprehensive immigration reform was passed, and yet the likelihood of another one soon seems unlikely.  Now with only several months before midterm election season begins, and then the next presidential primary season, the chances of a comprehensive reform are even less likely.  Legislatures claim that immigration reform is a priority, but why has there been no action?

Although there have been no comprehensive immigration reforms, there have been several changes within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that have favored undocumented individuals.  One of those policies is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.  To be eligible, you must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; came to the U.S. before your 16th birthday; have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 to the present; were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012; and entered without inspection before June 15, 2012;  are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school or equivalent; and have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.  Individuals with DACA may even qualify to travel.  Those who already have applied for this benefit may be due for a renewal.

Another new remedy for undocumented individuals is the provisional waiver.  The advent of the provisional waiver has also been a blessing for many families with members that have lived in the U.S. unlawfully for many years.  Prior to this benefit was implemented, many families were torn apart for long periods of time, while their applications for visas and waivers were being adjudicated abroad.  For years, families would wait anxiously while the applicant was abroad, waiting to be approved for a visa.  Now, thanks to the provisional waiver, individuals with immediate relatives can apply for a waiver in the U.S., and only leave upon knowing that the waiver has already approved.  This way, the applicant would only have to be out of the country for a short period of time.

Immigration law is a constantly changing field, and new caselaw and policies are coming about daily.  Even though these changes are not comprehensive, they may affect you.  Consult with an experienced attorney to see if any recent changes can help you.