On August 2, 2017, the current administration unveiled a plan designed to convert the existing U.S. immigration system into a skill or merit-based structure, which would drastically curb documented immigration (as opposed to undocumented). While on paper, the plan merely appears to suggest mere procedural changes, conservative estimates show it would lead to a drop of approximately 50 percent in immigration overall, especially among those from non-English-speaking countries.
Uninformed pundits have been characterizing this as a positive, arguing that other immigrants will receive faster service than they would otherwise, and no one “undeserving” will be able to jump the proverbial queue. In reality, this is simply not how the U.S. immigration system works, and clearing up misconceptions like this can actually work in everyone’s favor—even citizens’.
Immigration is Not a Zero Sum Game
The popular perception is that there is one long line to gain admittance to the U.S., even among some potential immigrants, but certainly among U.S. citizens. Anyone who is undocumented or otherwise gets to go through the immigration process quicker than others is receiving ‘preferential treatment,’ under this view. This is simply not the case—the reality is more like several very large, isolated groups. There are so many categories of immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and there is a corresponding “line” for each. Each prospective immigrant (aside from refugees) is granted a priority date when he or she applies, and he or she must wait until his or her priority date comes up in the queue. Their case has no bearing on how quickly anyone else’s is reviewed.
For example, a citizen of Japan might apply for an immigrant visa based on an immediate family relationship to a U.S. citizen, with his or her application being received on September 1, 2017. That is their priority date. If one consults the State Department’s Visa Bulletin, one can see the listing of current priority dates—that is, those who now have the chance to be awarded visas.
In the most recent visa bulletin, one can see that the relevant priority date for someone making a family-based immigration petition is listed as 22 December 2010. This means that anyone who applied for an immigrant visa on or before December 22, 2010 may only just now receive his or her visa. Someone with a priority date in 2017 would have a very long time to wait.
There is No “Line” for Undocumented People
Another common myth propagated to the detriment of all immigrants is that undocumented people should ‘get to the back of the line.’ While in another discipline, this might be logical, in truth there is no “line” which is open to the undocumented, not even those who were brought to the U.S. as children.
The rationale often given for declining to show mercy is that undocumented immigrants have committed a crime in coming to this country, regardless of intent—and that is simply not accurate. Being undocumented has two parts that may or may not apply to any given case—unlawful entry, or entry without inspection (EWI), and unlawful presence. EWI is a federal misdemeanor, and while unlawful presence is a civil violation that can have severe immigration consequences, it is not a crime.
However, the problem is that no differentiation is made between someone who overstays a visa and someone who commits the crime of illegal entry. Those with no criminal record still face deportation and a bar to returning to the U.S. for a term of years. If someone is, for example, a young child when his or her parents bring him or her into the country without documentation or overstay their visas, then he or she had no say in coming to the U.S.—the fact that he or she is penalized the same way as those who actually have committed crimes is seen by many as unjust.
Contact an Immigration Attorney
The United States immigration system is imperfect, but its rules are set down in the law and not governed by popular misconceptions. Immigrants who have been granted a visa are not taking ‘resources’ from anyone. If you are undocumented, you may feel as though you have no choice but to remain under the radar. The passionate Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help in both situations. Contact our office today to set up an initial consultation.
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