Hello Everybody. This is Cyrus Mehta. Welcome to this week’s edition of immigration matters.
On November 25, 2002, President Bush signed legislation creating a new Department of Homeland Security, the composition of which will dramatically alter our immigration functions. Tom Ridge will lead the new Department. Asa Hutchinson, currently the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency, will serve as Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security. Michael Garcia will become the Acting Commissioner of the INS upon commissioner Ziglar’s departure on November 30. Attorney General Ashcroft recently stated, “ Mr. Garcia is one of America’s top terrorism prosecutors and will lead tough enforcement of our immigration laws to protect Americans from terrorism and secure our homeland.”
What does all this mean for immigrants and those who hope to become immigrants in the US? It appears that there will be increased enforcement of our immigration laws. There is also likely to be a re-interpretation of the laws through the prism of security. For instance, the INS has been generous with interpretations on some of the harsh provisions in the 1996 laws. People on F-1 or J-1 visas with Duration of Status (D/S) have never been subject to the 3 or 10-year bars even though they may have violated status. It is hoped that such liberal interpretations continue within the new Department of Homeland Security. We also hope that the various departments not dealing with security, such as the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Office of Civil Rights, are able to serve as effective counterpoints to enforcement measures that may be undertaken by more security-oriented agencies within Homeland Security.
The new law’s immigration-related provisions are as follows:
There will be a Directorate of Border and Transportation Security, which will be responsible for preventing the entry of terrorists into the US, securing the borders, carrying out the immigration enforcement functions and establishing immigration enforcement policies and priorities.
The act also establishes a Bureau of Border Security. This agency will be an information-gathering agency and will focus on the gathering of information of foreign students and other exchange programs.
Presently, the State Department has been in charge of visa issuance. The new act will transfer this function to Homeland Security. Whenever consular officers deny a visa, the fact of the denial, the basis of the denial and the name of the person denied will be entered into an electronic data system.
One noteworthy feature is that the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services will be under a separate division headed by the Director who reports directly to the Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security. This agency will be responsible for deciding and approving all visa applications, including asylum and refugee applications.
The act also transfers the care and custody of unaccompanied children from the INS to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Immigration Court system will still remain within the Department of Justice under the review of the Attorney General. This is disturbing as the immigration courts should be independent from the Attorney General.
The Act also introduces an Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. The Officer will be responsible for reviewing and assessing abuses, including racial and ethnic profiling, by employees and officials of the department.
Let us hope that in the event of the implementation of harsh immigration laws, there will be a reaction that may result in more liberal immigration laws in the future.
This segment is brought to you by Cyrus D. Mehta & Associates, PLLC. If you have any questions on this or related matters, please do not hesitate to contact Law Firm of Cyrus D. Mehta & Associates, PLLC at 212-425-0555. The number once again is 212-425-0555. You can also email us at email@example.com
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This is Cyrus Mehta wishing you a wonderful weekend. See you again in two weeks.