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Simplest solution to immigration problem

August 19, 2018

The need for a statutory fix to a dormant immigration law is becoming more and more evident as stories are published, such as that Aug. 8 by Karen Florin, “Immigrant advocacy group forms in New London.” 

The article features Roberto Rauda Santos, a native and citizen of El Salvador, who is being held in detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for removal proceedings. It states that he “has been in the United States since 2000.” “Prior to receiving (an) infraction, his only other interactions with police were for minor traffic violations…and he has no aggravated felonies, domestic violence or other ‘crimes of moral turpitude’ on his record.” He was returning home from a construction job when apprehended by ICE, according to the article.

Through the media, we often hear of the “11 million” undocumented immigrants residing in the United States. Congress should be concerned how many of them, like Rauda Santos, have set down roots in America while living here continuously for more than 10 years, and contributing to their communities.

We can all agree something needs to be done.

For many months, I have urged members of Congress and others to resurrect obsolete section 249(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, to make it relevant in immigration proceedings today, by deleting the section’s entry date, “January 1, 1972,” and replacing it with “June 15, 2007” (the latter date is the DACA entry date “Dreamers” are familiar with). This commonsense step would allow deserving individuals to apply for lawful permanent residence under section 249(a) if they entered the U.S. prior to June 15, 2007. In every way, it is the simplest and least controversial solution.

In a March 14, 2017 editorial, The Day said it “likes the suggestion of Robert Kim Bingham Sr., a veteran attorney with ICE.” I have repeatedly emailed members of Congress that my stand-alone proposal could attract broad bipartisan support because of its simplicity, without entanglement in controversial immigration side issues — to no avail. I remain hopeful, though, that a member will sponsor this proposal soon.

Who would benefit by this proposal? The many undocumented immigrants and “Dreamers.” They would have to satisfy the existing requirements of section 249(a) of the Act, as updated: Specifically, they would have to show they resided continuously in the United States since entry prior to June 15, 2007, possess good moral character, and not be in a class of “inadmissible criminals, procurers, and other immoral persons, subversives, violators of the narcotic laws or smugglers of aliens.” Every applicant would continue to bear the burden of proof to establish eligibility, whether the application is brought before an immigration court or Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS).

If the application for LPR status is granted, the applicant would then be able to apply for naturalization in five years, or three years if married to a U.S. citizen. The government application fees would pay for the program under existing implementing regulations.

As it is now, the entry date requirement dates back too far for most undocumented immigrants to meet.

The public has been told that the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are stepping up interior, as well as border, enforcement (“Sessions outlines immigration plan,” April 12). The interior of the United States is where most long-time residents with deep roots can be found who comprise a significant component of the “11 million” undocumented immigrants.

Historically, President Ronald Reagan, together with Congress, updated this same section 249(a) of the Act on November 6, 1986. Today, similar action could be supported by both Democrats and Republicans. In this proposal, to reduce incentives to cross the border illegally, there is a “line drawn in the sand,” just as there was when Reagan updated the same section in 1986 by inserting “January 1, 1972.” Because of the proposed fixed date, anyone who entered unlawfully on or after June 15, 2007, would not be eligible for section 249(a) relief.

Experienced immigration attorneys and the press have enthusiastically expressed support for this proposal. “It would be the easiest solution, of course,” said Rita Provatas, Esq., member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). “It is the easiest solution,” and its “beauty is the statute’s ‘simplicity’” (The Day “Retired ICE lawyer believes ‘simple’ immigration law update could solve immigration problem,” Judy Benson, March 7, 2017). These are but a couple of the many voices from various political persuasions that support my proposal.

I again urge readers to write members of Congress and exhort them to update this obsolete section 249(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Robert Kim Bingham Sr. is a retired ICE attorney and formerly associated with Cipparone & Zaccaro, PC, New London. He lives in Salem.

 

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