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Joe Yurgine: Immigration ills need cure sooner than later

November 19, 2018

For law graduates, it might be the perfect time to start practicing immigration law.

With President Donald Trump in office, there is a rising demand for help from people seeking advice on immigration problems that include applications for visas, acquiring U.S. citizenship, deportation, removal defenses, filing for political and refugee status and obtaining a resident permit also known as a green card, to name just a few.

To say the current state of our immigration policies is broken is an understatement. Having or not having a $25 billion sixth century wall along the Texas border has little or no significance in a law office for the complexity of immigration issues go far beyond that. There are multiple ways to enter the USA, without getting yourself hurt or dirty crawling under or climbing over a wall or fence.

In the USA, there are two categories of visas, immigrant and nonimmigrant. Immigrant visas are used by foreign nationals if they want to live in the U.S. permanently. Nonimmigrant visas apply to those who want to simply enter on a temporary basis, such as for study, business, health treatment, tourism or other similar reasons.

In 2016, there were 10,381,491 nonimmigrant visas issued, according to the Department of Homeland Security. In 2017 there were 9,681,913 nonimmigrant visas issued. Many foreign nationals enter the U.S. and never return home.

With this column, let’s look at only one type of nonimmigrant visa issued, which is near and dear to every middle-aged lonely guy’s heart — the K-1, or fiancé visa. A middle-aged, extremely lonely guy is one best depicted by my friend, who told me, “Listen. If my wife died, I’d have to take a date to her funeral.” International marriages are on the rise, and fiancé visas have tripled. This visa often is abused, as I’ll explain, not just by immigration lawyers but by international marriage agencies.

In Ludington, Mich., where I spend a good portion of the summer, the fiancé visa has a lot to do with Russian women and matchmaking on the internet. One Ludington resident has been married four times to Russian women he courted in this fashion. Whatever he was doing quickly spread by word of mouth. In a short time, more Russian women were showing up in the community.

A K-1 or fiancé visa permits a man or woman (hypothetically from Moscow) to come to the U.S. for 90 days. A petition is needed, which is when a lawyer or international marriage agency might come in. It’s not like shopping at Amazon, where, after plugging in the desired age, height and weight you desire, a woman shows up at one’s doorstep similar to an order for Chinese food. The petition is detailed, and the relationship with a prospective bride must be explained.

If no marriage occurs during the 90-day period, the woman must return home, but many do not. Many foreign women know more about how things function in the USA than they let on. They disappear and vanish into America without a trace, erasing tracks and social media accounts and creating a new identity. As was discussed in a previous column, there are already about 12 million illegal immigrants in the USA. So, these men and women just join the crowd.

My point in mentioning all of this is the K-1 fiancé visa, which is only one of the types of nonimmigrant visas issued, is flawed. It has produced the growth of international marriage agencies, a multimillion-dollar industry that is unregulated. As questioned by a former INS official Alexander Aleinikoff, “… given the chance of abuse and exploitation, should we be handing out visas that aren’t subject to quotas where the industry is totally unregulated?”

The agencies are the go-betweens, but in addition at some point they need help regarding the K-1 visas, requiring a need for, you guessed it, lawyers, some with shameless immigration practices who will guarantee “a 100 percent success rate” for a large fee. Anyone interested in a foreign bride and one of these visas should consider bypassing lawyers. There are nonprofit centers and immigration clinics that provide affordable immigration legal services.

To conclude, the elections are over, but the subject of needed immigration reform is still with us. The Wall Street Journal recently came out with this statement: “Mr. Trump needs to rethink his immigration strategy for 2020.” Why wait? There are still eight weeks left in this session of Congress. The GOP controls all levers of government. A comprehensive bill to their liking correcting some or all of immigration ills could be passed.

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