Mr. Lee's Comment to March 28, 2007 White House Immigration Reform Proposal - Z Visas

By Alan Lee, Esq.

To everyone except right wing conservatives, the Administration's unveiling of some elements of a comprehensive immigration reform legislation on March 28th is dead even as a starting point. Ungenerous in the extreme, it makes a mockery of President Bush's promises to the leaders of Mexico and Guatemala on his recent trip that he would push for such a bill. If the idea is to balance the U.S. budget on the backs of undocumented immigrants, that is the one aim that would be accomplished under the proposal that the current undocumented could qualify for three year "Z" visas in which all Z visa holders would pay $3,500 every three years and, after an interminable waiting period with no realistic end, pay a $10,000 fine on top of undisclosed application fees to obtain permanent residence. As a mark of how long undocumented immigrants could wait, the Z visa is indefinitely renewable. However, the proposal does not include an increase in immigrant visa numbers, only a restructuring to place parents on a waiting list, eliminate the F-2B and F-3 visa categories for adult children of permanent residents and U.S. citizens, the F-4 category for siblings of U.S. citizens, and the DV diversity visa lottery program. This proposal would also require fresh applications for all backlogged family preference cases already filed along with the collection of updated information, biometric identifiers, and a $500 per person fee. The Bush Administration justifies the heavy fees for Z visa holders under the rubric that "The eventual effect will be the equivalent of a felony fine broken into installments" and that "While substantial, these penalties are modest compared to smuggler's fees and, especially, the economic benefit to the migrant of coming to the U.S." The Administration appears to conveniently forget that coming to the U.S. illegally or staying in the U.S. illegally is a civil offense and not a felony. It is apparent that the penalties and fees as outlined in the proposal would not entice many of the undocumented to emerge. A family of four having to apply for two extensions of Z visas (nine years) would pay $82,000 to immigrate under the figures of the proposal. That figure would not include application fees for the green card which were not disclosed. Hopefully this proposal is dismissed by Congress as an affront to realistic comprehensive immigration reform. The proposal is truly a disappointment.

The author is a 26+ year practitioner of immigration law based in New York City. He was awarded the Sidney A. Levine prize for best legal writing at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1977 and has written extensively on immigration over the past years for the ethnic newspapers, World Journal, Sing Tao, Pakistan Calling, Muhasha and OCS. He has testified as an expert on immigration in civil court proceedings and was recognized by the Taiwan government in 1985 for his work protecting human rights. His article, "The Bush Temporary Worker Proposal and Comparative Pending Legislation: an Analysis" was Interpreter Releases' cover display article at the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in 2004, and his victory in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in a case of first impression nationwide, Firstland International v. INS, successfully challenged INS' policy of over 40 years of revoking approved immigrant visa petitions under a nebulous standard of proof. Its value as precedent, however, was short-lived as it was specifically targeted by the Administration in the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004.

This article 2007 Alan Lee, Esq.


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