Leaked USCIS MEMO on Potential Immigration Policy Changes

A leaked USCIS document has been quickly circling the blogsphere in the past couple of days . Titled “Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” the internal memo offered a variety of options – relief options – to “promote family unity, foster economic growth, achieve significant process improvements and reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals present in the United States without authorization.”

Just from the title alone you shouldn’t be surprised that it already got the attention of law makers.

According to Foxnews, several Republican senators asked immigration officials about the memo. Their major concern, of course, is the so-called “non-legislative version of amnesty.” But it is the other parts of the Memo that caught our attention:

“For workers in the U.S. whose occupations require frequent travel, or who are seeking permanent residence, USCIS could also build on a regulation issue by the former INS that, among other things, relieved H and L non-immigrants with pending adjustment applications from having to secure advance parole before departing the U.S. Expanding this “dual intent” concept to cover other long-term non-immigrants, including F, O, TN, P and E visa holders would enable these workers to maintain valid nonimmigrant status and travel overseas without advance parole while their adjustment applications are pending. They would also be allowed to maintain their nonimmigrant status if USCIS denies their adjustment applications. The agency could also consider extending employment authorization to the dependent spouses of certain skilled workers. For example, USCIS could allow employment authorization for H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B principals where the principals are also applicants for lawful permanent residence and have extended their nonimmigrant status under the provisions of AC21. Finally, the agency should afford workers admitted to the U.S. in nonimmigrant status a reasonable period of time to conclude their affairs and depart after expiration of their authorized period of employment, performance, training, or vocational activity. The current 10-day “grace period” is insufficient. USCIS could amend its regulations to permit longer periods ranging from 45 to 90 days depending on employment category and overall time spent working in the U.S.”

As you can see there are a few things USCIS may be able to do without the enactment of new laws, and still greatly improve the legal immigration process. This is exactly what ImmigrationRoad has been promoting all along: nobody knows what is going to happen to CIR, let’s start fixing the broken system with policy changes first, which can be done NOW.  One idea was demonstrated in our Light Green Card proposal more than a year ago.

Even though it is a leaked, unofficial, draft Memo, we are still excited about it. It proves that some high-ranking USCIS officials are indeed considering their options! Now we just hope that they can push DHS and the White House to make something happen.

USCIS apparently has been trying to downplay the importance of this memo. In an announcement, USCIS offered their “official” clarification:

“We will not comment on notional, pre-decisional memos. As a matter of good government, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will discuss just about every issue that comes within the purview of the immigration system. … Internal memoranda help us do the thinking that leads to important changes; some of them are adopted and others are rejected…..To be clear, DHS will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation’s entire illegal immigrant population.”

It remains to be seen what happens from here, but to the immigrant community, hopefully the memo means more help is on the way.

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