National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Blog & Updates

Immigration Policy Update for June 1, 2012

June 01, 2012 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Action: There’s still time to Comment on the Family Unity Waiver

The USCIS proposed regulation that would make an important change in processing waivers for certain immigrants seeking to legalize their status (sometimes known as the “family unity waiver”) will close for public comment at the end of the day on June 1. There is still time for you to make a comment. Go to this page of our Web site for instructions on how you can make your voice heard. You will also find a list of concerns about the proposed rule that you can use in your comment. The whole process takes only a few minutes.

Appropriations Update

The Senate Appropriations Committee met last week to vote on the spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Highlights of the immigration-related provisions in the bill were briefly summarized in this Policy Update. The full Committee made no changes to these immigration-related provisions, and the Senate’s Committee report can be found here.

The House will likely consider its DHS Appropriations bill on the Floor the week of June 4. It is unclear when the Senate will act.

Rep. Rivera Introduces STARS Act

On May 30, Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) introduced the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status (STARS) Act. The bill is essentially a much narrower version of the DREAM Act. It would offer conditional residency to undocumented persons who were brought here before the age of 16 provided they have graduated from high-school, have been accepted into a four-year college or university, and meet other conditions. After they graduate from college or university, they may apply to extend their conditional status for another five years, during which time they may apply for permanent residence. (See this fact sheet prepared by Rep. Rivera’s office.)

While this bill would help far fewer young people than the DREAM Act, it is unclear if Rep. Rivera could get much support from other members of his party for even this limited version. There are currently no co-sponsors.

Other materials related to the bill prepared by Rep. Rivera’s office can be found on this page of his Web site.

House Passes Two Border Bills

On May 30, the House passed two bills relating to border security in a special procedure for expedited consideration of non-controversial bills.
The first is the Secure Border Act (H.R. 1299), which directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit to Congress a comprehensive strategy for gaining “operational control” of the international borders of the United States within five years.  The bill uses a definition of “operational control” that is not practical to achieve. (We discuss the issue of operational control in this paper on our Web site.)

The second bill passed is the Jaime Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force Act (H.R. 915), which writes into law the inter-agency Border Enforcement Security Task Force program that has been in operation for years.

Forest Service Told not to Use Border Patrol Agents as Interpreters

On May 31, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s civil rights office made public a decision saying that the Forest Service discriminated against Latinos when it used Border Patrol Agents as translators. The review of Forest Service policy came in response to a to a complaint filed by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project on behalf of a woman whose partner died while fleeing from Border Patrol Agents on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. She and her partner were stopped by Forest Service agents, who called the Border Patrol to translate.

Among other things, the Forest Service nationally was ordered to develop and implement a language access policy that provides meaningful access to Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals. Translation by the Border Patrol does not meet that requirement, as the decision states, “It is axiomatic that a policy that causes individuals to actually flee from the service being provided does not provide meaningful access.”

For more information, you can read this summary of the Department of Agriculture Civil Rights Office order and this press release from the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. A story about the Border Patrol on the Olympic Peninsula appeared in the New York Times on May 28.

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