It would seem that efforts to put off immigration reform legislation are under way, even as the American public expects this Congress to squarely deal with the undocumented population and border security.
Conservative Republicans, particularly House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert, have called for so-called “field hearings” purportedly to thresh out complicated issues relating to Senate Bill 2611. But this delaying tactic is not lost on immigration rights advocates. The hearings are not only unusual but are obviously unnecessary given tremendous media coverage and the overwhelming public expressions of support for immigration reform. We all know what is at stake whichever way Congress acts, or if it chooses not to act.
In the meantime, the immigrant community and concerned sectors cannot just hold their collective breath and wait for Congress to decide their fate. Rather than assume a wait and see attitude, it would be advisable for intending immigrants to take steps to hasten the processing of their papers regardless of Congressional action.
For instance, those looking to pursue employment-based immigration may apply for labor certification now. The processing of labor certification applications are relatively shorter now under the PERM, with the new system promising a 45 to 60-day turnaround time from online filing. The filing date of the approved labor certification application will be the foreign worker’s priority date.
With the approved labor certification, the prospective employer may then file the I-140 petition for the alien worker. This way, the foreign worker would have an earlier priority number for the green card application than he would if he waited for immigration reform bill to pass muster in Congress.
For those seeking to enter as immigrants through family sponsorship, it would also be advisable to have the I-130 petition for immigrant relative filed right away so that the foreign relative can get in line for an immigration visa when filing an application for the green card.
Legislators from the Senate and the House of Representatives apparently share the concern for visa backlogs. The recent immigration reform demonstrations have brought to light the appalling decades-long waiting time for immigrant families to reunite and there doesn’t seem to be as much objection to increasing family-based visas to the more sensitive matter of earned legalization.
Despite its severe limitations, the present legal framework for immigration could still partially, if not fully, accommodate intending immigrants. There are certain provisions in immigration law today that could still be maximized so that when immigration reform is in place, the rest of the process will not be so difficult.
Editor’s Note: REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For further information, you may call him at 212 695 5281 or log on to his website at http://www.seguritan.com/.