Immigration Debated, Not Much Said


President Obama and Governor Romney addressed immigration in a debate setting for the first time Tuesday night. The transcript of their remarks can be found at ABC News Univision , and further coverage and commentary can be found from the New York Times, Washington Post, ImmigrationProf Blog, Colorlines, Greg Siskind, and the Huffington Post.


The National Journal reports that of all the topics hitting twitter during the debate immigration had the largest response. This is not surprising given the lack of attention the issue has gotten in the current election cycle. However, I hardly think this is surprising due to the rather sad state of the U.S. economy.


At any rate, I didn’t find anything either candidate said that surprising or compelling. Both began with the oft used “we are a nation of immigrants” and touted their desire to streamline the system, secure the border, and fix illegal immigration.


I would be impressed if either candidate presented a vision for an immigration system that is compatible with today’s global reality.


Missing from the immigration conversation is that the US is bleeding entrepreneurs due to the byzantine labyrinthine immigration system. Missing was attention paid to legal immigrants who have spent thousands of dollars on filing fees, legal fees and played the immigration waiting game for years in order to come here legally. Missing was acknowledgement that Americans do not have a desire to live in a society where we are constantly asked for our “papers.” Anyone who thinks this burden would not fall disproportionately on Latinos and other minority groups are kidding themselves – perpetual paper showing is not a hallmark of a free society. The headaches this mentality causes is on display in Georgia where residents in need of professional licenses are experiencing massive delays in renewing and obtaining new licenses due to new proof of legal presence in the U.S. requirements.


Victor Johnson at NAFSA sums it up well:


The truth is, today’s world of global mobility bears little resemblance to where we were generations ago when the basic structure of U.S. immigration law was created. We need a new, sustainable national policy now. NAFSA supports comprehensive immigration reform that is based on facts, fairness, and a shared future. True comprehensive reform must address the three pillars of border security and enforcement, broad visa reform, and resolution of undocumented persons.


I hope whoever is elected in November is able to move beyond talking points and craft a practical and just solution.


How Does the Deporter-In-Chief Do It?

By: Danielle Huntley, Esq.  

The most frequent questions I get asked when a new person finds out I am an immigration lawyer is “so what do you think we should do about illegal immigration, why can’t we just send them home?” The second most frequent question I get asked is what I think of President Obama’s record number of removals. He has removed so many illegal aliens he is sometimes colloquially referred to as the “deporter-in-chief.” My follow-up question to both inquiries is to ask what they think the removal process looks like. I hear variations on this theme: “the illegal alien gets picked up by Immigration and put on a plane back to their home country.”


This prompts me to begin a series of posts on removal proceedings and how the process actually works.


Today, I will start with grounds for removal from the United States. An alien is deemed removable under six broad categories [8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)-(6) – I’m including the statutory cite because it drives me crazy when they are not included in a blog entry]. The six categories are:


  1. Aliens who were not admissible to the U.S. at the time they entered the U.S., when they applied for the green card, or have violated their status in some other way. Included in this category are aliens who do not leave after their visa has expired, and aliens who enter the country illegally.
  2. Aliens convicted of certain criminal offenses;
  3. Aliens who fail to register or use false documents;
  4. Aliens who trigger certain national security issues;
  5. Aliens who have become public charges, and cannot show that the cause of becoming a public charge arose after entering the U.S.; and,
  6. Aliens who unlawfully vote.

These categories apply to all aliens in the U.S. from those present in the U.S. with a tourist visa to legal permanent residents who hold the green card.


In my next post in this series I will discuss how an alien who falls into one of the six categories above comes to the attention of the appropriate immigration authorities.