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Go Illegal? Legal Immigration versus Illegal Immigration and Amnesty

17 March 2010 7 Comments

[Note: Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the DREAM ACT]

Last week President Obama met with Sen. Chuck Schumer D-N.Y. and Sen. Lindsey Graham R- S.C. to discuss passing comprehensive immigration reform. What is known is that a path to citizenship for illegal aliens is part of their plan but what is unknown is how “reform” affects legal immigration.

Using the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009” (CIR-ASAP), introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez D-Ill last December with the backing of 92 house Democrats as a barometer of what may become law, let’s compare legal immigration versus illegal immigration. CIR-ASAP “creates a legalization program for qualified undocumented immigrants (and their spouses and children). Those who qualify would receive a conditional nonimmigrant visa which is valid for six years….”

According to CIR-ASAP, to qualify, an applicant must:

• Establish they have been in the U.S. illegally before December 15, 2009.
• Attest to having made contributions to the U.S. through employment, education, military service, or other volunteer/community service (with exemptions for minors, persons with disabilities, the elderly, or other unusual circumstances).
• Pay an application fee and a $500.00 fine.
• Not have any convictions for a felony or for three or more misdemeanours.
• Certain immigrants who are in removal proceedings, facing removal, or ordered to depart voluntarily would be able to apply for legalization.
• All bars related to undocumented status – such as using a false Social Security number — will be waived (but security and criminal bars cannot be waived).

Now contrast this path to citizenship plan–amnesty with legal immigration.

Putting aside the 20-year backlogs legal immigrants may be stuck in, (as Senator McCain noted during his failed Presidential bid), let’s consider some of the filing fees legal immigrants and their American sponsors pay following the laws in America’s broken immigration system.

First, unlike the Gutierrez bill, legal immigration requires paying more than one application fee. For instance, whether an immigrant is applying for permanent residence (Green Card) through employment-based, marriage or a relative petition, they must file and pay for the I-485 and I-485A –Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and the Supplement A to Form I-485, Adjustment of Status Under Section 245(i) respectively, in addition to earlier fees required during the legal immigration process. The 485s are essentially the background checks before being granted the green card.

According to the latest USCIS fee schedule:

• If under the age of 14 years and filing with the I-485 application of at least one parent. Cost $600.00.
• If under the age of 14 years NOT filing with the I-485 application of at least one parent. Cost $930.00
• All others: Cost $930.00
• An additional biometric services fee is required… costs on average $80.00

• If you are under the age of 17 years, or an unmarried son or daughter of a legalized alien and under the age of 21 years, or the spouse of a legalized alien under the Family Unity Program, there is no fee.
• If you are anybody else. Cost $1000.00

In addition to the cost of the I-485’s, below are examples of earlier mandatory fees and filings in the legal immigration process.

To file the I-129, the Petition for a Nonimmigrant worker, “for employers to petition for an alien to come to the United States temporarily to perform services or labor, or to receive training, as an H-1B, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1 or R-1 nonimmigrant worker” or to “request an extension of stay or change of status for an alien as an E-1, E-2, or TN nonimmigrant.” Cost $320.00

The I-129 petition form notes: “Certain employers filing H1-B or L-1 petitions must submit supplemental fees of $750.00 or $1,500.00 or a fraud prevention fee of $500.00.”

The I-129 should not be confused with the I-140, the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker which costs $475.00, or the I-129F, the Petition for Alien Fiancé, costing $455.00. Then there is the I-687, the Application for Status as a Temporary, costing $710.00, not to be confused with the I-698, the Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Resident (Under Section 245A of the INA) which costs $1,370.00 and so on. It is worth noting the fees change periodically.

Welcome to legal immigration in America. Do the math. It appears that the “path to citizenship” will be cheaper and far less arcane than legal immigration.

So what’s next? Should a path to citizenship become law, should legal immigrants stuck in backlogs withdraw their applications, stop fee payments and go illegal? As preposterous as that question may seem to be, it’s a serious one to consider because that’s the dilemma some lawmakers are creating.

Lawmakers should take great pause before making more of a mockery of following America’s laws in a broken and dysfunctional immigration system that broke under both Republican and Democrat leadership.

Incidentally, during the 2008 Presidential campaign, then Senator Obama proudly highlighted his immigration reform experience with Gutierrez on their “Citizenship Promotion Act.” The bill in part grants community organizations $80 million to organize the immigrant community to become citizens with the right to vote.

The next major immigration rally is in Washington on March 21.