Leaked Immigration Memo Shows Practical Solutions as well as High Hopes

A "leaked" USCIS internal memo (shown below) shows the immigration agency brainstorming various immigration reforms that could be implemented even without Congress passing any form of comprehensive immigration reform. The draft memo, titled "Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform", is directed to USCIS Director Alexandra Mayorkas. The proposed reforms outlined in the memo would serve 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." As Congress, and not the USCIS, make immigration laws, the USCIS proposes these changes by reviewing prior statutory interpretation, issuing new guidance, and by broadening the use of discretionary relief.

These proposed reforms include practical suggestions that should not be controversial, such as authorizing the automatic extension of EADs for up to 240 days after submitting a renewal application, as well as issuing EAD's for two years instead of one year. Also included are measures that are likely to be controversial, such as allowing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) applicants who entered without inspection to adjust status to permanent residence. TPS provides humanitarian relief for persons currently in the U.S., regardless of their immigration status, when events such as war or natural disasters in their home county make it dangerous for them to return home. In most instances, applicants for adjustment of status to permanent residence must have been inspected upon entry, and this would allow persons with TPS to adjust status even if they entered without inspection.

The proposed reforms also suggest a liberal use of "deferred action", and apply it to large groups of people. Deferred action is a form of prosecutorial discretion that allows people who are otherwise removable, to stay in the U.S. Persons granted deferred action can obtain employment authorization. The proposed reforms include allowing persons who might benefit from the proposed DREAM Act, be afforded "deferred action". While deferred action is often used on a case-by-case basis, it has been used for large groups of people in the past.

The USCIS responded to an inquiry about the memo, made by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, with the following:

"Internal draft memos do not and should not be equated with official action or policy of the Department. 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. We continue to maintain that comprehensive bipartisan legislation, coupled with smart, effective enforcement, is the only solution to our nation's immigration challenges.

Internal memoranda help us do the thinking that leads to important changes; some of them are adopted and others are rejected. Our goal is to implement policies wisely and well to strengthen all aspects of our mission. The choices we have made so far have strengthened both the enforcement and services sides of USCIS - nobody should mistake deliberation and exchange of ideas for final decisions. To be clear, DHS will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation's entire illegal immigrant population."


Leaked CIR Memo (7!29!2010)

Immigration Reform / by Michelle Gee