Immigration Reform: A Summary of the Proposed Legislation and Policies

Many people have been checking in with The Gaston Law Firm, P.A. in recent weeks to ask about the prospects for immigration reform. Congress appears ready to review various forms of legislation involving immigration.  

Legislative experts from the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild have described one large bill that would provide paths to residency and citizen for many undocumented people. The bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, would create such paths for people living in the United States who entered on or before January 1, 2021. Certain nonimmigrants in the United States like TPS holders, DACA registrants, and agricultural workers would become eligible for lawful permanent resident status upon passage, while others could follow a longer path that involves lawful provisional immigrant status.  

The bill would also impact other existing clients in other specific ways. It would recapture unused visas dating from 1992; expand the definition of “immediate relative;” take steps to reduce visa backlogs; redefine the term “conviction” for immigration purposes; increase the number of petty offense exceptions to the inadmissibility ground for crimes involving moral turpitude; and increase the number of waivers available.  

I – Attorney Christopher A. Gaston – note that I am not a political pundit, and I am not sure that anybody knows how possible any reform may be. I do not know enough about the shrinking number of moderate Republican Senators who may support efforts to reform our immigration system to say whether or not the US Citizenship Act of 2021 will follow the same path to demise that the most recent reform attempts under Presidents Bush and Obama followed. Some pundits and experts believe that Congress may pass narrower bills that would provide a path to lawful permanent residence for TPS holders and DACA registrants. Others in South Florida hope to see Venezuelans designated for TPS.  

While waiting to see what transpires with this legislation and waiting to see details of how the Biden administration executes its immigration policies, I am advising clients of some general steps to take to be ready to act if and when any changes occur to our system.  

First and foremost, I warn people to be skeptical of immigration advice that sounds too good to be true. It is important to get immigration news and updates from reputable sources or directly from the agencies that execute our immigration laws like USCIS, ICE, CBP, EOIR, and others.  

Reputable sources include many of the not-for-profit legal service providers and organizations like AIC, AILA, ACLU, CLINIC, HIAS, ILRC, NLG, law school legal clinics, legal aids, and others. Mainstream news organizations with immigration reporters like The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, and the Miami Herald are also reputable sources for obtaining information.  

On social media, some people can be confused about the source of information so I recommend ensuring that the source is always reputable. Consult with a reputable immigration attorney to get answers to specific immigration questions, and beware of non-attorneys or disreputable attorneys who sometimes provide harmful advice.  

In the meantime, I am advising people to gather records that USCIS or the other agencies may require in support of any requests for immigration benefits. People can gather vital statistics and identification records like birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates, divorce orders, driver licenses, and so on. 

If a person has had contact with immigration, I am advising them to obtain copies of all immigration documents. If a person has had contact with law enforcement in or outside the United States, I am advising them to undergo background checks and to obtain certified copies of all pertinent criminal records.  

Since the January 1, 2021, date seems to appear as a cutoff for benefit eligibility in legislation and policy considerations, I am advising people to also gather evidence of physical presence in the United States on and before that cutoff date. Examples of evidence may be leases, rent payments, medical records, school records, pay statements, employment records, bank statements, utility statements, and receipts. Copies of any U.S. tax returns are good to have ready too. 

If you are dealing with an urgent or pressing immigration matter in South Florida, contact The Gaston Law Firm, P.A. today at (888) 388-6859 to discuss your situation. Serving clients in St. Lucie County, Martin County, and the surrounding areas. 

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