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Immigration Updates

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March 2003
Immigration Updates

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be put in charge of immigration functions

On March 1, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will cease to exist, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be put in charge of our immigration functions. The new agency will separate enforcement (i.e. deportation and removals) from the processing of petitions, which will be handled by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS).

In a recent statement, the INS Community Affairs Office (CAO), clarified that INS addresses and forms will not all change on the Department of Homeland Security transition date of March 3, 2003. [The transition date is, technically, Saturday March 1, 2003. The first work day after that date will be Monday, March 3, 2003.] All INS district offices, application support centers, service centers, and asylum offices will remain open at this time. This policy is consistent with a provision in the legislation that created DHS, stipulating that all jobs existing in the current agencies cannot be eliminated for one year following the transition date of March 1, 2003.

Further, the BCIS will continue to accept the same forms and all agencies are expected to recognize the various INS based documents or forms. Specifically, I-551s or 'green cards' as evidence of lawful permanent resident status, certificates of citizenship, employment authorization documents (EADs), travel and advance parole documents, and Form I-94s as valid evidence of a person's immigration status in the U.S. The other INS functions that are not in BCIS will be interior enforcement in the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) and border enforcement in the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP). It is unclear from the CAO's advisory whether these bureaus will continue to be physically located in the same buildings as the BCIS.

At this time, the DHS has determined that our security alert level is high. Immigration inspectors have been instructed to question people more closely as they cross the land borders or enter through International Airports. In addition, the DHS has instructed the inspectors to scrutinize travel documents even more carefully. As a further measure, the Border Patrol's Special Response and Border Search and Rescue teams have been placed on standby and will deploy in response to specific threats.

Finally, on Friday, February 14, 2003, President Bush and Secretary Ridge announced two more homeland security strategies. The first is the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace. This plan includes efforts led by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to coordinate international efforts in cyber security. The second is the National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets.

SPECIAL REGISTRATION

EXTENSION AND UPDATE

The INS has officially extended the registration deadline for persons subject to the 2/21/03 and 3/28/03 deadlines for call-in NSEERS special registration. Both groups will have an additional 4-week period, until 3/21/03 (for Group 3 ? Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) and 4/25/03 (for Group 4 ? Bangladesh, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait), in which to register.

Attorneys from Subhani & Subhani LLC accompanied clients to Special Registration during the week of February 10th. During that time, we observed that after the initial interview, in which fingerprints and pictures are taken by computer, any person who had any out of status stay in the United States was referred to Investigations. They were asked to wait for another officer, and were taken up to the second floor for more fingerprints and photographs. The registrant was then issued a Notice to Appear (NTA), which sets a court date to appear before an immigration judge. At the time we accompanied clients to the INS, only persons with a criminal background were being detained; all others were allowed to leave. An NTA was issued even to those persons who filed a petition under 245(i), if there was no proof of filing at the INS available. For instance, a person who had filed a labor certification that was approved, and had filed a Green Card case at the INS was given an NTA if a receipt notice had not been received yet. The approximate wait time for the initial interview is 4-5 hours, and the process of receiving an NTA lasts well into the evening. If you receive an NTA, it is best to consult an immigration lawyer as soon as possible to get the proceedings resolved.


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