If you’re an American citizen, it’s no secret that immigration and new federal immigration laws are considered a controversial topic of conversation. While this may seem ironic coming from a nation formed by immigrants, over time the opinion regarding immigration has become increasingly more troubling. Historically, the first wave of immigrants came to colonial America from European power-house countries including England, France, and Germany, among others. These first immigrants fled their respective countries to escape political and religious intolerance as well as seek better financial opportunities. Between the years of 1870 and 1930, some 30 million immigrants of diverse backgrounds entered the United States, causing the U.S. to absorb about 60% of the world?s immigrants.
In this more modern era the United States is still one of the top world leaders accepting immigrants and refugees. In 2012, Nearly 41 million immigrants lived in the United States. While this is a historic high, this number, which reflects only those migrants living within the U.S., is only about 20% of all international migrants, accounting for less than 5% of the world?s population. To become an American citizen through naturalization, immigration laws require an individual to have had LPR status (a green card) for at least 5 years.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is part of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The responsibilities of USCIS includes helping to promote national security, processing immigrant workers visa petitions, naturalization petitions, refugee matters including applications, as well as managing all other immigration benefits functions, and granting U.S. citizenship. USCIS works with the DHS to monitor these responsibilities among others, including passing new immigration law and processing the arduous paperwork and fees required of an immigrant to become a legal U.S. citizen.
Many immigration law firms understand how hard is it to obtain a workers visa, but unfortunately USCIS and the DHS aren’t making the process any easier. The Criminal Alien Deportation Act and its companion bill, the Stop Catch and Release Act, was born amid a push from a strong Republican base actively seeking stricter immigration laws and enforcement. If passed these bills would ban the current policy of releasing undocumented immigrants with pending criminal charges from prison. However, it isn’t just criminal immigrants being targeted by new immigration law and federal policy.
Earlier this month a sudden about-face by the State Department left an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 highly skilled immigrants unable to apply to become permanent, legal residents. The majority of these immigrants are from China and India and have been backlogged for years, each personally investing thousands of dollars on legal fees and medical exams for paperwork that is now useless. Lawyers estimate the total loss is in the tens of millions. Because visa petitions are job-specific, many immigrants have had to turn down job offers, promotions, or delay pursuing a higher education or buying homes while they await their green cards.
These are just some of the hardships that American immigrants are currently facing today, but with the upcoming 2016 presidential elections, who knows what may happen to these new immigration laws –for better or for worse.
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