Justice Department Clarifies Rule Requiring Noncitizens to Inform the INS of Changes of Address

A high number of noncitizens do not follow one of the central rules of immigration law: informing the INS of a change of address within ten days of such a change. This regulation was enacted fifty years ago in Section 265(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and any infringement can be considered a criminal offense.

However, the INS has not effectively enforced this law over the years. This lack of effective enforcement has led to an impairment of the U.S. government’s ability to enforce immigration laws in a speedy manner, and to locate noncitizens when necessary.

In direct response to this problem, the Attorney General is amending current regulations and forms to enhance and promote adherence to this legal requirement. Clear indications of noncitizens’ responsibilities to provide accurate current addresses to the INS will be incorporated into over thirty forms.

This rule will help avoid problems that may arise when the INS loses track of noncitizens within the U.S. This rule is also an important part of the Justice Department’s efforts to more successfully track noncitizens in the United States, and will aid the department in its continued efforts to enact the entry-exit tracking system, mandated by Congress to be fully functional by 2005.

The nearly three dozen improved Address Forms will ensure that noncitizens fully understand their obligation to provide accurate residential information to the INS. These improved forms do not require any further information; they simply enhance information about noncitizens’ rights and responsibilities.

Any time a noncitizen files one of these forms, they are acknowledging their obligation to provide change of address information to the INS. Noncitizens also recognize the consequences of not informing the INS of any change of address. Along with providing for a better tracking system, this new rule will also clarify the law for the INS, and will enable noncitizens to better exercise their rights when placed in removal proceedings.

U.S. and Canada Meet to Establish Safe Third Country Agreement

The Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Department of State have started formal negotiations with Canadian officials in order to establish an agreement to limit access of asylum seekers to only one of the two countries. A draft agreement of this safe third country agreement was published June 25, 2002 and is available online at http://www.ins.gov/graphics/lawsregs/US_Canada_Draft.htm.

Both Canada and the United States are party to the 1951 Geneva Convention regarding the status of refugees in which they affirmed obligation to protect refugees in a burden-sharing manner. In the recently published draft agreement between the two nations, it is stated in particular that both nations reaffirm their “mutual obligations to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.” However, in order to ensure the safest and most orderly processes, both countries are dedicated to clarifying their obligations and ensuring that asylum seekers, under appropriate conditions, are limited to only one of the two nations.

The U.S. Government will solicit public views on this proposed safe third country agreement Thursday, August 1, 2002, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Immigration and Naturalization Service Headquarters, 425 I Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20536, Shaughnessy Conference Room, Sixth Floor

Bush Orders Expedited Naturalization of Aliens and Noncitizen Nationals in the U.S. Military

By Executive Order, President George W. Bush announced July 3 the expedited naturalization of aliens and non-citizen nationals serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during the period of conflict against global terrorism. According to Bush, all applicable military non-citizens will be excepted from normal requirements for citizenship during this period of conflict.

“I designate as a period in which the Armed Forces of the United States were engaged in armed conflict with a hostile foreign force the period beginning on September 11, 2001,” says Bush. “Such period will be deemed to terminate on a date designated from future Executive Order. Those persons serving honorably in active-duty status in the Armed Forces of the United States, during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and terminating on the date to be so designated, are eligible for naturalization in accordance with the statutory exception of the naturalization requirements, as provided in section 329 of the [Immigration and Nationality] Act.”

President Bush is vested with the authority to enact such an order by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America.

Foreign Student Tracking System Starts July 1, 2002

The preliminary enrollment period for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) officially started July 1, 2002. SEVIS, the INS internet tracking program, enables schools and program sponsors accepting foreign students to submit electronic information and event notifications about alien students to the INS and Department of State.

“The beginning of this enrollment period brings us one step closer to implementing SEVIS,” INS Commissioner James Ziglar recently said. “SEVIS promises to revolutionize the way information about foreign students is shared between schools and INS.”

This preliminary enrollment period is applicable only to accredited postsecondary, vocational and language schools; public schools meeting local or state educational requirements; and accredited private elementary and secondary schools. All participating schools must be INS-approved to accept students under F (academic) and/or M (vocational) visas.

The preliminary enrollment period will be active until, at the very least, August 16, 2002. While there presently is no enrollment fee, once the new interim rule is issued, all applicable schools will be required to pay a standard certification fee. Further, schools wishing to accept or continue to accept foreign students will be subject to on-site review every two years.

Gekas Introduces Sweeping Immigration Reform Bill

Congressman George W. Gekas (R-Pa.), chairman, House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims, recently announced a new act aimed at creating massive immigration reform. The SAFER (Securing America’s Future through Enforcement Reform) Act, if enacted into law, will create immense changes in present immigration policies. “Our immigration system is in desperate need of reform,” Gekas said. “It is not just a matter, as some have claimed, of fixing the student visa program or the tourist visa program.”

The SAFER Act calls for reform in six areas of immigration policy:

Securing the border

· Penalties against alien smugglers will be increased.
· The Border Patrol will be increased to more than 16,000 officers.
· The President will be enabled to use the military to supplement Border Patrol officers in protection against terrorists, drug smugglers and other illegal activities.

Tracking Aliens in the U.S.

· It will be required to track all aliens entering and leaving the U.S.
· The Foreign Student Tracking system will be required to be fully functional by January 2003. Schools will be further required to inform INS on courses taken by foreign students.
· All long-term visitors and residents will be required to be fingerprinted. Visitors and residents must also regularly register their locations with the INS.
· Bail bondspersons will be allowed to pursue violating nonimmigrants.

Screening Aliens Seeking Admission

· The number of INS inspection officers will be increased.
· The State Department will be required to hold in-person interviews with all visa applicants.
· All aliens will be required to have passports with biometric identifiers.
· Economic funding to research visa fraud will be increased.
· Schools wishing to recruit aliens will be subject to more rigorous screening processes.

Removing Alien Terrorists, Criminals and Human Rights Violators

· Aliens who are members of terrorist groups, support terrorism or provide funding for terrorist groups will be deported in a more speedy fashion.
· A more rigorous asylum process will be created to ensure terrorists can not receive asylum.
· Aliens convicted of murder, rape or sexual abuse of minors will be required to be deported.
· Human rights violators will not be allowed entry into the U.S. Human rights violaters, along with criminals, will also not be allowed to seek asylum in the U.S.

Enhancing Enforcement of the Immigration and Nationality Act in the Interior

· Documents such as birth certificates, drivers’ licenses and Social Security cards will be made more resistant to counterfeit.
· The number of INS investigators will be increased.
· Overstaying a visa for more than six months will be a federal crime.
· The INS’s power to detain aliens will be doubled.
· Immigration lawyers’ ability to utilize abusive techniques in deportation proceedings will be minimized. Overzealous court reviews of deportation orders will also be minimized.
· Employers will be required to check new employees’ social security numbers.
Reforming Legal Immigration

· An Office of Citizenship will be created within the INS to encourage the importance and meaning of naturalization.
· Visas will not be issued to individuals from nations known to be state sponsors of terrorism.
· Legal immigration levels will be minimized by roughly twenty percent.