According to public records, a record number of immigrants were deported from the U.S. this year. In addition, this year marked the pronounced expansion of the USCIS Secure Communities program, a program aimed at identifying undocumented aliens imprisoned in the U.S.
According to ICE, nearly 400,000 undocumented aliens were deported in 2010. Of those, over 195,000 were convicted criminals. Much of this increase came from the Secure Communities program, which uses biometric data to compare the fingerprints of people imprisoned in local jails to those in ICE and FBI databases. The Secure Communities program is currently in place in 891 jails in 35 states across the U.S.
Earlier this month, USCIS announced that it is undertaking an agency-wide effort to shift their immigration services from a paper-based system to an electronic system. This effort, known as USCIS Transformation, will utilize a simplified, web-based system for applicants to submit and track their applications online.
The new system, which will be account-based, will improve customer service and will enable USCIS to process cases with more precision, security and timeliness.
President Obama met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus yesterday, in which he and the Caucus agreed that immigration reform remains a high priority for the next legislature. Obama met with the Caucus Tuesday to work toward a new strategy to support the passing of the DREAM Act, which failed to be passed by the Senate last weekend.
The DREAM Act would have opened the door for providing young undocumented immigrants with a means to obtain permanent residency in the United States. Undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, have lived here continuously for at least five years and are either in college or enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces would have been provided a path to legal status.
In the meeting, held at the Oval Office, Obama “reiterated that he will not give up on the DREAM Act,” according to the White House.
A final rule that amends the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) E-2 nonimmigrant treaty investor regulation processes was recently passed. This new rule establishes procedures for classifying long-term investors in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) as E-2 nonimmigrants.
While CNMI, located in the Western Pacific, is a U.S. territory and is subject to U.S. laws and regulations, the territory has maintained its own immigration regulations to date. This new rule extends U.S. immigration regulations to CNMI, ensuring that the territory is subject to the scrutiny and systems of U.S. immigration law.
Majority Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the DREAM Act Thursday evening, paving the way for a potential Senate vote on the immigration reform bill this Saturday. For the bill to pass, it will need the support of 60 Senators, something that will be quite challenging in the current Senate.
The DREAM Act, if approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama, would provide a path for permanent residency for the more than 800,000 young people who have been in the U.S. for 5 to 29 years. By staying in school or serving in the military, paying certain fees and keeping a clean criminal record for more than 10 years, these people would be able to apply for legal status and, eventually, citizenship.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the DREAM Act on Wednesday night, sending the immigration reform bill to the Senate. The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who entered the United States when they were children.
“This is about a commitment to our future,” said Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Speaker of the House. “It’s about a recognition of what these young people can mean for our country.”
The DREAM Act proposes to give “conditional” green cards to undocumented immigrants if they graduate high school and enter college or military service. After ten years, these individuals would be eligible to receive permanent residency and, eventually, citizenshp, as long as they meet all other requirements.
While the House vote is good news for supporters of the DREAM Act, there will be a tough fight in the senate. While many Republican senators originally supported the bill, the majority of Republican senators now oppose it, considering the bill a mass amnesty for illegal immigrants. For the bill to pass the Senate, it will need the support of the majority of Democrats and a few Republicans.
Starting January 10, 2011, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico will make changes to the way visas are processed. Under new procedures, the majority of applicants will visit an Applicant Service Center (ASC) before their consular section interview. Staff at the ASC will collect biometric information that will be reviewed prior to the applicants’ interviews with the consular section. These service centers will be located in buildings not connected to the U.S. Embassy or Consulates.
Please note that the total cost for visa applications will go down. Instead of paying separate fees for obtaining information and scheduling an appointment, the visa application and courier services, applicants will now pay just one fee that covers all three above-stated fees. The application fee will remain the same: $140 for a tourist application, $150 for a petition-based case and $390 for a treaty-trader or investor visa.
Please additionally note that applicants at the U.S. Consulates in Ciudad Juarez, Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo will no longer be required to pay a $26 surcharge.
A new program will ease the process for frequent fliers to pass through immigration and customs between the United States and Mexico. The pilot program will be an expansion of the Global Entry program.
Applicants for the new pilot program will be required to pass robust background checks and will additionally be required to provide biometrical data. If approved for participation, the applicants will be able to use Global Entry kiosks at U.S. airports to receive travel approval, after providing their passports or resident cards, providing digital fingerprints and answering customs declaration questions on the kiosk.
USCIS has published an interim memo regarding fee waiver processes in relation to the new application and petition fee increases that went into effect on November 23, 2010. USCIS has now developed a new Form I-912, the Request for Fee Waiver, to support the fee-waiver request process. The form became available for public use on November 23. The form is the standard means to request a fee waiver and is intended, USCIS says, “to bring clarity and consistency to the fee-waiver process.” Learn more about the fee waiver guidelines at http://bit.ly/frcQfS.