Dear Dailykos Community: May 3 marked my third-year anniversary as a member here. Since joining, I have not looked back. I really dig this place--good and bad. I lurked for a long time, and recently, I started to write a little bit with encouragement from another member. Thank you.
That said, I have noticed that immigration law reform discussions have become a topic of interest for more and more people during the prior year or so. I recently read a diary by Kos wherein he stated that immigration law reform is his top priority, despite the fact that it is not rated so highly, overall. I was inspired by his statement because, honestly, when I committed to becoming an immigration lawyer in 1999, it was not by choice or professional preference. More below the orange fold thing about how much that has changed since 1999.
You see, I am half-Japanese, and I lived in Japan as an alien, myself, during my formative years (high school) and then again as a JET (alternative language teacher) after graduating from university and before attending law school. My mother is a Japanese women hailing from the Tokyo metropolitan region (Kanto), and my father is of Scandinavian/Dutch ancestry, hailing from the Midwest. My mother recently retired back to the U.S. after moving to Japan, post divorce from my father, in the 80s. I went with her as her only child. America to Japan at age 12--what an interesting (and great, it turns out) shock that was, but I digress.
I speak Japanese fluently, and defending Japanese criminals is not a booming business in the U.S., last time I checked. So here I am with approximately 13 years under my belt practicing immigration law exclusively. It is where my language abilities and market forces took me. At this point, I am glad, however.
And I am feeling a desire to share aspects of my professional life with the Dailykos community since CIR is about to come back in a big, big way. This, folks, is a very important deal, and it is going to take a lot of Americans becoming familiar with some of the intricate and, frankly, weird aspects of our current immigration law system. This is essential, IMO, if we are to collectively make things better and not worse when we get that singular, once-in-a-couple-of-decades chance to do so.
Therefore, I am going to write short articles over the coming weeks, if there is interest, about how our current policies affect the fabric of our society. Today, I will start with a very brief introduction of some general terms and explanations that all interested parties will have to become familiar with during the upcoming CIR debates, discussions, etc. Here we go . . . .
1. "CIR" stands for Comprehensive Immigration Reform--what will this mean in the end? That is anybody's guess if and when a bill gets to the President's desk. At any rate, the operating concept is "comprehensive." Hopefully, it will be much better than our current system. "Sucky comprehensive" would be pointless, so here's to hoping.
2. The three major federal bodies that touch the administrative side of immigration law substantially (as opposed to the enforcement side) are: 1) USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services); 2) USDOS (U.S. Department of State); and 3) USDOL (U.S. Department of Labor).
3. "Visa" versus "status." Often, these terms are used interchangeably, but they do, in fact, refer to very distinct aspects within the entire immigration law apparatus. "Status" is what the USCIS has the exclusive power to give or not.
Note: Very generally, a visa is a stamp (it is a glued paper stamp today), that is placed in one's passport, that signifies a) the alien has appeared abroad at a post as an applicant, having been confirmed as the correct/legal/bono fide "beneficiary" of the main "petition;" b) appears to be normal (no criminal and/or transmittable disease issues); and c) the Department of State has determined that the alien may present him or herself for inspection for admission at a U.S. POE (port of entry).
For example, Alien Ms. A possesses an H-1B visa stamp that is based on an H-1B approval from a USCIS service center having jurisdiction over the petitioner's intended place of employment. Alien A then takes a flight to the U.S. and presents herself for inspection at ABC Airport. When asked about her anticipated wage, Alien A says something damaging such as my "prevailing wage will be -X," when in fact it is required to be "+Y." USCIS then conducts a secondary inspection (personal interview in another room) and decides to deny entry to Alien Ms. A. At this point, Alien Ms. A is either permitted to withdraw her application for admission or is placed in expedited removal proceedings. Either way, you get the point--a visa stamp merely allows one to try to enter the U.S. If Alien A had been admitted, on the other hand, she would be present in the United States, holding H-1B status.
4. Form I-94 (which is about to be phased out, nationwide--more on this later) is the one document that indicates until when an alien may remain legally present in the U.S. As long as the I-94 is current, it is irrelevant if that Alien's visa stamp expires, post-admission.
5. Removal proceedings encompass the older law distinctions of "deportation" proceedings (kicking one out) and "exclusion" proceedings (keeping one from getting in). You now have removal proceedings for "aliens present" in the U.S. and removal proceedings for "arriving aliens."
So that is a brief writeup about some of the issues I would like cover. Of course, bursts of boredom may have just happened. Please believe me when I say this is a "tip of the iceberg" kind of intro post. Although my time to write is limited by my job requirements, I am happy to explain our immigration system to fellow Kossacks, if there is interest.
If crickets, well, I'll just keep up with all of my favorite cannabis legalization blogs!