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New Immigration Law Takes Effect on April 1

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, enacted by Congress on September 30, 1996, took full effect on April 1, 1997. The new law is restrictive and harsh. The new law will have a dramatic impact on the American families and businesses alike. Some of its more onerous provisions are:

A sponsor of a family member will be required to sign an Affidavit of Support that is legally enforceable, proving that he/she will support the immigrating family member at 125% of the official poverty level, until the family member becomes a U.S. citizen or works 40 qualifying quarters of work.

Anyone who overstays a period of authorized stay (as recorded on the I-94 form), even for one day, has his/her visa automatically voided, even if it was a multiple entry visa. The person will be required to apply for a new visa at the consulate at his/her country of nationality.

Anyone who remains in the U.S. unlawfully for 180 days after April 1, 1997 will be barred from reentering the U.S. for three years. Anyone who remains in the U.S. for one year after April 1, 1997 will be barred from reentering the U.S. for 10 years.

Anyone who has been deported, and who tries to reenter without inspection, will be barred from reentering forever. There are very few exceptions and waivers available for these bars.

Long-term legal permanent residents who have been convicted of a crime that is defined as an "aggravated felony" under the immigration laws will no longer be able to seek a waiver of deportation in front of an immigration judge. The definition of "aggravated felony" has been expanded to include most drug crimes, crimes involving violence, and even many theft crimes.

The definition of aggravated felony was also made retroactive, so that someone with a conviction twenty years ago that was not grounds for deportation when the crime was committed is now deportable without any possible relief, even though they may have lived an exemplary life ever since.

Every new hire is required to sign a Form I-9, and to present proof that he/she is authorized to work in the U.S. Anyone who claims to be a U.S. citizen on the I-9 and is not a U.S. citizen may be deported from the U.S. and barred forever from returning or legalizing his/her status. A false claim to U.S. citizenship is a federal crime punishable by imprisonment.

We have only highlighted certain portions of the new law. Get good information, and make informed decisions to protect your rights.

INS Dallas District Office's Policy on Illegal Aliens

On April 11, 1997, the INS Dallas District Office issued a policy memorandum concerning foreign nationals in the U.S. without lawful status encountered at the District Information Counters. Other than foreign nationals who are criminals or lawful permanent residents of the U.S., all other aliens appearing at the INS Dallas District Office (including the Sub-Office in Oklahoma City) who are found after April 1, 1997 to be unlawfully present in the U.S. and for whom INS benefits are not immediately available, are required by the new law to be processed for removal from the U.S. Please be mindful of the INS policy regarding illegal aliens.

Naturalization: Reap the Benefits of the U.S.

One of the most damaging aspects of the new law is the lack of waivers and other forms of relief for a lawful permanent resident facing deportation. For example, a lawful permanent resident who is arrested and receives probation for Driving While Intoxicated, is now considered an aggravated felon for immigration purposes. Conviction of an aggravated felony is a deportable offense for which a person can be barred from re-entering the U.S. for twenty years. The legal permanent resident has little or no remedies to avoid this deportation.

Congress also restricted legal permanent residents' eligibility for government programs, such as Medicaid and SSI benefits.

To receive all of the rights and privileges of living in the U.S., a legal permanent resident should apply for naturalization when he/she is eligible. Despite many rumors, the U.S. does allow and recognize dual citizenship. Thus, you may be able to become a U.S. citizen and retain your current nationality. Currently, the naturalization process is taking approximately two years.

We encourage you to consider naturalization, because a U.S. citizen can: (1) vote; (2) immigrate certain family members (parents, married children); and (3) not be deported.

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