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Astonishingly High Visagate Numbers, Conspiracy Theory By Conservatives On Latest Enforcement Efforts Being Administration Goad For Amnesty, And Encouragement For Early Filing Of Expired Green Card Replacement Applications

by Alan Lee, Esq.

The NY Times reported on August 19, 2007, that USCIS received about 300,000 applications for high skilled employment visas since July 1, 2007. As readers may recall in this colloquially named "Visagate" affair, the USCIS used extraordinary means to have the Department of State revoke its July 2007 visa bulletin which had shown current availability for employment based cases categories 1 through 3 by claiming to have approved enough cases to fill up those categories for the rest of the fiscal year. By doing so, USCIS could prevent the filing of I-485 applications to adjust status to permanent residence for these classes and force applicants to pay its expanded I-485 fee which would only come into effect a month later on July 30, 2007. After much public pressure, USCIS relented and established a one month filing period from July 17, 2007-August 17, 2007 for individuals in these classes to file I-485 applications. The 300,000 was only an estimate as the agency was still receiving applications when the article was written, but this number is astonishing given that the annual employment based quota is only 140,000. Congress should now be petitioned to allot sufficient visa numbers to accommodate these applicants not only for their sake but for others behind them who will otherwise have to wait many years before their cases can be approved. It should also be noted that retention of such applications by USCIS for years would drive up the costs of each case for the agency.

With the crackdown on illegal immigrants being announced by the government involving Social Security no match letters and expanded activity for enforcement along with the anticipated negative effect on the U.S. economy, the conservative right has already begun positioning itself to take maximum advantage and to blunt sympathy for the immigrants by imagining a conspiracy by the White House to put pressure for a "popular groundswell for amnesty that will finally vindicate the administration position." (see "Change of Heart on Immigration? The White House Thinks It's Calling America's Bluff" by Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, Immigration Daily, 8/25/07). But it borders on paranoia for them to truly believe that the President that they put into the White House and who kowtowed to their wish to pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby by commuting his sentence in July would be willing to buck them on this issue when he needs them more than ever to support his crumbling poll numbers. This theory flies as far as the one that FDR knew well in advance that the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbor in 1941 but did nothing just to get America involved in WWII. However, it appears that the conservative right will continue to look for nonexistent shadows even in its own house.

One of the easiest predictions to make is that USCIS's proposal to replace all green cards without expiration dates will be implemented very quickly after the comment period expires on September 21, 2007. The agency desperately wants the money (revenues of approximately $277 million, assuming that its estimate of 750,000 filers is correct). Each individual would have to pay $370 for the filing of form I-90 application to replace permanent resident card. These revenues would ease the sting of U.S.C.I.S.'s losing out on revenues in the Visagate affair in which the 300,000 filers were finally allowed to pay I-485 filing fees of $395 or less instead of the agency's tremendous post July 29, 2007, fee hike to $1,010. Readers with expired cards may wish to apply now to beat the rush. With the later expected avalanche of applications, the processing time of I-90 applications will undoubtedly increase dramatically. It is to be noted that the USCIS's proposal encourages such early filing. © Alan Lee, Esq.

About The Author

Alan Lee is a 25+ year practitioner of immigration law based in New York City. He was awarded the Sidney A. Levine prize for best legal writing at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1977 and has written extensively on immigration over the past years for the ethnic newspapers, World Journal, Sing Tao, Pakistan Calling, Muhasha and OCS. He has testified as an expert on immigration in civil court proceedings and was recognized by the Taiwan government in 1985 for his work protecting human rights. His article, "The Bush Temporary Worker Proposal and Comparative Pending Legislation: an Analysis" was Interpreter Releases' cover display article at the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in 2004, and his victory in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in a case of first impression nationwide, Firstland International v. INS, successfully challenged INS' policy of over 40 years of revoking approved immigrant visa petitions under a nebulous standard of proof. Its value as precedent, however, was short-lived as it was specifically targeted by the Administration in the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.