Copyrighted material


by Rashida Tlaib

Rights Groups Wary Of Both House, Senate Immigration Bills

(PNS) -- The House and Senate immigration bills passed in June 2006 proposed that legal permanent residents or "Green Card holders" be labeled "flight risks" if they fail to report a change of address a certain number of times.

This particular provision is especially ironic since the former INS (now part of the Department of Homeland Security) publicly admitted failing to process millions of change of address reports by legal permanent residents.

The Catch-22 exemplifies the mindset of enforcement-only proponents in Congress. They have used old immigration laws passed years ago to their advantage, twisting them around to fit the current conservative view that enforcement-only is the right approach for fixing a complex and broken immigration system.

It doesn't fix what got us in the spot we're in with millions of undocumented immigrants being exploited by employers and families being torn apart because our line is 6 to 12 years long and most importantly, while due process protections are denied immigrants that encounter our federal immigration system.

Even more troubling is a recent memo sent to Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Emilio Gonzalez by the CIS Ombudsman, which states that the Department does not use the current change of address form (AR-11) to update resident addresses in its immigration benefits databases but only as a method for making permanent residents meet the legal requirements of the current law under Immigration & Naturalization Act.

So this "flight risk" provision doesn't attempt to fix core problems within our immigration system but makes things more difficult for immigrants and the DHS departments who have to enforce it. According to the same memo, the information submitted in the change of address form is manually entered by USCIS staff into the Non-Immigrant Information System (NIIS), which is an increasingly obsolete legacy database.

For the immigrants with pending applications, this means that they may be lucky if they receive their Green Cards or interview notice for citizenship or for their child's application to adjust. Oddly enough, the actual form gives no instruction to the immigrant that they must also report their change address separately with their local immigration offices, immigration courts and regional immigration process centers.

The general public must realize that this process makes it almost impossible to figure out which office holds the application that will determine your fate in this country. This problem increases application backlogs, miscommunication and disorder within USCIS, and the flight-risk provision offers no explanation as to how this is going to help reform the country's most run-down federal system. The confusion simply makes it tougher for immigrants to meet their legal requirements of attending interviews or meeting application deadlines.

USCIS is the hub of our immigration system and it's a shame that both the House and Senate decided not to help create and fund a change of address system that works for this department and our country. They are satisfied with creating a criminalizing label.

Being tagged a flight risk has so many legal implications and possible misinterpretations, especially by judicial branches that are unaware of the context. Many Americans also tend to think of a crime when someone is considered a flight risk, so the usage of such a term is obviously deliberate and will only increase the mistreatment of the foreign born, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, especially in court room settings.

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor   November 6, 2006   (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.