“Every single immigrant we have, undocumented or documented, is a future American. That’s just the truth of it.” – Junot Diaz
I have written this in the past and I am writing this again: Filipinos with expired temporary visitor’s visa, among other expired non-immigrant visas and passports who have been staying in the United States as TNT (“Tago Ng Tago”) along with some 11 million undocumented immigrants from other countries, should prepare for a possible amnesty program under the Biden-Harris administration.
This has been “long-overdue” and was first championed by former President Barack Obama, but failed after the Republican-dominated congress did not support him.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who defeated President Donald Trump, 302-232, in the November 3 election, had promised to undertake comprehensive immigration changes even during the campaign period.
The Democratic Party former vice president who will assume as the United States’ 46th president noontime on January 20, 2021, has said that on his first day as president he will produce comprehensive immigration legislation that creates a pathway to citizenship for 11 million migrants living in the U.S. illegally.
It would also provide a pathway to citizenship for people commonly known as DREAMers, many of them Filipinos, who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Mr. Biden has additionally pledged to make the DACA program permanent on his first day in office, a move that comes after years of Trump administration attempts to rescind the program.
The 78-year-old President-elect is also expected to stop family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The president-elect has vowed to stop the practice of separating immigrant families trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico.
On Day 1 as president, Mr. Biden has said he plans to pass an executive order establishing a task force focused on reuniting children and parents separated at the border.
Within the first 100 days of his administration, Biden says he wants to reform the U.S. asylum system and the treatment of people at the border with Mexico, specifically calling for a stop to the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols as well as to the policy of “metering” asylum cases.
The president-elect also pledges to take away funding toward continued construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border.
But Mr. Biden says he wouldn’t take down parts of the wall that have already been built.
The president-elect’s immigration plan also would increase government supervision over U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as Customs and Border Protection, calling for the need to hold personnel “accountable for inhumane treatment.”
This comes as a whistleblower complaint was filed in September concerning medical conditions at a Georgia immigrant detention center.
DOCUMENTS TO PREPARE. According to prominent immigration lawyer Michael J. Gurfinkel, who happened to share our optimism about the amnesty program for undocumented immigrants under the Biden-Harris administration, Pinoy TNTs should prepare the following papers:
- Your current, unexpired passport and the passport you originally entered the US on.
- Entry documents, such as your entry visa and I-94. If you entered the US under a different/assumed name, that would still be considered an “entry.”
- Identity documents, including your birth certificate, state ID or driver’s license. If you have US citizen children, their US birth certificates or proof of immigration status.
- Docs showing your continuous presence in the US from the date you arrived until the present.
Previous amnesties required people to demonstrate they were in the US before a certain date, and remained in the US continuously since then.
There are lists of the types of documents USCIS would accept to document your continuous presence in the US.
- Documents on your US immigration history, including all petitions filed for you, applications, other filings, denials, records of any deportation/removal proceedings, etc.
It is important to obtain these documents, to determine and evaluate a person’s current immigration status and to determine if any of the reforms or proposals could apply to them.
If the person no longer has their records (they threw them out, moved and lost track of them, etc.), there are ways to obtain their complete immigration file from DHS.
- Documents relating to any criminal matters. Were you ever charged, arrested, tried or pled guilty to any crime? It’s important to determine what those crimes were and the effect they would have on a person’s immigration status and eligibility.
Sometimes, a conviction for a particular crime would make a person ineligible for immigration benefits, even if there are reforms or amnesties.
Sometimes it’s possible to go back to state court and have the criminal matter or sentence modified to lessen the immigration consequences.
“These documents are useful not only in connection with possible future immigration reforms and changes, but are important when applying for current immigration benefits as well,” Gurfinkel wrote in his website.
“That’s why a person should already consult with an attorney in preparation for possible reforms (just like a person might go to a doctor for a ‘checkup’ in connection with a possible future surgery). It doesn’t mean you’re going to be ‘operated on’ right now, just like you would not be filing right now. But it is best to already gather appropriate documents and determine eligibility and possible issues/problems in your case in preparation for these reforms.”
The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo./WDJ