1 Year Filing Period Begins for Late Amnesty Class Members
May 31, 2001

Starting June 1, 2001 and continuing for a one year period, those who have previously applied for membership as plaintiffs in the CSS, LULAC or Zambrano class action lawsuits, otherwise known as late amnesty class members, will finally have a chance to be considered for U.S. lawful permanent residence once and for all. Although the legislation behind this new immigration avenue was enacted some five months ago, the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service has finally gotten around to publishing implementing regulations – with an expected release date of June 1, 2001.

What is “late amnesty” and who are the late amnesty class members?

Back in 1987, then President Ronald Reagan signed into law an amnesty program granting many individuals unlawfully in the U.S. an opportunity to gain lawful permanent resident status. Among the requirements, applicants had to prove that they entered the U.S. prior to January 1, 1982 and resided continuously in the U.S. in unlawful status through May 4, 1988. Initial applications were to have been filed with the INS during a 1 year application period ending May 4, 1988.

Based on the accounts of many intending amnesty applicants during that period, it appears that more than a few INS officials around the country were providing incorrect information to potential applicants regarding their eligibility to claim amnesty benefits. Most commonly, applicants were either discouraged from filing or their applications were outright rejected because of what an INS official may have deemed to be a disqualifying departure during the requisite “continuous residence” period. It was later determined that such feedback from the INS had no basis in law, and as a result, in 1992 and 1993 the above class action lawsuits were brought and thousands of applicants have come forward claiming their eligibility under the 1987 amnesty law. Over the years, various court orders have resulted in class members being allowed to submit their late applications with the INS and for the most part, be granted employment authorization in 1 year increments.

As the class action litigation over this issue carried into the 21st century, little was resolved, except that every 6 months or so a federal court of appeal or district court issued a new ruling, mostly against the late amnesty plaintiffs. All the while, the late amnesty class members have been held in a legal limbo, not really knowing exactly where they fall in the immigration law landscape (am I legal?) and when, or if, their Employment Authorization Documents would get extended another year. The congressional branch, however, finally took the matter out of the judicial branch’s hands late last year and put the matter to rest with the enactment of certain provisions contained in the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (“LIFE” Act). As a result: late amnesty class members will have their applications reviewed and decided as if they were timely filed, and without any further discussion of the jurisdictional or other technical legal issues that have been the preoccupation of the presiding federal courts for much of the past 10 years.

Basic Eligibility:

Late amnesty class members applying for permanent residence pursuant to the LIFE act provisions and new regulations will have to demonstrate they:

  1. filed a written claim for class membership in either the CSS, LULAC or Zambrano lawsuits before October 1, 2000,
  2. entered the U.S. before January 1, 1982, and resided continuously in unlawful status in the U.S. through May 4, 1988,
  3. were physically present in the U.S. on a continuous basis during the period November 6, 1986 through May 4, 1998,
  4. have not been convicted of a felony or of 3 misdemeanors in the U.S.,
  5. have not assisted in the persecution of others on the basis of their race religion, nationality, political belief or social group and
  6. have a basic command of the English language and knowledge of U.S. government structure and history – similar to the language and U.S. government/history requirements now in place for U.S. citizenship.

What to file:

Firstly, applicants should obtain Form I-485, along with the recently drafted, supplement D, entitled “LIFE Legalization Supplement to Form I-485 Instructions”, wherein all of the filing instructions for the immigration benefits outlined above are set forth. These documents can be obtained from the INS by way of their website (see www.usavisacounsel.com for the appropriate link), or by visiting a local INS District Office such as Chicago’s located at 10 West Jackson, at the corner of Jackson and State in downtown Chicago.

Some Highlights of the Application Process/Procedures:

Along with a medical exam, proof of identity and class membership, detailed biographic data and photos, applicants will also have to provide proof of their presence in the U.S. during the qualifying period. The extent to which affidavits, in lieu of more objective evidence, will satisfy this latter requirement remains to be seen, although, a thorough examination of all applicant contentions will take place at the INS interview which will be scheduled at end of processing.

Additionally, most applicants will be eligible to obtain employment authorization and advance parole travel documents while their late amnesty adjustment filing remains pending.

Also, certain spouses and children of late amnesty class members will also be eligible for immigration benefits, although they themselves are not class members.

Lastly, certain late amnesty class members who have since departed the U.S. and are now living abroad will be eligible to submit applications and even obtain permission to enter the U.S. while their late amnesty adjustment cases are pending.

For those in the U.S., applicants are instructed to mail their filings (they must be postmarked before May 31, 2002) to an INS P.O. Box in Chicago. From there the filings will be processed at an INS center in Missouri, with all interviews taking place at INS offices closest to the applicant’s place of residence.

Final thought: outside of an INS official or a licensed attorney, be careful about trusting anyone who offers their assistance in preparing documentation in support of this type of filing or who claims any special insight into the application procedure.

Copyright © 2001-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois