Foreign Nationals Graduating High School in U.S. May Become Eligible for New Immigration Benefits
June 27, 2002

With bi-partisan support, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has given the green light to an “amnesty” type legislative proposal that could potentially benefit large numbers of foreign nationals graduating from high school in the U.S. At this point, the proposal has yet to be passed into law and the details are still sketchy. Also uncertain is whether the proposal has a chance of being voted into law by the full Congress and signed by the President. Those who stand to benefit from this proposal and gain U.S. lawful permanent residence include students (no matter their current immigration status, or lack thereof), ages 12 through 21, who have resided in the U.S. for more than 5 years upon their graduation from high school. Also, included in the proposal is a provision that grants states the power to confer “in-state” tuition discounts for undocumented students applying for colleges. Any news relating to the enactment of this proposal will be featured in this column.

Restrictionist Immigration Bill Introduced in Congress

In practically the same week a legislative proposal to benefit large numbers of undocumented students in the U.S. comes out of the prominent Senate Judciary committee, a sweeping new “restrictionist” immigration reform bill is introduced for debate by Republican Congressman, George W. Gekas, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims. Framed as an immigration proposal aimed at defeating terrorism, the Securing America’s Future through Enforcement Act – “S.A.F.E.R.”, seeks out political support and popular appeal by explicitly linking immigration to terrorism.

Included in this legislative proposal are provisions to:

  • reduce legal immigration levels by approximately 20%,
  • eliminate “excessive” appellate review of immigration court decisions,
  • require employers to check the validity of social security numbers for new employees,
  • require long term visitors and permanent resident aliens to be fingerprinted and provide immigration authorities with their addresses on a regular basis,
  • require schools educating foreign students to report to the INS on the details of all subject matters being taught such students and,
  • criminalize the act of overstaying a visa by more than 6 months

Certainly, more can be done by the U.S. government to secure our nation’s borders and the safety of our public. And many of the provisions included in this bill appear to sincerely address these types of issues – although the text of this proposal was not available at the time this column was written. However, what we are also seeing are politicians seeking to capitalize on the public’s fear following September 11 by making groundless and sensational connections between immigration and terrorism. Therefore, it is most important that our nation’s citizens stay conscious of such political agendas so as to be able to distinguish between sincere concerns about U.S. security and xenophobic, simplistic political scare tactics.

Again, any developments relating to this legislative proposal will be featured in this column.

Copyright © 2002-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois