Integrity Legal

Archive for November, 2016

10th November 2016

In light of recent events in the United States election and the campaign promises made by the now President-elect, it seems appropriate to assume that Immigration matters will likely come to the forefront of American political discussion. For this reason, this blogger finds it relevant to provide an overview of the Immigration apparatus and how the components function.

In order to understand U.S. Immigration matters and the enforcement of U.S. Immigration law one must first understand the Department of Homeland Security. This Department oversees most of the Immigration matters arising in the United States (The Department of State deals with matters pertaining to US visas issued abroad, for more information on the role DOS plays in the immigration process please check out the many pages on this blog dedicated to Consular Processing information).

There are three agencies under the jurisdiction of DHS which deal with different aspects of Immigration law and policy. The first agency that many intending immigrant will no doubt have had dealings with is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service or USCIS. This agency is tasked with adjudicating petitions for immigration benefits such as immigrant visas, work visas, and certain temporary stay visas. Furthermore, the USCIS also adjudicates I-601 waivers of inadmissibility as well as I-212 waivers for those who have previously been subjected to expedited removal. Those wishing to travel from abroad to the United States on some sort of immigrant or work authorized visa will likely have contact with USCIS.

Another component of DHS which deals with Immigration is the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service or USICE. USICE is often the agency tasked with ascertaining the legal status of foreign nationals physically present in the USA and if found to be present in the USA illegally USICE agents are tasked with apprehending such individuals and placing them in deportation proceedings.

Finally, there is the United States Customs and Border Protection Service or USCBP. In the US visa process, USCBP is arguably the most overlooked yet one of the most significant agencies an intending immigrant will deal with. Unbeknownst to most, notwithstanding the issuance of a valid visa, USCBP has the authority to turn away any alien attempting to enter the USA. In actual practice, an alien with a validly issued visa is unlikely to be refused admission at a port of entry, but it can happen. In most cases such refusal is due to a belief on the part of a USCBP officer that an alien attempting to enter the USA on a non-immigrant visa in fact has immigrant intent. This happens frequently to tourist visa holders who are attempting to conduct a so-called visa run in order to remain in the USA. In those cases involving immigrant spouses of US citizens holding visas such as the K-3, the CR-1, or the IR-1 refusal to admit the alien spouse is quite rare. The same can be said for foreign fiancees of US Citizens holding a K-1 visa, but the fact that USCBP has plenary power to turn away any alien seeking admission should not be forgotten.

Meanwhile in an interesting article in The Intercept, it was noted that certain documents have come to light which apparently show that although USCBP has traditionally recognized law enforcement functions (especially with respect to Customs matters) they also work with the FBI in matters not routinely thought of when pondering USCBP’s role. To quote directly from the aforementioned article:

“It is no surprise that law enforcement closely monitors border crossings for criminals or terror suspects. The initiatives described in these documents, however, are explicitly about gathering intelligence, not enforcing the law. A person doesn’t have to be connected to an active investigation or criminal suspect in order to be flagged; the FBI might want them for their potential to provide general intelligence on a given country, region, or group. The goal, according to an FBI presentation on an initiative at Boston’s Logan Airport, is “looking for ‘good guys’ not ‘bad guys.’”

Although immigration matters are often viewed as a “boring” aspect of the United States bureaucracy it should be noted that agents of the Department of Homeland Security play a significant role in maintaining the security of the USA and assist even in the gathering of intelligence.

Although the ultimate policies of the new administration regarding immigration matters remain to be seen it seems logical to infer that should the administration wish to make the immigration process more difficult for foreign nationals, then the sophisticated mechanisms mentioned above would likely have the capacity to make certain that such a course of events actually transpires.

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