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White House Draft Immigration Bill

By Debbie Smith

Over the President's Day weekend, several newspapers released the White House's partial draft immigration bill, which includes text regarding a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, border enforcement, and verification of employment.  Although the White House is not planning to introduce its bill at this time, the draft bill contains some important indications of the directions we may see in other proposed legislation.  The draft bill presents revisions of the immigration law in the area of cancellation of removal, access to appointed counsel, the definition of a conviction, as well as other parts of the immigration statute.  It also sets forth the administration's vision of a pathway to citizenship, entitled "Lawful Prospective Immigrants."  We wanted to summarize some of the provisions of this latter section of the draft bill.

Who Would Be Eligible:

Physical Presence Requirements: A noncitizen would have to be physically present in the United States as of the date that the bill is introduced and maintain continuous physical presence in the United States through the adjudication of the application for lawful prospective immigrant status.

Current Immigration Status Bar: Noncitizens with the following immigration status would not be eligible for lawful prospective immigrant status: 1) legal residents; 2) asylees and refugees; 3) nonimmigrants; 4) parolees coming to the United States to serve as witnesses; and 5) parolees coming to the Northern Mariana Islands.

Convictions Bar: The following convictions would bar eligibility: 1) a conviction for which a sentence was served for more than one year; 2) three or more separate convictions for which the combined term of imprisonment served was 90 days or more; 3) a foreign conviction that if committed in the United States would make the noncitizen inadmissible or removable; or 4) a conviction for an aggravated felony.

Grounds of Inadmissibility: The grounds of inadmissibility that would not apply are: 1) labor certification requirements; 2) entry without proper documents; 3) unlawful presence in the United States.  The following grounds of inadmissibility would not apply unless based on an unlawful entry to the United States after the date that the bill is introduced: 1) entry without permission; 2) entry by fraud or misrepresentation; 3) entry as a stowaway; 4) unlawful presence that would result in the permanent bar.  Other grounds of inadmissibility will not apply unless based on conduct that takes place after the date on which the noncitizen files the lawful prospective immigrant application.

Waivers Available for Inadmissibility: A waiver is available for other grounds of inadmissibility based on humanitarian purposes, family unity, or in the public interest except for criminal grounds, terrorist activities, misrepresentations in the lawful prospective immigrant application, and other miscellaneous grounds.

DACA Status: Those with DACA status may not need to file separate applications for lawful prospective immigrant status.

What Would Lawful Prospective Immigrant Status Provide: 1) work authorization; 2) travel authorization; 3) protection from detention and removal (unless becomes ineligible); and 4) four years of Lawful Prospective Immigrant status that is renewable for up to a total of eight years.

Adjustment to Lawful Permanent Residence: A noncitizen would have to maintain lawful prospective immigrant status, demonstrate basic English language and civics skills, and prove payment of taxes in order to be considered for legal resident status.  In addition, adjustment would not be possible until visas are available for all petitions in backlog approved before the law’s enactment OR eight years after the enactment of this bill, whichever is sooner.