The Case Against Making Immigration Easier for Special Immigrant Juveniles

By David North on October 31, 2011

I make these comments on behalf of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the study of the impact of immigration on American life.

I am a fellow at CIS and have spent the last 30 years studying various aspects of American immigration policy for government agencies, federal and local, and for various foundations, such as Ford and Sloan and the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

My first set of comments relates to the not-particularly informative background section of the Federal Register announcement. It would have been far better had DHS told readers that this program is a specialized amnesty for illegal aliens, particularly those with records in the juvenile courts. It would have been helpful if DHS had reported that this program is a steadily expanding one, giving green cards to1,492 persons in FY 2010, more than twice as many as in 2006 when there were 679 grants.

Substantively, there is no need for a further easing of the immigration rules for this not-particularly attractive subpopulation among the nation’s illegal aliens. This is the general thrust of the proposed regulations, and it is the theme of most of the regulations coming from DHS these days.

By definition, everyone who is eligible for full legalization in the Special Immigrant Juvenile program is someone under court supervision, some as victims but most, presumably, because they got in trouble with the law. In the best of all possible worlds the proposed regulations would simply be withdrawn.

If that does not happen, perhaps the following suggestions might be incorporated into the new rules:

The regulations and the instructions for Form I-360, which lead to a green card for these juveniles, should be amended so that the applicants are asked to submit to DHS a complete set of all court documents dealing with their cases. As it is, the instructions only ask for documents that would support their applications for legal status, thus stacking the deck toward a favorable ruling.

At the very least, the form should ask the kind of questions that might show that the individual is not eligible for legalization because of criminal behavior.

Further, this population, and all others seeking immigration benefits, might be asked a bland question that appears on all job applications: What is your cell phone number? By definition this is a high risk population, and DHS or other law enforcement agencies might like to get in touch with its members. A phone number would be helpful in such a case, and what juvenile does not have one?

Finally, part 3, question 13 is structured in such a way as to suggest that the person entered the United States legally, when this may not be the case. Why not insert a question such as “status at entry” and offer “with nonimmigrant visa” and “without inspection” as alternative answers.