Another Bit of (Hidden) Good Immigration News from the Government

By David North on May 15, 2012

Every so often the administration does something useful in the immigration field, but it never stresses the fact.

Last month, I reported how it had changed a government form (I-797C) in a highly useful way to prevent fraud, but USCIS described it as a money-saving operation.

The old document was printed on truly impressive paper, just like the stock used for dollar bills, and was misused by some aliens to fool officials and employers, saying that it gave them legal status when it did not. The new document is printed on normal office paper and says in large type: "THIS NOTICE DOES NOT GRANT ANY IMMIGRANT STATUS OR BENEFIT."

Similarly the Department of Labor (DOL) has apparently — and quietly — changed its emphasis on processing applications for permanent labor certifications (PERMs) that lead to green cards. It has shifted its focus from "backlog reduction to integrity checks within the PERM labor cases", according to an article in Immigration Daily.

Now, "backlog reduction" means quicker decisions, probably largely favorable, for more applications; "integrity checks" means a re-examination of earlier decisions and inevitably some rejections, resulting in higher-quality decisions. Given that the integrity checks are playing out in a numerically restricted policy environment, this means better qualified migrants, but not fewer migrants; good news, even if we first heard about it in an immigration bar trade paper.

The Immigration Daily article was written by a major law firm, Sheela Murthy, et al., and does not share the tone of this blog. The firm seeks to soothe employer worries, saying that the additional DOL audits are only threatening if an employer had not handled the application well in the first place. (The implication being that if you had hired a good lawyer you would be fine.)

What the firm did not say, however, was that audits of PERM decisions often reject the second-stage applications for permanent resident alien status even after the first applications, for a labor certification, had been accepted years earlier. This means that labor market justice arrives years after the fact and many aliens (often middle-aged and of middling skills) suddenly find themselves in illegal status.

This previously undiscussed scenario, involving perhaps 1,000 cases a year, was described in an earlier CIS Memorandum; that report was written before I knew of the new — and welcome — DOL policy directive.

Is it too much to ask the administration to give us good news, as good news, when it, in fact, does the right thing?