AMERICA RESPONDS: Provision would relax visa safeguards : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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AMERICA RESPONDS: Provision would relax visa safeguards Julia Malone - Cox Washington Bureau Thursday, October 18, 2001

Washington --- A provision in an annual budget bill would ease background checks for many visa applications, even as many people call for more safeguards in the nation's immigration system.

The bill's provision, 245 (i), would allow foreigners already living in the United States to apply for resident visas here instead of returning to their home country for a background check and the customary interview at the local U.S. consul's office.

Under the expedited procedure, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service would review the application for the permanent visa.

''It is an exception to the trend to tighten up immigration rules,'' said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a private group that seeks more restrictive policies.

Krikorian and other critics say it is more effective to do background checks in the home country, where local police records are easier to get. ''An INS clerk in Kansas City doesn't know anything about the Saudi police system or the Sudanese university system, as to whether documents are real or not,'' Krikorian said. ''Consular offices abroad are just more able to do it.

''Of the thousands of 245 (i) applicants, only a handful might be bad guys,'' he said. ''But that's the case in airport security or any other kind of security.''

Under the proposed provision, U.S.-based background checks would be permitted for foreigners already here and who become eligible for permanent resident status for reasons including marriage, family tie or job status. The applicant pays a $1,000 fee for the simplified visa process, which had been used during much of the 1990s. Its authorization expired in April.

Annual spending bills moving through Congress to finance the State, Justice and Commerce departments include reinstatement of the 245 (i) visa rule. The Senate version would make the measure permanent, although the House voted to re-establish it for only six months.

INS Commissioner James Ziglar, installed only two months ago and now having to arm for the war on terrorism, said in a brief interview Wednesday that he was not ready to comment on whether his agency was prepared to take on the added work of checking backgrounds for visas.

''I don't want to get into the question of, 'Am I ready for 245 (i) to come back?' " Ziglar said. ''I'm not focused on 245 (i) at the moment.''

At a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, Ziglar said that the security concerns focused on foreign visitors, not immigrants.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) this week announced that killing the 245 (i) provision was a chief goal of the congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, which he heads, in its response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The expedited visa provision continues to have strong backing from immigration advocates.

''It's a procedural mechanism'' that saves people the cost of a plane ticket, said Jeanne Butterfield of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

''Rather than going back home to the home consul, they stay here and finish the procedure here,'' she said. ''And we can do every bit as much security-checking and FBI and CIA clearance here as we can back at the home consul.

''It was always sort of an economic, time-saving, efficiency measure," Butterfield said, "that was designed to take the burden off the overseas consul and put it with INS.''

-- k (, October 18, 2001


What are they thinking? Aren't there already enough US citizens and those with immigrant work permits who are out of work in the US? Why allow more immigrants to take yet more US jobs?

-- PartOfTheProblem (Puzzled@In.Dallas), October 20, 2001.

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