Jamaica Magazine

Immigration Reform

As everyone already know the United States Congress is now seriously debating and drafting immigration reform. By the time this article is published immigration reform may have already been passed into law. This month I want to discuss some the key areas of the proposed immigration reform and some key steps that you can do to position yourself to receive the benefit of immigration reform.

Before we get into discussion of the proposed immigration reform I think it is important to acknowledge a trend that I have seen in my law practice over the years. I have worked with individuals from all over the United States and worldwide. However, I have noticed a very disturbing trend. What I have seen is that other nationalities, most notably the Hispanic population, have a higher rate of actively seeking legal advice on their immigration matters. If there is even the slight mention of a proposed new immigration law these individuals take whatever measures necessary to speak with an immigration attorney to see if they qualify for immigration benefits.

As a resident of Georgia I know that there is a large Caribbean population in Georgia. However, whenever I meet individuals from the Caribbean and immigration reform is mentioned most of these individuals believe that immigration reform is not for them. These individuals believe that immigration reform was drafted to benefit individuals from Mexico. As a result while Hispanic individuals and other individuals from other countries have been clamoring for information about possible immigration reform sadly this strong interest in immigration reform is not visible in the Caribbean population in Georgia. The important thing to remember is that immigration reform is for everyone. The other issue is that if you have no status and/or you would like to know how immigration reform could benefit your family or loved ones you must be proactive. You must seek out the information, seek out legal advice, and seek out ways to obtain your documents so that you can benefit from immigration reform.

Currently the Senate has been presented with a new immigration reform bill derived from the compromise of so-called Gang of Eight. The highlights of the bill are as follows:

1. Securing the Border
The bill requires strict criteria for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by implementing a plan to monitor 100% of the southwest border with Mexico, and turn back 90% of people trying to illegally cross each year. If DHS does not achieve and maintain the specific goals after five years, a new border commission will take control.

2. Path to citizenship:

The bill allows illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before December 31, 2011, to apply for temporary legal status. Full amnesty will not be offered this time around. A ten-year waiting period, wrapped with restrictions and fees, will be set in place before full citizenship is granted.

3. Interior enforcement:
 U.S. business owners will be required to use a program that checks the immigration status of new employees within a 5 year time period to ensure legal hiring status.

4. Immigration overhaul:
The bill overhauls the legal immigration system by reducing visas for relatives of U.S. citizens while increasing the number of visas for immigrants who are specialized in high or low skilled jobs.

Obviously with Immigration Reform everyone is very excited about the pathway to U.S. Citizenship.  The best ways to prepare for immigration reform are as follows:

  1. Locate and obtain court certified copies of all your traffic tickets/criminal convictions. If you are not sure how to locate your information you can request a criminal background report on yourself or your attorney can do this on your behalf if you would rather not have to visit your local police department to request this information;
  2. Ensure that you have all of your identification documents such as valid passports, birth certificates, photo identification etc. Make sure that the information on your documents are 100% correct. Immigration does not take kindly to incorrect information on your identification documents as they will view this as a fraudulent misrepresentation which can disqualify you from receiving immigration benefits. If your information is incorrect your attorney can help you to correct your information.
  3. Obtain copies of your filed tax returns or IRS transcripts and pay your taxes (if you have not done so);
  4. Do your best to remain in the United States. If you are currently in removal/deportation proceedings you need to hire an attorney so that you can have your removal/deportation either delayed or terminated so that you can have the opportunity to see if you qualify to obtain immigration benefits under the immigration reform.
  5. Take measures to avoid getting traffic tickets or criminal convictions. (Immigration does not take kindly to convictions for DUIs, domestic violence, assault or possession and/or smoking of  “weed” marijuana).
  6. Take all necessary measures to stay informed of the news and then seek legal advice from an experienced lawyer and do not rely on the advice of friends, families, or the guy that does your taxes in your neighborhood.

Disclaimer: This article is a broad overview of the proposed immigration reform. This article is not legal advice and should not be taken as legal advice. This article is provided as a public service and is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed. 

About the Writer:
Safiya Byars is the founder and senior partner of the Byars Firm, Inc. She is a native of Kingston, Jamaica.  Attorney Byars shows her clients the best ways to get their cases approved the FIRST time while reducing processing times and avoiding immigration red flags that result in delays, denials, and deportation.  Her office is located at 3720 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Suite D2, Chamblee, Georgia 30341. Attorney Byars handles all immigration matters, deportation defense, family law, and criminal issues. Attorney Byars can be reached at 678-736-5600, 404-992-6506 or via email at [email protected].


About the author

Safiya Byars, Esq

Safiya Byars is the founder and senior partner of the Byars Firm. Attorney Byars serves as the Chair of the Family Immigration Continuing Learning Education and the Vice-Chair of the Immigration Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia. She is a native of Kingston, Jamaica. The Byars firm is located at 3720 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Suite D2, Chamblee, Georgia 30341. The Byars Firm handles Immigration, Family, and Estate Planning matters. We can be reached at 678-736-5600 and email: [email protected].