Section 245(i) Extension Introduced in Senate
May 24, 2002 - Senator Daschle (D-SD), the Senate Majority leader, recently introduced the Uniting Families Act of 2002 that, if enacted, would extend Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act until April 30, 2003.
Section 245(i) allows the INS, in its discretion, to adjust the status of an alien who has an immigrant visa immediately available to that of a lawful permanent resident while the alien remains the United States instead of applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consular office outside the U.S. In order to qualify for the benefit of this law, the alien must have been inspected and admitted or paroled into the U.S., be eligible for an immigrant visa and, with some exceptions, have maintained lawful nonimmigrant status. This provision of the law had expired on January 14, 1998. In 2000, Congress passed the Legal Immigration Family Equity ("LIFE") Act, which extended the deadline until April 30, 2001. The LIFE Act added a requirement that the alien submit proof of physical presence in the U.S. on December 21, 2000, the day President Clinton signed the bill into law, in order to be eligible to apply for adjustment of status under Section 245(i).
A Note of Caution
Section 245(i) is a valuable benefit that provides a future opportunity to adjust status to lawful permanent resident despite failing to maintain valid nonimmigrant status in the U.S. This law, however, does not provide any authorization to remain in the United States, does not provide employment authorization, and does not provide any protection from deportation, unless and until the person has been approved for lawful permanent resident status. That process typically takes years.
Important Provisions of the Proposed United Families Act of 2002
The United Families Act of 2002 that has now been introduced by Senator Daschle is important for many reasons. Since the April 30, 2001 deadline, other members of Congress have introduced legislation that, although never adopted, would have required the alien to prove that the family or employment relationship serving the basis of the adjustment of status must have existed as of August 15, 2001. The proposed United Families Act of 2002, unlike other proposed extensions, does NOT include any date by which someone would have had to have established a relationship or filed a labor certification. However, the bill reiterates that people are ineligible for Section 245(i) based on marriage fraud (Section 237 (a)(1)(G)), and security and related grounds (Section 212 (a)(3) and Section 237 (a)(4)). Also, the bill continues the requirement that applicants prove they were physically present in the U.S. on December 21, 2000.
What You Can Do
The House leadership appears to support the more restrictive extension of Section 245(i) that includes the August 15, 2001 eligibility cut-off date. It remains an uphill battle for a good measure like the United Families Act of 2002 to pass Congress this session.
If you would like to contact your Senators and ask them to both cosponsor and support this excellent bill, you can call them at the Congressional Switchboard (202) 224-3121. While the phones are busy during the day, you can try calling after business hours, and then leave a message about your concerns. If you prefer to email or write, you can look at each Senator's web site for their contact information (i.e., http://dodd.senate.gov or http://lieberman.senate.gov).