April 2009 Archives

New Japanese Immigration Policy

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Very interesting article in the New York Times the other day about a new Japanese immigration program.  In response to growing unemployment rates and a shortage of unskilled labor positions, the Japanese government is attempting to encourage guest workers to leave their country in exchange for a lump sum of money.  The program specifically targets Latin Americans of Japanese descent, who since 1990 have been permitted to obtain a special work visa allowing them to work blue-collar jobs in Japan.  Now, the Japanese government is offering these individuals a few thousand dollars in exchange for a promise that they won't return to Japan. 

My reaction to a program like this is that the ultimate result of this policy will be to isolate Japanese culture and society from the rest of the world.  Japan is already widely known for unusually strict immigration laws, and a policy like this one will only enhance that reputation.  I personally believe that a major strength of American society as a whole is that it embraces multiculturalism.  The Japanese government, apparently, feels that multiculturalism is something that should be avoided at all costs.  That point is made clear by the comments of a senior Japanese legislator, who stated "I do not think that Japan should ever become a multiethnic society."  While the U.S. immigration system is certainly filled with many flawed policies, it is still at least a system that has allowed people of all ethnicities to seek opportunities within our borders. 

Tips on Naturalization: Criminal Records

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If you or a friend are considering applying for naturalization, disclosure of any and all criminal history is always the best policy.  I recently came across a case where a client failed to disclose a DUI conviction on their N-400 application.  At the naturalization interview, the client informed an immigration officer that he/she had been previously charged with a DUI, but failed to specifically state that he/she had been convicted.  After the interview, USCIS requested that a certified copy of the court disposition be submitted, and when it was discovered that the client had been convicted of DUI, the naturalization application was rejected and the client was barred from re-applying for citizenship for 5 years. 

Situations like the one described above are common in the naturalization process, and can be avoided in many instances.  The key for green card holders who one day plan on applying for citizenship is to be sure to keep a copy of your court dispositions and to disclose your criminal record on your N-400 application.  While not impossible, recovering prior court dispositions can be difficult, especially if the cases occurred several years earlier.  If you were placed on probation as part of your sentence, be sure to obtain and keep a document that proves that you have completed probation.  An applicant for naturalization can overcome a prior criminal conviction that is not serious in nature, provided that they disclose the conviction, document the outcome of the case, and prove that they have complied with the terms of probation.  Applicants who have been convicted of serious criminal offenses or who have served time in prison may be barred from naturalizing, and should consult an attorney before deciding to apply.

For more information on the naturalization process, click here.    

New legislation was passed in Maryland this Monday regarding the issuance of driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.  Starting on June 1, 2009, all applicants for new driver's licenses in the state of Maryland will be required to present proof of legal status in the U.S.  Illegal immigrants who already possess Maryland driver's licenses will be permitted to renew their licenses until July 1, 2015.  The licenses that this group of illegal immigrants will receive will permit driving privileges in the state of Maryland, but will not be allowed to be used as identification when boarding an airplane. 

I think that the actions of the legislature regarding illegal immigrants and driver's licenses are regrettable.  It is a plain and obvious fact that preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses will in no way deter illegals from operating automobiles.  Illegall immigrants, just like all Americans, require the use of automobiles to commute to their jobs, buy food and supplies for their families, and undertake other necessary activities.  Ultimately, the effect of this legislation will result in hundreds of thousands of unlicensed drivers flooding our roadways.  The presence of unlicensed drivers on the roads poses a serious safety risk, as these individuals will not have passed the written and road tests that are required to obtain a Maryland driver's license.  It is statistically documented that unlicensed drivers cause accidents and injuries at a higher rate than those who are licensed.

To be fair, the legislature was essentially forced to restrict the driving privileges of illegal immigrants by the federal government.  Had no action been taken regarding this issue, there was a significant possibility that Maryland licenses would have been rejected at airports across the country. 

For information on general immigration issues and topics, including green cards and naturalization, visit www.portnerandshure.com.

Illegal Immigrants with U.S. Citizen Children

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I came across an interesting report a few days ago in USA Today.  The report stated that nearly 75% of children who were born to illegal immigrants were born in the U.S., making those children U.S. citizens.   

I believe a study like this one highlights one of the major reasons that immigration reform is so badly needed in the U.S.  As the law stands right now, parents who have entered the country illegally, even where their children are U.S. citizens, have no path to gaining legal status.  The result of enforcement of current immigration laws is to separate U.S. citizen children from their birth parents, often at very young ages.  I believe that a system that mandates breaking apart a family unit as frequently as our system currently does is a system that requires fixing. 

While I believe that measures must be taken that will allow illegal immigrants to legally keep their families intact, I disagree with granting illegals full amnesty.  Instead, I think the best plan that I have heard would provide illegal immigrants a path toward gaining legal status in the U.S. through payment of fines, a lengthy application process and a requirement that the illegal immigrants learn English.  This plan would give illegals the opportunity to right their wrongs without flatly absolving them of punishment for entering the country illegally in the first place.  Most importantly, this change would end the current government practice of separating the family unit.  I believe that any reform plans for the current immigration system must make maintenance of the family unit a top priority.   

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