Senate immigration bill: know your rights and act

Passing this information along... Now that the Senate has introduced its immigration reform bill, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center urges you, AAPI community members, to know your rights and take action to ensure our voices are heard throughout the legislative process.

The bi-partisan Senate leadership's proposal is a substantial step in the right direction toward fixing our broken immigration system, eliminating the family backlog over a period of ten years; redefining "immediate relatives" to include spouses and minor children of green card holders, allowing an expedited process not subject to numerical caps on green cards; and allowing parents of U.S. citizens who immigrate to the U.S. to bring their minor children with them, keeping families together.

But the proposed changes also significantly threaten family unity, eliminating the "F4" visa category so that U.S. citizens will no longer be able to sponsor their brothers and sisters; placing an age cap on the "F3" visa category so that U.S. citizens can only sponsor their adult married children who are thirty years old or younger; and continuing to exclude LGBT couples and families from sponsoring their loved ones for family reunification.

The Asian Pacific American Legal Center is urging these actions from the community:

1. Current law allows U.S. citizens to petition to sponsor your brothers, sisters, and adult married children. This may change if the Senate's immigration proposal is signed into law. The Senate bill in its current form eliminates the sibling visa category, so that U.S. citizens would no longer be able to sponsor their brothers and sisters for green cards. U.S. citizens also would no longer be able to sponsor their adult married children who are 31 years of age or older. This proposal is not yet law, so if you are a U.S. citizen and would like to sponsor your brother, sister, or adult married child for green cards, you should consider whether to do so now.

2. Call Senator Dianne Feinstein at (310) 914-7300. Senator Feinstein is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which will be reviewing the immigration bill, and thus will play an important role in the legislative process. Urge her to be a champion for immigrant families and to preserve the ability of brothers, sisters, and adult married children of all ages to immigrate to the U.S.

3. Be careful of advertised services for immigration relief. There currently is no new immigration law and no application process for getting legal status in the U.S.

- We are just in the beginning stages. We only have a legislative proposal that will be amended in the coming months and still needs to be voted on by Congress. Do not listen to those who may try to mislead you and charge you to get in line to apply. There is no law and no application process right now.
- If and when there is an immigration reform law, first seek a trusted non-profit organization to receive advice and help.

4. Start gathering your documents to show that you have been in the U.S. since at least December 2011.

- The Senate bill currently proposes a cut-off date for legalization of December 31, 2011. This date may change. It is important that in the meantime, you start to compile your documentation to show that you were in the U.S. in December 2011 and that you have been continuously present in the U.S. since then. You will need to show that you continue to reside in the U.S. until the time that you apply for and receive legalization. DO NOT LEAVE THE UNITED STATES or you may lose the opportunity to legalize.

- We do not have details about the type of documentation the government might require, but here are some possible examples: utility bills, bank statements, school records, signed letters from clergy, medical records, phone bill statements, employment records, credit card receipts, and other documents that list your name and the date.
If you have questions, call the Asian Pacific American Legal Center at:

English/Tagalog/Spanish: (888) 349-9695
Chinese: (800) 520-2356
Khmer: (800) 867-3126
Korean: (800) 867-3640
Thai: (800) 914-9583
Vietnamese: (800) 267-7395

For further information, go here.

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