March 31, 2020 | Written By Virginia Jijon-Caamaño
As a member of AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association), I participate in many measures aimed to help our clients and to further the aims of our group: to advocate for a fair and reasonable immigration policy.
On March 23, with Covid-19 permeating across the United States and taking over many of our lives as we’ve known them, AILA petitioned USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) to suspend all immigration filing deadlines, to extend deadlines for immigration benefits and to extend nonimmigrant statuses before March 27. Unfortunately, USCIS has not acted and has been silent as to what they are thinking or when they might act.
On March 24, Leon Rodriguez, a former director of USCIS wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post, siding with AILA, asking the US to suspend or extend immigration deadlines in order to save lives.
During these uncertain times, thousands of visitors and immigrants are stuck in the US, most with no way to leave, and facing closed borders when trying to return home. They risk their lives and those around them by trying to comply with visitor visa expiration dates , and they risk their futures by not following USCIS rules as once a visitor overstays a visa, it can very difficult or impossible to attain future visas or immigration benefits.
In addition, people living in the US with business, green card, or other types of visas are required to constantly document their stays and travel to renew their visas. Traveling would put everyone’s lives at risk and spread the disease. Everyone with non-essential reasons should not travel and stay home. In addition, legal immigrants and nonimmigrants live in our communities and are a huge part of a healthy US financial system.
Immigration officers also risk their lives if required to answer all filings in a timely manner, as doing so requires them to go to work, go through mounds of paper-based applications, meet with the public, and file and mail decisions. Just like non-essential travel, non-essential personnel should be staying and working from home. Immigration courts are still open putting court workers at risk as well, at a time when people should be avoiding public spaces.
If you or someone you know may be affected by extension or suspension dates with USCIS, please contact our office to see if we can file extensions or get ahold of consulates until USCIS acts on making the right decisions for everyone.
Extensions and suspensions of deadlines are not going to break our immigration services, rather, they will reduce the amount of people being exposed to Covid-19. I encourage everyone reading this article to contact your senators and congressman to ask them to suspend USCIS deadlines during this national crisis! The more voices heard from every part of the country the better to get our government to act on behalf of our vulnerable friends and neighbors and to help stop spread Corvid-19 throughout the world!
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