THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
November 19, 2008
PORTLAND -- The federal government plans to legalize certain unauthorized immigrants who applied for a 1986 amnesty program but were unfairly excluded or never received a response to their request.
It is thought that about 10,000 may qualify, said Sharon Rummery, a Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman in the San Francisco regional office.
It was not immediately clear how many live in the Northwest.
CIS officials said the one-year period to reapply will begin Feb. 1. CIS is the government agency that oversees lawful immigration into the United States.
"It's a pretty narrow category," Rummery said.
The reincarnated 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, or IRCA, follows a class-action lawsuit settlement reached in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in September.
It was brought by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project on behalf of individuals who were unable to apply or who were deemed ineligible for legalization under IRCA because of issues on whether unlawful status was known to the government, the lawsuit states.
The process is disliked by groups who oppose granting legal status to those who are in the nation illegally.
"Why in the world would our federal government do that when 22 years later, it still doesn't have the ability to process applications filed in the 1986 amnesty program?" asked Jim Ludwick, the president of McMinnville-based Oregonians for Immigration Reform, which lobbies against illegal immigration.
"Our Social Security Administration is already overburdened. How would they deal with the possible millions who might apply?"
He said it is "sheer idiocy" to encourage people to stay here when so many already are out of work.
But Francisco Lopez, director of CAUSA, an immigrant-advocacy group in Woodburn, sees it differently.
"It's about time there was a resolution for the over 10,000 immigrants who were in immigration legal limbo because of the inefficiencies of the immigration office," he said.
"Hopefully this will be the beginning not only for those who were not allowed to apply in 1986, but also any future legalizations for the millions that still have not been able to adjust their immigration status."
CAUSA and other immigrant groups across the nation will be pushing for a moratorium on immigration raids in the first 100 days of the Obama administration.
The latest settlement is the third class-action lawsuit filed against the CIS, previously known as the office of Immigration and Naturalization Services.
A settlement four years ago gave about 2,000 illegal immigrants legal status. IRCA resulted in roughly 2.7 million undocumented immigrants becoming legal permanent residents in 1986.
About 250,000 applications were rejected because applicants had temporarily left the U.S. during the designated grace period and had not lived here continuously.
But groups of undocumented immigrants successfully challenged the disqualifications.
Among the requirements for reapplying is proof of having entered the country legally on a temporary visa before 1982 and overstaying it.
Applicants must have no criminal history and had to have applied between May 5, 1987, and May 4, 1988.
Those who were wrongly rejected and who meet the qualifications will have to pay $585 to reapply. Those who never applied but who may still qualify will have to pay $1,130.
Though legalization is not guaranteed, the government cannot deport those who apply even if their applications are declined.