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Far Reaching Amnesty Legislation Introduced in Congress
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

Redently Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced a bill that would essentially grant an amnesty to many undocumented immigrants in the US. H.R. 500, titled the U.S. Employee, Family Unity, and Legalization Act (the USEFUL Act), it would make a number of important changes to US immigration law.

First, it would change the registry date from the current January 1, 1972 to February 6, 1996. The registry is a program that essentially grants amnesty to people in the US who have been in this country since before a specified date. It would also provide for updates of the registry date in the future so that in 2003 the date would be 1997, in 2004, 1998, in 2005, 1999, in 2006, 2000, and in 2007, 2001. It would make the information provided in an application for registry confidential so that it could not be used for enforcement, and would provide a penalty of up to five years in prison for making false claims on a registry application.

The law would eliminate the retroactive application of new grounds for deportation when the offense occurred before it was a reason for deportation and would apply this same standard to grounds of inadmissibility.

It would amend the definition of aggravated felony to require sentences of five years for crimes of violence, theft offenses, and several other offenses. It would also require that for other offenses to be considered aggravated felonies a sentence of at least one year actually be imposed and not simply be a possibility. The law would redefine conviction so that convictions that are expunged or otherwise removed from a personís record cannot be the basis for deportation.

The law would eliminate the three and ten-year bars on readmission that currently apply to people who have failed to maintain valid immigration status in the US.

It would amend the recently created V visa to allow spouses and children of permanent residents to enter the US to achieve family unity immediately. The current V visa provisions require that an immigrant visa application be pending for three years.

Many of the changes have been sought by immigration advocates since 1996, when the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act was passed. Bills to make similar changes have been introduced in the past, but seldom even received a hearing in the Immigration Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). Immigration experts doubt this bill will be passed into law, but believe it will be taken more seriously by the new chair of the Subcommittee, Rep. George Gekas (R-PA).

About The Author

Gregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues. After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Gregory Siskind went on to receive his law degree from the University of Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and he currently serves as a member of the organization's Technology Committee. He is the current committee chair for the Nashville Bar Association's International Section. Greg is a member of the American Bar Association where he serves on the LPM Publishing Board as Marketing Vice Chairman and on the Council of the Law Practice Management Section. He is also a member of the Tennessee Bar Association, the Nashville Bar Association and the Memphis Bar Association. He serves on the board of the British American Business Association of Tennessee. And he serves on the Board of Directors of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and on the executive boards of the Jewish Family Service agencies in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee. He recently was named one of the Top 40 executives under age 40 in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Greg regularly writes on the subject of immigration law. He has written several hundred articles on the subject and is also the author of the new book The J Visa Guidebook, published by Matthew Bender and Company, one of the nation's leading legal publishers. He is working on another book for Matthew Bender on entertainment and sports immigration.

Greg is also, in many ways, a pioneer in the use of the Internet in the legal profession. He was one of the first lawyers in the country (and the very first immigration lawyer) to set up a web site for his practice. And he was the first attorney in the world to distribute a firm newsletter via e-mail listserv. Mr. Siskind is the author of the American Bar Association's best selling book, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. He has been interviewed and profiled in a number of leading publications and media including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lawyers Weekly, the ABA Journal, the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Law Practice Management Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and the Washington Post. As one of the leading experts in the country on the use of the Internet in a legal practice, Greg speaks regularly at forums across the United States, Canada and Europe.

In his personal life, Greg is the husband of Audrey Siskind and the proud father of Eden Shoshana and Lily Jordana. He also enjoys collecting rare newspapers and running in marathons and triathlons. He can be reached by email at

Amy Ballentine is an associate in Siskind, Susser & Haas's Memphis, Tennessee office. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1994. While in law school at the University of Memphis she was a member of the law review staff as well as a published author. She also worked with the local public defenderís office in death penalty cases. In May 1999, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of Memphis Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached by email at

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