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Dear Editor:

I would like to respond to J. Seyes' recent letter concerning the abolition of 245(i). While I understand the writer's position, and certainly sympathize with the plight of individuals who have been waiting abroad in order to be lawfully admitted to this country as permanent residents, I think that it is necessary to point out certain facts that the writer is either ignoring, or discounting.

I, too, would agree that we could eliminate 245(i) but only if the Legislature simultaneously abolished the provisions in the INA which deal with "unlawful presence." More specifically, I am referring to the bars contained in Section 212((A)(9)(B) which provide that an individual who leaves the United States after having been unlawfully present for at least 180 days may not be readmitted to the United States for a minimum of three, and a maximum of ten, years.

In the absence of 245(i), which allows an individual to adjust his or her status even if they have overstayed their visas or entered illegally, the alien is required to leave the country and file for a visa at a US consulate abroad. However, the moment the alien steps foot outside of the country (assuming they have been in the US for more than 180 days without permission) they are barred from returning for years. Imagine the hardship on families with small children, or on businesses counting on the services of these aliens.

It is quite simple for people to say, "They deserve the punishment, they entered at their own risk." This, however, ignores the fact that many of the people who will be effected by the unlawful presence bars entered before Congress enacted the provision which created those bars. Even in the absence of 245(i), these people would have been able to return home to file for a visa in their native countries, and return to the United States when the visa was approved. Now, with the unlawful presence bars, they will be effectively exiled for up to a decade.

It is very nice to say that people should be punished for violating the law. However, we are not talking about criminals. Criminals are not helped by 245(i), and would be inadmissable on other grounds. Section 245(i) only applied to those who had violated their visa status, and were otherwise admissable.

In my opinion, the best solution would be to eliminate the unlawful presence bars, and thereby render Section 245(i) irrelevant. I, too, feel that individuals who have been waiting patiently abroad should be given preference over those who are illegally present in the United States. However, we cannot ignore the horrible consequences created by the unlawful presence bars, and must endeavour to be as fair (and humane) as possible in dealing with people who only want to create a better life for themselves and their families.

Very truly yours,

Christine M. Flowers, Esquire
Philadelphia PA