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Dear Editor:

Mr. (or Ms.) Sushil Babu's letter of March 15 has not added anything new to the debate on 245(i), but has simply repeated the same criticisms that many restrictionists have propounded for years. As an immigration practitioner, I can assure the writer that I do not 'condone' illegal activity, but it is one thing to overstay or otherwise violate a non-immigrant visa (which happens inadvertently to many individuals who are not schooled in the intricacies of I-94s, extension requests, underlying visa terms, etc.) and another entirely to say, as did Mr. Connor Robertson, that they are of a lesser quality than those who 'wait patiently' to process abroad.

I would like to say something about those who are waiting patiently. The reason that many people are waiting abroad has nothing to do with the quality of their character. It has to do with the fact that they are not eligible for immediate visas. They are the wives, sons and daughters of legal residents who do not have current priority dates and who, if present in the United States, would still not be able to apply for the 'green card' until their priority date was reached. While it is admirable that they are 'patiently waiting,' they actually have no other choice, and 245(i) would not assist them even if they did find themselves on our shores.

I am sure that what I have written will enrage many who have family members living abroad, but we must all remember that the laws must take realities into consideration. Unless we provide for a system to adjust people who, but for their expired visas, would otherwise be eligible to adjust status in the United States, we will have an underground of undocumented individuals. They will not be contributing taxes to society, they will constantly be living in fear, and we will not be able to know their true character since we will have no way of tracking them. Since character seems to be so important to recent letter writers, I would think that they would want to have these individuals carefully screened; they will be screened if permitted to adjust pursuant to 245(i). All of those who are found to be inadmissable because of a criminal background, medical disability, economic disability etc. will not be able to adjust, and will then be deportable.

I could almost guarantee, from my past experiences with clients, that those who cry the loudest about the injustice of having a relative waiting for years abroad without being able to adjust are in many cases the first to take advantage of provisions such as 245(i) which would allow them to reunite their families. It is mean-spirited, and also unrealistic, to deny the opportunity for adjustment to an individual simply because of irregularities in their non-immigrant status, especially where these irregularities have nothing to do with criminal activity. While it may be comforting and convenient for some writers to call these individuals 'illegal' and while in the most broadest sense this is true, the anti-245(i) crowd is using this word as a smokescreen. They are as 'illegal' as the individual who files his or her income taxes in a 'creative' manner, or who ignores the many parking tickets that they have accumulated, and so on.

Finally, I would reiterate a point made in one of my previous letters. If people like Sushil Babu are truly upset about the fact that unlawful immigrants are able to 'jump ahead' of those waiting to process at a consulate, he or she should have no problem in supporting the abolishment of the three and ten year unlawful presence bars created by the 1996 amendments to the INA. If these bars are removed, then I too would agree that we could eliminate 245(i), and simply allow these individuals to go home and process at a consulate without facing the prospect of being prevented from returning for up to a decade. Somehow, I don't think that this would please the letter writers, however, because they seem to be more interested in punishing the 'overstays' than in expediting the visa process.

Christine Flowers

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