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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

July 12, 2007

VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS
Michael Chertoff, Esq.
Secretary
Department of Homeland Security



RE: USCIS Decision to Reject I-485 Filings

Dear Mr. Chertoff:

It was a pleasure and an honor to meet with you and to share my views during your panel discussion at the Harvard Worldwide Congress June 15, 2007 in Washington, D.C. I understand and appreciate that the responsibility vested in you as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is no simple task. We applaud your service to our nation. After meeting with you personally and speaking with you, I am more convinced than ever that you will do the right thing for our country and for the people you serve, both in terms of securing our nation and in being the leader of the DHS, with over 20 federal agencies reporting to you, including the USCIS.

Purpose of this Letter

I am writing to you at this time to address recent actions by the USCIS to refuse to accept I-485 adjustment of status filing during July 2007 that are having significant impact upon the reliability of the legal immigration system in this country, as well as impacting legal foreign nationals and the many U.S. businesses that rely upon the work they perform.

USCIS Decision Contradicts its Long Standing Procedure

In contradiction of its own long standing policy and procedure, we understand that the USCIS, through its Director Gonzalez, contacted the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and requested or required the DOS to issue a “revised” Visa Bulletin on July 2, 2007. The USCIS then used the revised Bulletin to refuse to accept I-485 filings. This decision deprives thousands of foreign nationals, and their families, of the rights and privileges that are attendant to the I-485 filing.

These Highly Skilled Professionals Followed All the Rules and Believe in the American Dream

These professionals and their employers have played by our established immigration laws and rules. The vast majority of these thousands of potential applicants has a U.S. employer corporation, university or other business as a sponsor for permanent resident status. The exceptions from an employer are for those who are considered of “extraordinary ability” or whose work is in our “national interest.” Many of these applicants have completed their Bachelor’s, Master’s and/or PhD programs from U.S. universities. They believe in the opportunities of this great nation and strive to achieve the American Dream by following all the rules, working hard, paying taxes, and striving to do the right thing. They believe in this country, and rely upon our systems, our government, and our processes. Unfortunately, on July 2, 2007, we let them down. The USCIS abandoned its own system and long standing practices. This happened through manipulation of the use of visa numbers, insisting upon the issuance of a "revised visa bulletin," and instituting the USCIS policy of rejecting every employment-based I-485 that could have been filed during the month of July 2007.

USCIS Decision Denies Substantive and Procedural Rights to Highly Skilled Workers and Their Employers - Many of Whom Have Already Suffered and Will Suffer Further Harm/ Injury

Not only does the USCIS' action harm the individuals and employers involved, it undermines the reliability of our entire employment-based immigration system. The unexpected decision of the USCIS to refuse to accept any I-485 filings denies both substantive and procedural due process rights to would be applicants across the U.S. All of these applicants are employment based (EB) applicants who are primarily highly skilled professionals or experienced workers, that the U.S. seeks in high demand areas, including: science, technology, medicine, research, business, academia, and education.

The harm in not accepting the filings in July 2007 goes beyond mere delay. In reliance upon the July Visa Bulletin, starting in mid-June 2007, these applicants took the steps necessary to prepare their filings and made decisions in reliance upon the USCIS accepting their filings during July 2007. In order to be present in the U.S., as required for these filings, many applicants and their families canceled travel plans abroad or arranged to return to the U.S. on short notice missing family weddings and other important life events. They undertook medical examinations and paid for the required tests which must accompany the I-485 filings. (The USCIS had refused to waive this requirement even temporarily.) They hired lawyers to process their paperwork; they arranged to obtain documents from abroad on an expedited basis, involving foreign lawyers and foreign governments, all at a significant cost. They made employment and other strategic immigration related decisions to be able to process their I-485s for them and their families. Some canceled visa appointments at the consulates, or withdrew other immigration filings, all in reliance upon the USCIS accepting I-485 filings during July 2007.

The applicants and their employers lose the rights and privileges that accompany the filing of the I-485. These include eligibility for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Advanced Parole (AP), thus eliminating the need for the individuals and their employers to make the filings necessary to maintain a non-immigrant, temporary status. These same ancillary benefits also apply to dependant family members. Most importantly, those that have not filed I-485s are not eligible for "portability" benefits under the “American Competitiveness in the Twenty First Century Act” of Oct. 2000 or “AC21” as it is sometimes referred to. This ineligibility for AC21 portability forces career stagnation. This is to the detriment of the individual as well as their sponsoring employer. Under AC21 portability, employers can promote and/or relocate employees to positions that are the same or similar job classifications as the positions for which they were initially sponsored. Individuals can utilize these provisions for career advancement, and for entrepreneurship. Given that the green card process often spans many years, AC21 portability allows the necessary flexibility to permit the case to continue, to accommodate changes in the sponsoring employer's needs as well as opportunities that are specific to the beneficiary.

The list of stories of individuals and families harmed by the USCIS decision is endless. We have for example, many spouses who will now be separated potentially for years on end, as one received a green card during the USCIS' June "rush," while the other is now ineligible to file.

The USCIS decision also created a burden on U.S. employers. Further delays in the green card process mean that, at best, U.S. employers have to continue to file temporary petitions to keep their workforce in the U.S. legally; at worst, it jeopardizes the availability of this needed highly educated and skilled workforce.

USCIS Motive is to Collect Millions of Additional Filing Fees

Many are baffled by the USCIS decision to reject I-485 filings in July, and its use of the “revised” Visa Bulletin as an excuse. The suspected motive is the collection of the substantially higher filing fees that will be generated after July 27, 2007. This entire incident sends the wrong message about our government, our policies and our legal system reeking of greed and inconsistency. Even the appearance of such impropriety undermines our system.

We Expect Honesty and Consistency by the Agency Created to Provide “Service”

We expect integrity, consistency, and transparency in our government and our immigration system. This is more so particularly for the USCIS that was created to provide “service” and serve its fee paying clients/ customers. The separation of enforcement, border protection, and other functions from service and benefits that occurred in 2003 requires the USCIS as an agency within DHS to focus primarily in providing quality “service” and benefits to its clients, as its name suggests. Unfortunately, on July 2, 2007, and the days preceding and until today, the USCIS miserably failed those whom it was created to serve.

There are allegations of improprieties in the usage of visa numbers for cases that have not yet been approved, contrary to regulation. This allegedly artificially increased the usage of the numbers, allowing the USCIS to use them at a rate that is many times its normal monthly usage. The USCIS claims to have approved an unprecedented number of cases and requested all the remaining (approximately 60,000) visa numbers for the fiscal year within a span of just over two weeks. The net result of this, in addition to the damage already caused, will be litigation against the USCIS. This is costly and resource intensive. We are asking you to step in, and right this wrong. In so doing, you would take a significant step toward restoring the integrity of the system that is in place. People must be able to rely upon the system. In this case, they made decisions, and expended significant time and money, based upon the July Visa Bulletin. They did so because Visa Bulletins have always been reliable and have worked in a systematic, unwavering manner, in terms of governing which cases can be filed in a particular month. This must be restored.

U.S. is the Beacon of Hope – Our Government Cannot Exhibit Greed and Inconsistency in its Policies

We are a nation of immigrants. Immigrants come to this great nation in search of freedom and opportunities. I am eternally grateful for the incredible opportunities afforded me in the great nation to maximize my potential, build my law firm and lawfully, honestly and diligently serve those who wish to immigrate here lawfully. This is what sets the U.S. apart from other countries and governments rampant with corruption, greed, mismanagement, and other negative influences. The actions of the USCIS in connection with the events of July 2, 2007, have made many feel cheated, betrayed and disappointed in our government. How can the U.S. do this when we portray ourselves as the beacon of hope and the symbol of integrity and transparency for the rest of the world?

Request is that You Step in to “Right this Wrong”

Based on the above, we respectfully request you to undertake the following to attempt to redress the irreparable injury / harm caused to so many, including the reputation and reliability of our own government:

- Issue a directive to USCIS that this issue be promptly resolved. The USCIS must accept the I-485 filings that it was supposed to accept not just in July 2007, but for a sufficient time thereafter to allow for the proper preparation of those filings, including the need for medical examinations and accommodation for travel plans. This means that the USCIS must accept I-485 filings at the earlier fee and grant a minimum of an additional 46 days (time that would have been allowed from the date of the issuance of the Visa Bulletin on June 12, 2007 until July 31, 2007, the date until when the I-485s could have been filed but for the actions of the USCIS).

- Investigate the irregularities in the use of visa numbers as explained above. We would ask for you to launch an investigation into the usage of visa numbers for cases that were not approved, and to restore those numbers and make them available during FY 2007.

- Investigate the expenditures in terms of overtime, contractors and other efforts that were allegedly engaged in as part of the effort to deplete the allocation of visa numbers for FY 2007 before July 2007.

- Take all necessary measures to avoid any possibility that a similar event could occur in the future.

We expect you to step in to attempt to “right the wrong”. I believe that you will do the right thing for American employers and hard working immigrants who play by the rules not to lose faith in the integrity of our legal system and in our government. We appeal to you to do the right thing legally, morally, ethically and in good conscience. Our people need to gain back some of the trust in our government, our legal system, and in our country.

Thank you for your time and anticipated favorable consideration in this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Yours truly,


Sheela Murthy
President and Founder
Murthy Law Firm



Cc: Emilio T. Gonzalez, Esq.



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