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

Friday, August 24, 2007

Washington, DC – United States Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff, asking for further clarification regarding a policy announced by United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) that will require 750,000 legal permanent residents to replace their green cards.  The cards, issued between 1977 and 1989, do not have expiration dates.  USCIS has announced that they will not contact the card holders, will only allow 120 days to replace their cards, and will need to pay nearly $400.

 

“While I commend the Department for taking important steps to reducing fraud and improving the security of our homeland by making sure we know who is carrying a green card, I have concerns about the process in which this effort will be carried out and the impact it could have on hundreds of thousands of legal permanent residents – people who have played by the rules for 20-30 years,” wrote Menendez. 

 

Menendez is asking USCIS to provide specifics as to how they will be able to handle such a large influx of applications, when delays exist for current new applications.  Additionally, he is asking for USCIS’ outreach plan, since individual cardholders will not be contacted directly.  Finally, he requests that USCIS reconsider the application fee, as many of the cardholders may be on fixed incomes and unable to handle the cost.

 

Full text of the letter follows:

    

 

 

 

August 24, 2007

 

 

The Honorable Michael Chertoff

Secretary of Homeland Security

United States Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC  20528

 

Dear Secretary Chertoff:

 

I am writing with regard to recent reports of a proposal announced by the Citizen and Immigration Services Division of the Department that would require replacement applications and fees for legal residents carrying green cards that lack expiration dates.  While I commend the Department for taking important steps to reducing fraud and improving the security of our homeland by making sure we know who is carrying a green card, I have concerns about the process in which this effort will be carried out and the impact it could have on hundreds of thousands of legal permanent residents – people who have played by the rules for 20-30 years, many of whom may be living on a limited income, and will now have to come up with almost $400 to pay these new fees in a short period of time.

 

My first concern has to do with the proposed time frame of 120 days, in which the Department will have to process approximately 750,000 legal permanent residents applying for new green cards.  In light of recent changes in passport regulations which have resulted in unexpected delays, frustration, and a huge backlog of applications, it seems questionable that 120 days is sufficient time to process and replace hundreds of thousands of green cards.  As a United States Senator from New Jersey, my office was inundated with questions and requests for help on the passport issue.  That is why I request that the Department outline the specific plans they will have in place to avoid or deal with such setbacks, should they occur, so I can better help my constituents impacted by this proposal.

 

My second concern is the fact that the proposal states affected legal residents will not be individually notified.  With legal permanent residents given only 4 months to come up with almost $400 to reapply for permanent residency, I would hope that the Department has a specific outreach plan for reaching those affected by this change in regulation. Therefore, I specifically request information on the Department’s plans to adequately get the word out to legal permanent residents who need to apply for new green cards.

 

Finally, I believe the fee is excessive for people who have been here contributing to our country for decades, have played by the rules, obeyed the law, and otherwise have no reason to be hit with an unexpected $400 fee.  In addition, they will only have 120 days to come up with the fee, which may be impossible for those on fixed incomes. 

 

We all share the same goal – to ensure that the security of our nation is protected by knowing who is here to live the American dream and who is here to destroy it.  However, I believe we have to use caution so that we are not inefficiently or unfairly treating those who are abiding by the law. That is why I request details as to how the Department plans to notify green card holders affected by this proposed regulation and to deal with the volume of requests that will be flowing in.  I also encourage you to reconsider the fees these individuals will have to pay in order to maintain their legal status.

 

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.  I look forward to your prompt response.  

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

                                                            ROBERT MENENDEZ

                                                            United States Senator

 

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