• Proceed With Caution: Immigrants Face Roadblocks Erected by the Government
  • May 2, 2003 | Author: Anton F. Mertens
  • Law Firm: Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP - Atlanta Office
  • The terrorist events of September 11 are having a profound effect on immigration in the United States. Because of the continued threat of terrorism, we are seeing unparalleled action by our President and Congress as they propose the most extensive reorganization of the federal government since the 1940s.

    Congress Springs Into Action.
    We have seen a wide range of congressional proposals ranging from doing away with student visas to offering incentives to foreign nationals for providing information on terrorism. Some regulations propose to fingerprint and photograph foreign nationals entering the U.S. from certain countries. Add to this a push to restructure the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and we're dealing with a massive logjam. The Department of Homeland Security is expected to unite many government agencies under one roof, including the INS and the Department of State, with the mission of securing the American homeland and protecting the American people.

    Enforcing Existing Laws.
    There have been calls for a general tightening of current immigration laws. Visas are now more difficult to obtain. The INS is going to begin strictly enforcing the requirement that all noncitizens keep the INS informed of address changes. Failure to report their new address to the INS can result in fines up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. For non-immigrants this could also lead to deportation.

    New Laws and Limitations.
    President Bush signed into law new anti-terrorism legislation entitled "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001," better known as the USA PATRIOT Act. The final bill includes enhanced immigration enforcement measures. The President also signed into law the "Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Act." The border security legislation clarifies and builds on provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act. The government is also turning to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) for help in monitoring foreign students while in the United States.©