Way Cleared for Lawsuit to Keep Families Together
Back in 2002, the President signed a law designed to keep immigrant families intact, the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). The law includes a provision that states that if a child turns 21 years of age before obtaining a green card together with his parents, his petition would "automatically be converted to the appropriate category" and he would be entitled to the "original priority date".
What does this mean?
Consider the case of Melvin Cuellar de Osorio. His grandmother, a U.S. citizen, submitted a petition to sponsor his family for permanent residence in 1998. Because of long backlogs, Melvin's parents were not able to immigrate to the U.S. until 2006. Since Melvin reached the age of 21 before his parents could immigrate, he was forced to remain behind in his native country. When his mother petitioned for Melvin under the 2B category (unmarried adult sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents), she maintained that under CSPA, Melvin was entitled to the "original priority date" of 1998 which would have allowed him to immediately rejoin his family in the U.S.
The USCIS failed to respond to her request. Without CSPA, Melvin will not be able to rejoin his family in the U.S. until 2017 at which time he will be 33 years of age. If he marries, he will lose his ability to immigrate under the 2B category.
The USCIS does not seem to be in any rush to allow Melvin, and other persons in his position, to know what the words "appropriate category" or "original priority date" in CSPA mean. This August, it will be seven years since CSPA was signed into law. The agency has yet to issue regulations to implement the law. Although the USCIS has issued at least eight memos regarding CSPA, and the State Department another six, the government has avoided interpreting the portion of the law which would allow Melvin to reunite with his family.
On June 23, 2008, we brought a lawsuit in Federal Court on behalf of Melvin's mother and five other mothers who are separated from their sons and daughters despite the clear language of CSPA. The USCIS believes that to allow children like Melvin to use their original priority date would be tantamount to permitting them to cut in line. To the agency, CSPA does nothing to lessen Melvin's 19 year wait to become a permanent resident.
In September, the Government submitted a motion to dismiss our complaint. Since then, the government has requested that the Judge postpone deciding our case until the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) rules on similar cases which are pending before the Board. The BIA has already decided two cases which interpret the words "appropriate category" and "original priority date" exactly as we do. However, these cases are not binding precedents.
The Federal Judge ruled that if the BIA did rule on the cases by May 11th, he would not grant the government any further postponements in our lawsuit on the ground that the BIA was about to rule on the cases before them.
We have agreed with the government that both sides will file cross Motions for Summary Judgment in our lawsuit with tentative filing dates of June 26. The motions would be noticed for a hearing on July 20.
At long last, parents may no longer have to be separated from their sons and daughters for years when they immigrate to the United States.
More information regarding the "automatic conversion" portion of CSPA and the briefs in our
lawsuit are available at
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