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USCIS Introduces "Extreme Vetting" in New I-485 Adjustment of Status Form. Welcome to the United States of Ideological Purity. By Roger Algase

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Up to now, I-485 applicants who are successful in their applications to adjust status to permanent resident (green card) status have been receiving an I-797 approval notice with a wonderful greeting at the top stating:

WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Now, immigrants who are filing I-485 adjustment (AOS) applications will no longer have to wait until this form is approved in order to receive greetings of a very different kind from the US Department of Homeland Security.

As soon as they read the new I-485 form which was introduced by USCIS on June 26, they will be welcomed into Donald Trump's promised Brave New World of "Extreme Vetting".

While the new I-485 form was introduced with a USCIS announcement containing all the usual phraseology about how the form is more convenient, clear, user friendly, etc., which we are used to seeing every time a new, longer, more complex and convoluted immigration form is rolled out, the real difference between the new form and the current edition dated January 17, 2017 (only 3 days before the new president took office) is in the expanded "security" questions.

While the new form, of course, does not in fact contain such a notice, it would not be inappropriate if it did contain one such as, say, the following:

WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF EXTREME VETTING

To illustrate, the previous January 17, 2017 I-485 form (which will still be valid during a 90-day grace period) is 6 pages long and contains a total of 18 criminal history and security questions. The new form, in contrast, contains 80 (the real number, not a typo) criminal history and security questions. Moreover, many of these 80 questions are broken down into several parts, so that the total number of actual questions adds up to closer to 100 (or even more - I have not yet made an exact count). (Of course, the previous 18 questions also included a number of a's, b's c's, etc. so the actual total number of questions was higher than just 18.)

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with big numbers per se in the sheer amount of questions asked. The immigration laws are extremely complex, and there are dozens of different grounds for being inadmissible to the United States.

But the warning signs are in the vague, catch-all nature of some of the questions, which are not related to any specific provision of law, and seem to be nothing more than excuses to deny a green card to anyone whom our nation's 45th president, or his delegated immigration officials, decide that they do not want to remain in the United States for any reason they choose.

Here are two examples:

"Do you intend to:

46.d Engage in any activity that could endanger the welfare, safety or security of the United States?

47. Are you
engaged in or, upon your entry into the United States, do you intend to engage in any activity that could have serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States?"

What are these two questions supposed to mean? What immigration or other law defines the extraordinarily broad and vague term "welfare, safety or security of the United States"?

What on earth could the even broader and vaguer phrase: "potentially adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States" possibly refer to?

With regard to the first of the above two questions, some members of the Trump administration, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Senior Presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, are on record as stating that all immigration in its present form, whether permitted by law or otherwise, is detrimental to the welfare of the United States.

Trump himself, in his August 31, 2016 immigration address, called for much lower levels of legal immigration in general. Under this theory, if the president thinks that America already has too many immigrants (as he has claimed) any immigrant who applies for a green card might be "endangering" the "welfare" of the United States.

This may sound like an extreme example, but consider some of the people whom Trump has, during both his campaign and after assuming the office of president has attacked as supposedly endangering the "safety and security of the United States". Here is a partial and incomplete list:

1) President Barack Obama,
2) Presidential candidate (and popular vote winner) Hillary Clinton,
3) Any federal judge who opposed the president's Muslim ban executive orders,
4) Members of the Democratic party,
5) Anyone else who opposes or disagrees with the current president on any issue.

The above list is not given in order to argue political points. It is only meant to illustrate the point that the above phrase can mean anything an immigration examiner wants it to mean - very possibly leading to long delays or even denials of green card applications for totally arbitrary reasons.

This is even more true when we get to the phrase "potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States."

Who makes that decision?

Were there potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the U.S when the president pulled out of the Paris Climate Change Accords? When he (reportedly) pushed and shoved the Prime Minister of a much smaller country (Montenegro)?

When the president criticized NATO allies as "deadbeats", while falling to impose stronger sanctions on Russia's dictator Vladimir Putin, alleged connections to whom on the part of Trump or his top officials are now under investigation by an independent counsel?

Again the purpose here is not to argue about political questions. It is only to show that certain questions in the new I-485 AOS application form appear to be more concerned with imposing arbitrary standards or ideological purity on green applicants that go far beyond anything sanctioned or contemplated by our immigration laws - or by the norms of any democracy.

Roger Algase
Attorney at Law


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Updated 06-27-2017 at 01:29 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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