The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 20, 2001 Issue
Local News

INS officials explain law to packed house

LIFE Act offers hope, but chances exist for scams, people advised

By Sarah Malcore
Compass Correspondent

Workshop to focus on Hispanic ministry

To help parishes determine how to minister to the rapidly growing number of Hispanics in the diocese, the Green Bay Diocese Pastoral Services Department will sponsor a one-day workshop to be repeated three days next week.

What: Multiculturalism: Our Church Today

When: April 26 (for priests/parish directors); April 27 (for parish and diocesan staff); April 28 (all welcome and talks will be bilingual).

Where: Comfort Suites, 1951 Bond St., Green Bay.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Speakers: Sr. Jane Mary Hotstream, RSM, and Fr. Hector Madrigal, both of the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio.

Cost: $20.

Information: (920)437-7531 or toll free, 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8310.

Representatives of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) were in Green Bay last week to explain a temporary law and warn persons living here unlawfully about attempts by some to swindle them.

The April 10 meeting at Danz School was attended by legal and undocumented immigrants, U.S. citizens, employers and school officials. It dealt with section 245(i) of the LIFE (Legal Immigration and Family Equity) Act, which is effective only from Dec. 21, 2000, through April 30, 2001.

There are two groups most affected by section 245(i):

-- relatives of lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens who are eligible for an immigrant visa;

-- alien workers who are eligible for an employment based visa.

For persons in the first group, the relative must submit a visa petition and file the paperwork to the INS on behalf of the person seeking a visa.

For those in the second category, an employer must submit a labor certification application to the Department of Labor on behalf of the person.

Under 245(i) people are able to process in the U.S. when a visa becomes available if they pay a $1,000 penalty fee and additional filing fees.

The INS representatives at the meeting stressed that their job is to curb unlawful immigration without breaking up families.

In addition to explaining section 245(i), INS representatives warned immigrants to be cautious about to whom they give their money. There are several freelance "immigration counselors" who are selling false hope, they said.

Such people, often operating at a home office during the evening, charge $25 or more for forms the INS provides for free. Because the deadline is fast approaching, it is tempting for immigrants to use these "independent counselors," but the INS highly discourages it.

Not all independent counselors are frauds, but the INS cautions immigrants to be careful about to whom they give their hard earned money, which can include both $25 for what should be free forms and the $1,000 penalty and other filing fees.

Among the reputable independent counselors are those working in the Green Bay Diocese's Department of Refugee, Migration and Hispanic Services.

One of them is Kathy Klos, an accredited immigration counselor at the diocese, who has been working overtime because of the impending deadline.

The diocese is not a part of INS, but is "more of a middle man between the people and INS," said Klos. "We charge a small fee depending on what people can afford and we assist them in filling out forms if they are eligible for any benefits. Above all, our largest responsibility is to provide information to people."

Klos is booked solid to help as many people as possible to understand their rights under this law before the April 30 deadline.

"Many people are under the wrong impression that this law is an amnesty - the right to stay here if one has been here long enough," she said.

This is not the first time a law like 245(i) has been in effect. A similar law existed in the past, but it was abolished on Jan. 14, 1998.

Critics of the law claim that the $1,000 penalty fee "encourages people to enter the country illegally," Klos said, "but not having the law puts people in a very difficult situation."

"Nobody wants to stay here illegally," Klos continued. "Opponents to the law think that it will encourage illegal immigration. The truth is, in my opinion, that anyone who wants to come here, will find a way. The lack of this law won't stop them. However, those who have been here in the U.S. for a while, and who may have set roots and started families - especially families made up of a mix of U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and undocumented individuals - are the ones most affected by the law and are devastated without it, because it would either force the family to split or one or more members to remain undocumented."

Even the temporary recurrence of the law is welcome and helps those who need it, she said, and many people are writing to members of Congress asking them to consider making the law permanent.

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1825 Riverside Drive | P.O. Box 23825 | Green Bay, WI 54305-3825
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