INS officials explain law to packed house
LIFE Act offers hope, but chances exist for scams, people advised
By Sarah Malcore
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
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.
Information: (920)437-7531 or toll free, 1-877-500-3580, ext.
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
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
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
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
One of them is Kathy Klos, an accredited immigration counselor at
the diocese, who has been working overtime because of the
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
"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.
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