Should the United States want to know if someone is or was a gang member before granting them a green card?
This seems like a rhetorical question, but it’s one that’s now being seriously debated within President Joe Biden’s administration — and, according to a report, it could lead to gang-related questions being taken off of the green card application form.
According to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies, Biden’s Department of Homeland Security is looking to remove questions about gang affiliation that were to be added to a green card application form at the behest of the administration of former President Donald Trump.
The questions would have appeared on a form called the I-485, which is the form non-citizens use to either become legal permanent residents or green card holders.
Robert Law was once a chief of policy and strategy at the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President Trump. He’s now with the Center for Immigration Studies, an immigration-hawk group. In a piece Thursday, he said the questions concerning gang-related activity were likely to be removed by the Biden administration.
“Are you now or have you EVER been a member of, or associated with, a group of three or more persons who acted together in the United States or elsewhere with the aim of committing any crime?” one question read.
“Are you now or have you EVER been a member of, or associated with, a group of three or more persons who acted together to commit and/or to attempt to commit a crime involving more than one country?” another asked.
This is pretty standard stuff when you consider some of the things that are on the I-485 green card form right now. For instance: “Have you EVER illicitly (illegally) trafficked or benefited from the trafficking of any controlled substances, such as chemicals, illegal drugs, or narcotics?” (Question number 32 on this year’s form.)
Furthermore, as the Washington Times noted, it’s not as if any of this is disqualifying — it’s something that immigration officers can take into account when granting or denying a green card.
However, as Law pointed out in his piece, the USCIS manual only allows immigration officers to consider information that’s “in the record.”
“The key phrase here is ‘in the record,’ meaning the information extracted through the questions on the Form I-485,” he wrote. “During the Trump administration, USCIS sought to revise the Form I-485 to ensure that applicants provide sufficient, relevant information for the adjudicator’s discretionary analysis” dealing with gang membership.
However, the bureau that needed to approve it, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and Budget, declined to do so before President Biden’s inauguration. If Law’s report is correct, the reason is infuriating: The Biden administration thinks knowing if we’re giving out green cards to gang members is too politicized. Instead, they’re going to omit them and then resubmit the I-485 without the gang-related questions.
“This is remarkable for several reasons. First, the Biden political appointees inaccurately call these ‘politically motivated questions by previous leadership’ despite career staff involved in the 2020 form revision project pointing out that the Department of Justice had specifically requested that such information be included in the form,” Law wrote. “Undeterred, the USCIS political team is reportedly pushing ahead despite being wrong about the origin of these questions.”
Second, Law said, without knowing whether someone was in a gang, the immigration officer wouldn’t have very relevant information “in the record” to make their decision — and couldn’t glean it from outside sources.
“The Biden administration appears unconcerned that the absence of gang information in the I-485 will allow bad actors to obtain green cards that would have been denied if only the adjudicator had the information,” Law wrote. “President Biden and his supporters often say they offer a more ‘compassionate’ immigration policy compared to former President Trump’s. The biggest beneficiaries of that ‘compassion’ are apparently the most violent and dangerous aliens in the country.”
When reached for comment by the Washington Times, the USCIS said it wouldn’t comment on whether or not the questions were going to be removed in the updated I-485 when it was sent back for approval.
“Updates to USCIS policies or procedures are publicly communicated in a timely manner through various outreach platforms,” the agency said.
However, the Washington Times reported it had previewed a draft copy of the document without the questions in it.
This alone should scare you, but there’s another troubling aspect to this story.
In other areas of immigration policy, especially enforcement, the idea that gang membership should be of interest to immigration officials or authorities is being loudly challenged on the left.
In this case, the reported excision of two proposed questions from the I-485 form is a quiet matter. This is because they were only proposed questions and most of us have never heard of the I-485 or the maze of bureaucracy it takes to make changes to it.
The issue of deporting gang members, however, is a somewhat more high-priority affair. In fact, you might be surprised this is even an issue to begin with; the deportation of a non-citizen gang member seems to be a no-brainer.
Not to 34 Democratic members of Congress, however, led by (sigh) Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
As part of a May 14 letter urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement to “end the carceral approach to immigration,” they argued an ICE agent’s decision that someone had been convicted of gang-related activity “should not be left to an officer’s discretion or ‘good faith belief.’”
“It is well documented that law enforcement’s practices of labelling people as ‘gang-involved’ is often faulty, based on arbitrary and racist factors, and not subject to due process,” the letter read.
Recently, we led 34 colleagues in calling on ICE to end the carceral approach to immigration.
We need humane and just immigration policies that aim to end mass incarceration, criminalization and deportation of immigrants. pic.twitter.com/EInq4zMNA7
— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) May 17, 2021
If you think this kind of thing doesn’t trickle down, consider the fact the Biden administration could well be doing, in a quiet way, what the AOCs of the world are doing with a megaphone: declaring that it doesn’t much matter whether an immigrant is part of a violent criminal organization, and isn’t that kind of a little bit racist to assume that, anyway?
When this hits the fan — and it will — who among this crowd will take responsibility? Who will don sackcloth because they made it easier for gang members to get green cards?
The crickets will be deafening.
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