Thousands of immigrants ruled ineligible for amnesty because, according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, their unlawful status in the country was “not known to the government,” will be allowed to remain in the country under a federal court decision announced this week.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein in Seattle may affect more than 10,000 immigrants in the Western and Southern INS regions, according to Peter Schey, the lead attorney in the suit filed on behalf of the Immigrant Assistance Project of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, and about a dozen other community, church and immigrant advocacy groups.
Under the immigration reform law, amnesty was granted to aliens who could prove they had lived illegally in the United States since 1982. If an immigrant entered the country legally with a visa, he would have to show that he had violated his visa’s terms and that his illegal status was “known to the government.”
Rothstein ruled that failure by visa-holders to file required annual address reports with the INS was a violation of their legal status and therefore made them eligible for amnesty, Schey said. The judge also ruled that those whose employers or schools had notified INS that they had violated the terms of their visas are also eligible, even though the INS argued that it routinely destroys such records. A third group ruled eligible for amnesty includes those who obtained visas through misrepresentation or fraud, Schey said.