At an immigration information session Tuesday, USCIS Community Relations Officer Chuck Pratt addressed questions and concerns in relation to immigration; focusing on E-verify and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative.
The Dodge City Public Library hosted an immigration information session Tuesday afternoon where Community Relations Officer Chuck Pratt with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services answered questions in regards to differed action, employers use of e-verification, identity theft and the potential of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement mobile unit being placed in Southwest Kansas.
To begin, Pratt clarified the role USCIS takes in the immigration process, explaining the agency is not one to enforce any laws and will not take action in deporting someone; that action would only take place under special circumstances.
USCIS is an agency that is a component of the Department of Homeland Security; it's the agency that is in charge of determining eligibility for citizenship, helping the process of immigration of family members ; U.S. citizens who are wanting to bring relatives to work in the United States, Issuing different types of visas, verifying an individuals legal right to work in the United States, humanitarian programs and adoptions; individual who are wanting to adopt children from other countries.
USCIS does not become involved in reporting individuals of illegal status for deportation, according to Pratt , the agency only becomes involved when they receive an application from an individual who has an existing criminal record and/or has been forbidden to enter the United States. Under those circumstances, the agency would report the individual to Immigration and Customs Enforcement who would then take legal action.
Pratt discussed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, explaining it is an executive order demanded by the President in 2012, stating that it was like an insurance policy that keeps qualified individuals from being deported.
"The initiative gives people the opportunity to stay here," Pratt said. "And while here, we're going to give them the opportunity to work."
Individuals who qualify for the deferment are those who arrived in the U.S. as a child, must have been under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012, have no criminal history and is currently in school or has graduated from school.
If eligible, DACA, as the initiative has come to be known, issues employment authorization for two years.
Those who were issued DACA in 2012 can re-apply this year to be granted another two years of work authorization and according to Pratt, an individual can re-apply an unlimited amount of times, as long as DACA continues to exist.
Pratt also addressed the use of E-verification not only for employers but for employees as well.
E-verify is an internet-based system that is operated by USCIS, it provides an automated link to federal databases to help employers determine eligibility for new hires and verifies the validity of their social security number.
Most recently, the USCIS website, uscis.gov, started to provide a link for employees to do a self-check before applying to a new employer.
The E-Verify provision was affirmed in a Supreme Court ruling in 2011, where the court determined that each state can mandate whether or not to pass legislation, making E-verify mandatory.
Kansas has passed no legislation on E-verify; Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah to date, are the only states that have passed House Bills, demanding employers to use E-verify.
In addition, Pratt followed up on a question in regards to an Immigration Customs Enforcement mobil unit coming to Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal stating there has been a request made to USCIS by each city to have an ICE mobile unity locally, consequently, cutting out the commute to Wichita, where residents of Southwest Kansas are traveling to now to process things like, fingerprints etc.
Pratt said the objective would be to provide those service locally but as of right now, details on that are uncertain.
As of right now, scheduled visits to Dodge City by USCIS Officers are for people who have already submitted an application.
USCIS Public Affairs Officer Tim Counts said USCIS employees are scheduled to be in Dodge City on June 17, 18 and 19 to conduct interviews as part of the naturalization process and will be taking photos and fingerprints that are required for applications.
"There will likely be additional similar trips in the future, though none are currently scheduled," Counts said.