Provisional immigration status, Immigration Reform 2013 and criminal convictions

The bill currently being debated at the federal level concerning Registered Provisional Immigrant Status, RPIS, would free many living in this country to apply for work permits and other benefits associated with legal residency.  This program however is crafted along the same lines as the previous Deferred Action program, with its attendant limits on eligibility based in part on a lack of convictions for misdemeanors or felony offenses during prior presence in the United States.  The simplest examples are provided in a separate article on this site, linked here. The actual text being debated (and not yet final) by the Senate includes the language below:

“(3) GROUNDS FOR INELIGIBILITY.—

17 “(A) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subparagraph (B), an alien is ineligible 18 for registered provisional immigrant status if the Secretary determines that the alien— 19 “(i) has a conviction for— 20 “(I) an offense classified as a felony in the convicting jurisdiction (other 21 than a State or local offense for which an essential element was the alien’s 22 immigration status, or a violation of this Act); 23 “(II) an aggravated felony (as defined in section 101(a)(43) at the time of 24 the conviction); 25 “(III) 3 or more misdemeanor offenses (other than minor traffic offenses 26 or State or local offenses for which an essential element was the alien’s 27 immigration status, or a violation of this Act) if the alien was convicted on 28 different dates for each of the 3 offenses; 29 “(IV) any offense under foreign law, except for a purely political offense, 30 which, if the offense had been committed in the United States, would render 31 the alien inadmissible under section 212(a) (excluding the paragraphs set 32 forth in clause (ii)) or removable under section 237(a), except as provided in 33 paragraph (3) of section 237(a); 34 “(V) unlawful voting (as defined in section 237(a)(6));

The misdemeanor language of these laws differs from state understanding of these offenses, and will disqualify many individuals from this program even if the original offense appears to be benign; misdemeanors were defined under the DACA program as those convictions carrying sentences punishable by five days to one year in custody; and not, as some thought, actually punished by such sentence.  The dividing line in part is based on whether the actual conviction is for a crime that carries a potential sentence of five, to 365, days.

The obvious concern here is that while this program is being studied and hammered out by legislators, the terms of this same paragraph can be amended and supplemented.  This firm will continue to track developments to better assist eligible individuals in avoiding the obstacles that may exist in any final law concerning Registered Provisional Immigrant Status.