When people have questions related to immigration reform, policy and enforcement, sometimes it is difficult to get a straight answer. In most cases, there will be a statement prepared ahead of time that relates to the message that the politician, lawmaker or organization wants to get across. Unfortunately, this sometimes means a skewed version of the actual reality.
Recently, there was a meeting in Dodge City, Kansas that seemed to go against this conventional norm. There was an immigration information session earlier this month and in attendance was USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) Community Relations Officer Chuck Pratt. He took the time to take questions related to immigration reform and more specifically, on E-verify and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
The immigration information session was held at the Dodge City Public Library and it began with Pratt discussing the role of the USCIS and immigration and explained that 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 just one part of the Department of Homeland Security. The USCIS determines whether an immigrant is eligible for citizenship and it also helps family members with the immigration process. USCIS works with U.S. citizens who want to bring family members to the U.S. for work, issues different types of visas, verifies an individual's legal right to work in the U.S., and works with U.S. citizens who are trying to adopt children from other countries.
According to Pratt, USCIS does not involve itself with reporting those who are undocumented and living in the U.S. However, the agency will step in if they “receive an application from an individual who has an existing criminal record and/or has been forbidden to enter the United States.” In that type of situation, the agency does report the person to ICE and it, not USCIS, takes legal action.
Topics covered during the first part of the session included deferred action, employers use of e-verification, identity theft, and whether it is likely that a U.S. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) mobile unit will be set-up in Southwest Kansas.
Pratt explained to the individuals at the meeting about the current DACA initiative. He noted that it was an executive order from the president in 2012 and described it to be a kind of “insurance policy that keeps qualified individuals from being deported.” He also said that those covered by DACA are permitted to work while they are in the U.S.
Pratt went on to speak about the E-verify system and how it benefits both employees and employers. Pratt explained to the group that E-verify is an internet-based system, managed by USCIS. It works by sending an automatic link to federal databases that helps employers gather information on a potential employee's eligibility.
Towards the end of the session, Pratt answered questions related to a potential ICE mobile unit that may be coming to the area. The proposed unit would help cut down on travel back and forth to Wichita. At this point, trips to Wichita are necessary to take fingerprints along with other standard administrative procedures.