Additional Commentary to Margaret Stock’s Recent Blog Post: “Sessions amendment would harm military families.”

Additional Commentary to Margaret Stock’s Recent Blog Post:
“Sessions’ amendment would harm military families”
Margaret Stock, a renowned immigration attorney and retired Lieutenant Colonel of the U.S. Army, wrote a blog post Monday[1]pointing out that one of the proposed amendments by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to the immigration reform bill written by the “Gang of Eight” would “cause huge problems for military family members by mandating the imprisonment for 60 to 90 days of people who overstay their permission to be in the United States." 
Margaret Stock argues in her article that this amendment would negatively affect military personnel who are trying to quickly bring their spouses over to the United States when they get transferred back to a home base and are erroneously advised to have their spouses petition for visitors visas, instead of waiting on the approval of a family-based petition.  Their spouses often over-stay the visitor’s visas once they get here while waiting for immigration benefits after the military personnel properly file a family-petition for them.
Under current law, overstaying a visa is an immigration “infraction,” not a “criminal” violation.[2]  Similar infractions under state law include seatbelt violations, simple speeding tickets or littering citations.  The most common infraction of this level, which most Americans at some point or another have done in their lives, is putting a letter in a friend’s mailbox instead of sending it through the post.  Sen. Sessions is suggesting putting people in jail for the immigration infraction of overstaying the visa.  Should we also start putting everyone in jail that puts a letter in the mailbox of a neighbor? What about for writing a bad check? Is this where we want our criminal justice tax dollars going? 
At Steffas & Associates, P.C. we adamantly advise and encourage our clients to go through the correct routes to gaining immigration benefits.  We explain that coming in on a visitor’s visa, if their intention is to immigrate, is fraud and should never be done.  We get many cases, however, when the clients, like those described by Margaret Stock, were wrongly told by other attorneys or friends to come in on the B-2 visa, and now they are here in the U.S. with a valid path to legalization.  For those who do this unknowingly, should we be putting them in our jails, and using tax dollars to criminalize people who have married our servicemen and women who work and fight to protect our country? I think not.  
I think instead we should help them gain their legal status and worry more about putting in jail people who are committing real immigration crimes, such as trafficking women and children.  According to U.S. State Department data, “an estimated 600,000 to 820,000 men, women, and children [are] trafficked across international borders each year.”[3]  The people who are committing these heinous crimes against our immigration laws and against the laws humanity, are just one example of money better spent on the criminal side, than jailing the spouses of men and women who serve our country. 

[2] It only becomes criminal and has eligibility for jail-time if the Attorney General decides to pursue a particular case.
[3]Trafficking in Persons Report, (June 3, 2005), Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Department of State,

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