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Biden DHS may remove gang questions from green card applications

Members of the 18th Street gang. (U.S. Department of Justice photo/Released)
May 28, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency is considering plans to remove gang-affiliation questions from green card applications, a portion added under former President Donald Trump’s administration that the Biden administration called “politically motivated.”

According to former USCIS policy chief Robert Law, who is now a policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, a USCIS source told him on Thursday that changes would impact form I-485, which is filled out by individuals looking to become legal permanent residents or green card holders.

Former or current involvement in a gang did not immediately disqualify an applicant, but immigration officers were able to use their discretion in granting or rejecting a green card based on the information provided.

According to USCIS, no final decisions on the proposed changes have been made.

“Updates to USCIS policies or procedures are publicly communicated in a timely manner through various outreach platforms,” the agency said, but the Times did reportedly view a document that calls for the Trump additions to be removed.

Law said the move comes as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to ease immigration policy across the board in the wake of the former Trump administration’s more strict approach.

“The biggest beneficiaries of that ‘compassion’ are apparently the most violent and dangerous aliens in the country,” said Law, who added that the Biden team at USCIS called the questions on gang affiliation “politically motivated.”

However, according to Law, who previously served under Trump, the questions were the result of careful consideration from career staff members and stemmed from a Justice Department request.

“The Biden administration appears unconcerned that the absence of gang information in the I-485 will allow bad actors to obtain green cards that would have been denied if only the adjudicator had the information,” Law said. He noted that the agency is hoping to change the form next year.

The letter Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has faced increasing pressure this month by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and 34 other progressive lawmakers in Congress who sent Mayorkas a letter alleging that immigration questions related to “gang activity” are based on “discriminatory framework.”

“Giving ICE the discretion to determine what qualifies as ‘gang activity’ doubles down on an arbitrary and discriminatory framework used by law enforcement,” the letter stated.

“We are in a moment of racial reckoning in this country, with communities across the country calling for an end to mass incarceration and racist policing. It is time to end the carceral approach to immigration, which relied on these same flawed systems.”