Starting on February 1, 2013, America will have a new legal class of aliens — they will be undocumented permanent resident aliens.
This bizarre new category of immigrant was created by a notice in the December 14 Federal Register by order of United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
I discovered this startling anomaly simply by reading the fine print of the Federal Register announcement; I have seen nothing else in print about it.
These aliens will have all the rights of other legal immigrants, but they will not have the government form commonly called a green card to prove it. And it is all perfectly OK with the government. Though the term "undocumented permanent resident alien" is not mentioned as such in the publication, that is, in fact, what these aliens will be.
What USCIS has done is to announce that it will start collecting a previously authorized, but never-collected $165 fee on Department of State-cleared immigrants as they arrive in the United States on and after February 1, 2013. But unlike most government fees it is not, strictly speaking, a mandatory one. The Federal Register announcement states:
Failure to pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee will not directly result in denial of admission to the United States as an immigrant or the loss of status as an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence. However, USCIS will not issue a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) to an individual who is subject to the USCIS Immigrant Fee until the individual has remitted the fee. Failure to obtain the Form I-551 will make it difficult for the individual … to show that he or she is authorized to accept employment in the United States or to return to the United States from temporary foreign travel.
This is ridiculous. If the government is going to levy a fee on incoming immigrants and they don't pay, they simply should be stopped at the port-of-entry. But, no, DHS does not want to inconvenience any arriving immigrants by demanding payment so it has created a class of undocumented green carders.
The $165 fee (admittedly in addition to earlier ones) is a screaming bargain giving the new arrival full access to the American labor market and other valuable privileges as a legal resident of this nation.
The fee could have been collected as early as September 24, 2010, but wasn't because of a lack of coordination between the Department of State and DHS; that error has cost the U.S. Government $166,000,000 based on the government's own figures, indicating that typically 36,000 immigrants a month come from overseas, and that there was a 28-month gap between the fee's authorization and its first planned collection.