Immigration could be a thorny issue this coming Congressional mid-term election. House Speaker Paul Ryan has promised compromise, as moderates demand protection for those who came into the US undocumented as children. Others are concerned for those who arrive via human trafficking. WBFO was invited recently to sit with the Buffalo-area District Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services to learn what the local office does, and how they assist immigrants who have arrivred under extraordinary circumstances.
In a time when the political tone has many concerned for immigrants, and others resentful of them, Edward Newman says the job of his office is to protect citizens, while at the same time protect those looking to become citizens and do so the legal way.
Newman, who is district director of USCIS District 2, headquartered in Buffalo, explained his office's tasks include the interview process. Immigrants and those with resident status looking to take the steps toward citizenship need not worry, he said.
"While we have that balance of protecting our homeland and protecting our people, we also want to judiciously and justly judicate applications for benefits," Newman told WBFO. "If people are eligible, are lawful and they qualify, certainly they're going to get their benefit."
The office takes under consideration and accommodates cases involving people who have not entered the United States legally but through coercion or false pretenses. Human sex trafficking is one example.
In cases when an individual is brought into the country by another intending to use the former for commercial sex opportunities, the victim may apply for a T visa that allows them to stay as their case is further processed.
"You have to comply with a reasonable request for assistance in the investigation, so you've got to cooperate with law enforcement in the prosecution of the traffickers, unless you're under the age of 18," Newman said. "You also have to suffer extreme hardship, unusual or severe harm, if removed from the United States."
Two New York State lawmakers, State Senators Chris Jacobs and Patrick Gallivan, recently pitched proposed legislation that would make it easier for prosecutors in New York State to take on alleged human sex trafficking cases.
Victims of other crimes on US territories, including military bases or embassy grounds, may apply for a U visa, Newman explained.
USCIS hosts numerous citizenship ceremonies each year. One is coming up later this week in Rochester, and later this month new citizens will be sworn in aboard the USS Little Rock in Buffalo. The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural site in Buffalo also plays host each year to welcoming the nation's newest citizens.