A Muted Welcome, Please, for the Newest Nonimmigrant Visa (T-6)

What the world needs now is not another immigration-expanding, nonimmigrant visa class, but that’s what we have in the brand-new T-6 visa.

It’s another one of those government-created, chain-migration systems in which an illegal alien with a plausible story ultimately can provide legal status for his or her alien nieces and nephews; grandparents and grandchildren; not to mention children, spouses, parents, and the like — whether or not he or she has actually seen them face-to-face.

And the new visa is being created (and inflicted on the U.S. population) with the help of Congress as a continuation of the administration’s efforts, both large and small, to make it easier for various specific groups of illegal aliens to secure legal status.

So far, the numbers of various kinds of T visas are not large, but it is the thought that counts — and the staff-time used to create the T-6 visa.

Here’s the basic story of the T visas, and how they have been growing over the years.

“T” is for trafficking victims. If an alien has been smuggled into the United States, is willing to be a witness against the smuggler, and is still currently in the United States, the alien can be granted a nonimmigrant adjustment (and legal status) so that he or she can testify in federal court against the smuggler/trafficker.

So far, so good. We want the bad guys to be convicted, and to this end it makes no sense to deport witnesses against the traffickers. But that germ of a good idea — and this is so typical of the U.S. immigration system — has become bloated beyond belief.

The first questionable expansion of the idea is that the victim, who now has a T-1 nonimmigrant visa, can convert that to a green card, and stay here the rest of his or her life.

Second, as you might imagine, our government senses a need to “re-unify” the T-1’s family, on this side of the border, of course. This led to the creation several years ago of four more nonimmigrant classes:

  • T-2: Spouses of the original victims;
  • T-3: Children of the victims;
  • T-4: Parents of the (younger) victims; and
  • T-5: Some of the siblings of the victims (narrowly defined)

Third, each of the members of each of these four nonimmigrant sub-classes can also apply for green card status, and, of course, down the road, members of all five T subclasses can apply for citizenship, still further expanding the number of aliens whose admission they can apply for. The rules on these follow-on, chain-migration benefits arehere.

You might think that the expansion of the T-1 program to the T-1 through T-5 program would be sufficient, but no.

What if one of the members of classes T-2 through T-5 wants to bring in one or more of his or her relatives that were not close relatives of the original victim? Suppose, for instance, that the parent (T-4) of the original victim (T-1) wanted to import his or her parent or parents? Until recently that was not possible — but Congress and the administration have changed the rules to make such an admission possible, by the creation of the T-6 visa.

More generally, the T-6 visa is for relatives of the T-2 through T-5 classes who do not qualify for such visas themselves. Thus, with T-6s we are dealing with the nieces and nephews, grandparents, grandchildren, and assorted other relatives of the original T-1 alien. Again, there is no part of the law requiring that the T-6 applicant has ever actually have met the original T-1.

T-6s are thus only relatives of relatives of trafficking victims but U.S. law treats them as valued persons anyway. DHS staff must rule, incidentally, that the potential T-6 “faces a present danger of retaliation as a result of the [principal] alien’s escape from trafficking or cooperation with law enforcement”. I wonder how that requirement will be interpreted.

The creation of the T-6 category is bothersome from the point of view of precedent, and of wasted USCIS staff time, but it would be more so were the potential numbers larger. A couple of hundred T-1s are converted to green cards each year, but I could not find data on their original adjustments, presumably from illegal status. I think the agency assumption is that all who are granted T-1 status will quickly move to the green card and only this part of the process need be reported.

There is data on the second wave, however. This is the issuance of visas by the State Department to the relatives of T-1’s who are outside the United States. This is the group that can create T-6 visas in the future. The number of visas issued to the T-2 through T-5 group was 246 in FY 2010, 409 in FY 2011, and 497 in FY 2012.

There were, in addition, adjustments of illegal aliens in the United States of about equal numbers, as they were moved into nonimmigrant T-2 through T-5 status. (In other words, this is a specialized amnesty program for relatives of those who had been smuggled.)

All these sets of numbers are modest, but are growing, which is often the pattern of new, seemingly obscure, nonimmigrant visa classes.

The Federal Register item on the new visa includes a new, expanded list of nonimmigrant visa categories; I counted 83 of them.

Each nonimmigrant visa category usually has both a letter and a number, starting with visiting ambassadors, who are A-1; many are very, very specific.

My favorite of these very narrow categories, and the one least likely to be used, is NATO7, which is for “attendants, servants, and personal employees of NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, and NATO-6 classes.”

I visualize, in this subclass, the valet of the British admiral who is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s representative of Her Majesty’s Navy in Washington. The imagined valet may not exist. There were only two NATO-7 admissions in FY 2012 and only one the year before, according to the Visa Office.

But should that admiral ever want to bring in a valet, there is a visa class, NATO-7, waiting for him, as there is now for the T-6 relatives of the relatives of the alien who arrived here illegally with the help of a smuggler.

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