People need to know the history of the current immigration system. The current system was instituted in 1952. As a rule, applications for green cards were given priority in the immigration lottery system, but before that, immigrants were given priority if they had five U.S. citizen siblings or parents. The Sessions framework called for more American-made and higher quality green cards for most immigrants, but prioritized these visas for immigrants seeking to work here in the United States than for refugees from war-torn countries.
The Sessions framework made a determination that was supposed to cut down on illegal immigration. The end result is a pathway to permanent residence for those migrants with two-parent legal permanent residence status, but was dependent on these migrants having a sponsor who had a green card or lawful permanent resident status (LPR).
An immigrant’s LPR status is critical because it means a legal citizen could sponsor an immigrant and this would make the immigrant eligible for permanent residence and citizenship status. The Sessions framework affected the legal immigration system by making the legal sponsor significantly more important.
The Immigrant and Border Security Act of 2007 really began to change how the current U.S. immigration laws worked. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990 was amended to increase the U.S. refugee resettlement quota from 12,000 to 120,000 in 2002, and to limit refugee resettlement to four per year until the number reached 200,000 by 2006. In 2008, Congress drastically increased the number of refugees to 105,000 by 2012.
The Sotomayor Order on South Asian and Southeast Asian Asylum Seekers from 2007 allowed them to arrive legally in the United States and also allow for them to receive refugee status and green cards. Both Bush and Obama presided over the increase in refugee resettlement quotas.
It was a big irony that the same Sessions who walked away from the immigration court who literally refused to even handle the case of an adult who had arrived on a Greyhound bus has now replaced that very Sessions who failed to take that case at all.
Jay Karnowski began his career working for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1988 as an intern at the Southern Poverty Law Center and worked his way up to staff legal director and then as Legal Director at the ACLU from 1990 to 2007. Karnowski then led the ACLU’s lobbying efforts and political advocacy in Washington, D.C. to achieve a more just immigration system, but all this work was meant to no avail.
While still at the ACLU, Karnowski worked on legal cases that attempted to prove that children illegally entering the United States were entitled to status as children. The Justice Department told the court that children only have parental rights, which is true, and they did not think the young children in Karnowski’s case merited legal status.
We had a young girl as an applicant who was crying the entire time and apparently screamed and wailed to a whole bunch of staff members at the Justice Department before they let her out. At one point, she threw up. They were literally shocked. It’s sad to think about the absurdity of this, but she eventually got asylum and Green Card, which would have never been possible when the Sessions framework was put in place.
Karnowski received a distinguished scholarship from the C. Blakeslee Foundation in 1997 and from the Walsh Centre for Law and Politics. He received his M.S. from Columbia Law School and his J.D. from the University of Chicago.
Karnowski was named to the National Black Justice Coalition’s Commission on People of Color in the Criminal Justice System. In 2011, Karnowski accepted a position as the executive director at the Center for Family Law in Seattle, Washington. Karnowski was a finalist for both the National President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Bar Association and also one of the finalists for the Christopher Byers Fellow.
Karnowski stepped down from the Center for Family Law in November 2016 and now has been chosen to lead the Federal District Court System.
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