US President Barack Obama [official website] on Friday signed into law a bill [H.R. 3233 text] that grants special immigration status to Iraqis who have aided US forces. The original bill allowing Iraqis to apply for this status expired last week, but passage of H.R. 3233 extends the time of application to the first three months of fiscal year 2014. It allows for 2,000 more Iraqis to be approved for the status in addition to all applicants who were pending as of September 30. The bill extends this status to translators, guides, drivers and other contractors who were employed by the US government for more than one year. The extension, which amends Section 1244(c)(3) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 [text, PDF], was passed with bipartisan support [AP report] by the US Senate [official website] on Thursday. The purpose of the bill was when it was passed was to allow Iraqis who assisted US forces to be able to leave the country amid threats of violence. To date, more than 12,000 Iraqis have relocated to the US through this visa program. Qualifying individuals will now be allowed to apply until December 31, 2013.
This is the most recent development surrounding US Immigration Law [JURIST backgrounder], which has been highly litigated in recent years. Last month, a judge in Washington state ruled [JURIST report] that local enforcement officers cannot extend detention of individuals to question them about their immigration status. In May the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] of Georgia reported [JURIST report] that undocumented immigrants face constitutional and human rights violations in Georgia detention centers. In September 2011 the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled that immigrants who are imprisoned while fighting deportation cannot be held indefinitely [JURIST report] without a bail hearing and that the government must justify the need for the prolonged detention.