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On Monday August 14, 2017, the state of California filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice dragging the state into yet another contentious legal battle against the Trump administration. The lawsuit challenges an executive order signed by the President which seeks to withhold federal grant money to cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement authorities, otherwise known as “sanctuary cities,” in the apprehension and detention of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

The President’s executive order, if enforced, would have an adverse impact on the state of California given that California has fiercely opposed cooperating with federal law enforcement in apprehension efforts of undocumented immigrants. The state of California is home to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants—more than 6% of the state’s population. As it stands, California’s refusal to comply with the President’s executive order would allow the government to withhold federal grant money to the state of California, a state that makes the greatest contribution to the U.S. economy as a whole.

As you may recall, the President signed the controversial executive order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” on January 25, 2017. The order claims that, “sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.”

Section 9 of the order states in pertinent part:

Sec. 9.  Sanctuary Jurisdictions.  It is the policy of the executive branch to ensure, to the fullest extent of the law, that a State, or a political subdivision of a State, shall comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373. 

(a)  In furtherance of this policy, the Attorney General and the Secretary . . .  shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.  The Secretary has the authority to designate . . . a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction.  The Attorney General shall take appropriate enforcement action against any entity that violates 8 U.S.C. 1373, or which has in effect a statute, policy, or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of Federal law.

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On Thursday, August 10, 2017, the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania released a report which discusses the effect that the RAISE Act would have on the country’s economy. The RAISE Act is a Senate bill that was recently introduced by Republican Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA), which seeks to cut the legal immigration system in half. The President threw his support behind the bill shortly after it was introduced.

The Wharton report projects that if passed, the RAISE Act, would result in a loss of 4.6 million jobs by the year 2040, a reduction in GDP that will be 2 percent lower than the current rate by the year 2040, and a reduction in the country’s GDP by 0.7 percent by the year 2027.

On the flip side, the report projects that there will be “very little change” to individual per capita GDP, despite the fact that the RAISE Act would dramatically reduce the country’s population size, the number of jobs available, and the country’s GDP.

The report uses the Penn Wharton Budget Immigration Policy Model to make projections on the impact that the RAISE Act would have on the country’s economy.

Under the RAISE Act, legal immigration would be reduced by 50% while immigration would increase at a rate of 75% for immigrants with at least a college degree.

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Table 1 shows provisions included in the RAISE Act. Immigrant visas with employment preference would be awarded using a skills-based points system. Specifically, immigrant visa applicants would receive points based on education, English language skills, job offers, age, extraordinary achievements, and entrepreneurship. Family preferences for immigrant visas would be limited to spouses and minor children and the diversity lottery immigrant visa program would be eliminated. In addition, the number of refugees would be limited to 50,000 annually.

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You have questions, we have your answers. Here are answers to 6 of your Frequently Asked Questions.

In this blog, we are answering 6 of your frequently asked questions in detail. Please remember that every case and every story is different and unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance on your immigration journey. For any further questions please visit our website or call our office for a free first time legal consultation. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office.

Q: Should I hire an attorney to file my green card application and go with me to the green card interview?

This will largely depend on the complexity of your individual case. For example, there are individuals that are eligible to adjust their status to permanent residence based on their marriage to a U.S. Citizen or based on a qualifying family relationship, but may be applying for permanent residence under special circumstances such as 245i or another special immigrant classification such as VAWA.

Still other individuals may be applying for their green card for a second time after being denied.

Individuals who are applying for their green card under one of these special immigrant classifications should absolutely seek the assistance of an immigration attorney to apply for permanent residence to avoid any mistakes in filing and to be well prepared for the green card interview. In these situations, any minor mistakes on the paperwork can result in major delays, or worse—require refiling the green card application altogether. In addition, for complex cases it is always important for an attorney to prepare the foreign national for the most vital part of the green card application which is the green card interview. An attorney’s presence at the green card interview is also important to ensure that the foreign national’s rights are not violated by the immigration officer.

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On August 02, 2017, Republican Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced a new Act called “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy” before the U.S. Senate, otherwise known as the RAISE Act, which is a new piece of legislation that has recently been backed by President Trump.

The RAISE Act aims to overhaul the employment-based immigration system and replace it with a skills-based system that awards points to immigrants based on the immigrant’s level of education, age, ability to speak the English language, future job salary, level of investment, and professional achievements. In addition, the RAISE Act would terminate the Diversity Visa Program, which awards 50,000 visas to foreign nationals from qualifying countries, and would ultimately reduce the number of family-sponsored immigrants allowed admission to the United States. The Act intends to focus on the family-based immigration of spouses and minor children and would reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States.

Among other things the RAISE Act would:

  • Terminate the Diversity Visa Program which awards 50,000 green cards to immigrants from qualifying countries;
  • Slash the annual distribution of green cards to just over 500,000 (a change from the current issuance of over 1 million green cards annually);
  • Employment-based green cards would be awarded according to a skill-based points system that ranks applicants according to their level of education, age, ability to speak the English language, salary, level of investment, and achievements (see below);
  • The issuance of employment-based green cards would be capped at 140,000 annually;
  • Limit the maximum number of refugees admitted to the United States to 50,000;
  • Limit admission of asylees. The number of asylees admitted to the United States on any given year would be set by the President on an annual basis;
  • Amend the definition of “Immediate Relative” to an individual who is younger than 18 years of age instead of an individual who is younger than 21 years of age;
  • Adult children and extended family members of individuals living in the United States would no longer be prioritized to receive permanent residence. Instead the focus would remain on the immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens and legal permanent residents such as spouses and children under the age of 18;
  • The Act would allow sick parents of U.S. Citizens to be allowed to enter the United States on a renewable five-year visa, provided the U.S. Citizen would be financially responsible for the sick parent.

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On July 26, 2017 Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced H.R. 3440 the House version of the Dream Act of 2017, a bill that would give young people who were brought to the United States as children, a pathway to obtain conditional legal permanent residence, provided these individuals meet certain requirements.

Under this act, certain qualifying individuals would receive cancellation of removal, and the opportunity to adjust their status to conditional permanent residence, provided the individual has been a long-term resident of the United States, entered the United States as a child, and has not been convicted of serious criminal offenses.

While this Act is still in its early stages, it has received widespread bipartisan support, signaling a serious commitment to shield DREAMers from deportation on both sides of the aisle.

Requirements:

Under this act, to qualify for conditional permanent residence an alien would be required to:

  • Have continuous physical presence in the United States (4 years before the date of the enactment of the act);
  • Have been younger than 18 years of age on the date on which the alien initially entered the United States without inspection;
  • Be admitted to an institution of higher education;
  • Earned a high school diploma, or a commensurate alternative award from a public or private high school, or obtained a GED under State law, or a high school equivalency diploma in the United States, or enrolled in secondary school, or in an education program assisting students in obtaining a regular high school diploma or equivalency, or passing a GED exam or other similar State-authorized exam;
  • The alien must have been found inadmissible under paragraph (2), (3), (6)(E), (6)(G), (8), (10) (A), (10) (C), or (10) (D) of section 212(a) of the INA;

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In the United States and across the world, a climate of fear and uncertainty has taken over our day to day lives and crept its way into the politics of the country. This climate of fear has in many ways taken shape because of our President’s harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric, the series of executive orders he has signed on immigration which aim to discourage American companies from hiring foreign nationals, and which ultimately aim to deter undocumented immigrants from attempting to cross the United States border illegally. While the United States has an interest in buying American and hiring American, the President’s stance on immigration has made the best and brightest look elsewhere for the “American Dream.” Another cause for concern is the highly publicized immigration raids taking place across the country against undocumented immigrants. What is perhaps the most unsettling for undocumented immigrants is what is yet to unfold under the Trump administration. In recent weeks, we have seen the President harden his stance on immigration for both undocumented immigrants and foreign entrepreneurs with his plan to dissolve the “International Entrepreneur Rule” and his plan to build a “wall” along the Southern border.

For undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than 20 years, and who have raised their children as U.S. Citizens, there is much at stake. Living in this climate of fear has become our “new normal.”

The reality is that many families across the country are scared to remain in the United States. Some of these families have willingly returned to their countries of origin or relocated their families to other countries altogether. Still others, are being torn apart. Gone are the days when Dreamers were not made priorities for removal.

If you came to the United States illegally or no longer have a valid status country because you overstayed your visa, or just simply don’t have a status anymore, it is very important for you to take steps to protect yourself, and to realize that you have rights in this country.

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Great news for cap-exempt H-1B applicants! Effective immediately, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will resume premium processing services for certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions.

As you may recall in early April, USCIS temporarily suspended expedited processing of all H-1B petitions to reduce H-1B processing times and prioritize processing of H-1B extensions nearing the 240-day mark.

Today, July 24, 2017, USCIS announced that certain cap-exempt H-1B petitioners can now take advantage of premium processing services.

Please note that H-1B petitions filed on behalf of physicians under the Conrad 30 waiver program are not affected by the suspension.

What is premium processing?

Premium processing service refers to an optional premium processing service offered by USCIS to employers filing Form I-129 (Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker) or Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker). Premium processing guarantees 15 calendar day processing to petitioners or applicants who make use of the service. Applications that are not processed within 15 calendar days otherwise receive a refund of the $1,225 premium processing fee. To make use of the service, petitioners or applicants must file Form I-907 with their application and include the appropriate fees. The I-907 request for premium processing service can be filed together with an H-1B petition or separately pending a decision.

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On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, the United States Supreme Court responded to the Trump administration’s motion seeking clarification regarding the Supreme Court’s June 26th preliminary ruling, which held that the President could enforce the travel ban against foreign nationals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, who lack a credible “bona fide” relationship to a person residing in the United States, or entity such as an employer, religious, or academic institution.

The government sought clarification from the United States Supreme Court after the state of Hawaii challenged the government’s interpretation of a “close familial relationship,” and convinced a federal court judge that the Supreme Court intended close family members to include extended family members such as “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States.” Federal judge Watson was also convinced that refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency were exempt from the travel ban.

In a brief order, the Supreme Court denied the government’s motion seeking clarification of the court’s June 26, 2017 preliminary order, and reversed judge Watson’s decision regarding the admission of refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency. The Supreme Court has ruled that refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency will not be granted admission to the United States pending the resolution of the government’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Last week, Thursday, July 13, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson handed down a ruling which exempts extended family members from President Trump’s travel ban including: “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States.” These familial relationships are to be considered bona fide relationships that qualify such foreign nationals from gaining admission into the United States.  Thursday’s ruling also makes refugees with assurances from a resettlement agency, exempt from the President’s travel ban.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that they would hear arguments challenging the President’s travel ban when the Court reconvenes in October of next year. As part of their announcement, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, in the interim, the President could enforce the travel ban against foreign nationals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, who lack a credible “bona fide” relationship to a person residing in the United States, or entity such as an employer, religious, or academic institution.

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In their ruling, the Supreme Court however provided little guidance on what types of familial relationships would qualify as a credible bona fide relationship. The Supreme Court vaguely stated that “close familial” relationships would qualify as a bona fide relationship, citing mother-in-law’s and spouses as an example of a qualifying familial relationship. However, the Court was silent regarding extended family members.

This prompted the State of Hawaii to seek clarification from federal judge Watson, regarding what types of familial relationships would be subject to the ban. The State of Hawaii argued that the Trump administration had wrongfully interpreted the Court’s ruling to exclude close family members such as grandparents, after the administration issued a diplomatic cable to U.S. consular posts and embassies abroad that defined a “close familial relationship” to include parents, children, and in-laws, but not grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

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It’s official. The Department of Homeland Security has rolled out a plan to delay the effective date of the International Entrepreneur Rule, which was set to be enforced on July 17, 2017, to March 14, 2018, at which time the Department will seek comments from the public to rescind the rule, in accordance with Executive Order 13767, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” signed by President Trump on January 25, 2017.

Written comments from the public are due on or before 30 days from the date of publication in the federal register. It is strongly advised that all affected foreign entrepreneurs, business owners, attorneys, immigration advocates etc. leave a public comment identified by DHS Docket No. USCIS-2015-0006, online or by mail detailing the adverse effect that rescinding the rule would have on the U.S. economy and the expansion of jobs in the United States.

Public Comments

Online: Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the website instructions for submitting comments.

This document is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on 07/11/2017 and available online at https://federalregister.gov/d/2017-14619, and on FDsys.gov

By Mail: You may submit comments directly to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by sending correspondence to Samantha Deshommes, Chief, Regulatory Coordination Division, Office of Policy and Strategy, UCSIS, DHS, 20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20529. Remember to reference DHS Docket No. USCIS-2015-0006 in all mail correspondence.

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