Articles Posted in America

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On September 28, 2016 the Obama Administration published the presidential determination for refugee admissions for fiscal year 2017. For the upcoming fiscal year, the Department of State will authorize admission of up to 110,000 refugees in accordance with section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act 8 U.S.C. 1157. The numbers of available refugee admissions will be allocated on a regional basis to the following countries: Africa, East Asia, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Near East, and South Asia. The president stated in his memorandum that the number of refugee admissions has increased from previous years, due to national interest concerns and the need of humanitarian relief in these regions. Numbers are specifically allocated to refugees of special humanitarian concern to the United States. Fourteen-thousand of the one-hundred ten thousand refugee admissions will go toward an ‘unallocated reserve’ authorizing Congress to distribute unallocated admission numbers to regions where the need is necessary based upon humanitarian concerns. Any unused refugee admission numbers may be transferred between regions, if there is increased need for admission in that region or region(s).

The numbers for refugee admission by region are as follows:

Africa ……………………………………………………. 35,000

East Asia…………………………………………………. 12,000

Europe and Central………………………………………. 4,000

Latin America and the Caribbean …………………………5,000

Near East and South Asia…………………………………40,000

Unallocated reserve………………………………………. 14,000

In accordance with 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42) Congress is authorized to grant refugee admissions to the following persons, based on their country of nationality or habitual residence. Such persons are not subject to a numerical limit in order to qualify for refugee admission to the United States: persons in Cuba, Eurasia, the Baltics, Iraq, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and persons identified by a United States Embassy in exceptional circumstances.

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This morning, President Obama announced his nominee to fill the vacant seat of Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Contrary to what was believed, President Obama chose the most experienced and respected nominee among his top contenders, as opposed to the most progressive choice. The final decision came down to Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Merrick B. Garland. The President’s choice reflects political concerns to seat a Justice in time for oral arguments to begin in the case, United States v. Texas, a case that challenges the President’s modified Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. In the coming weeks, Judge Garland will need to face the Republicans in the Senate, who have vowed to block him from sitting on the Supreme Court. In order to be confirmed, he must receive votes from Republicans in the Senate.  It is expected that Republicans will vote in Garland’s favor since he is not inclined to take leading positions on ideological questions such as DACA/DAPA. If appointed, Garland is unlikely to take a progressive approach on the bench. Throughout his career, Garland has taken a centrist or neutral view of the law. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments for United States v. Texas in April. For more on DACA/DAPA please click here.

Profile: 

In this photo taken May 1, 2008, Judge Merrick B. Garland is seen at the federal courthouse in Washington, Thursday, May 1, 2008. Garland has been in this position before. The last time a seat opened up on the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2010, he was widely considered a top candidate for the job and interviewed with President Barack Obama. But the slot ultimately went to Justice Elena Kagan. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Chief Judge Garland was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals in April 1997 and became Chief Judge on February 12, 2013. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1974 and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1977. Following graduation, he served as law clerk to Judge Henry J. Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. From 1979 to 1981, he was Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States. He then joined the law firm of Arnold & Porter, where he was a partner from 1985 to 1989 and from 1992 to 1993. He served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1989 to 1992, and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1993 to 1994. From 1994 until his appointment as U.S. Circuit Judge, he served as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, where his responsibilities included supervising the Oklahoma City bombing and UNABOM prosecutions.

The Obama administration may announce its choice for the Supreme Court nomination as early as this week. We have learned that there are three contenders being considered for the Supreme Court nomination. All three candidates serve as judges for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and are well respected by both parties. They include Sri Srinivasan, Merrick Garland, and Paul Watford, who is rumored to be at the top of the President’s list. The Supreme Court nominee will be required to face a Republican Senate, in order to be formally appointed to the Supreme Court. Senate Republicans have already warned the White House that they will not hold hearings for any Supreme Court nominee suggested by President Barack Obama. As soon as Republicans heard of the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, they urged caution from the White House. Senate Republicans anticipate that the next President of the United States will be the party’s Presidential nominee. It is for this reason that they claim that the Supreme Court nomination should be made by the next President of the United States, and not by Barack Obama. In a televised announcement, following the death of Antonin Scalia, President Obama made it very clear that his intentions were to choose the Supreme Court nomination, despite warnings from Republicans. Senate Republicans responded by stating that they would block any of the President’s advancements.

President Obama will need to choose a Justice that will have a tendency to vote liberally in order for his expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program to survive. The expanded DACA and new DAPA program were introduced in November 2014 as part of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. These programs have been temporarily suspended following a federal court order filed by Texas and other states. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case, United States v. Texas, this April with a final ruling made by summer time.

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Last week, we reported to our readers that on September 25th the Department of State and USCIS re-issued the October Visa Bulletin and changed the date of filing chart drastically, rolling back the ‘Dates of Filing’ for heavily used visa categories, including employment based and family-sponsored petitions. The American Immigration Lawyers Association, along with policymakers, and immigration advocates, are urging Congress, the White House, USCIS, and Department of State to restore the initial dates of filing that were authorized and released on September 9th 2015 with the October Visa Bulletin.

If you would like to pressure the government to honor the initial dates of filing, released on September 9th, we invite you to sign the White House petition by clicking here. We must hold the government accountable for their actions by advocating for the restoration of the initial dates of filing. With the release of the October Visa Bulletin, the DOS introduced a dual chart system for the first time in history which included a new ‘date of filing’ chart. The new date of filing chart would have allowed thousands of foreign nationals to file their adjustment of status and employment authorization applications, before a visa became available to them. This action was made by the DOS in an effort to modernize and streamline our immigration system as part of President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration announced on November 20th of last year. Due to the recent drastic changes that have been made to the date of filing chart, we encourage you to become involved by signing the petition or writing to your local Congressman/Congresswoman. Thousands of foreign workers and family members of foreign nationals have been impacted by the recent changes, given that the majority of applicants who would have been eligible to file for their green card applications and employment authorization cards, will no longer be able to do so. They must continue to wait until their priority date becomes current on the date of filing chart.

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On Monday the Senate will be voting on a short-term spending bill introduced by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran. If passed, the bill will temporarily fund the government through December 11th of this year. If the bill is not passed, the country will face a government shutdown beginning on October 1, 2015. The temporary funding bill called a continuing appropriations resolution will be required to keep government agencies afloat for the remainder of the year. Congressional Republicans and Democrats have been at odds with one another since the Planned Parenthood scandal was brought to light. The non-profit organization’s involvement in the practice of procuring tissues from aborted fetuses for the purpose of medical research has been deeply contested by Republicans, who believe Planned Parenthood should no longer receive federal funding. Due to this impasse, no resolution bill has yet been agreed upon.

Repercussions on Immigration: LCA’s and PERM applications

A government shutdown would mean that various government agencies may not be operating at full capacity. Due to this we urge our clients to file urgent Labor Condition Applications or PERM applications prior to October 1, 2015. While the shutdown will have an effect on the economy, families, and business throughout the country, entities not affected by the government shutdown include USCIS, the military, airport security, FBI, Border Patrol, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, among others.

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On September 9th the Department of State and USCIS jointly announced new procedures that will allow family-based and employment-based applicants stuck in immigrant visa backlogs to apply for an immigrant visa (adjustment of status) before their priority date becomes current and an immigrant visa becomes immediately available to them. These new procedures will be implemented beginning October 1, 2015 as part of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration with the purpose of modernizing and streamlining our legal immigration system for the 21st century. These new changes were introduced in the October Visa Bulletin. 

What is the Visa Bulletin?

The Department of State publishes a monthly report of visa availability known as the ‘Visa Bulletin.’ The Visa Bulletin is essentially a guide to be used by applicants and consular officials denoting visa availability for the issuance of visas at consulates and embassies worldwide. USCIS utilizes the Visa Bulletin to determine whether Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, can be accepted for filing and processing. In order to file Form I-485 a prospective immigrant must determine whether a visa is available to them at the time the Form I-485 is filed and at the time Form I-485 is approved. The Department of State and Department of Homeland Security work together to revise the Visa Bulletin on a monthly basis estimating immigrant visa availability for prospective adjustment of status applicants. The DOS allocates available visas by providing visa numbers according to the prospective immigrant’s preference category, country of birth and priority date. This allows distribution of visas for all preference categories. A prospective immigrant’s priority date can be found on Form I-797 Notice of Action or ‘Receipt Notice’ for the petition filed on the applicant’s behalf.

What is a Priority Date?

A priority date is generally defined as the “date when your relative or employer properly filed the immigrant visa petition on your behalf with USCIS.”  For employment-based petitions, “if a labor certification is required to be filed with your immigrant visa petition, the priority date is the date the labor certification application was accepted for processing by the Department of Labor.”

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By now you may have heard that on the morning of June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a landmark 5-4 decision (Obergefell v Hodges) that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage, a right that cannot be denied by the laws of any state.

Prior to the ruling, same sex couples could only be married in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Marriage equality for same sex couples has been a controversial subject for decades, making the ruling all the more historic.

In 2013 the Supreme Court made a similar ruling which declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. DOMA was initially enacted by Congress in 1996, defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman. DOMA essentially barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. Despite the ruling, the rights of same sex couples continued to be abridged by individual state laws. Even after DOMA was declared unconstitutional, many conservative states continued to deny same sex couples the right to marry. Due to this, thousands of law suits flooded into the courts to settle the issue once and for all. One of these suits was brought to court by Jim Obergefell, a widower demanding that his legal marriage to his partner of 21 years, be recognized in his state of residency, the state of Ohio. The June 26th SCOTUS decision has now put the debate to rest, though a long journey still lies ahead.

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