Articles Posted in American Politics

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Today the Supreme Court of the United States dealt a strong blow to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration issuing a single one-line decision on the ruling “the judgment of the lower court is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Nearly two years ago, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration after the Republican controlled House of Representatives refused to tackle the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. As part of his executive actions on immigration, President Obama announced the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and introduced a new program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, (DAPA) designed to shield nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Following these initiatives, USCIS announced that applications for expanded DACA and the new DAPA program would begin to be accepted on February 18, 2015.

The DACA program would have expanded the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to people of any current age who entered the United States before the age of 16 and lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010, and extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years. The new DAPA program would have granted parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents the opportunity to request deferred action and employment authorization for a three year period, on the condition that they have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010 and pass required background checks.

On February 16, 2015 just two days before the programs were scheduled to go into effect, Texas along with 25 other states, filed a temporary court injunction ultimately suspending both programs from going into effect. This action prompted the Obama administration to intervene. For months, the federal government and the State of Texas battled one another in federal court. The court ultimately determined that Texas and at least 25 other status had sufficient ‘standing’ to challenge these programs. In response, the federal government filed an emergency motion to stay, however the motion was eventually denied by the court. This led the government to file a writ of certiorari before the Supreme Court. The fate of Obama’s executive actions grew all the more uncertain with the sudden death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13th.  President Obama made desperate attempts to fill the vacated seat by nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Efforts to fill the seat were unsuccessful as Republicans vowed to keep Garland from sitting on the bench. Thus, Scalia’s death left behind an eight-person bench, and with no one to fill his seat, the growing possibility of a deadlock within the Supreme Court.

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The Department of Homeland Security is currently under pressure to provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ecuadorians, following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Northern coast of Ecuador on April 16, causing nearly 600 fatalities. Dozens of people remain missing under the rubble, while thousands of Ecuadorians have sustained injuries. The Obama administration is expected to respond to a request from American lawmakers, which would allow Ecuadorians physically present in the United States, to apply for an extension of stay to remain in the country temporarily. Furthermore, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other politicians have called on the Obama administration to intervene, by designating Ecuador as a country temporarily eligible to receive Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In a statement issued last week, De Blasio noted that New York City alone is home to nearly 140,000 Ecuadorian immigrants. Many of these New Yorkers face additional uncertainty about whether it is safe for them to return to Ecuador at this time. We must extend whatever support we can at this critical moment.” Approximately 143,000 Ecuadorians currently reside in the United States illegally in the states of New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California and Florida.

The administration is also being pressured by lawmakers to extend temporary protected status to migrants from Central America, due to the criminal and security concerns in the region including gang violence. The administration has not yielded to this pressure as of yet.

Enacted by the United States Immigration Act of 1990, TPS allows the government to extend the stay of foreign nationals whose countries have been affected by war, civil unrest, violence, natural disasters, or other emergent needs that concern the safety of foreign nationals from troubled regions. The provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allow this temporary status to exist, as well as other blanket forms of relief from removal of individuals from these affected regions. Under the INA, the executive branch and legislative branch are authorized to grant TPS as relief from removal for individuals from designated countries. The Secretary of Homeland Security and Secretary of State, are given the authority to issue TPS for a period of 6 to 18 months that can be extended if conditions remain the same in the designated countries. TPS recipients receive a registration document and temporary employment authorization for the duration that the foreign national is granted Temporary Protected Status. Temporary Protected Status is NOT a visa or a path to permanent residence. Foreign nationals who have been found inadmissible to the United States or in other words have been subject to a “bar” are not eligible to receive Temporary Protected States.

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Today the Supreme Court of the United States will begin hearing arguments in the case United States v. Texas, a lawsuit challenging Obama’s executive actions on immigration. As you have heard, a federal court order temporarily froze the expanded DACA and new DAPA programs from going into effect as expected. The Supreme Court will decide the fate of these programs by June of this year.

It is truly an exciting time of the year for immigration law. United States v. Texas is the biggest immigration case of our generation. The Supreme Court’s ruling will set an important precedent for the future of immigration policy. The court will also determine whether the President had authority to enforce the executive actions on immigration. As a member of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association (AILA), we invite you to join a live webcast with AILA experts Greg Chen,  Legal Director Melissa Crow, and UCLA School of Law Professor Hiroshi Motomura on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at 1:00 pm (ET), as they recap and offer expert analysis of Monday’s Supreme Court oral arguments in the United States v. Texas case.

Click here to watch the live stream.

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The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments for United States v. Texas, a lawsuit challenging the President’s executive actions on immigration, on Monday April 18th.  We have learned that attorneys representing the Republican led House of Representatives will be given 15 minutes to argue against Obama’s executive actions on immigration, included the expanded Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. This move comes after the House of Representatives voted in favor of filing a brief before the Supreme Court challenging the executive actions on immigration. The court has also authorized a group of undocumented mothers of U.S. Citizen children to speak before the Supreme Court for 10 minutes. The Obama administration is currently at a disadvantage, given that only eight Supreme Court justices will ultimately be handing down one of the most important decisions of our generation come June. Obama had hoped that the House of Representatives would hold hearings in consideration of his Supreme Court pick, Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Merrick Garland, by the time oral arguments would begin. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Republicans have refused to hold hearings in consideration of Judge Garland. It is likely that they will continue to delay hearings until the next President of the United States takes office next year.

Oral arguments on April 18th will be no more than 90 minutes long. The majority of the time will be divided by the Obama administration and attorneys representing Texas and 25 other states challenging the constitutionality of Obama’s executive actions on immigration. United States v. Texas is unique because it will finally put to rest the issue of whether or not the executive action on immigration is within the President’s constitutional powers. This case is also unique because it will be one of the few times that the Supreme Court has addressed the issue of illegal immigration and the rights of unlawful immigrants under the constitution.

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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.

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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, the Senate held a hearing scrutinizing the temporary H-1B skilled worker program, the second hearing of its kind within just one year. At issue was the protection of American jobs and dissatisfaction with the program among conservatives in the Senate, who believe the program has caused job displacement at the expense of thousands of Americans. Beyond their own political convictions, Republican Senators eyeing the White House, have also scrutinized the H-1B visa program, in order to appease voters who, maintain a hard line stance on immigration.

During the hearing, the Senate Judiciary panel considered testimony questioning the integrity of the H-1B visa program. Many witnesses accused their employers of violating the conditions of the program, alleging that their employers sought to replace American workers with foreign workers by utilizing the H-1B visa program to pay those workers lower wages. This accusation is troublesome for various reasons. Firstly, it is well known that the H-1B visa program requires an employer to hire a foreign worker in a specialty occupation only when the employer cannot obtain the necessary skills and abilities to perform the specialty occupation within the American workforce. H-1B workers must possess distinguished merit and ability, and demonstrate their qualifications through the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, in the intended field of employment. Secondly, the H-1B visa program contains provisions which are specifically designed to protect similarly employed American workers from any adverse affects suffered from the employment of temporary foreign workers. Consequently, there are also provisions which aim to protect H-1B nonimmigrant workers from H-1B violations. One of those provisions includes the requirement that American employers pay temporary H-1B workers at least the ‘prevailing wage,’ the average wage paid to similarly employed workers (experience and qualifications) in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment. This would mean that any employer seeking to use the H-1B visa program for the purposes of obtaining ‘cheap foreign labor’ or to replace American workers would be violating the conditions of the H-1B visa program altogether.

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“He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. The press referred to his “energetic fervor,” “astringent intellect,” “peppery prose,” “acumen,” and “affability,” all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp” -Ruth Bader Ginsburg

When news broke of the passing of the longest serving Justice on the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, a cloud of uncertainty lifted above the heads of Republican frontrunners vying for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Indeed, the topic of conversation during the February 13th Republican Presidential Debate, which occurred on the day of Justice Scalia’s passing, focused on whether or not the current President should nominate the next Supreme Court Justice. Justice Antonin Scalia, nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, was the most outspoken conservative on the bench, and not very well liked by liberal politicians and intellectuals, primarily due to the philosophy behind his jurisprudence. Scalia’s jurisprudence during his 29 years on the bench belonged to the Originalist school of thought. An Originalist’s interpretation of the Constitution denies the contention that the Constitution should be interpreted by the Court as a living, breathing document, a view that is typically shared by liberal Constructivist Justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Instead, Originalists believe that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent or meaning shared by the founders as it was written. This would require an Originalist to adhere to the spirit of the law as it was intended by the founders of our country, as well as an understanding of what was meant when the Constitution was originally drafted.

During his time on the bench, Scalia tenaciously criticized the liberal Constructivist view, calling this interpretation of the Constitution, judicial activism, which he viewed as inappropriate. In his view the Supreme Court must be insulated and not be swayed by the social concerns of the public. Throughout his trajectory, Scalia has gone down in history for handing down the most controversial dissents in the history of the Supreme Court, avidly supporting the right to bear arms, challenging the right to abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, and was ultimately instrumental in securing the Presidential nomination of George W. Bush in the 2000 case Bush V. Gore. Up until his untimely death, the Supreme Court held a conservative majority. The conservatives on the bench include Chief Justice, John G. Roberts Jr. nominated by President George W. Bush in 2005, Justice Clarence Thomas nominated by President George W. Bush in 1991, Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006, Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate conservative swing vote nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, and up until recently Antonin Scalia nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1986. Together, these conservative Justices established a 5-4 majority against liberal Justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and recently appointed Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death has now upset the conservative majority, creating a balance of power between conservative and liberal minds on the bench. With the death of Scalia, the bench is now evenly split ideologically 4-4 with a vacant seat ready to be filled by a liberal Justice, thereby creating a Liberal majority. This of course will not be easy, since the Senate is dominated by the Republican party, and the Senate will be in charge of vetting the President’s nominee.

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The Supreme Court justices are currently in deliberations, to decide the fate of Barack Obama’s expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) announced November 2014, as part of the President’s executive actions on immigration. At issue is whether or not the Court will hear arguments for and against lifting the temporary court injunction, which prevented the expanded DACA program and the new DAPA program from moving forward as initially anticipated.

The extended DACA and DAPA provisions were scheduled to go into effect on February 18, 2015, but were quickly blocked by a temporary injunction filed by Texas and 26 other states, just three days before applications for extended DACA and DAPA would have been accepted by USCIS. What has resulted has been a near two-year legal battle between the federal government and the states in question.

Timeline of legal action between the federal government and plaintiffs:

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Earlier this week, in a 407-19 vote the House of Representatives successfully passed the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, a bill that seeks to increase restrictions for travelers coming to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, a program which currently allows citizens from 38 designated countries to travel to the United States without a visa. In order to become law the bill must also pass through the Senate. The bill was introduced following President Barack Obama’s address to the nation, in which he confronted the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

In his address, President Obama pledged to work closely with the Department of State and Homeland Security to revise the visa waiver program, under which one of the San Bernardino assailants traveled to the United States. The Problem? The President misspoke—the assailant traveled to the United States with a K-1 fiancé visa and not through the visa waiver program. Instead Obama meant to say that he would work with the DOS and DHS to revise the visa program in general. In light of this innocent mistake, the House continued its support to tighten the visa waiver program, despite the fact that no evidence has been presented suggesting that terrorists and/or their radicalized accomplices have traveled to the United States using this program. This would mean that the government is concerned that terrorists, disguised as refugees, may travel from Syria and surrounding countries, into Europe and in the process acquire European citizenship making it easy for them to travel to the United States through the visa waiver program. The government may also be concerned that ISIL is radicalizing and recruiting European citizens of middle eastern descent to their cause.

As it stands there are no middle eastern countries participating in the visa waiver program. The majority of the countries eligible to participate are from Western Europe with few exceptions including Chile, Taiwan, Australia etc. Individuals who have applied for a United States visa but have been denied, are not eligible to travel to the United States under the visa waiver program, even if their country participates in the program. Such individuals must apply for the appropriate visa at a US embassy or consulate abroad in order to travel to the United States. Critics allege that as a result of such legislation, consular officials and CBP agents will inevitably profile visa waiver travelers.

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