Articles Posted in Comprehensive Immigration Reform

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The Trump administration has ended an Obama-era policy that required immigration officials to release pregnant women in detention from federal custody. As of at least December, the Trump administration has directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to treat pregnant detainees as they would any other, except for women who have reached their third trimester. The new policy change aligns with the President’s hard line stance on immigration, and executive orders signed into law by the President during the past few months.

Under the new policy, immigration officials must now make a case-by-case determination “taking any special factors into account,” when deciding whether to release pregnant women in federal custody, including whether the alien has an asylum claim based on a credible fear of persecution. Other factors that are taken into account include the woman’s medical condition, potential danger to the public, and potential for flight. Pregnant women who remain in detention will continue to receive necessary medical care and a record of pregnant women in custody must be kept by immigration officials.

Philip Miller, ICE Deputy Executive Associate Director, divulged that 35 pregnant women are currently in federal custody subject to mandatory detention, and that 506 pregnant women have been detained by ICE since December. Miller however would not comment on how many of these women were deported, or released from detention. “In terms of risks to the community, we look at criminal history. Just as there are men who commit violent acts, heinous acts, so too have we had women in custody who have been convicted of committing heinous, violent acts,” Miller commented when discussing the factors that mitigate against release.

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Last week, the United States Senate began much-anticipated debates to reach a deal on immigration before the March 5th deadline imposed by the President. Debates in the Senate last week however were unavailing with both parties blaming one another for their inability to come up with a solution that would protect thousands of DACA recipients from deportation. To make matters worse the President issued a firestorm of tweets attacking leaders of the Democratic party and criticizing sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. Should Congress fail to enact legislation to shield Dreamers from deportation by March 5th, thousands of young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children will begin to lose their protection from deportation and the ability to work legally in the United States.

In the weeks ahead, Congress must also focus their efforts to pass a spending bill to permanently fund the government. Currently, the government is running on a short-term spending bill which expires midnight on March 23rd. Failure to pass a spending bill that permanently funds the government would mean yet another government shutdown. This urgent need to pass a spending bill may present an opportunity for Congress to finally reach a solution on top immigration priorities and seal the future of DACA recipients. Top immigration priorities for Republicans include building a wall between the United States and Mexico, beefing up the presence of border patrol agents and law enforcement, ending “Chain-Migration,” the diversity visa lottery program, while Democrats remain focused on creating a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and strongly oppose ending “Chain-Migration.” However, it would not be surprising if Congress fails to safeguard the status of DACA recipients given that members of Congress have on previous occasions failed to come up with a bipartisan solution.

Since October, approximately 122 young undocumented immigrants have had their DACA-permits expire on a daily basis, which is expected to add up to 22,000 immigrants by March 5th. Approximately 668,000 immigrants have been issued work permits under DACA that will not expire until March 5th or later.

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On Sunday night, a group of Republican Senators met to draft the Republican party’s version of the President’s immigration framework, in preparation for a floor debate that will take place Monday night on immigration. The Republican bill is one of many proposals that will be considered by the Senate as part of the ongoing immigration debate. The proposed bill, known as the Secure and Succeed Act of 2018, drafted by Republican Senators Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn, James Lankford, Thom Tillis, David Perdue, Tom Cotton, and Joni Ernst, mirrors the Trump administration’s immigration framework.

Over the next few weeks Senators will vigorously debate and amend proposals on immigration with the goal of coming up with a piece of legislation that can garner at least 60 votes in the Senate to advance to the House of Representatives. The process will involve a free-for-all debate on the Senate floor that will allow Senators to propose amendments, with the goal of coming up with a bipartisan solution to shield Dreamers from deportation.

The GOP currently has a 51-49 majority in the Senate, making it necessary for Republicans to obtain support from Democratic Senators to reach the 60-vote threshold. Republicans have a large enough majority in the House of Representatives that they do not need a single Democratic vote to pass desired legislation.

Path to Citizenship for Dreamers

The Republican proposal focuses on providing a 12-year path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million people including DACA eligible recipients. Undocumented immigrants currently enrolled in DACA would receive a 2-year credit allowing them to obtain citizenship within 10 years. The criteria to obtain citizenship would require an individual to have:

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To our loyal readers and clients, we wish you and your families very safe and happy holidays. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued trust and loyalty in our office. Our clients continue to inspire us with their stories of hope, courage, and innovation. Although it is a very challenging time for immigration law due to our current political climate, we believe that our executive and legislative branches will work together to find a solution to pressing issues that have remain unresolved for so many years. We hope that in the new year, members of Congress will begin talks to pass comprehensive immigration reform, including legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation. Whatever happens in the new year, we will be here every step of the way to help you achieve your immigration goals. See you in the new year!

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Much to our dismay, Congress was unable to pass the DREAM Act, or any comparable legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation, before going into recess for the holidays. During the last few weeks, members of Congress in the House and the Senate have been scrambling to pass a temporary spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. We hoped that during this time Democrats and Republicans would put their differences aside to lay the groundwork for an immigration deal that would solve the DACA problem once and for all. Instead, Republicans in Congress focused on passing a sweeping tax bill that is likely to be signed into law by the President as early as Friday. As a result, discussions about DACA were cast to the wayside, leaving these issues to be dealt with in 2018.

Unfortunately, Congress has now gone into recess and will not reconvene until January 3, 2018. This means that Republicans will have a very busy month in January. As you may recall, the President has given Congress until March 5, 2018 to pass legislation shielding Dreamers from deportation, because that is when DACA enrollment will begin to expire in large numbers. Congress must now work within a very tight deadline to begin DACA negotiations swiftly if they expect to meet the early March deadline. When Congress reconvenes after the holidays, the President will meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss their legislative priorities for 2018. A DACA solution will undoubtedly be high on their list. Republicans have legislatively been more united than ever, so it is in the GOP’s best interest to resolve the issue by the deadline, instead of prolonging an issue that has been ignored for far too long already.

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Given the recent termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the controversy surrounding the immigration system as of late, in this post we address the numerous myths surrounding the DACA program and of immigration law in general. Although there are numerous studies and empirical research debunking the common myths attributed to the immigration system, as well as detailed economic reports published by governmental agencies corroborating the positive effects of immigration, Americans continue to hold a negative perception of immigrants and are increasingly skeptical of the immigration process. In truth, much of these perceptions are perpetuated by the unwillingness of Americans to obtain readily available information on the internet, to discover that the immigration process for individuals who entered the United States illegally is riddled with obstacles. More and more we are seeing Americans rely on news stations to accurately deliver the news and do the work for them. Unfortunately, the best way to understand the immigration process itself is to go straight to the source, and not rely on such sources for information.

The public needs to know the facts to better understand that the average immigrant actually has very few immigration options available to them under the current immigration system.

MYTH #1 It is easy to get a green card under current immigration laws

Most Americans believe that it is relatively easy to get a green card. This cannot be further from the truth. Immigration laws are highly complex and are designed to make it more difficult for extended family members, low-skilled workers, and undocumented immigrants to immigrate to the United States. Under current immigration laws, there are generally only two ways to immigrate to the United States and obtain permanent residency, outside of special immigrant categories specifically reserved for special categories of individuals including: asylees, refugees, certain witnesses of crimes, victims of abuse, and individuals who may qualify for withholding of removal. It is extremely difficult for individuals to qualify for permanent residency under one of these special categories.

Outside of these special categories, foreign nationals may immigrate to the United States and obtain permanent residency, only if they have a qualifying family member (such as a US Citizen or LPR spouse, child, etc.) who may petition for them or if the beneficiary works for a U.S. employer on a valid visa who is willing to sponsor the foreign national by petitioning for their permanent residency.

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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 May 7, 2017 Governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed the controversial “Texas Senate Bill 4” into law which will take effect on September 1st. Among its major provisions, the bill outlaws the establishment of “sanctuary cities” which serve as safe havens for undocumented immigrants, requires local law enforcement officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities by holding undocumented immigrants subject to deportation, and permits local law enforcement officials to question individuals regarding their immigration status in the United States. In September, the bill will be enforced by officers throughout the state of Texas including by police officers on college campuses. The bill, however, will not apply to officers contracted by religious groups, schools, government mental health care facilities, and hospitals.

More specifically SB4:

  • Blocks local entities from passing laws and/or adopting policies that prevent local law enforcement officials from inquiring about a person’s immigration status
  • The law makes it a crime for sheriffs, constables, police chiefs, and local leaders to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities (Class A misdemeanor)
  • Imposes sanctions on law enforcement officials and local jurisdictions that do not comply with the law
  • Cities who fail to comply with the law may face fines of up to $25,000 per day, and the police chiefs, sheriffs, or mayors of noncompliant jurisdictions may be charged criminally and/or removed from office
  • Allows police officers to question anyone they believe to be residing in the United States unlawfully about their immigration status, including at routine traffic stops

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8358967030_aef1cd0812_zThe Trump administration is quickly mobilizing resources to facilitate the massive deportation of undocumented persons living and working in the United States, and to secure the U.S. border.

A new 90-day progress report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security outlines how the agency is planning on implementing the provisions of the Executive Order 13767 entitled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” signed by President Trump earlier this year. Although the progress report is only a preliminary assessment of how the agency will enforce the executive order, the report reflects what immigration enforcement might look like in the near future.

Securing the border: Regarding border security, the progress report outlines that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is taking immediate action to plan, design, and construct a physical wall on the southern border between the United States and Mexico. Specifically, the report states that CBP is partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and construct prototypes to expand the southern border, and has submitted a request for funding from Congress for $20 million.

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On June 23, 2016 the United States Supreme Court made headlines when it affirmed a federal court’s decision in United States v. Texas, preventing the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. An eight-person bench delivered a single one-line decision on the ruling stating, “the judgment of the lower court is affirmed by an equally divided court.” This controversial decision ultimately resulted in the halt of the expansion of the DACA and DAPA programs, leaving these programs in legal limbo. The DACA and DAPA programs were first introduced by President Barack Obama two years ago, as part of a series of executive actions on immigration. With the passage of these programs, the Obama administration hoped that the Republican controlled House of Representatives would be persuaded to discuss the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. This effort proved fruitless. Republican Congressmen and women not only refused to pass comprehensive immigration reform, they politicized the issue of immigration altogether, blocking the President’s Supreme Court nomination following the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, in order to prevent the Supreme Court from becoming liberal. Together, these programs would have shielded nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation by giving them “deferred status,” and would have provided applicants with a temporary three-year employment authorization card. Although these measures proved short of an amnesty, they were made in response to Congress’s refusal to pass meaningful immigration reform for the undocumented population living in the United States.

The expansion of the DACA program would have increased the population eligible to apply for employment authorization to people of any current age, who had entered the United States before the age of 16, and who could demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010. Similarly, the DAPA program would have shielded millions of parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents from deportation if they could demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010, and pass the required background checks.

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