Articles Posted in Comprehensive Immigration Reform

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USCIS International Field Offices

On August 9, 2019, USCIS announced its plans to maintain seven international field offices open in Beijing, Guangzhou, Nairobi, New Delhi, Guatemala City, Mexico City, and San Salvador.

As previously reported, all other USCIS international field offices will close between now and August 2020.

Functions performed at closing international offices will be handled domestically or by USCIS domestic staff on temporary assignments abroad. In addition, the Department of State (DOS) will assume responsibility for certain in-person services that USCIS currently provides at international field offices.

In addition to issuing visas to foreign nationals who are abroad, DOS already performs many of these service functions where USCIS does not have an office.

Targeted Immigration Raids

As our readers may be aware, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been conducting targeted immigration raids (Enforcement and Removal Operations) to remove undocumented immigrants from the United States.

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Photo: Christian Leo Seno
Flickr

The United States Supreme Court has announced that it will decide the fate of DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, during its next term, beginning in October, with a decision likely to be handed down by the Court in early 2020.

The Court’s decision to take up the issue of DACA will take place during a highly contentious political climate as Americans prepare to vote in the 2020 Presidential election.

Adding to the great divide among Americans about the future of DACA, is the Supreme Court’s current ideological split. At the moment, the Supreme Court is evenly split with 4 liberal justices and 4 conservative justices. Justice Alito, the “swing” voter is likely to cast the decisive vote.

As constitutional history has suggested, DACA is likely to find support among the liberal justices on the bench including Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer, while finding opposition from Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Chief Justice Roberts.

This will not be the first time the Supreme Court hears a case involving the constitutionality of the DACA program.

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Ken Cuccinelli Photo by Gage Skidmore
Source: Flickr

New developments in the world of immigration have just emerged. The director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), L. Francis Cissna, has been forced to resign.

Cissna has served under the Trump administration since October 2017. During his tenure, Cissna oversaw major policy changes within the agency, including the President’s travel ban, the court’s rebuke of the travel ban, the termination of the DACA program, and the Trump administration’s efforts to limit asylum processing for Central Americans.

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Federal Judge John Bates of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia has spoken to protect Dreamers from deportation, where Congress has remained silent. In a Tuesday ruling, Judge Bates called the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to rescind the DACA program “arbitrary and capricious,” and with no sufficient basis to justify rescission of the program, ordered DHS to accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.

As part of his opinion Judge Bates vacated the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA, for a period of 90 days, giving the Department of Homeland Security an opportunity to explain its decision to rescind the DACA program. If the government fails to adequately explain the grounds for finding the DACA program to be unlawful, DHS must accept and process new and renewal DACA applications. DHS has responded to the ruling in a statement where it vowed to “continue to vigorously defend” its decision to rescind the DACA program and looks “forward to vindicating its position in further litigation.”

This ruling is the third in recent months against the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the DACA program.  Earlier this year, Federal Judges in Brooklyn and San Francisco issued similar rulings to keep the DACA program in place, however the Bates ruling is the first ordering the government to accept new DACA applications.

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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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