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We are just 60 days away from Election day in the United States which falls on Tuesday, November 3rd. Do you know where your candidate stands on immigration? In this post, we cover Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s stance on important immigration issues, and everything you need to know about his vision for America.

We would also like to take this opportunity to remind those of our readers who are American citizens to exercise their right to vote. It is your civic duty and will help shape the nation’s immigration policy for the next four years. For voter registration information please click here.


Immigration under Joe Biden

If elected President of the United States, Joe Biden has stated that he will enact a number of policies during his four-year term. Among these policies, he promises to take urgent action to undo destructive policies implemented by the Trump administration, modernize the immigration system, reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees, and implement effective border screening.


Comprehensive Immigration Reform

First and foremost, Joe Biden supports working with Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration solution that would offer nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. As vice president, Joe Biden worked alongside former President Obama to push forward a bill that would do just that. Unfortunately, the Republican-led Congress refused to approve the bill, leaving millions of undocumented immigrants in limbo including Dreamers.

Joe Biden advocates for the creation and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program,  the Central American Minors program, which allows parents with legal status in the U.S. to apply to bring their children from Central America to live with them, and the creation of a White House task force to support new Americans to integrate into American life and their communities.

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We would like to wish our readers a very great start of the week. In this blog post, we will be covering recent and exciting developments in immigration law.


K-1 Visa Applicants

We have great news for K-1 fiancé visa applicants. Today, August 31, 2020, the Department of State issued an important announcement for K visa applicants. Effective August 28, 2020, the Department of State has given Consular sections the authority to grant K visa cases “high priority.” This directive applies to Consulates and Embassies worldwide and gives Consular posts the discretion to prioritize the scheduling of K visa interviews, as country conditions allow during the Coronavirus pandemic.

DOS has encouraged applicants to check the website of their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for updates on what services that post is currently able to offer.

Revalidating the I-129F Petition

DOS has also stated that while the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) is valid for a period of four months, consular officials have the authority to revalidate the I-129F petition in four-month increments.

In addition, the announcement states that for most cases impacted by the suspension of routine visa services or COVID-19 travel restrictions, it will not be necessary to file a new I-129F petition.


Interview Waiver Eligibility for Certain Non-Immigrant Visa Applicants

The Department of State announced on August 25, 2020, that Consular officials at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad can temporarily waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification.

Previously, interview waiver eligibility was limited to applicants whose nonimmigrant visa expired within 12 months. The new announcement temporarily extends the expiration period to 24 months.

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Congress is moving quickly to avert the financial crisis currently plaguing the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). On Saturday August 22nd the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill aiming to provide much needed emergency funding to help USCIS meet its operational needs.

Earlier this year, USCIS made clear that without additional funding the agency would need to furlough two-thirds of its workforce by the end of August, even after announcing an increase in fees set to go into effect on October 2nd. The agency has been struggling to stay afloat in the wake of the Coronavirus.

While the bill still needs to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the President, this is very promising news and a step in the right direction for applicants waiting in line for their applications to be processed on a timely basis.

Should the bill be successful it will stop the agency’s planned furloughs and inject much needed capital to help USCIS deal with the significant backlogs across the board. The Senate is expected to return to chambers in September and will likely take up the issue as soon as possible.

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In complete defiance of a recent federal court order, mandating acceptance of initial requests for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Department of Homeland Security today issued a memorandum that states that effective immediately, the agency will reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA including all associated employment authorization applications, and reject all pending and future I-131 advance parole requests for beneficiaries of DACA. The agency has stated that it will refund all associated fees, without prejudice should DHS decide to accept initial requests for DACA in the future.

The memorandum orders, “DHS personnel to take all appropriate actions to reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA, to reject all pending and future applications for advance parole absent exceptional circumstances, and to shorten DACA renewals [to one year] consistent with the parameters established in this memorandum.”

Most shocking of all is that the memorandum limits the period of deferred action pursuant to the DACA program and associated employment authorization to just one year for DACA renewals filed after July 28th, when previously deferred action and employment authorization was issued for two years.

These actions are appalling and reflect judicial defiance that has never before been seen. These actions will surely set off a string of new lawsuits in the coming weeks. We must all stay tuned for new developments during this uncertain time for DACA.


Actions to be Taken by DHS as of July 28, 2020

The memorandum provides a list of actions DHS plans to take effective immediately which further detail the actions that will be taken by DHS as of today:

  • Reject all initial DACA requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents, and refund all associated fees, without prejudice to re-filing such requests should DHS determine to begin accepting initial requests again in the future.
  • Adjudicate all pending and future properly submitted DACA renewal requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents from current beneficiaries.
  • Limit the period of any deferred action granted pursuant to the DACA policy after the issuance of this memorandum (and thereby limit the period of any associated work authorization) to one year.
  • Refrain from terminating any grants of previously issued deferred action or revoking any Employment Authorization Documents based solely on the directives in this memorandum for the remaining duration of their validity periods.
  • Reject all pending and future Form I-131 applications for advance parole from beneficiaries of the DACA policy and refund all associated fees, absent exceptional circumstances.

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Today is a historic day for Dreamers from all walks of life. By a vote of 5-4, Supreme Court Justices Roberts, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer rallied together in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, finding that the Trump administration’s 2017 efforts to dismantle the DACA program were improper. This means that the DACA program will remain in place at least for the foreseeable future. DACA was first created by executive order under former President Barack Obama eight years ago, in response to Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform shielding undocumented young adults from deportation.

The creation of the DACA program prompted fury from Republicans who felt former President Obama was side-stepping Congress to create laws of his own. Perhaps the most infuriated of these Republicans was then Presidential candidate Donald Trump, who promised voters he would dismantle the “illegal,” DACA program once and for all. While in office, President Trump nominated two conservative Justices to the Supreme Court to help him do just that, shifting the composition of the Supreme Court to a conservative one.

Today’s ruling is a stunning rebuke to the President’s agenda and hopes for re-election given that the dismantling of the DACA program has been a lynchpin of his campaign. Although the majority of conservatives on the Court favored dismantling the DACA program, Chief Justice Roberts put the debate to rest siding with the liberals on the court to leave the DACA program in place.

After the decision, President Trump immediately took to twitter condemning the ruling stating, “The recent Supreme Court decisions, not only on DACA, Sanctuary Cities, Censes, and others, tell you one thing, we need NEW JUSTICES of the Supreme Court…the DACA decision, while a highly political one, and seemingly not based on the law, gives the President of the United States far more power than ever anticipated…VOTE 2020!” What Trump failed to mention is that these rulings were handed down by a conservative court of his own making.

In their ruling, the five Justices stated that the Trump administration failed to provide an adequate reason to justify ending the DACA program. Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority stated, “we do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound polices. The wisdom of those decisions ‘is none of our concern.’ We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.” In addition, the five justices found that the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing to adequately address important factors bearing on the administration’s decision to rescind the program.

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A brand-new bill called the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2020 (S. 3770) sponsored by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has recently surfaced. As you might have already guessed, the bill seeks to make changes to the current H-1B and L visa programs to reduce fraud and abuse within the H-1B and L visa programs, provide protections for American workers, and enforce stricter requirements for the recruitment of foreign workers. The H-1B visa program is aggressively targeted in this new piece of legislation.


Proposed Changes to the H-1B visa program


First, as it relates to the H-1B visa worker program, the bill proposes changes to existing wage requirements.

The law would require employers to pay the highest wage from three categories:

1) the locally determined prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the area of employment

2) the median average wage for all workers in the occupational classification in the area of employment; or

3) the median wage for skill level 2 in the occupational classification found in the most recent OES survey.

Second, the bill would make changes to current law and require U.S. employers seeking to hire H-1B workers to publish job postings on a website established by the Department of Labor. After filing the labor condition application, the employer would be required to post the job on the website for at least 30 calendar days. The job posting would have to include a detailed description of the position, including the wages and other terms and conditions of employment, minimum education, training, experience, and other requirements for the position, as well as the process for applying for the position.

Third, all H-1B employers would be required to prove that they have tried to recruit American workers for jobs offered to H-1B workers. Under current law, only H-1B dependent employers (those with more than 50 full time employees of which at least 15% are H-1B employees) are required to recruit American workers for H-1B positions. This would be a drastic change in the law creating additional burdens for U.S. employers seeking to hire foreign workers with specialized skills.

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The economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt by nearly all sectors of the economy, but perhaps the most unexpected victim has been the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Unlike many other government agencies, USCIS does not depend on government funding to survive. Instead, the agency primarily relies on fees, charged to applicants and petitioners applying for immigration benefits, to remain in operation.

A spokesman for the agency recently revealed that the agency is strapped for cash. Americans nationwide have had to cut back on spending during this coronavirus pandemic, leaving little money to spare on the very expensive filing fees required for various types of immigration benefits, such as citizenship and green card applications. The agency is in such a precarious position that it has now asked the United States government for a $1.2 billion bailout to remain in operation.

USCIS has said that its revenue could plummet by more than 60 percent by the end of the fiscal year which ends on September 30, 2020. If the agency does not receive additional funding from the government, it will run out of money by the summertime.

In anticipation of its decreased revenue, USCIS is preparing to take drastic measures to stay afloat, such as adding a 10 percent “surcharge” to applications, on top of proposed filing fee increases. These additional fees could be imposed within the coming months.

Of course, an increase in fees is bad news for non-citizens who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Many have blamed President Trump’s restrictive policies on immigration for the decrease in revenue. The President’s most recent proclamations coupled with his restrictive immigration policies have made it more difficult for immigrants and non-immigrants alike to obtain immigration benefits. These policies have been designed to discourage foreign nationals from seeking immigration benefits because of the high rate of visa denials. In addition, the most recent proclamation has kept consular immigration at a standstill.

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The House of Representatives has introduced a new bill called the HEROES Act, (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act), that provides short term financial relief during this health crisis. In this post, we discuss who would be covered under the HEROES Act and what type of relief would be provided by the Act.

To become law, the HEROES Act will need to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President. The President has openly voiced his opposition for the bill because the bill authorizes federal funds for undocumented immigrants. The bill will likely receive push back in the Republican controlled Senate or at the very least be subject to significant changes. Nonetheless if the bill fails, it will at least provide a foundation upon which Congress can reach a compromise.


What is it?


The HEROES Act is a $3 trillion bill that would provide stimulus checks to individuals who did not previously qualify for stimulus checks under the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security), such as undocumented immigrants.


Relief for Undocumented Individuals


The HEROES Act would provide temporary relief from deportation for undocumented immigrants working in essential fields such as health care workers and allow them to apply for employment authorization throughout the period of the pandemic. In addition, unlike the CARES Act, undocumented immigrants and their families would be eligible to receive stimulus checks. The HEROES Act would allow direct payments to be issued in the amount of – $1,200 for an individual, $2,400 for joint filers, and $1,200 for up to three dependents. The HEROES Act would also authorize undocumented immigrants to be eligible for the first round of stimulus checks sent out in April. The Act also proposes additional health care benefits for immigrants who are eligible for Medicaid and would require immigration authorities to release people from immigration detention where possible.


Low-Risk Detainees


The HEROES Act would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to evaluate the files of detained immigrants and release those who are not subject to mandatory detention, and those who do not pose a risk to national security. In the alternative the HEROES Act would encourage ICE to pursue low-cost alternatives to detention for low-risk immigrants such as requiring detainees to wear ankle bracelet monitors.

The bill would also require detention facilities to provide detainees with free and unlimited soap, as well as phone and video call accessibility to communicate with family and legal representatives.


Expedited Processing for Foreign Medical Workers


The HEROES Act would require expedited visa and green card processing for foreign medical workers seeking to practice medicine, conduct medical research, or pursue education or training to combat COVID-19. Consulates and Embassies worldwide would also be required to prioritize visa interviews for these workers, granting emergency appointments in person or teleconference appointments. Foreign doctors who have completed residency programs in the United States would be eligible to receive permanent residence on an expedited basis. Medical professionals in H-1B status would be eligible to transfer between hospital systems without having to apply for a new visa. In addition, medical students would be eligible to transfer rotations within their host institution and would be compensated for their work throughout the pandemic. In addition, such students could work outside of their approved program so long as their work relates to fighting COVID-19.

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On May 7th just days after the President signed his controversial April 22nd executive order limiting the immigration of certain aliens to the United States for 60 days, Republican senators rallied together to urge the President to pass more immigration restrictions—this time targeting nonimmigrant foreign workers.

Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Josh Hawley of Missouri fired off an impassioned plea to the President asking him to suspend all new guest worker visas for a period of 60 days, and certain categories of new guest worker visas for at least the next year until unemployment levels have returned to normal.

In their letter, the Senators justified their request stating that, “the United States admits more than one million nonimmigrant guest workers every year, and there is no reason to admit most such workers when our unemployment is so high.” The letter continued “given the extreme lack of available jobs for American job-seekers as portions of our economic begin to reopen, it defies common sense to admit additional foreign guest workers to compete for such limited employment.”

The Senators praised the President for passing the April 22nd proclamation but said that more needs to be done because guest worker programs “remain a serious threat to the U.S. labor market’s recovery.”

The Senators said that exceptions to the 60-day suspension should be rare and limited to time-sensitive industries such as agriculture and issued only on a case-by-case basis when the employer can demonstrate that they have been unable to find Americans to take the jobs.

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We are pleased to report the introduction of a brand-new Senate bill called the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, sponsored by Senators David Perdue, Todd Young, Dick Durbin, and Chris Coons. The purpose of the bill is to increase the number of health care workers available to meet the demand of the COVID 19 pandemic.

If passed, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, would allow nurses and physicians with approved immigrant visas the ability to adjust their status, so that they can help our nation fight the coronavirus and have a durable immigration status.

As you know, there are currently thousands of nurses and doctors stuck overseas waiting in line for green cards to become available, despite a grave need for their services during this public health crisis. What’s worse is that many of these workers already have approved immigrant petitions but are prevented from serving our communities due to the long visa backlogs.

The bill would authorize the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to “recapture” up to 25,000 immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 immigrant visas for physicians. USCIS would also recapture immigrant visas for the families of these medical professionals.

These recaptured visas would be drawn from the pool of unused employment-based visas that Congress has previously authorized. These visas would be issued in order of priority date and would not be subject to the country caps. To facilitate timely action, premium processing would be applied to qualifying petitions and applications. Furthermore, the bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to prioritize visa appointments for fully qualified nurses and physicians to enter the United States as fast as possible.

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