Articles Posted in Court Decisions

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The Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department recently announced a new plan to expedite immigration court proceedings for asylum seekers who have recently arrived in the United States without lawful status.

On May 16th senior administration officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department made it known to the public that a new Recent Arrivals (RA) docket process will allow undocumented immigrants to resolve their immigration cases more expeditiously – within a period of 180 days.

Under the RA Docket process, DHS will place certain noncitizen single adults on the RA Docket, and EOIR adjudicators will prioritize the adjudication of these cases.

The RA Docket will operate in five cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. Immigration judges will aim to render final decisions within 180 days, although the time to make a decision in any particular case will remain subject to case-specific circumstances and procedural protections, including allowing time for noncitizens to seek representation where needed.

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In this blog post, we share with you the latest regarding the controversial immigration law from the state of Texas known as SB-4.

In a stunning turn of events, on Tuesday March 19th the Supreme Court of the United States cleared the way for the state of Texas to enforce its controversial immigration law SB4, which would allow state officials to arrest and detain those suspected of entering the country illegally.

The Supreme Court rejected the Biden administration’s request to intervene and keep Texas’s strict immigration enforcement law on hold pending litigation.

The legal challenges however did not stop there. Later that day, a federal appeals court put the controversial law back on hold, just hours after the Supreme Court would have allowed Texas to begin enforcing the new law.

The order came down from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in which a three-judge panel voted 2-1 to vacate a previous ruling that had put the law into effect.

The future of the law still hangs in the balance as the 5th Circuit prepares to hear arguments over the controversial law to decide once and for all whether the law is unconstitutional.

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The Supus-supreme-court-building-2225766_1280reme Court of the United States has issued an important but temporary victory to the Biden administration. On Monday, the court temporarily halted the enforcement of a controversial immigration law from the state of Texas known as SB4, which would authorize state law enforcement officials to arrest and detain those suspected of entering the country illegally, while imposing harsh criminal penalties.

The administrative hold issued by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito blocks the law from taking effect in the state of Texas until March 13. This temporary pause will give the court enough time to review and respond to court proceedings initiated by the Biden administration. Alito has ordered Texas to respond to the government’s lawsuit by March 11.

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar has argued that SB4 violates the law by placing the authority to admit and remove noncitizens on state law enforcement when these matters fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and not individual states.

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Source: Flickr: Molly Adams, LA March for Immigrant Rights 

In a stunning turn of events, a federal judge on Wednesday declared the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program illegal in a new court ruling.

The decision comes after a five-year long court battle which has left the future of Dreamers hanging in the balance.

Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the District Court of Houston rejected the Biden administration’s efforts to save the DACA program, arguing that former President Barack Obama did not have the authority to create the program in 2012 by executive authority.

In his ruling, Judge Hanen stopped short of terminating the program which will mean that current DACA recipients can retain their DACA benefits and apply for renewals with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, initial first-time applications for DACA will remain prohibited.

In 2021, the Biden administration sought to defend the legality of DACA by issuing a Proposed Rule in the Federal Register to preserve and fortify the program. This came after Judge Hanen issued a prior ruling arguing that the government failed to abide by the public notice and comment procedure required by the Administrative Procedures Act before. This prompted Texas along with eight other states (Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas, Mississippi) to sue the federal government bringing the case before Judge Hanen yet again.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s efforts to appease the Judge did not work. Ultimately the Judge indicated that only Congress could enact legislation to protect Dreamers, and passing such a program was not under the authority of the President.

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The Department of State raised eyebrows earlier this month when it released information that it will be reducing the waiting period for 221(G) “administrative processing,” in an effort to process visas more efficiently.

While this is welcome news, in practice it may not mean much. Consulates and Embassies have been notoriously secretive when it comes to 221(G) administrative processing and do not reveal the reason for a visa applicant being placed in administrative processing in the first place, nor the type of security checks that are being conducted.


What is 221(G) Administrative Processing?


First, let’s explain what administrative processing is. When an applicant visits a U.S. Consulate or Embassy overseas for their visa interview, there are only two possible outcomes that can occur at the conclusion of their interview. The Consular Officer may choose to either issue or “refuse” the visa. A refusal is not the same as a denial. It simply means that the visa applicant has not established his or her eligibility for the visa they are seeking for the time being, and the Consulate needs additional time or requires further information either from the visa applicant or another source to determine the applicant’s eligibility for the visa.

In most cases, visa applicants who have been “refused” will require further administrative processing.


How will I know if I have been placed in 221(G) administrative processing?


Visa applicants placed in administrative processing are often given what is called a “Notice of 221(G) Refusal” at the conclusion of their interview, which states that the visa application has been “refused” under section 221(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Notice should indicate whether additional administrative processing is required for your case, and whether any further action is required on your part, such as providing additional documentation or further information to process your visa.

However, in some cases visa applicants are not given such a Notice and will later discover that they have been placed in 221(G) administrative processing upon checking their visa status on the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) visa status check webpage.

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DACA recipients can now breathe a sigh of relief. We are happy to report that the Department of Homeland Security recently published a final rule in the Federal Register, taking a major step to safeguard the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, while the fight to uphold DACA is in litigation.


What does this mean?


The final rule officially took effect on October 31, 2022, to codify existing policy, preserve, and fortify DACA.

This means that effective October 31, 2022, pursuant to the final rule, the U.S. Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) will accept and process renewal DACA requests and accompanying requests for employment authorization (EAD), consistent with court orders and an ongoing partial stay. Currently, valid grants of DACA, related employment authorization, and advance parole will continue to be recognized as valid under the final rule. Those with pending DACA renewal applications, do not need to reapply.

USCIS will also continue to accept and process applications for advance parole for current DACA recipients and will continue to accept but will not process initial (new) DACA requests.

Pursuant to an injunction and partial stay, handed down by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, DHS is prohibited from granting initial (new) DACA requests and related employment authorization under the final rule.

While this is a temporary measure to protect existing DACA benefits, Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas stated, “Ultimately, we need Congress to urgently pass legislation that provides Dreamers with the permanent protection they need and deserve.”

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In the latest legal saga concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a federal appeals court has declared the DACA program illegal, causing uncertainty for the future of the program.

Yesterday, the three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling in which it found that the Obama administration did not have the legal authority to create the DACA program in 2012. The Circuit Court ruling affirms a previous ruling handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas which halted the Biden administration’s plans to revive the program last year.

While the panel declared the DACA program illegal, it stopped short of ordering the Biden administration to completely invalidate the program for those with existing DACA benefits, or those seeking to renew those benefits. For the time being, DACA policy remains intact for current beneficiaries, allowing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to continue to accept and adjudicate renewal requests. However, USCIS is prohibited from approving initial applications for DACA, and accompanying requests for employment authorization.


What happens next?


The appeals court has sent the lawsuit back to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, the same judge that previously ordered a nationwide injunction preventing the approval of new DACA applications. Judge Hanen will review the legality of the program under the Biden administration’s policy memorandum which includes revisions to the program.

Sadly, it is unlikely that Judge Hanen will rule in favor of the Biden administration which will likely result in a formal appeal sent to the United States Supreme Court, where chances of its survival hinge on a conservative leaning court. Judge Hanen previously found the program illegal because the government failed to follow the notice and comment periods required by the federal Administrative Procedures Act. In 2016, the Supreme Court deadlocked in a 4-4 decision over expanding DACA to parents of DACA recipients, keeping in place a lower court decision preventing its expansion.

The appellate court’s decision will have long-lasting repercussions, as it forces members of Congress to safeguard the future of the program by passing legislation to settle the matter once and for all. While the topic has been argued for the past decade on Capitol Hill, no meaningful steps have been taken to preserve the program and create a path to residency for Dreamers.

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We have very interesting and exciting news to report to our readers. We are happy to report that on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, a federal judge from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, declared that the State Department cannot use the various geographic COVID-19 related Presidential Proclamations to cease the processing of visas at Embassies and Consulates worldwide.

As our readers will know, beginning in January of 2020, to protect against the rise of COVID-19 infections in the United States, the President issued a series of Presidential Proclamations that suspended and restricted entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

These Presidential Proclamations did not have a termination date and have continued to be in force to the present day. The most widely discussed ban (the Schengen visa ban “Proclamation 9993,”) applied to immigrants and nonimmigrants from 26 European countries including: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. However separate visa bans have also impacted the entry of Brazilian nationals, Chinese nationals, Iranian nationals, and Indian nationals (see the list of COVID-19 travel bans listed below.)

Since the issuance of these travel bans, U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide have refused to issue any visas to those who do not otherwise qualify for an exemption and have been physically present in any of the affected regions during the 14-day period preceding their entry into the United States. The only way applicants have succeeded in pushing their cases forward has been by requesting a National Interest Exception from their respective Embassy.


The COVID-19 related travel bans are as follows:

  • China Visa Ban – Proclamation 9984 issued January 21, 2020 – No termination date
  • Iran Visa Ban –Proclamation 9992 issued February 29, 2020 –No termination date
  • European Schengen Area Visa Ban—Proclamation 9993 issued March 11, 2020—No termination date
  • Ireland and UK Visa Ban –Proclamation 9996 issued March 14, 2020 –No termination date
  • India Visa Ban –Proclamation 10199 issued April 30, 2021—No termination date
  • Brazil Visa Ban—Proclamation 10041 issued May 25, 2020 –No termination date

For a complete list of COVID-19 country-specific proclamations click here.


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Source: Flickr, Attribution: mollyktadams

We are saddened to report that late Friday, July 16, 2021, Federal Judge Andrew Hanen of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, granted the plaintiffs in the case, State of Texas, et al., vs. United States of America, et.al, a permanent injunction, pending ongoing litigation over the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

As a result, new first-time applications for the DACA program will no longer be approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) following Judge Hanen’s ruling.  Friday’s decision in Texas v. United States is sure to be appealed, though there is a reasonable chance it will be upheld, especially by the conservative leaning Supreme Court of the United States.

In his ruling, Federal Judge Hanen declared that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) with the initial creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and its continued operation. Accordingly, he has ordered that the DACA Memorandum and the subsequent creation of the DACA program be vacated and remanded to DHS for further consideration.

This action removes protections from deportation for thousands of undocumented young adults who came to the United States as children, otherwise known as Dreamers, and casts doubt on the future of the program.

Judge Hanen specifically stated that his ruling does not impact the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and others who have relied on the DACA program for almost a decade. This means that while new first-time applications for DACA will no longer be adjudicated by USCIS, Hanen’s ruling will not impact current DACA recipients.

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Federal District Judge Rules to Reinstate $500,000 Minimum Investment For the EB-5 Visa Program

In this blog post, we share with you a new landmark court decision affecting the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, known as matter of Behring Regional Center LLC V. Chad Wolf et al.

In this case, decided on June 22, 2021, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California vacated the controversial 2019 ‘EB-5 Modernization Rule’ that sought to ‘modernize’ the EB-5 visa program, by increasing the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $900,000.  In her ruling, Judge Corley concluded that the 2019 Modernization Rule should be vacated because the former acting DHS Security, Kevin McAleenan was not properly appointed in his position under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act when he implemented the Regulations.  Therefore, the officials had no legal authority to make and to announce the changes.

The judge’s new ruling means that the district court’s decision will restore the original rules for the EB-5 program, initially established by the Immigration Act of 1990 as a legal pathway to provide qualified foreign/immigrant investors the opportunity to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. (commonly known as the “green card”). The now-defunct EB-5 Modernization Regulations of 2019 had increased the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $900,000, but with this new ruling the minimum investment amount has again reverted to $500,000.

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