Articles Posted in Denials

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Welcome back to our blog! We kick off the week by bringing you recent developments regarding the government’s controversial rule entitled, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” which sought to expand the scope of public benefits that could render a permanent resident or immigrant visa applicant ineligible for immigration benefits.

As you know, in October of 2019, the final rule “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” was swiftly blocked by several federal judges shortly before going into effect. By court order, the government cannot implement the final rule anywhere in the United States until a final resolution has been reached in several lawsuits brought against the government challenging the validity of the public charge rule.

On Monday, January 13, 2020, the Trump administration filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court of the United States, asking the court to lift the remaining lower court injunction, that is currently stopping the government from enforcing the public charge rule.

The government’s request comes just one week after a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, upheld a lower court injunction, preventing the government from implementing the public charge rule on a nationwide basis.

Angered by the decision, the government decided to appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals decision by bringing the matter to the Supreme Court, urging the Court to side with the President and allow the implementation of the rule while a decision in the New York lawsuit is reached on the merits.

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The Trump administration is in full gear to expedite the removal of hundreds of asylum seekers, most of which are arriving from Central America.

As early as October of 2019, the Washington Post made public the existence of a confidential pilot program coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice designed to swiftly deport asylum-seekers within a matter of days.

Under the program, Prompt Asylum Claim Review, the government would take a maximum period of 10 days to consider applications for asylum from individuals arriving at the U.S./Mexico border. Those denied would be swiftly removed from the country and returned to their homeland.

As a result, asylum determinations that usually take years to be made, will now be made in a matter of days.

It is easy to see how this type of accelerated removal from the country raises serious due process concerns and delegitimizes the complex asylum process.

A recent lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Department of Homeland Security reveals that asylum seekers placed in this program are given only one window of approximately 30 minutes to one hour to call family members or retain counsel, and even where detainees have successfully retained counsel, CBP has denied attorneys physical access to speak to detainees, prohibited in-person meetings, and telephonic access. Where attorneys have tried to reach clients before their credible fear interviews, or hearings before an immigration judge, CBP has forced a detainee to proceed without opportunity to counsel with their attorney.

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As we approach the end of the year, in this blog post, we look back at the major policy changes implemented by the Trump administration in the year 2019 that have had a profound impact on the way our immigration system functions today.

JANUARY 

Government Shutdown Woes

The start of 2019 began on a very somber note. From December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019 Americans experienced the longest government shutdown in American history (lasting a period fo 35 days) largely due to political differences between the Republican and Democratic parties on the issue of government funding to build a border wall along the U.S. Mexico border.

The government shutdown created a massive backlog for non-detained persons expecting to attend hearings in immigration court. Because of limited availability of federal workers, non-detained persons experienced postponements and were required to wait an indeterminate amount of time for those hearings to be re-scheduled.

To sway public opinion, 17 days into the government shutdown, the President delivered his first primetime address from the Oval office where he called on Democrats to pass a spending bill that would provide $5.7 billion in funding for border security, including the President’s border wall.

With no agreement in sight, on January 19, 2019, the President sought to appease Democrats by offering them a compromise solution. In exchange for funding his border wall and border security, the President announced a plan that would extend temporary protected status of TPS recipients for a three-year period and provide legislative relief to DACA recipients for a three-year period. The President’s proposal however did not provide a pathway to residency for Dreamers, and was quickly rejected by Democrats.

On January 25, 2019, with still no solution and pressure mounting, the President relented and passed a temporary bill reopening the government until February 15, 2019.

Meanwhile, immigration courts across the country were forced to postpone hundreds of immigration hearings, with Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky being the most deeply affected by the shutdown.

Changes to the H1B Visa Program

On January 30, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced proposed changes to the H-1B visa program including a mandatory electronic registration requirement for H1B petitioners filing cap-subject petitions beginning fiscal year 2020, and a reversal in the selection process for cap-subject petitions. The government outlined that it would first select H-1B registrations submitted on behalf of all H-1B beneficiaries (including regular cap and advanced degree exemption) and then if necessary select the remaining number of petitions from registrations filed for the advanced degree exemption. Moreover, only those registrations selected during fiscal year 2020 and on, would be eligible to file a paper H1B cap petition.

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The President has once again targeted the immigrant population by signing a Presidential Proclamation suspending the entry of any immigrant who will “financially burden the United States healthcare system.”

While the Presidential Proclamation is likely to encounter resistance in court, as it stands the Proclamation is slated to become effective on November 3, 2019.

According to the Proclamation, a person seeking to immigrate to the United States will be found to be a financial burden on the U.S. healthcare system, unless they can prove either one of the following:

  • They are covered by approved health insurance, within 30 days of their entry to the United States, or
  • They have the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.

Beginning November 3, 2019, prior to the adjudication and issuance of an immigrant visa, a non-citizen seeking to immigrate to the United States, must establish to the satisfaction of a consular officer that they will not become a burden on the health care system by either of the means outlined above.

Who does the Proclamation apply to?

Only non-citizens seeking to enter the United States pursuant to an immigrant visa.

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In its latest act of defiance against the judicial branch, the Trump administration has published an Interim Final Rule entitled “Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds,” designed to give Consular officers wider discretion to deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visas to applicants on public charge grounds based on a variety of factors that could weigh positively or negatively on an applicant.

According to the rule, consular officials will now be able to weigh a variety of factors to determine whether a visa applicant is likely to become a public charge. These factors include the applicant’s age, health, educational background, and financial status. In addition, consular officers will have increased discretion to scrutinize certain applications more closely than others based on the type of visa classification sought by the applicant, as well as the duration of stay.

Applicants who are seeking a long-term visa, for example may be scrutinized more heavily than applicant’s seeking a short-term visa (such as a tourist visa).

How will these factors be weighed by Consular officials?

Age: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s age makes the alien more likely than not to become a public charge in the totality of the circumstances, such as by impacting the alien’s ability to work. Consular officers will consider an alien’s age between 18 and 62 as a positive factor.

Health: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s health serves as a positive or negative factor in the totality of the circumstances, including whether the alien has been diagnosed with a medical condition that is likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization or that will interfere with the alien’s ability to provide and care for himself or herself, to attend school, or to work (if authorized).

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On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced a proposal that will change the settlement agreement reached in Flores v. Reno, an agreement that limited the amount of time and conditions under which the U.S. government could detain immigrant children.

Reno v. Flores prevented the government from holding immigrant children in detention for over 20 days. The Trump administration is now seeking to do away with that prohibition and hold undocumented families traveling with children for an indefinite period of time.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, announced the administration’s plans to publish a final rule in the Federal Register to do away with the Flores rule. The rule would become effective 60 days after publication. The proposal however will likely be met with great opposition and result in years long litigation.

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As part of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) new plan to modernize services offered by the agency, the agency has announced that it will gradually end self-scheduling of Infopass appointments, to encourage applicants to use online information resources and other online tools that allow applicants to check the status of their case, and other information.

According to USCIS, the Detroit Field Office and five offices in the Los Angeles area will begin the gradual phaseout of Infopass services. Newark, Great Lakes, and San Francisco will be next to gradually phaseout these services during the beginning of fiscal year 2019. USCIS expects to modernize its system completely by the end of fiscal year 2019.

According to USCIS Director Francis Cissna, “Expanding this program is a significant step in our efforts to move more USCIS services and information online. It also frees up agency staff to spend more time adjudicating benefit requests which should help reduce case processing times. USCIS remains committed to pursuing the most effective and efficient ways to administer our nation’s lawful immigration system.”

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Several months ago, we reported that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) amended its policy regarding the issuance of Notice to Appear (NTA) documents in removal proceedings.

During the month of June, USCIS released a policy memorandum indicating the agency’s intent to revise NTA policy to better align with the President’s Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” NTAs are documents that are issued to alien’s subject to removal from the United States. Issuance of an NTA initiates the process of removing an individual from the United States.

Specifically, the Executive Order 13768 called on DHS to “prioritize the removal of aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4) … who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal.”

In addition, the Executive Order called for the removal of individuals who:

  • (a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
  • (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
  • (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

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On Saturday, September 22, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new proposed rule that may prevent non-citizens reliant, or likely to become reliant on public benefits, from gaining admission to the United States.  The new proposal entitled, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” has been signed by the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the proposed rule is expected to be published in the federal register in the coming weeks, according to a DHS press release.

APA Procedure

Once the proposed rule has been published in the federal register, the government must allow the public to comment on the proposed rule for a 60-day period. Once that period is over, the government will have the opportunity to review comments and make changes if necessary to the proposed rule. Thereafter, the government will publish a final rule which will become law 60 days after the date of publication.

Who is a Public Charge?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a public charge is defined as an “alien who, in the opinion of the consular officer at the time of application for a visa, or in the opinion of the Attorney General at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge.” Such aliens are not admissible to the United States on public charge grounds.

Applicants seeking admission to the United States should be aware that, “an alien who is incapable of earning a livelihood, who does not have sufficient funds in the United States for support, and who has no person in the United States willing and able to assure the alien will not need public support, generally is inadmissible as likely to become a public charge.”

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We would like to remind our readers that beginning September 11, 2018, USCIS immigration officers will have the discretion to issue denials without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOIDs).

The new policy was announced in a policy memorandum released during the month of July.

On September 6, 2018, the CIS Ombudsman’s Office provided further details on the new policy: