Articles Posted in Detentions

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With just a few weeks into the new year, the judicial branch has been hard at work issuing decisions that spell trouble for the Trump administration.

On Wednesday, January 15th a federal judge in Maryland issued a temporary injunction preventing the Trump administration from implementing the President’s executive order “Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement,” issued by the President on September 26th of last year.

As part of the executive order, the President authorized state and local governments to refuse the placement or resettlement of refugees in their communities stating that, the Federal government, as an exercise of its broad discretion, “should resettle refugees only in those jurisdictions in which both the State and local governments” consent to receive refugees under the Department of State’s Reception and Placement Program.

The government by its order sought to tighten the placement of refugees in the United States by allowing refugees into the United States only if both the State and local government consent to their placement in the State or locality.

In response to a lawsuit filed by refugee-resettlement organizations challenging the executive order, U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte said that the plaintiffs were “clearly likely to succeed in showing, that, by giving states and local governments veto power over the resettlement of refugees within their borders, the [executive] order is unlawful.”

To preserve the status quo, until a final decision is made on the merits, Judge Messitte issued a temporary injunction blocking the government from enforcing any part of the executive order on a nationwide basis.

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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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In this article, we will discuss how the upcoming Presidential election could impact immigration for years to come.

On November 3, 2020 Americans will head to the polls to cast their votes for the next President of the United States. While the upcoming presidential election seems far into the future, Americans must now begin to consider how their votes could impact the future of immigration.

During the 2016 election, the topic of immigration took center stage and has continued to remain a prominent topic of contention among Democrats in Republicans. In part immigration was catapulted to mainstream media by then Presidential nominee Donald Trump, who made the topic of immigration a central issue of his campaign, by means of his campaign logo “Make America Great Again,” to highlight the discontent that many Americans felt regarding illegal immigration, the availability of jobs in the United States, and the country’s general loss of “status” in relation to other countries. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump consistently made pledges to his supporters with respect to immigration, including a promise to build a wall and ensuring Mexico pay for it, ending birthright citizenship, ending “mass” migration of Syrian refugees, removing undocumented immigrants from the United States, and limiting legal immigration, to name a few of his campaign promises. The President also vowed to serve the interests of America and its workers, calling them “the forgotten people.” This rhetoric proved to be successful as disenchanted Americans across the country began to rally in support of Donald Trump helping him win the Presidency.

The President’s strategy was so successful, that other Republicans have taken a page out of Donald Trump’ s playbook, using the same rhetoric to gain the support of rural Americans.

This same anti-immigrant rhetoric is expected to take center stage during the upcoming presidential election. Republicans have remained united on the issue of immigration and have consistently supported Trump’s policies even where courts have struck down the President’s orders with respect to ending DACA.

Today, Americans remain largely divided on the issue of immigration, making the outcome of the Presidential election all the more unpredictable. The President’s current impeachment proceedings have also thrown a wrench into the process, creating deep divisions among party lines.

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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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In this blog post we cover where the top democratic presidential candidates stand on the issue of immigration. At the moment only three Republicans have announced their participation in the 2020 election, therefore we will focus on the democratic candidates until more Republican candidates have formally announced their presidential bids.

On the democratic front, over sixteen candidates have formally announced their participation in the 2020 Presidential election, with many more rumored to join their ranks in the coming months.

Over the last five months, presidential hopefuls, Former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, have battled one another taking part in debates across the country. Not surprisingly, the topic of interest in these debates has turned to immigration.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden is a familiar face to all Americans, having served as former Vice President during the Obama administration for 8 years, but Joe Biden’s performances in the latest democratic debates have been lackluster at best.

In a recent debate moderators criticized Joe Biden for being part of an administration that was responsible for deported 3 million people, the most in United States history. When asked if he did anything to prevent the deportations, Biden deflected stating that his own power was limited and that the former President “did the best that was able to be done.”

Joe Biden has appeared weak on immigration. Although he has acknowledged that the American immigration system is broken, he has provided few solutions on how to unify Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Joe Biden has also prioritized securing the South West border and publicly stated during debates that undocumented immigrants need to “get in line,” to obtain legalization like everyone else.  Like his predecessors Joe Biden’s immigration policy prioritizes the entry of highly skilled immigrant workers, and fails to offer solutions to the millions of undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States for decades.

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After a long and contentious battle in several courts across the nation, the fate of DACA now rests in the hands of nine Supreme Court justices.

On Tuesday, November 12, 2019, the justices heard the first oral arguments in the lawsuit seeking to end DACA.

During opening arguments, the justices gave us a small glimpse into what might be in their hearts and minds.

When the Solicitor General proposed to the justices that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to decide the case on the merits because DACA was a discretionary program which began under the Obama administration, the liberal justices on the court pushed back.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the first to disagree. Justice Ginsburg pointed to a flaw in the Solicitor’s argument stating that the Solicitor General could not argue that on the one hand the DACA program could not be reviewed by the Court because it was created under Obama’s administration as a discretionary program, and on the other hand that the Obama administration had no discretion to authorize the program because it was illegal to do so.

Sonia Sotomayor further attacked the Solicitor’s arguments stating that the President himself has issued conflicting remarks about the legality of the DACA program, stating first that Dreamers would be “safe under him,” and later terminating the program altogether.

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A new lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California now allows Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applicants to challenge long standing delays in receiving their immigration records from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The U.S. District Court has certified two class action lawsuits allowing FOIA applicants and attorneys requesting FOIA records on their behalf to join in the class action so that class members may receive timely determinations on their FOIA requests. This decision was made in response to significant delays that applicants face in obtaining their immigration records from the agency.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick who granted the class action request wrote in his order that delays in receiving immigration records are particularly precarious for, “Noncitizens in removal proceedings” who “particularly rely on FOIA requests because discovery is not available. Consequently, obtaining A-Files from defendants is critical in immigration cases; delays in obtaining A-Files leave noncitizen and their attorneys “in legal limbo” that inflicts substantial hardship.”

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On August 20, 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced “enhanced coordination” efforts to remove Guatemalan adults and families arriving at the border more quickly. These efforts have been implemented to discourage Central Americans from attempting to enter the United States illegally and to deter human smuggling.

Acting Associate Director of ICE ERO Timothy Robbins made the following statement regarding these enforcement actions, “Breaking U.S. laws by illegally entering the United States is an ineffective manner to petition to legally remain in the United States. Ultimately, if you have no basis to remain in the United States, you will be apprehended and returned to your home country.”

ICE has announced that since mid-July it has implemented a more streamlined process to expeditiously remove Guatemalans who have no basis to remain in the United States.

According to ICE, this process allows the US to repatriate these individuals, “without utilizing resources to house aliens or manage their cases while they await immigration or removal proceedings out of custody.”

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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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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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