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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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Welcome back to the start of a brand-new week! We are excited to announce brand new developments in the world of immigration specifically for U visa victims of crimes.

On June 14, 2021, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new policy alert, informing U visa applicants that the agency will now be exercising its discretion to issue four year Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) (also known as work permits),  as well as four-year “deferred action” status to certain U visa applicants, including those who have filed new U visa petitions, and those whose U visa petitions remain pending with USCIS, based on a new discretionary process called a “bona fide determination.”

This is a groundbreaking new development for U visa applicants because victims of crime will now be eligible to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), as well as “deferred action” status, while their U visa applications remain pending with USCIS. With this new policy change, U visa applicants will no longer need to wait 5+ years for their U visa approval, in order to become eligible for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and be protected from deportation.

Previously, only principal U visa applicants whose petitions were approved by USCIS, were authorized to work based on their approved status with immigration. Only those with an approved Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918) would automatically be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). All other applicants with pending petitions were forced to wait in the visa queue for a visa to become available due to the mandatory U visa cap. This process on average has taken up to 5 years.

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On June 4th, 2021, the interim guidance memorandum (“The Memo”) was publicly released. The reason the memo sent many, like me, into a frenzy was because of the million people currently in immigration court limbo who have just had their lives transformed by these thirteen pages.

This memo is proof the Biden Administration has set a new tone towards immigration. The memo beautifully states, “the government wins when justice is done,” reminding OPLA attorneys they should remain mindful that “immigration enforcement obligations do not consist only initiating and conduction prompt proceedings that lead to removals at any cost.” The memo provides internal direction to OPLA attorney’s regarding the following: 1. Removal Priority Cases, 2. Prosecutorial Discretion, 3. Ability to cancel NTAs, 4. Authority to Administrative closure or Continuance of Proceedings, and 5. Authority to Terminate  Proceedings.

(It is important to note this memorandum was released For Official Use Only by the Department of Homeland Security. You should seek the advice and counsel of an attorney to review your case specifically.)

  1. REMOVAL PRIORITY CASES

It is directed that OPLA attorneys prioritize agency resources in the following priority categories:

A. Noncitizens who engaged in or suspect to engage in terrorism or whose apprehension is otherwise necessary to protect the national security of the United States.

B. Noncitizens who were apprehended at the border or port of entry, while attempting to enter unlawfully into the United States after November 1, 2020.

C. Noncitizens convicted of an “aggravated felony” or convicted of an offense related to a criminal street gang and determined to pose a threat to public safety.

The memo also provides a non-exclusive list of civil immigration enforcement and removal decisions where the agency should identify any opportunities of a non-citizens process to ensure just fair and legally appropriate outcomes.

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The news we have all been waiting for is finally here. The Democratic controlled House of Representatives has taken a colossal step toward making comprehensive immigration reform a reality. On Thursday evening, members of the House voted along party lines to approve two legislative proposals that would create a pathway to citizenship for an estimated eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including Dreamers and farmworkers. These proposals are known as (1) the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 and (2) the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021.


What is the American Dream and Promise Act – H.R. 6?


The American Dream and Promise Act, also known as H.R. 6, creates an earned path to citizenship for more than two million Dreamers who were brought to the United States as children, as well as beneficiaries of certain temporary humanitarian programs including recipients of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This proposal consists of


Title I: Dream Act of 2021


Title I of the Act would allow certain long-term residents who entered the United States as children to apply for conditional permanent resident status. Those who would obtain conditional permanent resident status would be considered lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the law.

Requirements

The American Dream and Promise Act would grant Dreamers conditional permanent resident status for 10 years, and cancel removal proceedings if they:

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Happy Thursday! We are back with a brand-new blog post. Today, we continue discussing President Biden’s recent executive actions on immigration. This time we are breaking down Executive Order entitled, “the Establishment of the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families.”

So, what exactly does this executive order mean for you and your family?

This new executive order will prioritize the reunification of children who have been separated from their family members at the United States/Mexico border by establishing an Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families.

The heads of several agencies including the Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of State, and others will take part in the Task Force and perform the following functions:

  • Identify all children who have been separated from their families at the border between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021 Continue reading

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with new immigration updates.


Texas Judge Blocks Bidens’ 100-day pause on deportations


First, let’s discuss some legal challenges the Biden administration is facing. Just last week, a federal judge from the state of Texas issued a nationwide temporary restraining order that temporarily stops the Biden administration from pursuing a 100-day pause on deportations.

As our readers will know, since his inauguration, President Biden has been busy dismantling anti-immigrant policies passed by his predecessor. Among the actions taken by President Biden has been placing a temporary 100-day pause on deportations for most undocumented immigrants with removal orders, except for those who have been suspected of committing acts of terrorism or espionage, and those who present a threat to national security.

The state of Texas took issue with the President’s actions and filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, calling on the court to grant an injunction that would immediately stop the Biden administration from putting a pause on deportations.

The judge in the case, Drew B. Tipton, a Trump appointee, ultimately sided with the state of Texas finding that the state had met its burden of proof that it would suffer irreparable harm if Biden were to pause deportations. The judge agreed that Texas would be financially harmed given the added strain undocumented immigrants would have on Texas’ health care and education system.

Judge Tipton also found that President Biden’s actions violated the law and the Administrative Procedure Act which requires the government to provide adequate justification before enacting such a change in policy.

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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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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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