Articles Posted in DHS

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DHS Statement on Family Reunification

The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a statement outlining the administration’s four-point plan to reunite minor children separated from their parents at the border. Beginning July 10, 2018, HHS and DHS will coordinate the reunification of children under 5 years of age currently in the custody of HHS, with parents who are in DHS custody.

#1 Verification of Parental Relationship

The administration will first ensure that a parental relationship with the child has been verified before reunifying the child with his or her parent. In addition, the parent must undergo a background check to ensure that reunification will not compromise the safety and welfare of the child. If a parent is found unsuitable for reunification purposes, in the course of a background check, the child will not be reunified with the parent. Parents who are in the custody of the U.S. Marshall or in a state or county jail for other offenses may not be reunified with their child.

#2 Transportation of Parents to ICE custody

Parents separated from their children will be transported to ICE custody where they will be reunited with their parents. Beginning July 10, 2018, DHS will coordinate physical reunification of minor children under 5 years of age with parents transported to ICE custody, provided the parent has been cleared for parentage and poses no danger to the child.

#3 Preparation of Children under Five Years of Age for Transportation

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) will coordinate transportation of minor children under the age of five for reunification purposes. Children will be transported under supervision and their possessions will be brought with them to ICE custody.

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A recent Supreme Court decision may enhance the pool of individuals eligible for cancellation of their removal proceedings. Cancellation of removal is a form of relief granted to individuals unlawfully present in the United States, who have been physically present in the United States continuously for a period of no less than 10 years, immediately preceding the date of an application for cancellation of removal. Under 8 U.S.C. section 1229(b)(1)(A), however the period of continuous presence ends when the alien has been served with a notice to appear in immigration court, also known as an “NTA.” A notice to appear is a document issued by the government that initiates a noncitizen alien’s removal proceedings.

Section 1229(d)(1)(A) mandates that the United States government must serve noncitizens in removal proceedings with a written “notice to appear,” specifying the time and place where the removal proceedings are expected to take place.

However, the Department of Homeland Security has followed a regulation dating back to the year 1997 wherein the agency has failed to notify noncitizens of the time, place, or date of initial removal hearings “whenever the agency deems it impracticable to include such information.”

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has held that even though these notices do not specify the time and date of removal proceedings as required by 8 U.S.C. section 1229(b)(1)(A), the period of continuous presence is still considered to have ended at the time the notice to appear (NTA) is served on the noncitizen alien.

The 1997 regulation along with the BIA ruling has created problems for individuals who would otherwise qualify for cancellation of removal under section 1229(d)(1)(A) of the law, because a deficient NTA served upon a noncitizen would mean that the individual would continue to remain physically present in the United States, despite being served with a deficient NTA.

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Return of Unselected Petitions for H-1B Applicants FY 2019 Begins

H-1B applicants who were not selected in the H-1B visa lottery for fiscal year 2019 will begin to receive their rejected applications from the Vermont Service Center and California Service Center. Our office expects to receive returned packages within the next few months. If you were not selected in the lottery, there are several alternatives that you may be interested in. To read all about these alternatives please read our helpful blog post here.

USCIS Adjustment of Status Filing Dates July 2018

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On Wednesday June 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed executive order, “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” in response to mounting outrage over the administration’s controversial policy of separating immigrant parents from their children at the border.

The executive order clarifies that it will remain the policy of the United States to detain and remove aliens who have unlawfully entered or attempted to enter the United States outside of a designated port of entry, and that such individuals remain subject to a fine or imprisonment under U.S. law. The administration however promises to maintain family unity “by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”

What the order does

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Our fears have come true. On May 4, 2018, we reported that the Department of Homeland Security would be making an official announcement terminating the TPS designation for the country of Honduras. Shortly after our report, DHS published a formal announcement terminating the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Honduras, with a delayed date of termination for a period of 18 months. The official date of termination will be January 5, 2020.

This means that nationals of Honduras living in the United States under TPS will have a period of 18 months to arrange for their departure from the United States or seek alternative legal status to remain lawfully present in the United States.

According to a statement released by DHS, the decision was made after the Secretary determined that “the disruption of living conditions in Honduras from Hurricane Mitch that served as the basis for the TPS designation” in 1999 were no longer substantial enough to justify continuation of the designation.

The report also claims that conditions in 1999 have greatly improved, and the country has made “substantial progress in post-hurricane recovery and reconstruction from the 1998 Hurricane Mitch.”

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Temporary Protected Status has come under vigorous attack by the Trump administration. As previously reported, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, appointed by President Trump has been instructed by the administration to scrutinize the TPS program closely to align with the President’s hard line stance on immigration. Within the last few months, the Department has mounted an aggressive attack on the TPS program, stripping El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Nepal of its TPS designation.

As readers may recall, during November of 2017, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that the TPS designation for Honduras would be extended for a period of 6 months from January 5, 2018 to the new expiration date of July 5, 2018, granting Hondurans under TPS an automatic extension. This extension was granted because the administration needed more information to determine whether the country’s designation would continue. As the new expiration date approaches, the day of reckoning may finally be here for nationals of Honduras under TPS.

According to reports released by the New York Times this afternoon, officials speaking on condition of anonymity have told reporters that the Trump administration has already decided to end the TPS designation for the country of Honduras, but has yet to formally announce the termination. The decision to terminate the TPS designation for Honduras is expected to be handed down on Friday.

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Federal Judge John Bates of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia has spoken to protect Dreamers from deportation, where Congress has remained silent. In a Tuesday ruling, Judge Bates called the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to rescind the DACA program “arbitrary and capricious,” and with no sufficient basis to justify rescission of the program, ordered DHS to accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.

As part of his opinion Judge Bates vacated the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA, for a period of 90 days, giving the Department of Homeland Security an opportunity to explain its decision to rescind the DACA program. If the government fails to adequately explain the grounds for finding the DACA program to be unlawful, DHS must accept and process new and renewal DACA applications. DHS has responded to the ruling in a statement where it vowed to “continue to vigorously defend” its decision to rescind the DACA program and looks “forward to vindicating its position in further litigation.”

This ruling is the third in recent months against the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the DACA program.  Earlier this year, Federal Judges in Brooklyn and San Francisco issued similar rulings to keep the DACA program in place, however the Bates ruling is the first ordering the government to accept new DACA applications.

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President Donald Trump is digging his heels in on DACA, although he is perhaps much more interested in securing $25 billion in funding, to build his long-promised wall between the United States and Mexico. On Friday, Congress voted to pass a $1.3 trillion spending bill, designed to fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2018.

Early on Friday, the President delivered a threatening message to Congress via Twitter, intimating that he would veto the spending bill, because it did not provide any relief to DACA recipients such as a path to citizenship. The President however failed to mention that also absent from the bill, was a promise from Congress to fully fund the President’s border wall.

Hours later, the President spoke to reporters and said that he had decided to sign the spending bill, despite the absence of a bipartisan compromise for Dreamers, because the bill ultimately provided much-needed funding for the military. The President told reporters, “My highest duty is to keep America safe. We need to take care of our military. I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again.”

The President blamed the Democrats for failing to reach a deal with Republicans that would put Dreamers on a path to citizenship tweeting this morning, “DACA was abandoned by the Democrats. Very unfair to them! Would have been tied to desperately needed wall.” The President has vehemently insisted that any legislative action providing relief to Dreamers, must also concede $25 million in funding to his administration to build the border wall.

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During December of last year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced that the agency was beginning to take preliminary steps to terminate H-4 Employment Authorization for certain H-4 spouses, a privilege that has been available to eligible spouses of H-1B nonimmigrant workers since 2015. As it stands, the 2015 H-4 EAD rule allows certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrant workers the ability to obtain an employment authorization card (work permit), provided the H-1B nonimmigrant worker is in the process of obtaining an employment based green card.

Proposal to Amend the 2015 H-4 EAD Rule

On December 14, 2017, a rulemaking notice was first published in the Federal Register notifying the public that the Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with USCIS, would be reviewing and possibly amending the 2015 H-4 EAD rule, following the issuance of Executive Order 13788, “Buy American, Hire American.”

According to the notice published in the Federal Register, DHS reserves the authority to amend the 2015 H-4 EAD rule under section 102 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and section 103(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). These sections of the law give the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security the discretionary power to amend the law so that it aligns with the policies set out in the President’s executive order.

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U.S. Mission to Turkey Confirms Resumption of Visa Services for Turkish Nationals

On December 28, 2017, the U.S. Mission to Turkey issued an official statement confirming the full resumption of visa services for Turkish nationals. According to the statement, the United States government made the decision to resume visa services for Turkish nationals after the Government of Turkey agreed to adhere to high-level assurances that no additional employees or local staff of the U.S. Mission to Turkey would be detained, arrested, or placed under investigation by the Turkish authorities for performing their official duties for the U.S. Mission to Turkey. Turkish authorities have agreed to inform the U.S. government in advance if the Turkish government plans to detain or arrest a local staff member in the future.

The Department of State will resume all visa services for Turkish nationals given the cooperation of the Turkish government to comply with these high-level assurances. Cases brought by the Turkish authorities against U.S. Citizens will continue to be investigated by the U.S. Mission to Turkey to accomplish a resolution to those cases.

Service Disruption Causes Immigration Delays in U.S. Airports

On Monday January 1, 2018 immigration desk computers went down at various airports for approximately two hours, causing massive delays for travelers going through U.S. Customs and Border Protection following the year-end holidays. The system outage began at about 7:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and was resolved at approximately 9:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. U.S. Customs and Border Protection processed travelers using alternative procedures. The agency later confirmed that the service disruption was not malicious. Affected airports included John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Hartfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, Denver International Airport.

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