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We are just 60 days away from Election day in the United States which falls on Tuesday, November 3rd. Do you know where your candidate stands on immigration? In this post, we cover Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s stance on important immigration issues, and everything you need to know about his vision for America.

We would also like to take this opportunity to remind those of our readers who are American citizens to exercise their right to vote. It is your civic duty and will help shape the nation’s immigration policy for the next four years. For voter registration information please click here.


Immigration under Joe Biden

If elected President of the United States, Joe Biden has stated that he will enact a number of policies during his four-year term. Among these policies, he promises to take urgent action to undo destructive policies implemented by the Trump administration, modernize the immigration system, reassert America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees, and implement effective border screening.


Comprehensive Immigration Reform

First and foremost, Joe Biden supports working with Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration solution that would offer nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. As vice president, Joe Biden worked alongside former President Obama to push forward a bill that would do just that. Unfortunately, the Republican-led Congress refused to approve the bill, leaving millions of undocumented immigrants in limbo including Dreamers.

Joe Biden advocates for the creation and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program,  the Central American Minors program, which allows parents with legal status in the U.S. to apply to bring their children from Central America to live with them, and the creation of a White House task force to support new Americans to integrate into American life and their communities.

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We would like to inform our readers of very important information relating to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Recently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new memorandum that explains how the agency will handle new requests for DACA and advance parole requests in light of recent court rulings.


New DACA Requests Will Be Rejected

As clarified by the new memorandum, USCIS has confirmed that it will reject all initial DACA requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents, and return all associated fees to applicants without prejudice. “Without prejudice” means that applicants may reapply for DACA in the future should USCIS choose to accept initial DACA requests at a later time.


DACA Renewal Requests Continue to Be Accepted for those Granted DACA in the past

As before, USCIS will continue to accept DACA renewal requests from aliens who were granted DACA at any time in the past.

In addition, USCIS will continue to accept requests for advance parole that are properly submitted for individuals who can demonstrate that their travel is for any of the following purposes: to support the national security interests of the United States, to support U.S. federal law enforcement interests, to obtain life-sustaining medical treatment not otherwise available to the alien in the U.S., or where travel is needed to support the immediate safety, wellbeing or care of an immediate relative, particularly minor children of the alien  (see below).

Please note that even with a valid advance parole document re-entry to the United States is not guaranteed.


DACA Renewals Limited to One-Year Duration

DACA renewal requests that are approved will receive a grant of deferred action and employment authorization for a period of no more than one year. For those that were previously issued a two-year employment authorization card that remains valid, USCIS will not be rescinding these two-year benefits. USCIS may only terminate an alien’s validly issued DACA for failure to continue to meet DACA criteria, including failure to warrant a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

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Congress is moving quickly to avert the financial crisis currently plaguing the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). On Saturday August 22nd the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill aiming to provide much needed emergency funding to help USCIS meet its operational needs.

Earlier this year, USCIS made clear that without additional funding the agency would need to furlough two-thirds of its workforce by the end of August, even after announcing an increase in fees set to go into effect on October 2nd. The agency has been struggling to stay afloat in the wake of the Coronavirus.

While the bill still needs to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the President, this is very promising news and a step in the right direction for applicants waiting in line for their applications to be processed on a timely basis.

Should the bill be successful it will stop the agency’s planned furloughs and inject much needed capital to help USCIS deal with the significant backlogs across the board. The Senate is expected to return to chambers in September and will likely take up the issue as soon as possible.

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We have very unfortunate news regarding the implementation of the “public charge” rule by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on adjustment of status applicants.

In an unexpected turn of events, yesterday three judges from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, issued a ruling in the case, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in State of New York, et al. v. DHS, et al. and Make the Road NY et al. v. Cuccinelli, et al., stating that while they agreed with a lower court’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent the government from enforcing the “public charge,” rule during the Coronavirus pandemic, the judges held that the injunction was warranted only with respect to the states that filed the lawsuit and that were able to demonstrate standing, which included the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

Accordingly, the Second Circuit Court’s opinion modifies the scope of the “public charge” injunction, and only prevents DHS and USCIS from enforcing the “public charge” rule with respect to those residing in the states of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. The Court’s decision modifies the previous lower court decision issued by Federal Judge George Daniels on July 29th.

As you may recall that decision was made out of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and applied nationwide.

Shortly after that decision was made, DHS immediately appealed the Daniels decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which ultimately modified the scope of the injunction, preventing DHS from enforcing the public charge rule only with respect to New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, but allowing DHS and USCIS to enforce the “public charge,” rule elsewhere.

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In this blog post we would like to report on a new executive order recently signed by President Donald Trump on August 3, 2020, entitled “Executive Order on Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices With the Interests of American Workers,” which carries implications for temporary foreign workers, especially those whose job depends on or was created by a federal government contract.


What is the order all about?

The executive order was passed to create increased opportunities for American workers to compete in the job market, especially during the difficult economic crisis created by COVID-19.  The order directs the heads of federal agencies to review federal contracts to assess any “negative impact” that the hiring of temporary foreign workers has had on American workers. The order states, “when employers trade American jobs for temporary foreign labor, for example, it reduces opportunities for U.S. workers in a manner inconsistent with the role guest-worker programs are meant to play in the Nation’s economy.”

Specifically, the executive order calls upon departments and agencies to review federal contracts and hiring practices of temporary foreign workers in fiscal year 2018 and 2019 to assess “whether contractors (including subcontractors) used temporary foreign labor for contracts performed in the United States and if so…whether opportunities for U.S. workers were affected by such hiring…”

Most importantly, section three of the executive order requires the Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security to take action within 45 days (by September 17) to protect the jobs of American workers and insulate them from any negative effects on wages and working conditions caused by the employment of H-1B visa workers specifically. The order grants DHS and DOL broad discretion to introduce new measures that could negatively affect H-1B employers. While these measures are yet to be seen, we believe this may signal the proposal of additional regulations to prevent the displacement of U.S. workers in the future.

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During the past year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been facing a financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As early as May of this year, a USCIS spokesperson informed the United States government that it needed a cash bailout of $1.2 billion by summertime in order to meet its operational costs. The agency found that fewer and fewer applicants were filing applications and petitions with USCIS which created a massive revenue shortfall for the agency.

To keep itself afloat, the agency said it would be preparing to increase filing fees for certain types of applications and petitions.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security officially announced a final rule that will be posted in the Federal Register on August 3rd that will increase filing fees for certain types of immigration benefits.

The final rule will become effective 60 days from August 3rd – the date of publication which falls on October 2, 2020.

That means that applications postmarked on or after October 2, 2020 with incorrect fees will be rejected by USCIS.


MOST IMPACTED APPLICATIONS AND PETITIONS

The following types of immigration requests are the most impacted with significant price increases:

  • I-929 Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant

Current Fee: $230

Final Fee: $1,485 (Increase of 546%)

  • I-881 Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal

Current Fee: $285

Final Fee: $1,810 (Increase of 535%)

  • I-193 Application for Waiver of Passport and/or Visa

Current Fee: $585

Final Fee: $2,790 (Increase of 377%)

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In complete defiance of a recent federal court order, mandating acceptance of initial requests for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Department of Homeland Security today issued a memorandum that states that effective immediately, the agency will reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA including all associated employment authorization applications, and reject all pending and future I-131 advance parole requests for beneficiaries of DACA. The agency has stated that it will refund all associated fees, without prejudice should DHS decide to accept initial requests for DACA in the future.

The memorandum orders, “DHS personnel to take all appropriate actions to reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA, to reject all pending and future applications for advance parole absent exceptional circumstances, and to shorten DACA renewals [to one year] consistent with the parameters established in this memorandum.”

Most shocking of all is that the memorandum limits the period of deferred action pursuant to the DACA program and associated employment authorization to just one year for DACA renewals filed after July 28th, when previously deferred action and employment authorization was issued for two years.

These actions are appalling and reflect judicial defiance that has never before been seen. These actions will surely set off a string of new lawsuits in the coming weeks. We must all stay tuned for new developments during this uncertain time for DACA.


Actions to be Taken by DHS as of July 28, 2020

The memorandum provides a list of actions DHS plans to take effective immediately which further detail the actions that will be taken by DHS as of today:

  • Reject all initial DACA requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents, and refund all associated fees, without prejudice to re-filing such requests should DHS determine to begin accepting initial requests again in the future.
  • Adjudicate all pending and future properly submitted DACA renewal requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents from current beneficiaries.
  • Limit the period of any deferred action granted pursuant to the DACA policy after the issuance of this memorandum (and thereby limit the period of any associated work authorization) to one year.
  • Refrain from terminating any grants of previously issued deferred action or revoking any Employment Authorization Documents based solely on the directives in this memorandum for the remaining duration of their validity periods.
  • Reject all pending and future Form I-131 applications for advance parole from beneficiaries of the DACA policy and refund all associated fees, absent exceptional circumstances.

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In response to a high number of questions regarding the recent Maryland court decision ordering the government to reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for first time applicants, we have prepared this helpful guide.

First, let’s briefly discuss the Maryland decision. As our readers will know on July 17th a federal judge in Maryland presiding over the case, Casa de Maryland v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ordered the government to restore the DACA program to its pre-September 2017 status. This means that first-time applicants are now able to apply for DACA benefits.


What does the Maryland decision mean for DACA holders?

For now, USCIS must continue the DACA program as it was before it was rescinded on September 5, 2017, when applications for DACA were being accepted by first-time applicants.

In order to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision, as well as the Maryland district court’s order, USCIS must also accept the following applications that were suspended under prior court orders and should publish guidance immediately on its processing of these applications:

  • People Who Have Not Previously Been Granted DACA: The Court’s June 18, 2020 decision requires DHS to maintain the DACA program unless and until DHS follows correct procedure to terminate it. As a result, USCIS should immediately publish guidance on processing new, initial DACA applications.
  • Advance Parole Requests: The Court’s June 18, 2020 decision requires DHS to maintain the DACA program unless and until DHS follows correct procedure to terminate it. Because advance parole based on DACA was a part of the 2012 DACA program, USCIS should immediately publish guidance on processing advance parole applications filed by DACA recipients.

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This afternoon, a federal judge in Maryland quietly handed down a victory for new DACA applicants. The judge in the case, Casa de Maryland v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has ordered the government to restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to its pre-September 2017 status, meaning that first-time applicants can now apply for Deferred Action and an employment authorization document from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.


What was this lawsuit about?

The Casa de Maryland v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security lawsuit was brought on October 5, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, to challenge the Trump administration’s revocation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The plaintiffs were a group of nonprofit organizations and DACA recipients who sought to enjoin (stop) the federal government from terminating the DACA program. The plaintiffs argued that the Trump administration’s 2017 rescission of the program was motivated by discriminatory animus toward individuals from Mexico and Central America. They also argued that revoking DACA violated Fifth Amendment due process and equal protection, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

In response to the lawsuit, the government filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. On March 5, 2018, the judge ordered the government to stop using or sharing information provided by DACA applicants for enforcement or deportation purposes, but declared that the Trump administration’s rescission of the DACA program was valid and constitutional.

On April 27, 2018, the plaintiff’s appealed the case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court reversed the district court’s decision finding that the rescission of DACA was invalid and unconstitutional. The court decided that the government’s rescission of DACA was arbitrary and capricious and remanded the case back to the lower courts.

Today, on remand in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 18, 2020 decision holding that rescission of DACA was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the APA, the judge’s decision “restores DACA to its pre-September 5, 2017, status…”

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nesa-by-makers-IgUR1iX0mqM-unsplash-scaledWe are very happy to announce that yesterday July 14, 2020, the Trump administration backed down and agreed to cancel a new set of federal guidelines that would have required international students to attend classes in-person during the upcoming Fall 2020 semester.

As you may be aware, on Monday July 6th U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a news release with new modifications that would have applied to international students in the United States, and those awaiting their visas abroad. The announcement prohibited international students from taking courses entirely online during the upcoming semester. It stated that students enrolled in schools with only online instruction would not be issued visas, and CBP would not permit these students to enter the United States. In addition, students already in the United States, who had enrolled in an online program, were given two options, transfer to another school with a hybrid or in person curriculum or depart the United States.

Shortly after these measures were announced, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on behalf of all international students affected by the new guidelines. The universities requested an emergency hearing to block the government from enforcing these measures. That hearing was scheduled to take place yesterday morning, but in a surprising turn of events, just before the hearing was getting started, the judge announced that the government had agreed to rescind its policy and would no longer require students to attend in-person classes in order to remain in the country.