Articles Posted in DHS

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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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In this blog post, we would like to remind our readers that today is the last day to submit a public comment on the USCIS proposed rule increasing immigration fees for certain petitions. Initially USCIS had set a 30-day comment period ending on December 16, 2019, however the comment period was later extended for two more weeks, ending today December 30, 2019.

Once the comment period has closed, USCIS will review all public comments and publish a final rule in the Federal Register which will contain the rule’s effective date of implementation.

The filing fees for the following petitions would increase substantially under the proposed rule:

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In its latest attempt to limit the entry of asylum seekers to the United States, the Trump administration has published a new proposal in the Federal Register entitled, “Procedures for Asylum and Bars to Asylum Eligibility,” adding minor crimes to the list of offenses that would bar individuals from obtaining asylum.

The proposal primarily seeks to establish additional bars on eligibility for asylum seekers who have committed certain offenses in the United States after entering the country, including minor offenses. Offenses which have been committed in a foreign country will not be counted. Therefore, the proposal targets asylum seekers who were once present in the United States, now returning to the United States seeking asylum protection, or asylum seekers waiting for a decision on a pending asylum case in the United States who have committed an offense after entering the country.

Under this new proposal, the ineligibility bar would apply to the following individuals:

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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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We have news for petitioners seeking to use premium processing services. The Department of Homeland Security published a final rule in the Federal Register on October 31, 2019 to increase the premium processing fee to account for inflation.

The adjustment increased the premium processing fee from $1,410 to $1,440 beginning December 2, 2019. This increase in fees applies to applications postmarked on or after December 2, 2019.

What is Premium Processing Service?

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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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On November 14, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register to increase immigration fees for certain petitions. After publication, the proposal will be open for a 30-day comment period. After that point the agency will review public comments and draft the final rule. At this time there is no definitive date set out in the proposed rule for enforcement of these fees. Therefore, readers should note that these fee increases will likely not take effect until well into Fiscal Year 2020.

What does the rule propose?

The rule proposes the following fee increases by immigration benefit:

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Moreover, DHS proposes that fees for the following types of petitions be limited to a 5 percent increase above current fees:

  • Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
  • Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant.
  • Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative
  • Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition
  • Form I-600A/I-600, Supplement 3, Request for Action on Approved Form I-600A/I600.42
  • Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative.
  • Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country.
  • Form I-800A, Supplement 3, Request for Action on Approved Form I-800A

Changes to Fee Waiver Requests

DHS further proposes to limit fee waivers grants to individuals who have an annual household income of less than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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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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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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