Articles Posted in DHS

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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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personal-3108155_128038035946756_590b28ab9a_zIt did not take long for President Trump to capitalize on the terrorist attack which took place several days ago in New York City, to attack the Diversity Visa Program and the process by which US Citizens, and in some cases green card holders, can petition for extended family members to immigrate to the United States.

Following the terrorist attack in New York City, which claimed the lives of 8 Americans, the President fired off a series of tweets calling on Congress to terminate the Diversity Visa Program, claiming that the perpetrator of the attack, Sayfullo Saipov, had gained admission to the United States seven years ago through the diversity immigrant visa program, a congressionally mandated program made possible by section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). According to CNN, the Department of Homeland Security has said that Saipov came to the United States in 2010 on a diversity visa. Department of Homeland Security archives confirm that Uzbekistan was a country participating in the Diversity Visa program as early as 2007, and continues to participate in the Diversity Visa Program.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

The Diversity Immigrant Visa program is a program enacted by Congress, which allocates up to 50,000 immigrant visas per fiscal year to a special class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants.” Each fiscal year diversity applicants register for the visa program electronically at no cost. Applicant entries are selected at random through a computerized “lottery” system to allocate the 50,000 available immigrant visas for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Only diversity immigrants who are natives of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States qualify for the Diversity Immigrant Visa program. In other words, to qualify for a diversity visa, essentially a green card, you must be a native of a country participating in the diversity visa program. Countries with historically high rates of immigration to the United States DO NOT qualify.

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On September 19, 2017, the American Immigration Council in cooperation with Mayer Brown LLP, filed a lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of the National Venture Capital Association (National Venture Capital Association, et.al. v. Duke, et. al.) challenging the President’s postponement of the International Entrepreneur Rule. The Plaintiffs in the lawsuit collectively argue that the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), unlawfully delayed enforcement of the International Entrepreneur Rule by circumventing key provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act.

In order for a federal rule to become effective, the Act requires federal agencies to abide by a notice-and-comment rule making procedure, a process by which the government invites the public to comment on a proposed version of a government rule published in the Federal Register. After the comment period has ended, the government responds to comments, considers feedback, and decides whether such feedback will have any influence on the content of the rules. The Supreme Court has ruled that the notice-and-comment procedure is required for “legislative” or “substantive” rules that intend to “bind” the public, and that similar to a statute, these types of rules have the “force and effect” of law. The notice-and-comment rule making requirement, however does not apply to interpretive rules, which are rules that do not bind the public or have the “force” of law in the same way that legislative or substantive rules do. The National Venture Capital Association argues that the government unlawfully invoked the “good cause” exception of the APA to postpone the Rule, and that the Rule was unlawfully halted under the pretext that doing so would prevent harm to the public interest, when no emergency situation existed which would allow such a delay.

The International Entrepreneur Rule was first published in the Federal Register on January 17, 2017, and the notice-and-comment period was set to begin 30 days from the date of the rule’s publication in the federal register. However, the government never announced a comment period for the Rule. On July 13, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the implementation of the rule would be delayed to March 14, 2018, at which time the government would seek comments from the public, with a plan to rescind the rule.

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This morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration is ending DACA, a program that began under former President Barack Obama, which allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, the opportunity to obtain employment authorization and be shielded from deportation. This decision comes on the heels of swirling rumors regarding the President’s intent to terminate the program. Despite the President’s seemingly sympathetic attitude toward the plight of “Dreamers,” today’s announcement means that the DACA program will be phased out.

Effective immediately, USCIS will not accept new initial requests for DACA, but will allow current DACA recipients with permits expiring between now and March 5, 2018 to apply for a final 2-year renewal of their status and obtain employment authorization.

A conflicted President Donald Trump issued a statement following the announcement in which he defended his decision stating, “in the best interests of our country, and in keeping with the obligations of my office, the Department of Homeland Security will begin an orderly transition and wind-down of DACA, one that provides minimum disruption. While new applications for work permits will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration up to two full years from today. Furthermore, applications already in the pipeline will be processed, as will renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration. This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out. Permits will not begin to expire for another six months, and will remain active for up to 24 months. Thus, in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.”

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As previously reported, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015, was a bill that was signed into law at the end of 2015, which imposed new restrictions on the use of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for certain travelers. In this post, we update our readers regarding new information provided by CBP in their newly updated FAQ page.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of designated countries to apply for admission to the United States as visitors (traveling for holiday, business, or in transit) without having to obtain a non-immigrant B1/B2 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, using a system known as ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

To be eligible to travel to the United States under the visa waiver program, you must be a citizen of one of thirty-eight countries eligible to participate in the program, you must have a valid machine-readable passport issued by the participating country that is valid for at least 6 months before your planned departure, you must apply for and have an approved ESTA before your proposed travel, and you must intend to remain in the United States for 90 days or less.

You may not be eligible to travel under the VWP if you have been denied a U.S. visa in the past, or have an immigration violation. In this case, you must apply for a visitor visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad, even if your country participates in the VWP.

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On Monday, March 6, 2017 President Donald Trump rolled out a newly revised version of the executive order “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” following the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refusal to reinstate the controversial order that was originally released on January 27, 2017.  The January 27th order had called for a blank travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim majority countries, temporarily barring them from gaining admission into the United States for a period of 90 days, irrespective of their legal status in the United States. These seven Muslim majority countries were deemed “countries of particular concern” by the Trump administration based upon the Department of State’s reports designating these countries as countries presenting heightened security risks to the United States. In addition, in the original order, Donald Trump had called for a temporary 120-day suspension of the U.S. Refugee program preventing refugees from entering the United States, and finally the order suspended the Syrian refugee program indefinitely. These controversial measures threw the country into chaos as thousands of demonstrators flooded airports across the country to show their solidarity for the citizens of the seven Muslim majority countries affected by the order. The order was especially controversial because it affected all non-immigrants including immigrants with valid United States visas, as well as permanent residents. Although these measures were overruled by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February, the Trump administration has shown that it will not be discouraged by their actions.

In his new executive order, Donald Trump has scaled back the language used in the first executive order removing provisions that indefinitely banned Syrian refugees from seeking admission to the United States, and language which prioritized the admission of religious minorities persecuted in the Middle East. US officials will no longer prioritize religious minorities when considering applications for refugee admission. The new order calls for a travel ban blocking citizens from six Muslim majority countries including Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from applying for and obtaining visas for a period of 90 days. The order leaves in place a temporary travel ban blocking the admission of refugees into the United States for a period of 120 days to allow more stringent vetting procedures to be put in place. The executive order removes Iraq from the list of Muslim majority countries, whose citizens will no longer be prevented from seeking admission to the United States.

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Reports have recently surfaced revealing that a Dreamer, 23-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina, has been arrested and is currently in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents in Seattle, Washington. Medina was brought to the United States when he was only 7 years old and maintains Mexican nationality. In 2014, Medina first applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and was approved after satisfying the specific and rigorous criteria outlined by DHS qualifying him for the program. As part of the routine application process, Medina underwent an extensive background check, and was cleared by USCIS, resulting in the approval of his application for Deferred Action. The approval granted him the opportunity to remain in the United States under lawful “deferred status” for a 2-year period, subject to renewal. Two years later, Medina applied for a renewal of his deferred action status, and was approved for a second time, granting him an additional two-year period of “deferred action.” Medina underwent a second background check as part of the renewal process, and again was cleared.

On February 10, 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrived at the home of Ramirez’s father with an arrest warrant to detain his father. His father granted ICE officers permission to enter the home so that they could inform his sons about his arrest. ICE agents questioned Daniel Ramirez asking him if he was lawfully present in the United States. Daniel notified the agents that he was lawfully present and had a work permit. His brother, also a DACA recipient, who was present during the immigration raid, suggested that he remain silent and decline to answer additional questions. Ramirez was then arrested and detained by ICE agents, although Ramirez presented the agents with his employment authorization card that was issued pursuant to his approval under the DACA program, and clearly identified him as a DACA recipient with a ‘C-33’ classification code. Ramirez also told the officers several times that he was a DACA recipient lawfully present in the United States.

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Last week, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a series of immigration enforcement operations nationwide, otherwise known as “raids” to crack down on illegal immigration. The operations took place over a five-day period in the metropolitan cities of Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City, and resulted in the arrest of more than 680 individuals. According to the Department of Homeland Security, these raids were targeted at convicted criminals unlawfully present in the United States, persons who are a threat to our public safety, including gang members, and “individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws” by illegally re-entering the country after having been removed, including fugitives who could not be found after having been ordered removed by federal immigration judges. Additionally, DHS reported that of those who were arrested, approximately 75 percent were criminal aliens, convicted of crimes including “homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.”

Communities across the United States went into uproar, after reports began pouring in that hundreds of non-threatening individuals including mothers and children were being taken into custody and removed from the United States during these operations. One of the first such individuals to be arrested was Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a Mexican mother of two U.S. Citizen children, who was detained by ICE at a routine check point in Phoenix, after having lived 20 years in that state. Garcia de Rayos had come to the United States illegally as a child. She was arrested during a 2008 raid on her Arizona workplace on suspicion that the business was hiring undocumented immigrants using fraudulent IDs. Garcia de Rayos was taken into custody six months later, when investigators discovered discrepancies in her employment documents. She pled guilty in 2009 to criminal impersonation and was sentenced to 2 year’s probation. Despite these offenses, Guadalupe was considered to be a “low priority” of enforcement and was required to check in with immigration officials.

After news broke of her arrest, the Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging Mexican nationals to contact the Mexican consulate for immigration assistance, information relating to their immigration rights, and protections offered to them by the Center for Information and Assistance to Mexicans (CIAM). According to the Foreign Ministry, Mexican consulates in the United States have allocated additional resources to protect the rights of Mexican nationals. The Foreign Ministry added that they anticipate these immigration raids will increase in severity and are likely to violate the due process of rights of Mexican nationals.

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