Articles Posted in Global Immigration

florida-890553_1280A new week brings new immigration news. Recently, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking part of a Florida law that imposes criminal penalties on those who transport undocumented immigrants into the state of Florida, classifying such actions as felonies.

The order was made in response to a lawsuit filed by the Farmworker Association of Florida and seven individuals who feared traveling in and out of the state of Florida with undocumented friends and family members due to Florida’s controversial law.

In his ruling, Judge Roy Altman indicated that the Florida law is likely unconstitutional because the supremacy clause places the regulation of immigrants under the purview of the federal government.

In his preliminary order, the judge stated that Florida’s law is preempted by the federal government, “By making it a felony to transport into Florida someone who ‘has not been inspected by the federal government since his or her unlawful entry,’ [the law] extends beyond the state’s authority to make arrests for violations of federal immigration law and, in so doing, intrudes into territory that’s preempted.”

The judge further stated that any harm created by the injunction is outweighed by the harm suffered by the plaintiffs and the federal government. As a result, the Florida law will be halted until the judge rules on the merits of the case.

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courthouse-1223279_1280The federal government has sued the state of Oklahoma in a new lawsuit seeking to block HB 4156 from taking effect, a new anti-immigration law that regulates the entry of noncitizens by detaining and fining migrants who are unlawfully present in the state.

The U.S. government filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on May 21st arguing that HB 4156 is unconstitutional because the federal government maintains exclusive jurisdiction over the subject of immigration and the status of noncitizens under the supremacy clause and foreign commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Oklahoma’s HB 4156 which was slated to take effect July 1st considers the unlawful presence of a noncitizen in the state to be an “impermissible occupation” and directs law enforcement officials to arrest and jail undocumented immigrants.

The law aims to protect the state’s citizens against undocumented immigrants who could “potentially harm” its residents. Under the law, a first conviction would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in county jail and a $500 fine. A second conviction would rise to a felony and carry a sentence of up to two years in county jail and a $1,000 fine.

Those convicted would be required to leave the state of Oklahoma within three days of being released from county jail.

In attempting to enforce this law, the Justice Department argues that the state is circumventing established law and constitutional authority by trying to take matters into its own hands.

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The Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department recently announced a new plan to expedite immigration court proceedings for asylum seekers who have recently arrived in the United States without lawful status.

On May 16th senior administration officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department made it known to the public that a new Recent Arrivals (RA) docket process will allow undocumented immigrants to resolve their immigration cases more expeditiously – within a period of 180 days.

Under the RA Docket process, DHS will place certain noncitizen single adults on the RA Docket, and EOIR adjudicators will prioritize the adjudication of these cases.

The RA Docket will operate in five cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. Immigration judges will aim to render final decisions within 180 days, although the time to make a decision in any particular case will remain subject to case-specific circumstances and procedural protections, including allowing time for noncitizens to seek representation where needed.

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On May 13, 2024, the State Department announced record breaking milestones including the issuance of a whopping 5.2 million nonimmigrant visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide in the first half of fiscal year 2024 – more than any previous year over the same period.

In the past six months alone, 30 percent of U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide set all-time records for nonimmigrant visas issued.

In particular, travel and tourism has been a focal point for the State Department considering that international visitors contribute as much as $239 billion annually to the U.S. economy and support approximately 9.5 million jobs.

Some of the key highlights from the State Department’s announcement are as follows:

In the first half of fiscal year 2024:

  • Almost 4.1 million B visitor visas and border crossing cards were issued for tourists and temporary business travelers worldwide, with nearly two-thirds from Mexico, India, Brazil, the People’s Republic of China, Colombia, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador.

By the middle of fiscal year 2024, the State Department issued:

  • Approximately 134,000 visas for exchange visitor program participants and 115,000 visas for students. International students contributed almost $38 billion to the U.S. economy in the year 2022 and made up more than 335,000 jobs
  • A record breaking 205,000 visas were issued for temporary or seasonal workers in agriculture and other sectors
  • Almost 160,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued to airline and shipping crew members to support global transportation and supply chains—the second-highest half-year issuance record in this category in history
  • Almost 25,000 employment-based immigrant visas—75 percent more than same period in fiscal year 2019

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The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has published the June Visa Bulletin. In this blog post we breakdown the projected movement of the employment-based and family-sponsored categories in the month of June.


USCIS Adjustment of Status


For employment-based preference categories, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirmed that in June it will use the Final Action Dates chart to determine filing eligibility for adjustment of status to permanent residence.

For family-sponsored preference categories, USCIS will use the Dates for Filing chart to determine filing eligibility for adjustment of status to permanent residence.


Highlights of the June 2024 Visa Bulletin


Employment-Based Categories

The June Visa Bulletin shows no advancement in most employment-based categories.

  • The Dates for Filing chart in June remains unchanged from the previous months.
  • The Final Action Dates for EB-1, EB-2, and EB-5 remain unchanged.
  • Only EB-3 India will advance by one week.

Family-Sponsored Categories

For the family-sponsored preference categories, the Dates for Filing Chart remains unchanged from the previous month, with the exception of:

  • F2B Mexico will advance by 2 months to November 1, 2004
  • F3 Worldwide, China, and India will advance by 3 months to September 1, 2010
  • F4 Mexico will advance by 5 days to April 27, 2001

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If your case remains pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) beyond the posted processing times for your immigration benefit request, you may consider requesting assistance from the Ombudsman’s Office.


What is the USCIS Ombudsman?


The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) helps individuals and employers resolve difficulties they are experiencing with USCIS. The Ombudsman functions independently and is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Before an applicant can request for help from the Ombudsman, they must have contacted USCIS within the last 90 days and given the agency at least 60 days to resolve their problem. If a Congressional representative is already assisting you, the Ombudsman’s office cannot help you.

If USCIS does not resolve the issue (via submission of an e-request, or other communication method) the applicant can prepare and submit a case assistance request with the Office of the Ombudsman.

The most common issues the Ombudsman can assist with are:

  • Cases involving an emergency or a hardship that falls under the USCIS expedite criteria
  • Expedite requests approved by USCIS more than 2 months ago
  • Typographical errors
  • Improper rejections
  • Cases involving U.S. military personnel and their families
  • Aging out of eligibility
  • Undelivered USCIS notices or decisions
  • Transfers to the Department of State for approved petitions

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New fraud prevention mechanisms applied to the H-1B program in fiscal year 2025 have led to a dramatic decrease in the number of eligible registrations for H-1B cap visas, plunging to almost 40% from the past year.

These fraud prevention mechanisms were introduced with the final rule “Improving the H-1B Registration Selection Process and Program Integrity,” which changed the H-1B selection process to center around unique beneficiaries, preventing employers from gaming the system and unfairly increasing their chances of selection.

Starting this fiscal year, each beneficiary could only be registered under one passport or travel document to prevent the submission of multiple registrations.

Recent USCIS data suggests that these new changes to the H-1B system were successful at combating fraud. The agency recently released its selection statistics for the fiscal year 2025 H-1B cap season.

The data shows a significant drop in the number of eligible registrations for fiscal year 2025 totaling 470,342—representing a 38.6% reduction when compared to the 758,994 eligible registrations received in fiscal year 2024.

Of these eligible registrations (470,342), USCIS selected 114,017 beneficiaries, resulting in a total of 120,603 selected registrations for fiscal year 2025.

The number of workers who were registered did not change significantly at 442,000 when compared with 446,000 last year.

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As the 2024 U.S. presidential elections draw nearer, Biden and Mexico’s President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, have announced joint efforts to combat illegal border crossings.

The two leaders have said that their administrations will take steps to decrease illegal border crossings by ordering their national security teams to cooperate. While specific details were not disclosed, a government official has said that immigration enforcement actions may include a crackdown to prevent railways, buses, and airports from being used for illegal border crossings.

The issue of immigration will likely sway voting age Americans who believe President Biden has not done enough to prevent illegal immigration.

Under intense scrutiny and political pressure, the Biden administration has attempted to appease these voters by getting tougher on immigration. Recently, the Biden administration attempted to include restrictive immigration policies as part of a $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Biden called the immigration reform measure the “strongest border security bill this country has ever seen.” If passed, the measure would have given him the authority to turn away migrants at the U.S. Mexico border.

Against political gridlock however, Congress blocked the inclusion of the measure from the bill. This has left the Biden administration to consider the possibility of executive action and internal policy decisions to ramp up its enforcement efforts.

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In this blog post, we cover the newly released Immigrant Visa Backlog Report published by the Department of State. April’s report provides the latest data and statistics relating to the processing of immigrant visa applications at the National Visa Center.

This data includes information about the number of documentarily complete immigrant visa cases currently at the National Visa Center waiting for interviews, the number of cases that were scheduled for interviews by the end of the month, and the number of immigrant visa cases still waiting to be scheduled for a visa interview after interview appointment scheduling was completed.


The April Immigrant Visa Backlog Report


According to the National Visa Center’s April Immigrant Visa Backlog Report there has been an increase in the overall immigrant visa (IV) backlog from 326,415 pending cases in the month of March, to 351,624 pending cases still waiting to be scheduled for a visa interview at the end of April. By comparison, in February, there were 338,256 pending cases waiting for interview scheduling.

On the bright side, the Final Action dates in the April and May Visa Bulletin have shown substantial forward movement for nearly all family-sponsored categories. This has enabled more family-based immigrant visa applications to become documentarily complete and receive interview scheduling at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the employment-based categories, which have remained stagnant with little to no forward movement in recent months.

Additionally, when comparing the March and April Immigrant Visa backlog reports, we can see that the number of immigrant visa applicants whose cases were documentarily complete and therefore ready to be scheduled for an interview at Consulates and Embassies increased from 374,532 (as of February 29, 2024) to 404,459 (as of March 31, 2024). Of these cases, only 52,835 applicants whose cases became documentarily complete were scheduled for interview appointments in April 2024. By comparison, only 48,117 applicants were scheduled for interview in March.

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If you’ve been a long-time follower of our blog, you’ll know that on January 29th the Department of State launched a pilot program giving certain H-1B applicants the ability to renew their visas without ever having to leave the United States.

The State Department accepted applications for this pilot program until April 1, 2024, granting domestic visa renewals for approximately 20,000 qualifying applicants, whose prior H-1B visas were issued by either Mission Canada (with an issuance date from January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023) or by Mission India (with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021).

What was so exciting about the pilot program’s announcement was the government’s intention to potentially expand the scope of the domestic visa renewal program to more applicants and other visa categories.

In a recent Committee Liaison meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), State Department representatives said that the pilot program was a resounding success. The pilot program benefitted thousands of workers and saw strong participation from big companies, including a broad spectrum of employers from the hospitality, retail, manufacturing, technology, finance, and academic sectors.

When asked whether the State Department could release statistics about the program, representatives responded that such data is not yet available but revealed that the average turnaround time for approved applications was under two weeks.

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