Articles Posted in Immigration Enforcement

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Several months ago, we reported that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) amended its policy regarding the issuance of Notice to Appear (NTA) documents in removal proceedings.

During the month of June, USCIS released a policy memorandum indicating the agency’s intent to revise NTA policy to better align with the President’s Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” NTAs are documents that are issued to alien’s subject to removal from the United States. Issuance of an NTA initiates the process of removing an individual from the United States.

Specifically, the Executive Order 13768 called on DHS to “prioritize the removal of aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4) … who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal.”

In addition, the Executive Order called for the removal of individuals who:

  • (a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
  • (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
  • (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

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On Saturday, September 22, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new proposed rule that may prevent non-citizens reliant, or likely to become reliant on public benefits, from gaining admission to the United States.  The new proposal entitled, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds,” has been signed by the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the proposed rule is expected to be published in the federal register in the coming weeks, according to a DHS press release.

APA Procedure

Once the proposed rule has been published in the federal register, the government must allow the public to comment on the proposed rule for a 60-day period. Once that period is over, the government will have the opportunity to review comments and make changes if necessary to the proposed rule. Thereafter, the government will publish a final rule which will become law 60 days after the date of publication.

Who is a Public Charge?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a public charge is defined as an “alien who, in the opinion of the consular officer at the time of application for a visa, or in the opinion of the Attorney General at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge.” Such aliens are not admissible to the United States on public charge grounds.

Applicants seeking admission to the United States should be aware that, “an alien who is incapable of earning a livelihood, who does not have sufficient funds in the United States for support, and who has no person in the United States willing and able to assure the alien will not need public support, generally is inadmissible as likely to become a public charge.”

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I-751 Change to Filing Location

Today, Monday September 10, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a change to the filing location for Form I-751 Removal of Conditions. The agency is now directing petitioners to send Form I-751 to a USCIS Lockbox facility instead of directly to the California and Vermont service centers. California, Nebraska, Vermont, and Texas will distribute the load of removal of conditions applications and adjudicate these petitions accordingly. When filing at a Lockbox facility, the petitioner may pay the filing fee with a credit card using Form G-1450.

TPS Somalia

USCIS has automatically extended the validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) issued under the TPS designation of Somalia with an original expiration date of Sept. 17, 2018, for 180 days, through March 16, 2019.

Somalian nationals whose EADs expired on March 17, 2017, and who have applied for a new EAD during the last re-registration period, but have not yet received their new EAD card, are covered by the automatic extension.

If your EAD is covered by this automatic extension, you may continue to use your existing EAD through March 16, 2019, as evidence that you are authorized to work.

To prove that you are authorized to continue working legally, you may show the following documentation to your employer:

  • Your TPS-related EAD with a Sept. 17, 2018 expiration date; or
  • Your TPS-related EAD with a March 17, 2017 expiration date and your EAD application receipt (Form I-797C, Notice of Action) that notes your application was received on or after January 17, 2017

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Photo by Molly Adams

On Friday August 31, 2018, Texas District Judge Andrew Hanen declined to issue a preliminary injunction that would have put a stop to the DACA program immediately. As we previously reported, the fate of the DACA program now rests in Judge Hanen’s hands, who is currently presiding over a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas along with seven other states (State of Texas, et al., v. the United States of America, et al.). At issue in that case is (1) whether the creation of DACA violated the Constitution (2) whether the DACA program violates the substantive and procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Texas, along with other states, are collectively asking the Court to provide declaratory and injunctive relief temporarily halting the DACA program, as well as a court ruling finding the DACA program unconstitutional. According to Texas, the DACA program is illegal because its creation violated the procedural and substantive aspects of the Administrative Procedure Act. In addition, Texas argues that the program violates the Take Care Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

On Friday, the judge issued a ruling on the States’ collective request for a preliminary injunction to temporarily stop the government from issuing or renewing DACA permits. In response to the States’ request for a preliminary injunction, Judge Hanen wrote a lengthy 117-page opinion drawing on the need to exercise judicial restraint with regard to DACA, “the failure of Congress to act [with regard to DACA] does not bestow legislative authority on either the Executive or Judicial branches, and the need for legislation cannot take precedence over the application of the Constitution and the laws of the United States….”

Hanen sealed his opinion with a forceful statement regarding his sentiments toward DACA, “Unfortunately the Judiciary is not the branch of government designed to salvage a program that should have emanated from Congress, or at the very least complied with the APA…This court will not succumb to the temptation to set aside legal principles and to substitute its judgment in lieu of legislative action. If the nation truly wants to have a DACA program, it is up to Congress to say so.”

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Beginning next year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will launch a task force located in Los Angeles, designed to identify, detect, and prosecute individuals who have fraudulently gained United States Citizenship, for example by entering into a ‘sham’ marriage to obtain permanent residence, or engaging in other fraudulent activity, such as using a false identity to apply for permanent residence and/or naturalization.

USCIS has already begun to process of hiring lawyers and immigration officers who will review cases of individuals who have been deported, who the agency believes may potentially use a false identity to obtain permanent residence and/or citizenship. Such cases will be referred to the Department of Justice, who will then initiate the removal of individuals who have committed immigration fraud.

Of the denaturalization task force, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna told reporters, “We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place. What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases.”

The denaturalization task force will be funded by immigration application filing fees. The denaturalization task force will be primarily focused on targeting individuals who have used false identities to obtain immigration benefits.

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Return of Unselected H-1B Petitions

H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the fiscal year 2019 visa lottery have been returned to unlucky applicants. If you filed a petition between April 2 and April 6 and you did not receive a receipt notice for your application, you will be receiving your returned petitions in the mail by August 13. If you do not receive a returned petition by this date, you should contact USCIS.

Updated NTA Policy

On June 28th USCIS issued a policy memorandum providing updated guidance for the referral of cases and issuances of notices to appear (NTAs) in cases involving inadmissible and deportable aliens. The policy memorandum outlines the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities for removal as well as guidelines for referring cases and issuing NTAs.

Under the updated policy the following classes of aliens are prioritized for removal, aliens who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal,” as well as alienswho, regardless of the basis for removal:

(a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;

(b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;

(c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;

(d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;

(e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;

(f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or

(g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security”

Today, USCIS announced that it is postponing implementation of this policy guidance because operational guidance has not yet been provided to immigration officers. The policy memorandum gave USCIS 30 days to implement proper protocols for NTA issuance consistent with the updated policy memorandum. We will notify our readers once we receive information about when the NTA policy will be implemented.

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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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In this post, we bring our readers important information regarding revisions to the Notice to Appear “NTA” policy guidelines. On June 28, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new policy guidance outlining the Department’s priorities for enforcement and removal of undocumented immigrants from the United States.

Form I-862 also known as a Notice to Appear is a document that is given to an individual to initiate removal proceedings. The Notice to Appear instructs the individual of a date and time to appear in immigration court for removal proceedings.

To better align with the President’s Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” USCIS has revised its NTA policy expanding the class of individuals who may be referred to ICE and issued a Notice to Appear. Under the revised policy, USCIS may now refer cases “with articulated suspicions of fraud to ICE prior to adjudication,” of cases filed with USCIS. The revised policy does not apply to recipients and requestors of Deferred Action (DACA) when (1) processing an initial or renewal DACA request or DACA-related benefit request; or (2) processing a DACA recipient for possible termination of DACA. For this class of individuals the 2011 NTA guidelines will apply.

The President’s Executive Order 13768 specifically calls on DHS to “prioritize the removal of aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4) … who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal.”

In addition, the Executive Order prioritizes the removal of individuals who:

  • (a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
  • (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
  • (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

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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