Articles Posted in Immigration Enforcement

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In response to a memorandum issued to United States consulates and embassies around the world by President Trump and his administration on March 6, consular officials at U.S. embassies around the world are now taking tougher measures to enhance security screening of U.S. visa applicants to prevent potential security threats from entering the United States. Enhancing vetting procedures are intended to target individuals from certain “countries of concern” including the six countries of concern listed in the President’s travel ban: Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Iran, as well as others.

Applicants for U.S. visas from “countries of concern” can expect to undergo additional vetting procedures immediately. The U.S. Department of State has been using a supplemental questionnaire called the DS-5535 since May 25, 2017 which asks both immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants a series of detailed questions to help consular officials determine whether a visa applicant must go through enhanced vetting to determine whether the individual poses a national security threat, or other potential threat to the United States. The questionnaire has been used as a temporary emergency measure in response to the President’s March memo, which called for enhanced screening of visa applicants, and what he has called “extreme vetting” of foreign nationals admitted to the United States.

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New developments have recently unfolded since the passage of Texas’ controversial SB4 law—a law that bans sanctuary cities in the state of Texas, and requires local jurisdictions and law enforcements officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities to apprehend undocumented immigrants in the state of Texas.

The controversial bill has suffered its first blowback. The border town of El Cenizo has sued the state arguing that the ban is unconstitutional. The Mayor of El Cenizo, Raul Reyes, told reporters that the bill “hinders the relationship between police departments and the community,” and “decreases criminal activity reports which opens up the door to more domestic violence and more sexual assaults against immigrants.” The city of El Cenizo has been joined in their lawsuit against the state by Maverick county, El Paso county, and the League of United Latin American Citizens. The small town of El Cenizo, Texas first came to national attention when the Spanish language was declared the city’s official language.

The Texas Attorney General envisioned a pushback from “sanctuary cities.” At about the same time that the governor of Texas signed SB4 into law, the attorney general sought to protect the state against future challenges to the law, by filing a lawsuit against known “sanctuary cities” in the state of Texas that have limited the federal government’s power to detain undocumented immigrants by refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The lawsuit was filed on May 7, 2017 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. The state of Texas filed the lawsuit so that they could have a single court ruling upholding the constitutionality of SB4 that would invalidate any lawsuits filed against the state.

Among the cities which have been identified as “sanctuary cities” that have been noncompliant with the federal government’s demands are: Travis County, the city of Austin, and other local officials including Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who has limited cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

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Today in a Seattle courtroom the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Trump’s revised travel ban. As you may recall President Trump issued a revised executive order in March to salvage his embattled travel ban, barring the entry of foreign nationals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for a 90-day period and refugees for 120 days. For over an hour, a three-judge panel listened to arguments from the U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall arguing on behalf of the Trump administration and Neal Katyal, an attorney representing the state of Hawaii and individuals challenging the President’s revised travel ban. The three-judge panel included Judge Ronald Gould, a moderate judge from Seattle, Washington, Judge Michael Hawkins, a moderate to liberal judge from Phoenix, Arizona, and Judge Richard Paez a liberal judge from Pasadena, California. The central question before the court was whether the President’s revised travel ban amounts to a violation of the U.S. Constitution based on religious discrimination.

The mood in the courtroom was contentious. Judges probed the Solicitor General to determine whether the President’s revised travel ban was specifically aimed at Muslims. The Solicitor General argued that the executive order was neutrally worded and that there were no indications in the language of the President’s executive order to indicate that there was any intent to discriminate the Muslim population. In a heated exchange, liberal Judge Richard Paez countered that even if the President’s executive order was “neutrally worded,” taking a seemingly “neutral” stance does not mean an executive order is devoid of discriminatory intent. Judge Paez noted that the executive order that interned Japanese Americans during World War II was also neutrally worded given that there was no reference to Japanese people specifically, but that the President at the time did intend to discriminate that particular demographic. During oral argument, Judge Paez commented on remarks made by the President during his campaign which have indicated his intent to target Muslims specifically with his executive order. Paez stated that Trump made references to a Muslim ban “in the midst of a highly contentious campaign” raising questions about whether the court should consider taking that into account.

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Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore

USCIS has finally announced that the H-1B computer-generated lottery took place on April 11, 2017 to select the necessary petitions to meet the 65,000 visa cap for beneficiaries holding a U.S. bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, as well as the 20,000 visa cap for beneficiaries holding a U.S. master’s degree or higher. The announcement came a bit late this H-1B season, but you can now rest easy knowing that it has taken place.   On April 7th USCIS announced that they had received more than enough H-1B petitions necessary for fiscal year 2018. USCIS disclosed that they received 199,000 H-1B petitions this filing year.

Our office has already received 3 receipt notices for the “master’s” cap or advanced degree exemption, and 2 receipt notices for the “regular” cap as of April 20, 2017. 

USCIS will continue to mail receipt notices for selected petitions throughout the month of April and likely into early May.

If your petitioner has been monitoring their bank account closely and has noticed that the filing fees were charged to the account, that means that the H-1B petition was selected. Even if the filing fees have not yet been charged to your petitioner’s bank account, that does not mean that your H-1B petition was not selected. H-1B applicants must wait patiently to see if they were selected in this year’s lottery.

USCIS will not begin mailing out unselected H-1B petitions until around June through the month of July.

As a reminder, premium processing for H-1B petitions was suspended on March 3rd and will remain suspended for up to six months.

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On Wednesday March 15, 2017, a federal judge from the state of Hawaii issued a Temporary Restraining Order in opposition of President Donald Trump’s new executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” which was set to go into effect today Thursday, March 16, 2017. This will be the second time the President’s executive order has been blocked by a federal court. Among its major provisions the new executive order which was set to go into effect today, called for a 90-day travel ban on non-immigrants of six Muslim countries including Syria, Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, and a 120-day travel ban on the admission of refugees into the United States. The executive order had been re-drafted by the Trump administration following the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling invalidating all provisions of the executive order nationwide. To salvage the provisions of the executive order and make good on his campaign promise to eradicate terrorism, the President and his administration attempted to improve the order by removing controversial provisions within the order, affecting legal permanent residents, as well as non-immigrants with valid U.S. visas, otherwise authorized to gain admission to the United States. The order also removed Iraq as one of the countries affected by the order and removed a provision terminating the admission of Syrian refugees into the United States.

In what seems like déjà vu, the new executive order has once again been opposed first by a federal judge in Hawaii, and in a separate action by a federal judge from the state of Maryland who has blocked the 90-day travel ban from being implemented on citizens of the six Muslim majority countries nationwide. In their decisions, both judges mentioned President Trump’s statements during his presidential campaign which called into question the constitutionality of the executive order and its violation of the Establishment Clause. Specifically, President Trump has previously said that terrorism is linked to the Muslim religion, and his administration has identified the six Muslim countries outlined in the order as countries whose citizens have committed terrorist crimes in the United States. The Court has been concerned with the discriminatory effect of the executive order in targeting Muslims. The federal judge from the state of Hawaii noted that the state has “met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their Establishment clause claim, that irreparable injury is likely if the requested relief is not issued, and that the balance of the equities and public interest counsel in favor of granting the requested relief.” For those reasons, the Court found that a Temporary Restraining Order blocking all provisions of the order was appropriate.

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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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On Tuesday, February 28, 2017 the President of the United States Donald Trump addressed a joint session of congress for the first time ever delivering a unifying message to the American people. In his speech Donald Trump softened his stance on immigration while at the same time remaining true to his campaign promises.

On the topic of immigration, Donald Trump first discussed the creation of a Task Force to Reduce Violent Crime headed by the Department of Justice. Additionally, he stated that under his orders, the Department of Homeland Security, and Justice, the Department of State and Director of National intelligence will implement a plan to combat organized crime and the war on drugs. Trump pledged that he would work to dismantle criminal cartels and prevent them from bringing drugs into the country.

Second, Trump promised to keep his campaign promise to enforce the immigration laws of the United States and increase border security to “restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders.” He added, “We want all Americans to succeed, but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos.”

Third, Trump called for the construction of a wall along our Southern border with Mexico to deter undocumented immigrants from entering the United States and to deter drug dealers and criminals from entering the United States and committing acts of violence. To his critics, Donald Trump posed the following question, “What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?”

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On February 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a memorandum entitled “Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvement Policies.” The memorandum establishes new policies that call for the detection, apprehension, detention, and removal of undocumented immigrants residing in the United States unlawfully. The policies outlined in this memorandum will replace the former President’s deportation policies. According to the directive, the removal of undocumented immigrants will be prioritized based upon the potential danger the individual poses to citizens of the United States and the potential risk of flight.

Among other things the directive mandates the following:

  • Expand the 287(g) program, which authorizes state and local law enforcement officials to assist federal law enforcement in investigating, identifying, apprehending, arresting, detaining, transporting, and searching undocumented immigrants;
  • Immediately begin planning, design, construction and maintenance of a land border wall between the United States and Mexico;
  • Expand the scope of expedited removal of undocumented immigrants pursuant to section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii)(I) of the Immigration and nationality Act, to detain and expeditiously remove undocumented immigrants apprehended at the border, who have been ordered removed from the United States after being denied relief from deportation;

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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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