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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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Today, September 18, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced that the agency will be resuming premium processing for all H-1B visa petitions subject to the fiscal year 2018 cap. This means that petitioners who filed an H-1B cap subject petition or H-1B cap exempt petition (for the advanced degree exemption) subject to fiscal year 2018, may upgrade to premium processing starting today.

USCIS previously announced that the agency had resumed premium processing of H-1B petitions filed under the Conrad 30 waiver program, as well as interested government agency waivers, and certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions.

Premium processing for all other H-1B petitions including extensions of stay will remain temporarily suspended. USCIS will announce when premium processing will resume for other remaining H-1B petitions not subject to the fiscal year 2018 cap. Petitioners who cannot file for premium processing may request for their petitions to be processed expeditiously, however such requests will only be granted on a discretionary basis.

What is premium processing?

Premium processing service refers to an optional premium processing service offered by USCIS to employers filing Form I-129 (Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker) or Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker). Premium processing guarantees 15 calendar day processing to petitioners who make use of the service. Applications that are not processed within 15 calendar days, receive a refund of the $1,225 premium processing fee, and are processed expeditiously. To make use of the service, petitioners must file Form I-907 with their application and include the appropriate fees. The I-907 request for premium processing service can be filed together with an H-1B petition or separately pending a decision. The service is only available for pending petitions with USCIS.

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President Trump and Democratic leaders met on Thursday in an unexpected meeting to negotiate the future of the now defunct Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a program that allowed undocumented immigrants, who came to the United States as children, the opportunity to apply for employment authorization and obtain “deferred status” to shield them from deportation. During the meeting, the President made clear that any legislation that would protect Dreamers from deportation would need to make important concessions that would fall in line with the President’s hard line stance on immigration, such as enhancing border security along the Southwestern border, and funding the construction of a wall between U.S. and Mexico.

A day after the meeting, the President denied reports that the he had struck a deal with Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, that would exclude the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico, after the duo released the following statement implying that such a deal had been made, “We had a very productive meeting at the White House with the President. The discussion focused on DACA. We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”

According to the Trump administration, the President stated during the meeting that he would only support legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation, if that legislation included “massive” border security enhancements.” After the meeting, the President tweeted, “No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”

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In early August of this year, reports began to emerge indicating that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was planning a large-scale nationwide immigration operation, to crack down on undocumented criminals and gang members. The coordinated effort which purported to detain criminals and gang members, known within the agency as “Operation Maga,” was set to begin on September 17th and was expected to continue over a five-day period.

Thanks to an internal memo circulated within the agency, details quickly came to light of the operation. According to an internal memo, ICE had been planning to conduct the nationwide immigration raids since at least mid-August of this year. In addition, law enforcement officials reported that the immigration raids were expected to target 8,400 undocumented immigrations, which according to the internal memo would make Operation Maga, “the largest operation of its kind in the history of ICE.” Officials familiar with the operation reported that while the agency instructed officials to target only persons of interest, including gang members or perpetrators of serious crimes, DACA recipients not suspected of crimes, could inevitably have been detained in the frenzy.

When news outlets began to question ICE regarding the rumored raids, the agency had reported that it was “not able to speculate about potential future targeted enforcement actions.”

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37047550995_996d754972_zGiven the recent termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the controversy surrounding the immigration system as of late, in this post we address the numerous myths surrounding the DACA program and of immigration law in general. Although there are numerous studies and empirical research debunking the common myths attributed to the immigration system, as well as detailed economic reports published by governmental agencies corroborating the positive effects of immigration, Americans continue to hold a negative perception of immigrants and are increasingly skeptical of the immigration process. In truth, much of these perceptions are perpetuated by the unwillingness of Americans to obtain readily available information on the internet, to discover that the immigration process for individuals who entered the United States illegally is riddled with obstacles. More and more we are seeing Americans rely on news stations to accurately deliver the news and do the work for them. Unfortunately, the best way to understand the immigration process itself is to go straight to the source, and not rely on such sources for information.

The public needs to know the facts to better understand that the average immigrant actually has very few immigration options available to them under the current immigration system.

MYTH #1 It is easy to get a green card under current immigration laws

Most Americans believe that it is relatively easy to get a green card. This cannot be further from the truth. Immigration laws are highly complex and are designed to make it more difficult for extended family members, low-skilled workers, and undocumented immigrants to immigrate to the United States. Under current immigration laws, there are generally only two ways to immigrate to the United States and obtain permanent residency, outside of special immigrant categories specifically reserved for special categories of individuals including: asylees, refugees, certain witnesses of crimes, victims of abuse, and individuals who may qualify for withholding of removal. It is extremely difficult for individuals to qualify for permanent residency under one of these special categories.

Outside of these special categories, foreign nationals may immigrate to the United States and obtain permanent residency, only if they have a qualifying family member (such as a US Citizen or LPR spouse, child, etc.) who may petition for them or if the beneficiary works for a U.S. employer on a valid visa who is willing to sponsor the foreign national by petitioning for their permanent residency.

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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 early as Friday, September 1, 2017, President Donald Trump is expected to make a formal announcement regarding his decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that started on November 20, 2014 under President Barack Obama. The DACA program was introduced as part of a series of executive actions, signed into law by President Obama, to shield hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Young undocumented immigrants eligible for DACA were those who:

(1) were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;

(2) came to the United States before reaching the age of 16;

(3) maintained continuous residence in the country since June 15, 2007;

(4) were physically present in the country on June 15, 2012 and at the time of making a request for consideration of deferred status;

(5) were currently in school, graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, obtained a GED certificate, or were an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces; and

(6) had not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors, and did not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Individuals who qualified for DACA were given a renewable 2-year temporary employment authorization card (EAD) and “deferred status” to shield them from deportation. It is estimated that more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants have received relief from deportation through this program.

A senior administration official has reported to Fox News as of today, August 31, 2017, that the President is expected to announce the end of the program, despite challenges from the GOP to keep the program intact. The official stated that although Trump will announce the end of the program, he will allow current DACA holders to remain in the program, and have lawful status in the United States until their employment authorization cards run their course. This means that the DACA program will not end abruptly, rather the program will be phased out, and immigrants will no longer have the option of renewing their benefits once they have expired. In recent years the number of DACA applicants has dwindled. According to USCIS statistics, in fiscal year 2016, 40,378 initial DACA applications were approved, while 83,788 renewal applications were approved that same year. This is in stark contrast to the 472,131 applications approved in 2013.

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Now is a good time to file your green card application. Significant wait times are expected given a new policy passed by the Trump administration that will require in-person interviews for LPR applicants filing based on employment sponsorship

In yet another controversial move, the Trump administration has recently adopted a new policy change that will require an in-person interview for individuals wishing to obtain lawful permanent residency based on employment sponsorship. The new policy will be implemented beginning October 1st.
Previously, foreign nationals applying for permanent residency, based on employment sponsorship, were not required to attend an in-person interview, although this allowance was discretionary. In recent years, the in-person interview requirement was typically reserved for individuals applying for permanent residency based on a qualifying familial relationship, and not for individuals applying based on employment sponsorship.

A USCIS spokesperson announced the new policy change on Friday August 25th, a change that will delay the process of obtaining a green card significantly, given the increased number of individuals that will be required to attend an in-person interview. According to USCIS this change in policy will apply to any individual adjusting their status to legal permanent residency from an employment-based visa category.

What’s more, family members of refugees or asylees, holding a valid U.S. visa, will also be required to attend an in-person interview when applying for provisional status.

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Trump Administration ends the Central American Minors Program

On August 16, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security terminated the Central American Minors (CAM) program started under former President Barack Obama in 2014 in response to Central America’s humanitarian crisis. Beginning in 2014, the number of accompanied minors seeking asylum in the United States swelled to the thousands. Although these numbers have decreased significantly under President Trump, it is estimated that there are still over 3,000 unaccompanied minors fleeing gang violence and organized crime in Central America in the hopes of settling in the United States. In the past two years alone it is estimated that approximately 33,000 people have been brutally murdered. Unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence hail from countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The CAM program previously granted safe passage to unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence in Central America, as well as admission to the United States, so long as the unaccompanied minor could establish that they had a parent legally residing in the United States who would care for them. The creation of the CAM program was a progressive step in the country’s immigration policy given that the United States through the creation of this program recognized the importance of resolving the humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children, and acknowledged the refugee status of individual’s fleeing the brutal violence in Central America. The Trump administration’s decision to terminate the program signals an unwillingness to recognize the legitimacy of the humanitarian crisis and an unwillingness to acknowledge that individuals fleeing Central American violence are “refugees.”

True to the ethos of the Trump administration, this decision signals a cautious administration that does not see Central American children as being in danger and by extension in need of protection from the United States.

Immigration Crackdown

On Friday August 18, 2017 ICE agents conducted a sting operation on the U.S.-Mexico Border detaining more than 400 people including individuals accused of smuggling unaccompanied minors to the United States. The operation specifically targeted undocumented parents and guardians who it is alleged paid smugglers to bring their children to the United States illegally. Some of these children were unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence in Central America. A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement stated that the operation was part of the Human Smuggling Disruption Initiative. ICE has confirmed that its focus will shift from conducting immigration raids to ending the transnational smuggling trade that is responsible for bringing many unaccompanied minors from Central America to the U.S. Mexico border.

The most recent series of immigration raids involved a four-day operation that took place at the end of July, in which 650 people were arrested, 70% of which were not a target of the raid, but were swept up in the frenzy.

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In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the month of October. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State provides a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin including discussion of current trends and future projections for immigrant preference categories.

Below are the highlights of those trends and projections:

Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim: October 2017

EB-1 China and EB-1 India.  Good news for EB-1 China and EB-1 India. Both employment categories are expected to become current in the month of October. The imposition of a final action date is expected until the summer of 2018.

EB-2 Worldwide. Similarly, EB-2 Worldwide is expected to become current beginning October 1, 2017 through to the foreseeable future.

EB-2 India.  EB-2 India is experiencing and will continue to experience slow movement of a few weeks at a time. A final action date may be expected between January and April 2018. If a final action date is imposed EB-2 India will advance to a date in December 2008. This will largely depend on the level of EB-3 upgrade demand. Alternatively, it is possible for the final action date for this category to advance to a date in 2009 during the second half of fiscal year 2018.

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