Articles Posted in News

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After a long and contentious battle in several courts across the nation, the fate of DACA now rests in the hands of nine Supreme Court justices.

On Tuesday, November 12, 2019, the justices heard the first oral arguments in the lawsuit seeking to end DACA.

During opening arguments, the justices gave us a small glimpse into what might be in their hearts and minds.

When the Solicitor General proposed to the justices that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to decide the case on the merits because DACA was a discretionary program which began under the Obama administration, the liberal justices on the court pushed back.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the first to disagree. Justice Ginsburg pointed to a flaw in the Solicitor’s argument stating that the Solicitor General could not argue that on the one hand the DACA program could not be reviewed by the Court because it was created under Obama’s administration as a discretionary program, and on the other hand that the Obama administration had no discretion to authorize the program because it was illegal to do so.

Sonia Sotomayor further attacked the Solicitor’s arguments stating that the President himself has issued conflicting remarks about the legality of the DACA program, stating first that Dreamers would be “safe under him,” and later terminating the program altogether.

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Great news for Polish nationals. Effective November 11, 2019, Polish nationals may travel to the United without a visa, using only their Polish passports and an approved ESTA.

Back on October 31st the Department of Homeland Security designated Poland as a country eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule making the designation official.

Poland joins thirty-eight countries currently participating in the Visa Waiver Program.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

Citizens or nationals of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program may travel to the United States for tourism or business without having to apply for a tourist visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Participants are eligible to remain in the United States for a temporary period of 90 days or less.

In order to travel without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program, citizens must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a U.S. bound air or sea carrier. ESTA is an online system that is used to determine eligibility to travel under the VWP to the United States for tourism or business.

How long is an ESTA valid for?

Once approved, the ESTA is valid for a period of two years. You must obtain a new ESTA if you receive a new passport, change your name, change your gender, change your country of citizenship, or your responses to “yes” or “no” questions on the ESTA application must be updated.

What are the Requirements?

Travelers must have a valid machine-readable passport issued by the participating country and be a citizen or national (not only a resident) of that country.

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On November 14, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register to increase immigration fees for certain petitions. After publication, the proposal will be open for a 30-day comment period. After that point the agency will review public comments and draft the final rule. At this time there is no definitive date set out in the proposed rule for enforcement of these fees. Therefore, readers should note that these fee increases will likely not take effect until well into Fiscal Year 2020.

What does the rule propose?

The rule proposes the following fee increases by immigration benefit:

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Moreover, DHS proposes that fees for the following types of petitions be limited to a 5 percent increase above current fees:

  • Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
  • Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant.
  • Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative
  • Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition
  • Form I-600A/I-600, Supplement 3, Request for Action on Approved Form I-600A/I600.42
  • Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative.
  • Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country.
  • Form I-800A, Supplement 3, Request for Action on Approved Form I-800A

Changes to Fee Waiver Requests

DHS further proposes to limit fee waivers grants to individuals who have an annual household income of less than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

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In this post, we discuss the latest developments in U.S. immigration news.

As you may recall, back in September USCIS issued a proposed rule requiring petitioners filing H-1B cap-subject petitions to pay a $10 registration fee for each petition submitted to USCIS for the H-1B cap selection process, beginning with the H-1B fiscal year 2021 cap season.

Today, November 7, 2019 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published the final version of this rule which will become effective beginning December 9, 2019, although the $10 fee will not be required until registrations are submitted beginning with the fiscal year 2021 H-1B cap selection process.

The final rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow November 8th. An unpublished version of the rule is available here.

Extension of Temporary Protected Status

On November 4, 2019, USCIS published a notice in the federal register announcing the automatic extension of TPS-related documentation for beneficiaries under the TPS designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan.

TPS-related documentation for individuals from these countries will remain valid through January 4, 2021.

This automatic extension will apply to all TPS-related documentation (including Employment Authorization Cards) set to expire on the following dates:

  • Beneficiaries under TPS designations for El Salvador, Haiti, and Sudan—January 2, 2020
  • Beneficiaries under TPS designations for Honduras—January 5, 2020
  • Beneficiaries under TPS designation for Nepal—March 20, 2020

A beneficiary under the TPS designation for any of these countries who has applied for a new EAD but who has not yet received his or her new EAD is covered by this automatic extension, provided that the EAD he or she possesses contains one of the expiration dates indicated above.

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In the latest blow to President Trump’s embattled Presidency, on November 2nd federal judge Michael Simon issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government from enforcing the President’s Proclamation issued on October 4, 2019, suspending the entry of any immigrant who will “financially burden the United States healthcare system.”

Judge Simon’s decision came just one day before the government’s planned implementation of the Presidential Proclamation.

The judge’s order applies nationwide and prohibits the government from implementing any part of the Proclamation requiring individuals seeking an immigrant visa to provide evidence “to a consular officer’s satisfaction” that they would either be covered by an approved health insurance within 30 days of entry to the United States, or possess the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.

Judge Simon’s decision came in response to a class action lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in the District of Oregon by seven United States Citizens and a non-profit organization against the Trump administration, challenging the legality of the Presidential Proclamation.

Plaintiff’s argued that the Proclamation should be found unlawful because it does not advance the President’s goal of reducing the burden of uncompensated care for uninsured individuals. Plaintiff’s called into question the President’s true intentions in issuing the Proclamation, stating that the Proclamation “is but the latest link in a long chain of statements and actions by this President and his Administration expressing antipathy toward all noncitizens. . .particularly immigrants of color, from Central and Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.”

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The President has once again targeted the immigrant population by signing a Presidential Proclamation suspending the entry of any immigrant who will “financially burden the United States healthcare system.”

While the Presidential Proclamation is likely to encounter resistance in court, as it stands the Proclamation is slated to become effective on November 3, 2019.

According to the Proclamation, a person seeking to immigrate to the United States will be found to be a financial burden on the U.S. healthcare system, unless they can prove either one of the following:

  • They are covered by approved health insurance, within 30 days of their entry to the United States, or
  • They have the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.

Beginning November 3, 2019, prior to the adjudication and issuance of an immigrant visa, a non-citizen seeking to immigrate to the United States, must establish to the satisfaction of a consular officer that they will not become a burden on the health care system by either of the means outlined above.

Who does the Proclamation apply to?

Only non-citizens seeking to enter the United States pursuant to an immigrant visa.

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As previously reported, the government has issued a new final rule in the Federal Register entitled “Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds,” giving consular officials wide discretion to deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications on public charge grounds.

In line with this new rule, today October 24, 2019, the Department of State issued a 60-day notice in the Federal Register alerting consular applicants of the agency’s plan to require immigrant visa applicants to complete Form DS-5540, a Public Charge Questionnaire to determine whether the applicant is likely to become a public charge. Public comments will be accepted up to December 23, 2019. Comments may be submitted by going to www.Regulations.gov and entering ‘‘Docket Number: DOS–2019–0037’’ in the Search field.

Why is Form DS-5540 being proposed?

According to the 60-day Notice:

The Department seeks to better ensure that aliens subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground are self-sufficient and will not rely on public resources to meet their needs, but rather, will rely on their own capabilities, as well as the resources of sponsors.

Through the DS–5540, the Department will collect information in a standardized format regarding applicants’ ability to financially support themselves following entry into the United States, without depending on government assistance.

Fields primarily pertain to the applicant’s health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, skills, health insurance coverage, and tax history. The DS–5540 would also require applicants to provide information on whether they have received certain specified public benefits from a U.S. Federal, state, local or tribal government entity on or after October 15, 2019.

Consular officers will use the completed forms in assessing whether an applicant is likely to become a public charge and is thus ineligible for a visa under section 212(a)(4)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (‘‘INA’’).

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In its latest act of defiance against the judicial branch, the Trump administration has published an Interim Final Rule entitled “Visas: Ineligibility Based on Public Charge Grounds,” designed to give Consular officers wider discretion to deny immigrant and nonimmigrant visas to applicants on public charge grounds based on a variety of factors that could weigh positively or negatively on an applicant.

According to the rule, consular officials will now be able to weigh a variety of factors to determine whether a visa applicant is likely to become a public charge. These factors include the applicant’s age, health, educational background, and financial status. In addition, consular officers will have increased discretion to scrutinize certain applications more closely than others based on the type of visa classification sought by the applicant, as well as the duration of stay.

Applicants who are seeking a long-term visa, for example may be scrutinized more heavily than applicant’s seeking a short-term visa (such as a tourist visa).

How will these factors be weighed by Consular officials?

Age: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s age makes the alien more likely than not to become a public charge in the totality of the circumstances, such as by impacting the alien’s ability to work. Consular officers will consider an alien’s age between 18 and 62 as a positive factor.

Health: Consular officers will consider whether the alien’s health serves as a positive or negative factor in the totality of the circumstances, including whether the alien has been diagnosed with a medical condition that is likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization or that will interfere with the alien’s ability to provide and care for himself or herself, to attend school, or to work (if authorized).

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A new lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California now allows Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applicants to challenge long standing delays in receiving their immigration records from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The U.S. District Court has certified two class action lawsuits allowing FOIA applicants and attorneys requesting FOIA records on their behalf to join in the class action so that class members may receive timely determinations on their FOIA requests. This decision was made in response to significant delays that applicants face in obtaining their immigration records from the agency.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick who granted the class action request wrote in his order that delays in receiving immigration records are particularly precarious for, “Noncitizens in removal proceedings” who “particularly rely on FOIA requests because discovery is not available. Consequently, obtaining A-Files from defendants is critical in immigration cases; delays in obtaining A-Files leave noncitizen and their attorneys “in legal limbo” that inflicts substantial hardship.”

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On Friday October 11, 2019, three Federal courts in California, New York, and Washington issued three temporary injunctions blocking the Trump administration from enforcing the Public Charge rule on a nationwide basis, which was set to go into effect on October 15, 2019.

The decision to block the government from enforcing the Public Charge rule is sure to set off a contentious legal battle that is just beginning to unfold.

California’s Injunction

In California, the City of San Francisco, State of California, and La Clinica de La Raza, a health care provider, joined together as plaintiffs to sue the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the President of the United States to prevent the Public Charge rule from going forward.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton granted the Plaintiffs a preliminary injunction bringing a temporary stop to the government’s plans to enforce the rule, in states falling under the purview of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Judge Hamilton wrote that in seeking to enforce the final rule, the government failed to consider the impact the rule would have on local and state governments when immigrants chose to leave public health benefit program, “[DHS] made no attempt, whatsoever, to investigate the type or magnitude of harm that would flow from the reality which it admittedly recognized would result—fewer people would be vaccinated,”

Washington’s Injunction

Similarly in a separate but related lawsuit, the States of Washington, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island joined together as Plaintiffs to sue the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the heads of these agencies, and the President of the United States.

The Washington injunction was more sweeping in scope in that the Federal Judge in that case, Rosanna Malouf Peterson, ordered a nationwide injunction forcing the government to refrain from implementing or enforcing the rule on a temporary but nationwide basis. In her decision Judge Peterson wrote, “the Court declines to limit the injunction to apply only in those states within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”

As a result, the broad scope of the injunction prevents the government from enforcing the Public Charge rule on a nationwide basis.

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