Articles Posted in Overstays

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On August 8, 2018, DHS issued a policy memorandum directing USCIS to change the way in which the agency counted the days of unlawful presence for F, M, and J status violators.

Under that policy memorandum, F, M, and J nonimmigrants who accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence during a single stay, and then departed the United States, would trigger either a 3- or 10-year bar to admission depending on the period of unlawful presence accrued in the United States prior to departure. The new policy would begin counting the days of unlawful presence the day after an F, M, or J status violation, unless an exception applied.

These bars would prevent the foreign national from applying for an immigration benefit in the future, without the approval of a waiver of inadmissibility.

This policy was to become effective on August 9, 2018; however, it quickly grew controversial and inspired a slew of lawsuits. Prior to this attempted policy change, USCIS did not begin counting a period of unlawful presence until a USCIS immigration official or immigration judge made a formal finding of a status violation.

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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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A new policy memorandum will change the way the accrual of unlawful presence is calculated for F, J, and M non-immigrant visa holders, and their dependents, beginning August 9, 2018, and onwards. The accrual of unlawful presence may lead to a bar preventing the foreign national from re-entering the United States.

In 1997 Congress began implementing a policy that governed the admissibility of individuals in F, J, and M non-immigrant visa status. Pursuant to that policy, nonimmigrants who overstayed their visa for more than 180 days could be subject to a 3-year bar, while individuals who overstayed for more than one year could be subject to the 10-year bar, for violating the terms of their visa status.

However, this class of individuals only began to accrue unlawful presence, where an immigration judge ordered the applicant excluded, deported, or removed from the United States, or where USCIS formally found a nonimmigrant status violation, while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit, such as adjustment of status. This policy applied to all non-immigrants who were admitted or present in the United States in duration of status (D/S).

New Policy

On August 9, 2018, USCIS released a policy memorandum entitled “Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigrants,” superseding the previous 1997 policy, in order to reduce the number of overstays, and implement a new policy regarding how to calculate unlawful presence for F, J, and M non-immigrants and their dependents.

Pursuant to the new policy, from August 9th onwards, “F, J, and M nonimmigrants, and their dependents, admitted or otherwise authorized to be present in the United States in duration of status (D/S) or admitted until a specific date (date certain), start accruing unlawful presence,” as follows:

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In this post, we bring an important reminder to the attention of F-1 Students with Optional Practical Training. F-1 students who transfer to another school or begin their studies at another educational level, such as a master’s degree program after completion of the bachelor’s degree, will have their OPT automatically terminated, as well as the corresponding employment authorization document, also known as a work permit.

F-1 students who transfer schools or begin studying at another educational level, will not be otherwise affected, so long as they comply with all of the requirements necessary to maintain their student status. F-1 students must not work with a terminated/expired EAD. Doing so violates U.S. law, and will result in serious immigration consequences, such as the removal of the foreign national from the United States or barring the foreign national from re-entering the United States, in addition to other serious consequences such as the accrual of unlawful presence.

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The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a new policy memorandum that may soon change the way the accrual of unlawful presence is calculated for individuals currently in the United States on an F, J, or M non-immigrant visa type, as well as their dependents accompanying them in the United States.

The new policy proposes that F, J, and M nonimmigrants who fail to maintain their nonimmigrant status before August 9, 2018, will begin accruing unlawful presence on that day.

Generally, F, J, and M nonimmigrants who fail to maintain their nonimmigrant status on or after August 9, 2018, will begin to accrue unlawful presence the day after they abandon their course of study or authorized activity, or engage in an unauthorized activity.

Current Policy

Since 1997, it has been USCIS policy to begin calculating the accrual of unlawful presence, for a F or J nonimmigrant admitted to the United States in duration of status (D/S), one day after finding the nonimmigrant in violation of their nonimmigrant status while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit (such as a change of status petition) or on the day after an immigration judge has ordered the exclusion, removal, or deportation of the nonimmigrant, whichever comes first.

F, J, and M nonimmigrants admitted for a specified date (not D/S) began to accrue unlawful presence on the day their Form I-94 expired, on the day after finding the nonimmigrant in violation of their nonimmigrant status while adjudicating a request for another immigration benefit (such as a change of status petition) or on the day after an immigration judge has ordered the exclusion, removal, or deportation of the nonimmigrant, whichever comes first.

DHS recently conducted a study to determine the number of nonimmigrants in F, J, or M status who have overstayed. For FY 2016, DHS calculated that out of a total of 1,456,556 aliens in F, J, and M nonimmigrant status expected to change status or depart the United States, 6.19% of F nonimmigrants, 3.80% of J nonimmigrants, and 11.60% of M nonimmigrants actually overstayed their status.

This minuscule percentage has caused USCIS to revise its policy and change how the accrual of unlawful presence is calculated for this demographic.

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On Sunday night, a group of Republican Senators met to draft the Republican party’s version of the President’s immigration framework, in preparation for a floor debate that will take place Monday night on immigration. The Republican bill is one of many proposals that will be considered by the Senate as part of the ongoing immigration debate. The proposed bill, known as the Secure and Succeed Act of 2018, drafted by Republican Senators Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn, James Lankford, Thom Tillis, David Perdue, Tom Cotton, and Joni Ernst, mirrors the Trump administration’s immigration framework.

Over the next few weeks Senators will vigorously debate and amend proposals on immigration with the goal of coming up with a piece of legislation that can garner at least 60 votes in the Senate to advance to the House of Representatives. The process will involve a free-for-all debate on the Senate floor that will allow Senators to propose amendments, with the goal of coming up with a bipartisan solution to shield Dreamers from deportation.

The GOP currently has a 51-49 majority in the Senate, making it necessary for Republicans to obtain support from Democratic Senators to reach the 60-vote threshold. Republicans have a large enough majority in the House of Representatives that they do not need a single Democratic vote to pass desired legislation.

Path to Citizenship for Dreamers

The Republican proposal focuses on providing a 12-year path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million people including DACA eligible recipients. Undocumented immigrants currently enrolled in DACA would receive a 2-year credit allowing them to obtain citizenship within 10 years. The criteria to obtain citizenship would require an individual to have:

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This week the President of the United States delivered his much-anticipated State of the Union to unite the Democratic and Republican parties on a range of contentious issues still unresolved in Congress. One of those hot-button issues has been immigration. As you may recall the President has given Congress until March 5, 2018 to pass legislation protecting Dreamers from deportation.

Ahead of the President’s speech the White House unveiled an immigration framework thought to gain support from Democrats in Congress, however the Democratic response in the room to the President’s remarks on immigration was somber.

While the President’s speech focused largely on improving the economy and helping small American businesses, the President also touched on immigration. President Trump opened his remarks on immigration by calling for immigration policies that will put American workers and their families first.

To highlight the importance of border security and implementing tougher immigration policies the President recounted the tragic story of Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, two close friends that were brutally murdered by adolescent gang members of MS-13, who the President said took advantage of the country’s loopholes to gain entrance into the country as unaccompanied minors. The parents of Kayla and Nisa Mickens stood tearfully to receive applause from members of Congress in the room.  The President called on members of Congress to “close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13 and other criminals” to enter into the country. The President touted that his administration has proposed new legislation to fix the country’s immigration laws and support ICE and Border Patrol Agents in their efforts to apprehend dangerous criminals.

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In the United States and across the world, a climate of fear and uncertainty has taken over our day to day lives and crept its way into the politics of the country. This climate of fear has in many ways taken shape because of our President’s harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric, the series of executive orders he has signed on immigration which aim to discourage American companies from hiring foreign nationals, and which ultimately aim to deter undocumented immigrants from attempting to cross the United States border illegally. While the United States has an interest in buying American and hiring American, the President’s stance on immigration has made the best and brightest look elsewhere for the “American Dream.” Another cause for concern is the highly publicized immigration raids taking place across the country against undocumented immigrants. What is perhaps the most unsettling for undocumented immigrants is what is yet to unfold under the Trump administration. In recent weeks, we have seen the President harden his stance on immigration for both undocumented immigrants and foreign entrepreneurs with his plan to dissolve the “International Entrepreneur Rule” and his plan to build a “wall” along the Southern border.

For undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than 20 years, and who have raised their children as U.S. Citizens, there is much at stake. Living in this climate of fear has become our “new normal.”

The reality is that many families across the country are scared to remain in the United States. Some of these families have willingly returned to their countries of origin or relocated their families to other countries altogether. Still others, are being torn apart. Gone are the days when Dreamers were not made priorities for removal.

If you came to the United States illegally or no longer have a valid status country because you overstayed your visa, or just simply don’t have a status anymore, it is very important for you to take steps to protect yourself, and to realize that you have rights in this country.

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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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The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments for United States v. Texas, a lawsuit challenging the President’s executive actions on immigration, on Monday April 18th.  We have learned that attorneys representing the Republican led House of Representatives will be given 15 minutes to argue against Obama’s executive actions on immigration, included the expanded Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. This move comes after the House of Representatives voted in favor of filing a brief before the Supreme Court challenging the executive actions on immigration. The court has also authorized a group of undocumented mothers of U.S. Citizen children to speak before the Supreme Court for 10 minutes. The Obama administration is currently at a disadvantage, given that only eight Supreme Court justices will ultimately be handing down one of the most important decisions of our generation come June. Obama had hoped that the House of Representatives would hold hearings in consideration of his Supreme Court pick, Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Merrick Garland, by the time oral arguments would begin. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Republicans have refused to hold hearings in consideration of Judge Garland. It is likely that they will continue to delay hearings until the next President of the United States takes office next year.

Oral arguments on April 18th will be no more than 90 minutes long. The majority of the time will be divided by the Obama administration and attorneys representing Texas and 25 other states challenging the constitutionality of Obama’s executive actions on immigration. United States v. Texas is unique because it will finally put to rest the issue of whether or not the executive action on immigration is within the President’s constitutional powers. This case is also unique because it will be one of the few times that the Supreme Court has addressed the issue of illegal immigration and the rights of unlawful immigrants under the constitution.

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