Articles Posted in Priorities for Removal

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Welcome to the start of a brand-new week. In this blog, we cover new reports from the U.S./Mexico border addressing the growing number of asylum seekers entering the United States from Tijuana into San Diego, through a process known as “humanitarian parole.”

According to a recent report published by the National Institute for Migration in Baja California, in April of 2022, just under 400 migrants were granted permission to cross through Ped West, one of two pedestrian crossings at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

When compared to crossings in August, that number has skyrocketed to 4,075 migrants entering using their humanitarian parole document.


What is humanitarian parole?

  • Humanitarian parole is a process by which a foreign national (who may be inadmissible or otherwise ineligible for admission into the United States) may enter for a temporary period of time for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit by filing Form I-131 Application for Travel Document and Form I-134 Affidavit of Support including their supporting documentation.

In addition to those entering with humanitarian parole, the Institute reports that more than 2,500 Haitian refugees have been granted permission to cross into the United States, as well as 440 migrants from Honduras fleeing organized crime.

At the same time, the Institute reports that many migrants in Tijuana are being falsely misled to believe that migrant shelters can help them bypass detention upon requesting asylum at the U.S. border.

Sadly, the Biden administration has not done little to address the growing number of asylum seekers. In fact, the Biden administration has been silently asking the Mexican government to allow for the expulsion of thousands of asylum-seeking migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela through a little-known policy known as “Title 42.” This expulsion policy began under the Trump administration in March 2020 and has continued under President Biden. Since that time, the Mexican government agreed to accept expulsions of its citizens, along with those of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras totaling more than 2 million migrants.

According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) the expulsion of migrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras is near the highest-level seen in over 15 years, but has declined from 2021 (154,000 in July 2021, 104,000 in July 2022). It is estimated that the U.S. government has used Title 42 to expel 78 percent of these migrants.

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Source: Flickr, Attribution: mollyktadams

We are saddened to report that late Friday, July 16, 2021, Federal Judge Andrew Hanen of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, granted the plaintiffs in the case, State of Texas, et al., vs. United States of America, et.al, a permanent injunction, pending ongoing litigation over the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

As a result, new first-time applications for the DACA program will no longer be approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) following Judge Hanen’s ruling.  Friday’s decision in Texas v. United States is sure to be appealed, though there is a reasonable chance it will be upheld, especially by the conservative leaning Supreme Court of the United States.

In his ruling, Federal Judge Hanen declared that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) with the initial creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and its continued operation. Accordingly, he has ordered that the DACA Memorandum and the subsequent creation of the DACA program be vacated and remanded to DHS for further consideration.

This action removes protections from deportation for thousands of undocumented young adults who came to the United States as children, otherwise known as Dreamers, and casts doubt on the future of the program.

Judge Hanen specifically stated that his ruling does not impact the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and others who have relied on the DACA program for almost a decade. This means that while new first-time applications for DACA will no longer be adjudicated by USCIS, Hanen’s ruling will not impact current DACA recipients.

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Welcome back to the start of a brand-new week! We are excited to announce brand new developments in the world of immigration specifically for U visa victims of crimes.

On June 14, 2021, the United States Citizenship, and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new policy alert, informing U visa applicants that the agency will now be exercising its discretion to issue four year Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) (also known as work permits),  as well as four-year “deferred action” status to certain U visa applicants, including those who have filed new U visa petitions, and those whose U visa petitions remain pending with USCIS, based on a new discretionary process called a “bona fide determination.”

This is a groundbreaking new development for U visa applicants because victims of crime will now be eligible to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), as well as “deferred action” status, while their U visa applications remain pending with USCIS. With this new policy change, U visa applicants will no longer need to wait 5+ years for their U visa approval, in order to become eligible for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and be protected from deportation.

Previously, only principal U visa applicants whose petitions were approved by USCIS, were authorized to work based on their approved status with immigration. Only those with an approved Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-918) would automatically be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). All other applicants with pending petitions were forced to wait in the visa queue for a visa to become available due to the mandatory U visa cap. This process on average has taken up to 5 years.

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On June 4th, 2021, the interim guidance memorandum (“The Memo”) was publicly released. The reason the memo sent many, like me, into a frenzy was because of the million people currently in immigration court limbo who have just had their lives transformed by these thirteen pages.

This memo is proof the Biden Administration has set a new tone towards immigration. The memo beautifully states, “the government wins when justice is done,” reminding OPLA attorneys they should remain mindful that “immigration enforcement obligations do not consist only initiating and conduction prompt proceedings that lead to removals at any cost.” The memo provides internal direction to OPLA attorney’s regarding the following: 1. Removal Priority Cases, 2. Prosecutorial Discretion, 3. Ability to cancel NTAs, 4. Authority to Administrative closure or Continuance of Proceedings, and 5. Authority to Terminate  Proceedings.

(It is important to note this memorandum was released For Official Use Only by the Department of Homeland Security. You should seek the advice and counsel of an attorney to review your case specifically.)

  1. REMOVAL PRIORITY CASES

It is directed that OPLA attorneys prioritize agency resources in the following priority categories:

A. Noncitizens who engaged in or suspect to engage in terrorism or whose apprehension is otherwise necessary to protect the national security of the United States.

B. Noncitizens who were apprehended at the border or port of entry, while attempting to enter unlawfully into the United States after November 1, 2020.

C. Noncitizens convicted of an “aggravated felony” or convicted of an offense related to a criminal street gang and determined to pose a threat to public safety.

The memo also provides a non-exclusive list of civil immigration enforcement and removal decisions where the agency should identify any opportunities of a non-citizens process to ensure just fair and legally appropriate outcomes.

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With just a few weeks into the new year, the judicial branch has been hard at work issuing decisions that spell trouble for the Trump administration.

On Wednesday, January 15th a federal judge in Maryland issued a temporary injunction preventing the Trump administration from implementing the President’s executive order “Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement,” issued by the President on September 26th of last year.

As part of the executive order, the President authorized state and local governments to refuse the placement or resettlement of refugees in their communities stating that, the Federal government, as an exercise of its broad discretion, “should resettle refugees only in those jurisdictions in which both the State and local governments” consent to receive refugees under the Department of State’s Reception and Placement Program.

The government by its order sought to tighten the placement of refugees in the United States by allowing refugees into the United States only if both the State and local government consent to their placement in the State or locality.

In response to a lawsuit filed by refugee-resettlement organizations challenging the executive order, U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte said that the plaintiffs were “clearly likely to succeed in showing, that, by giving states and local governments veto power over the resettlement of refugees within their borders, the [executive] order is unlawful.”

To preserve the status quo, until a final decision is made on the merits, Judge Messitte issued a temporary injunction blocking the government from enforcing any part of the executive order on a nationwide basis.

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As we approach the end of the year, in this blog post, we look back at the major policy changes implemented by the Trump administration in the year 2019 that have had a profound impact on the way our immigration system functions today.

JANUARY 

Government Shutdown Woes

The start of 2019 began on a very somber note. From December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019 Americans experienced the longest government shutdown in American history (lasting a period fo 35 days) largely due to political differences between the Republican and Democratic parties on the issue of government funding to build a border wall along the U.S. Mexico border.

The government shutdown created a massive backlog for non-detained persons expecting to attend hearings in immigration court. Because of limited availability of federal workers, non-detained persons experienced postponements and were required to wait an indeterminate amount of time for those hearings to be re-scheduled.

To sway public opinion, 17 days into the government shutdown, the President delivered his first primetime address from the Oval office where he called on Democrats to pass a spending bill that would provide $5.7 billion in funding for border security, including the President’s border wall.

With no agreement in sight, on January 19, 2019, the President sought to appease Democrats by offering them a compromise solution. In exchange for funding his border wall and border security, the President announced a plan that would extend temporary protected status of TPS recipients for a three-year period and provide legislative relief to DACA recipients for a three-year period. The President’s proposal however did not provide a pathway to residency for Dreamers, and was quickly rejected by Democrats.

On January 25, 2019, with still no solution and pressure mounting, the President relented and passed a temporary bill reopening the government until February 15, 2019.

Meanwhile, immigration courts across the country were forced to postpone hundreds of immigration hearings, with Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky being the most deeply affected by the shutdown.

Changes to the H1B Visa Program

On January 30, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced proposed changes to the H-1B visa program including a mandatory electronic registration requirement for H1B petitioners filing cap-subject petitions beginning fiscal year 2020, and a reversal in the selection process for cap-subject petitions. The government outlined that it would first select H-1B registrations submitted on behalf of all H-1B beneficiaries (including regular cap and advanced degree exemption) and then if necessary select the remaining number of petitions from registrations filed for the advanced degree exemption. Moreover, only those registrations selected during fiscal year 2020 and on, would be eligible to file a paper H1B cap petition.

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On August 20, 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced “enhanced coordination” efforts to remove Guatemalan adults and families arriving at the border more quickly. These efforts have been implemented to discourage Central Americans from attempting to enter the United States illegally and to deter human smuggling.

Acting Associate Director of ICE ERO Timothy Robbins made the following statement regarding these enforcement actions, “Breaking U.S. laws by illegally entering the United States is an ineffective manner to petition to legally remain in the United States. Ultimately, if you have no basis to remain in the United States, you will be apprehended and returned to your home country.”

ICE has announced that since mid-July it has implemented a more streamlined process to expeditiously remove Guatemalans who have no basis to remain in the United States.

According to ICE, this process allows the US to repatriate these individuals, “without utilizing resources to house aliens or manage their cases while they await immigration or removal proceedings out of custody.”

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USCIS International Field Offices

On August 9, 2019, USCIS announced its plans to maintain seven international field offices open in Beijing, Guangzhou, Nairobi, New Delhi, Guatemala City, Mexico City, and San Salvador.

As previously reported, all other USCIS international field offices will close between now and August 2020.

Functions performed at closing international offices will be handled domestically or by USCIS domestic staff on temporary assignments abroad. In addition, the Department of State (DOS) will assume responsibility for certain in-person services that USCIS currently provides at international field offices.

In addition to issuing visas to foreign nationals who are abroad, DOS already performs many of these service functions where USCIS does not have an office.

Targeted Immigration Raids

As our readers may be aware, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been conducting targeted immigration raids (Enforcement and Removal Operations) to remove undocumented immigrants from the United States.

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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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The White House recently issued a Presidential Memorandum to strengthen asylum procedures and safeguard the asylum system against fraud.

The Presidential Proclamation specifically orders the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to take several measures to enhance the security of the asylum system by July 28, 2019.

These measures require the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to enact proposals and/or regulations that would: