Articles Posted in Refugees

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Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court handed down a controversial decision upholding the President’s latest travel ban in the case Trump, President of the United States, Et Al. v. Hawaii Et Al. The 5-4 decision reflected a deeply divided court, but ultimately the conservative justices on the court banded together ruling in favor of the Trump administration.

Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, ruled that the latest travel ban was “squarely within the scope of Presidential authority.” Justices Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Ginsburg dissented. Despite concurring with the majority opinion Justice Kennedy added, “An anxious world must know that our Government remains committed always to the liberties the Constitution seeks to preserve and protect, so that freedom extends outward, and lasts.”

As you may recall in September of 2017 the President issued Executive Order No. 9645, entitled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats.” The purpose of this executive order was to identify any deficiencies from several foreign countries needed to adequately assess whether nationals from particular countries seeking to enter the United States presented security or safety threats to the United States. The order specifically called for global requirements for information sharing among these countries, and increased immigration screening and vetting of individuals from particular countries of concern. The President exercised his broad authority under the constitution to place entry restrictions on nationals of eight foreign countries whose information systems for managing and sharing information about their nationals was deemed inadequate by the current administration. These countries included—Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia.

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Return of Unselected Petitions for H-1B Applicants FY 2019 Begins

H-1B applicants who were not selected in the H-1B visa lottery for fiscal year 2019 will begin to receive their rejected applications from the Vermont Service Center and California Service Center. Our office expects to receive returned packages within the next few months. If you were not selected in the lottery, there are several alternatives that you may be interested in. To read all about these alternatives please read our helpful blog post here.

USCIS Adjustment of Status Filing Dates July 2018

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H-1B Filing Season Opens Next Week

USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions that are subject to the FY 2019 cap on April 2, 2018. To make sure you are prepared click here for a running checklist of supporting documents typically included in a cap-subject petition. In addition please click here to read our H-1B guide. For filing assistance, and tips on increasing your chances of approval please contact our office for a consultation. Best of luck!

Power of Attorney No Longer Accepted

Beginning March 18, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will no longer accept power of attorney signatures on forms submitted to the agency.

Now, applicants and petitioners for immigration benefits will be required to provide a valid signature on forms submitted to the agency. This prohibition will apply to forms that are filed by a corporation or other legal entity, meaning that an authorized representative or agent of the corporation or entity must be prepared to provide a valid signature on all forms submitted to USCIS.

Individuals who will remain unaffected by this new policy change are minors who are younger than the age of 14, or individuals with qualifying disabilities. USCIS will no longer allow applicants or petitioners the opportunity to correct a faulty signature, and will instead reject a form submitted without a valid signature.

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On March 5, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that Syrian nationals currently receiving benefits under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) may re-register between March 5, and May 4, 2018, to maintain their status under the program.

Re-registration instructions and information on how to renew employment authorization have been published on the USCIS website.

Applicants must re-register by submitting Form I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status to maintain TPS benefits, and may submit a properly completed Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization to renew employment authorization documents (EAD) at the same time. Alternatively, TPS applicants may file Form I-765 at a later date.

Those who are eligible to apply will receive new employment authorization documents with a September 30, 2019 expiration date. For individuals who have filed for TPS re-registration, USCIS will automatically be extending the validity of EADS that expire on March 31 for a period of 180 days, through September 27, giving USCIS enough time to process applications while at the same time allowing TPS beneficiaries to continue working without interruptions.

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On October 24, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13815 entitled, “Resuming the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) with Enhanced Vetting Capabilities.” As the title suggests, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program also known as (USRAP) is no longer suspended and the policies set forth in section 6(a) of Executive Order 13780 also known as “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the US,” are no longer in effect as they pertain to refugees. As outlined in Executive Order 13780, beginning October 24, 2017, “Presidential action to suspend the entry of refugees under the USRAP [is no longer needed] to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people.”

Section 6(a) of Executive Order 13780 imposed a temporary freeze on the admission of refugees to the United States, and provided for a temporary 120-day window in which the Department of Homeland Security would review the application and adjudication process for the Refugee Admissions Program to prevent foreign terrorist entry to the United States. This 120-day window expired on October 24, 2017. Section 6(a) contained a provision which stipulated that refugee travel and application decisions would resume after the 120-day window had terminated, “for stateless persons and for nationals of countries which the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence jointly determine that the additional procedures identified through the USRAP review process are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.”

At this time, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence have advised the Trump administration that sufficient improvements have been made to prevent foreign terrorist entry through the Refugee Admissions Program, such as the implementation of enhanced vetting procedures. These improvements have been deemed sufficient to ensure the “security and welfare of the United States,” for the time being. In accordance with this order, the Department of Homeland Security will only apply special measures restricting the travel of refugees to those categories of refugees that “pose potential threats to the security and welfare of the United States.”

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Just one day before Presidential Proclamation No. 9645, “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats,” was set to go into effect, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a ruling blocking portions of the Presidential Proclamation from being enforced on a majority, but not ALL, of the countries, listed in the Proclamation.

The Presidential Proclamation, commonly referred to in the media as ‘travel ban 3.0’ set out to suspend the entry of foreign nationals from eight “countries of identified concern,” and the admission of foreign nationals from those countries was to remain limited until further notice.

The countries to be affected by travel ban 3.0 included: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia. A federal judge from the state of Hawaii by the name of Derrick Watson has granted a temporary restraining order preventing the government from suspending the admission of foreign nationals from the following countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, but DOES NOT prevent the government from suspending the admission of foreign nationals from North Korea and Venezuela, and from imposing stricter screening standards on Iraqi nationals. The restrictions on foreign nationals from North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq will continue to be enforced according to the Proclamation, beginning today, Thursday, October 19, 2017. Restrictions on North Koreans and Venezuelans will likely remain indefinitely, given that the U.S. government has no formal diplomatic avenues for communication with those countries.

Judge Derrick Watson wrote in his opinion that the latest revision of the ban, “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor,” and “lacks the sufficient finds that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from [the] specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States,” and “plainly discriminates based on nationality.”

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On August 02, 2017, Republican Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced a new Act called “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy” before the U.S. Senate, otherwise known as the RAISE Act, which is a new piece of legislation that has recently been backed by President Trump.

The RAISE Act aims to overhaul the employment-based immigration system and replace it with a skills-based system that awards points to immigrants based on the immigrant’s level of education, age, ability to speak the English language, future job salary, level of investment, and professional achievements. In addition, the RAISE Act would terminate the Diversity Visa Program, which awards 50,000 visas to foreign nationals from qualifying countries, and would ultimately reduce the number of family-sponsored immigrants allowed admission to the United States. The Act intends to focus on the family-based immigration of spouses and minor children and would reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States.

Among other things the RAISE Act would:

  • Terminate the Diversity Visa Program which awards 50,000 green cards to immigrants from qualifying countries;
  • Slash the annual distribution of green cards to just over 500,000 (a change from the current issuance of over 1 million green cards annually);
  • Employment-based green cards would be awarded according to a skill-based points system that ranks applicants according to their level of education, age, ability to speak the English language, salary, level of investment, and achievements (see below);
  • The issuance of employment-based green cards would be capped at 140,000 annually;
  • Limit the maximum number of refugees admitted to the United States to 50,000;
  • Limit admission of asylees. The number of asylees admitted to the United States on any given year would be set by the President on an annual basis;
  • Amend the definition of “Immediate Relative” to an individual who is younger than 18 years of age instead of an individual who is younger than 21 years of age;
  • Adult children and extended family members of individuals living in the United States would no longer be prioritized to receive permanent residence. Instead the focus would remain on the immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens and legal permanent residents such as spouses and children under the age of 18;
  • The Act would allow sick parents of U.S. Citizens to be allowed to enter the United States on a renewable five-year visa, provided the U.S. Citizen would be financially responsible for the sick parent.

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On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, the United States Supreme Court responded to the Trump administration’s motion seeking clarification regarding the Supreme Court’s June 26th preliminary ruling, which held that the President could enforce the travel ban against foreign nationals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, who lack a credible “bona fide” relationship to a person residing in the United States, or entity such as an employer, religious, or academic institution.

The government sought clarification from the United States Supreme Court after the state of Hawaii challenged the government’s interpretation of a “close familial relationship,” and convinced a federal court judge that the Supreme Court intended close family members to include extended family members such as “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States.” Federal judge Watson was also convinced that refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency were exempt from the travel ban.

In a brief order, the Supreme Court denied the government’s motion seeking clarification of the court’s June 26, 2017 preliminary order, and reversed judge Watson’s decision regarding the admission of refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency. The Supreme Court has ruled that refugees with a formal assurance from a resettlement agency will not be granted admission to the United States pending the resolution of the government’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Last week, Thursday, July 13, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson handed down a ruling which exempts extended family members from President Trump’s travel ban including: “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States.” These familial relationships are to be considered bona fide relationships that qualify such foreign nationals from gaining admission into the United States.  Thursday’s ruling also makes refugees with assurances from a resettlement agency, exempt from the President’s travel ban.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that they would hear arguments challenging the President’s travel ban when the Court reconvenes in October of next year. As part of their announcement, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, in the interim, the President could enforce the travel ban against foreign nationals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, who lack a credible “bona fide” relationship to a person residing in the United States, or entity such as an employer, religious, or academic institution.

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In their ruling, the Supreme Court however provided little guidance on what types of familial relationships would qualify as a credible bona fide relationship. The Supreme Court vaguely stated that “close familial” relationships would qualify as a bona fide relationship, citing mother-in-law’s and spouses as an example of a qualifying familial relationship. However, the Court was silent regarding extended family members.

This prompted the State of Hawaii to seek clarification from federal judge Watson, regarding what types of familial relationships would be subject to the ban. The State of Hawaii argued that the Trump administration had wrongfully interpreted the Court’s ruling to exclude close family members such as grandparents, after the administration issued a diplomatic cable to U.S. consular posts and embassies abroad that defined a “close familial relationship” to include parents, children, and in-laws, but not grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

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ICE Memo Discusses Immigration Enforcement of EOs 13767 and 13768  

In a new memorandum entitled “Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Policies,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), outlines the President’s policies going forward in implementing Executive Order 13767, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” and Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” signed by the President on January 25, 2017.

The memorandum makes clear that enforcement and removal operations will be taken immediately against all removable aliens, prioritizing expedited removal of aliens with criminal history or prior immigration violations such as fraud or material misrepresentation. Accordingly, the Department of Homeland security “will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement” under EO 13767 and 13768.

Under these directives, officers will prioritize efforts to remove individuals who:

  • Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • Have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency;
  • Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • Are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or
  • In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.

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