Articles Posted in Sanctuary Cities

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Yesterday, January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed and handed down the controversial executive order, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” on immigration to protect the nation from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals. Among its main provisions the order suspends IMMIGRANT AND NON-IMMIGRANT entry of foreign nationals from countries of “particular concern” including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for 90 days, indefinitely suspends Syrian refugees from entering the United States until the U.S. refugee admissions program has been overhauled, and terminates the visa waiver interview process. The temporary ban will affect all non-U.S. Citizens from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen including green card holders and valid U.S. visa holders. Foreign nationals of these countries will not be allowed to return to the United States for a period of 90 days, after temporary foreign travel, even if they are green card holders or visa holders. For this reason, if you are a foreign national from one of these countries, you should not engage in temporary foreign travel until the temporary ban has been lifted. Visa and green card holders already in the United States will be allowed to remain without problems.

An exemption has been drawn for immigrants and legal permanent residents whose entry is in the U.S. national interest, however it is not yet clear how that exemption will be applied.

Below is a summary of the main provisions of the order per the OFFICIAL signed copy.

To read the complete version please click here.

  1. Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern
  • The immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries designated (including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libra, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) is suspended for 90 days from the date of the order January 27, 2017 (excludes foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, and C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations). This means that if you are a citizen of a country of “particular concern” as outlined above, you will NOT be allowed to re-enter the United States, after temporary foreign travel, until the ban has been lifted, even if you are a legal permanent resident (immigrant) or holder of a valid visa. If you are a foreign national of one of the above countries and you are an immigrant (green card holder) or non-immigrant (valid visa holder), you must NOT travel internationally. Otherwise, you will risk being denied re-entry.
  • The Secretary of State and Homeland Security may submit to the President the names of additional countries who pose a security risk and are recommended for suspension.
  • The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, must immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country for adjudication of any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA adequate to confirm the identity of the individual seeking the benefit and ensure that they are not a security or public-safety threat to the United States.

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With the onset of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, rumors have swirled about whether the newly elected President will terminate the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented persons who came to the United States as children, otherwise known as “Dreamers.” The DACA program was made possible by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, with the passage of an executive order signed into law in 2012. Although Trump has openly stated that he plans to dismantle the DACA program within his first 100 days in office, in the days following his election, he backtracked his stance on the issue in an interview for TIME magazine, and instead promised that in its place, Dreamers would receive temporary “protection” from the federal government which would allow them to remain in the United States lawfully without fear of deportation. Although Trump did not fully elaborate on the details of such governmental immunity, his remarks gave Dreamers hope that the DACA program might not end after all, or at the very least that similar temporary relief might be put in its place.

Aside from Trump’s political motivations, several senators have introduced bipartisan legislation in the form of the BRIDGE Act (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow our Economy). The BRIDGE Act was introduced in early December, before the inauguration of Donald Trump, and is designed to protect Dreamers from deportation by allowing them to obtain “provisional protected presence” for a three-year period similar to the “deferred status” given to Dreamers under the DACA program. If passed the BRIDGE Act will also allow Dreamers to keep their temporary employment authorization (EAD) benefits. It must be noted that at this time the BRIDGE Act is still only a bill. The BRIDGE Act has not yet been signed into law, and no other bill has yet been passed protecting Dreamers from deportation.

Many of our clients and readers are stuck in this “legal” limbo and are unsure of what the future of DACA may hold. The good news is that because the DACA program has not yet been dismantled, DACA recipients are still protected from deportation by the “deferred status” they have received from USCIS. If you have received deferred status which has not yet expired, it is recommended that you obtain a stamp in your foreign passport from the Department of Homeland Security that indicates that you have been “paroled” into the United States based on your grant of DACA or “deferred status.” A person who has been granted deferred status may seek temporary admission to the United States as a parolee. A parolee is an alien who is inadmissible to the United States, but may be allowed to enter the United States for humanitarian reasons or when the alien’s entry is determined to be for significant public benefit. The grant of “deferred” action allows a person who does not otherwise meet the technical requirements for a visa or is inadmissible to the United States, permission to enter the United States on “parole” for a temporary period of time. Dreamers may obtain a stamp in their passport as evidence of this temporary status or “parole” by appearing before a customs official at a port of entry (such as an international airport) with evidence of their approved DACA status and employment authorization card. Upon inspection, the stamp will indicate to immigration officials that you have entered the country legally and that you have been granted parole based on your DACA. Although parole will not grant Dreamers formal admission to the United States, it will grant an alien “temporary” status to remain in the country lawfully. The stamp, for now, will allow Dreamers to breathe a sigh of relief since it serves as proof of the alien’s “legal” admission to the United States. Dreamers who marry U.S. Citizens in the future may use their “parole” stamp and I-94 arrival/departure record as evidence of their legal admission to the United States to apply for permanent residency.

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On the heels of being named “Person of the Year” by TIME magazine, a new interview with President-elect Donald J. Trump reveals new information regarding the former business tycoon’s stance on illegal immigration. As we have previously reported, throughout his campaign the President-elect Donald Trump vowed to crackdown on illegal immigration, claiming that he would deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States unlawfully during. Among other things, Trump also campaigned on the platform that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program once and for all; a program which to this date has shielded hundreds of thousands of young undocumented persons from deportation, and provided them with temporary work authorization. The lives of these young undocumented immigrants have in large part been shaped by the passage of DACA, and the false sense of security it brought them. Today, their lives are in a very fragile state, with the uncertain future of what may happen to this program under a Trump administration, and the looming possibility of their removal from the United States, given that USCIS now possesses vital information regarding their identities and whereabouts. Ever since his election, Trump has desperately attempted to unite the nation. His administration has endeavored to pick up the broken pieces that were left behind by his polarizing campaign rhetoric. In recent months, we have seen Trump dramatically soften his stance on immigration in what may be described as futile efforts to unify the country.

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Every year USCIS receives and adjudicates approximately 6 million applications from foreign nationals seeking to immigrate to the United States, and U.S. companies seeking to employ foreign workers temporarily.  According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics, “an estimated 13.1 million lawful permanent residents (LPRs) were living in the United States on January 1, 2013.” Of these permanent residents, more than half–8.8 million–were eligible to apply for naturalization. Additionally, the United States issues approximately 700,000 temporary non-immigrant work visas for a variety of temporary workers including: highly skilled foreign workers employed in specialty occupations in the STEM fields, fashion models, internationally acclaimed athletes and entertainers, aliens of extraordinary ability, religious workers, intra-company transferees, treaty traders/investors, foreign media workers, and agricultural and seasonal workers.

The reason the issuance of temporary worker visas is so low, when compared to the issuance of permanent resident cards, is because most of the temporary foreign worker visa programs are subject to a congressional cap, that limits the amount of non-immigrants that can be admitted per fiscal year. Additionally, certain temporary nonimmigrant worker visa classifications are granted for a specified period of time, although in most cases at least one extension may be granted. The cap applies primarily to the H nonimmigrant worker classifications, and non-minister religious workers. The H visa category accounts for approximately 54% of all visas issued for temporary workers. That is why the H visas are the most talked about visas among politicians when discussing immigration reform. The cap does not apply to treaty traders/investors, aliens of extraordinary ability, intra-company transferees, NAFTA professionals (Canada and Mexico), and foreign media workers. In comparison to developed countries, the United States admits a relatively low number of temporary foreign workers. Foreign workers are typically admitted either to fill labor shortages in the American job market, or because of their exceptional, or highly technical skills, as is the case for the H-1B visa classification.  Only highly skilled foreign nationals, aliens of extraordinary ability, aliens holding advanced degrees, high capital investors, nurses and physical therapists, doctors in undeserved area, and recipients of national interest waivers, have the unique opportunity to obtain permanent residence based on employment.

The mammoth task of meaningful immigration reform will not be easy and it will not happen overnight. The presidential nominees have failed to outline a clear strategy to overhaul our immigration system. None of the presidential candidates have addressed the most contentious areas of immigration policy that must be revised, in order to repair our broken immigration system.

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District Court Denies Request for Temporary Restraining Order to Halt Syrian Re-Settlement Program in Texas

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First Family of Syrian Refugees Arrives in Canada

In their December suit, Texas Health and Human Services Commission V. United States, et, al., the state of Texas alleged that the United States government and the International Rescue Committee unlawfully attempted to re-settle six Syrian refugees in the city of Dallas without prior  consultation and collaboration. According to Texas, the federal government failed to consult with the state regarding re-settlement of these refugees, and prevented them from receiving vital information relating to security risks posed by Syrian refugees prior to their re-settlement. Texas also claimed that the International Rescue Committee similarly failed to collaborate and consult with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in advance prior to the re-settlement of these refugees. To protect itself, the state of Texas asked for an injunction and a temporary restraining order to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees until security checks could confirm that these Syrian refugees do not pose a threat to the state of Texas.

On December 9, 2015 the U.S. district court denied the temporary restraining order, adding that the state of Texas failed to provide compelling evidence to suggest that Syrian refugees pose a substantial threat of irreparable injury to its citizens. Presiding district court Judge David C. Godbey added that, “the [Texas] commission has failed to show by competent evidence that any terrorists actually infiltrated the refugee program, much less that these particular refugees are terrorists’ intent on causing harm.” Although the lawsuit still stands and will likely not receive a final ruling until early next year, the district court set an important precedent in its denial of the temporary restraining order. Judge Godbey further maintained that it is not within the purview of the district court to assess what risk, if any, Syrian refugees pose to any particular state. Such risk can only be assessed by the federal government. On this issue Godbey stated that, “the Court has no institutional competency in assessing the risk posed by refugees. That is precisely the sort of question that is, as a general matter, committed to the discretion of the executive branch of the federal government, not to a district court.” The rest of the lawsuit remains in litigation.

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Senate

On October 20, 2015 Democrats in the Senate successfully blocked the Republican backed bill S. 2146: Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act from moving forward with a vote of 54-45. At its core, the bill aimed to hold sanctuary jurisdictions accountable for noncompliance of federal orders including detainment of undocumented immigrants, increasing penalties for individuals caught re-entering the United States after their removal, and providing protection to state and local law enforcement officials cooperating with federal law enforcement officials. The bill was introduced by Republicans after an act of violence took the life of a San Franciscan woman at the hands of an alleged undocumented immigrant with a felony record, who had also been the subject of multiple removals. Public outcry ensued after the city sheriff released the perpetrator despite a federal immigration detainment order. According to Republicans, San Francisco is one of hundreds of sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal immigration orders to facilitate the detainment and removal of undocumented immigrants.

Among its provisions, the bill aimed to crackdown on so called ‘sanctuary cities’ notorious for their noncompliance by limiting government funding. By cutting necessary funding, Republicans hoped that this would force cooperation between local law enforcement officials and federal law enforcement officials including ICE officers. Republican Senator Vitter who introduced the bill, argued that the violent crime that occurred in San Francisco was just one example highlighting the magnitude of compliance concerns. According to Vitter, ‘sanctuary cities’ like San Francisco have repeatedly refused to comply with orders of detainment issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Prior to the vote, the White House had warned Senate Republicans that if the bill did pass with the 60 necessary votes, they could expect the President to veto the bill. Although the bill was criticized by Democrats for stereotyping undocumented immigrants and making sweeping allegations against the undocumented immigrant community, the bill raises serious competence and compliance concerns.

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