Articles Posted in Trump administration

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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 this post, we bring you information regarding the major provisions of the Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 affecting H-1B workers and employment-based immigrants. The Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 is a piece of legislation that was recently introduced before Congress by Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake on January 25, 2018.

Much of the legislation centers around the H-1B visa worker program.

The major provisions of the Immigration Innovation Act currently being proposed in Congress are as follows:

Increases the number of H-1B visas available. Section 101 of the legislation would raise the current 65,000 H-1B statutory visa cap to 85,000 with 20,000 of those visas to be set aside for applicants possessing a U.S. Master’s and above. This provision includes a market escalator up to 195,000 and de-escalator that is based on prior fiscal years, but not lower than the statutory base. 

Exemption for U.S. Masters. Section 101 includes a provision that creates an unlimited number of exemptions for individuals with a U.S. Master’s degree or above if the U.S. employer attests that it will begin green card processing for the beneficiary within one year.

H-1B Prioritization. Per Section 101, the H-1B visa lottery would be prioritized as follows in fiscal years where enough petitions have been received within the first 5 business days of the filing period of reaching the cap:

  • Individuals with a U.S. Master’s, or higher who are subject to the numerical limitations
  • Individuals who have earned a doctoral degree outside of the U.S.
  • Individuals who have earned a U.S. Bachelor’s degree or higher in a STEM field and
  • Other petitions

Penalties for Failure to Withdraw. Section 101 proposes monetary penalties and debarment for employers who have 5 or more cap-subject petitions approved in a fiscal year, where the visa holder works in the U.S. less than 25% during the first year of approval. In cases involving higher volume users where at least 20 H-1B petitions have been approved in a fiscal year the employer may not avoid penalties even if they withdraw a percentage of approved petitions.

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450171693_de7e193cd1_zYesterday January 25, 2018, the White House unveiled a framework on Immigration Reform and Border Security outlining the Trump administration’s proposals on immigration. As we previously reported, members of Congress have 16 days to hash out their disagreements, and come up with a piece of legislation that would protect more than 700,000 Dreamers from deportation. As part of that deal, the Trump administration has unveiled a framework containing their wish list for what the administration would like to see incorporated into legislation proposed by Congress.

Dreamers

The White House framework openly supports a 10 to 12-year pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and other DACA-eligible immigrants, legalizing a population of approximately 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. In order to be eligible, DACA recipients would be required to fulfill requirements for work, education, and good moral character. Under the proposal, an individual’s legal status could be subject to revocation for criminal conduct, public safety and national security concerns, public charge violations, fraud, etc.

Border Security

In exchange for supporting a path to citizenship for Dreamers, the administration is asking Congress for $25 billion in funding to construct a border wall, secure United States ports of entry and exit, and beef up security in the northern border. The administration also seeks to expedite the deportation of criminals, gang members, violent offenders, aggravated felons, and those who have overstayed their visas.

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As you may know, Republicans and Democrats have been engaged in heated discussions regarding the future of DACA during the last few days, with Democrats threatening to send the country into a government shutdown if Republicans refused to resolve key issues regarding immigration. The debates came on the heels of the President’s deadline, giving members of Congress until March 5th to come with a plan to protect Dreamers from deportation.

The government shutdown however has been averted, but with no clear plan regarding what the Republican-led Congress plans to do to meet the President’s March 5th deadline to protect Dreamers from deportation.

On Monday, members of Congress voted to pass a measure to fund the federal government through February 8th following a brief three-day government shutdown, in which Democrats refused to vote in favor of a funding bill without Republican support for a bill that would shield Dreamers from deportation. Ultimately Democrats gave in with a majority voting for the measure largely after receiving assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that an immigration bill would be brought before Congress to protect more than 700,000 Dreamers from deportation.

Although the federal government is now back in business, the fight for Dreamers and comprehensive immigration reform has just begun. Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer explained that in exchange for Democratic support of the funding bill, the Republican-led Congress has 16 days to work with Democrats to write a bill that would receive at least 60 votes in the Senate to survive, and prevent Dreamers from being at risk for deportation. At the same time Congress will have to vote on a long-term funding plan, which will not be easy given that immigration has been a hot button issue and Democrats have already shown their resistance.

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IMPORTANT UPDATE: On February 14, 2018 USCIS announced that due to federal court orders issued on January 9, 2018 and February 13, 2018, USCIS will resume accepting requests to renew a grant of deferred action under the DACA program. Please read this post to determine whether you qualify. 

On January 13, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a statement for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in response to a federal court order that resurrected certain provisions of the program.

USCIS has announced that they will resume accepting requests to renew a grant of deferred action for individuals who have received benefits under the DACA program. According to the statement, the DACA policy that was in effect before the program was rescinded by the Trump administration on September 5, 2017, will continue to be implemented on the same terms as it was before. It is important to note that although USCIS will begin accepting renewal requests for individuals who have received DACA benefits in the past, USCIS will NOT be accepting initial DACA requests from individuals who have never before been granted deferred action under the DACA program.

In addition, USCIS is NOT accepting applications for advance parole from recipients of DACA. Before the program was rescinded, individuals receiving DACA benefits could apply for an advance parole document (travel permit) allowing them to safely re-enter the United States after temporary foreign travel. This will no longer be the case. Although by federal court order USCIS may consider applications for advance parole on a case-by-case basis if it so chooses, the agency has definitively decided against accepting any such requests.

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In the middle of a hotly contested political battle among members of Congress, to pass a permanent legislative solution shielding Dreamers from deportation, late yesterday evening a federal judge in San Francisco handed down a ruling blocking the Trump administration from phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program enacted by former President Barack Obama.

As of Tuesday, January 9, 2018 U.S. District Judge William Alsup has issued a nationwide injunction ordering the Trump administration to restore DACA protections, while Congress legislates a more permanent solution to protect Dreamers from deportation. In his ruling, Judge Alsup said the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the DACA program was based on a flawed legal premise that was “not in accordance with the law.”

What does this decision mean for DACA enrollees?

The judge’s ruling mandates that the Trump administration maintain DACA protections open on a nationwide basis “on the same terms and conditions as were in effect before the recession (of the program) on September 5, 2017.”

This would include allowing Dreamers currently enrolled in DACA to renew their enrollments, with the following exceptions:

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Image by Lorie Shaull

It is with great sadness that we report that today, Monday January 8, 2018, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, has formally decided to terminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for the country of El Salvador. This decision is extremely upsetting given that Salvadorans were among the largest group of foreign nationals receiving temporary provisional residency permits under the TPS program in the United States. The consequences of this decision are even more troubling considering the plight that Salvadorans face in their home country. For more than a decade, the country of El Salvador has been plagued by soaring gang violence, drug trafficking, human smuggling, and an endemic rate of violence against women.

Per today’s statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the TPS designation for El Salvador will officially terminate on September 9, 2019. This means that the Department of Homeland Security will give Salvadorans a period of 18 months, before terminating their provisional residency permits on September 9th, to allow Salvadorans to make an orderly departure from the United States or to seek alternative legal means to remain in the United States.

According to the Washington Post, the United States has issued approximately 200,000 provisional residency permits to Salvadorans, many of whom have been living in the country since 2001. Salvadorans were first given Temporary Protected Status in 2001 when a series of large earthquakes devastated the impoverished country. Since 2001, the United States government has renewed their temporary permits on an 18-month basis.

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As Congress begins negotiations to enact legislation that would give young undocumented immigrants known as ” Dreamers” the opportunity to continue to live and work in the United States, three former secretaries from the Department of Homeland Security have come forward to pressure lawmakers to come up with a legislative solution by the March 5th deadline proposed by President Donald Trump. As previously reported, the President has given Congress until March 5th to act before the majority of work permits issued under the now defunct Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will begin to expire. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during September of last year.

On January 3rd, Michael Chertoff, the former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, Janet Napolitano, and Jeh Johnson, former secretaries under President Barack Obama, fired off a powerful 2-page letter warning members of Congress that time is quickly running out for Congress to enact a legislative solution to the DACA problem in a responsible and realistic manner. The letter emphasizes that Congress must act swiftly, much before the March 5th deadline, to give the Department of Homeland Security enough time to “meet the significant administrative requirements” that would be necessary for implementation of any legislative solution proposed by Congress.

The letter also affirms that swift legislative solution would ensure certainty for American companies and small business owners employing young recipients of DACA. In order to meet the objectives for implementation, the former secretaries urge that “the realistic deadline for successfully establishing a Dreamers program in time to prevent large scale loss of work authorization and deportation protection is only weeks away,” placing that deadline in the middle of January.

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U.S. Mission to Turkey Confirms Resumption of Visa Services for Turkish Nationals

On December 28, 2017, the U.S. Mission to Turkey issued an official statement confirming the full resumption of visa services for Turkish nationals. According to the statement, the United States government made the decision to resume visa services for Turkish nationals after the Government of Turkey agreed to adhere to high-level assurances that no additional employees or local staff of the U.S. Mission to Turkey would be detained, arrested, or placed under investigation by the Turkish authorities for performing their official duties for the U.S. Mission to Turkey. Turkish authorities have agreed to inform the U.S. government in advance if the Turkish government plans to detain or arrest a local staff member in the future.

The Department of State will resume all visa services for Turkish nationals given the cooperation of the Turkish government to comply with these high-level assurances. Cases brought by the Turkish authorities against U.S. Citizens will continue to be investigated by the U.S. Mission to Turkey to accomplish a resolution to those cases.

Service Disruption Causes Immigration Delays in U.S. Airports

On Monday January 1, 2018 immigration desk computers went down at various airports for approximately two hours, causing massive delays for travelers going through U.S. Customs and Border Protection following the year-end holidays. The system outage began at about 7:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and was resolved at approximately 9:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. U.S. Customs and Border Protection processed travelers using alternative procedures. The agency later confirmed that the service disruption was not malicious. Affected airports included John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Hartfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, Denver International Airport.

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