Articles Posted in Undocumented Immigrants

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After President Trump threatened to cut American funding to the country of Honduras, if the government did not stop an immigrant caravan from making its way to the United States, both the Honduran and Mexican governments acted immediately in a concerted effort to stop the caravan from reaching the southwest border.

The message was sent to the Honduran government via the President’s favor mode of communication; Twitter, “If the large Caravan of people heading to the U.S. is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!” tweeted the President.

Every fiscal year, the United States government sends millions in aid to the Honduran government. In fiscal year 2019, the United States plans to send Honduras $66 million in aid.

Following the president’s tweet, Guatemalan officials swiftly arrested the leader of the caravan and began the process of returning him to Honduras.

Mexican police have been deployed to the southern border ahead of the caravan’s arrival. It is estimated that approximately 1,500 Hondurans, including parents and toddlers, form part of the caravan.  Honduran officials have so far been unable to stop the caravan from crossing the border into Guatemala, where they will continue their long and perilous journey through Mexico and finally to the United States.

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On September 7, 2018, the government published a notice of proposed rule making in the federal register, entitled, “Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children.”

The proposed rule seeks to amend existing regulations relating to the apprehension, processing, care, custody, and release of alien juveniles in custody.

If the proposed rule is enforced, it will replace the Flores Settlement Agreement reached in 2001 in response to the class-action lawsuit Flores v. Reno. The Flores Settlement Agreement allows detained children the right to a bond hearing and affords them several important protections including:

  • the right to be represented by counsel;
  • the right to have detention assessed by an independent immigration judge, outside of the Office of Refugee Resettlement system;
  • the right to present evidence;
  • the right to examine and rebut the government’s evidence;
  • the right to build a record regarding their custody.

If the government has its way, children in detention will be stripped of these rights.

The government states that consistent with the Flores Settlement Agreement, the proposed rule would ensure that juveniles in government custody are treated with dignity and respect, with a special concern for the vulnerability of minors in custody.

The rule would create an “alternative” to the existing licensed program requirement for family residential centers, including the ability to detain family units together during the entirety of their immigration proceedings.

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Yesterday, Federal Judge Edward Chen, of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, issued a preliminary injunction temporarily stopping the United States government from rescinding the temporary protected status designation for immigrants from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua.

By court order, the government must maintain the TPS designation for the above-mentioned countries, and continue to allow beneficiaries of these countries, to apply for employment authorization, while a lawsuit challenging the rescission of TPS for these countries moves through the court system.

Before the preliminary injunction the TPS designations would officially terminate as follows:

  • Sudan, TPS Designation was to terminate on November 2, 2018
  • Nicaragua, TPS Designation was to terminate on January 5, 2019
  • Haiti, TPS Designation was to terminate on July 22, 2019
  • El Salvador, TPS Designation was to terminate on September 9, 2019

The preliminary injunction comes on the heels of a class-action lawsuit brought by immigrants from these countries over the rescission of the TPS designation for Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua. The lead plaintiff named in the lawsuit Ramos v. Nielsen, is Crista Ramos, a 14-year old United States Citizen whose mother is a TPS holder from El Salvador. Ramos, along with other Plaintiffs in this lawsuit allege that the government rescinded TPS protections for the above-mentioned countries, based on a predetermined political agenda in violation of the law.

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“Fake Dates” Appear on Notices of intent to Deny

Across the nation, news outlets are reporting that dozens of individuals have received court orders from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ordering them to appear in court by a certain date.

The problem? When these individuals showed up to court on the date indicated on the notice, they were turned away by court staffers who notified them that their names were not listed on the judge’s official dockets.

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I-751 Change to Filing Location

Today, Monday September 10, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a change to the filing location for Form I-751 Removal of Conditions. The agency is now directing petitioners to send Form I-751 to a USCIS Lockbox facility instead of directly to the California and Vermont service centers. California, Nebraska, Vermont, and Texas will distribute the load of removal of conditions applications and adjudicate these petitions accordingly. When filing at a Lockbox facility, the petitioner may pay the filing fee with a credit card using Form G-1450.

TPS Somalia

USCIS has automatically extended the validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) issued under the TPS designation of Somalia with an original expiration date of Sept. 17, 2018, for 180 days, through March 16, 2019.

Somalian nationals whose EADs expired on March 17, 2017, and who have applied for a new EAD during the last re-registration period, but have not yet received their new EAD card, are covered by the automatic extension.

If your EAD is covered by this automatic extension, you may continue to use your existing EAD through March 16, 2019, as evidence that you are authorized to work.

To prove that you are authorized to continue working legally, you may show the following documentation to your employer:

  • Your TPS-related EAD with a Sept. 17, 2018 expiration date; or
  • Your TPS-related EAD with a March 17, 2017 expiration date and your EAD application receipt (Form I-797C, Notice of Action) that notes your application was received on or after January 17, 2017

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Photo by Molly Adams

On Friday August 31, 2018, Texas District Judge Andrew Hanen declined to issue a preliminary injunction that would have put a stop to the DACA program immediately. As we previously reported, the fate of the DACA program now rests in Judge Hanen’s hands, who is currently presiding over a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas along with seven other states (State of Texas, et al., v. the United States of America, et al.). At issue in that case is (1) whether the creation of DACA violated the Constitution (2) whether the DACA program violates the substantive and procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Texas, along with other states, are collectively asking the Court to provide declaratory and injunctive relief temporarily halting the DACA program, as well as a court ruling finding the DACA program unconstitutional. According to Texas, the DACA program is illegal because its creation violated the procedural and substantive aspects of the Administrative Procedure Act. In addition, Texas argues that the program violates the Take Care Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

On Friday, the judge issued a ruling on the States’ collective request for a preliminary injunction to temporarily stop the government from issuing or renewing DACA permits. In response to the States’ request for a preliminary injunction, Judge Hanen wrote a lengthy 117-page opinion drawing on the need to exercise judicial restraint with regard to DACA, “the failure of Congress to act [with regard to DACA] does not bestow legislative authority on either the Executive or Judicial branches, and the need for legislation cannot take precedence over the application of the Constitution and the laws of the United States….”

Hanen sealed his opinion with a forceful statement regarding his sentiments toward DACA, “Unfortunately the Judiciary is not the branch of government designed to salvage a program that should have emanated from Congress, or at the very least complied with the APA…This court will not succumb to the temptation to set aside legal principles and to substitute its judgment in lieu of legislative action. If the nation truly wants to have a DACA program, it is up to Congress to say so.”

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A federal judge from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia upheld a decision from the lower courts ordering the complete restoration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The new ruling gives the Trump administration a 20-day deadline to implement the complete restoration of the program or file an appeal. The District Court judge behind the order stated in his ruling that the Trump administration failed to justify its decision to end the DACA program, which protected approximately 800,000 young adults from deportation.

The Trump administration plans to appeal the ruling using the 20-day delay granted by the judge in the ruling. Today the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, issued a statement following the court decision stating that the Trump administration strongly disagrees with the decision adding that, “The executive branch’s authority to simply rescind a policy, established only by a letter from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is clearly established. The Department of Justice will take every lawful measure to vindicate the Department of Homeland Security’s lawful rescission of DACA.”

The attorney general claimed that the Obama administration “violated its duty to enforce our immigration laws” by allowing the establishment of the DACA program and the catch and release policy,” that the current administration not only had the authority to withdraw from the DACA program but had a duty to do so. The Trump administration has interpreted recent court decisions contradicting the termination of the DACA program as an improper use of judicial power.

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Return of Unselected H-1B Petitions

H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the fiscal year 2019 visa lottery have been returned to unlucky applicants. If you filed a petition between April 2 and April 6 and you did not receive a receipt notice for your application, you will be receiving your returned petitions in the mail by August 13. If you do not receive a returned petition by this date, you should contact USCIS.

Updated NTA Policy

On June 28th USCIS issued a policy memorandum providing updated guidance for the referral of cases and issuances of notices to appear (NTAs) in cases involving inadmissible and deportable aliens. The policy memorandum outlines the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities for removal as well as guidelines for referring cases and issuing NTAs.

Under the updated policy the following classes of aliens are prioritized for removal, aliens who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal,” as well as alienswho, regardless of the basis for removal:

(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”

Today, USCIS announced that it is postponing implementation of this policy guidance because operational guidance has not yet been provided to immigration officers. The policy memorandum gave USCIS 30 days to implement proper protocols for NTA issuance consistent with the updated policy memorandum. We will notify our readers once we receive information about when the NTA policy will be implemented.

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TPS Extended for Somalian Nationals

Today, July 19, 2018 the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, announced that the TPS designation for Somalia will be automatically extended for 18 additional months. Somalian nationals with TPS benefits will have the opportunity to re-register for an extension of their TPS benefits for a period of 18 months through March 17, 2020.

This automatic extension has been granted because the Secretary has determined that conditions continue to exist to support Somalia’s TPS designation. It is estimated that approximately 500 Somalian nationals have TPS benefits. This group of individuals may continue to remain in the United States on a lawful basis with work authorization benefits through March 17, 2020, so long as they re-register when the re-registration period opens.

Sanctuary states sue the federal government over withholding of government funding

Several states including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, and Virginia, are suing the federal government, challenging the Trump administration’s decision to withhold government funding for sanctuary cities who refuse to cooperate with federal agents in the detention of undocumented immigrants. According to these states, the federal government is seeking to coerce “sanctuary cities” by forcing local law enforcement officials to act as federal immigration agents.

Last year, the President signed the controversial executive order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” requiring local law enforcement to notify federal agents regarding the release of undocumented immigrants from state detention centers, or risk losing federal government funding.

Section 9 of the Executive Order states:

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DHS Statement on Family Reunification

The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a statement outlining the administration’s four-point plan to reunite minor children separated from their parents at the border. Beginning July 10, 2018, HHS and DHS will coordinate the reunification of children under 5 years of age currently in the custody of HHS, with parents who are in DHS custody.

#1 Verification of Parental Relationship

The administration will first ensure that a parental relationship with the child has been verified before reunifying the child with his or her parent. In addition, the parent must undergo a background check to ensure that reunification will not compromise the safety and welfare of the child. If a parent is found unsuitable for reunification purposes, in the course of a background check, the child will not be reunified with the parent. Parents who are in the custody of the U.S. Marshall or in a state or county jail for other offenses may not be reunified with their child.

#2 Transportation of Parents to ICE custody

Parents separated from their children will be transported to ICE custody where they will be reunited with their parents. Beginning July 10, 2018, DHS will coordinate physical reunification of minor children under 5 years of age with parents transported to ICE custody, provided the parent has been cleared for parentage and poses no danger to the child.

#3 Preparation of Children under Five Years of Age for Transportation

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) will coordinate transportation of minor children under the age of five for reunification purposes. Children will be transported under supervision and their possessions will be brought with them to ICE custody.

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