In November 2019, AILA leadership traveled to Brownsville, Texas, and witnessed firsthand how the Trump administration is blocking access to legal representation, due process, and, ultimately, safety for asylum seekers. They made an eye opening video of the experience.
A November 14, 2019 a Proposed Rule issued by USCIS maintained that the filing fee for I-129s, the form used for H-1B visas, should go up by approximately 50%. This proposal comes at a time when CIS processing times have slowed dramatically. Worse still, USCIS has created a “paper wall” by revising internal policies and then using those revisions to deny H-1Bs at unprecedented rates (see Mother Jones report). Many of the decision have been appealed, resulting in the denials being overturned, also at an unprecedented rate. This is not surprising given that USCIS, by way of example, denied an H-1B filed for a Mechanical Engineer position where the foreign national had a degree in Mechanical Engineering; USCIS found that the employer had not established that a minimum of a BA degree was required for the job.
On Friday, October 4, 2019 President Trump issued a broad proclamation that would have excluded otherwise eligible immigrants from being issued a visa unless they could demonstrate financial ability to purchase health insurance within 30 days of entry (see Oct. 10, 2019 blog post). A lawsuit was immediately brought by immigration advocates challenging the proclamation. Today a federal district court in Oregon issued a nationwide injunction, prohibiting the implementation of the proclamation while the lawsuit is pending. The proclamation would have had a disproportionate impact on those immigrating legally based on family ties, as well as winners of the diversity lottery (who are predominantly from African countries).
An article in the Huffington Post, appearing on November 24, 2019, is a “must read” for anyone who feels that our country’s immigration policy has shifted dramatically notwithstanding the fact that no new legislation has been passed. The article reports on how a small group of anti-immigration hardliners has managed to drastically reduce even legal immigration. This was done without the approval of either political party. The article also chronicles the history of immigration in the US, shining a bright light on the fact that history does, in fact, repeat itself.
On October 11, 2019 federal judges in 3 separate courts enjoined USCIS from “enforcing, applying, or treating as effective” the DHS Public Charge Final Rule (see earlier blog post). In addition, the court specifically enjoined the government from implementing the use of any new or updated forms whose submission would be required under the Final Rule, including the I-485 and I-129. As of 5 pm on October 11, the forms had been removed from the USCIS website.
Unfortunately, the Department of State, who implements the rule at consular posts abroad and was not a party to the federal law suits, has decided to go ahead with its own implementation of the Final Rule.
On Friday, October 4, 2019 President Trump issued a broad proclamation in the area of immigration. This one erects another barrier to legal immigration. Specifically, it excludes otherwise eligible immigrants from being issued a visa unless they can demonstrate financial ability to purchase health insurance for themselves and their family within 30 days of entry. And by “health insurance,” the proclamation means insurance outside of Obamacare. This proclamation will disproportionately impact those immigrating based on family ties and winners of the diversity lottery (who are predominantly from African countries). The proclamation is being used, in effect, to increase the income level required of new immigrants without asking congress to do so.
On August 22, 2019, just over a month ago, the Trump Administration announced a new regulation to allow undocumented children to be detained indefinitely. This would have ended the Flores Settlement Agreement- a 20 year old agreement created to ensure, in part, that immigrant children would be released “without unnecessary delay;” Flores includes a 20 day cap on detention.
Acting swiftly, on September 27, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee issued a permanent injunction blocking the government from implementing the new regulations. The judge found that the administration could not simply ignore the Flores settlement- a consent decree. The proper procedure for seeking relief from a consent decree, the judge stated, is a Rule 60(b) motion by which a party must demonstrate that a change in law or facts renders compliance either illegal, impossible, or inequitable.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), an unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.9 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Two-thirds of these refugees are fleeing five hot spots: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.
Historically, no nation has been more welcoming to refugees than the United States, resettling more refugees than any other country.
But the Trump Administration has no intention of continuing this proud history. In fact, the administration intends to do the opposite. In September 2019 the administration proposed drastically cutting the number of refugees permitted to enter the U.S. annually to 18,000; the high point over the last decade was 85,000.
Even more troubling, an Executive Order dated September 26, 2019 permits local communities in the U.S. to turn their backs on refugees. Pursuant to the Executive Order, states and localities would have to consent, in writing, to accepting refugees already vetted by the Department of Homeland Security.
On August 7, 2019 USCIS stopped accepting and adjudicating requests for deferred action to permit immigrants with severe medical conditions to remain in the United States for treatment. This included requests that had been filed prior to August 7 and were in the pipeline. In a limited about-face, USCIS announced yesterday that it will reopen the cases that were pending on August 7, 2019. The about-face was apparently in response to public outcry and a letter to the administration signed by more than 125 Senators and members of Congress.
Effective October 29, 2019, CIS updated the USCIS Policy Manual regarding children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members employed or stationed outside the United States to explain that they are not considered to be “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquiring citizenship under INA 320. In other words, some children born to U.S. citizens stationed abroad as government employees or members of the U.S. military will no longer qualify for automatic American citizenship. Instead, the Policy Manual continues, parents serving overseas must go through a formal application process seeking U.S. citizenship on their children’s behalf by their 18th birthday.
A government fact sheet lists several caveats appearing to exempt many such children from the new requirement, including those with at least one U.S. citizen parent who lived in the United States before the child’s birth.