The Justice Dept. Petitions the Supreme Court to Rehear United States v. Texas

Last month, the Supreme Court issued a one-sentence opinion after a 4-4 split on United States v. Texas.  This decision was devastating for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States because it left in place a lower court’s ruling that blocked the safeguards granted by the Obama Administration via the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) petitioned the Supreme Court to rehear the case. The DOJ specifically asked that the case be reconsidered “before a full nine-Member Court.” The agency argues that allowing the lower court’s injunction to stand is a troublesome precedent in a matter of “great national importance.” The Supreme Court rarely grants petitions for  rehearing, which the solicitor general, Ian Gershengorn acknowledged in the petition. However, there have been  past rehearings granted by the court where a 4-4 division occurred because of a vacancy on the bench, as is the case now. If a rehearing is granted, the justices could hear the case re-argued as early as October, when the new term begins. However that depends on whether President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland is confirmed by then, which does not look likely.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

New Regulations Increase Fines for Immigration-Related Violations

Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued an interim final rule that will increase fines on U.S. employers for violations of federal immigration law. The rule has the potential to substantially increase penalties for employing unauthorized workers, violating Form I-9 paperwork rules, and engaging in immigration-related unfair employment practices. These violations are unlawful under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and the new rule is an inflation adjustment required by budget legislation that was signed into law last November. The rule will go into effect on August 1, 2016 and will apply to violations that took place after November 2, 2015. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Labor issued an interim final rule to adjust the amounts of civil penalties in connection with the employment of temporary non-immigrant workers under the H-2B program.

The new fines set out by the DOJ’s new rule are quite substantial and increases penalties anywhere from 35% to 96% depending on the nature and severity of the violation. Whereas before, employing a single unauthorized worker resulted in a fine ranging from $375 – $3,200 for a first offense, the new rule adjusts the range to $539 – $4,313. The largest increase as a result of this new rule, raises the penalty for multiple violations to a range of $6,469 – $21,563 per violation, up from the prior range of $4,300 – $16,000. Moreover, Form I-9 paperwork violations will nearly double under the new rule. The prior fine range of $110 – $1,100 per violation will increase to $216 – $2,156 per violation. Finally, for unfair immigration-related employment practices, the maximum penalty increases from $3,200 – $3,563 per person discriminated against.

Posted in Uncategorized

What Effect Will Brexit Have on Immigrants?

Voters in the United Kingdom (UK) have voted to leave the European Union (EU), which has been referred to as “Brexit.” While the referendum to leave the EU has passed, this will not happen right away. The transition will take some time and in the coming months, British and European leaders will begin negotiating the terms of the UK’s departure. In the run up to the referendum, the discussion to leave the EU focused on many issues, but the driving force that seemed to push the referendum in the first place, was immigration. In the past few years, refugees have been flooding into Europe, due to political and economic instability in many parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa. The EU has seen the effects of this refugee crisis, with over 1 million people applying for asylum  in 2015. Many in Britain and the EU have questioned the policies surrounding how to handle this surge of people and migration as a whole.

Curbing the number of foreigners coming to the UK was a major promise of the Leave campaign. However, the result of this referendum doesn’t just affect asylum seekers – there are currently about 1.2 million Brits living in other EU countries and 3 million non-British EU nationals living in Britain. What happens to these people will depend on the terms of the negotiations between the UK and the EU.  But with sentiment against immigrants being so hostile, it could mean that in the coming years, some people may lose their right to continue living and working in the UK and be deported. While Europeans and the rest of the world are trying to figure out what this means for the EU as a whole, one thing is certain – the issue of migration and the free movement of people into and out of the UK will be a top priority when Brexit negotiations take place.

Posted in Uncategorized

Supreme Court Issues a Disappointing Split Decision in United States v. Texas

On Thursday, the Supreme Court split 4-4 in the case United States v. Texas, effectively leaving the Fifth Circuit’s decision in place, which blocks protections for millions of immigrants. This ruling voids the safeguards granted by the Obama administration for immigrants via the implementation of two national immigration enforcement policies: Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). President Obama issued a series of executive actions on November 20, 2014, in an effort to address what he referred to as “broken immigration system” and congressional inaction on immigration. The policies would have allowed undocumented immigrants whose children were born in the United States to apply for work permits and temporary residency; as well as eliminated the age cap in the existing DACA program. This Supreme Court ruling will uphold the lower court’s preliminary injunction, but will not change the original 2012 DACA in which individuals can still apply for and renew relief options granted under this program.

As the national debate over immigration heats up during the 2016 presidential election season, this is not only a huge blow to Obama’s ambitious immigration policy, but also the 4 million people who are currently eligible for deportation. This decision was not unexpected – the oral arguments in April suggested that the court would break in a 4-4 split along party lines – and there has been no forward movement to confirm nominated Merrick Garland. And while this decision does not mean the Supreme Court has ruled on whether the President overreached executive authority with his 2014 immigration policies, it is certainly a setback for immigrants and their families.

Posted in Uncategorized

Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman Recommends U Visa Parole Policy

The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman has issued its Recommendation to USCIS regarding a U visa parole policy.  The policy would facilitate parole for individuals who are eligible for U nonimmigrant visa status and who reside outside of the U.S. The development of such a parole policy would comply with USCIS’ regulatory mandate, address the humanitarian concerns of principals and beneficiaries residing abroad, and would streamline adjudications of parole requests. The Ombudsman recommends that:

  1. USCIS should afford parole to eligible U visa petitioners on the waiting list who reside abroad by creating a policy to facilitate entry into the United States while waiting for a visa to become available.
  2. The parole policy should allow for concurrent filings of the U visa petitions and requests for parole.
  3. Cases should be adjudicated at the Vermont Service Center, where U visa petitions are currently processed, to ensure consistent and effective adjudication.

USCIS will provide a response to the Ombudsman’s Recommendation within 3 months. To read more about the Ombudsman’s recommendations, please visit the following link: https://www.dhs.gov/publication/ombudsman-recommendation-parole-eligible-u-visa-principal-and-derivative-petitioners

Rachel is an Intern with the firm and is not a practicing attorney.

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Posted in In The News, Nonimmigrant Visas

SEVP Issues STEM Designated Degree Program List

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has created a STEM Designated Degree Program list, which includes the fields of study that the Department of Homeland Security considers to be science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields for the purpose of the 24-month STEM OPT extension. Eligible F-1 visa students with STEM degrees who finish their program of study and participate in an initial period of regular post-completion OPT have the option to apply for a STEM OPT extension. Previously, this extension was 17 months but was replaced this year with a 24-month extension. If you would like to request an addition to the STEM Designated Degree Program List, you may email the SEVP at sevp@ice.dhs.gov with the subject line “Request for STEM Designated Degree Program List.”

To see the list in full, you may download it here: STEM Designated Degree Program list

Rachel is an intern with the firm and is not a practicing attorney.

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Posted in In The News, Nonimmigrant Visas

Lawsuit Against DHS and USCIS Seeks Transparency in H-1B Lottery Process

The American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have brought a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The lawsuit is brought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and seeks to provide the public with an understanding of the policies and procedures surrounding the H-1B visa lottery. Every year on the first business day of April, U.S. employers seeking to hire highly skilled foreign professionals submit visa petitions to USCIS for the limited number of H-1B visas that are available for the coming fiscal year. For over 10 years, employer demand for H-1B visas has exceeded the statutory cap of 65,000 visas. At any time during the first five business days of the filing period once USCIS have received more than enough petitions, USCIS uses a computer-generated random selection process to select H-1B petitions. The petitions that are not selected are returned to the employers. The lawsuit has stemmed from the fact that USCIS has not released much information in describing the selection process despite public interest in how the visa petitions are selected.

For more information about the lawsuit, please read the following court document: AILA v. USCIS and DHS

Rachel is an intern with the firm and is not a practicing attorney.

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Posted in In The News

Reports of Scam Letters Being Sent to L-1A Executives

Members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have reported that suspicious letters are being sent to L-1A executives. The scam letters claim to be from USCIS and signed by Lori Scialabba, Deputy Director of USCIS. The letters use incorrect grammar and make reference to the receiver’s recently approved I-129 Petition for nonimmigrant worker being under investigation. USCIS has confirmed that they did not send the letters. To report a scam letter, please send a copy of the letter to Public.Engagement@uscis.dhs.gov with the subject line “L-1A Executive Letter Scam.”

An example of one of these reported scam letters can be found here: L-1A Executive Scam Letter

Rachel is an intern with the firm and is not a practicing attorney.

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Posted in In The News

DHS Proposes To Raise Filing Fees By 21%

In a proposed rule published in the May 4 Federal Register, DHS is proposing to raise its fees by an average of 21% to recover the full cost of USCIS operations.

DHS is also proposing to establish a three-level fee for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. First, the standard Form N-400 fee would increase from $595 to $640. Second, DHS would continue to charge no fee to an applicant who meets the requirements of sections 328 or 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 with respect to military service and applicants with approved fee waivers. Third, DHS would charge a reduced fee of $320 for naturalization applicants with family income greater than 150 percent and not more than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. DHS is proposing these changes to increase the access to United States citizenship.

To read more about the fee increases proposed by DHS, see the Federal Register notice published on May 4, 2016. DHS invites the public to submit comments on or before July 5, 2016. See www.regulations.gov and search for “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule” to submit comments.

Rachel is an intern with the firm and is not a practicing attorney.

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Posted in In The News

USCIS Has Completed Data Entry of FY 2017 H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions

On May 2, 2016, USCIS announced that it has completed data entry for all FY 2017 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in this year’s lottery. H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the lottery are being returned. USCIS is unable to provide a definite time frame for returning petitions and asks that petitioners do not inquire about the status of a case until they receive a receipt notice or an unselected petition. USCIS will issue an announcement when all the unselected petitions have been returned. In addition, some H-1B petitions are being transferred from the Vermont Service Center to the California Service Center. If a case is transferred, a transfer notification will be sent in the mail.

Rachel is an intern with the firm and is not a practicing attorney.

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Posted in H-1B Visa Petitions, In The News
About ABCs of Immigration Law
The global economy has become increasingly transactional and transcontinental. Since 9/11, there have been many amendments to immigration laws in the United States that have largely affected both individuals and businesses. Cozen O'Connor's immigration law blog, ABC's of Immigration Law, focuses on the interests and the challenges faced by those individuals and business impacted by immigration laws.
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