President Obama has asked Congress to take Cuba off the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The President made a formal recommendation to Congress, setting in motion a 45-day review process during which lawmakers can take steps to block the move. However, Congress is not expected to block it and lawmakers would have to enact a joint resolution to do so, which the President could then veto. Removing Cuba from the list will eliminate some sanctions, including restrictions on foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and other financial regulations, though the embargo will remain in place.
On April 13th, USCIS announced that it finished the computer-generated lottery to select petitions to meet the FY2016 cap. USCIS stated it will begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases no later than May 11, 2015. USCIS noted that it received nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions during the FY2016 filing period (first week in April).
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it has reached the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for the fiscal year (FY) 2016. USCIS will use a lottery system in order to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps of the 65,000 visas available for the general category. The same lottery process will be used for the 20,000 petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption.
The advanced degree exemption petitions will be randomly selected by USCIS first. All unselected advanced degree petitions will then become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general limit. Following this, all unselected cap-subject petitions, that are not duplicate filings, will be rejected and returned with the filing fees. Due to the high volume of petitions, USCIS is unable to announce the date it will conduct the random selection process, as USCIS is still in the process of completing the initial intake for all the filings received during the filing period.
Congress finally passed a funding bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security (including USCIS) open. It will now be sent to President Obama’s desk for his signature (he is expected to sign the bill). The bill will fund DHS through September 2015. The bill that passed does not include language that would prohibit the implementation of the President’s November 2014 executive actions on immigration which was the problem with earlier versions.
On February 16th, a federal district court in Brownsville, Texas, entered an order prohibiting enforcement of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. Intended to go into effect February 18th, the program grants work authorization, Social Security eligibility, and eligibility for federal and state benefits to virtually all aliens who have been in the U.S. since 2010, had a baby in this country, and have not committed felonies. Under the current law, undocumented-immigrant parents of U.S. citizens are required to wait until the child turns 21, and then must leave the country for 10 years before applying for a change of immigration status on account of that child.
The Obama administration announced it will suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA and vowed to appeal the temporary injunction. The Obama administration argued that DAPA is a routine application of “prosecutorial discretion” – the authority of executive officials to set priorities for enforcement of the law and to refrain from enforcement in cases where the public interest is least urgent.
The district court said that the Obama administration failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires a period of longer notification and comment period before the White House may take action. The district court further stated that prosecutorial discretion is limited to non-enforcement and does not entitle the executive branch to grant affirmative benefits such as work permits and welfare without statutory authority and notice-and-comment rule-making.
On February 4, 2015 the Senate held a vote to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) but the vote failed. This was the second vote on DHS funding, which will run out on February 27, 2015. Gridlock continues with Senate Democrats demanding a “clean” bill without immigration-related measures and Republicans maintaining that they will not pass anything without the riders. The question remains what will happen to USCIS functions after February 27th if a funding bill is not passed, whether it can continue its functions using proceeds from filing fees.
On January 26th, a coalition of over 30 mayors, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities, filed an amicus – or “friend of the court” – brief in the Texas v. United States lawsuit that challenges President Obama’s executive action on immigration. Notably, a number of the cities that signed on to the brief, a move that demonstrates support for Obama’s actions on immigration reform, are in states that have brought the lawsuit. The cities voicing their support for the administration’s actions on immigration include New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, Houston, and San Francisco, as well as Dayton, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; Racine and Madison in Wisconsin; and Lansing, Michigan.
In the brief, the mayors provide the court with a local perspective on why a court order temporarily stopping some administrative reforms from going into effect would be contrary to the public interest, citing economic and social benefits as reasons for moving forward with the reform. According to the brief, “The executive action will fuel economic growth in cities across the country, increase public safety by increasing immigrant trust and cooperation with local law enforcement, and facilitate stronger families and the fuller integration of immigrants in cities.”
The Department of Labor (DOL) announced it will initiate a review of the permanent labor certification process (PERM) in an effort to modernize recruitment and application requirements. DOL’s announcement comes in conjunction with the Obama administration’s efforts to fix the nation’s broken immigration system.
Several significant factors contribute to the PERM program’s critical need for modification including an increased demand for labor, surplus of various types of workers, and advances in technology and information dissemination that have altered common recruitment practices. In addition, DOL has received consistent feedback that existing regulatory requirements governing the PERM process often do not align with worker or industry needs and practices. Thus, DOL seeks to evaluate the PERM application process in order to make it more responsive to changes in the national workforce. This will be the first comprehensive examination of the permanent labor certification requirements by the DOL since their inception ten years ago.
For more information, please see the Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet.
Jenna is an Intern with the firm and is not a practicing attorney.
The Visa Bulletin for January 2015 has been issued and can be found here. The cutoff date for the EB-2 India category has not changed, however the worldwide EB-3 cutoff date advanced by seven months.