Articles Posted in Immigration News

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capitolLast week, Republican lawmakers Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia) joined the President for a press conference as they unveiled the updated version of their bill, Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act.  The RAISE Act was first introduced in February, and the senators are again trying to bring it back to life, this time with the vocal support and endorsement of the President.

The RAISE Act

The RAISE Act purports to take its provisions from immigration legislation enacted by Canada and Australia, two countries that utilize a points-based merit system in order to allot immigrant visa numbers each year.  Some of the metrics that are involved in the points-based allotment would include the foreign national’s age (being between the ages of 26 and 31 would earn the applicant 10 points); education (if the foreign national possesses a bachelor’s degree, he or she would earn 5-6 points, and 7-8 points if the degree is a Master’s in one of the STEM fields); English language fluency skills (up to an extra 12 points are available for this category); and the offered salary (the foreign national may receive 5-13 points depending on how far the offered salary is above the prevailing wage).

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Even in the absence of any newly signed executive orders, immigration topics continue to dominate the news cycle.  This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency tasked with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, released a report confirming that during the first 100 days of President Trump’s administration, arrests and detention of undocumented foreign nationals increased 38% when compared to the same time period last year.  The Acting Director of ICE, Mr. Thomas Homan, stated that his agency has refocused its enforcement efforts toward apprehending undocumented foreign nationals with criminal records.  But the numbers would seem to disagree.  The same report contains data that indicates the arrests of undocumented foreign nationals without criminal records rose 156% from last year.  Additionally, between January 2017 and April 2017, more than 10,000 people who were arrested had only immigration violations on their record.  This figure represents nearly triple the same type of arrests during the same period last year.

Policies Behind the Report

The Executive Director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigrant advocate group, commented that the President’s true goal for his administration is to carry out large-scale mass deportations. This sentiment may in fact be true because ICE agents have been empowered to arrest more non-criminal undocumented foreign nationals as part of the President’s January 25 executive order.  Amongst other controversial provisions, this order expanded the pool of deportation “priorities” to include undocumented foreign nationals.  In contrast, under former President Obama’s policy, a foreign national’s undocumented status was not enough to make them an enforcement priority.  Instead, the person needed to be a member of a gang or have significant misdemeanors or felonies on their record in order to be considered a priority.

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GavelIn the wake of the Circuit Court panel upholding the stay on the implementation of his first executive order, President Trump issued a new order that was specifically drafted to survive the court’s scrutiny.  The biggest differences in the new order included the removal of Iraq from the list of banned countries, the removal of minority religions as a preference when deciding which refugee applications to approve, and the assurance that lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and foreign nationals who already held valid visas were exempt from the new order’s provisions.

However, this past week, a Hawaiian federal judge issued an order that once again blocked President Trump’s travel ban.  Shortly thereafter, a second federal judge, this time in Maryland, also issued an order to the same effect.

The Hawaiian Judge’s Opinion

In the Federal District Court in Honolulu, Judge Derrick K. Watson handed down his order, halting the implementation of the President’s new executive order.  In his opinion, Judge Watson stated that contrary to the President’s strategy in drafting the new order, any reasonable person would still take the position that the new order was issued in order to discriminate against those who participate in a particular religion or who are members of a specific religious group.

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stop signOne month after federal judges blocked the President’s first immigration executive order, President Trump has issued a second order aimed at preventing the entry into the U.S. of foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries (down from seven countries banned in the first order).

While the main point of both executive orders remains the same – to exclude foreign nationals from specific countries from entering the U.S. – there are key differences between the first order and this second one.

Differences Between the Two Executive Orders

Most notably, this second immigration ban does not take effect immediately but instead will go live on March 16, 2017.  The immediate effect of the first travel ban was one of the grounds on which it was challenged in the courts because foreign nationals and immigration enforcement officers alike were unprepared for how to handle the first ban.

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courtLately, most of the immigration-related news has been focusing on the federal government, specifically President Trump’s executive orders and immigration raids conducted by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE).  However, many of the states have also been very active and involved in immigration, from joining together to fight the aforementioned executive orders (successfully) in court to issuing executive orders of their own.  Read on to learn more about the actions the states are taking in the face of the rapidly changing immigration landscape.

Washington Governor Signs Own Executive Order

Perhaps the most talked about state action this week has been coverage of Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who signed his own executive order that reaffirms existing state policies that prohibit the state police from working with federal immigration agents to make arrests solely due to immigration status violations. The governor of Washington signed an executive order on Thursday, reaffirming policies that bar state police and corrections officers from making arrests purely on immigration status, a rebuke of the Trump administration.

The executive order likely came as a response to the Department of Homeland Security’s new memos that were issued this week.  These memos called upon the states to assist immigration officers with immigration enforcement efforts and also expanded the pool of foreign nationals who will be included in the Department’s deportation efforts.  The memos also call for adding 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 ICE agents.

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stop signThis entire week has been an series of ups and downs in the immigration world.  With the signature of multiple executive orders, President Trump has managed to turn U.S. immigration law, policy, and practice on its head in the very first week he has been in office.  The early results of his travel ban are in, and they do not look good.

Quick Recap: President Trump’s Travel Ban

As reported earlier this week, one of the President’s executive orders ban the admission of foreign nationals into the U.S. if they are from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, or Yemen.  Additionally, U.S. consulates have been instructed to refuse to issue visas to nationals of these countries.  Supposedly, this ban will be temporary and last 90 days, but there is no way of knowing whether the President will decide to extend it, or if he will choose to add more countries to the list.

Result #1:  More than 100,000 visas have been revoked

According to the Department of Justice, more than 100,000 visas have been revoked as a result of the travel ban involving the aforementioned seven countries.  This statistic was revealed in a federal courtroom in Virginia, where a judge granted the commonwealth’s motion to join one of the many lawsuits that have been filed that seek to challenge the implementation of the travel ban.

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visaWe are not even one month into the new administration, and already our worst fears are being realized as every day brings news of another signed or drafted executive order aimed at limiting immigration to the United States.  Below is a summary of the executive orders that President Trump has already signed or has drafted and is expected to sign in the next few days.

Construction of the Mexico-U.S. Border Wall

President Trump seems bound and determined to make good on his promise to “build a wall” along the Mexico-U.S. border, even if it means costing the American taxpayers more than $1 million per mile.  In addition to the construction of the wall, this executive order also demands an increase in the number of Border Patrol agents by at least 5,000 and calls for an additional 10,000 officers to be hired by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in order to assist in processing deportations.

The actual construction of the wall will likely not begin for several months, but the administration has promised that the logistical planning and budgeting will begin immediately.

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GavelIt is predicted that 2017 will bring a whirlwind of change for immigration laws and policies in the United States.  While any changes at the federal level will not materialize until after January 20, there are several ongoing and new immigration-related issues currently at the state level.

Iowa to Examine Immigrant-Friendly Policies

For example, in the state of Iowa, Iowa City councilmen and women have come to an agreement that the city does not have any immigration-related issues.  However, in anticipation of changes implemented by the new administration, the council has agreed to put forth ideas and eventually policies as a way to make sure Iowa City remains open and welcoming to foreign nationals.  A few council members have gone so far as to open discussions about designating Iowa City as a “sanctuary city” or one that does not assist federal enforcement officers with their efforts to enforce immigration laws.  Not all of the council members support this idea, but the general consensus has been that the city’s police department should not be used by federal officials to enforce immigration laws.  The council has pledged to draft a resolution outlining its official policy in the coming months.

Georgia’s State Court Offers Tremendous Benefit to Undocumented Students

The Georgia State Court just ruled that undocumented foreign national students who are the recipients of President Obama’s DACA program may qualify to pay in-state tuition this year.  The President’s DACA program provided eligible foreign nationals with temporary employment authorization and temporary suspension of any deportation proceedings that had been initiated for the foreign nationals.  The case arose after 10 DACA students sued the Fulton County Superior Court in order to qualify for in-state tuition.  By way of background, out-of-state tuition rates to attend Georgia schools are approximately three times the in-state tuition rates.

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President Elect Mr. Donald Trump made unauthorized immigration a huge part of his campaign.  Mr. Trump loudly and proudly ran on the issue of increasing deportations and building a wall between our country and Mexico.  However, it appears that in the wake of the election, the President Elect has been softening his previously fiery rhetoric.  Specifically, he may have signaled that he doesn’t intend to deport the more than 700,000 foreign nationals who are beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or “DACA” program.briefcase

The President Elect’s Recent Statements

In an interview with Time magazine (which just named Mr. Trump its Person of the Year), Mr. Trump stated that his administration would implement a policy that would make people “happy and proud.”  He conceded that many Dreamers have attended prestigious U.S. universities and have good jobs, thereby benefiting the U.S. economy as a whole.  However, the President Elect did not provide any specific information about the policy he envisions, nor did he confirm that he would not displace the DACA program that President Obama implemented in 2012.  The fact that he did not remark on whether or not he would disturb the DACA program is troubling, since it would be very easy for him to do so because the program is not ensconced in law but simply an executive order.

Additionally, since DACA beneficiaries were required to file an application with USCIS in order to receive their delay of deportation proceedings and work authorization, presumably the U.S. government already has a large database with names, dates of birth, addresses, and other biographic information needed to initiate deportation proceedings.

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capitolAs everyone in the world learned on Wednesday, Mr. Donald Trump has been elected the next President of the United States.  In the next two months, President Obama will be transitioning power to the President-Elect, culminating with Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.  Mr. Trump has promised that his administration will hit the ground running to deliver on his campaign promises, including making significant changes to many aspects of immigration policy.  While it is hard to predict exactly which campaign promise Mr. Trump will decide to pursue first, the following 10 points have been published on his administration’s website, and they provide as good of an idea as any regarding the President-Elect’s immediate plans for immigration policy in the United States.

Building the Wall

Mr. Trump has made it abundantly clear that he intends to dramatically increase security efforts along our border with Mexico. While it remains to be seen whether the Mexican government will in fact finance such efforts, “building the wall” is listed as the first initiative on the President-Elect’s website.

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