PROVIDING IMMIGRATION AND
BUSINESS SOLUTIONS WHEREVER YOU ARE.
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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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In the last Supreme Court session, the justices roundly disappointed immigrants and immigrant advocacy groups when the court refused to make a ruling on President Obama’s executive action that would have helped hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals obtain work authorization and a stay of their deportation proceedings.  The coming months present the justices with multiple Gavelopportunities to safeguard the rights of foreign nationals in the United States.

The First Case:  Use of Deadly Force at the Border

Just this week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that questions whether an agent of the U.S. Border Patrol is subject to a lawsuit after shooting and killing a Mexican teenager who was in a concrete culvert that separates Juarez, Mexico from El Paso, Texas.

In 2010, 15-year-old Mexican national Sergio Hernandez and his friends were playing a game wherein each child ran across the concrete culvert separating the two countries.  The officer who shot Sergio was on the U.S. side of the culvert, while Sergio was on the Mexican side. According to court documents, Sergio’s parents state that none of the boys was trying to sneak into the United States without authorization.  The lower court dismissed the case, ruling that it did not have jurisdiction because the victim was a Mexican citizen who was killed on Mexican soil.  However, the parents argue that the culvert is patrolled by U.S. Border Patrol agents and is effectively U.S. territory.   The case will also examine whether the officer in question is protected from liability by virtue of the doctrine of qualified immunity.

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, is the federal agency that processes applications for immigration benefits made in the United States.  USCIS reviews and adjudicates hundreds of thousands of applications for marriage and employment-based green cards, H-1B petitions, applications for asylum, and others every single year.  Almost every one of these applications will need to be accompanied by the appropriate filing fee.  These fees currently run from less than $100 for fingerprints to more than $1,000 for green card applications.

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The fees that USCIS collects are used to fund the agency’s operations, such as its payroll for the government employees who process the applications, and the facilities that house the different USCIS Service Centers.  Due to increasing costs of operations, USCIS recently announced that it will increase the required fees for many immigration applications.

The Fee Increases

Effective December 23, 2016, USCIS will require the affected applications to be accompanied by the new fees.  If an application is accompanied by the old (or otherwise incorrect) fee, USCIS will return the application to the person or company that filed it.  This is very important for time-sensitive applications, such as applications for extensions of immigration benefits, and therefore foreign nationals and companies are encouraged to pay close attention to the information provided by USCIS about the specific fee increases.

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FlagWhile the rest of the country has been talking about immigration policies and immigration reform for the better part of the election cycle, the American public has yet to witness its 2016 presidential candidates debate the topic openly – until now.  This next debate between Republican nominee Mr. Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Mrs. Hillary Clinton will specifically focus on the candidates’ positions on critical immigration issues.

Since the outcome of the election will greatly affect the millions of undocumented foreign nationals currently residing in the U.S., as well as the thousands of businesses and foreign nationals who are currently working in the U.S., it is critical to understand the differences between the two candidates’ positions on immigration reform and immigration policy in general.

Donald Trump’s Views on Immigration

Mr. Trump has described the current state of U.S. immigration policy as “worse than anyone’s ever realized it.”  Among other changes he calls for, Mr. Trump wishes to stop accepting foreign nationals who are escaping terrorism in their home countries, saying that the U.S. should improve the conditions of its own citizens before offering benefits to foreign nationals.

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It’s been a long wait from April 1 to October 1, but as of the first day of this month, those lucky 80,000 foreign nationals whose H-1B petitions were selected in the lottery became eligible to take up their employment with their U.S. employers.  Now that the H-1B employment has begun, employees and companies should take care to fulfill a number of responsibilities to make sure they are in compliance with the H-1B regulations.visa

Employers’ Responsibilities

The most important responsibility for the employer is making sure that all H-1B employees have completed I-9s on file with the employer’s place of business.  The I-9 contains biographic and work authorization information for each employee and is required for each employee, regardless of nationality or citizenship status.

The second-most important responsibility is maintaining the Public Access File (PAF). Each H-1B employee must have a Public Access File that contains specific information and documentation, such as a copy of the certified Labor Conditions Application that was filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, the source for the H-1B position’s prevailing wage, and a summary of the benefits offered to U.S. and H-1B workers.  The PAF should be readily accessible should USCIS visit the employer’s place of business in order to conduct a site visit.

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behind barsIn the wake of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ announcement that it would end its use of private prisons, President Obama announced that his administration is likewise contemplating the end of using for-profit centers as immigrant detention centers.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Mr. Jeh Johnson, stated that he requested that his department review different ways that the use of private facilities could be halted.  After a review of the report, Secretary Johnson is expected to make a recommendation on the policy change by the end of November.

While it appears that the affected federal agency is on board with the President’s idea, as with all immigration-related issues, there are two sides to this situation.  Proponents who support closing private detention centers argue that doing so is necessary to protect the civil rights of those detained in the centers.  But there are many federal immigration agents who feel that closing the centers is simply not feasible because there is no similarly cost-effective alternative to house the growing number of foreign national detainees, and many alternatives could actually be worse from a civil rights or safety perspective.  One official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, predicted that ending the use of private detention centers would cost taxpayers billions of dollars in just one year.  This official also predicted that it would take more than a decade to implement the policy change.

The Current Status of the Immigration Detention Centers

It is interesting to reveal that nine of the nation’s 10 largest detention facilities are run by private enterprises.  These immigration facilities house approximately two-thirds of the foreign nationals who are detained for suspected crimes in the United States.  Many of the facilities are located on the border, but a few are inland because immigration officials also arrest foreign nationals away from the border.

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Employment-based immigration law can be quite tricky because one attorney is technically representing two parties:  the U.S. employer and the foreign national whom the employer is sponsoring for a work visa.briefcase

Normally (and hopefully!), the employer-employee relationship remains on good terms.  However, if the relationship sours, the U.S. employer has great power to negatively affect the foreign national’s current immigration status and future immigration opportunities.

These issues were recently reviewed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in the case of Srinivasa Musunuru v. Loretta E. Lynch, et al.  The court reversed a lower court’s decision and ruled that only an employer is empowered to have the notice and opportunity to respond to an employment-based immigration case.  Read on to learn more about this case and how it may affect future employment-based immigrant petitions.

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reportsIt should come as no surprise that foreign nationals make incredible economic contributions to our local and federal economies.  Foreign nationals fill many holes in the domestic U.S. workforce across the entire spectrum of the country’s industries.  Additionally, they pay taxes and contribute to their local and state communities in other immeasurable ways.

However, recent political events indicate that some groups may need to be reminded of this fact from time to time.

This week, three states (Michigan, Louisiana, and Nebraska) issued reports explaining the economic benefits provided to their economies by foreign workers in particular and foreign nationals in general.

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