Monday, December 16, 2019

H-1B Cap Filing




USCIS Announces Major Change to H-1B ‘Cap’ Filing With Electronic Registration

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that U.S. employers will have to pay a $10 fee and register to have a chance at filing an H-1B petition subject to the statutory “cap” of 65,000 workers per fiscal year (FY). The annual “cap” filing also includes 20,000 additional visa numbers for foreign workers with a master’s or higher degree from a qualified U.S. college or university.

The H-1B visa classification allows highly educated foreign professionals to work in the United States on a temporary basis.

The new registration process is a major change from last year, when USCIS received 201,011 petitions in April 2019 for the 65,000 “regular” and 20,000 “master’s exemption” visa numbers available for FY 2020, which began on October 1, 2019.

USCIS expects electronic registration to “dramatically streamline processing.” For at least the past seven years, USCIS has been overwhelmed by an enormous volume of H-1B petitions delivered during the first five business days of April. USCIS had to initially process this pool of petitions so it could run two random selections (“lotteries”) of petitions eligible for actual filing.

Although USCIS created the new registration process in 2019, the agency suspended its use as no system was yet in place. For FY 2021 H-1B visa numbers, USCIS will open an initial registration period from March 1 through March 20, 2020. If USCIS receives more registrations than needed to use the available H-1B visa numbers, it will run a lottery to select the registrants authorized to file a petition. A lottery is likely given past demand.

An employer may register to file H-1B petitions for several foreign workers. However, USCIS limits the employer to one registration for an individual in a FY.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Zero Tolerance?



‘Zero Tolerance’ Overwhelmed Courts and Diverted Resources From Criminal Investigations

Attorney General Sessions’ orders to prioritize prosecuting people for immigration-related offenses in 2017 and 2018 put a significant strain on law enforcement across the border, diverting resources away from drug and organized crime prosecutions. The increase in immigration prosecutions, which played a primary role in the family separation crisis, also led to overcrowded jails, backed up court dockets, and overwhelmed prosecutors and federal public defenders.

These findings come from a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The report also concludes that increased immigration prosecutions cost the government tens of millions of dollars across multiple government agencies. Agents were forced to work overtime for days on end, military prosecutors were detailed to the border, and federal judges were reassigned to the border from courts around the country.

The report mirrors findings from Syracuse University’s TRAC center, which found last year that during the height of Zero Tolerance, non-immigration prosecutions at the border dropped by 35%.

Federal prosecutors explained that “the more time prosecutors spend on reactive work—such as misdemeanor or felony immigration-related cases—the less time [they] have to work on other issue areas, including proactive cases that may take months or years of work to build.”

Increased caseload also had ripple effects on other criminal defendants.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Asylum Seekers to Guatemala?



The U.S. Administration Begins Sending Asylum Seekers to Guatemala

In yet another major blow to America’s asylum system, on Wednesday the Trump administration reportedly began sending some asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador to Guatemala rather than permit them to seek protection in the United States.

Under the “Asylum Cooperative Agreement” deal signed with Guatemala in July, the Guatemalan government will process the asylum claims of people who arrive at the U.S. border without visas.
For the first time in American history, large numbers of refugees can now be returned to a third country without their consent.

This denies them any opportunity to seek protection in the United States. Instead, people will be required to apply for asylum in Guatemala, a country with one of the highest rates of poverty and malnutrition in the entire Western Hemisphere.

The new agreement went into effect on Tuesday. Under the new rules put in place to implement the agreement, there is only one way individuals can avoid getting sent to Guatemala. They must prove to an asylum officer that it is “more likely than not” they will be persecuted or tortured in Guatemala.

This is a high, likely unreachable bar for people locked in detention with no access to lawyers as well as those first arriving at the border.

The agreement with Guatemala is sweeping. It applies to any person who enters the United States without a visa or permission to enter, regardless of whether they ask for asylum at a port of entry or after crossing the border.

There is also nothing in the agreement that limits it to people who have first traveled through Guatemala on their way to the United States. This raises fears that the agreement could be applied against Mexicans too.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Citizenship Fee Waivers




USCIS Changes Policy on Fee Waivers, Potentially Deterring Thousands of Citizenship Applications

The cost of filing an application for citizenship—usually a hefty $725—has long been a barrier for some immigrants. Now, a change to the naturalization process may leave even more people priced out of becoming a U.S. citizen.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced a new policy that will change how the agency determines eligibility for a waiver of its application fees. It is set to go into effect December 2.

The policy will narrow the fee waiver eligibility for those applying for citizenship, green cards in certain categories, work permits, and other immigration benefits.

Currently, USCIS has a straightforward way of determining eligibility for a fee waiver. If an applicant receives a means-tested benefit—such as Medicaid or supplemental food assistance—then they automatically qualify for a fee waiver. As of 2017, approximately 40% of all citizenship applicants requested this fee waiver; most did so by showing they received a means-tested benefit.

The new policy will eliminate the means-tested benefit from the eligibility criteria.
Under the change, people may only request a fee waiver if they can prove their annual household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or if they can demonstrate financial hardship by some other means.

The two remaining alternatives are more difficult to prove. They require substantial documentation and often the help of an attorney. Sifting through this documentation would likely be more time-consuming for an already overburdened USCIS, creating even greater backlogs.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Border Wall





What Is Happening with The Border Wall? Here’s Everything You Need to Know So Far

President Trump has made the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border a cornerstone of his presidency. To date, not a single mile of new barriers has been erected. But the Trump administration continues to aggressively pursue new avenues to fund this project outside of the traditional federal appropriations process, including the president’s declaration of a national emergency.

Judge David Briones in Texas issued a ruling last week that will prevent the president from using certain Department of Defense (DoD) funds to construct new barriers along the border.

This is one of eight lawsuits filed in federal court to challenge the border wall. Most argue that Trump’s national emergency is an illegal maneuver to release funding for the wall by circumventing Congress.

The administration has made multiple requests for federal funding, despite Congress’ repeated refusal and clear evidence that a wall is an unnecessarily expensive and inefficient enforcement measure to address unauthorized migration.

In 2017, the administration requested $999 million to fund the “first installment” of President Trump’s wall. That year, the Republican-controlled Congress provided the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with $341 million to replace around 40 miles of existing barriers.

The next year, the administration asked for $1.6 billion for 74 miles of new barriers. Congress responded by providing approximately $1.6 billion for replacement fencing and additional security technology.

In 2019, the president requested $5.7 billion for the construction of a steel barrier. Following the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Congress provided $1.4 billion for the construction of pedestrian fencing in South Texas.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Historic Ruling



In Historic Ruling, Thousands of Immigrants Waiting for Their Immigration Records Can Now Challenge Agency Delay

A federal court in San Francisco certified two nationwide classes of immigrants and attorneys challenging extreme agency delays in producing immigration case files.

Plaintiffs allege that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have a system-wide practice of failing to provide access to immigration case records—called A-Files—within deadlines set by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Without these files, immigrants and their attorneys are at a severe disadvantage in moving forward with their cases.

The court’s decision on Tuesday allows the case to proceed on behalf of all noncitizens and attorneys with delayed FOIA requests, and not simply on behalf of the five individuals who filed the lawsuit.
At the end of Fiscal Year 2018, USCIS reported a backlog of 41,320 pending requests. This means that tens of thousands of individuals did not receive a determination on their A-File FOIA requests within the time period required by law. USCIS admitted that 98% of the FOIA requests that it receives—which would include all the cases in the backlog—are requests for A-Files.

The decision also is significant because this is the first time a court has certified a class in a lawsuit alleging a pattern and practice of violating FOIA.



Monday, October 14, 2019

Expedited Removal



Federal Judge Blocks the Expansion of Fast-Track Deportation Program, Expedited Removal

A federal judge blocked the expansion of a fast-track deportation program, known as “expedited removal,” minutes before the government said it would begin implementing its expansion on September 28, 2019.

Expedited removal allows the government to deport certain people without basic legal protections. Those who are put in this process are not able to see an immigration judge or speak with an attorney before they are deported. Instead, the decision on whether they are deported is in the hands of immigration enforcement officers.

Before the Trump administration sought to expand the process, immigration officers could only place someone in expedited removal if they were stopped within 100 miles of the border during their first two weeks in the United States, or if they arrived by sea.

In July 2019, the administration issued a rule seeking to expand the number of people who could be subjected to this fast-track deportation process. The new rule applied to anyone who could not show that they had been in the United States continuously for at least two years, regardless of where they were stopped in the country.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Children in Immigration Detention



Federal Judge Says DHS Must Keep Its Promise to Protect Children in Immigration Detention

A federal judge on Friday blocked the Trump administration’s attempts to significantly undo the

Flores Settlement Agreement, which mandates certain protections for children held in immigration detention.

The changes to the settlement would have allowed the administration to hold immigrant children and their parents indefinitely in jail-like settings.

Federal Judge Dolly Gee repeated that the 22-year-old settlement is still binding, even after multiple court hearings. In her written decision, the judge said that Flores is a contract into which the federal government had “willingly entered and agreed to be bound.”

In August, the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services issued a final rule after receiving tens of thousands of public comments opposing the changes. The rule would have greatly impacted the Flores settlement by effectively scrapping a key component of Flores—that children should not be detained for longer than 20 days.

Judge Gee highlighted several inconsistencies between the new regulations and the original Flores agreement.

One inconsistency is the changed licensing requirements for facilities that hold detained children.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Immigration Case Backlog



How the Immigration Court Reached a Record One Million Case Backlog

When the president took office in January 2017, the immigration courts faced a record backlog of over 542,000 cases. This month, the immigration court backlog hit a new historic high with over 1,000,000 cases. Driven by new Trump administration immigration court policies and the growth in the number of families arriving at the border in 2019, the backlog has increased at record speed.
At the current rate, the immigration court backlog is on pace to more than double less than three years into Trump’s first term in office. By contrast, it took nearly six years for the backlog to double under Obama.

Over the past two years, the Trump administration has taken a series of measures it claimed would slow the growth of the immigration court backlog. The first of these efforts came in 2017 with the creation of a “Strategic Caseload Reduction Plan,” which called for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to “realign the agency towards completing cases.” However, these measures have largely been ineffective and the backlog has grown to unprecedented levels.

The focus on completing cases as rapidly as possible has caused many to argue that the agency is putting speed over justice. Last October, EOIR immigration judges across the country were asked to decide 700 cases a year, with the possibility of professional discipline if they failed to meet the quota.

The president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, Ashley Tabbador, argued that the quota would lead to “assembly line justice.”

Many of the actions taken by the administration to speed up cases have had the opposite effect. In 2018, Attorney General Sessions eliminated a process known as “administrative closure,” where judges could take low-priority cases off of their dockets to focus on the cases which most needed their attention. He also prevented judges from terminating cases in certain circumstances, requiring them to adjudicate the cases instead, which has further added to the backlog.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Immigrant Son anointed Bears kicker



Pineiro anointed Bears kicker


Piñeiro was born in Miami, Florida, to Cuban and Nicaraguan immigrants. His father, Eddy Sr., came to the United States from Cuba at the age of 9 during the Mariel boatlift of 1980 and later had a professional soccer career with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the ASL/APSL.

Piñeiro started off playing soccer like his father; he was a four-time All-Dade County pick in soccer. Despite having grown up only playing soccer, he joined the Miami Sunset Senior High football team in his senior season, handling extra points and kickoffs.

Piñeiro signed with Florida Atlantic on a scholarship to play football, but academic issues prevented him from attending. His dad encouraged him to try on football cleats and pads but with no football scholarship, Piñeiro went on to play soccer for a small junior college, ASA College. In the summer of 2015, Piñeiro went to an open kicking combine at Alabama. Out of hundreds of kickers, Alabama coach Nick Saban narrowed his scholarship offers to Chris Salek and Piñeiro. Piñeiro verbally committed to Alabama, but later tried out for Florida and ultimately that was where he chose to play.

During his final year of college, Piñeiro had the best field goal percentage in the nation, 94.4% (17/18). He finished his career with an 88.4% (38-for-43) field goal conversion rate, which ranks first in school history (min. 35 attempts) as he passed Bobby Raymond (87.8%, 43/49, 1983–84.) His 38 made field goals place him sixth all-time in school history. He also connected on 16 straight field goals to close the 2017 season, which tied Jeff Chandler (2001) for the second-longest streak in program history. He played for the Gators during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

“I’m excited, confident,” Pineiro said. “I’m happy that they chose me to be the guy. I’ve just got to prove them right and show them that I’m the guy and just keep making kicks.”

Monday, September 16, 2019

Chaos at the border



Chaos and Dysfunction at the Border: The Remain in Mexico Program Firsthand

The first thing many people forcibly returned to Mexico tell you is that they’re afraid. Afraid of the cartels, afraid of Mexican immigration officials, and afraid of the months of uncertainty. This is what they’ve faced since the Trump administration sent them back to Mexico as part of the “Remain in Mexico” program—formally called the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP).

Last week, I visited El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico to witness the effects of MPP firsthand. What I saw was chaos, dysfunction, and a policy that has removed what little remaining due process protections existed in immigration court.

Under MPP, individuals who cross the border or arrive at ports of entry are given a notice to appear in immigration court and then sent back to Mexico through a port of entry. Only Mexicans, unaccompanied children, and “vulnerable” individuals are excluded from the program. But that hasn’t stopped U.S. Customs and Border Protection from forcing back extremely pregnant women and vulnerable LGBT+ individuals.

In Ciudad Juárez, those subject to MPP are largely waiting in a network of private and publicly operated shelters. Although some lucky few have managed to obtain jobs and alternate housing, most people subject to MPP will spend the next several months confined to small, crowded spaces because they are too afraid to leave the shelter.

Kidnappings, assaults, rapes, and murders are routine in Ciudad Juárez, and most everyone I talked to had either been victimized themselves or knew someone who had been.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Transported Back




Would-Be Asylum Seekers May Be Transported Back to Danger

Over 2,000 people from Central American who were seeking to live in the United States have reportedly given up and accepted a “free ride” home under a new, controversial program funded by the U.S. government and a United Nations agency.

The “Assisted Voluntary Return” (AVR) program has paid for buses or airfare for 2,170 migrants who were seeking protection in the United States but either never made it to the border or were forced to return to Mexico by the U.S. government. Many were likely asylum seekers.

The 10-month-old program, which is funded by the U.S. State Department, has reportedly cost taxpayers up to $1.65 million.

The AVR program may seem simple enough, but in fact may be violating international law by returning asylum seekers to countries where they could face persecution. This is especially concerning because those who received a “free ride” home likely never received the opportunity to have either the United States or Mexico review their asylum claims.

Those returned under the AVR program reportedly fell into one of two categories, according to Reuters. Some never made it to the U.S.-Mexico border and were apprehended before arriving. The others either entered the United States at the border or between port of entries and were then then sent back to Mexico to await their immigration court hearings.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Tent Courthouses



Tent Immigration Courthouses Are Being Built at the Texas Border

Immigration judges from across the country will soon be reassigned from their normal caseload to  preside over thousands of immigration cases along the U.S.-Mexico border, reportedly in an effort to speed up hearings under the controversial “Remain in Mexico” program.

To handle the cases faster, the Trump administration is in the process of building makeshift immigration courthouses out of tents in the border towns of Laredo and Brownsville, Texas.

Immigration judges will conduct these hearings via video teleconferencing from their court rooms, while the individuals will reportedly appear for court in the tents. Contracted assistants will organize the hearings in person by taking roll call, sending case documents to judges, and operating the video systems.

Over 1,000 people may appear at one of these two courts each day. This means that people who fled violence in their home countries and were then forced to wait in cartel-controlled Mexican towns will be allowed to enter the United States—and the tents—for their hearings.

The challenges of using a tent for a courthouse include notoriously spotty video teleconferencing with a judge thousands of miles away, and the likelihood that few people will have access to an attorney to guide them through the process. This makes a person’s chance at receiving asylum protections even slimmer. It’s reported that only 1% of people subject to the Remain in Mexico program have been able to obtain a lawyer.

Monday, August 26, 2019

OITNB Feature

LEGiTiGO


ICE Shuts Down Immigrant Hotline Featured on ‘OITNB’

The final season of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black highlighted the country’s current immigration detention issue and told the stories of character’s in detainment, fighting to be reunited with their children, and the real-life retaliation that detainees in detention centers undergo.

During one of the episodes of the season, OITNB’s Maritza can be seen helping other migrant detainees by sharing a hotline that helps immigrants with legal aid. The hotline, which is run by California organization Freedom for Immigrants, is real and almost exactly a month after the premiere, the hotline was shut down.

In that same episode, another OITNB character tells Martiza about the hotline, “You have to be careful, though. Apparently, if they figure out that you’re using the hotline, Big Brother shuts it down.”

Now, the Los Angeles Times reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “shut down the real hotline for detained immigrants run by the California group Freedom for Immigrants less than two weeks after it was prominently featured on the show.”

Freedom for Immigrants has been running the free hotline since 2013, as well as visitation programs in detention centers across the U.S. They responded to the shut down with a cease-and-desist letter stating that it’s a violation of free speech and an act of retaliation by the government.

Seven actors and producers from the show, including Diane Guerrero and Laura Gómez, along with 121 organizations including the ACLU signed a letter of support to acting ICE Director Matthew
Albence, demanding that the line be restored.

“Even a freely given benefit such as the pro bono hotline can’t be taken away simply because the government is now unhappy with how we are sharing with the public what we know from our communications with people inside,” Christina Fialho, co-executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, told the L.A. Times.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Visa Petition Denials





USCIS Visa Petition Denials on the Rise

Legal immigration channels to the United States are continuing to suffer under the Trump administration. These restrictions are having an effect on employment-based immigration—particularly petitions for temporary foreign workers.

American businesses file such petitions in order to hire and retain foreign-born workers who make vital contributions to companies, industries, and the U.S. economy.

Yet U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is denying and scrutinizing some of the most relied-upon petitions at a higher rate than in the past. USCIS data through June 2019 show a clear uptick in denials and requests for evidence (RFEs) for H-1B and L-1 petitions.

In the first three quarters of the current fiscal year (ending October 1), USCIS denied 16.1% of initial H-1B petitions. That denial rate is nearly four times higher than it was in FY 2015. The denial rate has experienced a steady increase each year since FY 2015.

USCIS denied 28% of initial L-1 petitions in the first three quarters of FY 2019. That denial rate is significantly higher than what it was in the past four fiscal years.

USCIS also is issuing more RFEs, essentially asking for additional documents to confirm the validity of the application. While seeking additional evidence may seem minor, in practice RFEs may add months to an already arduous process that can hinder an employer’s ability to plan and meet business needs.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Public Assistance?




US says will deny citizenship to immigrants who use public benefits

The administration of US President Donald Trump announced Monday new rules that aim to deny permanent residency and citizenship to migrants who receive food stamps, Medicaid and other public welfare.

The new rules threatened to set back the citizenship hopes of millions of mostly Hispanic migrants who work for low wages and depend in part on public services to get by.

It also appeared to close the door for impoverished and low-skilled migrants outside the country hoping to legally obtain a foothold in the United States.

Announcing a new definition of the longstanding "public charge" law, the White House said migrants will be blocked from entering the country if they are likely to need public assistance.
In addition, those already here and using public services will not be able to obtain green cards or US citizenship.

"To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient," Trump said in a White House statement.

"Large numbers of non-citizens and their families have taken advantage of our generous public benefits, limited resources that could otherwise go to vulnerable Americans," the statement said.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Citizens Caught



US Citizens Caught in Immigration Dragnet As Enforcement Gets More Aggressive

There is a disturbing trend in aggressive immigration enforcement that is appearing more and more recently: the detention of  U.S. citizens. There are clear indications that U.S. immigration agents are locking up people they assume must be non-citizens, but who are in fact U.S. citizens.

These abuses transcend any presidential administration. But there are indications that the Trump administration has been particularly aggressive in detaining and then challenging U.S.-born individuals about their citizenship status. According to a report released in July that analyzes ICE enforcement data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), there has been a striking increase in the number of U.S. citizens “encountered” by ICE during the Trump years.

In the first year after President Trump took office, ICE encountered 27,540 U.S. citizens. In comparison, during the last year of the Obama administration, ICE encountered 5,940 U.S. citizens.

This trend suggests that some U.S. citizens who may “appear deportable” in the eyes of some U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have become increasingly vulnerable to immigration enforcement in recent years.
                                                       

Monday, July 29, 2019

Appeals Court Decision



Appeals Court Decision Means Hundreds of Migrants Were Unlawfully Convicted

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision clarifying limits on when federal prosecutors can charge immigrants with illegal entry and reentry into the United States this week. 

Under this decision, it will be more difficult for the government to criminally charge immigrants who attempt to enter the United States outside a port of entry in order seek asylum. Hundreds of prior convictions are also now potentially invalid.

The Trump administration has prioritized the criminal prosecution of migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border without inspection – most infamously, as part of its “zero tolerance” policy, where the administration used the criminal prosecution of parents as justification for separating those parents from their children.

As the administration has increased illegal entry prosecutions, it has simultaneously created new barriers for asylum-seekers attempting to lawfully enter the U.S., including turning migrants back from ports of entry and requiring asylum applicants to wait in Mexico while immigration judges consider their asylum applications.

The misdemeanor law criminalizing illegal entry, often referred to as Section 1325, covers three separate types of conduct: (1) entering or attempting to enter outside an official port of entry; (2) “eluding” inspection by immigration officers; and (3) entering through fraud. Federal prosecutors were charging migrants with “eluding” inspection – the second prong of Section 1325—in cases where the arrest took place far from a port of entry. The Ninth Circuit Court said prosecutors were wrong – that they can only charge a person with eluding inspection if they were arrested at or near a port of entry. Migrants who cross the border outside of a port of entry must be charged under the first prong of Section 1325 – otherwise, the first prong doesn’t serve any purpose.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Advocates Seek



Advocates Seek Information About a Secretive Program That Fast-Tracks Deportations

Since the mid-1980s, immigration courts have operated the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP). The program is designed to quickly deport people serving criminal sentences. Despite how long it’s been in operation, little is known about the IHP. With a lawsuit filed earlier this week, advocates hope to shed light on this inherently secretive, newly-expanded program that raises serious due process concerns.

Under the program, immigration judges can conduct removal proceedings for certain immigrants serving criminal sentences in federal, state, and local correctional facilities. The purported goal of the program is to deport the immigrants as soon as they complete their sentences. But by focusing on expediency, this secretive program undermines the rights of the people it targets for deportation.

Historical data shows that only a tiny fraction of people facing fast-tracked deportation through the IHP have an attorney. This lack of legal assistance exacerbates other problems with the IHP.
Immigrants with criminal convictions—like all immigrants—are entitled to due process in their deportation proceedings. But determining the immigration consequences of criminal convictions is notoriously complicated. Individuals in the IHP are often required to present complex legal arguments without the help of a lawyer to defend against deportation.

The IHP operates almost exclusively through a video teleconference (VTC) system. This makes the process even more difficult as the system is often plagued by technical failings. These immigrants never have the chance to see an immigration judge in person. Instead, they are often left to defend themselves without the help of an attorney, via a faulty video system.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Cutting Interpreters From Immigration Court?



Cutting Interpreters From Immigration Court Risks Due Process

Every day, hundreds of non-English speaking immigrants show up to court for initial hearings where they will see an immigration judge for the first time. But due to a new policy, many immigrants will lose the help of dedicated court interpreters to ensure they understand what’s going on in the hearing. Instead, in-person simultaneous interpreters will be replaced with orientation videos and telephonic interpretation.

According to news reports, the policy was officially announced to judges on Thursday. The policy is set to begin nationwide on the week of July 15. However, it has not been publicly confirmed by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the agency which oversees the immigration courts. It was reportedly previewed to some immigration judges in late June and first revealed by Paul W. Schmidt, a former immigration judge who reports on developments in the courts.

All immigrants in removal proceedings have a right to interpretation, but how that interpretation is carried out varies from place to place. In most locations, interpreters sit next to immigrants when they appear in front of a judge, translating from the immigrants’ language to English and vice versa. By being in court, interpreters can quietly ask follow-up questions without breaking the flow of the conversation, take body language into account, and provide high quality interpretation.

Under the new policy, in-court interpreters will not be available for initial hearings. Instead, immigrants who don’t speak English will watch a video orientation in “multiple languages,” and will not be permitted to ask questions about the video.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Immigrant Arrests Stopped



Federal Court Tells ICE to Stop Arrests in Massachusetts Courthouses

In Massachusetts, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are barred from making civil arrests in courthouses. Such arrests have a chilling effect on the administration of justice—those who fear civil arrest in court are much less likely to seek a court’s help for resolving disputes.

Since 2018, an ICE policy has been encouraging its officers to arrest immigrants in state courthouses.

This policy discouraged immigrants from attending court hearings and led to chaos at Massachusetts’ courts, where the problem was acute.

On June 20, a federal court in Massachusetts ordered ICE to stop arresting noncitizens who attend
Massachusetts state courts on official business. The decision was a major win for immigrants in Massachusetts, as well as the Massachusetts public defender agency and prosecutors with the Middlesex and Suffolk County District Attorneys’ offices, who formed an unlikely partnership to file this lawsuit in May 2019.

Predictably, injustice thrived under ICE’s courthouse arrest policy. People often were too afraid of ICE agents lurking in state courthouses to seek justice.

Victims of domestic violence were too afraid to file protective orders against their abusers. Investors defrauded out of over $200,000 in a financial scam feared asking a court to hold the scammers accountable due to the possibility of arrest. A woman whose employer did not pay overtime, stole her wages, and then fired her when she missed work because her house burned down could not seek help from a court because of the threat of ICE arrest.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Imagine




'Imagine your own children there': Grim reports mount from border detention camps

As more reports surfaced of inhumane conditions at the government’s migrant detention facilities, the movement to label them “concentration camps” picked up steam with backing from a major newspaper.

Dolly Lucio Sevier, a physician, and a group of lawyers visited border facilities in two Texas cities: McAllen and Clint. In an assessment obtained by ABC News, Lucio Sevier wrote that “the conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities.” Lucio Sevier was granted access after lawyers expressed concern about a flu outbreak in the McAllen facility.



Lucio Sevier described the conditions as “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food” and added that teens there said they had no access to hand-washing. Mothers of infants said the camps lacked facilities for washing bottles. Lucio Sevier said the conditions were “tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease.”

“It just felt, you know, lawless,” Lucio Sevier said in an interview with ABC News. “I mean, imagine your own children there. I can’t imagine my child being there and not being broken.”
On Monday, Rep. Veronica Escobar — who represents the El Paso, Texas, area — said that the government had moved most of the children from the Clint facility. It is unclear where they were moved.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Historic Legislation



The House Passes Historic Legislation to Provide Path to Citizenship for Dreamers and TPS Holders

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6—the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019—by a bipartisan vote of 237-187 on Tuesday evening. The bill would create permanent protections for Dreamers, participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

Congress has been under renewed pressure to act following the Trump administration’s attempted rescission of the DACA program and elimination of benefits for the vast majority of TPS and DED beneficiaries. These actions have left over 1,000,000 people vulnerable to detention and removal from the United States. The bill would go further, however, by creating permanent protections for an estimated 2.5 million people.

The American Dream and Promise Act would provide current, former, and future undocumented high-school graduates and GED recipients with a three-step path to U.S. citizenship. They would initially have to apply for “conditional permanent residence” by meeting age, physical presence, and educational requirements. Individuals with serious or extensive criminal histories would be ineligible for benefits. Current DACA beneficiaries would be provided with a direct path to conditional permanent residency. The Secretary of Homeland Security would be able to terminate the status of anyone who ceases to meet the requirements.

Individuals who meet further requirements would qualify to obtain permanent residency without conditions.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Crisis Levels



USCIS Processing Delays to be Investigated by Government Accountability Office


Applications for permanent residence and other immigration benefits are taking longer than ever to process.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency responsible for adjudicating these applications, has a backlog at “crisis levels.”

While USCIS processing delays have increasingly been a problem, the backlog is reaching new highs under the Trump administration.

But for the first time in over a decade, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed to look into the problem. In a letter to members of Congress, the GAO said it plans to begin the study in about five months.

This could bring important information to light and help correct a problem that needlessly hurts immigrants, their families, and employers with long waits and uncertain futures.

The GAO announcement comes in the wake of two forceful letters from elected officials. A bipartisan group of senators called on USCIS to account for the lengthy backlog and waiting times that constituents and USCIS customers experience.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other members of Congress wrote a letter to the GAO requesting the investigation, seeking “recommendations on how the agency can best meet its statutory mission of being a service-oriented agency that efficiently processes immigration-related applications and petitions.”

Such recommendations are sorely needed. The average processing time for all application types is up 46 percent since Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. These increasing delays persist even when fewer new applications are being submitted.

Monday, June 3, 2019

USCIC eProcessing??



USCIS’ New eProcessing System Will Test Whether the Agency Learned From Past Mistakes

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced a new strategy in its quest for a paperless system.

USCIS envisions that the new system—called eProcessing—will eventually handle the agency’s immigration records. This will include applications for all immigration benefits, communication with USCIS, and receiving a decision on a case. For now, certain tourists, business visitors, and vocational students (M-1) will be able to file a Form I-539 online to extend their stay in the United States. In some situations, academic students (F-1), and the spouse and children of either type of student also will be able to file for extensions online.

But USCIS’ past attempts at creating online filing systems do not bode well for this new version.
In 2005, USCIS began a “transformation program” to move from paper-based processing to integrated, automated processing, with the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) as its primary component. USCIS conceived of ELIS as a centralized, web-based case management system to automate processing of immigration benefits.

In the next 14 years, however, the transformation initiatives would be plagued by problems and burgeoning costs. Currently, only eight forms, Including the new online filing of I-539, can be filed online—approximately 9 percent of the benefits forms on the USCIS website. Though USCIS also started with the Form I-539 as its first ELIS online application in May 2012, it discontinued online filing of this application roughly three years later.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Serving Our Country




Serving Our Country Is No Longer a Way for Immigrant Soldiers to Gain Citizenship

Immigrant soldiers in the U.S. military often use their service as a catalyst to apply for and gain citizenship. Traditionally, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) honored that service with a fast-tracked pathway to naturalization—granting soldiers citizenship to a country they already risked their lives for seemed beyond fair.

But that has recently changed. New USCIS data shows that the numbers of immigrant soldiers applying for and earning citizenship have plummeted. In total, military naturalizations have dropped 65 percent since the Trump administration created stricter policies for immigrant service members.

In October 2017, the President Trump directed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to make policy changes that added additional barriers for non-citizen service members. The new policies reversed the military’s long-standing practice of expediting immigrant soldiers’ citizenship applications, saying it was no longer an option. The policy changes added more background checks and significantly extended the time someone must serve before they can receive the needed paperwork to pursue citizenship.

Additionally, the Pentagon implemented another policy that temporarily halted all enlistments involving green card holders hoping to join the Army Reserve and National Guard.

The ramifications hit immediately—both the number of people approved for citizenship and the number of those even applying dropped.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Controversial Policy



Federal Court Allows Controversial ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy to Continue

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is resuming its controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy. This policy requires asylum-seeking Central American migrants who arrive at our Southern border to return to Mexico to await their immigration court hearings in the United States.

A federal judge in California had previously blocked the policy’s implementation until the court fully considered the legal arguments raised in a lawsuit challenging the policy. However, just last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the government’s request to resume the practice while the Circuit Court reviews the lower California court’s decision. DHS will continue to return Central
American migrants to Mexico for the foreseeable future as the Circuit Court conducts its review.
Over five thousand migrants have been subject to the policy, known officially as the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” since the U.S. government began the practice in late January 2019.

The continuation of the policy signals the Trump administration’s unprecedented crackdown on asylum seekers and its ongoing disregard for the welfare of some of the most vulnerable individuals caught up in the U.S. immigration system.  Countless reports have surfaced over the past few months of the dangerous conditions in Mexico and the border region in particular.

The Migrant Protection Protocols began with a trickle of migrants at the Tijuana-San Ysidro port of entry just weeks after a 6,000-person migrant caravan arrived in Tijuana. The policy has since expanded to entry-points across the U.S.-Mexico border, notably in El Paso, Texas and Calexico, California.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Florida's SB 168



How Florida's SB 168 Will Benefit the Private Prison Industry

The Florida legislature recently passed SB 168 with the stated intent of ensuring that state officials and agencies fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities in enforcing immigration law. SB 168 could have far-reaching consequences in a state where one in five residents is an immigrant.

SB 168 would prohibit any state/local entity or law enforcement agency from implementing “sanctuary” policies that inhibit communication between local officials and federal immigration authorities. It would also punish state agencies that don’t honor immigration detainers or provide access to individuals held in state custody. The bill mandates penalties for state actors that violate its broad terms.

Consequently, SB 168 will expand immigration enforcement throughout Florida. This is in spite of the fact that there have been serious problems relating to ICE enforcement activities in the state.
More immigration enforcement in a state with such a large immigrant population will lead to higher levels of for-profit immigration detention, further increasing the profitability of private detention contractors like the GEO Group, as well as their influence in the crafting of immigration policy.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Family Seperation Policy





Newly Unveiled Government Documents Show DHS’ Plans to Punish and Criminalize Parents

Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kevin McAleenan will testify before two congressional committees this week. He is likely to be asked questions about the government’s family separation polices, it’s poorly executed family reunification efforts, and what comes next for the families seeking protection inside the United States.

McAlennan previewed what are sure to be his talking points on the family separation crisis on Sunday’s 60 minutes. He said “I believe you can be tough and compassionate at the same time. I’m gonna do what I’ve always done – give good law enforcement operational, and policy advice to lawmakers and to policy makers.”

However, recently revealed documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show that his agency was more concerned about punishing parents and effectively selling it to the public, than compassion or sound policy.

The FOIA documents also reveal bizarre record keeping of family separation protests where a private company that works with DHS compiled a list of over 600 public protests planned in June 2018 – which some feel cross the line into inappropriate monitoring of peaceful public assemblies.
The documents together paint a picture of an agency more worried about advancing their anti-family immigration policies and how they were playing out in public than how they were impacting real people’s lives.

As the White House threatens further punitive responses, Congress should use its time with Acting Secretary McAleenan to challenge these practices and work towards more humane solutions for asylum-seeking families.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Proposal to evict




HUD Proposes to Evict Citizens and Immigrants from Public Housing
if They Have Undocumented Family Members


An estimated 25,000 families in public housing are of mixed-status, meaning that at least one family member is a citizen, legal permanent resident, or refugee and another member is undocumented. Although undocumented immigrants do not qualify for housing benefits, current rules allow them to live with their families who do qualify. However, this may soon change. Under a new rule proposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), citizens and legal immigrants in public or subsidized housing may be evicted if they have an undocumented family member living with them.

Under current law, a family only needs to declare the number of family members who are eligible or ineligible for the subsidies. If an undocumented family member lives in public housing with the eligible applicant, then the family only receives partial subsidies, which cover only the family members who are eligible citizens or qualifying immigrants. The current system ensures that undocumented family members do not receive any public housing assistance benefit. Because of these strict guidelines, mixed-status families usually end up paying close to market-rate for rent.

HUD’s new proposed regulation would make it so that any family currently receiving a public housing benefit or subsidy, including Section 8 vouchers, would automatically be ineligible for any housing benefit if even one member of their family living in the house is undocumented.  Under the new system, every family member’s immigration status would be screened through the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system if they are under the age of 62 and currently live in subsidized housing.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Need to know about H1-B

LEGiTiGO


All you need to know to successfully apply for an H-1B work visa

All you need to know when you look for an H-1B employer, and information you need to know to successfully apply for H-1B work visa:
1.Does your education work for H-1B visa?
2.Should you evaluate your diploma and/or work experience to get an equivalent of US bachelor’s degree?
3.What are minimum salary requirements you should negotiate with prospective employers? (depends on your profession)
4.What kind of employer should you look for?
5.Can you get job offers from multiple employers?
6.Your OPT/STEM status extension options.
7.Possibility of enrolling to Master’s degree.
8.Could you work for a startup?
9.What if the startup has no funding?
10.Could your own startup sponsor you?
11.Can your employer be qualified for H-1B CAP exemption?
12.Timeline.
13.Cost.
14.Documents required.
15.Should I negotiate applying for a green card upfront?

Resources for you

Monday, April 8, 2019

Immigrants Denied

LEGiTiGO


Immigrants Denied Citizenship for Working in the Legal Marijuana Industry

Oswaldo Barrientos has lived as a legal immigrant in Denver, Colorado for almost his entire life. Now 30, he and his mother immigrated to the United States from El Salvador when he was a year old. But in his recent interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), he was denied American citizenship—simply because he works in the legal marijuana industry.

Barrientos’ situation exposes the inherent conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. Some immigrants are now getting trapped in the crosshairs. Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado for almost two decades. 33 other states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, also legalized marijuana.

But immigration officials are choosing to ignore state laws. They instead opted to only focus on federal laws, which have not decriminalized marijuana.

As a result, life-long U.S. residents like Barrientos can be denied American citizenship for lacking “good moral character,” as his USCIS denial letter described it.

This means Barrientos—a hardworking, tax-paying, legal U.S. resident who has no criminal background—is stuck in limbo. His attorney warned him that he can’t even travel abroad. There is now a real risk he’d get detained by airport authorities.

Barrientos says he started working at the dispensary after his mother received a stage 3 skin cancer diagnosis in 2014.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Blue Collar Industries

LEGiTiGO



How Can U.S. Blue-Collar Industries Thrive Again?

For the first time in two decades, the U.S. workforce has more jobs than people willing or able to fill them. Labor shortages are impacting almost every field in the country. But employers are now struggling to find one type of worker more than others: blue-collar workers.

Analysts largely point to two reasons for this drop in available blue-collar workers. As more young people go to college, jobs that don’t require a college education are harder to fill. Fewer college graduates want these positions since they often require manual labor and pay less than white-collar jobs.

The baby boomer generation is also aging out of the workforce and retiring en masse.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s latest statistics show this shift in who wants or is eligible to take these jobs has left over one million positions open.

This has created huge gaps in the U.S. workforce. Those hit the hardest are the home health care, restaurant, and construction industries. Hotels, retail stores, nursing homes, and manufacturing are also in dire need of more workers.

Having someone to fill these jobs is critical. This is especially true for healthcare positions, as aging baby boomers will need access to more personalized care.

Increasingly, immigrants fill these rolls.

Monday, March 25, 2019

An Update on TPS



A Promising New Bill, More Lawsuits, and an Uncertain Future

More than 300,000 Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders whose status was due to expire in the coming months have new reasons to be hopeful. On the legislative front, Congress proposed a new bill to provide permanent status in the United States for many TPS holders and Dreamers. Separately, the Trump administration gave TPS holders from Honduras and Nepal additional time before their status expires while newly filed litigation plays out.

Introduced in the House of Representatives last week, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6) would allow over 2 million TPS holders and Dreamers combined to adjust their status to permanent residents.

TPS holders and Dreamers’ fates have been tied together since both had protections that allowed them to live and work in the United States for years, but neither has had permanent status. The administration has tried to end both groups’ decades-long protections. TPS holders—nationals from foreign countries experiencing conflict or an environmental disaster—would lose humanitarian protections. Dreamers would similarly be at risk for deportation.

That’s why the bill’s 210 co-sponsors included a path for permanent residency for TPS beneficiaries, as well as the similarly-situated Liberians with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). If the bill passes, both groups would be able to adjust their status alongside Dreamers.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Reuniting Families

LEGiTiGO


Federal Judge Rules Government Must Reunite Thousands More Separated Families

In recent weeks, alarming stories have surfaced indicating that thousands more children were forcibly separated from their parents at the southern border than originally thought.

In response to this and earlier reports that the government had begun separating parents as early as 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal judge to expand the scope of its lawsuit challenging family separation. Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw did just that, adding hundreds of separated families to the class action lawsuit which led to the ostensible end of last summer’s family separation policy.

What does this groundbreaking court ruling mean? It confirms that the government was in fact implementing a policy of family separation far in advance of any formal announcement—despite assurances that a policy never existed. It also means that the government may now be required to reunite all migrant families who were separated between July 1, 2017 and June 25, 2018.

The ACLU’s lawsuit, Ms. L v. ICE, was originally filed to challenge the government’s policy of separating families, alleging violations of the Constitution’s due process clause and federal law protecting the right to seek asylum. The newly expanded class covers any family that was separated by the government after July 1, 2017.

This development comes as we near the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration’s announcement of their “Zero Tolerance” policy.

Monday, March 11, 2019

TPS Detailed

LEGiTiGO


The detailed statistical information on the US Temporary Protected Status (TPS)  populations
from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti.

TPS can be granted to noncitizens from designated nations who are unable to return to their countries because of armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. In January 2017, an estimated 325,000 migrants from 13 TPS-designated countries resided in the United States. This statistical portrait of TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti reveals hardworking populations with strong family and other ties to the United States. In addition, high percentages have lived in the United States for 20 years or more, arrived as children, and have US citizen children.

The finds:

•The labor force participation rate of the TPS population from the three nations ranges from 81 to 88 percent, which is well above the rate for the total US population (63 percent) and the foreign-born population (66 percent).
•The five leading industries in which TPS beneficiaries from these countries work are: construction (51,700), restaurants and other food services (32,400), landscaping services (15,800), child day care services (10,000), and grocery stores (9,200).
•TPS recipients from these countries live in 206,000 households: 61,100 of these households (roughly 30 percent) have mortgages.
•About 68,000, or 22 percent, of the TPS population from these nations arrived as children under the age of 16.
•TPS beneficiaries from these nations have an estimated 273,000 US citizen children (born in the United States).
•Ten percent of El Salvadoran, nine percent of the Haitian, and six percent of the Honduran TPS beneficiaries are married to a legal resident.
•More than one-half of El Salvadoran and Honduran, and 16 percent of the Haitian TPS beneficiaries have resided in the United States for 20 years or more.
•The six US states with the largest TPS populations from these countries are California (55,000), Texas (45,000), Florida (45,000), New York (26,000), Virginia (24,000), and Maryland (23,000).
•Eighty-seven percent of the TPS population from these countries speaks at least some English, and slightly over one-half speak English well, very well, or only English.
•About 27,000, or 11 percent, of those in the labor force are self-employed, having created jobs for themselves and likely for others as well.
TPS status should be extended until beneficiaries can safely return home and can successfully reintegrate into their home communities. Most long-term TPS recipients should be afforded a path to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status and ultimately to US citizenship.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Undocumented 25 Year Low

LEGiTiGO


Number of Undocumented Immigrants in US at a 25-Year Low

Contrary to President Trump’s claim that “large-scale unlawful migration” across the southern border constitutes a “national emergency” that requires building a wall, research suggests that undocumented immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border is actually the lowest it’s ever been in the past 25 years. The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) has issued a report with this conclusion, which reinforces the findings of a similar report released by the Pew Research Center in November 2018.

According to CMS, the total number of undocumented immigrants in the United States has decreased by one million since 2010 and now stands at about 10.7 million. At the same time, apprehensions at the border have dropped dramatically, falling from 1.6 million in 2000 to about 300,000 in 2017—a decline of more than 80 percent. These numbers would not seem to signal an “emergency” at the border.

CMS also reports that from 2010 to 2016, about two thirds of new undocumented immigrants became undocumented by overstaying temporary visas, while only one third entered across the southern border without authorization. A wall is clearly not going to have an impact on visa overstays.

According to the report, the undocumented population is shrinking mostly because there are more undocumented immigrants leaving the country than coming. Undocumented arrivals fell from 1.4 million in 2000 to about 550,000 in 2007 and have continued near that level. But the number of undocumented immigrants who left the country—either of their own volition or because they were deported—kept increasing and grew from 370,000 in 2000 to 770,000 in 2016.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Multiple Lawsuits



Multiple Lawsuits Filed Against Trump’s National Emergency Declaration

Speaking from the Rose Garden on Friday, President Trump invoked the National Emergency Act after Congress refused to provide full funding for additions to the U.S.-Mexico border wall. By declaring a national emergency, the president could potentially bypass Congress and pull from Department of Defense military construction funds to build new wall. As the president predicted in his Friday speech, it took less than 24 hours for the first lawsuit against the national emergency declaration to be filed.

The first lawsuit came just hours later from the organization Public Citizen on behalf of three landowners and an environmental nonprofit. The landowners argue that the Trump administration will use new money obtained through the emergency declaration to build a wall through their property.

The Public Citizen lawsuit argues Trump’s actions did not have any legal basis and violate the basic separation of powers required by the Constitution. They also argue that Trump’s decision violates the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution, which bars the government from spending money that was not appropriated by Congress. Because Congress specifically limited wall construction in the budget deal, the organizations argue that Trump is unlawfully disregarding Congress’ intent by building the wall with other resources.

The biggest challenge yet came, when a coalition of sixteen states—including California, New Mexico, and New York—brought a lawsuit in the Federal District Court in the Northern District of California. The sixteen states also claim that Trump violated the separation of powers and the Appropriations Clause. Like other lawsuits, the states argue that Trump’s decision was entirely political and that there is no actual national emergency.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Mothers in Seperation Crisis

LEGiTiGO



Immigrant Mothers Are Filing Claims for Monetary Compensation in the Wake of Family Separation Crisis

In April 2018, the Trump administration officially rolled out its “zero tolerance” policy—a policy that has since been universally condemned for its cruel and unlawful practice of separating parents and children migrating to the United States. The policy has had widely documented traumatic and enduring effects on parents and their children.

Immigration advocates filed six administrative complaints on Monday against the U.S. government, seeking monetary compensation for harms to these separated families. The complaints, filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), involve six mothers who were forcibly separated from their children—ranging in ages from five to 12 years old.

The facts asserted in these complaints echo the experiences of countless others. The mothers witnessed immigration officers forcibly taking their children from them without explanation. The separations occurred despite tears and pleas by the mothers and their children. One mother reports having her child taken on May 10, only to “mockingly” be wished “Happy Mother’s Day” by an immigration officer.

The mothers were given no information regarding where their children would be taken, how to reach them, or what would happen to them. They signed papers they did not understand. Ultimately allowed to speak with their children by phone, the mothers had to figure out how to pay for the calls, and in some cases, struggled to find someone to arrange for the calls. When they were able to reach their children, the phone calls lasted mere minutes.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Cato Survey

LEGiTiGO



Immigrants Have More Faith in American Institutions Than the Native-Born

Despite the fact that immigrants living in and arriving in the United States today are not exactly receiving a warm welcome by key government institutions, a recent poll by the Cato Institute shows that immigrants’ faith in America’s key political institutions is strong. In fact, stronger than that of the native-born.

General attitudes among the U.S. public towards U.S. institutions have been in decline for many years. According to Gallup, strong faith in Congress has dropped to 11 percent in 2018, down from 30 percent in 2004. Americans who have “little faith” in the presidency has risen to 40 percent in 2018 from to 20 percent in 2004.

The Cato survey shows that a significantly higher percentage of immigrants express a great deal of confidence in both of these American institutions. Congress does better among immigrants with a 16 percent approval rating, compared to 7 percent among the native-born. The office of the president also enjoys more faith from immigrants at 22 percent, compared to 13 percent among the foreign-born.

Other findings show that immigrants and the native-born overwhelming agree (70 percent) with the statement “America is better than most other countries.”

Asked if they are proud of America’s “fair and equal treatment of all groups in society,” responses are virtually the same between immigrants who are U.S. citizens and native-born Americans. However, a higher proportion of immigrants who aren’t U.S. citizens say they are proud America treats groups equally.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Migrant Detention Centers



ICE Let Sexual Assault Reports Slide At Migrant Detention Centers Run By Contractors: Inspector General

Federal immigration officials are not adequately policing contractors running immigrant detention centers where serious problems are often going unreported, according to a report the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security released last week.

In some cases, contractors ― including both private businesses and public operations, such as county jails ― failed to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement of sexual assaults and employee misconduct, the IG report said.
“Instead of holding facilities accountable through financial penalties, ICE issued waivers to facilities with deficient conditions,” the report said.

The report said one facility, for example, was granted a waiver that allowed detainees with serious criminal histories to be held near those with nonviolent offenses. Another facility was granted a waiver to use tear gas instead of pepper spray, which is less toxic, according to the IG report. 

ICE issued only two fines to contractors between October 2015 and June 2018, despite finding more than 14,000 deficiencies in that time period, the IG reported. One facility was fined for repeated deficiencies in health care; another for failing to pay proper wages.

The fines amounted to $3.9 million — or 0.13 percent of the more than $3 billion ICE paid to contractors during that period, the report noted.

ICE approved 65 waivers allowing facilities to ignore contract requirements — most for indefinite time periods ― between September 2016 and July 2018.

The investigation examined 106 detention facilities run by contractors that hold about 25,000 detainees daily. ICE has about 45,670 immigrants in detention each day.

ICE said in a letter accompanying the report that it has a “strong record of holding detention facilities accountable when deficiencies are identified.” It agreed, however, to improve oversight.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Wall Hurts Businesses

LEGiTiGO



Promise to ‘Build the Wall’ Hurts Businesses and Residents Along the Border

As the partial government shutdown stretches on, many individuals, families, and businesses around the country are struggling. At the heart of the shutdown and budget standoff is President Trump’s promise to “build the wall.” Yet for many people and businesses along the border, this is the last thing they want. 

Ahead of President Trump’s visit to the U.S.-Mexico border last week, business owners and leaders spoke out against the president’s continued demand to build additional fencing along the border.
Business leaders in San Diego say that President Trump hyper-focusing on the wall is bad for the local economy and also an ineffective way to use taxpayer money, in part because the wall itself and the construction process can make it harder for people to cross the border at legal ports. With an estimated 90,000 northbound daily crossings at the San Ysidro port of entry, it is vital that business employees, customers, and goods or services can cross the border smoothly and efficiently.
Businesses and communities throughout the border region have long voiced concern about the border wall and militarization stifling cross-border commerce, literally creating barriers that cut into vital revenue and relationships. 

According to Karim Bouris, executive director of Business for Good San Diego, San Ysidro businesses lost upwards of $5 million in November when the government closed the busy border crossing for several hours to install additional security barriers. In Santa Cruz County, California, businesses near the Tumacácori National Historical Park suffered when there were fewer visitors and tourists coming to the park from the Mexican side.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Tent City

LEGiTiGO


As One ‘Tent City’ for Immigrant Children Closes in Texas, Another Opens in Florida

Earlier this month, the Governments administration officially closed the doors of a “tent city” holding over 2,800 immigrant children in Tornillo, Texas. The closure comes after months of public pressure and local organizing. However, any celebration is short-lived. Just days after Tornillo’s closure, the administration announced its plan to increase bed space in another juvenile tent city in Homestead, Florida.

The tent city of Tornillo, about 35 miles from El Paso, Texas opened in November 2016. It later became a major point of controversy when it started being used to house an influx of unaccompanied minors and children who had been separated from their parents in the summer of 2018.

Since it opened, the Tornillo tent city experienced major pushback from the local community due to its military barracks-style conditions, as well as its limited access to medical and mental health care and educational opportunities for the children detained there.

Because Tornillo—and now Homestead—are classified as “emergency” or “influx” shelters, they skirt state child welfare guidelines. Although these sites are deemed “temporary,” the trauma and pain that the children suffer within these facilities is permanent. In “emergency” detention facilities, there are lower standards for staff vetting, training, youth education, and health, as they follow only a loose set of Health and Human Services guidelines.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Damage In Industries

LEGiTiGO

Vital Industries Could Suffer Significant Damage as Workers With TPS Lose Their Status

The Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for migrants from several nations—including El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti—has not only threatened over 300,000 long-term residents with deportation and separation from their families, but created potential workforce turmoil in multiple industries nationwide. The impending loss of workers will have ripple effects throughout local economies that are also deprived of their buying power and tax payments.

The largest of the impacted TPS populations consists of Salvadorans—tens of thousands of whom work in the construction, restaurant, and landscaping industries across the country.

The loss of Salvadoran construction workers will hit hardest in California, Texas, Maryland, and Virginia—where Salvadorans with TPS amount to roughly one-quarter of all construction workers in those states. There are roughly 7,200 Salvadorans with TPS working in construction in California, nearly 6,000 in Texas and Maryland respectively, and 5,200 in Virginia.

Given that most TPS beneficiaries have lived in the United States for many years, construction companies will be losing more than just entry-level laborers. They will also be losing highly experienced workers. The net result will likely be a slow down of construction projects confronted by a sudden shortage of needed skills and labor. This is especially problematic for California and Texas, states hit with natural disasters in the last two years.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Uncertainty Remains About H-1B

LEGiTiGO


Uncertainty Remains About H-1B Registration Process

January 2 marked the final day for comments on a proposed rule by U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services (USCIS) that would implement a new registration requirement for H-1B visas for well-educated foreign professionals. This proposal would require employers looking to hire H-1B workers to first register electronically with the agency during a specified registration period

Hasty implementation of the proposal in 2019 could disrupt the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 H-1B petition process and impose significant costs on employers  The proposed rule would also change how H-1B visa petitions are counted, likely restricting the ability of businesses to get the most qualified workers

The most obvious problem with the proposed registration system is that it is not yet functional, yet USCIS is counting on it being in place by April 1—which seems unlikely  Even if the system is up and running in time and performs as expected  it would still wreak havoc on the H-1B petition process

Companies have already devoted resources to petitioning for H-1B workers under the current system.

Having to then switch to a new system at the last minute would be costly, not to mention disruptive to businesses trying to hire the workers they need in a timely fashion. This would be particularly harmful to smaller businesses  which have fewer resources to switch gears in the middle of the petition process  But even big businesses could suffer from a crushing workload in a short span of time if they suddenly have to file multiple petitions under a new system only weeks before the FY 2020 H-1B season begins