While comprehensive immigration reform has yet to become a reality, there are many new exciting developments and policies that affect immigration now. New developments will be posted here.
On January 25, 2017, President Trump issued two Executive Orders that dramatically change current immigration policy and practice. One Order pertains to "Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements" and the other to "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States." The orders mandate a number of new measures including:
- the construction of a massive wall to secure the Southern Border
- the allocation of funds and resources for increased detention space and border patrol agents
- increased detention for illegal entry and termination of "catch and release"
- expanding the class of removable aliens who are deemed enforcement priorities to include those charged with any criminal offense
- terminating the Priority Enforcement Program ("PEP") and bringing back the Secure Communities Program
- the coordination and empowerment of local and state police to enforce the immigration laws through 287(g) agreements
On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued a third Executive Order titled "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States." The order promulgates several controversial changes to current visa policy including, among other things:
- the temporary suspension of visa issuance and other immigration benefits from nationals of certain designated countries. Currently, the seven countries are Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
- the suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for a period of 120 days pending the addition of additional screening procedures
- an indefinate suspension of refugees from Syria
- a reduction of the refugee quota.
The constitutionality of some parts of this third order are already the subject of litigation. On February 3, 2017, a federal court in State of Washington v. Trump issued a nationwide temporary restraining order enjoining the government from enforcing several provisions of the order.
On March 6, 2017, President Trump signed a new executive order with the same title, revoking the previous order. The new order was scheduled to take effect March 16, 2017. The revised order removes Iraq from the list of "banned" countries and exempts lawful permanent residents and dual nationals traveling on a passport from a country that is not one of the six designated countries. The revised ban has since been blocked due to two temporary restraining orders issued by U.S. District Courts in Hawaii and Maryland.
On March 15 and 17, 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued two diplomatic cables to consular posts around the world directing consulates to develop and implement heightened screening and vetting of all visa applications. Measures include increased scrutiny and discretionary requests for Security Advisory Opinions.
Applicants for Naturalization may now pay their filing fees by credit card by filling out Form G-1450.
While DAPA and Expanded DACA are currently on hold pending litigation to lift a federal court injunction, several of President Obama's Executive Action initiatives are underway:
- ICE now follows the new memorandum on enforcement
- USCIS recently announced proposed changes to the provisional waiver process
- There are now two Visa Bulletins: one listing Final Action Dates and one indicating Dates for Filing.
Obama Executive Order on Immigration
On November 20, 2014, President Obama formally announced his Immigration Executive Action to protect an estimated five million people from deportation. The broad based plan is comprised of several "initiatives" to address family unity, deferral of deportation, promotion of citizenship, modernization of immigrant and non-immigrant programs, and border security.
Guidelines, forms, and regulations will be forthcoming in the next few months. However, there are many significant policies and programs that will be shaped by the Executive Action:
" DAPA" program—Deferred Action for Parental Accountability. Parents of US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents who have been in the United States illegally since January 1, 2010 will be eligible to request deferred status as well as work authorization for three years.During this period of deferred status, the US government will not seek to deport the alien. Approval is subject to passing a criminal background check.
The current DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) will be broadened to include individuals who have been continuously present in the United States since January 1, 2010. There will no longer be any age cap. Additionally, both the period of deferred status and work authorization will be extended to three years (the current period is two).
Expansion of Provisional Waivers. Under the current provisional waiver program, only spouses and minor children of United States Citizens—in other words, "immediate relatives" are eligible to apply. Under the Executive Action, the category of people eligible to apply for provisional waivers will now include spouses, sons or daughters of lawful permanent residents, and sons and daughters of US Citizens.
Naturalization applicants will be able to use credit cards to pay the application fee.
Prosecutorial Discretion guidelines will be revised and clarified to reflect a reprioritization of enforcement. The focus will be on apprehending and removing serious felons and new immigration violators, especially those who have entered the country after January 1, 2014.
As more details are released, we will post them. To keep up on the latest developments, please subscribe to our blog or like our Facebook page so that you can receive breaking news and commentary.
Deferred Action Status for Childhood Arrivals
In the summer of 2012, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that DHS would begin exercise its prosecutorial discretion to not deport certain individuals under 31 who came to the United States before the age of 16. Eligible individuals who came here before sixteen, can demonstrate physical presence since June 2007, have graduated from high school or who are in school, and have clean records, may apply for a two-year deferred status as well as work authorization. During this period of deferred status, the individual is protected from deportation. For more information on this deferred action status, visit our Deferred Action Page.
I-601A Provisional Waivers
Since March 4, 2013, UCIS has begun accepting and processing provisional waivers of the three and ten-year bars here in the United States. What this means is that certain people who are subject to the unlawful presence bars may apply for and receive and answer to their waiver applications here in the US before returning to their native countries and appearing for their visa interviews. Prior to this rule change, individuals were forced to leave the US, appear for their interviews, and apply for the waiver outside in their native country. (Unfortunately, by departing for their interviews, they would automatically trigger the unlawful presence bar, and if their reviews were not approved, they would be stuck outside.) Under this new rules, the waiver would be adjudicated here first in the United States. If the waiver is approved, an interview would then be scheduled abroad. However, the intending immigrant would no longer face the unlawful presence bar by leaving because the waiver would already have been approved here in the United States. It is important to understand that the provisional waiver process does not apply to all individuals or to all type of waiver situations. For more information please contact out office.
Same-Sex Couples May Now File
In light of the Supreme Court's decision is United States v. Windsor, which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") as unconstitutional, USCIS has now implemented policies and procedures to ensure that same-sex spousal petitions are afforded the same rights and review as petitions filed by opposite-sex spouses.
For more information on the latest on comprehensive immigration reform and potential eligibility should new legislation pass, please call our office to schedule a consultation. The attorneys at our office will review your unique circumstances and issues and help you to realistically evaluate your legal situation.