For a while, at least among the legal community, the government's announcement that Prosecutorial Discretion would be utilized to sift priority cases seemed like lip service. The numbers borne out by the surveys seemed to confirm that very few cases had in fact been closed out under prosecutorial discretion. Now, however, according to a recent New York Times article, the Department of Homeland Security will begin implementing a nationwide training program for enforcement agents and prosecutors. The program will hopefully provide more specific guidance in how to exercise prosecutorial discretion, so that prosecutors have something concrete to go by. Additionally, at least during the first stage of this initiative, agency lawyers will comb through all new cases first to close out low priority cases. Then, starting December 4, DHS and the Department of Justice will start six-week pilot projects in Baltimore and Denver in which agency lawyers will go through current cases in those courts to do the same thing. When these pilot programs end on January 13, officials will presumably work on expanding these projects to immigration courts nationwide. Finally, the government seems to be taking solid and definitive steps towards clearing the court's clogged calendars.
While most people generally understand that certain felonies and sometimes misdemeanors may constitute Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude, it is less understood that under certain circumstances, even traffic violations may rise to the level of crimes of moral turpitude. DWIs can, under aggravating conditions, get you deported. A recent case from the Board of Immigration Appeals from this year goes further and confirms that driving in a manner indicating a wanton or willful disregard for the lives or property of others while in the course of eluding a police officer in pursuit--at least as codified in Washington--is also a crime of moral turpitude. It is, of course, more complicated, but the decision does loosen the boundaries of what can potentially be a deportable offense. Foreign born residents of New Jersey charged with an offense involving elements of reckless driving and eluding should read the decision. The case is Matter of Armando RUIZ-LOPEZ from June 30, 2011, and can be found on the EOIR website.
In May of this year, Princeton Borough and Princeton Township became New Jersey's third and fourth municipalities where residents could obtain identification cards even if they are undocumented aliens. The cards were distributed by the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund and are limited to residents of those towns. While not New Jersey State ID cards, such as the ones issued by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, these community ID cards do allow Princeton residents without immigration status to at least carry around some sort of identification that will be recognized by the respective Princeton Police departments, Mercer County Sheriff and Prosecutor's Office. This is a very progressive step taken by these two towns that recognize that undocumented aliens are here, whether society acknowledges it or not. Many of these same "illegals" pay taxes, abide by the law, and are just trying to make a living here. These ID cards do not confer any special status on the alien or allow him/her to drive; they merely provide a reliable form of identification that allows both the alien and local municipalities to make sure the person is who he or she professes to be.
For our Indian clients, if they are not already aware, the US consulate in Mumbai is moving. There will be no interviews at the current location at Lincoln House from November 15 to November 20, as the consulate makes its transition to its new location at the Bandra Kurla Complex. On November 21, 2011, operations will resume at BKC. One of the more notable features of this complex is that it will have 44 interview windows (Lincoln House only had 13). Hopefully, with the increase in windows, the consulate will be able to schedule more interviews and eliminate the lengthy delays that currently plague the consulate.
USCIS recently announced that it has extended TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for nationals of Honduras and Nicaragua. TPS has now been extended from January 6, 2012 to July 5, 2013. Current Honduran and Nicaraguan TPS holders must re-register during the sixty re-registration period that began on November 4, 2011 and expires January 5, 2012. In order to re-register, applicants must complete and submit Forms I-821 and I-765.
The USCIS website is an extremely useful and reliable resource for immigration related information. Besides granting access to a plethora of forms needed to apply for immigration benefits, the site also has a library of administrative decisions available to the public. There are over two hundred decisions recently cataloged here that may be useful to someone who is seeking guidance or precedential authority to buttress one's case. The decisions are issue by the AAO. The AAO stands for the Administrative Appeals Office, which has jurisdictions over appeals from various decisions issued by the USCIS regional service centers and district offices, including employment based applications as well as waivers including but not limited to 212h waivers for criminal convictions and 212i waivers for fraud/misrepresentation. Very interesting reading.
USCIS recently announced a new look for the Employment Authorization Document as well as the N-560, Certificate of Citizenship. These new documents bear technology that will increase security and deter counterfeiting and tampering. The work permit will notably no longer have the initial letter "A" before the alien registration number. Employers who do hire foreign nationals need to make it their business to get familiar with the new look, as aliens with newly issued cards will be presenting documents that will appear different than what is currently out there. Employers, of course, need to be aware of their I-9 obligations as well as the general criminal and civil penalties for hiring someone who is not authorized to work. While the average small business may not run afoul of any criminal penalties, the civil sanctions are serious:
USCIS has introduced a new I-693 Form that civil surgeons must complete for those seeking immigration benefits such as adjustment of status. Although USCIS will continue to accept the old version of the Report of a Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, the new form dated 10/11/11 must be used for any medical examination completed on or after January 1, 2012. If a doctor mistakenly completes the old form after January 2012, USCIS will reject the form resulting in processing delays.