On November 29, 2018, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal drew a proverbial line in the sand by issuing a new directive that clearly demarcates criminal law enforcement from federal civil law compliance. Under Directive 2018-6, which supersedes Attorney General Ann Milgram's obsolescent 2007 directive, law enforcement is essentially instructed to limit cooperation with federal authorities unless such assistance furthers state criminal law enforcement. As the Attorney General makes clear: "New Jersey's law enforcement officers protect the public by investigating state criminal law offenses and enforcing state criminal laws. They are not responsible for enforcing civil immigration violations except in narrowly defined circumstances. Such responsibilities instead fall to the federal government and those operating under its authority." As such, the directive sets forth important new parameters under which law enforcement may or may not interact with the Department of Homeland Security when dealing with foreign nationals in New Jersey.
In yet another ominous sign of the erosion of judicial independence, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker recently certified a case to himself that may have a significant impact on foreign nationals charged with Drunk Driving or Driving Under The Influence. The case is Matter of Castillo-Perez, and this case is particularly important given the issues that the Attorney General will be deciding-possibly overruling previous BIA precedent. According to the certification, the Attorney General is directing the parties to address the following questions:
USCIS has issued a new policy memorandum that provides guidance to USCIS officers on waiving interviews for I-751 cases. Under the Immigration and Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986, immigrants who have been married for less than two years to their petitioning spouse at the time their case is approved are granted "conditional green cards." To remove these conditions, immigrants must file the I-751 petition, normally together with their spouses, but in some cases, alone with a waiver request. Over the last two years, we have seen an uptick in I-751 cases being scheduled for interviews, even for cases which are clearly approvable and devoid of any issues-which therefore makes the timing of this new guidance intriguing. In any case, the new policy is overall positive and may help to expedite the processing of I-751 cases (which are currently taking close to 18 months and in some cases, longer) by allowing officers to dispense with interviews under certain circumstances.
Late last month, attorneys in New Jersey were pleasantly surprised to learn of a one-year-old immigration court decision that directly implicates many issues currently impacting foreign nationals charged with disorderly persons offenses in our state. Although unpublished and hence, non-precedential (in other words, courts are not bound to follow the ruling of this case), In re: Mario Harold FLORES may afford defense counsel with greater weight to argue that misdemeanor offenses-technically non-indicatable offenses-in New Jersey are not "convictions" within the meaning of the Immigration and Nationality Act. (A "conviction" under section 101(a)(48) can form the predicate basis of a ground of removability.)
Effective November 26, 2018, USCIS is no longer accepting walk-in requests or scheduling InfoPass appointments for New Jersey. As we wrote in earlier blog, this is all part of a national initiative to transition to the new Information Services Modernization Program. Under the new protocol, individuals will first have to call a USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 to conduct their query. Representatives will supposedly be available Monday through Friday from 8am to 9pm, eastern time except during federal holidays.