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100203houston_lg-300x227Immigration Enforcement in the Chicago area in 2017 has been expanding.  Workplace raids by ICE agents are more frequent, arrests and detentions have increased, and undocumented immigrants must now fear what were formerly routine procedures such as “check-ins” with ICE because of the uncertainty that they will be forced into detention.  Immigration Bonds seem to be harder to come by – as ICE is declining to set bond on many of its detainees, leaving the question of bond up to an immigration judge.  The wait to see an immigration judge for a bond hearing can be several weeks spent in ice custody.  The immigration court docket in Chicago has doubled since 2010, with nearly 25,000 pending cases now backlogged.  Individual hearing dates are being scheduled out as far as 2021 for some cases.

The Trump Justice Department is focusing on enforcements policies to streamline the removal and deportation of undocumented immigrants.  Although their main priority is supposed to be those arrested or convicted of crimes, many other noncriminal immigrants are being swept up in their net. Make sure you know your rights if your are detained by ICE or ICE shows up at your home or workplace.  Have a family member contact an Immigration Attorney experienced in Removal Defense and Immigration Bond Hearings if you are processed by ICE for detention.  Being detained by ICE and placed in Removal or Deportation proceedings is particularly frightening and stressful.  But there are forms of relief that you may qualify for, that could eventually lead to permanent residence status, if you meet certain eligibility requirements.

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100203houston_lg-300x227In 2017, the number of undocumented immigrants being taken to Illinois ICE Detention centers has more than doubled at some locations.  In past years, immigrants who were stopped for traffic violations were seen as low priority enforcements and were not detained by Immigrant Enforcement agents (ICE) unless there was some other, more serious or outstanding criminal arrests, charges or convictions.  Now, everyone who is undocumented is fair game for immigration enforcement.  Immigrants stopped for speeding, involved in minor traffic accidents, and even those showing up in civil court need to be concerned about being arrested by ICE and taken to detention.  Bonding out of ICE detention has become more difficult, and having to  appear before an Immigration Judge to request bond is far more likely than it used to be.

If you or a relative are detained or arrested by Immigration Enforcement agents, contact a qualified immigration attorney as soon as possible to determine whether you are eligible for a bond hearing.  The time between when an immigrant enters ICE detention, is processed and his case is registered with the Immigration Court can be longer than a month.  An attorney can help you file a motion to request a bond hearing -even before your case has been processed with the Immigration Court and you receive your first hearing notice.  Not everyone is entitled to bond out of immigration detention.  Convictions for certain crimes or prior removal orders can trigger mandatory detention, in which case you must remain in custody until your immigration case is decided.

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immigration-300x188The Department of State and USCIS are cracking down on fraud and/or misrepresentation, particularly on non-immigrant visa applications such as B1/B2 – visitors visas and F-1 – student visas. Fraud and Misrepresentation findings are skyrocketing so you need to be aware of the increased attention being paid to nonimmigrant visas.  Misrepresenting your intention on a visitor’s visa, for example, can have drastic effects on future immigration benefits you might otherwise be qualified for.  For example, if you inform any Consulate Officer, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) or Port of Entry Officer that you are coming to the United States to visit,  you may be opening yourself up to a fraud and/or misrepresentation finding if you, for example, marry a U.S. Citizen during your vacation stay, and apply to adjust status in the U.S.

In the past, immigration policy on the above scenario was to apply  a 30/60 day rule.  If you entered on a Visitor’s visa and married a U.S. citizen within 30 days, the presumption was that you married solely for the purpose of an immigration benefit; however, the presumption could be rebutted with adequate evidence of a bona fide marriage.  Marriage between 30 an 60 days of entry, followed by application to adjust status, could infer that there was an intent to misrepresent, which also could be rebutted by evidence of a bona fide relationship. After 60 days there was no basis for a misrepresentation finding.

Recently, the Department of State updated its Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) to state that any conduct inconsistent with representations made on applications, to DHS, CBP or ICE agents, or Port of Entry officer within 90 days, can result in a finding of willful misrepresentation.  Inconsistent conduct for a B1 visa holder, for example, would be engaging in unauthorized employment, marrying a US citizen and applying for adjustment of status, enrolling in a course of academic study, or any conduct for which a change of status would be required.  This new policy can drastically affect those entering under Visa Waiver Program, where duration of stay is 90 days.

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graduation-022-300x225On September 5, 2017, the Trump Administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  DACA gave work permits to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and met other stringent background checks and qualifications.  No new DACA applications have been, or will be accepted by USCIS since September 5, 2017.  Because DACA work permits were renewable every 2 years, renewal DACA work permits that were pending on September 5th will be processed by USCIS.

If your DACA work permit expires on or before March 5, 2018, then you still have until October 5, 2017 to submit your renewal application.  October 5, 2017 is a strict deadline, and no renewal applications will be accepted after that date.  Those DACA work permits that expire after March 5, 2018, will end on their expiration date.

Every DACA recipient should check the date their DACA or renewed DACA work permits expire and immediately renew if that date is on or before March 5, 2018.  Speak to a qualified immigration attorney if you have questions regarding your DACA status.

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graduation-022-300x225Many news outlets are predicting that the White House will end the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)  as early as Friday, September 1.  Ending DACA was a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign and he pledged to halt the program on day-one of his presidency.  DACA allows undocumented persons who were brought to the United States before their sixteenth birthday, and were continuously present in the U.S. for the five years prior to the start of the program on June 15, 2012, to obtain work permits, renewable every two years.  Ten states, lead by Texas, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding the DACA program be recinded and there be no further DACA grants or renewals after September 5, 2017 or they would continue with their federal lawsuit against the program.  For the past few months, DACA has been a political bargaining chip, with some Republicans proposing protecting DACA recipients in exchange for funding for the border wall and more detention centers.  Democrats, however have not warmed to such proposals and seek a more permanent solution for the Dreamers.  Trump is being advised that since the program will be enjoined by the federal law suit anyway, he should end it and get the credit.  Keep watching this blog for more updates.

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landscaperAmid all of Trumps bluster about Nationalism, building a wall at the Mexican border, and protecting American jobs, the Trump Administration has quietly and quickly raised the number of temporary unskilled labor visas to allow more Mexican farmhands, landscapers and hotel workers to legally work in the United States.  In the past 9 months, the U.S. Labor Department has certified more than 160,000 H-2A agricultural visas, up 20% from last year.  They then raised the cap on H-2B visas for unskilled laborers such as hotel housekeepers and restaurant workers, adding another 15,000 job openings for foreign and mainly Mexican workers.  Trump’s real estate company and Mar-a-Lago annually apply for and receive H-2B visas to hire foreign labor to work in their hotels and private clubs.  Raising the annual cap on H-2B visas is highly controversial, as some argue that it puts unskilled U.S. laborers out of work and keeps wages low.

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immigration-300x188Many people are concerned about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (aka DACA) program.  Despite White House assurances in the beginning of the administration that DACA would be safe, the Trump Administration now seems to be backing down on its commitment.  In mid June of this year, the Texas Attorney General and AG’s from nine other Republican states sent an ultimatum to Attorney General Jeff Sessions – if the Trump Administration does not move to end the DACA program by September 5, 2017, they will file a court challenge to end the program. This would force the U.S. government to either defend the program in litigation, or abandon it.  Then Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said that the administration would not commit to defending the program in Court if Texas and the coalition brings it’s lawsuit.

For now, the program remains in effect, with continuing uncertainty. What we know right now is that Department of Homeland Security still accepting and processing new applications for DACA, and is currently renewing work permits that are expiring.   On the other hand, application to the program involves more risk, since it appears more likely that it could end at any time.  Nearly 800,000 young adults have benefited by the program by gaining temporary work authorization, that is renewable every 2 years.  But if you are considering applying for DACA for the first time, you should talk to a qualified immigration attorney to help you access your risk. In fact, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) now recommends that if you are submitting a first time DACA application, that you do not do so without legal representation.  The NILC suggests you consider the following negative factors.  If DACA is withdrawn, there is no guidance on what USCIS will do about pending applications.  Worse case scenario – you may lose your application fee and USCIS could share your personal information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Also, without proper legal advise, your application could identify you for deportation if you fit the administration’s expanded enforcement priorities.  On the other hand, submitting an application now could have positive result if DACA continues, or DACA continues but is closed to new applicants, or if DACA is phased out gradually as work permits expire. Keep an eye on this blog for updates to the DACA program.

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statue_of_liberty-237x300Congress is working on sweeping changes to our immigration system that will reduce large numbers of immigrants who receive their lawful status through Legal Permanent Residents or United State Citizens.  The bill, Reforming American Immigration For A Strong Economy, introduced by Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Peru, proposes a merit-based immigration system, favoring employment, skills, education and English speaking ability.  Currently, most of the one million immigrant visas per year are obtained through family relationships. U.S. citizens can petition for spouses, minor children, stepchildren, parents, single or married adult children, and brothers and sisters.  Some of these visa categories have annual numerical limitations; others, such as spouses, minor children and parents are unlimited.  Legal Permanent Residents can petition for spouses, minor children and unmarried adult children, with numerical limitations in all visa categories.  The proposed legislation will still allow the spouses and minor children of American Citizens and Permanent Residents, but will eliminate visas for extenuated relatives such as brothers and sisters and adult children.  The proposed bill also eliminates the diversity lottery and cuts the number of refugees that are offered permanent residence.  The number of Employment based green cards, however, will increase by reallocating 140,000 of the eliminated visas.

Said President Trump “This competitive application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy.”  The bill was praised by anti-immigration organizations; however, this legislation would need Democrat support to be successful, which is unlikely.  Stay tuned to this blog for updates.

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USA_visa_issued_by_Shenyang_2012-300x208On June 29, 2017 the Department of Homeland Security revised their initial definition of the “close family” exception to the travel ban.  (See Blog Entry June 27, 2017) [The designated countries are Syria, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen]  Now, a close familial relationship is defined as a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, fiance, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, whether whole or half, and includes step relationships.  “Close family” does not include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, and any other “extended” family members.  This means that those in the close family relationship category from the six designated travel countries (Syria, Iran, Somolia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen) are eligible to apply for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, although they will need to establish a bona fide relationship with the person in the United States.   DHS published FAQ’s stating that USCIS will continue to interview refugee applicants from the six designated countries, however they will also have to prove a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.

We at Kalita Law Group will continue to update you as DOS and DHS sort out implementation policy.

 

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statue_of_liberty-237x300On Monday, the Supreme Court partially reinstated Trump’s travel ban against foreigners from six Muslim majority countries; Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Libya and Yemen.  (mnemonic “SISSLY”).  [ see the entire S.Ct. Order here] The ruling clears the way for the 90-day travel ban to begin excluding foreign travelers from the designated countries, except those who have bona fide relationships with Americans, or U.S. Entities, including spouses, other close family members, employers and universities.  So how do we sort out those people excluded from those who are allowed in?

First of all, nothing has changed regarding the visa or entry process for countries not included in the list of six travel-banned designated countries.  Moreover, those foreign travelers from the six designated countries who already have a valid immigrant or nonimmigrant visa into the United States will be most likely be allowed to enter the United States – as long as that Visa was issued before  June 26, 2017.  This includes student visas, visitors visas, employment visas, and legal permanent residents.  Those people who wish to enter the United States to visit close family members will  be allowed to apply for a visa; also, students who have been admitted to a U.S. university and workers who have accepted offers of employment from U.S. companies, and lecturers invited to address an American audience.  Refugees processed overseas who have family or other connections to the United States, including refugee resettlement agencies will not be excluded.  The court was not clear about what will happen with individuals who form bona fide relationships with American citizens, companies and universities prospectively, after June 26, 2017.

The original executive order banning travelers from the six designated countries is temporary, to allow for extreme vetting procedures to be put in place and will expire on its own terms 90-days from now, in October 2017.  For now, until such terms as  “close family relationships” and “credible claim of a bona fide relationship”  are defined by the courts or USCIS policy, there will be confusion as to who will be denied admission to the U.S.  We at Kalita Law Group will continue to post updates on this blog as the government’s order is implemented.