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Nepal Earthquake Leads to TPS Designation

June 30th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Temporary Protected StatusWhen a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the Nepal in April this year, the resulting devastation served to rally countries around the world to come to the aid of the developing South Central Asian nation. In the same spirit of aid, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson has designated Nepal with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months—through December 24, 2016.

Eligible Nepal nationals—as well as those people without a nationality who last habitually resided in Nepal– can apply for TPS status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The status means officials won’t remove these people from the United States and also that these people can receive Employment Authorization Documentation (EAD).

TPS eligibility requires applicants to demonstrate meeting all eligibility criteria. Among the primary of these is continuous physical presence and continuous residency in the United States since June 24, 2015. The full list of requirements is available on the USCIS site.

TPS applicants also undergo security checks. Those applicants with criminal records or found to pose a threat to national security won’t receive protected status.

USCIS lets applicants request a fee waiver for costs related to TPS-related filings with Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver or through a written request. Waiver requests must also include supporting documentation. USCIS won’t process TPS applications that don’t include the required fee or fee waiver request.

The earthquake and the subsequent aftershocks killed 8,000 people in Nepal and injured thousands more when it occurred on April 25. Since then, billions of dollars in aid that has been pledged to help in recovery is just now beginning to trickle in, according to The Daily Mail.

The British newspaper reports a group is putting out a documentary about the devastation as Nepal Rising records the harrowing accounts of those who lived through the disaster. One woman tells the story of watching her home collapse during an aftershock when her husband was inside. Another woman describes being buried under rubble and debris until rescuers heard her calls for help.

For those in the United States interested in filing for TPS status, full details on the application process is available on the Federal Register notice.

Supreme Court Weighs In on Deportation

June 24th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigration ReformImmigration is at the heart of a case ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court this year as the nine justices have given advocates a victory in a ruling involving the deportation of a Tunisian immigrant. Central to the case is the issue of jurisdictional cause in terms of federal agents’ ability to deport immigrants.

The court ruled in a 7-2 decision that U.S. immigration officials can’t deport convicted criminals in cases where the crime falls outside federal jurisdiction. The case involved a Tunisian immigrant who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Moones Mellouli—the Tunisian immigrant—came to the United States on a student visa and then earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. After his studies, he went on to teach math at the University of Missouri. Five years ago, Mellouli was arrested for driving under the influence. It’s at this time that police found pills hidden in his sock.

From a legal perspective, then, Mellouli’s sock amounted to paraphernalia. Federal immigration officials cited the conviction as sufficient reason to deport the immigrant.

Besides classifying a sock as drug paraphernalia, the case reaches new heights of lunacy considering the pills officers found were Adderrall, a common stimulant. The irony was not lost on Justice Elena Kagan, a former law school dean.

“He had four pills of Adderall,” Kagan said during oral arguments in the case as she pointed out a “decent chance” that a random selection of students in “half the colleges in America” would also turn up the pills.

In his argument to the court, Mellouli attorney Jon Laramore, said the government was guilty of extreme overreach in their case.

“Possession of paraphernalia is not a federal offense,” the attorney argued to the justices. “One cannot be prosecuted federally for possessing drug paraphernalia,” he said.

The justice sided with Mellouli and Laramore on the point. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote the majority opinion.

The dissent, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, emphasized immigrant responsibility to the letter of the law. In his opinion, Thomas wrote, there is “nothing absurd about removing individuals who are unwilling to respect the drug laws.”

Biz, Tech Leaders Support DREAMer Scholarship Fund

June 22nd, 2015 by Romona Paden

Mark Zuckerberg FacebookTheDream.US, a scholarship fund launched last spring that’s specifically geared toward undocumented students who are ineligible for federal financial aid, got a $5 million boost to its coffers earlier in June with a donation from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.  TheDream.US funds are designed as a “private sector analogue to states that have moved to offer in-state tuition rates” to those who qualify as having Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.

In a Facebook status update following his donation, Zuckerberg wrote, “Hundreds of thousands of young immigrants are part of our communities and attend school legally in the United States.” Zuckerbergs continues, “Many of them moved to America early in their lives and can’t remember living anywhere else. They want to remain in the country they love and be a part of America’s future. But without documentation, it’s often a struggle to get a college education, and they don’t have access to any kind of federal aid.”

Besides the June donation to TheDream.US, Zuckerberg is a long-time supporter of immigration reform. In early 2014, we told you about FWD.US as a group the tech guru started in response to seeing talented high school kids with no options for attending college. Other tech titans likewise aligned with FWD.US, including  LinkedIn founder Reig Hoffman, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

As far as TheDream.US is concerned, funders include The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Fernandez Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Inter-American Development Bank, Patty Stoesifer & Michael Kinsley. TheDream.US. was founded by Donald Graham, the former owner of The Washington Post. The D.C.-based paper, which the Graham Family had owned for generations, was sold to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2013.

At its founding last year, TheDream.US had raised more than $25 million with the aim of funding scholarships for more than 2,000 people attending one of the group’s partner schools. At the time, the partner schools included 12 community colleges, four-year schools and one online program.

“While immigration reform may eventually address the issue, TheDream.US founders are not content to wait as the futures of these young Americans hang in the balance,” a statement from the group said at the time.  And with the organization’s latest donation, it appears the sentiment still rings true.

Texas Immigration Suit’s Economic Irony

June 19th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigration and DACAA new report issued by the Center for American Progress strikes ironic notes as the economic analysis shows Texas—a lead litigant in the multi-state lawsuit that has resulted in a federal injunction on President Obama’s executive actions on immigration—stands to net substantial gains with the implementation of the presidential proposals. The Lone Star State, according to the report, stands to gain over the next decade in terms of gaining thousands of jobs and increasing the state’s GDP by billions of dollars over the next decade.

Last November, the president proposed an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the implementation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA)—proposals that would shield millions of immigrants from deportation by bestowing legal status and the authorization to work in the country. In late spring 2015, DACA has been in effect for three years.

An estimated 746,000 people are potentially eligible for the expansion and implementation of the programs in Texas, according to the Center for American Progress. Based on this, the state’s GDP could grow by more than $38 billion over a ten-year period. On the jobs front, Texas could gain some 4,800 jobs per year with the programs.

The numbers reflect the highest return in the country outside of California, a state that’s not part of the suit against the executive proposals. California is home to the country’s largest undocumented population and could see close to $76 billion more GDP over the next decade and around 9,500 additional jobs annually.

“Temporary work permits mean that wages for undocumented immigrants will go up—out estimate is by about 8.5 percent on average,” Center for American Progress policy analyst Silva Mathema is quoted as saying in the Huffington Post. “Having more wages means they’ll have more income to spend on basically everything, from cars to clothes to everything else, because they are consumers as well. It will create jobs for everyone in the state.” Mathema adds, “It’s very straightforward.”

In terms of the country as a whole, the Center for American Progress reports, unimpeded deferred action would boost the national GDP by $230 billion over the next 10 years.

“Deferred action produces much-needed economic benefits for our states,” Mathema said.

Immigrant Birthrates Shift Demographic Projections

June 17th, 2015 by Romona Paden

californiaWhile Hispanics make up California’s largest ethnic population—and have accounted for about two-thirds of the state’s overall population growth since 1980—substantial shifts in birthrates and immigration patterns are bringing about changes in California demographic projections. The group, which had been projected to account for a majority of the state’s population by 2050, now won’t reach that milestone until a decade later in 2060.

Resident Hispanics living in California currently account for 15 million of the state’s 38 million residents. While projections published in 2007 put the state’s Hispanic population at 31 million—52.1 percent of the population—by 2050, revised numbers put the Hispanic population at 23.7 million in 2050. The difference takes the racial proportion to less than half—47.6 percent. By 2060, according to Pew Research reported numbers from the California Department of Finance, Hispanics numbers will climb to 25.5 million. Growth in the group’s population still falls shy of gaining a clear majority as Pew projects the number as representing only 49.3 percent of the state’s overall population.

The reasons behind the projection slowdown are twofold, according to Pew: birthrate and recession. Where birthrate is concerned, Pew tracked an overall decline in U.S. births of 8 percent between the years 2007 and 2010. The decline consisted of a drop of 14 percent in the birthrate among foreign-born women. Strikingly, the birthrates among native Mexican women fell by 23 percent.

While the number of babies born in the United States dropped, the immigration patterns among Hispanics have also shifted. According to Pew, immigration to the United States from Latin America slowed dramatically with the onset of the Great Recession in 2008.

The decline in the Hispanic birth rate, Pew researchers say, is directly correlated to economic difficulties. The greatest drop in birthrates in the country was among the states with the largest declines in economic indicators.

“Despite a recent drop in unauthorized immigration from Mexico, the largest source country for U.S. immigrants, the Pew Research analysis found no decline in the number of foreign-born women of childbearing age,” according to the report.

Read about Mexican immigration trends here.

June Celebrates Immigrant Heritage

June 11th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Executive OrdersUsing the occasion to again call for a cooperative federal effort towards immigration reform, President Barack Obama used his first weekly statement for June to acknowledge the second annual Immigrant Heritage Month. The president’s rhetoric comes in the wake of stalled efforts to give current legal status to an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants.

“We are a nation of immigrants,” the president says on the video. “It’s a source of strength and something we can take pride in.”

While the president touts the nation’s immigrant identity where “almost everyone’s ancestors came from somewhere else,” he also acknowledges the failure of the status quo. “We can’t just celebrate this heritage,” he says of multi-cultural ancestry, “we have to defend it by fixing out broken immigration system.”

Last November, the president announced a series of executive actions surrounding immigration reform. Among these, an expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as well as the implementation of a similar program for parents of legal residents and U.S. citizens.

The irony, of course, is that Obama Administration proposals for reform are stalled due to an injunction imposed by a federal court. And although supporters of the proposed reforms continue to claim confidence in their defense of amnesty programs as lawful, The Washington Post reports the White House has effectively abandoned efforts on this front.

According to the story the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suspended plans to hire 3,100 new employees for work in a D.C.-area 11-story building the government leased at a cost of $7.8 million. The previously scheduled new hires were slated to assist in the processing of the expected flood of immigrants affected by the president’s new rules.

Josh Hoyt, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans in Chicago, isn’t letting the court impediments on immigration reform stop him from continuing outreach efforts. Under his leadership, Hoyt’s organization has held more than 700 information sessions on the new programs and has also trained more than 2,000 volunteers to help immigrants navigate the new rules.

“We’re full steam ahead,” Hoyt said.

USCIS Extends Somali TPS

June 10th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Temporary Protected Status for SomaliansSomali nationals and other African immigrants eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will have that status extended, according to a statement from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS.) The agency encourages beneficiaries to re-register sooner rather than later during the re-registration period, which runs from June 1, 2015 through July 31, 2015.

The USCIS statement describes the TPS extension as for those “eligible nationals of Somalia (and eligible individuals without nationality who last habitually resided in Somalia).” The extension is for an additional 18 months, and it’s effective from Sept. 18, 2015 through to March 17, 2017. The decision to extend the status was made by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson.

The extension allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD.) These EAD applicants will receive the document with an expiration of March 17, 2017.

Materials needed for TPS re-registration include:

  • Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status
  • Services fee or fee waiver request for biometrics
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

Re-registrants should note that they don’t need to pay the Form I-821 application fee. Also, the biometrics requirement applies to those who are aged 14 or older. Additionally, Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization is a required form for all re-registrants, regardless of the intention to work or not. In any case, the fee or fee waiver request is only necessary if re-registrants want an EAD.

Civil war erupted in Somalia in 1991 when armed groups ousted the military government of President Mohamed Siad Barre. From here, the country fell into anarchy. The Somalia capital of Mogadishu came to be defined by killing, looting and rape.

Other stories you might like:

The police department in Lewistown, Maine is actively laying the groundwork to recruit its first Somali or other African-heritage officer. The idea is to develop the force to mirror the community as a whole. Check out Policing Immigration Integration.

USCIS extended Temporary Protected Status for eligible Haitians. For these refugees who re-registered, TPS status is extended through Jan. 22, 2016. The story is TPS Extended for Haitian Immigrants.

Policing Immigrant Integration

June 3rd, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigrants to MaineThe immigrant surge that hit Lewiston, Maine some 14 years ago changed the face of the city from a predominantly white community to one with a non-white population of around 15 percent—one of the highest non-white rates in the state. Now, the Lewiston Police Department is actively looking to diversify its ranks to reflect more accurately reflect the community it serves.

Around a decade-and-a-half ago, a wave of mostly Somali immigrants began settling in Lewiston. In the years since then, these immigrants became established elements within the community. And because the second generation of these immigrants is now coming of age, the portion of the population with strong immigrant ties grows accordingly.

For Lewiston Police Chief Michael Bussiere, a concerted recruiting effort toward a diversified workforce only makes sense. “We want our department to try to be reflective of the broader community it serves,” Bussiere told local newspaper The Press Herald. “And that’s a difficult battle sometimes, but it’s one that deserves our attention.”

By the newspaper account, Bussiere and the Lewiston Police Department already have a solid community outreach program in place to keep the difficulties to a minimum. For instance, cops routinely work to engage the immigrant community by educating new residents about areas with potential for cultural misinterpretation. Because of the United States and Somalia and other African nations interpret “public safety” vastly differently, Lewiston police put a premium on this outreach effort.

A dominant part of those conversations about public safety now also include the topic of law enforcement recruitment. While Bussiere hopes it will be sooner than later, Bussiere says it’s only a matter of time before Somali—or other African heritage—is included in the makeup of Lewiston’s finest.

Erin Reed is director of the community organization Trinity Jubilee Center. The center serves low-income residents in the area, including immigrants. “It can take people awhile to begin trusting the police,” said Reed. “Their only experiences have been with armed militias and violent security forces and they are afraid. But they start to see that when there is an issue, the police listen to people and make fair decisions. They see that when a crime is committed, the police spend a lot of time figuring out who did it, finding them and bringing them to justice.”

Bussiere said it’s only a matter of time before his department employs an officer of Somali heritage – or any other African heritage, for that matter – but he’d like that time to be soon. Over the next three years, around 25 percent of the current 82 Lewiston officers will be due to retire.

USCIS Expedites Haitian Family Reunification

June 1st, 2015 by Romona Paden

Hatian ImmigrantsHaitian immigrants who are living in the United States as either citizens or legal permanent residents are closer to reuniting with family members who remain on the Caribbean island. By implementing the Haitian Family Reunification Parole (HFRP) Program, the nation’s immigration agencies expedite family reunification by approximately two years by allowing entry prior to immigrant visa availability.

The idea behind the program, according to a USCIS blog entry, is its important role not only to the “individuals it assists, but in a larger sense, to the nation of Haiti as it recovers from the 2010 earthquake.”

The 7.3-magnitude earthquake that struck the nation five years ago, brought in a death toll of more than 220,000 and those with injuries at more than 300,000. More than 1.5 million people were made homeless due to the disaster.

The Migration Policy Institute reports Haitian immigrant population numbers in the United States as only around 5,000 in 1960. In the late 1980s, the immigration rate climbed following the collapse of the Duvalier dictatorship. By 1990, the Haitian immigrant population had reached 200,000 and reached 606,000 in 2012. In terms of the total U.S. foreign-born population, Haitians comprise 1.5 percent of the total.

The political unrest of the late 1980s and the early 1990s fueled a mass exodus from Haiti with many immigrants settling in Miami, New York and Boston. Now with many Haitian nationals remaining on the island, immigrants living in the country are contributing handily to the country’s gross domestic product.

Muzaffar Chisti at the Migration Policy Institute says Haitian immigrants demonstrate a “very robust diaspora.” Immigrants living in the United States, he says, send approximately $1.8 billion each year in remittances, “which is pretty close to 25 percent of the GDP of Haiti. So it’s a very important contributing factor to the Haitian economy.”

With the HFRP Program, certain eligible U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can apply for parole for family members in Haiti. In cases where parole is granted, family members can come to the United States up to two years soon than when their immigrant visa priority dates become current. Once these paroled individuals are in the United States, they can apply for work authorization while waiting to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

Appeals Court Continues Amnesty Injunction

May 26th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigration ReformPresident Obama and the Department of Justice face another legal hurdle in moving forward with immigration reform as a federal appeals court upheld an injunction to prevent the implementation of executive orders announced late last year. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, New Orleans ruled on the injunction, which was imposed by Judge Andrew Hanen, a federal judge in Texas who issued the edict in February.

At the appeals level, two of the three judges on the court panel in New Orleans, agreed state attorneys for Texas had demonstrated it would incur significant costs to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants who would gain legal status under the president’s executive action.  In their 70-page opinion, Judge Jerry Smith and Jennifer Elrod also dismissed the administration’s argument that policy decision on immigration law enforcement was out of the purview of the courts.

In his dissent, Judge Stephen Higginson stated the Obama Administration was “adhering to the law, not derogating from it.”

The New York Times frames the decision as one where, “The appeals court found that Texas and the other states had sufficient legal grounds to bring the lawsuit and that the administration had not shown that it would be harmed if the injunction remained in place and the programs were further delayed.”

While the appeals court’s refusal to lift the injunction is likely frustrating to immigration advocates who’ve battled so long and so hard for reform, the decision was not unexpected. Commentators noted the court in New Orleans would likely maintain the injunction, and would force administration attorneys to up their game with an ultimate appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Still, the situation might not be as bleak as it first appears, according to Washington University immigration law professor Stephen Legomsky. Legomsky is the former top lawyer at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. In its story on the ruling, the New York Times quotes the professor’s reaction to the judges’ statements as, “a delay would cause no irreparable harm.” What’s more, Legomsky goes further to say the injunction could be thrown out as the panel of judges making the ultimate decision “could well agree with the government’s position and reverse Judge Hanen’s injunction.”

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