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Haiti TPS Designation Extended Additional 18 Months

September 2nd, 2015 by Romona Paden

Hatian ImmigrantsThe Temporary Protected Status (TPS) granted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) toward Haitian immigrants after a devastating January 21, 2010 earthquake struck the country has been extended for an additional 18 months. The extension is effective from Jan. 23, 2016, through July 22, 2017.

In an August 25 announcement posted on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) site, current TPS Haiti beneficiaries seeking to extend status must re-register during the 60-day period that runs from Aug. 25, 2015 through Oct. 26, 2015. The extended designation runs from Jan. 23, 2016 through July 22, 2017. The announcement also notes beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible.

With the 18-month extension, TPS beneficiaries who re-register can also apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Those who re-register before the October 26 deadline will receive a new EAD valid through July 22, 2017.

Because some re-registrants might not receive their new EADs until after expiration of a current EAD, “USCIS is automatically extending current TPS Haiti EADs bearing a Jan. 22, 2016 expiration date for an additional six months,” according the announcement. “These existing EADs are now valid through July 22, 2016.”

The checklist of materials to submit in order to re-register:

The Secretary of Homeland Security can grant TPS status to a foreign country due to conditions inside the country that “temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately,” according to USCIS information. “ USCIS may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the United States.  Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS.”

Alabama Trumps Immigration

August 27th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigrant influence in politicsAs a candidate who’s brought undocumented immigration to the forefront of issues in the presidential election, Donald Trump underscored his position at a mid-August rally at the University of South Alabama. While the billionaire presidential hopeful attracted a crowd of 30,000 to the event, one element that’s often been overlooked is that the state already has significant crackdown policies on the books that courts have consistently overthrown.

Passed by a new Republican legislature in 2011, the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act is designed to pressure undocumented immigrants to stay out of the state. The bill’s chief architect, Micky Hammon, said the passage of HR 56 would “make it difficult for them to live here, so they will deport themselves,” according to a Washington Post story on the topic. Renting a house to an undocumented immigrant, for example, became a crime. Additionally, the state’s police force as well as school administrators were empowered to demand proof of citizenship from anyone “who looked as if he or she might lack it,” according to the story.

The effect of the law brought substantial pushback from those on the other side of the issue. On the legal side, court challenges chipped away at the teeth in the law. On the political front, a public relations campaign successfully pushed the blame for vanishing capital investment and an exodus of agricultural workers at the foot of Republicans in the state.

One prominent Republican who supported the Alabama law was Mitt Romney, the party’s nominee in the 2012 election cycle. As the Washington Post story puts it, political strategists blamed Romney’s loss on “his support for the Alabama attrition policy. Those critics included Donald Trump.”

One of those on the other side of the issue from Trump is Frank Barragan. Barragan is the regional organizer in Mobile for the Alabama Coalition for Immigration Justice.

We could tell him a hundred of the things that went wrong in Alabama,” Barragan said in the story. “But our biggest concern is not really Donald Trump. Oour concern is that the other candidates are jumping on that bandwagon.”

Related: Arizona Immigration Laws go to Court

Papal Visit Could Push Immigration Agenda

August 25th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Pope Francis in March 2013Well known for his advocacy on behalf of immigrants the world over, Pope Francis will likely continue his crusade for the cause when the pontiff addresses both houses of congress during his visit to the United States in September. In addition to his address to Congressional lawmakers in Washington D.C., the pope’s itinerary during his U.S. visit also includes meetings with immigrants and Hispanic families

Pope Francis has been a vocal advocate for immigrants since he became head of the Roman Catholic Church in March 2013. Weighing in on the surge of Central American children crossing into the United States last year, he called the situation a “humanitarian emergency.” The pope has likewise previously noted a “tragic rise” in the number of immigrants fleeing poverty around the world. The pope will underscore his support of immigrants further by entering the United States by crossing over the southern border from Mexico if time allows.

Approximately one-third—169—of congressional lawmakers in Washington D.C. self identify as Catholic. Among the most high profile of these are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-L.A., and Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is also a devout Catholic and has invited the last three popes to address Congress.

Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democratic official from Massachusetts, is another Catholic who serves on Capitol Hill. “He’s been clear on our failure to respond appropriately to immigrants and refugees,” Rep. McGovern told Congressional Quarterly. “It may move some, it may not move others, but I hope it makes those who have been obstructionist feel uncomfortable.”

While McGovern anticipates the pope’s focus as immigration, Speaker Boehner’s office put out a statement that steers away from anticipating a single topic. “It will be the first time a pope has visited our Capitol building and also the first time a Pope has addressed a joint session of Congress,” according to a statement from a spokesperson. “While we cannot predict his remarks, we expect he’ll discuss issues that are important to Americans from all walks of life and on both sides of the aisle.”

Immigration Spotlight Shines on Presidential Candidates

August 20th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Senate Immigration BillAs the 2016 presidential election cycle picks up steam, immigration reform is playing out as a top issue. To make sure voters can stay abreast of candidate approaches, immigration reform-focused Fwd.us has introduced two new tools: The Presidential Candidate Tracker and The GOP Future Project.

According to a Fwd.us description, the tools are designed to enable “supporters to stay well-informed on both the latest candidate statements on immigration and how demographic shifts are altering the road to the White House forever.”

Each of the tools is straightforward in its approach. The mission with the Presidential Candidate Tracker, for instance, is to “Make it crystal clear to voters and supporters where each and every candidate stands on immigration.”  The tracker provides a database of “on-the-record comments made by 2016 presidential contenders around immigration-related issues.” The intent of the tracker tool is designed to be comprehensive as quotes are tracked in real time, the description says, and includes candidate statements—whether uttered within a debate forum or at a town hall meeting.

The tracking tool looks to be a welcome addition among immigration-focused voters. Fwd.us reports massive increase in its use with the first GOP debate.  “Our 2016 Candidate Tracker proved a popular way for viewers to review what was said last night, our visitors skyrocketed 2,000 percent during the debates.”

While the tracking tool is updated with quotes from all presidential candidates—both Democrat and Republican—the tool can also be customized. For example, users can choose to track only specific candidates for daily updates on their immigration-related statements.

Developers of the GOP Future Project state their mission as a means to “visualize key demographic shifts in the American electorate over time that will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in the outcome of the 2016 election—and those to come.” Pointing out that Latinos and Asian-Americans have increasingly shifted support away from the Republican Party of the past 10 years, the GOP Future Project tracks publicly-available information demonstrating changing demographics in some states “have serious implications for the GOP’s long-term electoral success.”

Fwd.us is the brainchild of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg. Zuckerburg has a well-established record of supporting immigration reform, especially in cases involving highly-skilled workers.

DACA Exec Actions Bring Relief to Many

August 17th, 2015 by Romona Paden

US immigration reformWhen President Obama set out on immigration reform, one central idea was to shift the enforcement focus away from those immigrants who are settled and established in their communities and toward those who are newly arrived or who are destructive in their communities. As updated policies take effect, this effort continues to take shape.

Since President Obama announced a series of executive actions in November of last year, implementation of his expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been met with court challenges. Despite this, some elements of the executive order are moving forward without legal challenge could well substantially impact immigration enforcement protocols.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is implementing new enforcement priorities with updated policy guidance that targets unauthorized immigrants and other noncitizens who’ve committed serious crimes as priority in terms of enforcement.

In a paper published in July by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), author Marc Rosenblum, the organization’s deputy director of U.S. immigration policy, describes the context of the new enforcement priorities as building on those Obama Administration guidelines established in 2010 and 2011.  The guidance “further targets enforcement to noncitizens who have been convicted of serious crimes, are threats to public safety, are recent illegal entrants, or have violated recent deportation orders.”

Under Rosneblum’s assessment of the new enforcement paradigm, around 13 percent of unauthorized immigrants who are living in the United States would be considered as priority targets. This is compared to 27 percent of the same unauthorized population who would be targeted under the 2010-2011 enforcement guidelines.

“The net effect of this new guidance will likely be a reduction in deportations from within the interior of the United States as DHS detention and deportation resources are increasingly allocated to more explicitly defined priorities,” Rosenblum writes in his report. The net effect is “likely to reduce deportations from within the United States by about 25,000 cases—bringing interior removals below the 100,000 mark.”

The key area of offset insofar as the reduced number of removals from the country’s interior is the high priority of the Southern border. According to MPI, DHS will maintain top priority on the removal of unauthorized immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

MPI characterizes the policy shift as offering an extra layer of protection to an estimated 87 percent of unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States.

EAD Recall Results in 22 DACA Terminations

August 13th, 2015 by Romona Paden

A recall on certain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) received after Feb. 16, 2015 has resulted in 99 percent compliance among the approximately 2,600 immigrants who were required to return their work permits. Under the recall, United States Citizenship and immigration Service (USCIS) officials gave the affected group until July 30 to return the invalid documents.

“This action affects approximately 2,100 3-year DACA work permits mistakenly issued after the court order,” a USCIS statement says about the recall. “It also affects approximately 500 3-year DACA work permits that were issued before the court order, returned to USCIS as undeliverable and then re-mailed to updated addresses after the court order.” USCIS likewise notes, “The term ‘3-year EADs or work permits; includes some cards that were issued with validity periods of greater than 2 years.”

The high compliance rate in the return of the invalid EADs means DACA-status termination for just 22 immigrants.

For questions about the recall and information about documents, USCIS has developed a site– Case Status Online.

With the site, users can access USCIS records to find out if the agency has received the invalid card or certification. In cases where the invalid documentation was returned, USCIS provide the date sent of a confirmation or compliance notice.

In cases where invalid documents have not been returned, the site will provide the date sent of the DACA termination notice. USCIS makes special note on this point that those who are still in possession of these invalid three-year permits are still required to return the document.

Those who aren’t at all affected by the recall—some 108,000 DACA immigrants possess valid three-year work permits—will see information about the last action taken on their case.

In another effort to clarify the recall information, USCIS has also developed a Quick Facts page. Additionally, USCIS encourages directing questions toward its customer service line at 1-800-375-5283,or visit your local USCIS field office between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone TPS Deadlines Approach

August 10th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Employment Authorization Document

Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) are available to recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Eligible nationals from the countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have until Aug. 18 to establish Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation. The deadline marks the end of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’) 90-day extension of the initial registration period, and it is also inclusive of those people without nationality who last resided habitually in Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone.

TPS eligibility requires meeting certain criteria. Included in these criteria is continuous residency in the United States since Nov. 20, 2014 as well as continuously physically present in the United States since Nov. 21, 2014. Individuals who apply for TPS designation are also required to undergo thorough security checks. Those individuals who have certain criminal records or those who are deemed to pose a threat to national security aren’t eligible for TPS designation.

Registering for TPS designation requires applicants to submit:

  • Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status
  • Biometric service fee (or fee-waiver request) for those applicants aged 14 or older
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, even in cases where no EAD is desired
  • Form I-765 application fee (or fee-waiver request) for those who want an EAD. Applicants who don’t want an EAD don’t need to provide the fee.

Form I-765 fees don’t apply to applicants who are under age 14 or who are over age 66. These applicants receive their initial EAD cards at no cost.

DHS offers TPS designation for several reasons. These include:

  • Ongoing armed conflict, such as in the case of a civil war
  • Environmental disaster like an earthquake or hurricane
  • Extraordinary or temporary conditions

DHS offers TPS designation for nationals of foreign countries where conditions are unsafe for return or in cases where conditions don’t allow for the adequate handling of the return of nationals. In the United States, it’s the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service that grants TPS status to nationals of certain countries.

Nationals who are granted TPS designation, or who have preliminary eligibility for TPS on initial review, aren’t removable from the United States. However, TPS designation is not a path toward lawful permanent resident status or any other immigration status.

Judicial Burnout Backlogs Immigration Courts

August 6th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigration ReformAs one of the most under-resourced sectors of the judicial system, immigration courts around the country are dealing with a massive backlog of cases that has judges facing overwhelming caseloads and extreme burnout rates. As a result, tens of thousands of immigrants face years-long waits for their day in court.

Jumping by close to 160 percent since 2007, the massive increase in caseload means some low-priority hearings are scheduled out all the way to 2019. Among the most significant contributing factors in the situation are the deluges of unaccompanied minors who crossed the southern border in record-breaking numbers last year and that only 250 immigration judges are currently sitting on the bench of these federal immigration courts.

The backlog means judges are taking on thousands of cases—more than 1,400 each year, and some judges taking on more than 3,000 cases each year. The typical annual caseload for judges in other sectors of the judicial system is around 500. All this amounts to an increased wait time of close to 40 percent over the last five years before immigrants get their day in court.

Compounding the situation is that 100 judges are up for retirement this year. San Francisco immigration judge and National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) president Dana Leigh Marks says it’s more common than not for the professionals to retire as soon as possible.

“If working conditions were what they should be, these individuals would work longer and that would be a benefit to everyone,” Marks says in an article on the matter.

In an abstract on a NAIJ-member survey report, authors describe judges’ massive caseload as consisting of “one horrific story of human suffering after another, face significant risks of stress and burnout – conditions that make adjudicating cases more challenging.”

Insufficient support staffing, office space and outdated technology are other complaints that drive judges off the bench. A blunt characterization of working conditions from one respondent to the NAIJ survey says, “I have been in government service for decades, including combat duty, and I have never detested a working environment more than I do in this capacity.”

Read the May report Immigration Courts Reach New Levels of Overwhelm.

USCIS Hosts EB-5 Stakeholder Dialogue

August 3rd, 2015 by Romona Paden

EB-5The Immigrant Investor Program, which uses the EB-5 visas, is up for discussion later this month as United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will engage stakeholders in a dialogue on the investor program. The event is part of the USCIS overall efforts to enhance stakeholder dialogue on the EB-5 program.

With the Immigrant Investor Program, foreign-born nationals gain access to legal permanent resident status—Green Cards. With the program, these foreign-born investors must invest in U.S. business at a $1 million level. The requirement drops to $500,000 to business investments made in low-income and distressed areas. Areas requiring the lower investment level to meet the investment threshold are those with exceptionally high unemployment rates—at least 150 percent of the national average. Immigrants who use the lower tier must invest in areas identified as a  “targeted employment area (TEA).”

Both the $1 million investment level as well as the $500,000 level requires the creation or preservation of at least 10 jobs. Immigrant investors who meet these requirements receive permanent residency status—a Green Card.

The event, which is scheduled for Thursday, August 15, will be held in Los Angeles from 11 a.m. until 12:30 Pacific time. Those who are interested in the topic can attend the live event at the local USCIS office in LA, though seating is limited. Attendance through teleconference is also an option. In either case, registration is required. For those attending the event in person, early registration is suggested.

According to a release on the event, the event is scheduled in two parts. The event will kick off with USCIS officials providing updates on the EB-5 program.  In the second portion of the program, officials will take question and offer answers about the program. On this, participants should note that officials will offer answers only to non-case specific questions.

The EB-5 visa, which has been in existence for 25 years, appeals to economic development professionals as a means to tap into inexpensive capital. As reported in April,  The Brookings Institution correlates the eco devo courtship of wealthy foreign nationals to filling the investment void in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown. Indeed, as banks have tightened their lending standards, foreign investors offer low-cost dollars financed by patient international investors.

Public Service Announcement: USCIS Recalls DACA EADs

July 29th, 2015 by Romona Paden

ead-card-back-qanda

Image of a United States Employment Authorization Document (EAD) front (left) and back (above).

Employment Authorization Document

Some immigrants who received three-year work permits  earlier this year must return the documents to local offices of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or face termination of work authorization and legal status.

Officials with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) are reaching out to some immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status with three-year Employment Authorization Documents (EADs.) Specifically, USCIS is urging the return of the work permits issued after Feb. 16, 2015—the day a federal injunction on President Obama’s executive orders on immigration reform went into effect.

“If you received a letter or were contacted directly by USCIS regarding the recall of certain three-year work permits, you must IMMEDIATELY return your three-year work permit, also called an Employment Authorization Document, to your local USCIS office,” a USCIS correspondence reads. “If you fail to return your card, USCIS will terminate your DACA and all employment authorizations effective July 31, 2015.”

Among those who must return the recalled EADs are 2,100 DACA immigrants who received three-year work permits that were issued after February 16. USCIS has already notified this group of immigrants of the error and has also sent replacement EADs that are valid for the pre-reform timeframe of two years. Along with the revised work permits, USCIS is including a request for the return of the three-year work permits.

“USCIS is carefully tracking the number of returns of these invalid EADs and continues to take steps to collect the remaining cards,” according to the USCIS statement on the matter. “Individuals who are required to return three-year EADs and have not done so will be contacted by USCIS by phone or in person.”

Another immigrant group affected by the EAD recall are those DACA recipients whose work permits were undeliverable through the U.S. Post Office. USCIS re-issued around 500 three-year permits that fall into this category after the pivotal February 16 date.

It’s worth noting that approximately 108,000 three-year EADs issued before February 16 to DACA recipients are not included in the recall. Because the injunction had yet to go into effect, these EADs are still valid and don’t require any action with the USCIS.

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