* Dramatization
* Dramatization
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office-1574717_640-300x205In an effort to reduce the volume of immigration applications rejected simply because of incorrect payments, the U.S. government has rolled out an online tool designed to help foreign nationals apply for immigration in keeping track the filing fees they still owe.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the implementation of a new feature on the agency’s website—an online fee calculator that accurately outlines the amounts an applicant still needs to pay for each form.

The agency admits that several immigration applications fell through the cracks in recent years largely due to the incorrect fees attached to these applications. In 2017 alone, USCIS processed over 11 million applications.

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magic-cube-1976725_640-300x155While a crackdown on undocumented immigrants was one of the core promises of President Trump throughout the campaign trail, his administration has also made key moves that are all but guaranteed to make it harder for people to go through the legal immigration process. More recently, the Trump administration introduced policy changes allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be more stringent in enforcing immigration laws.

These changes include updates to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations and procedures in handling immigrants attempting to legally enter the country—particularly those that involve deportation processes.

The issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) also follows a new procedure that expands the list of reasons for which immigrants would be required to appear before an immigration judge and go through the deportation proceedings. Among the items in the expanded list include violations of welfare programs (particularly the reception of public benefits), criminal activity, and denials of immigration benefits (e.g. refusing visas that change their legal migrant status).

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usa-2108027_640-300x200While the Trump administration has seemingly back off on pushing Mexico to pay for a multibillion dollar wall along the border, it is still working with the Mexican government to hammer out deals on the contentious issue of immigration.

Since Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office on December 1, 2018, officials from both Mexico and the United States have worked on solutions to better manage the flow of migrants going northward from Central America, crossing into Mexico and then into the U.S.

At present, both countries have arrived at a dual-track approach, which involves:

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rust-3745490_640-300x200President Trump’s shutdown of the federal government has further delayed the resolution of thousands of immigration cases—a backlog that the Justice Department and immigration courts across the country have been struggling with.

Several U.S. immigration courts around the country remain closed as the government shutdown enters its third week, putting on hold the already unmanageable backlog of tens of thousands of immigration cases, many of which involve asylum application and other immigration claims.

The migrants involved, which the records office at the University of Syracuse puts at 800,000 in number, have no choice but to wait for the Congress and the Trump administration to arrive at a bipartisan deal that will finally fund government operations.

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hands-1150073_640-300x200The Trump administration has reportedly been rejecting lawful residence status applications to a startling number of immigrant youth, many of whom have left their home countries to flee abusive environments, because the government believes they are too old.

Young immigrants escaping abuse, abandonment, or neglect by a parent are legally allowed to seek a court-appointed guardian and green card to stay in the U.S., as provided by an immigration program that has been in effect since 1990. While the program clearly states that applicants must file paperwork before they reach the age of 21, the Trump administration insists that applicants beyond 18 are too old to qualify. As such, the government saw it fit to send out denial notices throughout the past year to applicants in California, New York, Texas, and New Jersey.

Immigrant rights advocates have since filed lawsuits against the government in courts in New York and California, arguing about the impact such a policy implementation would have on disenfranchised immigrant youth.

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children-593313_640-300x200As shelters on both sides of the border are no longer able to accept more migrants, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have been dropping off hundreds of migrant families onto the streets, leaving border communities overwhelmed.

Hundreds of migrants have been coming to the border seeking asylum, many of whom can no longer be housed in immigrant detention centers and have to be released to the streets. One night, last Wednesday, saw the release of 522 migrants with nowhere to go.

Shelters have run out of space and resources to accommodate more migrants. Across the border, Casa del Migrante has stopped admitting migrants due to a lack of resources. Another reason for doing so, they claim, is President Trump’s Christmas announcement that he and Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrado have come to an agreement to let asylum seekers wait for entry south of the border. The Mexican President and his Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, deny entering into such an agreement.

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urban-438393_640-300x199Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have released over 600 undocumented immigrants onto the streets of Texas—with 500 of them set free in El Paso— and New Mexico, citing the government’s difficulty in holding the massive influx of Central Americans crossing the border.

ICE made several other mass immigrant releases in previous days, claiming that these were foreign nationals who had already been detained for the maximum amount of time legally allowed. Another reason cited by the agency is that accommodations for detained immigrants have already reached their maximum capacity. ICE released 186 immigrants on Christmas Day and at least another 400 two days prior.

“To mitigate the risk of holding family units past the timeframe allotted to the government, ICE has curtailed reviews of post-release plans from families apprehended along the southwest border,” ICE claimed in a statement. “ICE continues to work with local and state officials and NGO partners in the area so they are prepared to provide assistance with transportation or other services.”

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posters-2590766_640-300x200House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi shot down a proposal to vote in favor of President Donald Trump’s border wall in exchange for a deal that would reportedly grant protections against deportation to thousands of young immigrants in the country.

Pelosi argued that funding for the border wall and legal protections for “DREAMers” (named after the failed DREAM Act, a bill that would’ve granted relief against deportation to immigrants who entered the country as minors) are two different issues and should not be lumped together.

As Democrats are set to take the majority of the House in January, Pelosi, who is gunning for the House speaker position, noted that Congress must pass appropriations bills that have already been agreed upon by key committees, along with a separation piece of legislation to ensure funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of border security. DHS funding, she added, should address border security but not necessarily include a provision for a wall that will cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.

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usa-1149896_640-300x198U.S. and Vietnam officials gathered last Monday to discuss the fate of a repatriation agreement protecting certain Vietnamese nationals from deportation, as reported by immigrants’ rights groups and several media outlets.

The memorandum of understanding, signed by both countries in 2008, defers the immediate deportation of Vietnamese immigrants who came to the United States before diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored in July 12, 1995. Should either country choose to forego renewing the agreement in January 2019, at least 8,000 Vietnamese immigrants stand to face deportation as they become subject to standard immigration law.

A large number of Vietnamese nationals who came to the U.S. during the time period covered by the agreement did so to escape the war in their home country. Doing away with the agreement, lawyers and advocates argue, would have a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of people who sought safety in the U.S.

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judge-1587300_640-300x225A U.S. District Court Judge shot down the Trump administration’s plan to implement a system that would speed up its efforts to deport immigrants seeking asylum, a ruling the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lauded.

In his 107-page ruling, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan explained that it was unlawful for the United States government to deport foreign nationals coming to the border to seek asylum without first assessing their asylum claims and determining whether they truly face a credible fear of persecution in their home country.

Sullivan pointed out that the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) mandates the process of thoroughly evaluating the legitimacy of asylum claims, thus, the government lacks the legal basis for banning certain types of asylum claims. This, he stressed, emphasizes the authority of Congress in determining the standard for expedited removal and the fact that immigration policies should not bow to the whims of the executive.