US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a memo on July 5, 2018 requiring its officers to issue a Notice to Appear (NTA) to foreign nationals deemed “not lawfully present” in the United States upon the denial of their immigration benefit.
The government issues NTAs to foreign nationals found to be removable from the country. NTAs of this nature mark the commencement of the removal proceedings of a foreign national, thereby requiring them to appear before an immigration judge for such proceedings.
These new guidelines are expected to influence the proceedings of a wide range of immigration cases, particularly nonimmigrant workers and students.
- Foreign nationals who are lawfully in the country under the specialized working H-1B visa, for example, may be asked to appear in immigration court for their removal proceedings should their visa extension be denied or their visa expire while awaiting USCIS’ approval of their application.
- Student visa holders are just as vulnerable to the new policy. When immigrant students approach the end of their lawful stay in the country, they may seek to extend or change their status. But because the application process is prone to delays, they may fall out of status and consequently face deportation.
Similar existing USCIS policies were already in place instructing and guiding the issuance of NTAs. This new policy primarily works to align the agency’s operations with President Trump’s January 25, 2017 executive order, that is, to legally increase the number of outgoing immigrants through policy changes on the micro level and placing greater emphasis on federal immigration law enforcement.
Before the new policy, USCIS primarily served as a passive “service-oriented” branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), whereas Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took more active roles in handling immigration cases. On the matter of NTAs, USCIS was only expected to pass on sensitive cases, as well as their deliberation, to ICE. Now, USCIS officers are obligated to issue NTAs even against their own judgment.
Immigration rights advocates believe that all this could lead to a spike in deportation proceedings even for individuals who have lawfully been in the United States for years. It also follows that the already overwhelmed immigration court system will be further burdened by the massive influx of removal cases.
This new mandate is currently in effect. No groups have come forward to legally challenge the policy.
If you, or a loved one, believe you will be impacted by this issue, or are dealing other immigration-related problem, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.