* Dramatization
* Dramatization
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A federal judge recently declined to dismiss a class action accusing the Trump administration of exploiting a sham waiver process to deny entry to all waiver-eligible immigrants from the five Muslim-majority countries under the administration’s travel ban.

Members of the class action suit claimed that they had faced troubles with their waiver requests, what with officials at the State Department refusing to recognize the documents they present to support their requests. Other plaintiffs claimed that they were completely prohibited from applying for a waiver, a discretion reserved only for visa interviews. Members of the class consist of a total of 36 immigrants or relatives of immigrants from countries covered by the Trump travel ban namely Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

The class brought their case against the Trump administration in March 2018, claiming that the government has intentionally deviated from established guidelines and procedures mandated by law when reviewing travel ban waiver requests.

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it has resumed premium processing of all H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2019 cap, H-1B extensions for those only continuing in already-approved employment, and petitions filed by universities and nonprofit or government research organizations exempt from the cap.

Premium processing for most other types of H-1B petitions, however, currently remains unavailable.

Fortunately, processing of USCIS petitions were not paused during the government shutdown. The agency, however, said they are experiencing a significant slowdown in processing times.

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President Trump many have ended the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, signing a resolution to temporarily continue funding the government until February 15, but it’s effects will likely be felt for a long time. As the nation’s immigration courts reopen around the country, attorneys say that it could take years to remedy the delays in the system caused by the spat over the border wall.

Court finally resumed hearing cases of immigrants who attempted to enter the country, most of whom are seeking asylum or fighting to lawfully stay in the country. While this should come as good news, courts now have to deal with the aftermath of an 86,000-case backlog caused by the shutdown.

California had the greatest share of cancellations, followed by Texas and New York, according to estimates by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. They also report that the courts currently face a total backlog of more than 800,000 cases.

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Ever since Donald Trump took the presidency, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries in Texas have grown accustomed to the stress of not knowing what will happen to them. The problem has gotten so bad that the number of DREAMers (named after the DREAM Act, an immigration bill with similar provisions that failed to become law) in the state have been on a steady decline.

DACA is the product of an is an Obama-era executive order that grants immigrants who entered the country as children relief from deportation, allowing them to apply for temporary work permits and driver’s licenses every two years. It is estimated that before the Trump administration, there were at least 124,000 DACA recipients reside in Texas alone.

But amid talks of DACA being rescinded by the president, the Migration Policy Institute claims that the number of Texan DACA beneficiaries has since dropped to 115,000.

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Under a new policy intended to discourage Central American families from attempting to cross the border, the Trump administration announced its plans to start turning back immigrants who come to the border seeking asylum, forcing them to turn around across the southern border and wait in Mexico for their applications to be processed. According to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, the new policy claim that it will be implemented on January 25, 2019.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have been instructed to return asylum seekers attempting to enter the U.S. through the San Ysidro port of entry in California from Tijuana, Mexico. Thousands of migrants, many of whom are fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, have had no choice but to stay in Mexico in poor conditions.

Current policy states that passing an initial “credible fear interview” should be enough to allow a migrant to stay in the U.S. while waiting for an immigration judge to decide on their case. A 2015 federal court decision known as the Flores settlement states that migrant families with children may not be detained for longer than 20 days while single adults must remain detained while in waiting.

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As the government shutdown drags into its third week, immigration courts around the country have had no choice but to cancel tens of thousands of scheduled hearings over the holidays and the start of the new year.

At least 43,000 immigration court hearings were canceled between late December last year and January 11, this according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The researchers also add that this backlog is expected to balloon even further by another 20,000 cases with each week that the shutdown continues.

As the Trump administration and Congress remain at loggerheads over the president’s demands for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, many of the federal government’s non-essential functions have screeched to a halt, and that includes immigration courts. This, in turn, has disabled the country’s immigration system from dealing with the already colossal caseload consisting largely of asylum applications and other immigration claims.

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Earlier this month, White House insiders floated the idea of an immigration deal: a lasting solution for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—an Obama-era program that provides temporary work permits to young undocumented immigrants program—in exchange for the Trump administration’s controversial wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly rebuffed talks of such a deal, arguing 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 separate issues that cannot be lumped together.

Publicly, President Trump said he was not in the mood to negotiate over DACA. Sources from within the White House say the administration is instead waiting for the Supreme Court to finally rule on its challenge to DACA. But things could be much different behind the scenes, with advisors like Jared Kushner reportedly reaching out to House Democrats to offer some kind of DACA deal.

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In 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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While 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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While 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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