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EXECUTIVE REFORMS: Expanded DACA Eligibility

21 Nov

Another significant development coming out of the Presidential reforms announced yesterday is the expansion of DACA beyond its original parameters established in 2012.  For descriptions of the original DACA requirements, please see here. 

The executive reforms announced yesterday make the following reforms to the DACA program:

  • The date of entry for DACA eligibility has been changed from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010.  Individuals who entered the U.S. prior to their 16th birthday and prior to January 1, 2010 can qualify for DACA under the revised guidelines.
  • The age cap has been eliminated.  Originally, DACA was limited to individuals under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012.  The upper age limit has been eliminated and those who entered the U.S. before January 1, 2010 and were under the age of 16 will qualify regardless of their current age.
  • DACA work authorization will now be valid for three years as opposed to two.

These reforms will be implemented within 90 days. The other DACA requirements remain unchanged.

Over the coming weeks, Benach Ragland will hold reduced fee consultations for those who think they may qualify under this program.  We will also be holding free information sessions at community centers in the greater Washington metropolitan area.  For the latest information, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @BenachRagland.  To schedule a reduced fee consultation, please call 202-644-8600 or email msanchez@benachragland.com.

 

 

 

EXECUTIVE REFORMS: Deferred Action for the Parents of U.S. Citizens and Residents

21 Nov

As Joe Biden once said, this is a “big f’in’ deal.”

The centerpiece of the President’s immigration reforms announced yesterday is the expansion of deferred action to cover certain foreign national parents of United States citizens. Here are the details:

The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service will give deferred action and employment authorization to individuals who

  • As of November 20, 2014, have a son or daughter who is a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  • Entered the U.S. prior to January 1, 2010.
  • Are not in lawful status as of November 20, 2014
  • Are not an enforcement priority
  • Do not present other factors that weigh against a favorable exercise of discretion

People who fall within the DHS’ new enforcement priorities will be ineligible for deferred action.  With a new memo issued today, November 20, 2014, the DHS has revised the enforcement priorities for the agency.  The new enforcement priorities are divided into three levels of priority of decreasing priority.  Presumably, those not within the enforcement priorities memo are not enforcement priorities and should qualify for benefits and not be subject to efforts to seek removal. We have summarized the new enforcement priorities memo here.

Applicants will be required to provide fingerprints and undergo national security and criminal background checks.  The filing fee will be $465.  CIS has been directed to begin accepting applications no later than 180 days from the date of the announcement (May 19, 2015).

Over the coming weeks, Benach Ragland will hold reduced fee consultations for those who think they may qualify under this program.  We will also be holding free information sessions at community centers in the greater Washington metropolitan area.  For the latest information, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @BenachRagland.  To schedule a reduced fee consultation, please call 202-644-8600 or email msanchez@benachragland.com.

EXECUTIVE ACTION: The New Enforcement Priorities Memo

21 Nov

As part of the executive actions reforms announced by the administration yesterday, the administration has redefined the enforcement priorities for Immigration & Customs Enforcement.  Briefly, any law enforcement agency with limited resources can not realistically enforce the law against everyone who may have broken it.  Law enforcement agencies must pick and choose how to allocate their limited resources and where to expend their efforts.  The new enforcement priorities memo provides very clear guidance to ICE as to who their efforts ought to be focused upon.  Groups of people have been classified into three priorities for enforcement, in declining orders of priority.  Individuals not within this memo are, presumably, not priorities, and should be eligible for benefits and not subjected to enforcement actions like detention and removal.  The three classes of priority are as follows:

Priority 1 (Most serious)

  • individuals suspected of terrorism, espionage or who are otherwise a threat to national security
  • individuals apprehended at the border while trying to enter the country illegally
  • individuals involved in gangs or gang activity
  • individuals convicted of a felony unless the essential element of the offense is the individual’s immigration status
  • individuals convicted of an aggravated felony

Priority 2 (Medium serious)

  • individuals convicted of three or more misdemeanors, not including traffic offenses or offenses where an essential element is the individual’s immigration status
  • individuals convicted of a “significant misdemeanor”, which is defined as: an offense of domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug trafficking or distribution, driving under the influence, or any offense not included above for which the individual was sentenced to 90 days or more in custody (unlike in most immigration situations, a suspended sentence does not count)
  • those who have entered the U.S. unlawfully after January 1, 2014
  • significant visa or visa waiver abusers

Priority 3 (Less serious)

  • Individuals with a final order of removal entered after January 1, 2014, unless there are other factors that suggest that the individual should not be a priority for enforcement.

 

Once again, presumably, an individual not on any of these lists should not be considered a priority for removal and ICE is directed not to expend resources of seeking their detention and removal.  We will be watching ICE to see how the agents in the field respond to these revised priorities.

Early Details of Executive Action

20 Nov

s1.reutersmedia.netThe President spoke to the nation tonight to reveal his long-awaited plan to reform immigration laws to the extent that his authority allows him.  Those who have watched and waited had a number of questions answered even before the President took the lectern.  The biggest announcement is that the President will extend deferred action eligibility to the parents of United States citizens or permanent residents who have been in the US. since January 1, 2010.  The biggest disappointment is that the President took no action to protect the parents of young people granted DACA. Applications for any benefit are not to be accepted until “early 2015.”

  1. Deferred Action for Parents of Citizens and Residents who have been in U.S. since January 2010.  Applicants will have to demonstrate that they have been here since that date, that they have paid taxes, that they pass criminal and national security  checks.  They must show that they are not an enforcement priority, which has been newly defined in this action.
  2. Expanded DACA eligibility.  Individuals who arrived in the U.S. prior to the age of 16 and prior to January 1, 2010, regardless of their current age, can seek DACA if they meet the educational and discretionary criteria.
  3. Enforcement Priorities.  The Morton Memo on enforcement priorities is being rescinded and a new comprehensive inter-agency memo will identify enforcement priroties whose removal will be sought and expedited.  The groups prioritized are as follows: (1) serious threats- suspected terrorists, those convicted of felonies, gang members, and recent entrants (after 1/1/14); (2) individuals convicted of significant or multiple misdemeanors (similar to the current DACA standards); (3) individuals who have ignored removal orders and re-entered the country after 1/1/14.
  4. Departure under advance parole will not generate unlawful presence inadmissibility.
  5. The I-601A Provisional Waiver will be extended to the spouses of permanent residents.
  6. The Extreme Hardship Standard will also be modified.
  7. Pre-registration for those with approved but not current immigrant petitions to give those waiting for priority dates access to work permits and advance parole as if they had already applied for adjustment of status.
  8. Guidance to the Citizenship and Immigration Service on L-1B Specialized Knowledge Professionals and National Interest Waivers for Entrepreneurs.
  9. Increased periods of work authorization through optional practical training.

Unfortunately, the President has not gone so far as to provide for deferred action for the parents of those granted DACA.  In addition, the President has shown no sign of letting up on his persecution of women and children arriving at our Southern border.

More details and analysis to come.

President to Announce Executive Actions on Immigration

19 Nov

Obama

Tomorrow night (Thursday, November 20, 2014) at 8PM, the President of the United States will address the nation to announce what steps his administration intends to take to reform U.S. immigration law and policy.  This announcement represents the culmination of the President’s evolution on his authority as the nation’s chief executive.  In June 2014, when it became clear that the House of Representatives would not take up the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate, the President made a statement that he would take administrative action to ameliorate the harsh effects of our immigration law.  He said that he would take such action by the end of the summer.  However, as summer ended, desperate Democratic Senators in tight re-election races persuaded the President to hold off on his administrative reforms in the hopes that they could retain their seats.  However, the President’s forbearance did not help them- they lost anyway- and the President immediately reaffirmed his intention to “go as far as he can go under the law,” according to his adviser Cecilia Muñoz.  After a week of speculation, the President confirmed today that he will release the details of his immigration reform plans tomorrow night with a televised address from the White House, followed up by a rally in Las Vegas.  Details will not be known until tomorrow, but here is what has been reported most commonly:

  • The President plans to offer deferred action to the foreign national parents of U.S. citizen and permanent resident children who have been here for five years and have been law-abiding.
  • Reports indicate that the administration will make changes to how employment based visas are counted to reduce backlogs for needed workers.
  • The adminsitration will expand DACA to include young people who entered before 2010, as opposed to 2007, and eliminate the upper age limit for DACA.
  • Reports indicate that the plan DOES NOT provide deferred action to the parents of DACA recipients who have no citizen or resident children.
  • The program is reported to end Secure Communities, a disaster of a program.

These are the details that have been reported.  The plan may be different and we will now know until the formal announcements are made.  However, the provisions mentioned above, are the most commonly and consistently reported details.

What is deferred action?

Deferred action is a tool of law enforcement which allows an agency to define its priorities and focus its resources on its priorities.  It is a formal statement by the agency that a particular individual is not an enforcement priority and that the immigration agency will not utilize its limited resources to seek removal of that individual.

Is it residence?

No.  It is a temporary and revokable classification of convenience to the agency.  It does not provide an individual with residence or any promise of future residence.  It can be revoked at the discretion of the agency.  For example, a new administration could choose to eliminate the entire program.

Is this legal?

Almost certainly.  The Immigration & Nationality Act has provided the executive branch with wide latitude as to how it enforces the laws.  There are sizable gaps in the statutes passed by Congress that require the executive agencies to exercise their discretion about how they intend to enforce the immigration laws.   This discretion has been recognized by the Supreme Court in Arizona v. United States, where the Court wrote “A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials.  . . .  Federal officials, as an initial matter must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all.”  This broad discretion was also noted by the Supreme Court fifteen years ago in Reno v. America-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, where the Court wrote, “At each stage, the Executive has discretion to abandon the endeavor [referring to the removal process] and at the time the Illegal Immigration reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 was enacted the INS had been engaging in a regular practice (which had come to be known as ‘deferred action’) of exercising that discretion for humanitarian reasons or simply for its own convenience.”

How are Republicans going to react?

Reactions have ranged from pragmatic to hysterical.  There are voices, not to be underestimated, within the GOP that will declare that the President’s action is an impeachable offense.  Although Speaker of the House told the President that he would be “playing with fire” if he moved ahead with immigration, the Republicans seem genuinely conflicted about how to respond.  There are people within the GOP who believe that the Congress should pass its own legislation on immigration.  There are others who want to shut down the g0overnment or not confirm the President’s nominee for Attorney General to force the President to abandon his plan.

When will these changes take effect?

We don’t know.  They will not take effect overnight and there will be some lead time before the administration is prepared to take applications for deferred action from the up to 5 million people believed to be eligible.

What should I do while we are waiting?

First, don’t get arrested!  Second, gather essential documents, such as passports, matricula cards, birth certificates, marriage certificates, tax, school, medical and work records.  Third, consult with reputable lawyers to discuss issues like removal orders, criminal records or other potentially sensitive issues.

We will keep you informed with reliable and accurate information.

 

Is Executive Action on Immigration Imminent?

14 Nov

obama immigration reformIt is only fitting that major technological achievements like the successful placement of a lander on a comet be paired with news that the Obama administration is planning many reforms to our nation’s immigration policies.  After all, our space program and many of our most successful technological breakthroughs are directly related to an immigration policy that made it easier for the best and brightest to come and work here.  Yet, many worry today that our immigration system is so broken that it prevents the entry and lawful integration of hard workers struggling to improve their lives in the U.S.  The comet lander was a project of the European Space Agency and not NASA.

U.S. immigration policy today, instead, says no to the best and brightest, rejects those who are willing to perform jobs that others refuse to do, and breaks up families over minor violations.  In short, U.S. immigration policy not only does not help America grow, but is actually a hindrance.  Most people of fair judgment recognize this.  Last year, the Senate took a step to make some needed reforms to U.S. immigration law.  While the bill the Senate passed was far from perfect, it would have gone a long way to fixing many of the problems with the immigration system.  However, the House of Representatives refused to take up the bill and instead voted to deport DREAMers and sue the President.

In light of the crisis in immigration, the President announced in June that he would make changes by the end of the summer in regulations and policies to ameliorate the harsh edges of immigration law.  He pushed this back until after the November election to help certain Democrats retain their Senate seats, which they lost anyway.  Ironically, the one democrat that he could have helped with executive action, Mark Udall of Colorado, also lost, partially due to a discouraged Latino electorate.  Immediately after the drubbing Democrats took, the President reiterated his commitment to executive action on immigration reform.  Then IT happened.  A breathless report appeared last night (November 12) on FOX News stating that the President was going to announce his immigration “amnesty” plan on November 21 and he would legalize millions of immigrants.  The White House quickly denied that any final decisions had been made and that, certainly, no timelines had been promised.  Yet, today, the New York Times reported that the President was weighing an option that could provide up to 5 million immigrants with some type of DHS_cis_WR_atprotection from removal.  The NYT article stated that a central part of the plan is to provide deferred action, like DACA, to the parents of U.S. citizens or to people who have been here for a long period of time.  In addition, according to the Times:

Mr. Obama’s actions will also expand opportunities for immigrants who have high-tech skills, shift extra security resources to the nation’s southern border, revamp a controversial immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities, and provide clearer guidance to the agencies that enforce immigration laws about who should be a low priority for deportation, especially those with strong family ties and no serious criminal history.

A new enforcement memorandum, which will direct the actions of Border Patrol agents and judges at the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and other federal law enforcement and judicial agencies, will make clear that deportations should still proceed for convicted criminals, foreigners who pose national security risks and recent border crossers, officials said.

So far, these articles are the clearest indication that the President intends to do something about immigration.  And it appears that he is ready to do it soon.  It is important to note that nothing has been decided, no timetables have been set, and that the President is still free to choose to do nothing.  In addition, the Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has stated that the House will fight him “tooth and nail” on administrative reform.

In the meantime, it does appear that some form of administrative reform is coming.  We still don’t know what it might look like.  We asked this in August and still do not know for sure.  Although we do have some ideas. People who may benefit, such as the parents of U.S. citizens, should make sure that they have certified birth certificates, marriage certificates, tax returns, dispositions of criminal charges, school records, church records, passports and other papers showing who they are, what they have done with their lives and why they deserve a chance to stay.  And, since it is ThrowOverwhelmedback Thursday, we offer you this post from just over two years ago about what immigrants should do while waiting for deferred action relief.  Many of the suggestions remain good advice.

Stay tuned.  We will give you accurate and current information as it happens.

The Great Green Card Procurement Announcement Internet Freak-Out of October 2014.

23 Oct

Kim Jong un

In the past two months, North Korean despot Kim Jung-un disappeared and reappeared.  And earlier this week, the U.S. government sought bids on a potential government contract.  Both events caused massive speculation but little information regarding critical policy issues.

Those who watch the immigration issue with obsessive scrutiny noticed this week that the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service put out a request for bids for a contractor who could provide supplies to produce up to 34 million work permits.  Anti-immigration outlets quickly picked up on this obscure notice and sounded the alarm that the administration was preparing for “amnesty.”  Likewise, immigrant advocates were heartened and thought that this requisition orderCards was evidence that the administration planned to “go big” and announce expansive administrative measures to relieve the suffering caused by our merciless immigration laws.  The speculation grew so hot that White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest felt the need to tamp down expectations.  Yesterday, Earnest said, “I think those who are trying to read into those specific orders about what the president may decide are a little too cleverly trying to divine what the president’s ultimate conclusion might be. What I would caution you against is making assumptions about what will be in those announcements based on the procurement practices of the Department of Homeland Security.”

If people are “a little to cleverly trying to divine what the president’s ultimate conclusion might be,” the blame lies squarely with the White House.  On a topic of immense policy importance, the White House has been extraordinarily tight-lipped about that it plans to do or not do.  After resisting administrative action for several years while presiding over the most efficient deportation machine this country has ever known. the President raised hope of executive action in June 2014, announcing that he would take action on administrative reform by the end of the summer.  He charged the Secretary of Homeland Security with offering plans as to what steps the administration could take to relieve the suffering his removal policies have caused.  Of course, proposals for administrative reform have been around since before the President took office in 2009.  That deadline was scuttled to assuage skittish and vulnerable Democrats facing election in November.  So, the President announced that he would hold off on reform until after the elections.

Meanwhile, the tension mounts.  The anti-immigrant crowd is screeching about “Obama’s lawless amnesty” and the “ISIS-ebola-unaccompanied minor” threat.  Families continue to be torn apart and many Latino leaders are calling on people to sit out this election.  Everyone is waiting on the President to announce his plan.  The lack of information about what the President may do is what causes the internet to go berserk over “the procurement practices of the department immigration-protest-your-handsof Homeland Security.”  In the absence of real information, speculation and hysteria will fill the void.

Last month, the world engaged in speculation that North Korean despot Kim Jong-un had been overthrown because he had not been seen in weeks.  Reports of injuries to the dictator filled the airwaves until he reappeared in public.  Of course, such speculation makes complete sense in a country that tightly controls its media and in a government that operates by power and secrecy.  People interested in those affairs have learned how to divine what may be happening through little clues.  Just like in the Soviet era, insiders would try to figure out who was in and who was out by where they were seated at Party Congresses.

The internet freak-out caused by the White House’s lack of information about its plans and a cannily-timed procurement request can only be expected where the administration behaves more like the secretive cabal in North Korea than an American administration genuinely interested in solving a real problem.