Immigration Law Experts Debriefed Press on “Port Courts” and Due Process Concerns

WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), a policy also known as “Remain in Mexico,” which requires individuals seeking asylum at our southern border to remain in Mexico while their U.S. removal proceedings are pending. DHS recently expanded this program into Laredo and Brownsville, TX and built massive new temporary tent facilities to adjudicate hearings via video conference for MPP asylum seekers. To date, little information has been confirmed by DOJ or DHS, but hearings in the new port courts began on September 11th in Laredo and September 12th in Brownsville.

There are many due process concerns with these secretive port courts, and as established, it is unlikely that migrants will have meaningful access to counsel for these life and death hearings. On a telephonic briefing for the press, immigration law experts shared insights relating to these port courts, the MPP program, and the due process disaster in the making.

Denise Gilman, Director, Immigration Clinic, University of Texas, Austin: “The Remain in Mexico program places asylum seekers in incredible danger in northern Mexico only to call them back for asylum hearings that are a sham. Video hearings within tents carried out without access to counsel do not respect minimal due process norms. The entire program is set up to turn away asylum seekers seeking desperately-needed protection in this country under U.S. and international law. There is no way to fix this shameful program; it must be ended.”

Ashley Huebner, Associate Director of Legal Services, National Immigrant Justice Center: “The port courts exemplify the massive problems with the Remain in Mexico policy and the sham hearings and non-refoulement interviews that this administration has established. A court system that is hidden from view does not allow attorneys to access their clients, and forces individuals to present their asylum claims while constantly under duress is not a court at all.”

Jodi Goodwin, Immigration Attorney, Harlingen, TX: “Running rough-shod overdue process is the name of the game for the Port Courts and MPP. Despite repeated attempts to garner information about how cases will work and even where they will be allowed to go, attorneys are left out of the process, and access to counsel for those in MPP is abysmal. I cannot overstate the difficulties of providing counsel to people located in a Level 4 Security Threat Assessment zone, as per the Department of State, similar to Aleppo, Syria, and Kabul, Afghanistan. Asylum seekers represented by attorneys are much more likely to be successful but the government is throwing up every possible obstacle to counsel, and thus to justice.”

Kate Voigt, Associate Director of Government Relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) who moderated the call concluded, “Since the start of the Remain in Mexico policy, more than 42,000 vulnerable asylum seekers have been forced to wait for their proceedings in some of the most dangerous locations in Mexico, most without any access to legal representation. The rollout of these port courts has been shrouded in secrecy. The government has provided almost no public information to attorneys or other stakeholders about even the most basic logistics related to the courts’ operations, despite their apparent launch this week. AILA will continue to fight for the due process rights of asylum seekers.”

 

 

The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement Under the Trump Administration

Settlement agreements are contracts.  A fundamental component of a contract is the existence of mutual assent.  This means all of the parties are on the same page when it comes to what is being agreed upon.

In essence, a settlement agreement equates to “We pay you money and you stop suing us.  Plus, we don’t admit liability.” However, as simple as that sounds, there is a lot more to a tight settlement agreement.

The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement (Flores) is the result of a 1985 class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of all immigrant children detained in the United States. The agreement set national standards regarding the detention, release, and treatment of all children in immigration detention and underscores the principle of family unity.

Flores requires that:

  1. Juveniles be released from custody without unnecessary delay, and in order of preference to the following: a parent, legal guardian, adult relative, individual specifically designated by the parent, a child welfare licensed program, or, alternatively when family reunification is not possible, an adult seeking custody deemed appropriate by the responsible government agency.
  2. Where they cannot be released because of significant public safety or flight risk concerns, juveniles must be held in the least restrictive setting appropriate to age and special needs, generally, in a nonsecure facility licensed by a child welfare entity and separated from unrelated adults and delinquent offenders.

The Trump administration announced a new regulation on Wednesday allowing for the indefinite detention of immigrant children. If allowed to go into effect, the administration’s new rule would terminate the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement and its requirements 60 days after publication.

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CANCELLATION OF REMOVAL FOR NON-PERMANENT RESIDENTS

Cancellation of removal is a form of discretionary relief from removal (deportation). There are four forms of cancellation of removal relief: cancellation of removal for LPRs, cancellation of removal for non-permanent residents, cancellation for battered spouse or child, and cancellation of removal pursuant to section 203 of the Nicaraguan Adjustment of Status and Central American Relief Act.

If you are a foreign-born person living in the U.S. without legal status for a long time, and you have been placed into removal (deportation) proceedings, you may be eligible for what’s called “Non-LPR Cancellation of Removal” and a green card. To eligible for this form of relief from deportation,

  1. You have been living (“continuously physically present”) in the U.S. for at least ten years,
  2. Your being removed (“deported”) from the U.S. would cause “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to your qualifying relative(s), who is (or are) U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPRs),
  3. You can show you have “good moral character,” and
  4. You have not been convicted of certain crimes or violated certain laws.

A big part of this process is convincing the Immigration to cancel the removal and adjust your status as a lawful permanent resident.

Nationwide, immigration judges can approve only 4,000 cancellation applications per year from non-LPRs (people without green cards). The cap is often reached quickly.

Once the annual cap on grants of suspension and cancellation is reached, immigration judges and the BIA will only reserve cases for consideration in the next fiscal year where relief would otherwise have been granted during the current fiscal year had the cap not been reached. In any case where the immigration judge or BIA determines that relief should not be granted, the application will be denied rather than reserved.

An alien in immigration proceedings should always consult with an experienced immigration attorney expeditiously and retain an attorney throughout the process. An experienced attorney will be able to assess the case and determine which avenues the alien may have for relief.

J-1 Immigrant Visa for Physician

The U.S. immigration system has been in need of reform on a variety of fronts—from the challenges facing those in the country without documentation to the need for fairer asylum laws, to often-inefficient processing of employment-based immigration benefits—and is crying out for common-sense solutions. Sadly, no immigration legislation has passed both houses of Congress since 2005, and the outcome of the 2016 presidential and congressional elections has exacerbated an already taxed system.

For physicians, several new government policies—both proposed and already implemented—can cause serious consequences and derail genuine attempts to immigrate lawfully to the United States. Because these changes largely are policy-based—i.e., the government decided to apply the law differently than it had before, and were not created by regulation or legislation—they have escaped close public scrutiny leaving many affected individuals unaware of them or at least unaware of their possible impact.

The government’s policy changes largely are justified as implementing the Buy American, Hire American (BAHA) Executive Order, which President Donald Trump signed on April 18, 2017. BAHA directs all federal agencies that deal with immigration matters to review all immigration-related policies and regulations and to consider the effect of those rules and policies on American workers.

Under the new policy, USCIS officers are mandated to issue an NTA when the denial of a petition or application leaves an individual without lawful status. USCIS has been implementing the new NTA memo in stages; so far, it applies only to applications that have been denied, such as I-539s and I-485s, but broader implementation is planned. In addition, USCIS says it will delay issuance of an NTA for enough time to allow an individual to move to reopen the denied case in case an error was made. But the bottom line is that the consequences of a denial are greater than ever.

The consequences of the NTA memo make the other policy memorandum from the summer of 2018 even harder to swallow. Past USCIS policy required officers to issue a request for evidence (RFE) or notice of intent to deny (NOID) before denying a petition or application in order to afford the petitioner and beneficiary an opportunity to cure whatever defect(s) the officer found.

As an immigration attorney, I remain ever vigilant in staying apprised of the government’s policy changes.

To End The “Catch And Release,” The Attorney General Ordered “No More Bond For Asylum Seekers.”

IMMEDIATE RELEASE – No More Bond for Asylum Seekers.

The Trump administration on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, took another significant step to discourage migrants from seeking asylum, issuing an order that could keep thousands of asylum seekers in jail indefinitely while they wait for resolving their asylum requests.

The decision follows a decision by a federal judge in Seattle who ordered the government to provide prompt bond hearings with basic procedural protections to these same individuals. The court gave the government until May 6, 2019, to implement that order. The case is Padilla v. ICE.

The order attempted to deliver on President Trump’s promise to end the “catch and release” of migrants crossing the border hoping to escape persecution in their home countries.

Attorney General William Barr ruled that individuals with valid protection asylum claims who entered between ports of entry no longer are eligible for release on bond by an immigration judge. The decision could unnecessarily detain thousands of more individuals each year, despite the enormous financial and human costs.

A migrant seeking asylum could still ask the Department of Homeland Security to be released under a grant of parole, but that is entirely at the discretion of the department, which under Mr. Trump has sharply cut back on such releases. Attorney General William Barr delayed implementation of his decision for 90 days to allow DHS to conduct operational planning for additional detention space and parole decisions.

For information on bonds, parole, and asylum applications, please visit our website at www.lawschell.com,  or call the Law Offices of Norka M. Schell, LLC at (212)258-0713.

How People Get Placed in Removal Proceedings

Anyone in the United States in violation of immigration law is vulnerable to being placed in removal proceedings. Some of the most common methods of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) identification and enforcement are:

  • Arresting a person at or near a border point just after he or she has entered;
  • At courthouses;
  • Picking up a person from jail or prison after an arrest or after the individual has completed his or her criminal sentence;
  • Through cooperation with parole and probation officers following a criminal sentence;
  • Transferring people from local jails who were arrested by state and local enforcement through INA Sec. 287(g) agreements;
  • Traffic stops by state and local enforcement that then lead to those officers choosing to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”);
  • Home, community, or workplace enforcement actions, or raids;
  • Placing a noncitizen in proceedings after he or she unsuccessfully applied for some immigration benefit before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”); and
  • A DACA request that reveals a “Statement of Fraud” or certain types of criminal history in the records.

Juana, from Mexico, entered the United States on July 1, 2008, without inspection. She has no driver’s license but drives to her job every day. Juana was stopped by a police officer for a broken taillight; when it was discovered that she had no driver’s license, she was arrested by the police. Under the INA Sec. 287(g) jail enforcement program, ICE learned of her state arrest, issued a detainer, and transferred her to ICE custody.

When DHS apprehended Juana, it interviewed her and records information on Form I-213, Record of Deportable/Inadmissible Alien. Much of the data collected establishes her identity, country of birth, country of citizenship, gender, date of birth, marital status, prior immigration history, and the circumstances of her apprehension. In removal proceedings, ICE OCC often relies on Form I-213 to establish alienage and prove removability grounds. However, the Form I-213 must be “probative” and its use “fundamentally fair” to be admitted as documentary evidence to support establishing alienage. A Form I-213 that contains information that is incorrect or was obtained by coercion or duress cannot meet this standard and should not be admissible as evidence to prove alienage or removability. Matter of Barcenas, 19 I&N Dec. 609, 611 (citing Matter of Toro, 17 I&N Dec. 340 (BIA 1989)).

AILA Policy Brief Trump Shutdown Bill Full of Extreme Restrictionist Provisions

January 22, 2019

On January 22, 2019, Senate Republicans released a new spending bill that was written to reflect
President Trump’s January 19 speech outlining a proposal to end the shutdown. The “End the Shutdown
and Secure the Border Act” bill contains extreme provisions and should be rejected outright as
representing hardline restrictionist views, rather than a genuine attempt at compromise. Among other
provisions, the bill would provide fragile protections for a narrow segment of DACA and TPS holders,
ramp up funding for interior  and border enforcement, and all but eliminate asylum for minors from
Central America. The bill:

Fails to Include Real Protections for Dreamers: The bill would protect a fraction of all Dreamers and
would not provide permanent protection from deportation. Instead, it would allow people who currently
have DACA to apply for a 3-year, one-time temporary status subject to new eligibility standards. Because
of newly added restrictions in the text, the number of Dreamers who qualify for protection under the bill
would actually be smaller than the number of people who are currently protected. The bill would also
more than double the current fee.

Fails to Protect All TPS holders: The bill would only protect individuals with Temporary Protected
Status (TPS) from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Haiti. The individuals in those four countries
would be able to apply for a 3-year, one-time temporary status. The application fee would be doubled.
The bill also makes changes to the eligibility provisions, again reducing the overall number of people who
would qualify for protection compared to today. It does not include protections for people with Deferred
Enforced Departure (DED) from Liberia or those with TPS from Nepal, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen,
Somalia, and Syria.

Adds New Restrictions to DACA and TPS, Increasing the Number of People Who Could Be
Deported: The bill contains additional restrictions on DACA and TPS and would prevent anyone who
has been ordered removed in absentia from qualifying for protection, no matter how long ago the order
was issued. That means that if a child missed a court date and was ordered deported, they would not be
able to qualify for DACA or TPS relief. DACA and TPS grantees would also be required to earn an
income at 125% of the poverty level or be enrolled in school.

Virtually Eliminates the Availability of Future TPS Protections: The bill would rewrite current law to
restrict eligibility for future TPS designations to those who are lawfully present. Thus, if someone is
undocumented when their home country suffers a natural disaster or armed conflict, they will not be
eligible if TPS were designated.

Bans Asylum for All Central American Minors and Eviscerates the Trafficking Victims Protection
Reauthorization Act for Unaccompanied Kids: Nationals of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador
who are under the age of 18 would be categorically barred from applying for asylum at the border or
within the United States if they were outside of the country at the time of enactment. The bill would
remove TVPRA protections and authorize the government to forcibly return unaccompanied children if
they request asylum unless it is “more probable than not” that they would win asylum or trafficking
protections. All arriving children could be removed quickly without review except in extremely limited,
exceptional cases.

Creates a Sham CAM Program The only way a Central American minor can qualify for asylum would
be through a new Central American Minors (CAM) program that would be established within eight
months of enactment. To qualify, children would have to have a parent or guardian in the U.S. and no
more than 15,000 minors could receive asylum. Most concerning, because Central American minors
arriving to the U.S. would immediately become ineligible for asylum, the program essentially eliminates
all asylum protections for these minors for at least eight months. Children in the program would be
subject to a non-reviewable decision by DHS and would never see an immigration judge.

Builds the Wall and Creates a Slush Fund for Enforcement: The bill would authorize $5.7 billion for
President Trump’s border wall and add hundreds of millions of dollars in additional enforcement funding
that can be used for almost any kind of enforcement. Some of these funds would come from a new $500
fee imposed on each applicant for DACA or TPS relief, which would be in addition to the full cost of
adjudicating the application.

Dramatically Increases the Number of ICE Detention Beds: The bill includes a 20% increase in funds
for ICE detention and removal – from $4.11 billion to $4.99 billion. This new funding allows ICE to jail
on average 52,000 people a day, nearly 12,000 more people than current funding levels.

Hires New Border Patrol and ICE Agents. The bill includes funding for 750 Border Patrol agents and
2,000 ICE agents.

Makes Permanent and Reprehensible Changes Aimed at Reducing Asylum Grants: These changes
include:

  • Creating a new crime punishable by up to five years in prison for making false statements on the
    application.
  • Expanding the definition of a frivolous asylum application and preventing attorneys from
    objecting or disputing claims that the application was frivolous.
  • Declaring all asylum applications that are “clearly foreclosed” such as applications filed after the
    one-year asylum deadline are “frivolous.”
  • Requiring applicants to waive their rights and take voluntary departure if they decide to withdraw
    their asylum application, or risk having their application deemed frivolous.

Hires Additional Immigration Judges: The bill includes $563 million in funding for the immigration
court that would enable the hiring of 75 more immigration judge teams and upgrades to an electronic case
management system. The bill does not include any reforms necessary to improve the court’s ability to
ensure fair and efficient review of all cases. Despite decrying the extensive case backlog, the Trump
administration has hampered the immigration courts by denying immigration judges the use of case
management tools and by reopening 350,000 low priority cases.

 

AILA Doc. No. 19012241.

 

BOND HEARINGS

The U.S. government is using detention with increasing frequency as a means of dealing with undocumented or otherwise removable immigrants after their arrest. Upon the apprehension of a foreign national or the issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) determines whether to take the individual into custody; release the individual on his or her own recognizance or subject to conditions, such as an ankle monitor; or to issue a bond amount under which the individual can secure his or her release.
Mandatory Detention
Individuals with certain types of criminal histories are subject to mandatory detention, which means they cannot be released pending removal proceedings, even if they are a lawful permanent resident (LPR).
The Supreme Court, in  Demore v. Kim, held by a 5-4 vote that the mandatory detention provisions are constitutional, even applied to LPRs. This decision came after many federal courts, including the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits, have held that the mandatory detentions were unconstitutional, particularly as applied to LPRs. Still, challenges to mandatory detention continue to be filed specifically because of the Supreme Court’s decision was based, in part, on an understanding that removal proceedings for detained respondents are typically concluded within 90 days. Some of these challenges have been successful.
The Individual Does not Pose Danger to the Safety of the Other Person or Property 
Moreover, persons subject to mandatory detention still may be released if the Attorney General (AG) decides that release from custody is necessary to provide protection to a witness or potential witness, a person cooperating with an investigation into a major criminal activity, or an immediate family member of such a person. Before any release takes places, however, the AG also must decide that persons subject to mandatory detention will not pose a danger to the safety of other person or property and are likely to appear to any scheduled proceedings.
Whether your needs involve immigration family members or defending yourself or family member against deportation or removal hearings, we can help. We have the years of experience necessary to meet all your immigration needs.
 
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The 2019 Government Shutdown

Contribution of Aaron Reichlin-Melnick 

Part of the federal government is closed since December 22, 2019, after President Trump declared his intent to veto any funding bill that didn’t contain five billion dollars for building his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Over two weeks later, much of the government remains on a shutdown, with Republican Senate leadership currently refusing to move forward any bill that Trump won’t sign. As both sides dig further, the prospects of the shutdown ending any time soon seem distant.

The partial government shutdown, which affects multiple government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the State Department, and the Treasury Department, is largely seen as the president’s last opportunity to secure funding for his promised border wall now that Democrats have retaken the House of Representatives.

Before the shutdown began, the Senate passed a bipartisan proposal to keep the government open without any additional funding for the wall. This plan was scuttled after the president unexpectedly opposed it at the last moment following criticism from immigration hardliners such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

Because DHS, DOJ, and the State Department are affected by the shutdown, many immigration functions of those agencies have been affected:

  • Many employees working along the border and at airports are considered “essential employees” required to continue working, but that means that many Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Agency employees are going without pay.
  • Although U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is mostly fee-funded and immune to the shutdown, its federally funded “E-Verify” program, which allows employers to determine if a new employee is eligible to work, has been shut down.
  • The DOJ has shuttered all non-detained immigration courts, a decision which will add thousands of cases to a backlog already at 810,000 cases. While the non-detained courts remain shuttered, immigration judges can neither grant relief from removal nor issue any orders of deportation, putting people in limbo.
  • Because the State Department’s visa and passport services are largely fee-funded, they are currently unaffected by the shutdown. However, should the shutdown last for weeks, the State Department could start cutting those servicesas funds run dry.

Since the shutdown began, the president has met with Congressional leaders several times but those discussions have yielded no progress. Negotiations broke down even further on Friday.

Amid swirling rumors about the possibility of reopening negotiations to trade border wall funding for protections for Dreamers, the White House sent a letter to Congress. The letter repeated statements made by DHS Secretary Nielsen earlier in the week that called for a wall, increased use of family detention, and the elimination of protections for unaccompanied children. However, deterrence is not a substitute for reforms.

As we approach week three of the shutdown, both sides continue to blame the other for the ongoing shutdown. At an impromptu press conference on Friday, the president confirmed reports that he told Democratic leaders he would keep the government shut down for “months or even years” if they did not agree to his demands. However, new House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that a broader immigration compromise might be possible.

The shutdown is affecting agencies across the U.S., but the three hit the hardest are Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Agriculture. Some EPA workers in Kansas said they fear projects that are put on hold too long could begin to endanger the public’s health.

Tonight, January 8, 2018, President Trump will make his case in his first speech from the Oval Office at 21:00EST (0200 GMT Wednesday),

  • 6 things that could topple Donald Trump’s border wall

The partial government shutdown, which began on 22 December, has affected 25% of the government. Some 800,000 federal employees have been temporarily laid off – or forced to work without pay.

While its repercussions ripple across the country, Mr Trump has also threatened to bypass Congress and invoke emergency powers to build the wall along half the 2,000-mile (3,100km) border.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a tweet that Mr Trump would use his visit to the border on Thursday to “meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis”.

Curbing illegal immigration was one of the main campaign promises Mr Trump made when he ran for president.

During the campaign for the midterm elections in November, he repeatedly agitated over a caravan of Central American migrants making its way towards the US border with Mexico.

Mr Trump deployed about 5,800 troops to the border and described the migrants as an “invasion”.

 

 

USCIS Announces Updates to Civics Test Answers

Civics Test Answer Updates

Are you preparing for the naturalization test? As you study for the U.S. history and government (civics) test, make sure that you know the most current answers to these questions.

Periodically, answers to the civics test change to reflect the results of federal and state elections and appointments or to clarify content and ensure consistency in terminology. The revised answers to the questions below are effective immediately.

Question Update
20. Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now? The answer to this question may change as the result of elections, appointments, or retirements.

Give the name of one of your state’s current U.S. senators. For a list of current members of the U.S. Senate, please visit senate.gov.

Answers will vary. [District of Columbia residents and residents of U.S. territories should answer that D.C. (or the territory where the applicant lives) has no U.S. senators.]

23. Name your U.S. Representative. The answer to this question may change as the result of elections, appointments, or retirements.

Give the name of your current U.S. representative. For a list of current members of the U.S. House of Representatives, please visit house.gov.

Answers will vary. [Residents of territories with nonvoting delegates or resident commissioners may provide the name of that delegate or commissioner. Also acceptable is any statement that the territory has no (voting) representatives in Congress.]

43. Who is the Governor of your state now? The answer to this question may change as the result of elections, appointments, or retirements, depending on inauguration dates.

Give the name of your state’s current governor. For a list of current governors, please visit usa.gov/states-and-territories

Answers will vary. [District of Columbia residents should answer that D.C. does not have a governor.]

47. What is the name of the Speaker of the House of Representatives now? The House of Representatives generally elects the speaker of the House on the first day of every new Congress. The answer to this question may change after the election.

Give the name of the current speaker of the House. Visit uscis.gov/citizenship/testupdatesfor the name of the speaker of the House of Representatives.