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New Bipartisan Bill To Protect DREAMers from Deportation

DREAMers may have found hope against possible deportation in the coming months as a new bipartisan bill that will protect them is underway.

Called the “Bar Removal of Immigrants who Dream and Grow the Economy” or BRIDGE Act, the new bill introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) would provide DACA-eligible individuals temporary protection from deportation. They will be placed under “provisional protected presence” similar to the one provided by the DACA or the Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals. They will also be granted work permits and will be allowed to continue their schooling after paying the required fees and undergoing background checks.

DACA protected the children of immigrants brought here to the US before turning 16 years old and have remained here, gone to school or worked and maintained no criminal records. But because DACA was merely an executive action, that could be repealed by President-elect Donald Trump, having a bill that would safeguard 740,000 young people from deportation is a glimmer of hope.

Although the text of the actual bill is not yet available as this will be reintroduced in January 2017, the provisional protected presence will be for three years. The proponents of the bill are hopeful that within those three years, they would have been able to pass a more comprehensive immigration reform act that would not only stop deportation for these young people but provide a path to citizenship as well.

The Bridge Act will also be made available not only to those who have already been granted DACA but also to those who will apply for the protection for the first time. It will also ensure that any information obtained by the government under DACA or the new provisional protected presence will not be used for immigration enforcement purposes, with exceptions for national security or non-immigration felony investigations.

Despite Republicans questioning DACA because this was done through executive rather than legislative action and the GOP’s immigration platform being anchored in securing the rule of law, both at the borders and at ports of entry, it is interesting to know that there are some Republican lawmakers that are just as willing to protect the young immigrants just as much as their Democrat counterparts. Aside from Senators Graham and Murkowski, Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) also expressed their support. However Sen. Durbin wants to add people in pairs- one Republican and one Democrat.

The senator is also hopeful that more Republicans will sign on because “most of them feel it’s only fair to take care of these young people.” He is also hopeful that with Trump slowly softening his immigration stance, they would get a more favorable response. Trump recently told Time magazine that these young people “got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) welcomed the new bipartisan bill. William A. Stock, AILA President, said “since DACA’s inception, we’ve seen three-quarters of a million DREAMers come forward in order to have a chance to pursue higher education and careers, in the process becoming productive taxpaying members of society. Senators Graham and Durbin recognize that these young adults are a vital part of our communities and an innovative and creative force that should not be stifled.”

AILA’s Executive Director Benjamin Johnson also said that “the bill is illustrative of the widespread bipartisan support for DREAMers and for reform that recognizes the valuable contributions that they and millions other immigrants have made to this country. Keeping DACA going is not only the right thing to do, it is smart business. Studies have shown that revoking DACA for the hundreds of thousands of current grantees would cost America more than $430 billion over ten years.”

 

What You Need to Know About Deportation

President-elect Donald Trump has softened his stance on immigration. During his campaign, he vowed to deport all the 11 million undocumented immigrants. In a recent interview however, he said that he would prioritize the removal of the 2 to 3 million with criminal records.

Focusing on undocumented immigrants with criminal records has also been the thrust of outgoing president Barack Obama. In 2015, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said that the focus of the agency’s limited resources was in combating threats to national security, public safety and border security rather than expending funding on individuals charged with minor crimes like traffic violations.

Back in 2011, the government deported a record-high of 396,906 individuals, 90% of those removed were criminals and repeat immigration law offenders. Fast forward to fiscal year 2015 and total deportations declined to 235,415, according to a report dated December 22, 2015 from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As of July 2016, ICE has completed 168,781 deportations, a slight decline from the same point in 2015.

While this trend and Trump’s latest pronouncements may ease the worries of some people, it must be noted that those who are without lawful immigration status may still be placed under removal proceedings. It is therefore important for them to know what to do when facing deportation. An increase in sweeps or workplace raids may occur in the coming months.

Contrary to popular belief, unless subject to expedited removal an alien is generally entitled to court proceedings before being removed. Removal proceedings typically start with the service of a notice to appear (NTA) upon the alien.

The NTA specifies, among other things, the alleged immigration violation, the charge against the alien and the specific provision/s of the law alleged to have been violated, and the time and place of the hearing. An NTA may be served in person or by mail. As non-citizens are required to notify the USCIS of any change of address within 10 days of the change, in many cases the ICE may simply mail the NTA to the alien’s last addresses and it would be considered valid service.

If served with an NTA, the alien is strongly advised to consult an immigration lawyer because being placed under removal proceedings is a serious matter. An immigration lawyer can tell him whether proceedings can be terminated because of a problem with the NTA on its face or in the way that it was served. The lawyer can analyze the facts of the case, explain what options may be available, and if the alien would be eligible for a relief from removal. Reliefs include voluntary departure, asylum, adjustment of status and cancellation of removal.

The alien must attend the scheduled master hearing, which is a preliminary hearing where the charges are read and the alien is asked to admit or contest the allegations and whether he intends to seek relief from removal. An individual hearing is scheduled if the case will be heard on the merits.

The alien may be represented by an attorney at the master and individual hearings. However, unless provided pro bono services by a volunteer attorney or by a non-profit organization, any legal representation will be at the alien’s own cost because there is no right to government-appointed counsel in immigration cases.

The alien must keep the immigration court updated of any change of address and must attend his hearings. If he fails to notify the court of an address change, and because he did not receive correspondence he fails to attend a hearing, the proceedings may continue and may result in the alien being ordered removed in absentia.

 

DREAMERS’ Dilemma: To File or Not to File for DACA

Young immigrants known as Dreamers are in a dilemma after the election of Donald Trump as president. Should they file for DACA? Should those with DACA status file for renewal or travel under advance parole?

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is an executive action which was announced by outgoing US President Barack Obama back in June 2012 following the failure of the DREAM Act’s passage into law. It is lacking the force of law, and operating under the enforcement discretion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), USCIS and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It does not guarantee a path to citizenship but rather defers deportation to those who came to the US before turning 16 years old and have continuously resided in the country, gone to school and have no criminal records.

While it has helped a lot of young immigrants obtain work permits and travel authorization and be protected from deportation during Obama’s presidency, the reality is that executive actions can easily be undone by the next president. With Trump’s platform on undocumented immigrants, it is highly likely that he will end this executive action.

If and when Trump decides to totally scrap DACA, there is still uncertainty as to how USCIS will handle the situation. It is possible that if USCIS will terminate DACA completely, those holding valid work permits will no longer be able to renew. It is possible that the employment authorization and advance parole may remain valid until its expiration.

As of now, it is unclear if Trump will scrap the DACA immediately upon his assumption into office. Given that it usually takes about nine months for an initial DACA application to be adjudicated, it is safe to assume that any new application will not be adjudicated prior to his assumption in office on January 20, 2017. On the other hand, renewals of DACA application are processed quicker.

Thus, to avoid paying the DACA fees with no guarantee that it will not be rescinded, it may be best to defer any new initial DACA application until Trump has completely laid down his stand on the matter. On the other hand, those who plan to renew may opt to submit their DACA renewal as soon as practicable.

For DACA recipients who also intend to travel abroad but have not yet applied for their advance parole, any new Form I-131 application may not be adjudicated prior to January 20 given the current processing times. DACA recipients with advance parole should complete their travel and return to the US as soon as practicable and before January 20 to avoid any problems coming back. One should also bear in mind that the grant of an advance parole does not guarantee admission to the US. DHS may revoke or terminate any advance parole at any time.

Those intending to apply for the first time also have to take into consideration the risk they may be putting themselves into. Because DACA was created through an executive action, there is no statutory provision guaranteeing confidentiality. In fact, it somehow encourages people to come out from the shadows and divulge pertinent information like workplace or school location, in exchange for the promise of deferred deportation and protection. While the information disclosed in a DACA request is protected from disclosure to ICE and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) for immigration enforcement purposes, there is no guarantee that this will remain the same in the coming months.

What is clear is that those who already applied for DACA already have their information in government hands. Thus, it does not appear that if one were to renew his DACA, that he will put himself in any additional risk. On the other hand, the submission of an initial application at this time would require disclosure of pertinent information that could potentially be used in case of sweeps or workplace raids that may be conducted later on.

What To Expect from Trump on Immigration

Donald Trump’s election as president has caused fear and anxiety in immigrant communities across the US.

It is no secret that central to his campaign was his hard-line stance on immigration. He vowed to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, build a wall on the US-Mexico border and make the Mexican government pay for it, triple the number of ICE agents, end sanctuary cities and suspend the issuance of visas to certain countries.

In a post-election television appearance on the CBS program “60 Minutes”, he reiterated the same promises and vowed to turn his campaign slogan into concrete actions and move forward with an aggressive policy to deport immigrants. He softened his tone a little bit by saying that he would go after two to three million undocumented aliens who are “criminals and have criminal records”.

But he did not elaborate on how he would hunt down his deportation targets. Some fear that a deportation force would be created to conduct sweeps or raids in homes and in the workplace.

He has reportedly started to assemble his immigration team and this includes at least two notorious anti immigrant activists, Kris Kobach, architect of anti immigrant laws in Arizona and Alabama and Danielle Cutrona, Senator Jeff Session’s counsel, who is avowedly anti immigrant.

Now more than ever, undocumented immigrants fear deportation and separation from their families. Immigration lawyers are likewise experiencing a surge of panic-stricken families who are anxious about their future. Even Filipino migrant workers are also worried about their jobs especially since Trump has espoused a more protectionist stance and that includes “bringing jobs back to Americans.” Filipino workers fear that their contracts may abruptly end when the new president assumes office in January. Immigrant workers whose petitions are now pending are likewise anxious that they may not be able to make it here due to Trump’s statement last August 4 in his campaign in Portland, Maine tagging nine countries, including the Philippines, as terrorist nations.

To what extent will he be able to muster his executive might to be able to fulfill his ideas to “make America great again”?

We can expect that Trump will muster his executive might by way of executive actions. He will undo Pres. Obama’s policy on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).As a result, more than 700,000 young immigrants who came to the US before turning 16 and have stayed here since June 15, 2007 will find themselves in a limbo. It is very unfortunate because they have long ties with the US and have already considered it to be their home and if Trump will push through with scrapping DACA, they will not be able to attend school or find work.

It is also to be expected that Trump will totally scrap Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) which is now on hold following a preliminary injunction placed by the lower Texas court and upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court. This is sad news for those who have no lawful immigration status although they have continuously resided in the US since January 10, 2010 and have a US citizen or LPR son or daughter. Immigrant rights advocates fear that scrapping DACA and DAPA altogether will disrupt family unity and ultimately become economically disadvantageous. This would mean separation of families among affected immigrants. This could also adversely affect businesses and the local economy as certain sectors like agriculture are dependent on the labor force provided by the immigrant population.

Disappointing Ruling on DAPA and DACA+

Without any explanation, the US Supreme Court gave Pres. Barack Obama’s immigration initiatives another blow as it denied last Oct. 3 a petition to rehear United States v. Texas, also known as the DAPA and DACA+ case.

Back on June 23, the High Court came to an even 4-4 decision on the preliminary injunction placed by the lower Texas court and upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court upon DAPA and DACA+ essentially putting a stop to these programs in the whole country. The evenly split decision came about because the High Court was missing its ninth member following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia early this year.

On July 18, the Department of Justice filed with the US Supreme Court a petition to rehear the case and argued that although it was exceedingly rare, the Supreme Court had granted a rehearing in the past where the prior decision was issued by an evenly divided court and that it “appeared likely that upon reargument a majority one way or the other might be mustered.”

It is a disappointing decision for the millions of undocumented immigrants who have been waiting for DAPA and DACA+ to provide them a reprieve from deportation and an authorization to work. Many immigration advocates are also saddened by this news.

However, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) through its President William A Stock remains optimistic. “This case is far from over. Once a more complete record of the merits of Texas’ claims is created, we are confident that when the case is once again back on the Supreme Court docket, the Court will show appropriate deference to the executive branch and not legislate from the bench by enjoining this program permanently,” said Stock.

DAPA would have temporarily deferred deportation for those who have a US citizen or LPR son or daughter as of November 20, 2014 and who have continuously resided in the US since January 1, 2010 but with no lawful immigration status. As long as they had no criminal convictions and have passed a background check, these undocumented immigrants could benefit from DAPA.

DACA+ eliminated the age requirement of DACA and pushed the arrival date to January 1, 2010. It must be recalled that DACA was first introduced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) back in 2012. Under this program, those under 31 years old on June 15, 2012, have arrived in the US before becoming 16, have continuously resided from June 15, 2007 to the present, are either in school, have graduated or completed high school or a general education development (GED) certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the US Coast Guard or US Armed Forces and have not been convicted of a felony could have deferred action or deferred deportation.

With immigration policy being among the salient battleground in this year’s presidential elections—with the two parties clutching the opposite ends of the pole, undocumented immigrants cannot rest easy. While Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton promises to continue Pres. Obama’s immigration initiatives, the denial of the rehearing could also affect any further steps she may take. There is also Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s incessant vow to put a stop to Pres. Obama’s initiatives because of what he deems as a railroading of the country’s immigration laws.

DOJ Petitions For Rehearing of DAPA/DACA+ Case

It may not yet be end of the road for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA+). On July 18, the Department of Justice filed with the US Supreme Court a petition to rehear United States versus State of Texas.

In its petition, the Department of Justice argued that “the Court should grant rehearing to provide for a decision by the Court when it has a full complement of Members, rather than allow a nonprecedential affirmance by an equally divided Court to leave in place a nationwide injunction of such significance.”

The petition underscored that although it is exceedingly rare, it is not a new practice for the Court to grant a rehearing. In the past, it has also granted rehearing in other cases especially when the court was unable to obtain a decision due to a vacancy. It was not also uncommon that upon reargument, a majority vote was arrived at.

The petition highlighted the immediacy of the resolution of the case. With the Supreme Court’s deadlock on the issue, the preliminary injunction issued on February 16, 2015 by US district court Judge Andrew Hanen which was later affirmed on appeal by the Fifth Circuit, stays. And although the Fifth Circuit is only made up of three states— Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, the injunction nevertheless effectively halted the implementation of the two immigration initiatives introduced by Pres. Barack Obama back in 2014.

“The preliminary injunction prohibits the government from implementing the Guidance anywhere nationwide; there is no reason to expect that the district court would issue a permanent injunction that is narrower. Unless the Court resolves this case in a precedential manner, a matter of ‘great national importance’ involving an ‘unprecedented and momentous’ injunction barring implementation of the Guidance will have been effectively resolved for the country as a whole by a court of appeals that has divided twice, with two judges voting for petitioners and two for respondent States,” the petition stated.

This is a welcome development and one that has given a glimmer of hope to potential recipients. However, the rehearing depends on the confirmation of a ninth judge which may happen after the November US Presidential elections. The Court could dismiss the case for lack of standing of the plaintiff or reverse the decision of the Fifth Circuit thus allowing DAPA/DACA + to be implemented. It could also affirm the Circuit’s decision and uphold the injunction and the case would go back to the district court whose decision could eventually be appealed to the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court a second time.

While waiting for this new development to take some steps forward, it must also be noted that the Supreme Court’s ruling did not affect the president’s authority to establish priorities for the enforcement of immigration laws and the grant of deferred action. Shortly after the SC made its decision, Obama clarified that undocumented immigrant who are otherwise qualified under DAPA and DACA+ and have no criminal conviction, are still among the lowest priority for deportation. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) therefore still has authority to review and grant individual request for deferred action.

The decision also did not affect the DACA which was announced by Obama back in 2012. Those who meet the program’s criteria established in 2012 may continue to apply – both first-time applicants and the DACA recipients who seek to renew their deferred action and employment authorization.

Based on estimates, there are about four million undocumented immigrants who could have benefited from DAPA and DACA+. Of that figure, there are still those who can avail of other forms of deportation relief. In fact, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), 14.3% of DACA-eligible population may qualify for other forms of relief, even more permanent than DACA+ and DAPA.

Fight for DAPA/DACA To Continue Despite SC Ruling

Immigration was at the forefront of very significant events last week. On June 23, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and immigration concern was a major factor. Meanwhile on the same day, here in the United States, the Supreme Court deadlocked on Pres. Barack Obama’s immigration initiatives.

The Supreme Court’s evenly-divided decision in the case of United States v. Texas means that the lower court decision against the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of the Deferred Action on Child Arrivals (DACA) stays.

Pres. Obama introduced DAPA and DACA expansion in November 2014 following the failure of Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. DAPA and DACA were meant to ease the threat of deportation of more than 4 million undocumented immigrants.

After Obama announced these immigration initiatives, Texas and 25 other states filed a lawsuit in the district court claiming that the expanded DACA and DAPA violated the “take care clause” of the Constitution. They also argued that the initiatives were not in accordance with immigration laws and violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The district court judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of these policies.

On appeal by the government, the Fifth Circuit upheld the injunction. Thus, the case found its way to the Supreme Court.

DAPA would temporarily defer deportation for those who have a US citizen or LPR son or daughter as of November 20, 2014 and who have continuously resided in the US since January 1, 2010 but with no lawful immigration status. As long as they had no criminal convictions and have passed a background check, these undocumented immigrants could benefit from DAPA.

DACA, on the other hand, was first introduced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) back in 2012. Those under 31 years old on June 15, 2012, have arrived in the US before becoming 16, have continuously resided from June 15, 2007 to the present, are either in school, have graduated or completed high school or a general education development (GED) certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the US Coast Guard or US Armed Forces and have not been convicted of a felony can benefit from DACA. The expanded DACA eliminated the age requirement and pushed the arrival date to January 1, 2010.

Since its implementation in 2012, DACA has resulted in the improvement of the lives and economic conditions of over 700,000 young people who were granted work permits, obtained access to public universities and scholarships, and opened a bank account, among others.

The ruling of the Supreme Court is a setback for immigrants and their families but immigrant rights advocates are vowing to continue the fight. They are urging the Department of Justice to seek a rehearing. If this is not granted, then the case will go back to the district court for a decision on the merits. If the district court decides to strike down the initiatives, the government could appeal the case all the way to the Supreme Court again.

Immigrant advocates are also continuing to lobby the US Congress to pass immigration laws that would keep families united and benefit the economy.

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