Seguritan US Immigration Articles

Relief from Deportation

Although president-elect Donald Trump has softened his stance on deporting undocumented immigrants, many are still fearful of what his presidency could do especially to the young immigrants who came out of the shadows and offered their information in exchange for the protection promised by the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Being placed under removal proceedings, otherwise known as deportation, is probably one of the hardest things any immigrant might have to experience. Thankfully, various deportation reliefs are available. Some reliefs will even offer a path to permanent residence which can ultimately lead to citizenship. Therefore, it is best to know what options are available before giving up hope.

Reliefs from deportation include asylum, cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, voluntary departure and deferred action.

Aliens who have a well-founded fear of persecution from their home country on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a political group or political opinion can seek asylum here in the US. They can bring their family members to the US, obtain employment authorization and may be eligible to apply for a green card one year after the grant of an asylum.

Cancellation of removal, just like an application for asylum, can also lead to a green card.

To be eligible for cancellation, the alien must prove continuous physical presence in the US of at least 10 years counted from the first physical entry into the country, legally or illegally, and ends upon the service of the notice to appear (NTA) at a removal proceedings. He must also prove his good moral character during the 10-year period and must establish that deportation would result in ‘exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to a US citizen or a legal permanent resident spouse, parent or child.

For an alien who was admitted and inspected when he came to the US and he is the parent, spouse, widow or child of a US citizen, he may apply to adjust his status to permanent residence even before the immigration judge if removal proceedings have already begun.

Another type of relief that may be available is voluntary departure. This allows an alien who would otherwise be deported to leave the US at his own expense but within the time period ordered by the judge, which can be as long as 120 days if requested at the beginning of the proceedings.

An alien who is ordered removed may be barred from reentering the US for at least several years, but one who voluntarily departs is not subject to the penalties of removal. Voluntary departure may be requested before or at the master calendar hearing, after the individual hearing, or at the conclusion of the proceedings.

Finally, the alien can also request for a deferred action which may be granted for humanitarian reasons. It is a form of relief granted not by the judge but in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the district director.

The alien must demonstrate that his removal is not a priority of the government. Some of the factors to be considered include the likelihood of ultimately removing the alien; the presence of sympathetic factors; likelihood of a large amount of adverse publicity because of those sympathetic factors; the alien’s continued presence is desired by law enforcement for an ongoing investigation or review; and whether the alien is a member of a class that is  a high enforcement priority.

 

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.”

 

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.

GOP Platform Has Bad News for Immigrants

The Republican Party’s platform which mirrors the vision that the party hopes to campaign on leading to the upcoming November 2016 elections has some bad news for immigrants.

Anchored on the pursuit of “Reforming the Government to Serve the People”, the GOP has sixteen major agenda that it hopes to push forward on matters of retirement security, economic growth, Medicaid and health, tax reforms and of course, immigration.

The party has acknowledged the huge contribution that immigrants have made for the American economy. “Just as immigrant labor helped build our country in the past, today’s legal immigrants are making vital contributions in every aspect of our national life. Their industry and commitment to American values strengthens our economy, enriches our culture, and enables us to better understand and more effectively compete with the rest of the world,” the platform states.

However, the platform likewise underscored that while they applaud those who go through the legal channels of immigration, they are saying that those who came here illegally undermine the benefits that legal immigrants have contributed to the country and at the same time, these undocumented immigrants threaten the safety of communities, remove jobs from US workers, and pose grave risks to the safety and the sovereignty of the United States.

Thus, their platform drumbeats the same hard line stance of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in saying that the highest priority should be in securing the rule of law  both at our borders and at ports of entry. Building the wall that they hope will counter illegal immigration is also a part of their agenda although this is nothing new since building a “wall’ was also in the Republican 2012 platform. “The double-layered fencing on the border that was enacted by Congress in 2006, but never completed, must finally be built.”

The platform promises that it will grant no amnesty to the undocumented immigrants because it rewards breaking the law and encourages more people to do the same. Instead, it promises to enforce alien e-verify programs before immigrants will be granted any kind of federal or State support or entitlements or work authorization.

Many frowns upon this platform and policy directions of the GOP saying that it has a very simplistic and black-and-white view of immigration and lacks a deep understanding of why there are illegal immigrants in the country. It has failed to recognize that for these millions of undocumented immigrants, they simply do not have a choice- they don’t have any choice but to run away from their home country either to escape persecution or gang violence, as in the cases of those trying to cross the borders from Central America or escape extreme poverty but lacks the required documented family members or skill set to be able to go through the rigorous process of legal migration.

While the document blames undocumented immigrants for taking jobs away from American workers, it has failed to provide any concrete solutions to actually provide jobs for these displaced workers.

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.

Nearly Half a Million Immigrants Overstayed Their Visa

Nearly half a million immigrants from all parts of the world have overstayed their visas, according to the recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Report released on January 19, 2015.

According to the report, of the nearly 45 million non-immigrant visitors who were in the United States either for business or vacation (holders of B1, WB, B2 and WT visas) and who were expected to depart the country between October 2014 and September 2015, 527,127 individuals overstayed their admissions. This placed total overstay rate at 1.17 percent which means that almost 98.83% of the non-immigrants followed their allotted visa stay and left the US on time.

Due to continuing departures, as of January 4, 2016, the number of Suspected In-Country overstays or those for whom no departures have been recorded had dropped to 416,500. It is also expected to drop even more as the number of individuals who have departed or adjusted status continues to increase.

An overstay is a nonimmigrant who lawfully came to the United States for an authorized period of time but failed to depart after the lapse of such period. The DHS identifies two types of overstays—Suspected In-Country Overstay or those for whom no departure has been recorded and Out-of-Country Overstay or those individuals whose departure was recorded after their lawful admission period expired.

The report shows that for fiscal year 2015, 226,777 Filipinos were expected to depart but 3,701 overstayed their visas. Out of this figure, there were 436 Out-of Country Overstay and 3,265 Suspected In-Country Overstay placing out total overstay rate at 1.63%.

Countries with a high total overstay rate include Afghanistan (10.86%), Burkina Faso (18.01%), Chad (17.43%), Djibouti (27.67%), Eritrea (19.28%), The Gambia (11.20%), Georgia (12.44%), Laos (18.44%), Liberia (11.93%), Mauritania (13.49%) and Federated States of Micronesia (16.00%). US neighbors Canada and Mexico have a 1.27% and 1.56% overstay rate respectively. However, some of the largest numbers were from countries like Germany with 21,394, Italy with 17,661, United Kingdom with 16,446 and France with 11,973. All of these countries are under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

According to the report, the DHS conducts overstay identification by examining arrival, departure and immigration status information. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) obtains passenger manifest data from commercial air and sea departures from the US and passenger data on land departures into Canada. The report, however, admits that “determining lawful status is more complicated than simply matching entry and exit data”.

TPS Designation for Philippines

The Secretary of Homeland Security has the authority to designate a foreign country for temporary protected status (TPS) due to conditions in the country such as an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters and other extraordinary conditions that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely.

Once the designation is made, TPS grants eligible nationals of the TPS country who are in the U.S. a temporary, humanitarian form of relief from deportation during the designated period and allows them to obtain work authorization and travel documents. It does not however lead to permanent residence status. Once granted TPS, the beneficiary cannot be detained by the DHS on the basis of his immigration status in the US unless he becomes ineligible or the country loses the designation.

Efforts to designate the Philippines for TPS have been made. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land, affected over 7 million people in the Philippines. Over 5,000 lives have been lost and over 4 million people displaced.

At least three U.S. Senators, namely, Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Benjamin Cardin, and Senator Bob Menendez have submitted a request to the DHS to designate the Philippines for TPS. Other groups such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the NY Legal Assistance Group have also sent similar requests.

According to them, requiring the Philippines to reabsorb its nationals from abroad, many of whom may have lost their homes, would impose a great burden on the rescue and restoration efforts in the country. TPS would provide a safe haven for those who are reluctant to return to potentially dangerous situations. It would also allow Filipinos in the U.S. to work and support their families in the Philippines who were impacted by the typhoon.

Eligible nationals of a country designated for TPS are also allowed to apply for nonimmigrant status, file for adjustment of status based on an immigrant petition and apply for any other immigration benefits or protection. The applicant must however still meet the basic requirements for other benefits sought.

To be eligible for TPS, the foreign national must meet the basic requirements, namely: that he is a national of a country designated for TPS, or a person without nationality who last habitually resided in the designated country; that he files for TPS status during the initial registration period or re-registration period or he meets the requirements for late initial filing during any extension; that he has been continuously physically present in the U.S. since the effective date of the designation; and that he has been continuously residing in the U.S. since the date specified in the designation.

Those who have been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors committed in the U.S, or are found to be inadmissible to the U.S. based on grounds listed in INA section 212(a), including non-waivable criminal and security-related grounds, or are subject to any of the mandatory bars to asylum are not eligible for TPS. Those who fail to meet the initial or late initial registration requirements or fail to meet the continuous physical presence and continuous residence requirements are also ineligible for TPS.

Registration for TPS is made on Form I-821. It must be filed with Form I-765, application for Employment Authorization even if the applicant does not want an employment authorization document.

The decision to designate the Philippines for TPS lies with the executive branch of the federal government. Congress does not have to vote on it although members of Congress may make the request to the President. The decision ultimately rests with the President and his agencies.

Countries currently designated for TPS are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria.

Entering the U.S. for Humanitarian Reasons

Individuals who want to enter the U.S temporarily for emergency or humanitarian reasons but are unable to obtain a visa may apply to the Department of Homeland Security to be granted parole.

The application is filed on Form I-131 Application for Travel Document and must be supported by an affidavit of support to guarantee that the parolee will not become a public charge.

The application may be filed by the prospective parolee, a sponsoring relative, an attorney or any other interested individual or organization. The application will be adjudicated within 90 to 120 days. Extremely urgent cases may be processed in a few days.

The parole may be granted for a period of time corresponding to the duration of the urgent situation. The maximum time allowed is one year. The individual must depart from the U.S. before the expiration of his/her parole status otherwise he/she would be deportable. If more time is needed, the parolee may submit a request for reparole to extend his/her stay.

The application must include a detailed explanation of the emergency or humanitarian situation, the length of time needed, and the reasons why he/she cannot obtain a visa. If a visa application was previously denied, a copy of the denial should be submitted.

If the application is for medical reasons, a letter from a medical doctor is required, indicating the diagnosis and prognosis. Also included should be information on how long the treatment is expected to last, how much the treatment will cost and who will pay for it and why the treatment is not available in his/her home country or in a neighboring country.

Other relevant evidence such as copy of any approved immigrant visa petition, tax returns, etc. should also be submitted.

The USCIS has emphasized that parole should not be used to avoid regular visa-issuing procedures or to bypass immigration procedures. In a recent report by the US Government Accountability Office, 76% of the applications submitted within the 6-year period in the report were denied.

About 57% of those denied were due to the failure to exhaust other avenues of immigration available to the applicants. About 64% of the almost 9000 humanitarian parole applications adjudicated in the 6-year period were for family reunification or medical emergency.

An example of a medical emergency is the case of a 7-year old boy with a congenital heart defect who came to the U.S. with her mother for free open heart surgery.

An example of family reunification is the case of a baby born after the parents became immigrants but prior to their entry into the U.S. An I-130 relative petition was filed immediately after the baby was born but could not be granted an immigrant visa because of the unavailability of a visa number. A humanitarian parole was granted to the baby for one year.

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