Articles Posted in Citizenship and Naturalization

Last month, in the wake of the terrorist attack on a Berlin Christmas market, President-elect Donald Trump was asked by reporters if he was rethinking or reevaluating his plans to establish a registry for Muslim immigrants and temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from entering the United States.  The President-elect responded to the press’ inquiries, saying “You know my plans all along,” then went onto say that the recent attack, for which the Islamic State later claimed responsibility, had vindicated his proposed ban.

Muslims and advocates across the country have expressed anxiety at not quite knowing what Trump means when he says “Muslim ban.”  A year ago on the campaign trail, Trump said he wanted a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United Stated until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”  Later, Trump and his senior aide sought to soften the proposal, suggesting that he would support a ban on immigration only from countries that has been “compromised by terrorism.”  Six months ago in a “Meet the Press” interview, when asked whether he has rolled back his calls for a Muslim ban, Trump responded saying he had viewed it instead as an expansion of his initial proposal.  Today, the statement proposing a “complete shutdown of Muslim immigration remains on Trump’s website and the President-elect has yet to clarify how exactly he would address the issue as President.

Furthermore, senior Trump aide, Kellyanne Conway, stated that Mr. Trump would not seek to ban an immigrant based on religion, but rather would seek a ban pertaining to “what he said later about it when he made it much more specific and talked about countries where we know they have a higher propensity of training and exporting and in some cases harboring terrorists.”  Such mixed messages have left Muslim community leaders puzzled and apprehensive.  While many people have interpreted the Muslim ban as an intention on Trump’s part to revive the NSEERS system, the Bush-era registry used to track Muslims and Arabs, which was dismantled by President Obama, others believe the ban could involve more severe repercussions. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is removing regulations relating to an obsolete special registration program created after 9/11 to track noncitizen men from predominantly Muslim countries.  NSEERS, which DHS has not used since 2011, has for many years been deemed redundant, used to capture data manually that was already captured through automated systems, nonetheless the structure has remained intact until now.  The program has been discontinued, for these reasons and for reasons pertaining to NSEERS’ inability to provide a discernible public benefit, as the program no longer provides an increase in security in light of DHS’s evolving assessment of the threat posed to the United States by international terrorism. 

In August 2002, less than a year after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) finalized the proposed program to require designated nonimmigrants to be fingerprinted and photographed and to provide additional biographical information.  The rule also authorized INS to designate certain ports of departure for nonimmigrants subject to the program.  The following months, INS announced by way of a Federal Register notice, that the new program would be applied to those who were subject to the earlier registration program (first established in 1991)—nonimmigrants from Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Sudan—and added nonimmigrants from Syria.  Between November 2002 and January 2003, INS added another 20 countries to the compliance list, bring the total to 25 countries.

Once the responsibility for administering NSEERS was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003 as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, DHS determined that automatically requiring 30-day and annual re-registration for designated nonimmigrants was no longer necessary.  Leading up to 2011, DHS began to utilize a more tailored system in which they would notify nonimmigrants subject to the program to appear for re-registration interviews where DHS deemed it necessary to determine whether they were complying with the conditions of their status and admission.

On November 29, 2016, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection implemented a requirement for all Chinese passport holders who carry a maximum validity (10 year) B1 (business) and/or B2 (pleasure) visa to have a valid Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) enrollment before traveling to the United States.  Travelers using passports from Hong Kong, Macau SAR, Taiwan, or any other passport other than a Peoples Republic or China passport are not affected by the EVUS enrollment requirement.

The Electronic Visa Update System is the online enrollment system by which Chinese nationals holding B 1 and/or B 2 visas valid for 10 years update basic biographic information, enabling their travel to the United States.  Since the implementation of the EVUS requirement, nationals of China holding such 10-years visas will not be allowed to travel to the United Stated without valid EVUS enrollment. 

Earlier this year on October 20, 2016, the following rules and notices were published in the Federal Register, setting the general regulatory framework for EVUS and designating the first group that will be subject to the requirements.

Immigrants across the country are regularly denied bail or offered bail that’s too expensive.  Last Spring, news broke of a State Senator from Queens, New York, lobbying to scrap the obsolete bail bond system of holding people who could not afford bail, many of whom were immigrants, in jail before their trial.

State Senator Michael Gianaris, in an interview with Vice News, called the current regime of setting bail in New York “something left over from England in the Middle Ages.”  Now, California’s district courts are starting to take apart the same archaic bail-setting schemes that left so many disenfranchised New Yorkers in prison before they were proven guilty of the accused crime.

Unlike in criminal court, where those charged often hire bail bondsmen and only have to pay 10 percent of the total bail amount, immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE) often have to pay the full amount of a bond.  Most bond companies require collateral such as a house or a car, which many low income immigrants lack, resulting in a scarcity of bond companies geared toward immigrants.

To constituents, executive actions may seem like simple maneuvers—quick fixes to a discordant Supreme Court or a disagreeing Congress.  But to those who have held Presidential office, executive actions have shown themselves to be much more complex.  Each comes with its own set of statutorily or judicially imposed restraints.  Some actions are subject to modification or even revocation while others must comply with certain mandated procedures; all actions, though, fall subject to a lack of permanence and are often withdrawn just as swiftly as they were first put into place.

Most executive actions can be broken down into three basic categories:

  1. Executive orders, which are written directions issued by the incumbent President that govern actions of executive branch officials as well as government agencies

What’s Changed

On August 29, 2016, a final rule, expanding the existing provisional waiver process to allow spouses and children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to more easily navigate the immigration process, went into effect.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) extended eligibility for the provisional waiver process to all individuals who are statutorily qualified for immigrant visas.  First established in 2013, the provisional unlawful presence waiver process, put into place with the purpose of supporting family unity, allows immediate relatives, family-sponsored or employment-based immigrants, as well as Diversity Visa selectees to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility in the United States before they depart for their immigrant visa interview.

NJ Immigration LawyersFive Muslims, all long-time U.S. residents, are suing the Department of Homeland Security, claiming that the department has been instrumental in causing delays in their citizenship and permanent residency requests.

Two of the plaintiffs applied for U.S. Citizenship in 2007, but their applications for citizenship were denied in 2012. Another plaintiff, a Muslim refugee from Somalia, has been seeking permanent residency since 2006.

The ACLU of Southern California is representing the plaintiffs in Los Angeles federal court. It claims the plaintiffs have been unfairly flagged under the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CAARP). The plaintiffs’ attorney contends the program has been used by Homeland Security to illegally blacklist her clients’ applications without telling them why.

Ever since the New Jersey Attorney General issued Law Enforcement Directive 2007-3 in 2007 that required that local police ask about the immigration status of a person arrested for a DUI or other indictable offense, referrals to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have skyrocketed.

The directive required that local law enforcement refer the accused to federal immigration authorities if they had “reason to believe” that a person was not lawfully residing in the United States.

While two-thirds of the people referred to ICE either had immigration charges filed against them or were monitored for possible deportation after their state court cases were resolved, one-third of those referred were actually U.S. citizens.

NJ Family ImmigrationThe U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), California Service Center has advised immigration practitioners of the most common items missing from family based immigrant petitions filed.

Missing evidence will result in the issuance of a Requests for Evidence (RFE), which results in processing lag and consequent delay in adjudicating a case. As a public service, here are some tips in order to process a family-based petition faster.

In addition to providing proof of the status of the petitioner as a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, there are five documents that should be included with each family-based (I-130) petition:

The U.S. government is under much scrutiny after the Boston Marathon bombings. Immigration is no exception. While no radical changes have been announced, the Department of Homeland Security is ordering border agents to check the visa status of every international student entering the country. The increased screening comes as a result of Azamat Tazhayakov, a friend of the suspected bomber who is accused of hiding evidence, being able to return to the U.S. even though he was dismissed from school, an action that made his student visa invalid. If you are an international student, what should you expect now?

Verification Required Before Entering

Border agents now must check a student's visa status before he or she even arrives in the U.S. They'll be searching flight manifests to identify foreign students and checking them before they reach U.S. soil. Previously, visa status was only verified if the student was referred to a second officer for questioning upon arriving. That usually only happened if the student was identified as a national security threat. In most cases, border agents simply checked the paperwork the student was carrying, not verifying if it was up-to-date.

School administrators are responsible for entering international students in the Department of Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). It's updated in real-time and tracks each student's documentation and status. Checking SEVIS is now mandatory.