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Newsletter: August 23, 2017

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Newsletter: August 23, 2017

THE RAISE ACT

WHAT IS IT?

The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (RAISE Act, Cotton-Perdue Act) – S.354 – seeks to greatly reduce legal immigration opportunities in the United States by eliminating family-based categories, redefining other categories and removing the diversity visa. Introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA.), the Trump-backed bill seeks to replace the current employment-based system of visas with a strict points-based system which represents a stark departure from the demand—driven model of legal immigration. Under the RAISE Act, a maximum of 140,000 immigrant visas would be issued per fiscal year within the merit-based points system. Spouses and minor children of the main petitioner will also be counted against the cap.

The RAISE Act requires individual petitioners to accrue at least 30 assigned points to receive a visa. Points are given to individual candidates based on a variety of factors including age (with a preference for individuals in their mid-20’s to early 30’s), level of education, English proficiency, extraordinary achievement, type of job offer, and intention to invest in the U.S. economy. With this stringent points system, the RAISE Act seeks to increase the number of foreign high-skilled workers entering the country with the intention of improving the domestic U.S. economy.

WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL RAMIFICATIONS?

If the RAISE Act were to pass, the replacement system would result in a drastic reduction of legal immigrants but will allow a higher proportion of high-skill immigrants entering the United States. The points system is likely to be a significant disadvantage to marginalized groups such as women, individuals who work in the informal economy (volunteers, charity organizations), individuals with family in the U.S. but lack formal education or work experience, older individuals, and applicants from less-developed countries.

Concerns arise regarding the impact a dramatic shift from an employment-demand driven model would cause to the U.S. economy. The current system allowed employers to select the workers they needed subject to government regulations. As the current system directly responds to the needs of employers, it has proven to be successful in facilitating economic growth and innovation within the United States.

The risk from switching between the existing demand-driven system to a human-capital based model lies in the fact that research has shown that an economy will not benefit from high-skill individuals if these individuals cannot find jobs that will match their skill set. The RAISE Act has the intended objective of increasing domestic economic competitiveness. However, without assessing the labor demand from employers, it is likely the large influx of high-skilled individuals will have little benefit on the U.S. economy.

Another issue that may be presented by the application of the RAISE Act is that it does not contain a dedicated path for less-skilled immigrants. As seen in recent headline news stories, the United States economy requires less-skilled immigrants to function as they play a fundamental role in filling jobs that the average American are unlikely to do. These jobs include food services, hospitality roles, construction, agriculture, elder care, and manufacturing. The Trump Administration’s current tough stance on immigration has already proven to have a negative impact in these industries with the significant reduction in seasonal workers. Crops all over the United States are left unharvested due to a lack of supply of low-skilled immigrant laborers and costs of domestic tourism are increasing for the same reasons. Implementation of the RAISE Act is likely to serve as another significant blow to these industries.

TRUMP-BACKED IMMIGRATION BILL WILL LIKELY HURT THE U.S. ECONOMY

Recently President Trump has endorsed a bill (the RAISE Act) that will cut the amount of legal immigrants coming to the United States by half. The alleged purpose of the bill is to diminish the immigrants who give “little value” to the United States, specifically, those who get into the U.S. on a family-based green card. However, research has shown that many baby boomers are retiring and there are not enough young Americans in the labor market to replace all of the new job openings. Since 2000, the number of Americans who are retired have increased by 36% but the labor market has only increased by 12%.

Research thus far has also concluded that the U.S. needs workers to fulfill the demand for labor intensive jobs such as farming and factory work. A study done by the University of Pennsylvania shows that the immigration bill, if passed, will likely cost the U.S. economy 4.6 million jobs by 2040. With Trump supporting this bill his approval ratings are now at an all time low.

PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS MUST MAINTAIN THEIR NONIMMIGRANT STATUS

USCIS recently published guidance reaffirming that all nonimmigrants seeking to change their status to F-1, M-1, or J-1 must maintain their nonimmigrant status up to 30 days before their program start date – in other words, prospective F-1 students must extend their nonimmigrant status while their change of status request is pending with USCIS.

USCIS RESUMES H-1B PREMIUM PROCESSING FOR CERTAIN CAP-EXEMPT PETITIONS

USCIS published a notice in late July stating that premium rush processing for certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions will resume “effective immediately.” Premium processing will resume for petitions that may be exempt from the cap if the petitioner is an institution of higher education, or a nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education, or a nonprofit research or governmental research organization.

Premium processing will also resume for petitions from certain qualifying cap-exempt institutions, organizations, or entities.

TRUMP ENDS PROGRAM PROTECTING CENTRAL AMERICAN MINORS FROM DEPORTATION

On August 16th, the Trump administration terminated the Central American Minors Parole (CAM) program. Enacted in 2014 as a response to the influx of children seeking asylum in the U.S. from Central America due to rising gang violence, the Obama Administration had given each qualifying child a two-year waiver from deportation to prepare their amnesty petitions. Minors along with certain family members were given the opportunity to apply for refugee status and possible resettlement within the U.S.

With the CAM program’s cancellation, almost 3000 children and their family members are now subject to deportation.

TRUMP IS DEPORTING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS AT A SLOWER RATE THAN OBAMA

Trump ran his campaign promising to speed up deportation and crack down on immigration. Despite his promises and stricter enforcement policies, Trump is actually deporting an average of 16,900 immigrants a month compared to the average 20,000 immigrants being deported monthly under the Obama administration. Furthermore in 2012 the average number of immigrants being deported monthly was as high as 34,000, double of Trump’s current averages. Although data shows that number of deportation orders have gone up by 31%, there is a significant backlog of cases held in immigration courts as they are having trouble enforcing the orders.

KUSHNER COMPANIES UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR ABUSE OF VISA PROGRAMS

Federal prosecutors are now investigating the real estate firm owned by the family of senior adviser Jared Kushner over the firm’s use of the EB-5 program which offers visas to qualified foreigners who invest at least $500,000 into the U.S economy. Legal representatives of the Kushner Companies deny any wrongdoing for their use of the program and argue that they have complied with all rules and regulations related to the program.

Currently the Kushners are seeking $150 million in investment funding through the EB-5 program for developing high-rise apartment building in Jersey City. At a recent Beijing event, Kushner Companies promised a high return of investment and allegedly promised green cards to investors in the project.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DEFENDS TRAVEL BAN

In a Supreme Court brief, the Trump Administration recapped their arguments defending the stalled travel ban citing the broad powers bestowed upon the executive by the Constitution. The brief stated that it is a mistake to investigate the President’s motive in decisions regarding national security citing its inappropriateness and necessity for the security of the United States from terrorist attacks. The Department of Justice argued that a lack of dismissal of the case would “invite impermissible intrusion on privileged internal Executive Branch deliberations” and that opponents of the administration are seeking “up to 30 depositions of White House staff and Cabinet-level officials.”

The travel ban barred people from six Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the ban can continue on a limited basis but could not bar individuals with a “bona fide relationship” to the United States. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments for the case in October.

IMMIGRANTS SUBSTANTIALLY CONTRIBUTE TO PUBLIC EXPENDITURES

A recent joint-study by Cornell University and the University of California at Berkeley has found that immigrants significantly contribute to paying for public expenditures and share the same burden as the average taxpayer of paying back public debt. The report also states that current evidence does not support the notion that an influx of immigrants cost native-born taxpayers money in the long run. Furthermore there is no evidence that stricter immigration enforcement would generate any savings for existing taxpayers. The report contends that, under the most likely future situations, immigrants are not a significant fiscal drain to current taxpayers.

This report is considered a far departure from the current rhetoric of the Trump administration and refutes many claims in support of the new immigration bill made by the President in recent months.

CHILDREN ALLEGEDLY BEING USED TO BAIT UNDOCUMENTED PARENTS BY ICE

Mynor Espinoza, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who was living in Hartford Connecticut, was summoned to fill out routine paperwork on behalf of his undocumented son. Instead of a routine procedure Espinoza was immediately arrested by ICE. And Espinoza is not the only one, so far there have been four reported “child baiting” cases in Connecticut alone where ICE requests known undocumented residents to come to ICE offices under the guise of filling paperwork to protect their children.

Many immigrants believe that the ICE can only deport an individual when they commit a serious crime however, this is no longer the case. The law technically says that ICE can deport any person living in the country illegally without need of a significant cause. Recent deportation cases have arisen from simple traffic violations and routine checks, a departure from Obama-era deportations.

ICE ARRESTING UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS WHO AREN’T TARGETS

From July 23rd-26th ICE arrested 650 illegal immigrants, however 457 of these immigrants were not originally targets in the raid. This is due to a change of policies by the Trump administration. Under the Obama administration, ICE officials would not always arrest non-targets during a raid, especially if there were children present. On the other hand, under the Trump administration’s new enforcement policies, previously untargeted immigrants are now amenable to deportation by ICE officers.

DESPITE OPPOSITION TO IMMIGRATION, TRUMP’S MAR-A-LAGO ESTATE SEEKS TO HIRE IMMIGRANTS

Trump’s country club, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida are moving forward with plans to hire new cooks, waiters, and housekeepers and are looking to immigrants to fill these positions. These plans come as a surprise due to the President’s strong support for a proposed bill that would cut legal immigration in half.

The Trump Administration’s stance against legal immigration has caused significant issues to the hotel and tourism industry in the United States. With jobs typically fulfilled by seasonal immigrant workers, the hotel and tourism sector has suffered a lack of supply for necessary staff. Encountering similar issues, once the Mar-a-Lago country club proves they have attempted to hire American employees they will start a broader search and hiring process and will begin issuing work visas to immigrants.

JEFF SESSIONS THREATENS FUNDING FOR FOUR SANCTUARY CITIES, CHICAGO RESPONDS WITH LAWSUIT

On August 3rd, the Justice Department sent letters to four sanctuary cities, one of them Chicago, with high statistics of gun violence and told them that they would withhold public safety grants unless they cooperated with ICE’s new strict immigration enforcement rules. In the past Chicago has used their $33 million dollars in grant money to buy almost 1,000 new police cars since 2005 as well as new radios and SWAT equipment. The Mayor of Chicago recently stated Chicago is done being “blackmailed by President Trump’s Justice Department” and is now pursuing legal action against the federal government.

MEXICAN CARTELS NOW KIDNAP UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS AT U.S. BORDER

An undocumented immigrant residing in Ohio was deported as a consequence of a traffic violation. Morelos was then slated to be deported across the border into the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, an area so violent that the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory against the area.

Despite the issued government warnings, Morelos was still deported to the violent state and was subsequently kidnapped and held for ransom by the Zetas cartel upon arrival in Tamaulipas. The Zetas view deportees as prime targets for kidnapping as they know they have someone in the U.S. who can pay a hefty ransom in exchange for the lives of the kidnapped. With the recent uptick in deportations, there are growing concerns as to the safety of deportees as similar kidnapping incidents are on the rise. In the past month, 10 other deportees in similar circumstances as Morelos have died after being deported to Tamaulipas. Morelos was fortunate that her husband was able to afford the ransom payments, other similar incidents have resulted in captives being harvested for organs or being sold as slaves in the illegal human trafficking market.

THREE YEAR OLD WHO SPENT MOST OF HIS LIFE IN IMMIGRANT DETENTION RELEASED

An undocumented mother and her newborn son were arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border and held in detention for 21 months before being released. This case has sparked controversy because the boy has learned how to walk and talk while locked up. They were detained in the Berks Family Residential Center in Pennsylvania where there are at least three other cases of detained minors who have been detained for more than 600 days. By policy, all children are supposed to be released after three weeks. Advocates say that they will continue to work on freeing mothers and children who have been detained for beyond the allowed three weeks but ultimately want to end the detention of young minors and their mothers altogether.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN CONCERNED OVER TRUMP APPROACH TO IMMIGRATION

In a recent interview with an Arizona newspaper, McCain expressed his concern with the Trump administration’s support of the Cotton-Perdue bill which seeks to reform immigration. McCain noted that a border wall will not be enough to stop in the inflow of undocumented workers into the United States and that investment into technology and efficiency would be more effective.

McCain also further mentioned that he supports a merit-based system for immigrants but warns that the United States also needs low-skilled workers to do “work that Americans won’t do.”

CALIFORNIA PRO-IMMIGRATION BILLS FACE SURPRISING OBSTACLES

After President Trump’s election, California state lawmakers began drafting regulations to counter the President’s stricter immigration policies. California’s lawmakers began releasing plans to blacklist companies involved with Trump’s border wall project, plans to increase protection for undocumented children in public schools, and prevent the use of local and state enforcement resources by the ICE.

However, despite these preemptive actions, the Legislature has encountered surprising opposition to their plans. The California State Sheriffs’ Association is seeking to pressure lawmakers to defeat the bill and is asking Governor Jerry Brown not to sign the bills into law. The association believes that undocumented immigrants pose a significant problem to the state and that a balanced and more careful approach to dealing with undocumented individuals is needed rather than widespread leniency.

ICE TURNING TO NEW TECHNOLOGY TO VET NEW VISA CANDIDATES

As the Trump Administration continues to enforce stricter immigration policies, the Department of Homeland Security is now seeking to procure a software tool to support their new “Extreme Vetting Initiative.” According to public documents, ICE is in the market for tools that can be used to predict the criminality of people who are attempting to enter the country. As quoted from the documents, ICE wants software that “automates, centralizes and streamlines the manual vetting process… [and] make determinations via automation if the data retrieved is actionable.”

USCIS REQUESTS FOR FURTHER EVIDENCE (RFEs)

Nawlaw and lawyers throughout the United States are now seeing a surge in USCIS Requests for Further Evidence regarding H-1B (specialty occupations) involving “Wage Level 1” positions. USCIS is now arguing that a Level 1 wage evidenced that the position is not complex or specialized than similar positions within the occupation. According to USCIS, “Level 1 (entry) wage rates are assigned to job offers for beginning level employees who have only a basic understanding of the occupation. These employees perform routine tasks that require limited if any, exercise of judgment.”

Nawlaw, together with immigration legal practitioners throughout the U.S, wholeheartedly disagrees with this notion.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Pakistani national currently working on a TN visa as a management consultant for a large computer consulting company asks:
All my projects thus far have been in the US. I really haven’t left the US except for a couple of personal trips to Canada. Now, my company wants to staff me on a project in Canada starting Aug 21st. This entails me traveling to Canada on Monday and returning to NYC on Thursday. My wife works for the City of NYC on her Cap Gap, F1 awaiting H1B (picked in lottery), so I need to be able to come home every weekend. Does this violate my TN visa since I won’t be servicing a US client while I’m in the US Thu-Mon? Might it result in my TN getting canceled at the border? I will still be paid by the US entity while on this project. Is this ok? Will I have to enter the US as visitor? Do you think I will have trouble entering the US every weekend? Might I be eligible for another visa instead of a TN? What do you recommend I do?

Answer: Although federal regulations governing TN visas do permit this since it is not specifically addressed, it may raise questions with the CBP officer conducting yours inspection(s) so be prepared to explain this unusual mechanism. Hence, you will not be required to re-enter the U.S. as a visitor. The TN is still the best visa given these unusual circumstances.

Architectural firm recently interviewed a foreign national currently on an H-1B visa and asks:
Is there is any way to hire an H-1B on a provisional/trial basis without actually seeking an H-1B transfer?

Answer: Unfortunately, federal regulations do not permit any sort of interim unauthorized employment in this manner. And, there is no grace period with respect to a change of employers and employment is not permitted even during authorized grace periods.

A one person tech company now seeks to hire a foreign national currently on optional practical training (OPT) and asks:
Is this feasible?

Answer: Yes, federal regulations do not limit the size of a company for OPT purposes. In fact, even self-employment is now permitted with respect to OPT.

B-2 visitor from Ukraine asks:
I am planning to seek a change of status to student. At what point can I apply for on-campus work permission?

Answer: Almost immediately after you receive approval of your change of status application. According to federal regulations, an F-1 student may begin working as much as 30 days before the start of a program of study. They should inform the DSO before they begin work.

Recently approved condition resident from India who has been given a temporary green card stamp but has not received the actual card asks:
Can I safely travel on vacation to Aruba?

Answer: Yes, the temporary green card stamp does authorize travel abroad while waiting for the physical card.

Green card applicant from Italy who has been given work authorization and advance parole asks:
Can I travel on holiday to Cuba?

Answer: Yes, but you should check to insure that there is no change in State Department policy insofar as Pres. Trump has indicated that he may reverse the recent policy adopted by former Pres. Obama.

An O-1B visa holder from Canada asks:
My son is now 16 years of age and would like to seek summer employment in the U.S. next year when he is 17. What type of visa would he be eligible for? And, can he participate in community and/or volunteer programs?

Answer: The J-1 visa is the best option since USCIS does not generally permit volunteering in the U.S. except for medical students studying abroad. As for secondary school students, they are permitted to travel to the United States to study at an accredited public or private high school and live with an American host family or at an accredited boarding school. College and university students enrolled full time and pursuing studies at post-secondary accredited academic institutions located outside the United States can come to the United States to share their culture and ideas with people of the United States through temporary work and travel opportunities. Secondary school students, on the other hand, may travel to the United States to study at an accredited public or private high school and live with an American host family or at an accredited boarding school. And, must be at least 15 years of age, but not more than 18 years and six months of age as of the program start date, or not have finished more than 11 years of primary and secondary school, not including kindergarten; and not have previously participated in a secondary school student academic year or semester exchange program or attended school in the United States in either F-1 or J-1.

SAMPLING OF RECENT APPROVALS

  • H-1B for Indian National working as a Financial Analyst for a Renowned Fine Jewelry Company
  • EB-1 Green Card for an Italian National working as a Robotics Engineer/CEO for a Technology Start Up
  • EB-2 for a Canadian National working as a Financial Analyst for an International Investment Banking Firm
  • B-2 Extension (6 Months) for an Irish National visiting the United States
  • H1-B for a Russian National working as a Financial Analyst for an International Investment Banking Firm
  • H1-B for a Singaporean National working as a Business Associate for an International Investment Banking Firm
  • H1-B for an Israeli National working as a Financial Analyst for an International Investment Banking Firm
  • H1-B for a French National working as an Educator for an International School

NEWSLETTER: July 27, 2017

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Newsletter – Immigration News July 27, 2017

NEW DIRECTIVE TELLS ICE OFFICERS TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS WHILE ON DUTY


The head of the ICE unit in charge of deportations issued a new directive to his officers to take action against all undocumented immigrants that may be encountered while on duty regardless of criminal histories. Many see the directive as going beyond the Trump Administration’s publicly stated aims. The Trump administration thus far has been clear in promising to increase immigration enforcement, but has so far emphasized its priority to deport immigrants who are a public safety threat.

U.S. TO RELEASE AN ADDITIONAL 15,000 VISAS FOR SEASONAL WORKERS


The Department of Homeland Security announced on July 17 that it will release up to 15,000 H-2B visas, known as visas for seasonal workers, to businesses that can prove that they will be severely impacted without foreign workers. Businesses in the tourism industry have welcomed the announcement but have cited concerns that the government is still offering too few visas to satisfy the growing demand. Many businesses in the tourism sector are desperately in need for help and staff under the current visa program with several hotels closing portions of their rooms because of the lack of available workers.

LAPTOP BAN ON PLANES REVOKED, U.S. OFFICIALS CONFIRM


The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that passengers flying into the United States from airports in 10 Muslim-majority countries affected by the laptop ban can now take their laptops and other large devices. The ban was lifted due to the establishment and compliance by airlines and airports of new Homeland Security Standards.

Officials had previously considered extending the laptop ban to flights from Europe in response to intelligence reports of bombs being built to look like laptops. Analysts feared a negative impact to the U.S. economy due to the frequency of business travel from Europe to the United States.


TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SEEKING TO HALVE ANNUAL IMMIGRATION

Recent reports have surfaced that President Donald Trump and his administration are working towards halving the number of legal immigrants allowed to enter the U.S. each year. Trump plans to push an immigration reform bill due to be released later this summer by Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia. This piece of legislation could effectively halve the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country each year from about 1 million to 500,000 by 2027.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO EXPAND DHS DEPORTATION POWERS

The Trump Administration is considering the expansion of the DHS’s powers to expedite deportations of qualifying illegal immigrants. The new policy would impact those who cannot prove that they have lived in the country for more than 90 days. The DHS stated that the changes would allow the DHS to more efficiently use their resources in deportations while still abiding to due-process requirements.

FACING LEGAL CHALLENGES, PROTECTIONS FOR DREAMERS LIKELY TO END SOON

Former President Barack Obama’s program that protects 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation will likely be struck down by the federal courts soon, predicts the Trump administration and supporters of the Dream Act. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that the program to protect DREAMers will likely be struck down assuming 10 Republican states follow through on legal challenges to the program by September. The DACA program allowed undocumented immigrants brought into the United States as children to stay and work providing they don’t commit any disqualifying crimes. The 10 Republican-led states challenge the program on the basis that Obama lacked the authority to grant amnesty to DREAMers.

TRUMP CANCELS IMMIGRATION PROGRAM FOR FOREIGN ENTREPRENEURS

The Trump administration put on hold a policy designed to allow foreign entrepreneurs to reside in the U.S. to build their companies. The administration reasoned that immigration officials are already overwhelmed with more important work.

The now-delayed program allowed foreign entrepreneurs seeking to develop their start-up companies to be granted “parole” in the U.S. A “parole” is special permission to be in the U.S. with legal status and a work permit with a potential opportunity for citizenship.

TRUMP CALLS FOR BARRING IMMIGRANTS FROM WELFARE FOR 5 YEARS

Trump announced during a recent stop in Iowa that he will ask Congress to pass legislation barring immigrants from accessing welfare within 5 years of entering the U.S. Trump cited a disputed 2015 report from the Center of Immigration Studies which found 51% of households headed by an immigrant are on some form of public assistance. Trump’s proposal will build off an existing act that allows federal authorities to deport immigrants who become public dependents within 5 years of arrival. The act was rolled back during the Bush and Obama administrations and currently states wield the authority to determine eligibility for welfare programs.

U.S. SUPREME COURT RULES CITIZENSHIP CANNOT BE REVOKED FOR TRIVIAL LIES

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court reversed the revocation of a Bosnian woman’s citizenship who gave trivial untrue answers on her naturalization application. The woman was initially stripped of her citizenship because she falsely stated that her husband had not served in the Bosnian-Serb army in the 1990s after Yugoslavia’s collapse. Chief Justice Roberts was appalled by the case as it could open doors to abuse of power as the government was asserting it could revoke citizenship through criminal prosecution for trivial lies or omissions.

NEW LAWSUIT ALLEGES ASYLUM SEEKERS ARE BEING ILLEGALLY TURNED AWAY AT BORDER

Six individual plaintiffs have launched a class-action lawsuit filed by immigration lawyers and advocates alleging that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) illegally turned them away after stating “there was no asylum” in the United States. The lawsuit claims that the case is part of a systematic effort by the CBP to prevent people from making asylum claims. In a call with reporters, the lawyers for the class action lawsuit argue that the border officials have misled, threatened, and physically abused asylum seekers in hundreds of cases to prevent them from entering the country. Asylum seekers mentioned in the lawsuit that they were mistakenly told that “Donald Trump just signed new laws saying there is no asylum for anyone,” while some were coerced into recanting their fear of returning home on video.

U.S. SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS FEDERAL JUDGE’S RULING STATING GRANDPARENTS AND OTHER CLOSE FAMILY ARE EXCLUDED FROM TRAVEL BAN

A Federal court judge agreed to partially halt the ban of certain foreign nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries on a nationwide basis. Specifically, the new decision allows “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States” to satisfy the bona-fide relationship standard to gain entry into the country. The Federal court judge stated that the Trump Administration’s interpretation of the Supreme Court decision defied common sense.

The Trump Administration then sought an intervention by the Supreme Court which failed as the Court upheld the Federal judge’s ruling allowing the expanded criteria for a bona fide relationship.

REPORT STATES DHS SHOULD ISSUE VISAS

According to media reports, a report commissioned by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and disseminated agency wide recommends the Department of Homeland Security take over the issuance of U.S. visas, passports, and other travel documents. The commissioned report contends this recommendation would help alleviate costs.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO TARGET RELATIVES WHO SMUGGLED IN CHILDREN

The Trump administration announced it will begin arresting parents and relatives who hire smugglers to bring their children into the United States. The new initiative by Immigration and Customs Enforcement marks another push by the administration to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise of tougher immigration enforcement. Officials have not responded to questions regarding details of the announcement leaving immigrants cautious of what could happen.

USCIS RELEASES NEW FORM I-9

On July 17th, USCIS published the newest version of the Form I-9. This new form, used by firms to verify employment eligibility, will become mandatory beginning September 18th.

UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS FACE RISKS FOR DRIVING WITHOUT A LICENSE

The Trump Administration has taken an aggressive stance on illegal immigration which has made simple traffic violations turn into easy targets for deportation. Traffic stops have always had the threat of deportation but during the last years of the Obama administration, serious crimes were given priority and traffic stops typically just led to deferment. However, this is no longer the case. Over the past several months there have been an increasing number of drivers and passengers being detained and taken into ICE custody during routine traffic stops all over the nation. Many now face deportation back to their respective countries.

AT TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S URGING, HOUSE PASSES 2 NEW IMMIGRATION BILLS

The House recently approved two bills cracking down on undocumented immigrants and areas that provide refuge for them at the urging of President Trump. The bills would increase prison sentences for those re-entering the country illegally and threaten sanctuary cities with cuts to federal funding to comply with federal immigration officials. It is likely that the two bills will meet resistance in the Senate as Democratic support is needed to clear the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.

SANCTUARY CITIES PROMISE CITIZENSHIP FOR 1 MILLION IMMIGRANTS

In response to the passing of two harsh immigration bills in the House of Representatives on June 29, 21 cities across the United States have pledged to make 1 million immigrants American citizens by the end of 2017. The initiative, called “Naturalize Now,” aims to prevent the deportation of undocumented immigrants under the Trump administration. The cities include, New York City, NY; San Francisco CA; Seattle, WA; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Jersey City, NJ; Los Angeles, CA; Miami, FL; Pittsburgh, PA; and Tucson, AZ.

DHS REVOKES BLOCKED PROGRAM TO PROTECT IMMIGRANT PARENTS

The Department of Homeland Security has formally cancelled the DAPA (deferred action for parents of Americans) program. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly revoked a key policy memo that created the program which intended to keep immigrant parents from deportation and provide them renewable work permits. The program was halted by a Texas judge when 26 states filed suit challenging its legality.

JUDGE BLOCKS DEPORTATION OF ANY IRAQI NATIONALS FROM THE U.S

A federal judge granted a temporary two week stay on the deportation of any Iraqi citizens in the United States. The ACLU had sought to protect all Iraqi citizens from deportation following a separate earlier order that granted temporary stay on the deportation of over 100 Iraqi Christians in Michigan. The judge reasoned that the Iraqis would potentially be harmed if they were deported back to war-torn Iraq.

PENTAGON COULD CANCEL IMMIGRANT MILITARY CONTRACTS PUTTING THEM AT RISK FOR DEPORTATION

The Pentagon is currently considering the cancellation of several military contracts for a program which offers citizenship to foreign service members that lack immigration status. Furthermore, the Pentagon is also considering enhanced screening for 4,100 troops whom are naturalized citizens.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Client from Pakistan, married to a U.S. citizen, who was recently arrested, asks:
If I appear for the biometric fingerprint in connection with my green card adjustment application will that trigger a response from ICE to arrest me?

Answer: Although there is a memo from February authorizing ICE “to identify, capture and quickly deport every undocumented immigrant they encounter” including any foreign national who has been “charged” with a criminal offense – to date, we have not seen that happening. Of course, we will keep our readers informed of any developments.

Swedish national who received a green card based on extraordinary ability (self-sponsored) asks:
As I’ve had my green card more than 5 years now, could I apply for an American passport/American citizenship?

Answer: In order to apply for US citizenship you must demonstrate/prove that you have been physically residing in the US for 30 out of 60 months and no absence has exceeded 6 months – and certainly not one year.

French national who has overstayed his ESTA asks:
Is it safe to travel domestically in the U.S. without legal status?

Answer: Certainly, however at this time there are greater risks because of the increased enforcement generated by the Trump administration. Some incoming domestic flights have been checked on occasion including Newark and JFK. Hence, there are definitely risks – especially in light of the recent policy Memo from May that gives CBP agents the authority to question almost anyone they encounter.

New York area health care agency asks:
Do we have an “affirmative” duty to report illegal aliens who contacts us for potential jobs?

Answer: No, there is presently no legal or affirmative duty on the part of individuals or companies to report illegal aliens.

SAMPLING OF RECENT APPROVALS

  • L1A for French National working as a General Manager for an International Hotel Chain
  • I-140 EB-2 for an Iranian National working as an Architectural Designer for an Architecture Firm
  • H-1B for a Filipino National working as a Financial Analyst for an Investment Bank
  • H-1B for a Canadian National working as a Financial Analyst for an Investment Bank
  • H-1 B for another Canadian National working as a Financial Analyst for an Investment Bank
  • H-1B for an Indian National working as a Financial Analyst for an Investment Bank
  • E-2 for a French National working as an Operations Manager for a French Restaurant
  • I-140 EB-1 Self-Petition after filing a Motion to Reconsider for a Filipino National working as a Special Education Teacher
  • I-140 EB-1 Self-Petition for a Canadian National working as a Graphic Artist Designer
  • Multiple O-1 Visas for Financial Analysts and Managers working for an International Investment Banking Firm

NEWSLETTER: May 12, 2017

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NEWSLETTER: May 12, 2017

NAWLAW IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THAT OVER 50% OF ITS H-1B PETITIONS WERE ACCEPTED BY USCIS FOR PROCESSING

U.S. LIKELY TO EXPAND AIRLINE LAPTOP BAN TO EUROPE

As recently reported, the Trump administration is likely to expand a ban on laptops on commercial aircraft to include some European countries, according government officials.

TRAVEL BAN ARGUMENTS FOCUS ON TRUMP’S COMMENTS ABOUT MUSLIMS

A panel of 13 judges in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia heard oral arguments this week on the government’s appeal over the preliminary injunction of President Trump’s latest travel ban. According to multiple sources, the appeal hinges on whether the federal appeals court agrees that the President’s past anti-Muslim statements can be used against him.

EB-5 GREEN CARD IS EXTENDED

According to the latest news reports, Congress has agreed on a budget until September 30, 2017, that extends the EB-5 Regional Center statute without change. It is our opinion that it is unlikely that any further EB-5 extensions will be “clean” or keep existing financial requirements because of the growing opposition.

IMMIGRATION PROPOSALS ‘CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT’ FROM BUDGET BILL

To the displeasure of conservative groups and supporters of President Trump, lawmakers from both parties rejected key elements of the president’s proposals to enforce the nation’s immigration law more aggressively. This includes hiring thousands of new deportation officers, cutting off money to cities that refuse to turn over undocumented immigrants and funding for Trump’s border wall. While the funding bill does add nearly $1.5 billion for border and aviation security, lawmakers have rejected much of the president’s approach to border security in favor of a more conventional approach.

CALIFORNIA JUDGE BLOCKS TRUMP’S SANCTUARY CITY ORDER

A California federal judge has recently granted a bid by San Francisco and Santa Clara county to block President Donald Trump’s executive order to withhold federal funds from ‘sanctuary cities’ for immigrants.

DHS CHIEF HAS STATED THAT THE DEPARTMENT WILL CONTINUE TO GO INTO NEIGHBORHOODS TO FIND UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

Department of Homeland Security Chief John Kelly has recently stated that the department will continue its controversial practice of arresting undocumented immigrants in places such as courthouses or places where those people might go to seek services, report crimes, or even file paperwork to postpone deportation.

ICE ARRESTS OF UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS WITHOUT CRIMINAL RECORDS HAVE DOUBLED UNDER TRUMP

The Washington Post recently reported that the arrests of undocumented individuals with no criminal records have more than doubled under the Trump administration to 5,441. Of the 675 immigrants detained across the United States in a series of raids in early February, about half had no criminal record or had recorded traffic offenses like drunk driving. According to statistics requested by The Washington Post, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 21,362 immigrants between January and mid-March, up from 16,104 during the same time period last year.

BORDER OFFICERS NEARLY DOUBLE SEARCHES OF ELECTRONIC DEVICES

According to data released by Customs and Border Protection, customs officers at the border and at airports almost doubled their searches of electronic devices of people entering the U.S. in the last 6 months.

HUNDREDS OF IMMIGRANTS DETAINED IN A PRIVATE PRISON HAVE GONE ON HUNGER STRIKE

According to activist groups, hundreds of immigrant detainees held in the Northwest Detention Center of Tacoma, Washington are refusing meals as part of an organized hunger strike. Northwest Detention Center, a private prison operated by Geo Group, has a capacity of 1,575 detainees and it is believed that over 500 detainees have taken part in the hunger strike. As part of their list of demands, detainees seek improved medical care, better food, speedier court proceedings, access to educational programs and better wages for labor as detainees currently earn $1 a day for working in the facility.

FIRST PROTECTED DREAMER IS DEPORTED UNDER TRUMP

According to USA Today, federal agents have deported Juan Manuel Montes, who had been living in the U.S. since age 9 and had twice been granted deportation protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by President Obama and left intact by president Trump.

DHS OPENS OFFICE TO REPORT ON IMMIGRANTS’ ALLEGED CRIMES

The Department of Homeland Security has recently announced that it has opened a new office aimed at reporting and keeping track of crimes allegedly committed by immigrants. The new office includes access to the criminal and immigration histories of suspects, although data does not suggest a higher correlation between immigrants and crimes.

TEXAS IS CRACKING DOWN ON UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

Texas has become the second state to outlaw sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to fully comply with federal enforcement of immigration laws. Republican Governor Greg Abbott has approved legislation that would make it a misdemeanor crime for local law enforcement to not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Such legislation holds penalties of up to $25,000 in fines for local governments and jail time for individual law enforcement officials who maintain sanctuary cities, as well as allows local police officers to inquire about someone’s immigration status during routine encounters such as traffic stops.

MAINE GOVERNOR SUES ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NOT SUPPORTING EXECUTIVE ORDERS

Maine Governor Paul R. DePage has sued Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills in Kennebec County Superior Court over the attorney general’s refusal to represent the state in a number of cases relating to President Trump’s executive orders on immigration. Maine’s governor alleges that the attorney general’s refusal to support President Trump’s policies has cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside counsel fees.

U.S. BORDER CROSSERS REPORT SEVERE RECEPTION

As recently reported in the New York Times, 39 year old Fadwa Alaoui, a Moroccan-born Canadian, faced questions about her religious beliefs and politics when she recently tried to drive into Vermont for her monthly shopping trip. Ms. Alaoui stated, “they treated us like criminals” as she was also asked to give up her phone to be searched, only to be then turned away.

BORDER AGENTS ARE REPORTEDLY TURNING AWAY ASYLUM SEEKERS UNLAWFULLY

According to Human Rights First, U.S. border agents are either illegally turning away people seeking asylum or refusing to deal with their requests. U.S. law requires border agents to refer people who arrive at the border and request asylum to an interview with an asylum officer or to an immigration court. However, the human rights group has indicated that this is not what is happening.

SENATOR OFFERS BILL TO LET STATES RUN WORK VISA PROGRAMS

Under the newly-proposed bill entitled the State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program of 2017, states would be able to craft their own guest worker programs and sponsor nonimmigrant workers to be admitted to the U.S. for up to three years. According to Senator Ron Johnson, the bill’s sponsor, the bill would grant states the flexibility to craft guest worker programs that would address local needs, all while adhering to federal regulations on worker visas.

  • According to the most recent edition of the Foreign Affairs Manual: “while O-1 beneficiaries may not self-petition, a separate legal entity owned by the O-1 beneficiary may be eligible to file a petition on behalf of the O-1 beneficiary.”
  • DUAL INTENT
    • 8 C.F.R. 214.2(o) (13) “Effect of approval of a permanent labor certification or filing of a preference petition on O classification. The approval of a permanent labor certification or the filing of a preference petition for an alien shall not be a basis for denying an O-1 petition, a request to extend such a petition, or the alien’s application for admission, change of status, or extension of stay. The alien may legitimately come to the United States for a temporary period as an O-1 nonimmigrant and depart voluntarily at the end of his or her authorized stay and, at the same time, lawfully seek to become a permanent resident of the United States.”

IMMIGRATION LAW UPDATE

  • O-1 VISA
    • According to the most recent edition of the Foreign Affairs Manual: “while O-1 beneficiaries may not self-petition, a separate legal entity owned by the O-1 beneficiary may be eligible to file a petition on behalf of the O-1 beneficiary.”
  • DUAL INTENT
    • 8 C.F.R. 214.2(o) (13) “Effect of approval of a permanent labor certification or filing of a preference petition on O classification. The approval of a permanent labor certification or the filing of a preference petition for an alien shall not be a basis for denying an O-1 petition, a request to extend such a petition, or the alien’s application for admission, change of status, or extension of stay. The alien may legitimately come to the United States for a temporary period as an O-1 nonimmigrant and depart voluntarily at the end of his or her authorized stay and, at the same time, lawfully seek to become a permanent resident of the United States.”

RECENT USCIS DEVELOPMENTS

  • SITE VISITS
    • We have both observed and learned from clients that USCIS is, on occasion, conducting site visits both pre-and post-interview to determine if a marital relationship is genuine. They are also calling households.
  • VISA REVOCATION
    • B-2 visa holder from the Philippines was coming to the US for his 5th trip to visit his US citizen sister – his longest prior stay was only 1 month. However, at the very last minute both he and his wife were not permitted to board their flight in Manila to New York. The airline simply told to contact the U.S. Consulate, which he proceeded to do. The U.S. Consulate then simply indicated “cancelled” on his visa and stated that he could reapply again for a visa but there is a “mark” on his name and he should explain his reasons in writing for issuance of a new visa. Hence, the chances of him obtaining a new visa are extremely slim. It is suspected that someone contacted the U.S. Consulate and spoke ill of the B-2 visa holder. Both U.S. consular and immigration officials have been known to act on this basis without any actual evidence or proof – simply assertions and innuendo.
  • POTENTIAL STUDENTS
    • USCIS is actively checking and cross-referencing SEVIS records. For example, a B-2 visitor from India sought to change status to F-1, obtained the I-20 from the school and applied for a change of status to F-1. He then left the US while his application was pending and later re-entered on the B-2 visitor visa. He then attempted to re-apply for a change of status to F-1 and USCIS denied the application based on his prior SEVIS record which indicated an intent to study – and not visit the US. That is, USCIS claimed he was not a genuine visitor for pleasure at the time he re-entered the U.S.

SAMPLING OF RECENT NAWLAW APPROVALS

  • TN-1 approval for a Canadian national working as an Economist for an investment bank
  • TN-1 approval for a Canadian national working as a Management Consultant for an events company
  • TN-1 approval for a Canadian national working as a Management Consultant for a real estate development company
  • EB-1 approval for an Indian national working as a Director of Technical Operations for a VOD marketing service
  • EB-2 approval for a Brazilian national working as a Portfolio Manager for an investment firm
  • EB-3 approval for a Brazilian national working as an Architectural Designer for an architectural firm
  • EB-3 approval for a French national working as a French Science Teacher for a French school
  • H-1B approval for an Indian national working as a Financial Analyst
  • H-1B approval for a Canadian national working as a Project Manager for a construction company
  • H-1B approval for an Indian national working as a Vice President for an investment bank
  • H-1B approval for an Indian national working as a Managing Director for an investment bank
  • H-1B approval for a South Korean national working as an Associate for an investment bank
  • H-1B approval for a Canadian national working as an Associate for an investment bank
    • *Our record of cap-based H-1B petitions thus far has seen an acceptance rate of over 50%. This is higher than the national average!
  • E-3 approval for an Australian national working as a Senior Knitwear Designer
  • E-3 approval for an Australian national working as a Director of Marketing and Communications
  • E-3 approval for an Australian national working as a Project Manager for a construction company
  • L-1 approval for an Indian national working as a VP of Accounting for an accounting firm
  • I-140 approval for an Irish national working as an Operations and Compliance Manager
  • I-140 approval for an Australian national working as a Studio Director
  • PERM approval for a Chinese national working as a Price Database Coordinator for an arts management company
  • PERM approval for a South Korean national working as a Fashion Designer for a textile design company
  • PERM approval for a Mexican national working as a VP of Research & Development for a sports information company

RECENT CLIENT QUERIES

  1. H-1B visa holder from Ireland states: I was coming back from Cancun, Mexico yesterday and we had a stopover in Minneapolis so I had to go through immigration there. The immigration officer said that when I was traveling back from Ireland through Shannon Airport on January 1st the immigration officer put me through as a visa waiver (ESTA) instead of stamping an H1B stamp. It now shows up that I over stayed since March 30th. What should I do? Ans. You can personally meet with CBP at JFK Airport and request that this be corrected. Many of our clients have experienced similar errors at the time of admission.
  2. Undocumented mother of a U.S. citizen child, age 6, asks if she can obtain a passport for the child? Ans. Yes, we don’t believe there is currently a risk in doing so.
  3. Foreign national from Hungary previously applied for a green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen which was not approved or granted. However, he did receive a work permit as well as a social security number. He is now being asked to complete an I-9 form and asks if this will present a problem? Ans. Possibly – although he has a social security number he does not have current documents evidencing that he is eligible to work.
  4. O-1B visa holder from India who has been outside the US for several months and returning shortly asks if she will encounter a problem at port of entry? Ans. In view of the increased authority given to CBP at port of entry, it is possible that this issue will arise so you should be prepared to explain why you have been abroad and emphasize that you will be working/performing in the US as per the O-1B. In this particular case we structured the O-1 visa application to provide for performances both in the US and abroad.
  5. TN-1 visa holder from Canada as an Accountant is now interested in working in real estate on a commission basis and asks if this is feasible? Ans. The TN is specific to the initial sponsoring company based on a designated occupation – real estate sales (commission based), however, is not recognized as a TN occupation. Hence, it would not be permissible.
  6. US citizen who is dating a Russian national that now wants to visit the U.S, asks if this is feasible? Ans. Obtaining a B-2 is very challenging in both Russia, Ukraine, the Philippines and many parts of the world. In many cases, the fiancé visa is the only other option -but requires marriage within 90 days of arrival.
  7. O-1 visa holder in the U.S. from the UK who is travelling abroad asks, “Am I likely to experience any adverse issues when I return to JFK next month?” Ans. Although prospective visitors and green card holders are vetted we have not seen or heard of any incidents affecting O-1 visa holders.
  8. Green card applicant and marijuana user asks whether such will show up on the green card medical exam required for all applicants? Ans. No, marijuana use is not presently tested on the green card medical exam.

CLIENT TESTIMONIALS

Testimonial from an Irish national upon PERM/Labor approval: “Wow that’s Great News. Thanks a million for your help with this!”

Testimonial from a Canadian national upon receiving his TN approval as a Management Consultant: “Thank you very much for all your help!!! You are truly the best.”

Testimonial from a Pakistani national upon receiving EB-1 self-sponsored green card approval: “Neil is the best!”

NEWSLETTER: April 14, 2017

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NEWSLETTER: April 14, 2017

HAWAII ASKS FULL 9TH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS TO HEAR TRAVEL BAN APPEAL

The state of Hawaii has recently asked the full Ninth Circuit to consider the Trump administration’s appeal of a preliminary injunction that barred the enforcement of a revised executive order on immigration from six predominantly Muslim countries. Hawaii has stated that this review is appropriate due to the “exceptional importance” of the questions at issue.

DHS HAS ANNOUNCED STEPS AGAINST H-1B VISA FRAUD AND CHANGES TO THE H-1B VISA PROGRAM

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recently announced steps to prevent the fraudulent use of H-1B visas, which includes issuing a warning to employers that it will look closely at any employer showing a preference for hiring H-1B workers instead of Americans, and announcing plans to increase transparency on applicants. Additionally, USCIS has stated that it intends to narrow its targets for site visits by focusing on cases where the agency cannot validate an employer’s basic information through “commercially available data,” and where employers have a relatively high ratio of H-1B workers to other types of workers. Look for increased site visits.

USCIS has also recently announced changes to the H-1B visa program such as by declaring that entry-level computer programming jobs would no longer automatically qualify as a “specialty occupation,” a basic requirement for receiving an H-1B work visa. Nawlaw will keep our readers up to date with any further changes to the H-1B program.

EB-5 LAWS UP FOR VOTE ON APRIL 28TH

According to a recent article in the New York Times, it is expected that Congress will simply extend the current law for 3-6 months rather than vote on changing the current threshold of $500,000 for investments, both direct and indirect (Regional Centers) located in designated high unemployment areas.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION CONSIDERS FAR-REACHING STEPS FOR ‘EXTREME VETTING’

As part of the new “extreme vetting” measures reportedly being considered by the Trump administration, travelers to the U.S. could be forced to hand over their mobile phones and social media passwords, as well as be questioned about their ideology. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, this could apply to most countries including U.S. allies such as Germany and France.

One aspect of security screening has already increased as the number of people who have been asked to hand over their cellphones and passwords by Customs and Border Protection agents has increased threefold in recent years.

U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS SIGNALS IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recently issued a memo calling for federal attorneys to consider prosecution of anyone who harbors undocumented immigrants, with a priority given to violent cases or those that involve transporting or shielding three or more undocumented immigrants. Session has also instructed the Justice Department to pursue felony charges when applicable for immigrants who try to enter the U.S. illegally on multiple occasions.

NYPD REPORTEDLY DEFIES SANCTUARY CITY STATUS AFTER ALERTING ICE ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS’ COURT DATES

As reported in Fox News, the NYPD has reportedly alerted federal immigration officials to illegal immigrants’ appearances in criminal court despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vow to remain a Sanctuary City. Although New York City has vowed to only alert immigration officials if an illegal immigrant is accused of a violent crime, the NYPD has reportedly alerted ICE of three individuals who had recently been arrested for non-violent misdemeanors.

SEATTLE SUES TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OVER ‘SANCTUARY CITY’ THREAT

The city of Seattle has sued President Trump and his administration stating that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ threat to strip billions in federal grant money from so-called “sanctuary cities” is illegal and unconstitutional. This comes after Sessions stated that the Justice Department plans to withhold up to $4.1 billion from “sanctuary cities” – a blanket term for many areas that refuse immigration agents’ requests to detain immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency deems at least 118 jurisdictions as sanctuaries. Seattle’s lawsuit alleged that such policy violates the Tenth Amendment and puts as much as $155 million of the city’s federal funding at stake. Current sanctuary states include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

CALIFORNIA SENATE PASSES ‘SANCTUARY STATE’ BILL

The California Senate has recently passed a “sanctuary state” bill, formerly known as Senate Bill 54, which would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from using resources to investigate, detain, report or arrest persons for the purposes of immigration enforcement. The bill will next be considered by the state Assembly. In defense of the bill, Democrats have stated that California had to take a stand in defense of “hardworking” immigrants that have become part of the country’s cultural and economic backbones.

BILL INTRODUCED TO LIMIT SEARCH OF ELECTRONIC DEVICES AT THE BORDER

A bill was recently introduced in Congress to place strict limitations on the right of U.S. border agents to search the electronic devices of American citizens when they cross the border or re-enter the U.S. at an airport. The “Protecting Data At the Border Act” would make it illegal for border officers to search or seize cellphones without probable cause.

MARCH 2017 SEES THE LOWEST NUMBER OF PEOPLE TRYING TO SNEAK INTO THE U.S. IN 17 YEARS

According to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the number of arrests of people illegally entering the U.S. at the Mexican border plummeted during the month of March from 43,000 detained in February to fewer than 12,500 people last month. According to the Associated Press, March’s number was the lowest monthly figure in 17 years.

LOS ANGELES RAIDS TARGET INVESTOR GREEN CARD FRAUD

According to the Los Angeles Times, federal agents have recently executed search warrants at several sites in Los Angeles that were connected to a $50 million visa fraud operation that enabled Chinese citizens, including fugitives from the law, to secure green cards for permanent residency in the United States. This is the latest multiyear investigation that highlights EB-5 abuses.

LANDLORDS ARE REPORTEDLY USING DEPORTATION THREATS TO EVICT TENANTS

There have been a growing number of reports that landlords are threatening tenants with deportation in an attempt to raise rent, evict, or simply avoid fixing things in their units.

TRUMP NOMINATES NEW HEAD OF IMMIGRATION AGENCY

President Trump has recently announced that he will nominate Lee Francis Cissna to oversee the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Cissna, whose nomination is subject to confirmation, already has immigration policy experience within the federal government as he is a head of immigration policy in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Policy.

OTHER NEWS AROUND THE U.S.

  • 25-year-old DACA recipient, granting him 2 year’s permission to work and protection from deportation, was detained in Portland, Oregon by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents because of a DUI misdemeanor.
  • Unarmed legal resident was shot in Chicago home after ICE agents raided his home to attempt to make an arrest. Family has stated that no family members are undocumented and family has lived in the home for the past 30 years.
  • Senate Republican leaders have indicated that Trump’s funding request for a border wall will likely wait until later in the year.
  • ICE makes 84 arrests in a 3 day operation targeting the Pacific Northwest. Those detained included 7 women, 77 men from 12 countries, including 64 from Mexico.
  • Two prominent Houston doctors facing removal by immigration officials have been granted a temporary, 90-day reprieve. This comes as a relief for dozens of patients who have specialized surgeries scheduled with the two doctors in the coming weeks.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly have denied allegations from California’s Supreme Court that federal agents are “stalking” illegal immigrants in courthouses. They did nevertheless acknowledge that federal agents have been going there to arrest illegal immigrants and they informed California’s chief justice that such procedures will not stop.
  • A U.S. citizen is suing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency claiming he was arrested and held in jail for almost three additional weeks because they did not believe he was in the country legally.
  • Trump will continue to allow immigrants to obtain citizenship through U.S. military service.
  • Nearly 1,500 economists have joined in a letter to President Trump and top Congressional leaders stating the economic benefits immigrants bring to the U.S. and urged Congress to “modernize” the country’s immigration system.
  • A Pakistani Fulbright scholar cannot finish his graduate studies because he was stopped from flying back to the U.S.
  • The Trump administration has stated that it is no longer considering separating women and children at the southern U.S. border as a means of deterring their migration.
  • Although once routine, ICE check-ins where immigrants go see an ICE officer before seeing an Immigration Judge, while holding a pending appeal or while holding a final order of removal, now makes immigrants very vulnerable as there have been growing reports of detention and deportation.
  • A bill has been introduced in Congress that aims to thwart Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from wearing clothing labeled with the words “police,” arguing that the practice is deceiving.
  • A New York City judge has recently ruled that the city could destroy personal documents associated with its municipal identification program, a victory in its fight to protect undocumented immigrants.

SAMPLING OF RECENT NAWLAW APPROVALS

  • I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver approval for an Ecuadorian national married to a U.S. Citizen
  • I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver approval for an Thai national married to a U.S. Citizen
  • F-1 change of status approval for an India national from a B-2 visitor visa
  • TN-1 approval for a Canadian national working as an Economist
  • EB-5 approval for a Russian national as an EB-5 Investor in a Regional Center
  • O-1 approval for an Australian national working as a Fashion Patternmaker
  • O-1 approval for an Argentine national working as a Head Audio Engineer
  • O-1 approval for a French national working as a Chef in a NYC restaurant
  • O-1 extension for a Swedish national working as a Fashion Designer
  • H-1B extension for a Canadian national working as a Physical Therapist
  • H-1B extension for an Indian national working as a Vice President 1 for a finance firm
  • H-1B extension for an Indian national working as an Associate 1 for a finance firm
  • H-1B extension for an Indian national working as a Managing Director for a finance firm
  • H-1B approval for a Belgian national working as an Associate 1 for a finance firm
  • B-2 extension for an Indian national approved in 3 months
  • U visa approval for a Chilean national
  • L-1 approval for an Indian national working for an accounting firm
  • I-140 approval for a Filipino client working as an Accountant
  • I-140 approval for an Indian national working as a Systems Analyst
  • Appeal for PERM denial of Software Developer from India

RECENT CLIENT QUERIES

  1. Visitor from India who came to the US 9 years ago but overstayed, owns restaurants, and is concerned about the Trump administration policies, now has two US born children and asks if he can seek a green card through EB5 investment? Ans. Unfortunately, not since he does not hold valid nonimmigrant status – therefore, must wait till the US child turns 21 years of age and files a green card petition on his behalf.
  2. Employer who has sponsored a foreign national for a green card through labor certification asks if the newly approved green cardholder is actually required to work for the sponsor? Ans. No, federal regulations provide that there is no requirement to actually work for the green card sponsor since the application is based on an offer of future employment. According to US laws and regulations, a foreign national cannot be forced or compelled to work for a sponsor. Nor, in the absence of an executed claw-back agreement, can the sponsor demand a refund of legal fees or expenses incurred in the green card process. According to federal regulations, only the sponsor can pay for the first stage of the PERM green card process – not the foreign national.
  3. National of Uruguay and Italy asks: “I will enter the US with my ESTA that expires on July 20, 2017. When I enter on April 15th they will give me the 90 days stay until July 14th. Is it necessary that I get a new ESTA before the trip or if it’s still current for the trip will it be fine? I don’t want to apply for a new one if this one is not expired yet and look suspicious?” Ans. You can wait until you arrive in the U.S. before applying for the ESTA renewal. Now, we have recently seen a case where an Irish national holding valid ESTA and planning to return to the U.S. from a short stay in the Caribbean received on-line notification that his ESTA was suddenly canceled. Hence, he could not return to the U.S.
  4. H-4 spouse from Israel asks if she is permitted to engage in commercial portrait photography? Ans. According to federal regulations, the H-4 spouse is generally precluded from engaging in business although pursuit of a hobby is permissible.
  5. H-4 spouse from India holding valid status is seeking to temporarily return to India and apply for visa renewal at the US Consulate in Mumbai asks if this will present a problem? Ans. We have only experienced problems with respect to H-1B visa renewals – not with respect to H-4 spouses and children. We have observed that for many years H-1B renewals have often been significantly delayed, especially if the job occupation is in the computer field. An H-4 accompanying spouse is eligible for work permission if their spouse is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

CLIENT TESTIMONIALS

Testimonial from a UK national working as Journalist upon an O-1B approval: “Fantastic news!!!!! Thank you so much for all your hard work!”

Testimonial from an Indian national upon receiving green card approval: “On all our behalf this is to thank you very much for your assistance, guidance and handling of the critical challenges during the interview with your expertise and know how. We whole heartedly appreciate your time and guidance.”

Testimonial from a Brazilian national upon receiving green card approval for working as an Interior Designer: “Congratulations to you as well for the good work!”

NEWSLETTER: April 7, 2017

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NEWSLETTER: April 7, 2017

USCIS HAS REACHED THE H-1B VISA CAP FOR FISCAL YEAR 2018

USCIS reported today that it has now reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 visa H-1B cap for fiscal year 2018 after only 4 days. USCIS has also received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the Master’s cap.

Notably, USCIS has received great criticism for their temporary stoppage of “premium processing” service for H-1B visas, a program that allowed employers to pay extra to reduce visa wait times from as long as eight months to just two weeks. Not only has this hurt employers who wish to expedite the process, USCIS records show that this suspension will result in a severe loss of revenue as premium processing fees have amounted to $2.3 billion over the past 8 years.

BAY AREA TECH EXECUTIVES INDICTED FOR H-1B VISA FRAUD

Two Bay San Francisco tech executives have recently been indicted for fraudulently filing false H-1B visa documents in a scheme to illegally obtain visas and bring a pool of foreign tech workers into the United States. These executives have been charged with 26 counts of visa fraud, conspiracy to commit visa fraud, use of false documents, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft in the Northern District of California. Each charge can carry penalties of between 2 to 20 years in prison.

ICE QUIETLY UPDATES RULE TO MAKE IT EASIER TO DETAIN EVEN MORE IMMIGRANTS

Immigration officials have issued a new “Detainer Form” that could sweep up even more undocumented immigrants into the Trump administration’s deportation force. A detainer form is commonly sent to local police jurisdiction by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials when they are seeking to take someone into custody. Unlike the previous detainer policy which recommended ICE officials to detain someone who had a prior conviction, such as a felony or 3 or more misdemeanors, the new detainer policy includes no detailed guidance. This means that ICE could send local police a detainer for any “subject” they believe “is removable from the United States.”

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ORDERS TOUGHER SCREENING OF VISA APPLICANTS

The Trump administration is making it tougher for millions of visitors to enter the U.S. by demanding new security checks before giving visas to tourists, business travelers and relatives of American residents. This comes as Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson recently instructed U.S. consular officers abroad to broadly increase scrutiny, the first evidence of Mr. Trump’s “extreme vetting” promise. The extra scrutiny will include asking applicants detailed questions about their background and making mandatory checks of social media history to determine if the person has ever been in a territory controlled by the Islamic State. Nevertheless, the new rules generally do not apply to citizens of 38 non-Middle Eastern or African countries that are admitted into the U.S. under the Visa Waiver program (ESTA).

ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS SAYS GRANTS TO BE WITHHELD FROM SANCTUARY CITIES

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recently announced that state and local governments seeking Justice Department grants must certify they are not “sanctuary cities,” which do not assist federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws, in order to receive federal money. Among these grants are those from the Office of Justice Programs that provides billions of dollars in grants and other funding to help criminal justice programs across the country. During a recent appearance in the White House press briefing room, Mr. Session justified his actions by stating that sanctuary cities “make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on the streets,” and he “urg[es] states and local jurisdictions to comply with these federal laws.” New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles and San Francisco are sanctuary cities.

SURVEY FINDS FOREIGN STUDENTS AREN’T APPLYING TO AMERICAN COLLEGES

As reported by NBC News, a recent survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers shows that applications from international students from countries such as China, India and, in particular, the Middle East, are down this year. Educators, recruiters and school officials report that the perception of the United States has changed for international students as the U.S. is no longer viewed internationally as a welcoming place anymore. According to the Association of International Educators, the number of foreign students topped 1 million for the first time in 2016 and they generated around $32 billion in revenues which supported more than 400,000 jobs. Education professionals therefore warn a drop in international students could lead to faculty cuts, higher tuition and the loss of programs.

TRUMP’S IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN HAS AN ALARMING EFFECT ON PUBLIC SAFETY

Recent reports has indicated that the Trump administration’s crackdown on deportations and sanctuary cities have caused undocumented immigration to avoid law enforcement at all costs, including by refusing to report crimes and declining to testify in court cases. According to Denver’s city attorney, an example of this was recently seen in Denver where four women made domestic abuse allegations and later declined to pursue their cases out of fear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers would see them in the courthouse and deport them. Similar scenarios have played out in cities across the U.S. as ICE have in fact detained individuals in city courthouses where ICE has defended such policy as a last resort effort after “other options” have been exhausted.

CAN MASSACHUSETTS POLICE DETAIN SOMEONE FOR A U.S. IMMIGRATION VIOLATION?

The Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts’ highest court, is scheduled to hear a case on April 4, 2017, regarding whether Massachusetts law enforcement officers have authority to arrest and detain someone for civil immigration purposes, on a request for detainment by ICE, or whether this violates a person’s civil rights. We will keep our readers informed as this case develops.

THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY HAS FLAGGED 31 EMPLOYEES AT TOM CAT BAKERY IN QUEENS

A Queens bakery has told 31 of its employees that it must procure valid working papers proving they are allowed to work in the U.S. or be fired after the bakery was audited by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As many of the employees flagged by DHS have been at the 30-year-old company for as long as 24 years, they have opted to fight back and have held rallies in front of the bakery demanding either that Tom Cat sponsor the longtime employees to work there, or pay severance.

It is unknown whether the audit of the bakery is routine or the result of President Trump’s stronger stance on undocumented workers.

NEWSLETTER: March 24, 2017

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NEWSLETTER: March 24, 2017

THE H-1B VISA IS STILL AVAILABLE – DON’T BE LEFT OUT!

LESSER KNOWN FACTS ABOUT THE H-1B:

  • The H-1B is available for full-time or even part time employment. Full time employment is defined as 35 hours per week – at a minimum.
  • It is not required that the H-1B petition be filed by the current employer. A U.S. employer can file an H-1B petition for a qualified employee – even if not in their current employment.
  • A cap-exempt H-1B petition is not subject to the April filing deadline.

THERE ARE H-1B VISA ALTERNATIVES:

  1. The H-3 Training Visa – to obtain training not available in the home country;
  2. J-1 Training Visa – to participate in a designated training program – 12-18 months;
  3. E-1 (Trade)-E-2 (Investment Visa) – for nationals of designated countries either starting companies or working for companies already granted E visa status;
  4. E-3 Visa – specialty occupations (for Australian nationals);
  5. O-1 Visa – for those demonstrating “extraordinary ability” in the arts or science;
  6. P Visa – for athletes; artists entertainers and culturally unique programs;
  7. Q Visa – to participate in a cultural exchange program;
  8. TN-1 Visa – for Canadian and Mexican nationals whose occupations are listed: i.e. Management Consultant, Economist, Physician, etc.

ICE AGENTS ARE NOW MAKING ARRESTS IN COURTHOUSES

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, there have been a number of incidents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents making arrests inside the confines of courthouses throughout California, Arizona, Texas and Colorado. While some wear ICE uniforms and others do not, they sweep into courtrooms or lurk outside court complexes just waiting to arrest undocumented immigrants. This has led Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the California Chief Justice, to ask the Trump administration to stop immigration agents from “stalking” the state’s courthouses to make arrests. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Session, Justice Cantil-Sakauye stated, “courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws . . . enforcement policies that include stalking courthouses and arresting undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom pose no risk to public safety, are neither safe nor fair.” While ICE officials have defended the tactic by saying that they make arrests in courthouses only when all other options have been exhausted, activists, attorneys and prosecutors fear that this could deter undocumented immigrants from appearing in court to testify as witnesses or answer warrants, which could ultimately endanger prosecutions.

TRUMP’S BORDER WALL GETS BILLIONS IN BUDGET PROPOSAL

According to the White House’s recently released budget plan for next year, President Trump is proposing a $2 billion down payment on his signature border wall, as well as the hiring of 100 new government lawyers, adding 1,500 law enforcement officials and spending more than $1 billion on detention and deportation. The proposal includes paying for the border security plan by marshaling savings from across the federal government which will largely depend on Congress as it makes spending decisions based on the president’s proposals. Democrats have pledged to put up a gritty fight against the wall and increased immigration enforcement.

IMMIGRATION JUDGES TO BE REASSIGNED TO 12 CITIES TO SPEED UP DEPORTATIONS

According administration officials, the U.S. Justice Department is developing plans to temporarily reassign immigration judges from around the country to 12 cities to speed up deportations of illegal immigrants who have been charged with crimes. While it is still unknown how many judges will be reassigned or when they will be sent, the Justice Department has begun soliciting volunteers. The targeted cities include New York, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco, Baltimore, El Paso, Phoenix, Bloomington (Minnesota), Omaha (Nebraska), Harlingen (Texas) and Imperial (California).

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION APPEALS PARTIAL BLOCK OF TRAVEL BAN BY MARYLAND JUDGE

The Trump administration has appealed a federal court order issued in the state of Maryland that partially blocks the president’s revised travel ban. The move came days after federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii struck down parts of Trump’s travel ban, both ruling it discriminatory against Muslims. Maryland issued an emergency halt to the portion of the executive order that temporarily bans the entry of travelers from six Muslim-majority nations. Meanwhile, Hawaii’s temporary order covers two complete sections of the travel ban and restricts Trump from altering the refugee resettlement program. The case will now go to a federal appeals court.

NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS SEND LETTERS HOME TO PARENTS REASSURING THEM THAT THE CITY WILL NOT ALLOW IMMIGRATION AGENTS TO ROAM SCHOOLS UNFETTERED

As reported in the New York Times, New York City schools have been sending letters home to students’ families to reassure them that the city is not keeping records of their immigration status and that immigration agents would not be roaming schools unfettered. This has been replicated in school districts throughout the country as many have sent reminders that they are never to ask families about their immigration status, and the protocol on what to do if federal immigration officers show up at the schoolhouse door, which includes demanding to see a warrant first. While the Department of Homeland Security has declared schools off limits, many school districts prefer to be prepared.

TRUMP’S CRACKDOWN FOCUSES ON UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS – BUT NOT ON THE BUSINESSES THAT HIRE THEM

Despite President Trump’s views on deportations and building a wall on the Mexican border, his Executive Orders on immigration have thus far made no mention of targeting employers. As the Los Angeles Times reports, this is unsurprising as immigrants have historically received most of the blame in the never-ending political and rhetorical war over illegal immigration, while businesses have largely received a relative pass from enforcement. For example, although more than 2.5 million people have been deported in fiscal years 2009 through 2016, only 1,337 business managers have been arrested on charges including illegal hiring, tax evasion and money laundering.

DEVICES BANNED ON FLIGHTS FROM 10 AIRPORTS

The U.S. has recently barred passengers from airports of 10 Muslim-majority countries from carrying laptop computers, iPads and other devices larger than a cellphone aboard direct inbound flights. According to two senior American counter-terrorism officials, this measure comes after recent intelligence shows that the Islamic State is developing a bomb that can be hidden in portable electronics, such as in laptop batteries. The affected airports include airports in Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Turkey, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Lebanon and two airports in both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Nevertheless, the ban on electronics does not affect American-operated airlines as they do not fly directly to the United States. In all, an estimated 50 flights each day into the United States will be affected. It is uncertain how long these restrictions will be in place.

NEW EMERGENCY APP FOR UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

An advocacy organization group along with a tech team has created an App to offer a small peace of mind for immigrants facing possible deportation, known as Notifica. Designed with both English and Spanish language capabilities, Notifica allows users to preload up to 15 SMS text messages for friends, family, attorneys and other essential contacts to assign them certain responsibilities in the event the immigrant is detained. This includes appointing someone to care for their children and informing someone to advise their doctor that they are away from their medication. The intended contacts will receive the alerts in less than 2 seconds, even if they do not have the app themselves, and although payment capabilities have been intentionally omitted, users have the option to use the App to call into MigraWatch hotline to deploy their PIN-protected message.

CAN MASSACHUSETTS POLICE DETAIN SOMEONE FOR A U.S. IMMIGRATION VIOLATION?

The Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts’ highest court, is scheduled to hear a case on April 4, 2017 regarding whether Massachusetts law enforcement officers have authority to arrest and detain someone for civil immigration purposes, on a request for detainment by ICE, or whether this violates a person’s civil rights. We will keep our readers informed as this case develops.

EUROPE WANTS TO MAKE U.S. CITIZENS APPLY FOR VISAS

The European Union parliament has recently voted to end the visa waiver program that has allowed U.S. passport-holders to travel freely throughout Europe for stays of less than 90 days without a visa. According to several reports, the vote resulted from a lack of reciprocity between the European Union (E.U.) and the United States as the E.U. requires reciprocity for all members of its visa waiver program and the U.S. State Department has refused to admit Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania to its visa waiver program. While the U.S. State Department identified a failure to meet security requirements as a reason for refusing to admit such nations into the visa waiver program, members of the E.U. parliament regard the recent vote to end the visa waiver program with the U.S. as more about diplomatic reciprocity than security. The E.U.’s executive branch can nevertheless stop the process of ending the visa waiver program with the U.S. despite the recent vote.

NEWSLETTER ANNOUNCEMENT: March 20, 2017

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NEWSLETTER ANNOUNCEMENT: March 20, 2017

FINAL CALL FOR H-1B’S – THERE IS STILL TIME TO FILE!

The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2018 cap on Monday, April 3, 2017 – there is still time to file an H-1B for the upcoming fiscal year!

J-1 VISAS CAN BE USED AS A BACK-UP: Many U.S. employers frequently use the J-1 visa as a back-up solution to the H-1B since Management Trainees are eligible for up to 18 months. Also, if a candidate is approved for the H-1B they can defer obtaining the visa and first utilize the J-1 visa.

NEWSLETTER: March 17, 2017

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NEWSLETTER: March 17, 2017

FEDERAL JUDGES BLOCK TRUMP’S NEW TRAVEL BAN

Hawaiian U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson has halted key parts of President Trump’s new travel ban on Wednesday, March 15, just hours before it was set to take effect and this has a nationwide impact. Judge Watson blocked provisions of the March 6 Executive Order that would have frozen the refugee program for 120 days and largely stopped citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. Additionally, on Thursday, March 16 a Maryland district judge issued a second temporary restraining order on the new travel ban that blocked the 90-day suspension of entry by citizens of the six designated nations. Nevertheless, other sections of the Executive Order, such as the reduction in the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. from 110,000 to 50,000, were allowed to go forward when the order took effect at 12:01am on Thursday, March 16.

PROPOSED REFORMS TO EB-5 INVESTOR PROGRAM

The House Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing to examine the proposed reforms to the EB-5 investor visa program. Most of the witnesses at the hearing agreed that the program is very troubled and that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposed regulations are a valuable first step for reform. Among other things, DHS’ proposal increases the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $1.35 million for Targeted Employment Areas, and from $1 million to $1.8 million for EB-5 projects that are not located in a Targeted Employment Area. Additionally, Chairman Goodlatte urged the Trump administration to finalize and publish the regulations, and suggested that the regional center program should be allowed to expire if it cannot be reformed. The EB-5 Regional Center program is currently authorized through April 28, 2017. Nawlaw is closely following this and will update our readers.

U.S. BORDER AGENTS CONTINUE TO SEARCH TRAVELERS’ PHONES INCLUDING THOSE OF U.S. CITIZENS

There have been increasing reports of U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officers removing individuals from airport terminals or their vehicles and demanding access to their SmartPhones and social media accounts. The list of affected victims now includes U.S. citizens present at U.S. ports of entries who have been frequently held for two hours, and have been forced to release both possession of their cellphones and their relevant passwords. Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security shows that approximately 5,000 devices were searched in February of 2017 alone, more than the number of devices searched in all of 2015.

To justify these actions, U.S. Customs & Border Protection released the following statement:

“To keep our borders secure, everyone who arrives at a U.S. port of entry is subject to inspection. We do not assume that you have done anything wrong. As part of the inspection process, CBP officers must verify the identity of the person, determine the admissibility of the traveler, and look for a variety of other prohibited items. You may be asked questions on: your citizenship, the nature of your trip, and anything you are bringing back to the United States that you did not have with you when you left.

Unless exempt by diplomatic status, all travelers entering the United States, including U.S. citizens, participate in routine Customs processing. We may also examine your baggage, including electronic equipment, or your car, which we have the legal authority to do. . .

The Supreme Court decisions have upheld the doctrine that CBP’s search authority is unique and does not violate the fourth amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, with this authority, CBP expects all of its officers to conduct their duties in a professional manner, and treat each traveler respectfully.

CBP understands that such searches are unpleasant and invasive, we have developed strict guidelines for the conditions under which such a search would be conducted.”

VISA WAIVER PROGRAM IMPROVEMENT AND TERRORIST TRAVEL PREVENTION ACT OF 2015

Please be advised that under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, nationals of Visa Waive Program countries (such as Ireland, Italy, Spain, Greece, South Korea, Chile, Germany and Japan) are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program if they have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011. Additionally, nationals of Visa Waiver countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria are also not eligible to travel or be admitted to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. The aforementioned individuals are nevertheless still eligible to apply for a visa using the regular application process at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

DETENTIONS AND TRAVEL ORDERS COINCIDE WITH DIP IN INTEREST IN COMING TO AMERICA

According to several travel companies, President Trump’s first Executive Order on travel into the U.S. has coincided with a broad decline in interest among international travelers to book flights for the United States. This comes as a result of several high-profile and unflattering incidents for U.S. Customs authorities who have been tasked with enforcing President Trump’s border security initiatives, which includes incidents with a Columbia University Egyptian professor, a popular Australian author, an Indian-American NASA scientist, and Muhammad Ali Junior. According to the New York Times, studies and data show that flight searches are down about 10 percent in comparison to the same period last year. This shows that the steady news of airport detentions has impacted tourism which could have serious effects as travel is a multi-billion dollar industry for the U.S. and a decrease in tourism by even just a few percentage points could be extremely detrimental to the entire economy.

DETAINED ‘DREAMER’ WHO SPOKE OUT ABOUT DEPORTATION FEARS IS RELEASED

Daniela Vargas, a young 22 year old woman who was in the process of obtaining funds to renew her application under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program to remain protected from any potential deportation, and who was recently arrested by ICE shortly after leaving a press conference where she spoke out about her deportation fears, has been released. ICE spokesman Thomas Byrd said that Vargas was taken into custody in a “targeted immigration enforcement action” after the agency verified that her DACA status had lapsed. Ms. Vargas was later released under an order of supervision. Although ICE officials did not disclose the terms of the order of supervision, it could include a requirement to check in periodically with an immigration officer. Nevertheless, civil and immigrants rights groups have filed a petition in the United Sates District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to stop Ms. Vargas’s deportation and challenge the constitutionality of ICE agents’ actions.

U.S. CUSTOMS IS REVOKING MUSLIM AMERICAN TRAVELERS’ GLOBAL ENTRY CARDS

A large number of Muslim travelers into the United States, both American citizens and green card holders, have recently claimed that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has revoked their Global Entry cards, a program run by CBP that provides expedited entry through customs checkpoints at U.S. airports to vetted travelers. Other travelers have stated that their Global Entry applications were denied without an explanation after being told in person that they were approved after screenings and interviews. CBP has not provided reasons for the revocations.

THOUSANDS OF IMMIGRANT DETAINEES SUE PRIVATE PRISON FIRM OVER ‘FORCED LABOR’

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, a federal judge has recently ruled that plaintiffs could move forward with a class-action lawsuit against GEO Group, which operates dozens of private prisons and detention centers across the country, for unfair enrichment in the operation of the detentions centers. This includes a voluntary work program that allows detainees to earn $1 a day for helping with the upkeep of the facility. However, according to court filings, plaintiffs claim they were not compensated for certain days of work and were coerced to mop floors, clean windows, wipe down mattresses and clean up dining areas under the threat of solitary confinement. While GEO attorneys have stated that ICE requires detainees to keep tidy living quarters, plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that the work detainees were compelled to perform went far beyond the scope of the housekeeping requirement.

HAITIAN FACING DEPORTATION AFTER ‘HABITUAL’ TRAFFIC OFFENSES

James Lacroix, a haitian national, recently ended a criminal case after spending more than seven weeks behind bars by pleading guilty to the minor crime of driving with a suspended license. However, instead of letting Mr. Lacroix free after serving his sentence he was ordered deported to Haiti because of his long history of driving without a valid license. This comes after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s decided to begin cooperating with federal agents who have been empowered under President Trump to dramatically step up deportations, even if the targeted individual’s criminal sentence has already been served. The decision to cooperate came after Trump threatened to pull federal funding from jurisdictions that do not cooperate with federal immigration agents.

PARENTS FEARING DEPORTATION PICK GUARDIANS FOR U.S. CHILDREN

Parents who immigrated illegally to the United States and now fear deportation under the Trump administration are rushing to find help securing care for their U.S.-born children in the event they are expelled from the country. ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez has stated that ICE “accommodates, to the extent practicable, the parent’s efforts to make provisions” for their U.S. citizen children. She said that might include access to a lawyer, consular officials and relatives for detained parents to execute powers of attorney or apply for passports and buy airline tickets as the parents decide whether or not to take the children with them. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based non-profit that analyzes the movement of people worldwide, about five million children under the age of 18 are living with at least one parent who is in the country unlawfully. The study also found that 79 percent of those children were U.S. citizens.

EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION EXTENDED FOR SALVADORIAN NATIONALS WITH TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS

The Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) issued under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador nationals that was set to expire on March 9, 2017, has been automatically extended through September 9, 2017.

THE UNITED STATES FREES VISA-HOLDING AFGHAN FAMILY IT DETAINED FOR 4 DAYS

As reported in the New York Times, after more than four days in detention, five members of an Afghan family with special immigrant visas were recently released. Although the family had completed extensive vetting to receive the visas, Border Patrol officials stopped them as the family arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, sending the father to a separate detention center from his wife and three children. While the father was in detention, officials confiscated his computer and other personal belongings. According to the lawyers for the family, the father worked at an American military base in Kabul, Afghanistan for a decade and was repeatedly a target of violence by the Taliban and other Afghan rebels. The family’s release came after Judge Josephine L. Staton of the Federal District Court issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the mother and children from being sent to a family detention center in Texas.

BEWARE OF FAKE ICE AGENTS WHO ASK FOR MONEY IN EXCHANGE FOR RELIEF FROM DEPORTATION

Michael Ruiz, an ICE agent impersonator, was recently incarcerated for scamming $200,000 from undocumented immigrants. Mr. Ruiz, who mainly targeted the South Carolina immigrant population, preyed on immigrants’ fears following Trump’s election. He offered them drivers’ licenses, Social Security cards, a chance to become U.S. citizens, and relief from deportation, all for a several thousands of dollars. Mr. Ruiz has been charged with four counts of blackmail, four counts of fraudulently impersonating an officer to secure property, among several other felony counts.

RECENT CLIENT QUERIES

  1. Indian national with an approved EB-5 application asks: Am I required to serve on an American jury? Ans. Only U.S. citizens are required to serve on juries – not visitors, nonimmigrants, or conditional permanent residents.
  2. Indian national asks: I am hearing about H1-B proposal changes or executive orders. Does existing H1-B / I-I40 approved cases also get affected with this? Ans. To date, there are no changes regarding the H-1B or I-140 petition processing. Of course, we will keep our readers informed of any changes.
  3. Indian national who is applying for citizenship asks: I entered the USA when I was 28 years old as a visitor and then changed to H-1B and received my green card in 2011. Am I now required to register for Selective Service and obtain a letter from them? Ans. Under current law, all male U.S. citizens between the ages of 18-25 are required to register with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. In addition, non-U.S. citizen men between the ages of 18 and 25 (inclusive) living in the United States must register. Some non-citizens are required to register. Others are not. Non-citizens who are not required to register with Selective Service include men who are in the U.S. on a valid student or visitor visa and men who are part of a diplomatic or trade mission and their families. Almost all other male non-citizens are required to register including undocumented immigrants, legal permanent residents (green card holders), those seeking asylum, and refugees.
  4. O-1B visa holder from Mexico asks: In your opinion is it safe to travel with the O-1 visa and come back into the country at this time? Do you know if any of your O-1 clients had any issues when entering the country in the past weeks? Ans. To the best of our knowledge, none of our O-1 visa holder clients have encountered any problems since President Trump’s inauguration and the February 17th Memo issued by DHS Secretary John Kelly.
  5. Indian national asks: I am traveling to Arizona/Phoenix for 4-5 day trip end of March. Is it safe to travel to that state with lots of roundup happening? If yes, what precaution should I take while traveling…? Ans. Overall, I believe it is safe to travel – however, it has been the rule for some time that USCIS/ICE can question anyone within 100 miles of the border. You should have evidence of your valid U.S. immigration status (Form I-797 Notice of Approval) in the event that you are stopped and questioned.
  6. O-1B fashion model from Russia whose visa has expired and is now married to a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) asks: Can I travel in the US with my ID even if it’s expired? Ans. Somewhat risky – suggest that she renew her O-1B visa and have a current/valid ID.
  7. Green card holder from Sweden says: I’ve moved back to Sweden and I would like to write myself here. Will I lose my green card if I write myself in Sweden. Also I will invoice my work thru my Swedish company, how do I make sure that I’ll not have to pay tax in the US as well?” Ans. I believe you should do everything possible to maintain your green card. This means you should return to the U.S. before 6 months have elapsed. We can then apply for a re-entry permit that will enable you to remain outside the U.S. for up to two years. However, you can only apply for the re-entry permit while physically in the U.S. Regarding taxes, green card holders are taxable on “world-wide” income. Suggest you consult with an accountant who is fluent in global taxation issues.

NEWSLETTER ANNOUNCEMENT: March 16, 2017

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NEWSLETTER ANNOUNCEMENT: March 16, 2017

LAST CALL: FILE YOUR H-1B VISA PETITION NOW-IT’S NOT TOO LATE!

The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2018 cap on Monday, April 3, 2017 – only 2 short weeks away! USCIS has indicated that all cap-subject H-1B petitions filed before April 3, 2017, for the Fiscal Year 2018 cap will be rejected.

H-1B visas currently have a cap of 65,000 per fiscal year, and 20,000 additional visas for beneficiaries with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. Additionally, USCIS recently announced an increase in filing fees where petitioners no longer have 14 days to correct a dishonored payment, as well as a six-month suspension of premium processing for all H-1B petitions starting April 3, 2017. Therefore, the time to start your H-1B visa petition is now or you will be out of the running until next year!

NEWSLETTER EXTRAS: March 7, 2017

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NEWSLETTER EXTRAS: March 7, 2017

USCIS WILL TEMPORARILY SUSPEND PREMIUM PROCESSING FOR ALL H-1B PETITIONS FOR UP TO 6 MONTHS STARTING ON APRIL 3, 2017

The suspension will apply to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap, master’s advanced degree cap exemption, as well as cap-exempt petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. USCIS will continue to premium process Form I-129 H-1B petitions if petitioners properly filed an associated Form I-907 before April 3, 2017 and will refund the premium processing fee if the petitioner filed the Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before April 3, 2017, and USCIS did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing period.

TRUMP ISSUES A NEW, NARROWER EXECUTIVE ORDER ON TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS THAT GOES INTO EFFECT IN 10 DAYS

Today, President Trump has signed a revised Executive Order that addresses new travel restrictions for residents of six Muslim-majority countries, as well as a temporary ban on refugees from around the world. The new directive seeks to retool Trump’s original Executive Order issued five weeks ago that brought chaos to airports, drew international condemnation, and resulted in a block from federal judges. The new travel ban, signed privately today with little fanfare and designed to insulate it from court challenges, takes effect on March 16 and halts travel for 90 days for residents of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, while also suspending all refugee admission for 120 days. This order notably excludes Iraq, named under the previous travel ban, after Iraqi officials agreed to accept all Iraqi citizens being deported from the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The new ban also clarifies that lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and those holding valid visas will be allowed to enter the country or remain here, and gives the Department of State room for exceptions “on a case-by-case basis when in the interest of the United States.” Nawlaw will be following this story closely in the event of any court challenges.

VISA WAIVER PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS WHO OVERSTAY CAN BE DEPORTED WITHOUT A HEARING

The visa waiver program (ESTA) allows citizens of certain countries, such as Ireland, Italy, the U.K., France, Germany, Belgium, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Chile, etc. to enter the U.S. for tourism or business and stay for as long as 90 days. However, foreign nationals who overstay the 90 days and are apprehended by ICE can face serious consequences. There is currently no guarantee that a visa waiver entrant’s case will be presented before an immigration judge before being deported, unless they are seeking political asylum or some other protected status. Hence, ESTA visa holders are at risk if either arrested or apprehended by ICE.