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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.