DHS Extends Work Authorization for Salvadorans with TPS to January 2021

DHS has announced that it is extending the validity of work permits to Salvadorans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) through January 4, 2021.  In 2018, the Trump Administration announced it was planning to end TPS for Salvadorans, but Federal litigation has thus far stalled its efforts.  On October 28, 2019, DHS announced that it has reached agreements with El Salvador that will allow for more orderly repatriation of its nationals.  TPS for Salvadorans was to expire on January 2, 2020.

DOS Places Hold on Public Charge Rule Implementation

While it has been widely reported that a preliminary injunction has prevented implementation of the new public charge rule at USCIS, some may not be aware that the U.S. Department of State is planning to implement a similar rule.  The Interim Final Rule went into effect on October 15, 2019.  However, DOS has stated that it will not implement the Interim Final Rule until a new Form DS-5540 is published.  The Foreign Affairs Manual has also not yet been updated. For now, applicants and practitioners continue to proceed under the traditional “public charge” framework.

Court Temporarily Halts Immigrant Health Insurance Requirement

On November 3, 2019, a Federal judge in Oregon issued a preliminary injunction halting the implementation of President Trump’s Presidential Proclamation preventing the entry of immigrants “who will financially burden the United States healthcare system.” The rule was set to become effective on November 3, 2019.  Ultimately, the court will decide, after a trial on the merits, whether the rule will be allowed to take effect.

For a more complete discussion of the Presidential Proclamation itself, see this earlier entry.

DHS Announces Plan to Request Social Media Info from Immigrants

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to request information from immigrants as to their social media accounts and activities over the last five (5) years.  DHS published a notice in the Federal Register of its plans.

DHS’s stated goal is to gather information on immigrants to determine whether they pose a law enforcement or national security risk to the United States.  In practice, many are concerned that this will be yet one more discretionary tool that immigration officers can use to deny otherwise qualified applicants and impinge on the right of free speech.  This has already begun happening at the consular level, and Customs and Border Protection has already faced accusations of using social media as a pretext for denying qualified immigrants and nonimmigrants entry into the United States.

USCIS Updates Policy Manual to Replace Use of “Foreign National”

Despite being understaffed, overworked, and backlogged at historical rates, USCIS has found time to update its Policy Manual to change all references of “foreign national” to “alien.”  This change is widely viewed as unnecessary and intended to further stoke anti-immigrant sentiment, as “alien” is seen by many to be an offensive term.  For that reason, the Library of Congress has already stricken “illegal alien” as a subject heading, and California has likewise removed the term from its Labor Code.

Trump Proclaims Immigrants Must Have Health Insurance to Enter

On October 4, 2019, President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation that purports to prevent the entry of immigrants “who will financially burden the United States healthcare system.” The President has unilaterally decided, without Congressional approval, that an immigrant will financially burden the United States healthcare system “unless the alien will be covered by approved health insurance . . . within 30 days of the alien’s entry into the United States, or unless the alien possesses the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.”

“Approved health insurance” includes coverage under employer-sponsored plans, unsubsidized State-level health plans, short-term health policies, catastrophic plans, a family member’s plan, TRICARE, Medicare, or several other specific types of plans.  Exceptions exist for certain categories of immigrants.

Trump’s proclamation adds yet another layer of discretion to the immigration system, granting consular officers broad authority to deny otherwise qualified intending immigrants from entering the United States.  It remains to be seen if this proclamation will face legal challenges, but one would think it likely. If not legally prevented, the Proclamation will go into effect on November 3, 2019.

Disclaimer: The ethical rules by which Alabama attorneys are governed mandate that no communication concerning a lawyer's services shall be published...unless it contains in legible...language the following: "No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers."