New Hope for Those from Travel Ban Countries

In this Politico article, the author addresses several fresh legal challenges to the Travel Ban 3.0, also know as the “Muslim Ban.”  While the Supreme Court has already signed off on the executive order implementing the Travel Ban, the Supreme Court justices finding it legal seemed to do so because there was a meaningful waiver process available.

However, in light of the recent statistics on the waiver program, which show that the waiver program is nothing more than a farce, new plaintiffs have come forward arguing that the Travel Ban is illegal.  While these suits are still in the early stages, they should certainly be monitored.

DOL Creates Additional H-1B Delays

As part of the Labor Certification Application process, which must be completed with the U.S. Department of Labor prior to submitting a petition to USCIS for an H-1B visa, an employer must request and receive business verification.  However, DOL once again dropped the ball, sometimes simply “missing” certain business verification requests. As a result, many such requests were pending inordinately long with DOL.

AILA members brought this problem to the attention of AILA’s liaison with DOL, who reported the problem. DOL then batched the reported cases, and as of March 27, report that all delayed cases have been cleared. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that this will not happen again.

Stats Show Devastating Impact of Travel Ban 3.0

In Fiscal Year 2018, the U.S. Department of Statute denied over 37,000 visas due to the Trump Administration’s Travel Ban, also known as the “Muslim Ban.” Of those, 15,384 of those denied were seeking immigrant visas. Even more telling, only 2,673 waivers were approved, or less than 1% of all denials. Although the Supreme Court upheld the Travel Ban (or at least the third version of it), it is important to remember that it was implemented by Executive Order, which could easily be rescinded by a new president.

IT Sector Bears Brunt of USCIS’ Inconsistent H-1B Policies

A recent article in Forbes examined data released by USCIS on its adjudication of H-1B petitions in Fiscal  Year 2018. The data reveals some clear trends and casts doubt on whether USCIS is applying an even hand to all petitions.

In short, the top handful of IT companies applying for new H-1B employment in Fiscal Year 2018, which includes Syntel, Infosys, Mindtree, and HCL America, had denial rates between 34-54%, with Capgemini and Cognizant having denial rates of a staggering 80% and 61%, respectively. Conversely, U.S. tech giants Amazon, Facebook, and Apple had only 1% or 2% of their new H-1B petitions denied. Naturally, this raises concerns that USCIS is applying different standards to the IT sector, which often sends its employees to work on-site with clients, than to traditional tech jobs, which requires employees to work at the employer’s offices. In looking at the data, one would be hard-pressed to draw any different conclusion.

DHS Pushes Forward with H-4 Employment Rule Rescission

On February 22, 2018, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) released an advisory calling attention to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Fall 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions and Regulatory Plan, which was released in October 2018 and gives an overview of anticipated regulations. These regulations do not always come to pass, and many times are revised even if they are eventually written into law.  The advisory noted a proposed DHS regulation entitled “Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization.”

In February 2015, DHS published a final rule that permitted certain H-4 spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status to also receive employment authorization. The rule has been criticized heavily by the Trump Administration, and the Unified Agenda states a November 2018 time frame for the release of a rule reversing the 2015 DHS regulation. Despite that stated goal, the text of the H-4 EAD Rescission Regulation has not yet been released.  It is currently pending review with the Office of Management and Budget, after which time it will be published for public comment before possibly taking affect.

DOJ to Blame for Immigration Court Backlog

It is no secret that the immigration courts, run by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), are seriously overworked and backlogged. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) recently obtained a copy of the EOIR’s Strategic Caseload Reduction Plan for dealing with this backlog, but the data makes it clear that EOIR’s strategic plan was a colossal failure and has been completely undermined by the Department of Justice, the federal agency under whose jurisdiction the EOIR sits. While EOIR’s plan was to significantly reduce the case backlog by 2020, the case backlog has actually increased by 25% since the plans approval in October 2017. As of the end of 2018, there are over 800,000 cases in the EOIR backlog.

To immigration attorneys familiar with the EOIR, the changes dictated by the DOJ and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions would no doubt lead to increase in the backlog and the undermining of due process rights for individuals in the EOIR system. Both have come to pass.

AG Sessions referred several Board of Immigration Appeals cases to himself, which allowed him to rewrite what had been long-standing precedent dealing with procedural mechanisms for disposing of cases before the EOIR. In short, he deprived immigration judges of the ability to administratively close cases and limited their ability to continue cases to a later date. Administrative closure is generally used to put cases to the side while individuals seek other relief outside of the immigration courts that would render their EOIR case moot and allow it to be dismissed. By removing this tool, and actively re-activating cases that had already been administratively closed, the DOJ added a large number of cases back into the system and effectively made the EOIR proceed with cases that would have been resolved on their own without further EOIR involvement.

Further, continuances are a useful tool to push hearing dates into the future, which is often necessary for an individual before the EOIR to find legal representation or to allow an attorney sufficient time to prepare for a case. With continuances now restricted, it is much more likely that an individual will be forced to proceed before the EOIR without representation, which significantly undermines due process and increases the likelihood of an adverse decision.

Even more concerning has been the streamlining of hiring for immigration judges, which is troublesome when coupled with reports of judges being selected or forced out based on political ideology rather than merit.

Regardless of your political beliefs, Americans profess adherence to the principle of due process for all, and what is occurring at the EOIR as a result of administrative meddling for political reasons, undoubtedly undercuts that principle.

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