DHS Publishes Stricter Public Charge Rule

As anticipated for months, this morning DHS published in the Federal Register a proposed change to federal regulations pertaining to the “public charge” grounds of inadmissibility.  The Federal Register notice is 837 pages long and details the changes to the existing Federal guidance on the issue.  More information will be forthcoming once the document has been fully reviewed, but in general, the major takeaways appear to be that DHS will now consider the totality of circumstances surrounding whether an intending immigrant is likely to need to rely on public benefits — i.e., it will now consider factors like age, education, ability to speak English, and ability to be employed.  Many fear that this broadening of discretion is simply a thinly veiled excuse for the Administration to deny visas and green cards to a larger category of intending immigrants.

The rule will not take effect for 60 days and will not be applied retroactively.  So, it would be in your best interest if you intend to file for a green card, to do so as quickly as possible.

Trump Policies Could Result in Active Duty Troops Being Deported

Members of the U.S. military have long been able to take advantage of certain DHS policies when it comes to protecting their immigration status and that of their families.  For example, some U.S. military members and/or family members may be eligible for parole-in-place, which is a critical step toward obtaining permanent residence, or deferred action, which helps delay deportation proceedings. Recently, memos have circulated showing the termination of both of these tools for service members and their families, with few exceptions.  It remains to be seen exactly when these changes may take effect.

Despite Record Backlogs, USCIS Personnel Asked to Help ICE

Even though the backlog of applications pending before USCIS is at record numbers, so much so that it has spawned Congressional committee hearings and an investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, USCIS Acting-Director Ken Cuccinelli has asked USCIS personnel to volunteer in support of ICE, the enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Individuals within USCIS have noted a rift between career officials and acting leadership over priorities, with leadership being mostly concerned with immigration enforcement rather than the processing of immigration benefits applications. Unfortunately, this is just a sign of the times under the Trump Administration, but at least the issue is finally getting the spotlight it deserves.

Trump Administration Expands Expedited Removal

The Trump Administration, in furtherance of its constant effort to speed up the deportation machine, has expanded the use of expedited removal.  Generally, expedited removal allows immigration officers to deport individuals quickly and without the benefit of full immigration proceedings before an immigration judge.  Basically, the immigration officer is judge, jury, and executioner. This expedited process makes it quite difficult for the targeted alien to mount any sort of defense to the allegations.

As of July 23, 2019, the category of aliens subject to expedited removal has been expanded to include anyone who is undocumented or has committed fraud or misrepresentation and who has not been physically present in the United States for two years prior to his or her apprehension.  This policy change is expected to face legal challenges.

If you fear you may be subject to expedited removal, or targeted for the same, it is important that you know your legal rights and act accordingly.

USCIS Transfers Cases to Ease Processing Backlogs

On June 17, 2019, USCIS announced that it has created a national strategy to relieve the backlog for Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

In short, USCIS will shift cases between field offices to accommodate offices with heavier than expected caseloads. As a result, some applicants may be scheduled for interviews at field offices outside their customary jurisdiction.  It remains to be seen exactly how this will be implemented and whether USCIS’ new policy will ultimately prove to be a travel burden on applicants.  Only time will tell.

DOS Has Begun Requiring Applicants to Disclose Social Media Identifiers

As expected, on May 31, 2019, the U.S. Department of State implemented a new policy whereby it requests applicants for immigrant and non-immigrant visas to provide their social media identifiers.  This policy had already been spottily implemented at some consular posts, but it has not become standard operating procedure.

Many immigrant rights groups are concerned that expanding consular reviews to social media posts grants consular officers a treasure trove of possible reasons to deny applicants given the lax style often inherent in such posts.  An off-hand comment made several years in the past could now presumably be used as a reason to deny, which many suspect is the true purpose of the new policy.

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