July 10, 2020 Roundup

For a bit of good news, USCIS issued new guidance extending its “flexibility policy” that gives individuals extra 60 days after the original expiration/deadline to reply to USCIS requests for evidence, appeals, etc. The new extended policy applies to requests, notices or decisions that were and will be issued between March 1 and Sept. 11, 2020, inclusive. This is very helpful since COVID restrictions have made meeting with clients and obtaining documents extremely difficult.

Now for the bad news. The first piece of bad news is that reopening of the Immigration Courts have been postponed until July 27, 2020. Some of the smaller courts are open but, for example, Los Angeles court will remain closed. It is very likely that the closure will last until August or September given the COVID numbers rising in Los Angeles County.

The Trump administration has also proposed a new regulation that would allow DHS to deny asylum to individuals who are deemed a public health risk. The soon-to-be published regulation lets the DHS and DOJ block applicants seeking asylum in the U.S. based on “potential international threats from the spread of pandemics.”

Sadly, this determination of public health risk can be made at the “credible fear” interview where an asylum officer without any medical knowledge or expertise reviews the applicant’s claim.

The next scary proposal deals with international students. The newly proposed guidance will require international students to leave and deny visa to incoming students if the studies are going to be entirely online. Current students must either find schools that offer in-person classes or they must leave.

As you can imagine, this is a hot issue. Already, Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have filed a complaint asking that the regulations barring international students from online-only classes, be set aside and the government be required to abide by its March 2020 guidance and on which universities and students relied on in planning for the fall semester. Also, group of 99 members of Congress have sent a letter to DHS and ICE urging them to withdraw the new guidance. Now, it is wait and see time. It is sad and unfortunate that the Administration has decided to upend the lives of so many students.