July 17, 2020 Roundup

Things are looking better for DACA recipients. When the Supreme Court issued its DACA decision, it was unclear if immigration would start to accept new applications. In fact, some attorneys tried to file initial DACA applications and reported receiving rejection letters stating that immigration was not going to accept new applications, only renewals.

Today was the breakthrough. U.S. District Court for the district of Maryland issued a decision restoring DACA to its original form as it existed pre-September 5, 2017. Prior to its rescission, new applicants could apply for DACA and existing applicants could renew. Now, it appears new and existing applicants can apply.

We do not yet know how this will go forward. Given the order, USCIS should start to accept new applications. However, keep in mind that the Administration can move forward with plans to end DACA should they choose to. The Supreme Court did not hold that the Administration could not end DACA but instead found errors in the process and justification that was put forth to end the program. The Administration can “fix” those issues and move forward once again.

In other news, twenty-three individual and organizational plaintiffs encompassing family-based visa petitioners, visa lottery winners, visa sponsors, healthcare professionals, etc have filed a law suit to prevent/invalidate President Trump’s immigration ban. This complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is the first real challenge to the entirety of President Trump’s immigration ban, which has been extended through the end of 2020.

The lawsuit alleges that the President has indefinitely separated families, thrown the business plans of companies into chaos, eliminated visa categories that allow hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals to live and work in the United States, and has rejected decades of Congressional judgments on the terms and conditions upon which
people may come to this country. It is an interesting lawsuit, and I can’t wait to see what happens.

Moving one, yesterday 15 senators asked the Senate leadership to provide emergency funds in the amount of $1.2 billion dollars to USCIS in order for the agency to fully continue its operations. The letter noted that the “fiscal mismanagement” of the agency will result in thousands of USCIS employees being furloughed and potentially losing their jobs, and severely limit the United States’ ability to process the immigration system. The funding would be conditional on the establishment of “firm parameters and sideboards” to ensure the funds are used appropriately and “not used to intimidate or discourage immigration, and to encourage the agency to develop procedures that will prevent a funding shortfall in the future.”

This is good news since USCIS operates with funds collected from applicants. Since COVID and the Administration’s policies, the applications for benefits are down. No new fees are being collected and as a result USCIS is running out of funds.

Lastly, the union representing federal asylum officers has issued a public comment on the proposed asylum regulations. The union has said that the proposed regulations would effectively deny most applicants seeking protection the right to have their claims of fear or persecution assessed. “In the last three years, the executive branch of our government has sought to turn the asylum system on its head,” the union representing the officers said. “The most extreme in a recent series of draconian changes to the American asylum process, the proposed regulation dismantles our carefully crafted system of vetting asylum claims, and with it, America’s position as a global leader in refugee assistance.”

The proposal put forward in June by the Administration significantly raises the standard that applicants have to meet. Those claiming to be targeted by gangs or “rogue” government officials would be more likely to be denied, and those seeking protection on the basis of their gender would see their ability to seek asylum further limited. In other words, majority of applicants from Central American countries would lose their cliams.

It is encouraging to see union speaking up. As it is asylum law is hard, but the new proposals are even more devastating. The proposals are clearly meant to discourage applicants from even trying to get protection.