Mid-week update

I know its only Wednesday, but I wanted to share this post since there are new developments that have prompted numerous calls to my office.

In a new article, from Reuters, the USCIS is again raising the issue that it is short on cash. USCIS gets funding from the fees that the public pays when filing applications. The filings are down and funds are running out.

A USCIS spokesperson has said that the agency has already seen a 50% drop in fees since March when most travel and immigration stopped as countries moved to control the spread of coronavirus. USCIS is asking for a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress to avoid the staff reductions. If no funding, on or before July 2, approximately 13,400 USCIS employees will receive notice that if USCIS must proceed with an “administrative furlough, they would be furloughed beginning August 3.” USCIS is already slow, but with this furlough, processing will probably come to a standstill.

Second issue to come up was the Presidential Proclamation. The Proclamation suspends the issuance of visas for those seeking entry pursuant to employment type visas including H-1B, H-2B, J visa and L visa until end of the year. It also extends the April 2020 proclamation which suspended the entry of certain immigrants into the United States.

The Proclamation will not apply to lawful permanent residents, spouses or children of U.S. citizens and any individual seeking entry to provide temporary labor essential to the U.S. food supply chain or any individual whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

In my opinion, this is the Administration’s response to the DACA ruling. The Administration needs to look tough on immigration to placate its base. Creating these type of bars to immigration sends the “appropriate” message to voting base.

Along those lines, the Administration also issued the new proposed amendments to the regulations that impact asylum seekers. The stated purpose is that the new amendments will “clean” up the asylum system and protect our country. The realistic outcome is that the new regulations will allow judges and asylum officers to deny more cases faster.

The new proposals have many troubling points but some of the most worrisome include an expansion of the term “frivolous” to include “claims that are patently without substance or merit.” This is dangerous grounds because it opens the door for asylum officers and judges to make frivolous determinations simply because the case is week. Of course, the regulations also offer a solution: withdraw your application and leave the country. If the government was truly concerned about curtailing frivolous asylums, it makes no sense to allow individuals who are committing fraud to simply leave.

Another areas is the expanded definition for “particular social group” which is a legal reason that an asylum seeker can request asylum. The expanded definition is aimed squarely at the Central American asylum seekers since it eliminates as basis for asylum presence in a country with generalized violence or a high crime rate; the attempted recruitment by criminal, terrorist, or persecutory groups; targeting for criminal activity for financial gain based on perceptions of wealth or affluence; interpersonal disputes of which governmental authorities were unaware or uninvolved; and private criminal acts of which governmental authorities were unaware or uninvolved.

The amendments also add a new definition of firm resettlement that requires denial of asylum if the asylum seeker traveling through another country to reach the U.S. could have obtained status in the country, even if the individual was not aware of that right. Again, this is aimed directly at individuals who are seeking to reach the U.S. via Mexico, ie, the Central Americans.

Part of the cleaning up process is the new proposed limits on employment authorization. Among may proposed amendments, two are particularly harsh. If the proposals become final, asylum applicants must wait 365 calendar days rather than 150 days after asylum applications are received by USCIS or Immigration Court before they may apply for work permit. Immigration also proposed to exclude aliens who entered or attempted to enter the United States illegally. These sections harm individuals who have no financial support in the U.S. They have to choose to either work illegally or depart and return to the dangers of their home country.

All of the above are reasons that we must make our voices heard this November!