October 2, 2020 Roundup

On September 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, issued an order temporarily prohibiting DHS from implementing or enforcing the new fee increases. DHS was very unhappy with the order, but it issued an update stating that while the 2020 Fee Rule is enjoined, it will continue to accept USCIS forms with the current editions and current fees.

According to AILA press release, the judge’s order was based on the arguments that DHS leadership did not have the authority to issue the rule and that the government pushed to increase fees arbitrarily without considering important concerns identified by parties, including the negative impact the rule would have on low-income immigrant populations and those seeking asylum.

Of course, the order is temporary. The real fight will continue until the Court makes a final decision. But for the time being, immigrants get a financial brake. If you need to apply for an immigration benefit, better do it now! CALL US!

On a second front for Diversity Visa winners, the Court has granted a motion for class certification and has reserved 9,095 additional diversity visas on top of the 3,208 issued since the court’s initial September 4, 2020, order and the 15,401 issued so far for DV-2020 selectees. Looks like many winners who were about to become losers in the visa process just received a lifeline.

On October 1, 2020, USCIS announced new proposed regulations for sponsors. The updates would require American citizens, U.S. nationals and lawful permanent residents who choose to sponsor an immigrant by submitting an affidavit of support to provide credit reports and credit scores, certified copies of income tax returns for the last three years, and bank account information demonstrating they can maintain the required income.

Additionally, any petitioning sponsor found to have received public benefits within the last 36 months of submitting an affidavit of support, or to have defaulted on previous obligations to support an immigrant, must be backed by a joint sponsor who has received no such public benefits during that time. This is truly horrible news. Many people have waited years to receive visas and now they will be facing even more hurdles.

If these rules become effective, it is going to make life very difficult for many immigrants. Now, sponsors have to provide even more information, which will likely mean that less people will agree to be sponsors just to avoid the headache. It is also conceivable that USCIS could look at the taxes and determine that the sponsor does not qualify because the income on the taxes from three years ago were low, notwithstanding the fact that recent income is higher. This is a critical point because 2020 was a very bad financial year for many people and that loss of income could carry negative impact for the next three years. Also consider, that a bad financial/work year will also translate to missed and/or late payments and lower credit score. Taken together, many people will lose the opportunity to receive their residency unless they can find co-sponsors who are financially secure and received no public assistance. For some immigrants, that might not be possible!

Once again, lawsuits will follow since it is very unfair to propose these type of regulations in midst of a worldwide pandemic and economic slump. Certainly, these regulations make perfect sense if you were to consider it as political move to placate the anti-immigrant base.

Another disturbing piece of news is the outbreaks of COVID cases and unnecessary medical procedures at detention centers, including unnecessary hysterectomies. The House today passed a bipartisan resolution condemning unwanted, unnecessary medical procedures on individuals in immigration detention without their full, informed consent.

This issue came up when Congresswoman Jayapal and many others investigated the allegations made by women in ICE detention who came forward to reveal that they had been subjected involuntarily to hysterectomies. It is simply incredible that in this day and age something like that can happen to individuals in ICE custody.

The Trump Administration’s assault on immigration continues. The State Department has announced that US will accept only 15,000 refugees this fiscal year, a new historic low for the US. This number has been steadily decreasing since Trump came to office. The proposal for fiscal year 2021 allows 3,000 fewer refugees than in the last fiscal year.

This announcement follows in the footsteps of possible new regulations that would set a fixed time period for students, exchange visitors and media people. Currently, individuals in these categories are allowed to stay as long as they comply with the terms of their visas. The new regulations would cap the length of stay and subject persons to deportation for staying longer.

As elections approach, the Administration knows that an aggressive anti-immigrant campaign is needed to agitate the base and rile up people. I expect to see more actions taken by the Administration to chip away at the immigration laws and make procedures more complicated and expensive, case in point almost doubling the citizenship fees. Each action taken is another talking point that can be heralded at campaign rallies and push forward the Administration’s agenda. We just have to hope that the Courts will step in and block some of the more egregious policies.