September 11, 2020 Roundup

A U.S. District Judge has ordered the State Department to expeditiously work in sending out the 45,000 diversity visas (DV) that were put on hold due the Presidential proclamations before the visa period expires on Sept. 30. Sadly, even with this order, many DV winners will be left out since they have to overcome a complicated web of COVID related hurdles and may not get to a consulate in time to secure their visas.

Immigration advocates are waiting to see how individual consulates will react to the order and whether the difficulties posed by COVID, including difficulties in their home countries, will prevent applicants from obtaining their visas. As it stands, DV process is complicated and stressful for many immigrants since DV visa is a “use it or lose it” proposition. If the winner does not get the visa by September 30th, it is over. Once again, it is a waiting game.

Number of immigration advocates have added their voices to an interesting and under the radar lawsuit filed in the 7th Circuit Federal Court. For many years, it was accepted law that the immigration service gave full credit to a State criminal court’s decision to modify the sentence of a criminal conviction for any reason. This procedure was very helpful because immigration law makes some crimes deportable crimes if the sentence is a year or more. Previously, applicants, specially applicants with older convictions, could petition the criminal court after the fact and reduce the seance to 364 days and avoid deportation. Often, the criminal judges did not inquire why the request was made since 364 days v. 365 days did not make much difference for a criminal conviction that occurred many years ago .

In 2019, the Attorney General, with a flick of a pen, did away with years of legal precedent and decided that any modification to be accepted by the immigration service had to be for the “right” reason. The right reason is usually some procedural or legal defect. This change is very serious because criminal courts tend to purge records, and it becomes much more difficult to establish, for example, that 12 years ago there was a procedural defect in the criminal sentencing. This decision was not an aberration, rather it was part of a consistent Trump Administration effort to reshape immigration laws. The lawsuit seeks to overrun the Attorney General’s rash decision and restore years of established law.

According to The Hill, voters who say they support the Trump Administration have become much more open to recognizing the contributions of immigrants, as 32 percent say newcomers strengthen society, according to a Pew Research Center study. In 2016, only 19 percent of Trump voters agreed with that sentiment. The acceptance of immigrants among Trump voters reflects a wider trend, as 60 percent of all respondents agreed that newcomers strengthen society, compared to 46 percent in 2013. Looks like progress is being made.

Lastly, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of several nonprofit organizations in federal court asking to set aside the July 28, 2020 memo that restricted DACA cases, specifically rejecting new applications and limiting renewals. The reasons for the lawsuit are technical and administrative, but in essence, the lawsuit claims that the author, Chad Wolf, who was Acting DHS Secretary, did not have the necessary authority to issue such a memo. I have read the complaint. It seems a bit of a long shot, but you never know until you try.