April 17 - 23
Trump Signs Immigration Order Featuring Numerous Exemptions
Associated Press | Jill Colvin and Elliot Spagat | April 23
"President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that he had signed an executive order “temporarily suspending immigration into the United States.” But experts say the order will merely delay the issuance of green cards for a minority of applicants. Trump said his move was necessary to help Americans find work in an economy ravaged by the coronavirus. “This will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens,” he said."
Acting Homeland Security Chief Suggests Additional Immigration Measures Could Be Coming
CNN | Geneva Sands, Kevin Liptak, and Maegan Vasquez | April 23.
"Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Thursday that President Donald Trump's immigration executive order is a first step, teasing additional measures aimed at non-immigrant temporary visas. "That is something that the department has been looking at for the past several months, so we are well underway and look forward to presenting to the President those recommendations for additional steps," he said during a Fox News interview. Trump signed his executive order barring some immigration to the United States on Wednesday evening, nearly 48 hours after announcing the move on Twitter. The order directs the Department of Homeland and Security and the Department of Labor to look at additional recommendations, said Wolf.”
Supreme Court Sides with Government in Immigration Case
Washington Post | Associated Press | April 23
“The Supreme Court is making it harder for noncitizens who are authorized to live permanently in the United States to argue they should be allowed to stay in the country if they’ve committed crimes. The decision Thursday split the court 5-4 along ideological lines. The decision came in the case of Andre Barton, a Jamaican national and green card holder."
Recently an 86-year-old man called our office to find out about divorcing his 82-year-old wife. For sake of anonymity, he'll be referred to as Paul. He complained that he and his wife have been arguing a lot lately and he needs to leave. Prior to the quarantine, he was able to leave the house and spend time with friends and family. However, since the quarantine began, he's been confined to his one-bedroom apartment with his wife of over 50 years.
Now Paul says his wife is driving him crazy and he wants to divorce her, then move back to the Philippines as soon as the lockdown ends. Paul wanted to know what legal options are available to him. It's calls like these that show that we can't take our mental health for granted in these unprecedented times. However, it was apparent that Paul needs more help than the legal assistance an attorney can provide. A lawyer can help him on the legal consequences of separation or divorce, but an attorney is not a therapist. Paul would be well-served by undergoing counseling to help him with the emotional stress he's experiencing as a result of the lockdown.
Lockdowns Have Increased Calls to Authorities and Lawyers
Cases of domestic violence have risen sharply since the stay at home orders were put into place by many state governors. Now people have to choose between going out and risking infection or staying home and living with their abusers. Abuse comes in mental and/or physical forms which tends to get worse when there's no other outlet available for both parties. Some family law attorneys are seeing an increase in the amount of calls from potential clients looking for legal guidance since early March of this year. The timing of the coronavirus lockdowns and increase in calls are not mutually exclusive.
Some law enforcement agencies in the U.S. confirm that they have also seen an increase in calls for domestic violence. The quarantine is exposing cracks in relationships and highlighting the fact that many people aren't living harmoniously with their partners. Many people want out of the relationship and are turning to legal options for ending the relationship. This raises the question of "are people seeking to divorce because irreconcilable differences have become insurmountable, or is this a temporary state brought on by the crisis?" It's not a question that is easily answered, and it's something that a lawyer isn't equipped to handle.
In fact, the increase in domestic violence has risen to the point that the United Nations has put out a call to combat the surge in domestic violence around the world. Unfortunately, the call may have come too late for many. Governments at all levels were unprepared for the surge in calls. Public resources such as the police, support hotlines, and shelters have been overwhelmed which means a lot of people will go without help. The feeling of helplessness and the perception of a lack of help can drive people to take drastic measures.
The Importance of Self-Care
The experts say that everyone needs to prioritize their psychological health in times of crisis. No one, no matter how healthy, can handle confinement for long. Now more than ever people need to connect to one other, talk about what's on their mind, and find creative outlets for their energy. Instead of thinking about how the other person in the household is irritating or aggravating, do something that directs the energy in a different direction. Take a walk, find a craft, watch videos, or simply go into another room and close the door. Putting oneself first is key to stopping a situation before it starts.
There is never anything wrong with walking away from a bad situation, especially when a domestic partner is involved. A lockdown may expose cracks in a relationship, but consider counseling before calling a family law lawyer and starting an even more stressful process.
April 10 - 16
Why California is Giving its Own Stimulus Checks to Undocumented Immigrants
CNN | Madeline Holcombe and Catherine E. Shoichet | April 16
“Undocumented immigrants aren't getting stimulus checks from the federal government, but in California they'll be eligible for cash payments from a $125 million coronavirus disaster relief fund. "We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportation but are still addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians," Gov. Gavin Newsom said as he announced the new fund on Wednesday…The one-time benefit will provide $500 of support per adult, with a cap of $1,000 per household, Newsom's office said. The fund combines $75 million in state donations with $50 million from private philanthropists.”
U.S. Immigration Agency Targets Coronavirus-Related Fraud
Reuters | Ted Hesson | April 16
“Coronavirus fraud is being targeted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under a new operation that has led to the seizure of bogus protective equipment and COVID-19 test kits, and over $3 million in illicit proceeds, the agency said on Wednesday.Operation Stolen Promise was launched as a direct response to a spike in criminal activity since the coronavirus outbreak, ICE said in a statement, noting it will collaborate with the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and other U.S. and international partners. As of Tuesday, ICE’s homeland security investigations unit had seized 225 shipments of fraudulent products, opened over 130 probes nationwide, made nine arrests, executed seven search warrants, and sinkholed over 11,000 COVID-19 domain names, the agency said."
Undocumented Immigrants, Essential to the U.S. Economy, Deserve Federal Help Too
Washington Post | León Krauze | April 14
“The novel coronavirus has been particularly harsh on immigrants. After facing years of harassment and persecution from the Trump administration, the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States have now been left unprotected, unable to receive aid from the government’s historic stimulus package, even though they pay billions of dollars in taxes every year. Local and state officials, especially those in immigrant-friendly states such as California, are scrambling to find a way to help their undocumented communities, but it might not be enough. Without appropriate federal support, prompt access to more effective unemployment benefits or paid sick leave for those in need, many communities could be devastated.”
Getting a visa for immigration to the U.S. is tougher than ever. COVID-19, or coronavirus, has caused U.S. embassies to cancel routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments in many countries as of March 20, 2020. Those who have applied and are waiting for approval are now facing an even longer wait to get visas and see their family in the U.S. Many people have been waiting years to get their visas and the coronavirus has the potential to add more years to the wait.
Why the Wait is so Long
The coronavirus has caused a reduction in staffing numbers at the National Visa Center (NVC) which processes immigrant visas from all around the world. The NVC receives and pre-processes immigrant visas that have been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A visa that has been pre-processed will be pulled for issuance when the priority date meets the cut-off date. A lack of staff at the NVC directly impacts the timely processing of immigrant visas and slows down approval for those who have reached this critical juncture for approval.
Another aspect complicating visa issuance is the fact the current administration has made it more difficult for people from many countries to immigrate to the United States. Those who have family already in the United States typically rely on that connection to get a family based immigrant visa and start their journey towards a green card. Unfortunately, the State Department will only issue a total of 226,000 visas for family and 156,000 for employment visas in 2020. Meanwhile, countries like Mexico and the Philippines have a total of 1,200,000 and 291,392 applicants respectively. Over 3 million people from around the world have submitted applications to apply for immigration to the United States.
The restrictive numbers for visa issuance is making it harder than ever and wait times to get a visa even longer. The dream of becoming a U.S. citizen is pushed further out of reach for many who want to take advantage of their family connections in the States. It's time to get creative and think outside of the box when it comes to immigration visas.
Applying for a Visa Under a Different Category
The family based immigration strategy for those with relatives already living in the U.S. is normally the strongest option for getting residency, but it's not the only one. An individual may be eligible for a visa under different criteria and spend less time waiting to immigrate. Employment visas are one potential option as they can get an individual in the U.S. more quickly along with employment.
The most famous employment visa is the H1-B which covers specialty occupations such as technology. It's a non-immigrant and dual-intent visa that has the potential to allow for permanent migration. Another type of employment visa that's less well-known is the L-1B or intracompany transferee specialized knowledge visa. This visa is also non-immigrant and there may be an option to petition for a change in status and work towards gaining residency.
Some visa categories don't have a quota, but require the building of or investment in a new or existing business. The E-2 investor visa program requires an individual to invest in and retain control of a business after it's been established. The visa also extends to non-investor employees who are essential to the operation. The E-2 lasts anywhere from three months to five years and are extendable indefinitely.
No one can predict what the future may bring, and coronavirus makes the future more uncertain than ever. Start planning a new visa strategy as soon as possible and get around the quotas and wait times.
April 3rd - 9th
Coronavirus: Attorneys, Advocates File Emergency Motion to Halt In-Person Immigration Hearings
San Francisco Chronicle | Tatiana Sanchez | April 8
"Immigration advocates and attorneys on Wednesday asked a federal judge to temporarily halt in-person court hearings for detained immigrants, arguing that the government’s decision to continue doing so during the coronavirus pandemic “unnecessarily endangers all participants.” The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Immigration Justice Campaign filed the request for a temporary restraining order against the Executive Office for Immigration Review and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The group is also asking a federal judge to facilitate remote confidential communication between attorneys and detained clients."
More than 400,000 People Barred from Becoming Citizens due to Coronavirus: Report
The Hill | Zack Budryk | April 7
"Hundreds of thousands of people may be unable to complete the process to become American citizens in time for the November election due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to tech firm Boundless Immigration, which helps immigrants apply for citizenship and green cards. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) "did the right thing by pausing live oath ceremonies and live interviews, there’s no dispute about that," Boundless Immigration co-founder Doug Rand, a former immigration adviser to President Obama, told NBC News. "The problem is USCIS hasn’t come up with a next step and come up with remote pathways for people to take the oath and do interviews," he added, saying the agency should explore alternate methods of administering the oath."
The Trump Administration is Raising the Application Fee for U.S. Citizenship. That will Cost the U.S. Later On
Washington Post | Michael Hotard and David D. Laitin | April 7
"In November, the Department of Homeland Security proposed increasing fees for all immigrants’ applications or requests, including a 61 percent hike in the fee for naturalization. The department also proposed eliminating the fee waiver program for potential low-income beneficiaries, which in 2017 served approximately 40 percent of applicants for naturalization. The comment period for these proposed changes ended Feb. 10, and DHS must now review the thousands of public comments before issuing a final rule in the Federal Register, possibly later this year. If realized, these fee increases would make it more expensive for eligible lawful permanent residents to become citizens of the United States — and for some, would put citizenship entirely out of reach."
From Healthcare Professional to Illegal: the Struggle of Foreign Healthcare Workers against the COVID-19.
The world as we know it is currently fighting a pandemic. COVID-19 is a deadly disease that has been ravaging the world since the last week of December in 2019. The disease is characterized by high fever, cough, tiredness, difficulty breathing, and its ability to be transmitted from person to person with amazing rapidity. It is this rapid spread that has created the dire need for healthcare professionals from all areas and from all locations to band together to fight the disease. Front line healthcare workers are exposed directly to patients that have tested positive, greatly increasing their own risk of contracting the disease or taking it home to their families. Most of these workers are also taking on shifts that well exceed the norm lasting over 12 hours in some cases. The emotional toll as well as physical and mental toll that the pandemic has had on workers compounded by the fact that they now have to worry about their work status and their livelihood is simply unacceptable and ultimately heartbreaking.
COVID-19 and Foreign Healthcare Professionals
Many health care professionals are temporary foreign workers. Many of them are Filipinos. These vital workers are experienced, they have the compassion, and they have the desire to do more and to work to help treat this disease.
Foreign healthcare workers that are currently working in the United States are now fighting back against expiring work visas, difficulty meeting deadlines for status and work permits and other time constraints that make it difficult for these critical workers to stay in the United States and continue to fight against a disease that is sure to cause great damage to the country.
Our healthcare system in the United States is already severely overburdened and stretched thin. The removal of these vital foreign healthcare workers would not only create a shortage in bodies to help work the front lines, but also a shortage of the bright and shining minds that they bring to the table. At any given time there are literally thousands of foreign healthcare workers including doctors and other medical professionals in our country and their absence would surely be felt.
Immigrant Status Expiring
Foreign healthcare workers that are spending hours on the frontline working to take care of individuals that are sick or dying are in danger of not retaining their legal status. The reason is that USCIS or Immigration Service has not extended the deadlines.
A suit filed the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) states that the COVID-19 pandemic is what would be considered an extraordinary circumstance that is beyond the control of the employers and the employees and therefore the deadlines should be extended automatically to allow these foreign workers to remain in the United States and continue their current efforts.
These healthcare workers are already dealing with the physical and mental stress that comes with working the front lines of a pandemic, should they really be made to deal with expiring visas and work restrictions as well?
Keep Them Legal
Relaxing immigration policies for foreign healthcare workers is needed to maintain the current number of nurses and doctors in the frontlines. USCIS has the ability and the power to create blanket authorizations to extend the legal status of these foreign workers,
We are currently in a make or break situation. Circumstances are so different, so out of the ordinary and so challenging that we as a people must adapt. Under normal circumstances it would not be necessary to change immigration policies. In times of great challenge it is the nature of people to adapt. Now is the time that the USCIS needs to adapt. These challenges are not likely to go away overnight or even in a matter of weeks. We need to standby our foreign health care workers.
March 27th - April 2nd
Immigrants are in the Same Boat with the Rest of Us in this Pandemic. The Administration Doesn't Care.
Washington Post | J. Larry Brown | April 2
"As the global pandemic ramps up, few of us would imagine that our government would unnecessarily expose people to the novel coronavirsus. Yet the Trump administration has repeatedly shown it is willing to do just that to immigrant communities in the United States...Across the country, the Department of Homeland Security operates 137 of these facilities where many immigrant men and women are incarcerated simply because they overstayed a visa or need to file more paperwork. Many have no charge against them at all but are being held after appearing at the border to request asylum, as is their lawful right."
Most USCIS Services Have Been Halted due to Coronavirus. Here's What Immigrants Can Do
Miami Herald | Daniel Shoer Roth | April 1
"Most immigration regular services in the United States have been halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) temporarily suspended all in person-services at its field offices, asylum offices and Application Support Centers. On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security agency extended the offices closure until at least May 3. The temporary office closure affects tens of thousands of individuals awaiting immigration benefits such as extensions of status, work permits, green cards and U.S. citizenship through naturalization — including those who have interview appointments, biometric services and naturalization ceremonies."
'Sanctuary' Laws are Latest Immigration Battle to Draw Supreme Court's Attention
Washington Post | Robert Barnes | March 28
"The Trump administration’s efforts to force state and local authorities to abandon “sanctuary” policies and cooperate with federal immigration agents have mostly been panned by lower courts, and the Supreme Court soon may weigh in. One justice — albeit one no longer on the high court — already has. Retired justice David H. Souter last week joined a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruling that the Justice Department lacks the legal authority to withhold federal crime-fighting grants from local law enforcement agencies to compel such cooperation."
Lazaro Law Group, Managing Attorney