THE LATEST FROM SRW BORDER BLOG

Policy Alert: USCIS Will Issue More Foreign Nationals Notices to Appear in Immigration Court

Last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued updated guidance that changed the agency’s policy regarding which foreign nationals will be issued Form I-862, Notice to Appear (NTA). An NTA is issued to begin removal proceedings against an individual and instructs them to appear in front of an immigration judge for a hearing. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also have the authority to issue NTAs. According to a USCIS news release, “officers will now issue an NTA for a wider range of cases where the individual is removable and there is evidence of fraud, criminal activity, or where an applicant is denied an immigration benefit and is unlawfully present in the United States.”

Purpose of USCIS Updated Guidance

This new guidance is intended to update USCIS procedure in accordance with Department of Homeland Security immigration enforcement priorities under President Trump. These priorities were defined in Executive Order 13768, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” which was issued on January 25, 2017. The Executive Order states, “We cannot faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement…. It is the policy of the executive branch to ensure the faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States, including the INA, against all removable aliens.” In a significant change from immigration enforcement under President Obama, the Executive Order states that the government will no longer exempt specific classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement and removal.

Categories of Removable Individuals

Although all removable individuals are subject to immigration enforcement, the policy memorandum specifies that the following categories of individuals should be issued NTAs:

  • Aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4), to include aliens who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal; and
  • Aliens who, regardless of the basis for removal:
    • Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
    • Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
    • Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;*
    • Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
    • Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
    • Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
    • In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.

*A footnote indicates that chargeable criminal offenses include those defined by state, federal, international, or appropriate foreign law.

Expert Concerns Regarding the Updated Guidance

Unlike immigration policy under President Obama, the prioritized categories are no longer ranked, but are presented as being equally important. According to an analysis from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), “because it includes those who merely committed an act that could be charged as a crime, all those who entered without inspection become priorities because illegal entry is a crime under 8. U.S.C. §1325.” By targeting individuals who have been charged with a crime but not convicted, the new guidance also undermines the fundamental premise that individuals are innocent until proven guilty. AILA states that these new policies are “reshaping immigration enforcement in a way that is antithetical to American values and our country’s historical commitment to justice and due process.”

These policies will significantly increase the number of individuals who are targeted for removal, which AILA predicts will worsen the existing problems in immigration courts—currently more than 700,00 cases are already backlogged in immigration court. NTAs mark the beginning of immigration court proceedings, so this guidance will likely continue to overload immigration court dockets and strain government resources.

AILA also warns that the new USCIS policy mandates that “NTAs be issued to every person who is ‘not lawfully present’ in the United States at the time an application, petition, or request for an immigration benefit is denied,” except in very limited circumstances. This includes individuals who were denied due to government error, would otherwise have appealed the decision but are discouraged from doing so after receiving an NTA, or who would have willingly left the U.S. after receiving a denial.

What About DACA Recipients?

DACA recipients and requestors are a notable exception to the new guidance. In a concurrently released policy memorandum, USCIS specifies that “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and requestors are exempted from this updated guidance when: (1) processing an initial or renewal DACA request or DACA-related benefit request; or (2) processing a DACA recipient for possible termination of DACA. As explained in the concurrently issued DACA-specific guidance, USCIS will continue to apply the 2011 NTA guidance to these cases. USCIS will also continue to follow the existing DACA information-sharing policy regarding any information provided by a DACA requestor in a DACA request or DACA-related benefit request.”

The updated USCIS policy guidance represents a significant shift in the agency’s role in immigration enforcement and priorities, and removable individuals who were not priorities for deportation under previous guidance should be aware of how these changes will impact them. If you are concerned about how this may affect your immigration status and ability to remain in the U.S., please reach out to our attorneys to schedule a consultation.

USCIS updates plan for L-1 pilot program

In a previous post, we reported on a pilot program for Canadian L-1 visas that would temporarily affect applications presented at the border for adjudication at the Blaine, Washington state port of entry. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) has provided new details on the program, which is a joint initiative by (USCIS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). It will only be conducted at the Blaine, Washington port of entry, and is intended to identify procedural issues and increase efficiency.

USCIS has confirmed that the pilot program will last for six months (April 30 to October 31, 2018) and further explains the process, according to a press release on the agency’s website:

  • First, Canadian L-1 petitioners will submit Form I-129 and supporting evidence to the USCIS California Service Center. Fees also will be submitted to USCIS.
  • USCIS emphasizes that this submission – and all correspondence related to the L-1 application – must include a cover sheet that says “Canadian L.” This is supposed to “ensure quick identification.”
  • The USCIS California Service System will issue the Form I-797C receipt notice and make a decision.
  • If a request for evidence (RFE) is necessary, it will be sent to the applicant by USCIS.
  • After approval from USCIS, applicants must bring a copy of the approval notice to present to CBP officers at the Blaine, Washington port of entry.
  • It should be noted that “CBP will continue to make the final determination on whether a Canadian L-1 applicant is admissible to the United States.”

USCIS adds that participation in the pilot program is optional for Canadian L-1 applicants at the Blaine, Washington, port of entry. CBP officers at the Blaine POE will accept the petition, but it will be adjudicated at the nearest Class A Port of Entry. (The closest ones in Washington State are at Point Roberts, Sumas, and preclearance at the Vancouver International Airport.)

Petitioners participating in the pilot program are “strongly encouraged” by CBP and USCIS to file Canadian L-1 applications with USCIS “as far in advance of travel as possible.”

Pilot program may have lasting effect on L-1 process for Canadians

Will applying for an L-1 visa at the border soon become a thing of the past? If the pilot program starting on April 30, 2018 is any indication, change may be on the horizon.

U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have joined forces to launch a pilot program at the port of entry in Blaine, Washington, estimated to last six months. Currently, a Canadian L-1 applicant may present their petition at any U.S. border crossing for immediate adjudication by a CBP officer. This will no longer be an option at the Blaine, Washington, port of entry for the duration of the pilot program.

Instead, applicants in the Blaine Washington State area will need to submit their L-1 applications (Form I-129 and supporting evidence) for processing at the USCIS California Service Center before CBP can admit them into the U.S. Applicants cannot seek admission in L-1 status until they receive USCIS’s approval. According to USCIS, expedited service will be provided to L-1 applicants affected by the pilot program. The specifics of the process are still being solidified but is projected that a decision -- an approval or Request for Evidence (RFE) -- will be issued within 2-3 business days of receipt. In an effort to accelerate the process, USCIS is expected to have an email address devoted to the processing of these L-1 applications to provide case updates, and it could be possible for admission to be sought upon an email confirmation of approval.

Through the preliminary pilot program, the goal is to develop a strategy that will lessen lengthy process delays and make adjudication for L-1 applications more consistent. Additionally, through the change in process, CBP officers can give their full attention to inspections and admissibility issues instead of dedicating time to on-the-spot adjudications.

Things you should know about the pilot program:

  • It is currently for L-1 applications only.
  • CBP will continue to allow Canadian L-1 applicants to apply for “on the spot” adjudications at all other ports of entry.

What has yet to be determined:

  • Clarification regarding potential changes to the RFE process and response time. Will it decrease the number of superfluous RFEs (as intended)?
  • If the pilot program is deemed successful, will this new process be nationally implemented – and how quickly will it happen?
  • Will the processes for other types of applications eventually be affected?

Updates will be made as new developments arise and Serotte Reich will be keeping you posted. Questions or concerns? Contact us at 716-854-7525 or http://srwlawyers.com/contact

Canadian Citizen With Another I-192 Waiver Approval

Application Type: I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant

Adjudication Time: 129 Days

Adjudicating Agency: Admissibility Review Office (Filed @ Edmonton International Airport in Edmonton, Alberta)

Grounds of Inadmissibility: INA §212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) – (3) Convictions for Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (Three (3) Breaking & Entering Offenses from the mid-1980s)

Purpose of Entry into U.S.: Business & Pleasure Visits [B1/B2] – Attend business meetings and trainings in the U.S. and vacation to the U.S.; Employment in H-1B, O-1 or TN

SRW Strategy: Evidence of Rehabilitation (no encounters with the law in over twenty-five (25) years, received a pardon for all criminal offenses in 2013, compliance with terms of previous waiver approvals, record of success in personal and professional lives)

Approval Period: Five (5) Years