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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Pleitez v. Barr

When a minor over the age of 14 was never detained by immigration authorities, and he filed an affirmative application for asylum, the government did not have an obligation to provide notice of his deportation hearing to a responsible adult living with the minor.

Pleitez v. Barr - filed Sept. 18, 2019
Cite as 2019 S.O.S. 15-72876

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Trump’s Refugee Cuts Threaten Deep Consequences at Home and Abroad

By Amanda Taub and Max Fisher

Chhaya Chhoum’s journey to the Bronx began in the forced labor camp where the Khmer Rouge, during its genocidal rule in 1970s Cambodia, had forced her parents to wed.

Her mother, who was 18, fled with her family, carrying her infant through jungle trails to refugee camps in Thailand. But the camps offered neither safety nor a future. So the family began a second journey: applying for refugee resettlement in the United States.

By the time they were brought to New York, Ms. Chhoum had spent almost seven years in the camps.

The family thrived in the Bronx. Her mother became a mental health worker, a leader in the community. And as an adult, Ms. Chhoum founded an organization, Mekong NYC, that provides services for Southeast Asian refugees and their families.

“I am as Bronx as it gets, as you probably can tell by my accent,” she said. “That’s the whole of me: refugee, child of refugees and raised in the Bronx.”

Subscribe for original insights, commentary and discussions on the major news stories of the week, from columnists Max Fisher and Amanda Taub.

But stories like Ms. Chhoum’s may soon become far rarer. The White House is considering plans to slash refugee resettlement numbers to a fraction of historic levels or even to zero, all but ending the program.

The modern refugee system emerged after World War II, when the United States and its allies resettled hundreds of thousands displaced by fighting. Since then, it has played a central role in American foreign policy, drawn from the lesson that mass displacement can provoke even graver crises.

Refugee resettlement operates differently than other kinds of immigration. It is designed to maximize benefits to refugees and the communities that host them while minimizing burdens and risks.

The process is tightly controlled, with refugees undergoing a screening process that can take years before they are allowed into the United States. It focuses on keeping families together, as well as placing them in communities that want to take them in and are equipped to do so.

Refugee flows peaked in 1980, with over 200,000 resettled that fiscal year. Since then, annual caps have hovered around 70,000. The Trump administration, after slashing that limit to an all-time low of 30,000, is considering proposals to cut it to 15,000, 10,000 — or zero.

“Generations and generations are going to be impacted by this,” Ms. Chhoum said. “In a refugee camp, there’s no imagination. And I fear that will have multigenerational impact.”

Though the formal refugee program began in 1980, the practice dates to the aftermath of World War II, which offered the world a series of hard lessons, and the motives were varied.

One was a sense of moral obligation, rooted in regret over the United States’ having refused entry to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe.

But another was practical.

The war had displaced millions into sprawling camps and urban squalor, creating the conditions for future cycles of unrest and conflict. Resettling them was seen as a way to head off social tensions in Europe and alleviate pressure on still-fragile European governments.

Refugee resettlement has since become a cornerstone of the global order. It is intended to help prevent regions that are emerging from conflict, like Southeast Asia in the 1980s or the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, from falling back into turmoil.

“The refugee program matters both because of its humanitarian role and because of its strategic importance,” said Nazanin Ash, the vice president for global policy and advocacy at the International Rescue Committee. “Because poorly managed refugee crises beget greater regional instability.”

The program was designed to give governments close control over arrivals, allowing them to select precisely whom to bring in, when to bring them and where to place them. Once the refugees have arrived, resettlement programs can manage their integration.

Among all forms of humanitarian immigration to the United States, refugee resettlement comes closest to what skeptics of immigration often describe as their ideal. Families must apply while still overseas. Applicants are heavily vetted. They must wait in line.

It is the near-inverse of the process for asylum seekers like those arriving at the southern border.

Under American and international law, anyone can request asylum; if they meet the definition, they are entitled to protection. Asylum seekers’ numbers and timing are dictated by need and circumstance, not carefully planned policies.

And the numbers of people who can seek asylum — or be granted it — will not be affected by proposed cuts to the refugee resettlement program, though the Trump administration has also moved aggressively to discourage them, too.

“It’s not about immigrant versus refugee,” Ms. Chhoum said. “But being a refugee really isn’t a choice. And a government like the United States does have a choice.”

Every year, the United States announces the number of refugees it plans to host. It works with international agencies, particularly in the United Nations, to decide which displaced populations are most in need. They’ll vet the applications, nominating the most qualified people. Then the United States screens them, doing interviews and lengthy background checks. Approval typically takes years.

Only a tiny fraction of the world’s refugees are eligible for resettlement. The American program gives priority to the family members of refugees who are already in the United States, and to people regarded as particularly vulnerable.

Typically, they will have been displaced by war or persecution. Many will be in overcrowded camps, unable to work or return home. Some will still be pursued by militias or governments who wish them harm. Their host country will often be overwhelmed, unable to absorb or care for the refugees within their borders.

Refugee resettlement is often the only viable solution, said Ms. Ash, the International Rescue Committee official. Otherwise, camps just keep swelling for years or decades, becoming steadily unsafer for their occupants and imposing an ever-greater burden on their host countries.

Advocates of the resettlement program often cite the St. Louis, the ship carrying hundreds of Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe that the United States turned away, sending many back to their death. It is recounted as both moral parable and practical lesson: ad hoc responses to refugee crises can easily go wrong.

Institutionalizing the refugee system, with annual caps and a steady pipeline, creates a reliable process through which the United States can address crises as they emerge and relieve strain on host countries, Ms. Ash said.

It also allows the United States to push other countries, particularly in Europe, to set their own annual refugee quotas, spreading the responsibility among wealthy, stable nations.

As the United States curbs its refugee program, other governments, facing political pressures at home, are beginning to follow suit.

“What we see now is a global race to the bottom in meeting humanitarian obligations,” Ms. Ash said. “And it’s led by the U.S.”

Governments have also cut funding for international agencies that oversee refugees, even as their numbers continue to rise.

Resettlement programs can serve as political release valves, relieving enough pressure to make it sustainable for countries to host large refugee populations. “If we’re not working with these hosting countries, to remove some of that pressure, then we lose all negotiating power when it comes to dealing with the crisis,” Ms. Ash said.

The possible consequences are already coming into view. “What we see is an increasing trend of extreme pressure on refugees to return to unsafe and unstable regions,” Ms. Ash said, calling this a source of “tremendous risk to their safety and also to global security and stability.”

Countries that host refugees, like Pakistan and Turkey, seeing that Western governments are unlikely to resettle significant numbers, are pressuring, sometimes in effect forcing, families to return home.

Premature repatriations to places like Syria and Afghanistan risk creating further instability at a time when the United States is already struggling to extract itself from both conflicts. And forcibly returning refugee populations increases the risk that their home country will fall back into war, according to one World Bank study.

In a central irony of the era of resurgent nativist populism, such policies may have the opposite of their desired effect.

European and American policies to deter or block asylum-seekers and refugees have tended to increase immigration over the long term, according to studies by independent immigration scholars.

Ms. Chhoum expressed concern for the thousands of displaced Iraqis holding out hope for resettlement in the United States, as well as asylum seekers already in the country who count on refugee policies to reunite them with their family.

She grew emotional as she described her own family members reuniting in the Bronx, where they still share a three-family home.

“We live together not only because that’s how we had to survive, to pay rent,” she said. “It was also really my mom, my grandmother and my aunt not wanting to ever lose each other again.”

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Urge Congress to Hold DHS Accountable for Unlawful Conditions in Immigration Detention

AILA and the American Immigration Council, through the Dilley Pro Bono Project, filed a complaint that included accounts from asylum-seeking mothers attesting to the lack of medical care for their children while in CBP custody. It's time for Congress to hold DHS accountable for its continued failure to provide adequate medical care for the women and children in its custody. Tell your members of Congress to implement oversight mechanisms to improve access to medical services for individuals held in CBP custody, and demand increased reliance on alternatives to detention.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Trump contradicts CBP head on Bahamian refugees, argues they might have been infiltrated by ‘very bad people’

By Aaron Blake

Early Monday afternoon, acting Customs and Border Protection head Mark Morgan offered some peace of mind to Bahamians seeking humanitarian relief in the United States in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, following the news that some were turned away for not having visas.

“This is a humanitarian mission,” Morgan assured. “If your life is in jeopardy and you’re in the Bahamas … you’re going to be allowed to come to the United States, whether you have travel documents or not.” He said the processing would be handled expeditiously.

Then President Trump offered a very different message.

In a later Q&A with reporters, Trump emphasized that “very bad people” could exploit the process and warned against welcoming Bahamians.

“We have to be very careful,” Trump said. “Everybody needs totally proper documentation. Because, look, the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there.”

The president added, “I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States — including some very bad people and very bad gang members.”

So, shortly after Morgan said people didn’t need to have documents, Trump said they did. And shortly after Morgan emphasized a quick process, Trump suggested it would need to be very thorough.

The president’s comments shouldn’t be a surprise. This is his default response, after all, to accepting people into the United States on humanitarian grounds. He did it during the 2016 campaign, arguing against welcoming refugees from Syria and even calling for a complete ban on Muslim immigration. When he came into office, he privately railed against a deal between the Obama administration and Australia on taking in other refugees.

More recently, this has been Trump’s attitude toward asylum seekers, suggesting that gang members and even terrorists are exploiting the process to gain access to the United States.

Trump emphasized Monday that, “believe it or not,” many parts of the Bahamas were not hit hard by Dorian, suggesting the humanitarian need isn’t that great. The capital of Nassau and southern parts of the Bahamas sustained significantly less damage.

His comments, notably, suggest not just that some refugees are gang members but that they might pose other problems. He even seems to suggest that people might have gone to the Bahamas so they could pose as refugees to gain admission to the United States. Trump has often spoken in this manner about potential terrorists. It’s not clear whether he was saying they went to the Bahamas before the hurricane or somehow got there afterward.

The Bahamas, notably, contain many people of Haitian descent — as many as 1 in 10 residents — and they tend to be among the island nation’s poorest residents. Trump has in the past privately referred to Haiti as a “shithole country” while deriding protections for immigrants from it.

Other Republicans — particularly in Florida — have taken a more compassionate tone when it comes to welcoming Bahamians. “As hundreds of thousands of Bahamians seek refuge or start to rebuild after Hurricane Dorian, we cannot have the kind of confusion that occurred last night in Freeport,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has encouraged Trump to waive some visa requirements.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com 

Bahamas Hurricane Survivors, Desperate for Respite, Seek Passage to U.S.

By Rachel Knowles, Frances Robles, Caitlin Dickerson and Patricia Mazzei

NASSAU, the Bahamas — Destitute survivors of Hurricane Dorian who lost much of what they had to the powerful storm packed a government office in the Bahamas on Monday, desperate for a document that could be their ticket off the overwhelmed islands: a clean criminal record.

Hoping to reach Florida, they took every available seat inside the stuffy Criminal Records Office in Nassau, the capital, to request a piece of paper that, along with their passports, could free them to travel to the United States.

“Nobody knows where to turn, nobody knows what to do,” said Madlin Louis, 19, who would like to stay with relatives in Miami and maybe find work. “Try to start a new life, and then go back to Abaco, because that’s our home.”

Some 200 miles away, people from the Bahamas were landing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., trying to figure out their next move. A cruise ship on a relief mission docked near West Palm Beach on Sunday with some 1,400 people from the Bahamian city of Freeport on board.

The crisis wrought by Dorian, which killed at least 45 people in the northern Bahamas, and likely many more, has begun to be felt in earnest in Florida, with storm victims who own little more than the donated clothes on their backs arriving to seek respite, at least temporarily, from the utter ruin back home.

About 4,000 Bahamians have arrived since the hurricane — 2,000 each by air and by sea, said Diane Sabatino, the head of the Customs and Border Protection office in Miami, who is coordinating the response to the hurricane.

The United States has a long history of allowing evacuees of natural disasters to enter the country — and many of them stay. Tens of thousands of people from Honduras and Nicaragua came to the United States after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, more fled El Salvador after earthquakes in 2001, and many Haitians arrived in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

Dionisio J. D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation in the Bahamas, said the government there did not know exactly how many people had left or relocated because some were picked up by friends’ boats, private planes and helicopters. On Great Abaco Island, officials estimate that half the population of 20,000 has left for Nassau or other places.

“I don’t think the United States should have any great worry about the quantities of people that are coming in,” Mr. D’Aguilar said. “Those who are coming in are not going to become burdens to the state.”

Most of the travelers will be people with American travel visas, meaning many visit Florida frequently, he said. Most Bahamians, he added, probably need a little time away to “catch themselves” — take a hot bath, a good meal, and then determine what is next.

The robust Bahamian community in South Florida, which has deep ties to the islands, has been eager to welcome the new arrivals. But the rush to fill flights and ferries with storm survivors has raised questions about what immigration rules apply for Bahamians seeking refuge in the United States.

President Trump told reporters in Washington on Monday that the United States needed to be cautious.

“Everybody needs totally proper documentation,” he said. “The Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there.”

Mr. Trump did not mention any country by name, but many undocumented Haitians live in the Bahamas, particular on the Abaco Islands.

“I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States — including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers,” he added.

The confusion over who could come was highlighted over the weekend when 119 people from the Bahamas were ordered to get off a ferry bound for Florida because they did not have the necessary United States travel visas. Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, emphasized that hurricane victims would not be held hostage to paperwork.

“We’re not telling the cruise line, ‘You cannot allow anyone without documents,’” he said. “That’s just not being done.”

Still, video from the Miami television station WSVN showed frustrated passengers disembarking in Freeport and lamenting that their hopes to reach Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale, had been dashed.

Dominique Seymour, 24, who had been on the ferry, said the passengers had waited for hours in line and had been on board for over an hour when they were told they would “suffer penalties” if they did not have a visa. She disembarked along with her sister, 6-year-old niece and 4-year-old nephew.

“This was heart-wrenching,” she said. “It felt as though our chances of leaving the island to find some sort of relief from what we were going through at home was taken away.”

Ms. Seymour said she was grateful for everything the United States had done for the Bahamas, “but at this point, many of us just need a mental break from this island — even if it’s for as little as a week.”

On Monday, she traveled to Nassau instead.

Pilar Boix Escolies, a spokeswoman for BaleĆ ria, the Spanish shipping company that runs the ferry, said the company required all passengers to have visas on Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday allowed people without visas to board because United States immigration authorities said they could.

Only after the passengers had boarded did the authorities tell the company that Bahamians without a visa had to leave from Nassau, where they would get pre-clearance to enter the United States, she said.

“This was a situation we do not like. We interpreted instructions that were not correct,” Ms. Boix Escolies said. “They are making BaleĆ ria out to be the bad guys. When we board passengers, it is with the objective of taking them to their destination.”

United States authorities said on Monday that only travelers arriving by air were eligible to enter without visas, as long as they had provided a passport and documentation of a clean criminal record before boarding in the Bahamas.

Cruise ship operators and airlines have generally contacted the American embassy ahead of time to confirm that passengers without visas do, in fact, meet the entry requirements, according to the authorities.

But Ms. Sabatino, the Customs and Border Protection field coordinator in Miami, said the United States was handing the situation when necessary on a case-by-case basis.

“We use maximum flexibility in circumstances when people do not have the proper documents,” she said. “We have administrative procedures we can utilize to ensure individuals are admissible.”

Peter Vazquez, a yacht broker in Fort Lauderdale who has delivered aid to the Bahamas daily since the storm, said he had been bringing survivors to South Florida by plane and that they had encountered no problems. The people were not required to have a visa, but they did have to check in and be processed by Customs officials when they landed, he said.

Carl Smith, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency of the Bahamas, said in a news conference on Monday that there were 4,800 evacuees from Abaco and Grand Bahama in New Providence, an area that was not badly damaged during the hurricane.

Nearly as many appeared to be headed to Florida, where they found local support.

Oneil Khosa, chief executive of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, said not one of some 1,200 passengers who arrived there on his humanitarian cruise on Saturday required transportation to onward destinations. Everyone either rented a car or was picked up by family members, he said.

On Monday, Johny Blanc, 33, was evacuated from Great Abaco along with his cousin Fedeline Melice-Adderley, 29, on a private plane. They were taken to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, where they were trying to figure out their next move.

Mr. Blanc and Ms. Melice-Adderley, both Haitians with United States visas, were trying to get to Orlando, Fla., where they had relatives, and said they had no intention of returning to the Bahamas.

“We don’t have nothing left,” said Mr. Blanc, who worked as a mason in the Bahamas. “We have no place else, we can’t go back.”

The hurricane had destroyed their homes, located in the sprawling shantytown in Marsh Harbour known as the Mudd. During the storm, Ms. Melice-Adderley’s only child, Jessica Marcelin, 12, was swept away in the storm surge and has been missing ever since.

A friend of the family said Jessica was spotted at the Marsh Harbour airport during the week, boarding an evacuation flight.

“They say that, but I don’t know,” Ms. Melice-Adderley said.

Both Mr. Blanc and Ms. Melice-Adderley had American visas that expired in December, but they hoped that the United States would accommodate them on a more permanent basis.

Venrico Toote, 30, a travel agent in Treasure Cay, on Abaco, where most of the homes were destroyed or seriously damaged, said that his house could probably be repaired, but that his community lacked running water, power and a functioning bank or supermarket. He decided to leave.

Mr. Toote was first evacuated to Nassau, and then took a plane to West Palm Beach, where he got another flight to visit friends in North Carolina. He was fortunate to have an American travel visa, but he said he also saw United States immigration authorities working hard to accommodate people who did not have the proper paperwork. They were generally pulled aside for special processing, he said.

“I have been trying to recover mentally from everything that happened,” he said. “I am not opposed to staying in the U.S. I doubt I will be able to go back to my own community for a while.”

Mr. Toote said his office was underwater, and that though he had family in Nassau he was worried about the job prospects there.

“I don’t know how the employment situation is, because you have an entire island of people who just moved into one city,” he said.

For now, he is in North Carolina, and unsure of what comes next.

“There is a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “I suppose I should be more concerned about these things, but right now I am just happy to be alive.”

Rachel Knowles reported from Nassau, the Bahamas; Frances Robles and Patricia Mazzei from Miami; and Caitlin Dickerson from New York. Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Miriam Jordan contributed reporting from Washington, and Kirk Semple from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Frances Robles is a national and foreign correspondent based in Miami. Before joining The Times in 2013, she worked at the Miami Herald, where she covered Cuba and was based in both Nicaragua and Colombia.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com


Judge Reinstates Nationwide Injunction on Trump Asylum Rule

By Sarah Mervosh

A federal judge on Monday issued a nationwide order barring a Trump administration policy that denies asylum to migrants crossing the border unless they have already tried and failed to obtain asylum in another country along the way, a rule that effectively bans claims for most Central Americans fleeing persecution and poverty.

Judge Jon S. Tigar of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California reinstated a nationwide injunction preventing implementation of the new asylum policy in response to a federal appeals court ruling that had limited his original ruling’s scope to border states in the West.

Judge Tigar made findings, as outlined by the appellate judges, that applying the injunction across the country was necessary to maintain a “uniform immigration policy” and prevent “uneven enforcement.” Under the previous ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the administration had been prohibited from applying the new asylum limitations in California and Arizona, but not in New Mexico and Texas.

“We just sent an email to people on the ground in Texas saying, ‘Make sure none of your clients are subjected to this asylum ban,’” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and the lead lawyer on this case. “Because up to this morning, people were being denied asylum automatically if they traveled through another country.”

The latest ruling puts the asylum policy in the hands of the Supreme Court, which was already considering whether the Trump administration could enforce the policy while the case makes its way through the court system. The justices are expected to rule within the next few days.

The Justice Department said on Monday that it had “sought relief” from the Supreme Court on the issue of nationwide injunctions, a practice that Attorney General William P. Barr denounced last week as a partisan tool and a threat to the nation’s democratic system.

“This latest ruling only highlights the urgency to resolve this crisis,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

The dispute stems from a restrictive new Trump administration policy, announced this summer, that sought to deny asylum to migrants who failed to apply for protections in at least one country they passed through on their way north to the United States. Under the policy, Hondurans and Salvadorans would have to apply for — and be denied — asylum in Guatemala or Mexico before they would be eligible to apply for asylum in the United States. Guatemalans would first have to be denied asylum in Mexico.

The rule reversed longstanding policies that allowed people to seek haven no matter how they got to the United States. It was immediately challenged by critics who said that requiring people to wait for asylum proceedings in other countries violated the law and put migrants in jeopardy.

Mr. Gelernt argued that migrants did not have access to fully functioning asylum systems in countries like Mexico and Guatemala. Moreover, he said, migrants could be easily found in such places by the people they are fleeing.

“It’s too dangerous for people to wait around in those countries,” he said. “For many people, this would have effectively been like a death sentence.”

He called the new administration policy “just another in a series of attempts by the administration to effectively end asylums for Central Americans at the southern border.”

In a Supreme Court brief, the solicitor general, Noel J. Francisco, said the new policy was needed to address “an unprecedented surge in the number of aliens who enter the country unlawfully across the southern border and, if apprehended, claim asylum and remain in the country while their claims are adjudicated.”

Under the policy, only immigrants who have been denied asylum in another country or who have been victims of “severe” human trafficking are permitted to apply in the United States. “The rule thus screens out asylum seekers who declined to request protection at the first opportunity,” Mr. Francisco wrote.

Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said on Monday that he was frustrated with the asylum ruling by Judge Tigar, who was nominated by President Barack Obama, and the “unprecedented judicial activism we’ve experienced.”

“Every time this administration comes up with what we believe is a legal rule or policy that we believe will address this crisis, we just end up getting enjoined,” Mr. Morgan said at a White House briefing. “It’s frustrating, but we’ll just have to keep going.”

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com


Monday, September 09, 2019

The Other Immigration Morass: A Battle Over Workers’ Green Cards

By Lindsay Wise

WASHINGTON—When Indian immigrant Jay Indurkar applied for permanent U.S. residency in 2011, he filled out paperwork, passed background checks, showed proof of a job offer in Kansas and was approved for a green card in a matter of weeks.

“I still remember that email from my boss,” Mr. Indurkar said. “I jumped out of my seat with joy. And then I read the last paragraph, and my world fell apart.”

The last paragraph said there was actually no green card yet available for him, and it provided no timetable for getting him one. Eight years later, the 41-year-old product-development engineer is still waiting—one of roughly 1 million people stuck in a growing backlog for one of the 140,000 employment-based green cards distributed each year by the U.S. State Department. The logjam stems from U.S. rules that limit any one country to 7% of all employment-based green cards. More than 660,000 of those approved but waiting are from India.

Much of the focus on the nation’s stressed immigration system has been on migrants at the southern border and Washington’s inability to craft a fix. But the backlog among those awaiting permanent residency based on employer-sponsored visas presents its own political morass.

Republicans and Democrats agree it is a problem. A bipartisan bill that seeks to address the backlog—the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act—passed the House of Representatives in July, 365 to 65.

A similar piece of legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee, (R., Utah), who says his version is designed to provide a narrow fix, separate from any comprehensive immigration overhaul. “You don’t have to eat the whole elephant in one bite,” he said. But Mr. Lee faces opposition within his own party, especially from Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has introduced competing legislation.

The two men are negotiating. But other senators have raised their own concerns, and even a patchwork solution appears unlikely anytime soon.

The issue pits industries against each other as they seek to expedite permanent residency for workers they say they need at a time when little suggests that the overall number of green cards issued will rise.

Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft and other tech and telecommunications giants are lobbying Congress to pass Mr. Lee’s bill to help software engineers and other high-tech workers from India who are stuck in the backlog. Also pushing for the bill is Immigration Voice, a nonprofit social-welfare group founded by Indian immigrant workers.

But the American Hospital Association and AMN Healthcare , a health care staffing agency, oppose the bill because they believe one result would be to dramatically increase the wait time for green cards for other workers from overseas, particularly nurses from the Philippines.

The U.S. gives out a limited number of greencards—about 1.1 million annually. About 14% go to employment-based applicants such as Mr. Indurkar. The rest go to family members looking to join relatives in the U.S., or winners of the diversity lottery, which allows people from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. a chance to obtain visas.

Many of those awaiting green cards such as Mr. Indurkar have stayed in the U.S. on temporary H-1B visas for high-skilled technical workers. The number of those visas is capped annually at 85,000 but the U.S. government has approved more than 200,000 additional visas in each of the last five years, many of them for workers in the green-card backlog, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, a think tank.

Republicans have resisted efforts in recent years to boost the overall number of green cards. Some are willing to increase employment-based green cards, but only if the U.S. cuts family and diversity green cards—a no-go for Democrats.

Both the Senate and House bills would eliminate the current rule that no one country receive more than 7% of all employment-based green cards. That would create a single line for all green-card petitioners, allowing people who have waited the longest to go to the front of the line, instead of waiting in lines based on their countries of origin.

Opponents complain this will allow Indians and Chinese—who now face the longest waits—to get higher priority, forcing those from other countries further back.

“This is lifeboats on the Titanic. You can fight over who gets which seats, or you can get enough lifeboats, and what we’ve got here is fighting over the number of seats rather than increasing the number of lifeboats,” said Bruce Morrison, a former Democratic congressman from Connecticut who now lobbies for the AMA and AMN Healthcare.

Nadia Morozova, a traffic engineer in Columbia, S.C., worries that she will be one of the bill’s casualties. A native of Russia, Ms. Morozova is in the U.S. legally on a temporary work visa. She would like to stay and become a citizen if her employer will sponsor her for a green card in the next few years. Most Russians now wait 18 months to two years to receive employment-based green cards. If Congress passes legislation to clear the backlog by lifting the country caps, however, Ms. Morozova fears she would have to wait more than a decade.

“I wish it would just be solved without making it worse for us,” she said.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates that under the House bill, new applicants would have significant waits to receive certain types of employment-based green cards as the backlog is cleared. Depending on the type of green card, the delay could be between 2.9 and 13.5 years, according to the institute’s forthcoming analysis of data from the State Department and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The institute didn’t analyze Mr. Lee’s Senate bill, which would establish a two-year transition period for employment-based green cards by setting aside a certain number for immigrants not from India or China.

He tried to pass the bill by unanimous consent in July, bypassing the hearing and committee process. Mr. Paul blocked it. Mr. Paul’s bill, among other measures, would expand the number of green cards for employment-based immigrants to 270,000 from the current 140,000. Mr. Paul also has offered an amendment to ensure nurses aren’t adversely affected.

Democrats in the Senate have qualms, too. “They are increasing the immigration from countries like India a marginal small amount at the expense of cutting back on immigration from other countries in a much more dramatic fashion—I don’t think there’s equity in that,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.). If a way forward is found, it is also unclear whether President Trump would sign a bill.

The White House, which is working on its own legal immigration overhaul, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

All that leaves the likes of Mr. Indurkar in limbo. His H-1B via is only temporary, and it means he is dependent on his employer to act as his sponsor. He remains in Overland Park, Kan., in part because his young American-born son needs special education. He says the wait “gets more painful with every passing year.”



Agency Would Raise Bar for Asylum Seekers’ Work Permits

By Michelle Hackman

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration wants to make it harder for asylum seekers to receive work permits while they wait for their cases to be decided, a move that could deter some immigrants from entering the country illegally.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that processes asylum applications, announced Friday it will propose a rule next week scrapping a requirement that asylum seekers receive a work permit within 30 days of applying for one.

Unauthorized immigrants must already wait at least five months after filing an asylum petition to apply for a work permit in the U.S., and immigration attorneys say many immigrants might wait up to a year after arriving in the country to receive the permit.

In a statement, USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli said the agency wants to do away with the 30-day deadline to allow it more time to screen applicants for national security and other concerns.

“Our first priority as an agency is to safeguard the integrity of our nation’s legal immigration system from those who seek to exploit or abuse it,” he said.

By doing away with the 30-day deadline, the government isn’t obligated to grant these immigrants work permits at all. Federal law states that asylum seekers may work but aren’t entitled to do so.

The administration has long argued that migrants from Central America, who make up the majority of those illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, are attracted by the U.S. asylum system. Immigrants who pass an initial “credible fear” interview are often allowed to remain in the U.S. for years as their claims wend their way through the backlogged immigration-court system, and in the meantime these immigrants are permitted to work.

Previous administrations have viewed work permits as a way of making sure these asylum seekers remain self-sufficient in the U.S. But the Trump administration regards the opportunity to work—and send remittances back to workers’ home countries—as a major driver of illegal immigration.

Immigrant-rights advocates argue that by cutting off the ability to work, the government is pushing an already-vulnerable group of people into a more desperate situation. Asylum seekers aren’t eligible for government benefits.

“This proposed rule would impact asylum seekers’ ability to work legally and has the potential to drive people to work under the table,” said Dan Kosten, assistant director of policy and advocacy for skills and workforce development at the National Immigration Forum.

In the government’s 2018 budget year, the USCIS granted 1.6 million work permits, though it wasn’t immediately known how many of those went to asylum seekers.

Also on Friday, Democracy Forward, a legal organization, filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia district court on behalf of several asylum seekers against USCIS, alleging that several recent policy changes make it tougher for immigrants to pass their initial “credible fear” interviews. Those policy changes include shortening the time asylum seekers have to consult with lawyers before their interviews and curtailing an immigrant’s ability to delay an interview while seeking counsel or searching for documents.

The suit also alleges that any policy put forth by the USCIS is unlawful because its acting director, Mr. Cuccinelli, was installed without Congress’s approval, jumping ahead of senior agency officials or others at the Department of Homeland Security who could have been elevated.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

What Is the Refugee Program and Why Does the Trump Administration Want to Make Cuts?

By Eileen Sullivan

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is looking to cut the number of refugees who come to the United States to escape persecution and humanitarian crises, a program that formally dates back to 1980, though the United States had long been accepting refugees and had established its image as a haven for people from around the world.

Since President Trump took office, the number of refugees admitted each year has dropped, to 30,000 last fiscal year from 110,000 in the 2017 fiscal year, a ceiling established at the end of the Obama administration.

In meetings over the past few weeks, one senior administration official proposed cutting the program entirely, but leaving the president with the discretion to allow refugees into the country in an emergency. Another proposal under consideration is cutting the number to as low as 10,000 and accepting people only from certain countries. Officials will meet on Tuesday in the Situation Room to discuss what the annual cap should be.

The refugee program, housed at the State Department, resettles displaced people from around the world into the United States, with help from agencies at the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services. The focus is on migrants who have fled their own countries for fear of their safety and of persecution or violence, and decamped to another country where they cannot stay permanently.

Under United States policy, refugees are considered part of a different category of immigrants than those seeking asylum, even though both groups are often fleeing their countries out of fear for their lives. The difference between the two is mostly a matter of location. Refugees are people displaced from their countries, having fled war or a humanitarian concern, who ask the United States to allow them in. Asylum seekers are people who are already in the United States and argue to immigration officers that their lives would be in danger if they return home.

Facing a crisis at the end of World War II, the United Nations created a position to oversee global refugees: the high commissioner for refugees. The United States had welcomed refugees on a mostly ad hoc basis — like accepting hundreds of thousands of Europeans displaced by the war, and later Southeast Asian refugees after the end of Vietnam.

In 1980, the United States created a formal system for accepting refugees, which included increasing the number allowed into the country and establishing an office to oversee all of the resettlement issues. Since then, the United States has accepted three million of the four million refugees who were resettled around the world, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center analysis.

The administration has broadly pushed to lower the number of all kinds of immigrants who enter the United States, including pursuing policies that favor immigrants who are able to financially support themselves.

Stephen Miller, the president’s immigration architect, has made it clear that he believes refugees are more likely to be uneducated and have few skills, making them drains on the American economy. In 2017, he helped prevent the release of a study by the Department of Health and Human Services that concluded that the net fiscal effect of refugees was positive.

If the number of refugees allowed into the United States is further reduced or eliminated, it could put American forces stationed overseas in danger, cutting off what former senior military officials have described as a “critical lifeline” for American military, intelligence and diplomatic officials.

Most at risk are refugees from Iraq who worked with American officials as translators and advisers. The United States placed a priority on accepting these Iraqi refugees, and preventing them from resettling in America would “undermine” previous commitments to allies, the retired military officers wrote in a Sept. 3 letter to Mr. Trump.

Family members seeking to reunite with refugees already resettled in the United States would also suffer, increasing the number of families separated, said Jennifer Quigley, the director of refugee advocacy at Human Rights First.

Another potential consequence, Ms. Quigley said, would be if other countries look to the United States as an example and limit their refugee cap, as well.

When countries limit the refugees allowed in, it often leaves people stuck in refugee camps indefinitely. This can make for fertile ground for radicalization and resentment against the United States for abandoning them.

The Defense Department has fought these cuts in the past. Last year, Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, was outspoken about his objections to the decreasing refugee cap, citing national security concerns. But the current secretary, Mark T. Esper, has not yet made his position known.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com


Trump Administration Considers a Drastic Cut in Refugees Allowed to Enter U.S.

By Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear

WASHINGTON — The White House is considering a plan that would keep most refugees who are fleeing war, persecution and famine out of the United States, significantly cutting back a decades-old program, according to current and former administration officials.

One option that top officials are weighing would cut refugee admissions by half or more, to 10,000 to 15,000 people, but reserve most of those spots for people from a few countries or from groups with special status, such as Iraqis and Afghans who work alongside American troops, diplomats and intelligence operatives abroad. Another option, proposed by a top administration official, would reduce refugee admissions to zero, while leaving the president with the ability to admit some in an emergency.

Both options would all but end the United States’ status as a leader in accepting refugees from around the world.

The issue is expected to come to a head on Tuesday, when White House officials plan to convene a high-level meeting to discuss the annual number of refugee admissions for the coming year, as determined by President Trump.

“At a time when the number of refugees is at the highest level in recorded history, the United States has abandoned world leadership in resettling vulnerable people in need of protection,” said Eric Schwartz, the president of Refugees International. “The result is a world that is less compassionate and less able to deal with future humanitarian challenges.”

For two years, Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s top immigration adviser, has used his considerable influence in the West Wing to reduce the refugee ceiling to its lowest levels in history, capping the program at 30,000 this year. That is a more than 70 percent cut from its level when President Barack Obama left office.

The move has been part of Mr. Trump’s broader effort to reduce the number of documented and undocumented immigrants entering the United States, including numerous restrictions on asylum seekers, who, like refugees, are fleeing persecution but cross into the United States over the border with Mexico or Canada.

Now, Mr. Miller and allies from the White House whom he placed at the Departments of State and Homeland Security are pushing aggressively to shrink the program even further, according to one senior official involved in the discussions and several former officials briefed on them, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail the private deliberations.

White House officials did not respond to a request for comment.

John Zadrozny, a top official at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, made the argument for simply lowering the ceiling to zero, a stance that was first reported by Politico. Others have suggested providing “carveouts” for certain countries or populations, such as the Iraqis and Afghans, whose work on behalf of the American government put both them and their families at risk, making them eligible for special status to come to the United States through the refugee program.

Advocates of the nearly 40-year-old refugee program inside and outside the administration fear that approach would effectively starve the operation out of existence, making it impossible to resettle even those narrow populations.

“Pulling the rug out from under refugees and the resettlement program, as is reported, is unfair, inhumane and strategically flawed for the United States,” said Nazanin Ash, the vice president for global policy and advocacy for the International Rescue Committee. “This is a program that is reserved for, and vital to, the most vulnerable refugees.”

Now, officials at the advocacy groups say the fate of the program increasingly hinges on an unlikely figure: Mark T. Esper, the secretary of defense, who they are hoping will save the program by protesting the cut and recommending that Mr. Trump set a higher refugee ceiling.

Barely two months into his job as Pentagon chief, Mr. Esper, a former lobbyist and defense contracting executive, is the newest voice at the table in the annual debate over how many refugees to admit. But while Mr. Esper’s predecessor, Jim Mattis, had taken up the refugee cause with an almost missionary zeal, repeatedly declining to embrace large cuts because of the potential effect he said they would have on American military interests around the world, Mr. Esper’s position on the issue is unknown.

The senior military leadership at the Defense Department has been urgently pressing Mr. Esper to follow his predecessor’s example and be an advocate for the refugee program, according to people familiar with the conversations in the Pentagon.

But current and former senior military officials said the defense secretary had not disclosed to them whether he would fight for higher refugee admissions at the White House meeting next week. One former general described Mr. Esper as in a “foxhole defilade” position, a military term for the infantry’s effort to remain shielded or concealed from enemy fire.

A senior Defense Department official said that Mr. Esper had not decided what his recommendation would be for the refugee program this year. As a result, an intense effort is underway by a powerful group of retired generals and humanitarian aid groups to persuade Mr. Esper to pick up where Mr. Mattis left off.

In a letter to Mr. Trump on Wednesday, some of the nation’s most distinguished retired military officers implored the president to reconsider the cuts, taking up the national security argument that Mr. Mattis made when he was at the Pentagon. They called the refugee program a “critical lifeline” to people who help American troops, diplomats and intelligence officials abroad, and warned that cutting it off risked greater instability and conflict.

“We urge you to protect this vital program and ensure that the refugee admissions goal is robust, in line with decades-long precedent, and commensurate with today’s urgent global needs,” wrote the military brass, including Admiral William H. McRaven, the former commander of United States Special Operations; General Martin E. Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Lt. General Mark P. Hertling, the former commanding general of Army forces in Europe.

They said that even the current ceiling of 30,000 was “leaving thousands in harm’s way.”

Gen. Joseph L. Votel, who retired this year after overseeing the American military’s command that runs operations in the Middle East, also signed the letter. In an interview, he noted that the flows of refugees leaving war-torn countries like Syria was one of the driving forces of instability in the region.

“We don’t do anything alone,” General Votel said of American military operations overseas, which are regularly helped by Iraqi citizens who become persecuted refugees. “This is not just the price we pay but an obligation.”

Mr. Mattis privately made the same arguments in 2018 and 2019 as he tried to fight back efforts by Mr. Miller to cut the refugee cap, which had already been reduced to 50,000 by Mr. Trump’s travel ban executive order.

Joined by Rex W. Tillerson, who was then the secretary of state, and Nikki R. Haley, the United Nations ambassador at the time, Mr. Mattis succeeded in keeping the cap at 45,000 for 2018. The next year, Mr. Miller tried to persuade Mr. Mattis to support a lower number by promising to ensure the program for the Iraqi and Afghans would not be affected. But Mr. Mattis refused, pushing for the program to remain at 45,000 refugees. But with Mr. Tillerson gone, Mr. Miller succeeded in persuading the president to drop the ceiling to 30,000.

In his announcement last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued that because of a recent surge of asylum seekers at the southwestern border, there was less of a need for the United States to accept refugees from abroad.

“This year’s refugee ceiling reflects the substantial increase in the number of individuals seeking asylum in our country, leading to a massive backlog of outstanding asylum cases and greater public expense,” Mr. Pompeo said at the time.

Now, a year later, Mr. Miller and his allies have repeatedly made that same argument in urging that the number go even lower.

Barbara Strack, who retired last year as chief of the Refugee Affairs Division at the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the United States used to be a model for other countries by accepting refugees from all over the globe. After America began accepting Bhutanese refugees from Nepal, she said, other countries followed suit.

“Very often, that leadership matters,” she said. “That is something that is just lost in terms of who the United States is in the world and how other governments see us.”

The State Department was once the main steward and champion of the refugee resettlement program, but under Mr. Trump, that has changed, as the president and Mr. Miller have made clear that they view it with disdain. The top State Department official now in charge of refugees is Andrew Veprek, a former aide of Mr. Miller’s at the White House Domestic Policy Council who — with Mr. Zadrozny — was a central player in 2017 in efforts to scale back refugee resettlement as much as possible.

That has left the Defense Department as the last agency that could potentially preserve the refugee program. Its proponents inside the administration say they feel a sense of desperation waiting to see whether Mr. Esper will become its advocate.

“The strength of D.O.D.’s argument would really make a difference,” Ms. Strack said. “There just needs to be an acknowledgment that this administration would be walking away from a longstanding, bipartisan tradition of offering refuge to the most vulnerable people around the world.”

That sense of foreboding has intensified in recent weeks, as Mr. Miller has locked down the process for determining the refugee ceiling, to guard against leaks and cut down on opportunities for officials to intervene to save it. Normally, cabinet-level officials would be informed in advance of the options to be discussed at a meeting like the one scheduled on Tuesday.

This time, officials have been informed that their bosses will learn what numbers the White House is proposing only when they sit down at the table and are asked to weigh in.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com


Friday, September 06, 2019

USCIS Proposes More Effective and Efficient Processing of Work Authorization Requests for Asylum Applicants

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a proposed regulation to improve the process for granting or denying an initial application for employment authorization documents (EADs) by reforming the current 30-day timeline pertaining to pending asylum applicants.

These proposed changes will allow USCIS the time needed to receive, screen, and process applications, which in turn would strengthen national security, maintain technological advances in identity verification, and further deter those who may be attempting to defraud the legal immigration system under an improved process.

The original 30-day timeline was enacted more than 20 years ago. Since then, there have been additional requirements in background screening and vetting procedures to reduce fraud and identify threats to national security and public safety. 

“Established before 9/11, this processing timeline does not reflect the operational realities USCIS currently faces when adjudicating employment authorization applications,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli. “Our first priority as an agency is to safeguard the integrity of our nation’s legal immigration system from those who seek to exploit or abuse it. This proposal allows us to conduct the kind of systematic vetting and identity verification procedures expected of an agency charged with protecting national security.”

Initial applications for employment authorization from pending asylum applicants are the only category of employment authorization applications adjudicated by USCIS that have a required processing timeline attached to them. Because of this, the agency must frequently divert resources away from other legal immigration application processing categories in order to meet the 30-day deadline for asylum seekers. These categories include family members of certain high skilled employees and those seeking adjustment of status in the United States, among others.

USCIS is also proposing to change the provision requiring that applicants submit their renewal requests to USCIS 90 days before the expiration of their employment authorization. This would reduce confusion regarding employment authorization renewal requirements for pending asylum applicants, minimize potential gaps in employment, and ensure consistency with the 2017 American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21) Rule and implementing policies.

USCIS reopened pending deferred action requests

On August 7, USCIS quietly stopped considering all pending and future deferred action requests made be non-military members. As of September 2, USCIS will re-open and complete all requests that were pending on August 7. Deferred action allows for the government to defer deportation for people with a serious need, such as vital medical care. The federal government received criticism last month when it suddenly stopped the program for all pending and future requests, leaving many fearing that they could be deported and their children could die for lack of medical care.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

USCIS changed the filing address for some I-129 petitioners

As of September 1, 2019, USCIS changed the address required to file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. The change applies to the following cap-exempt H-1B petitions: continuing previously approved employment from the same employer; changing previously approved employment; new concurrent employment; changing an employer; changing status to H-1B; notifying a U.S. consulate, port of entry, or pre-flight inspection; or amending a petition. The address can be found here. Starting October 1, USCIS may reject forms sent to the wrong service center.

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Mu v. Barr

Derivative beneficiaries of an alien entrepreneur in the immigrant investor program who receive conditional legal permanent residence status have the right to seek review of the denial of an I-829 petition to remove the conditions on their permanent residence status; the plain language of 8 U.S.C. §1186b(c)(3)(D) unambiguously establishes that Congress did not intend to limit such review to the alien entrepreneur.

Mu v. Barr - filed Sept. 4, 2019 
Cite as 2019 S.O.S. 16-71292 

For more information, go to: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com