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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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Thursday, May 06, 2021

DHS to halt fingerprint requirement for spouses of immigrant workers

 BY RAFAEL BERNAL

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is set to suspend a fingerprint requirement for spouses of legally employed foreign workers, potentially unclogging a bottleneck that's prevented thousands of individuals from working in the country.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a federal agency under DHS that's in charge of visas and naturalizations, said in a court filing this week that it would lift the Trump-era requirement starting May 17, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

When reached for comment, a USCIS spokesperson said the agency "will be making more information about this requirement available to the public in the coming days."

The fingerprint requirement applied to spouses of H-1B and L-1 visa holders, and it created significant backlogs as USCIS struggled to schedule and process the fingerprinting.

Thousands of foreign nationals legally in the United States, including visa-holder spouses, depend on work permits issued by USCIS to legally work during their stay in the country.

H-1B visas are the most common temporary high-skill work visas, and L-1s are given to foreign executives whose employers transfer them to the United States from positions abroad.

The change in USCIS policy comes as lawyers representing H-1B and L-1 visa holders filed a class-action lawsuit arguing the fingerprint requirement was purposefully designed to slow the distribution of work permits to spouses.

The 2019 implementation of the fingerprint requirement affected not only the spouses of H-1B and L-1 holders, but also applicants for other categories of visa who are required to submit fingerprints and were therefore affected by the backlogs.

A group of large tech companies signed an amicus brief in the class-action case, arguing the fingerprint requirement and the ensuing backlogs were causing personal and financial damage, both to employers and employees.

Updated at 12:40 p.m.

For more information contact us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

ICE deportations fall to record low in April: report

 BY RAFAEL BERNAL 

ICE deportations fall to record low in April: report
© Getty Images

Deportations conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fell to a record low in April, as the Biden administration redirects resources from immigration enforcement to border management.

According to a report by The Washington Post, ICE deported 2,962 people in April, the lowest monthly total on record for the agency.

The low April deportations represent a 20 percent decline from the previous month, when 3,716 people were deported by ICE, according to the paper.

ICE's role in immigration enforcement is limited to immigrants in the interior of the country, as opposed to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which oversees immigration enforcement at the borders and ports of entry.

The record low numbers come as ICE under President Biden has for the most part limited its deportation activities to foreign nationals with criminal records. Biden's policy eschews the Trump administration's expansive interior enforcement.

While Biden and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have declined a push from the left to fully abolish ICE, they have steered the organization away from the ever-growing detention and deportation operation that grew under former Presidents Trump and Obama.

According to Trac, a nonpartisan immigration data tracker hosted by the Syracuse University, ICE had 15,136 people detained in its system as of April 14.

That number represents an increase over the 13,914 detainees as of March 31, but a majority of ICE detainees since mid-March have been arrested by CBP and turned over to ICE for detention.

Of the 5,612 people booked into ICE detention in April, only 914 detainees were arrested by ICE and the rest by CBP, according to Trac.

The detainee figure also represents a fraction of the 55,654 detainees in ICE facilities in August 2019.

If ICE deportation numbers continue on this pace in 2021, the agency is on track to deport fewer than 100,000 people for the first time since its 2003 founding.

Still, ICE deportations are not the only method of expulsion of foreign nationals available to the federal government.

While interior enforcement priorities have changed drastically under Biden, the administration has continued the Trump-era policy of immediately expelling foreign nationals caught crossing the border under a pandemic-related statute known as Title 42.

Trump applied Title 42 to all foreign nationals, including those seeking asylum, but Biden has exempted unaccompanied minors, who are first detained by CBP and then turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services.
 
Under Biden, CBP has expelled around 200,000 people at the border under Title 42.

For more information contact us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

House Democrats call for paid legal representation in immigration court

 BY RAFAEL BERNAL

House Democrats call for paid legal representation in immigration court
© Greg Nash

A group of 48 House Democrats called on leaders in the Appropriations Committee to assign $75 million in funding to pay for legal representation for immigrants facing potential removal proceedings in immigration court.

In a letter led by Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.), the lawmakers called on Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), chair of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, and Rep. Robert Aderholt (Ala.), the top Republican on the panel, to fund expansion of a pilot program that provides legal representation to some unaccompanied minors and individuals with mental disabilities.

For the most part, immigrants facing any kind of action in immigration court do not get any kind of government-funded legal representation, as immigration proceedings are not criminal proceedings.

But the consequences of judgements in immigration court can be devastating, separating families, as well as individuals from their work, businesses and possessions in the United States.

According to the American Immigration Council, detained immigrants with counsel are four times more likely to be released from detention, and only 37 percent of immigrants secure counsel.

"Legal representation is the most determinative factor in ensuring people facing removal have a fair day in immigration court. If represented by counsel, people are five times more likely to obtain legal relief compared to those who are unrepresented," wrote Torres.

Torres added that representation has been shown to make cases flow more smoothly, which could help reduce the backlog in immigration courts — among other reasons because immigrants who secure representation are more likely to appear for their court dates.

"Studies of immigration court data over the past decade have found that people represented by counsel appear in court over 96 percent of the time," wrote Torres.

Immigration courts are not part of the judiciary; rather, they are run by the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review, through which the added funding would be funneled under Torres's plan.

"We support additional funding for the Executive Office for Immigration Review to expand legal representation programs to other vulnerable populations including, but not limited to, asylum seekers, families, people who speak rare languages, and those deprived of their liberty while awaiting their court hearings," wrote Torres.

For more information contact us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/

White House raises refugee cap to 62,500

 BY REBECCA BEITSCH AND BRETT SAMUELS

The White House on Monday lifted the refugee cap to 62,500, ending a dizzying policy reversal by sticking with President Biden's original plan to dramatically increase from Trump-era levels the number of refugees who can be admitted into the U.S.

“Today, I am revising the United States’ annual refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for this fiscal year,” Biden said in a statement. “This erases the historically low number set by the previous administration of 15,000, which did not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees.” 

“It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin,” Biden added.

The administration announced in a separate memorandum that of the 62,500 slots being made available, 22,000 would be allocated to refugees coming from Africa, 13,000 to those from the Middle East and South Asia, 6,000 to those from East Asia, 4,000 to those from Europe and Central Asia, 5,000 to those from Latin America and the Caribbean and the remaining 12,500 would remain unallocated.

The president acknowledged that the country would not hit the cap this year, cautioning that it would take time to rebuild the infrastructure needed to take in and support tens of thousands of refugees as the U.S. has traditionally done. He expressed a commitment to setting the cap at 125,000 refugees during his first full fiscal year in office.

“The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year,” he wrote in the announcement.  

“We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway.”

The administration in February called for raising the refugee cap to 125,000 by the end of Biden's first year in office — a target that would require allowing 62,500 refugees fleeing persecution to enter the United States this fiscal year. 

The high figure was set to be a dramatic turnaround from the Trump administration, whose 15,000 cap during its last three years in office was an all-time low.

But the Biden administration later hedged those figures as it was being hammered by Republicans for the influx of migrants at the southern border.

In an April letter to the State Department, the White House said it would keep the 15,000 limit set under former President Trump.

After a day of backlash, however, press secretary Jen Psaki walked that back slightly, suggesting only that Biden would be unable to meet his original goal and that the 15,000 was not final.

“For the past few weeks, he has been consulting with his advisers to determine what number of refugees could realistically be admitted to the United States between now and Oct. 1. Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely,” Psaki said at the time. 

Biden’s decision to set the cap at 62,500 even as he conceded it would be unlikely to be met further raises questions about why the White House did not just raise the cap in the first place and not hit its ceiling.

Instead, the administration’s handling of the issue prompted a days-long news cycle where officials faced questions about the White House’s priorities and endured criticism from lawmakers who noted hundreds of refugees had already scheduled flights and gone through health and security screenings expecting the cap would be lifted sooner.

Psaki told reporters last month that Biden made the initial announcement about raising the cap in February, only to learn more about potential issues that would prevent him from being able to follow through.

Lawmakers who had pushed Biden on the issue in recent weeks, such as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), were not given advance notice of the cap announcement on Monday.

“I am grateful that President Biden listened to our call to action and is building on the swift work he did during his first 100 days to begin reversing Trump’s all-out draconian assault on immigrants," Jayapal said in a statement. "While this new administration inherited a broken immigration system that was gutted and sabotaged by the previous president, it is on all of us to fix it — quickly. Today’s announcement is a critical step."

Biden nodded to the about-face in his official notification to the State Department, noting that those responsible for administering the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program said they could handle the increase in refugees while responding to other demands.

“Upon additional briefing and a more comprehensive presentation regarding the capacity of the executive departments ... and given the ongoing unforeseen emergency refugee situation, I now determine, consistent with my Administration's prior consultation with the Congress, that raising the number of admissions permissible for FY 2021 to 62,500 is justified by grave humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest,” Biden wrote.

The move was cheered by a number of humanitarian and immigration groups that had been lobbying Biden to keep his original promise.

“We are relieved that the Biden administration has, after a long and unnecessary delay, kept its promise to raise the refugee admissions cap for this year to 62,500,” Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s global policy lead, said in a statement.

“This announcement means the United States can finally begin to rebuild the life-saving refugee resettlement program and welcome the tens of thousands of people who have been left stranded by four years of the Trump administration's xenophobic policies and three months of the Biden administration's inaction.”

Updated at 5:48 p.m.

For more information contact us at http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/