In early July, both the Senate and House of Representatives passed DHS appropriations bills with a few immigration related provisions. The House version reauthorized E-Verify for a period of two years. The Senate bill made both E-verify and the EB-5 pilot programs permanent, extended the Conrad-30 waiver program and non-ministerial religious worker immigrant visa programs for an additional three years, and authorized 700 miles of reinforced fencing. The bill also seeks to allow employers to use e-verify on current employees, and not just on new hires. Finally, the bill would seek to reverse the decision of the administration to withdraw the SSA no-match discussed above. The bill will proceed to conference to resolve differences in the bill and to determine which provisions will make it into a consolidated bill that will be presented to the President for signature.
USCIS announced today that it was reinstating the premium processing option for certain R-1 petitions. Under premium processing, the petition receives an initial determination (approval, request for additional evidence or notice of intent to deny) within 15 days in exchange for an extra $1,000 filing fee. This program is only available for religious institutions that have previously had successful completion of a site inspection in conjunction with a previous R-1 petition at the location where the beneficiary will be employed.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will be proposing a new regulation rescinding the 2007 No-Match Rule, which was blocked by court order shortly after issuance and has never taken effect. That rule established procedures that employers could follow if they receive SSA No-Match letters or notices from DHS that call into question work eligibility information provided by employees.
DHS also announced support and plans for a new regulation that will award federal contracts only to employers who use E-Verify to check employee work authorization. The federal contractor rule extends use of the E-Verify system to covered federal contractors and subcontractors, including those who receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. After detailing the technical improvements to the system DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the Administration plans to push ahead with full implementation of the rule, which will apply to federal solicitations and contract awards Government-wide starting on September 8, 2009.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a proposed rule to remove “Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection” from the definition of “communicable disease of public health significance,” which previously barred individuals from entering the United States. According to Bernie Wolfsdorf, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), “The rationale for maintaining HIV infection as an excludable condition is no longer valid based on current medical and scientific knowledge and public health practice, and experience which has informed us on the characteristics of the virus, the modes of transmission of HIV, and the effective interventions to prevent further spread of the virus. This proposed rule will remove a discriminatory provision of immigration law that weakens families, limits employment, and stifles innovation and invention.”
On July 1, 2009, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued Notices of Inspection to 652 businesses across the country. In Fiscal Year 2008, 503 similar notices were issued all year. The notices alert business owners that ICE will be inspecting their I-9 Forms to determine whether they are complying with employment eligibility verification laws and regulations. In a news release, ICE says it is part of their new strategic effort to “reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation’s lawful workforce.” ICE also claims to be “focusing its resources on the auditing and investigation of employers suspected of cultivating illegal workplaces by knowingly employing illegal workers.”
ICE News Release: http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/0907/090701washington.htm
USCIS announced that effective June 29, 2009, it will resume Premium Processing Service for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, in accordance with 8 CFR 103.2(f)(2). USCIS will accept Premium Processing requests for Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, involving EB-1 Aliens with Extraordinary Ability, EB-1 Outstanding Professors and Researchers, EB-2 Members of Professions with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability not seeking a National Interest Waiver, EB-3 Professionals, EB-3 Skilled Workers, and EB-3 Workers other than Skilled Workers and Professionals. Premium Processing Service is still not available for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, involving EB-1 Multinational Executives and Managers and EB-2 Members of Professions with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability seeking a National Interest Waiver.
Under the Premium Processing Service, USCIS guarantees petitioners that, for a $1,000 processing fee, it will issue either an approval notice, or where appropriate, a notice of intent to deny, a request for evidence or open an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation, within 15 calendar days of receipt. If the petition is not processed within 15 calendar days, USCIS will refund the $1,000 fee and continue to process the request as part of the Premium Processing Service. If you have any questions about the Premium Processing Program, please contact your attorney.
Following President Obama’s meeting today with Congressional leaders on June 25, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) applauds the President’s commitment to moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform this year. “We believe the President is firmly committed to comprehensive immigration reform and will work with Congress to act and move us forward on this vital issue,” said Bernie Wolfsdorf, president of AILA. “The President has repeatedly said he wants immigration reform passed this year. Last year’s election results, as well as survey after survey, confirm that the American people want reform, so now is time for Congress to catch up with the voters and pass a bill.”
AILA believes that a sensible comprehensive immigration reform package must include smart enforcement, a path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the U.S., elimination of family and employment-based visa backlogs, adequate visas to meet the needs of U.S. families and businesses, a new visa program for essential workers, and due process protections to restore the rule of law in our immigration adjudications and courts.
Wolfsdorf added, “The current immigration system is broken and to allow the status quo to continue will only make things worse for the country. Until Congress deals responsibly with immigration – making taxpayers out of all immigrants, making all employers follow sensible rules, and creating a functioning legal immigration system – everything else on the President’s domestic agenda is vulnerable to being dragged down.” This is the year and this is the moment for a popular President to work with Congress to address a national issue in a way that benefits the American people and our economy.
All of the attorneys at Stern & Curray LLC are members of AILA who continually monitor developments surrounding changes to our immigration laws. For questions on the latest news and developments, please contact an attorney at Stern & Curray LLC.