Month: January 2017

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January 27th Executive Order Regarding Immigration

On Friday, January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”   The following provides information on the key provisions of this order and any clarifications and updates that are known to date:

·         The order bans entry for 90 days (from January 27, 2017) of immigrants and non-immigrants from the following countries:  Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  (The following visas are exempt from this order: A, G, NATO, C-2 and C-3).  All embassies and consular posts have been instructed to immediately suspend the issuance of non-immigrant and immigrant visas for nationals of those countries.  Other countries may be added to the list in the future.

o   Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has clarified that the order applies to anyone who holds a passport from a designated country, including dual citizens who hold passports from a designated country as well as a non-designated country.

o   Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) may be admitted on a case-by-case basis following security review.  DHS has deemed entry of LPRs to be in the national interest and absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, LPR status will be a dispositive factor in case-by –case determinations.

·         The order suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days.   However, there may be exceptions made on a case-by-case basis, based on whether it is in the national interest, the person poses a risk to the U.S., the person is a religious minority facing religious persecution or the admission of the person is required to conform U.S. conduct to an international agreement, or the person faces hardship when already in transit.

o   The order suspends indefinitely the admission of Syrian refugees and reduces the number of refugees allowed to be admitted to the U.S. in 2017 to 50,000.

·         The order further provides for additional security protocols as well as requires that the U.S. consular officers interview everyone who applies for a non-immigrant visa.

On January 28, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Darweesh v. Trump, signed an emergency order prohibiting the removal of individuals with refugee applications approved by USCIS as part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions program, holders of valid immigrant and non-immigrant visas, and other individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen legally authorized to enter the U.S.  This emergency order applies to all noncitizens who are detained at U.S. airports because of this January 27, 2017 executive order and will remain in effect until a full hearing is held.

Stern & Curray strongly condemns the President’s executive orders and maintains they are discriminatory and unconstitutional.  We will continue to keep clients and the public apprised of any developments in the immigration laws.

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President Trump Signs Series of Executive Orders on Immigration

In a series of executive orders announced on Wednesday, President Trump took the initial steps to significantly revise U.S. immigration policy from that of the Obama Administration. The executive orders call for a number of changes to various immigration programs, including DHS’s immigration enforcement priorities, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, visa issuances from specific countries, and the much-talked-about border wall.

Some of the announced changes include the following:

  • A revised list of immigration enforcement priorities that includes, among other categories, individuals charged with “any criminal offense,” even where the individual has not yet been convicted.
  • An increase in the number of immigrant detention centers and federal border patrol agents.
  • A dramatic decrease in the number of refugees admitted annually under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program from 110,000 to 50,000.
  • A 120-day freeze on all refugee admissions, followed by a resumption of admissions only from countries determined to have sufficient safeguards to “ensure the security and welfare of the United States.”
  • A 30-day freeze on admissions of immigrants or nonimmigrants from countries designated as “areas of particular concern,” namely Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, followed by a potential indefinite suspension of admissions from these countries.
  • Construction of a contiguous, physical wall along the US/Mexico.

Although some of these proposed actions – such as the border wall, detention centers and increased number of border agents – will require Congress to allocate funding before they can be implemented, many of the actions will likely go into effect immediately.

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DHS EXTENDS TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS FOR SOMALIA AND YEMEN

Earlier this month, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced his re-designation and 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Yemen. DHS originally designated Yemen for TPS in September, 2015, on the basis that the ongoing armed conflict occurring within the country posed a threat to persons returning there. In re-designating the country for TPS, Secretary Johnson has recognized that threat to persist. The extension takes effect on March 4, 2017, and will last through September 3, 2018.

To extend TPS coverage, current  beneficiaries must re-register during the 60-day period that runs from January 4, 2017, through March 6, 2017. Re-registrants are also able to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) during this period, and the validity of all current TPS Yemen EADs with an expiration date of March 3, 2017, will be extended through September 3, 2018. Yemeni nationals (and persons without nationality who last resided in Yemen) who do not currently have TPS may apply during the 180-day registration period that runs from January 4, 2017, through July 3, 2017.

​DHS has also extended TPS for Somalia, thereby allowing eligible Somali nationals (and persons without nationality who last resided in Somalia) to retain an additional 18 months of protected status, so long as they otherwise remain eligible. The extension will take effect on March 18, 2017, and will expire September 17, 2018. Individuals who have already been granted TPS under a previous designation may re-register during the 60-day period which runs from January 17, 2018, through March 20, 2017, and may also apply for a new EAD. Current EADs with an expiration date of  March 17, 2017, will now remain valid through September 17, 2017.

Somalia was initially designated for TPS in 1991, on the basis of “extraordinary and temporary conditions” preventing Somali nationals from returning to Somalia safely. In re-designating the country for TPS, DHS stated that though the Somali government “has made some progress,” instability and armed conflict persist such that the conditions for TPS continue to be met. This instance marks the tenth time that Somalia has been re-designated for TPS.

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U.S. Ends Special Immigration Policies for Cuban Migrants

In an attempt to further normalize U.S.-Cuban relations, the Obama administration has announced the end to two special immigration policies directed toward Cuban migrants. The first of the scrapped programs allowed Cuban nationals who made it to dry land in the U.S. to remain and apply for permanent resident status without receiving a visa. The so-called, “wet foot, dry foot” policy  began under the Clinton administration in 1995 as a means of addressing the wave of Cuban migrants picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard while attempting to reach Florida. The program, however, has been heavily criticized by the Cuban government for encouraging outward migration from the island country, and has been criticized by other foreign governments for granting preferential treatment to Cuban migrants. In addition to eliminating the path to legal resident status for Cuban migrants on U.S. soil, the Department of Homeland Security also eliminated an exemption for Cuban nationals from expedited removal proceedings when apprehended near the border or at ports of entry.

The other special Cuban immigration program that the Obama administration eliminated is the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which allowed Cuban medical professionals to defect and apply for parole into the United States. Under the program, the U.S. admitted Cuban doctors, nurses, paramedics, physical therapists, lab technicians and sports trainers who worked for the Cuban government in a third country and would not otherwise have been eligible to receive a Cuban exit permit. The Cuban government has long criticized the program for depriving the country of its trained medical professionals.

Because both programs were eliminated by agency action, it is unclear what impact the upcoming change in administration will have on U.S. immigration policy and other recent changes to US-Cuban relations.

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