Thousands of Young Immigrants Are Left in Limbo As They Approach Adulthood Without DACA Protections

student in fencing, immigrationIn Illinois, thousands of young immigrants who are nearing adulthood are currently in limbo as they wait to find out if they will be able to apply for DACA. The Trump Administration announced in Sept. 2017 that the program would end on March 4, 2018, but several lawsuits have been filed against the government to prevent its end. Recently, a federal judge ruled that the government would need to start accepting new applications in addition to processing renewal applications beginning July 24, 2018, unless the federal government can show good cause for why it wants to end DACA.

End of the DACA Program

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program resulted from an executive order that was signed by Obama. This order stated that the removal of young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents was a low priority, and it also gave them the ability to work and attend college in the U.S. Eligible young people could apply for DACA when they turned 15, but many who were eligible did not do so because of the cost.

The Trump administration announced that it was ending the program by March 4, 2018, unless Congress was able to come up with a legislative fix. Congress did not reach an agreement, and several lawsuits were filed against the government. Two previous federal court decisions ordered the government to resume accepting renewal applications for DACA recipients whose statuses were expiring. However, those courts did not order the government to resume accepting new applications from young immigrants who would be eligible for protection under DACA. On April 24, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ordered the government to resume accepting new applications as well as processing renewal applications. He stayed his decision for 90 days to give the government time to show good cause for why it decided to end the program. If it fails to do so, it may have to begin accepting new applications.

Even if the government is forced to begin accepting applications at that time, it is likely that the decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court. The ultimate outcome cannot be predicted, and a legislative fix is necessary. If the government does begin processing new applications, eligible immigrants might want to apply.


As TPS Ends, Nearly 4,000 Liberians Search for Other Options

an end road sign, immigration lawyersIn March, the Trump administration announced an end to the temporary protected status of Liberians, which may force people who have lived and worked in Illinois for decades to leave within one year. Liberians have been granted TPS status since 1991. At that time, there was a violent civil war in the country. Later, the status was extended because of the Ebola outbreak. The Trump administration claims that people should now be forced to leave because the circumstances in Liberia have improved. The move threatens to tear families apart and destroy businesses that Liberian immigrants have built. If the Liberians are deported, their loss will also have a detrimental impact on the economy.

End of TPS Protections for Liberians

Some Liberians have lived in the U.S. legally and have worked since March 1991, when a violent civil war prompted the U.S. to grant them temporary protected status. People who have TPS statuses are allowed to legally live and work in the U.S. until their countries become safe. The Trump administration claims that it is appropriate to end the TPS protection of Liberians because their country is no longer at war and has rebuilt some of its infrastructures. This is the latest African country for which Trump has removed TPS protections. The others include Libya, Somalia, and Chad. In addition to these countries, Trump also ended the TPS protection for several other countries. In January, Trump was heavily criticized after he used a derogatory term in the Oval Office to describe African nations along with El Salvador and Honduras.

Problems With Ending TPS Protections

Since 1991, Liberians who have been allowed to remain in the U.S. and have built lives. Some of the immigrants have established businesses and have had U.S.-born children. If these people are forced to leave or are deported, they may be separated from their children who were born in the U.S. and are citizens. some U.S. citizen children may face an agonizing choice about whether to leave the U.S. or to go with their parents. Businesses may be closed, and the contributions that Liberian immigrants have made to the economy may be lost. Liberians may want to investigate visas for which they might be eligible so that they can remain in the country.

Our Immigration System Is Leaving Skilled Workers and Their Families Behind

employees at office, immigration lawyerDiscriminatory caps create long wait times for highly skilled workers and their families to obtain permanent residency leading to a drain of talent and the separation of families as people are forced to head to other countries. Certain highly skilled workers on H-1B visas often have to wait 25 or more years to get their green cards because of discriminatory caps that have been placed on green cards for immigrants from countries like India.

The H-1B Program

The H-1B program is a visa program that is designed to allow employers to hire highly skilled foreign nationals to fill positions that they are otherwise unable to fill. Many H-1B visa holders work in technology and science. With the H-1B visa, they are able to move to the U.S. to work, and their dependents are able to come with them on H-4 dependent visas. After living and working in the U.S. for a number of years, H-1B visa holders may be eligible to apply for an adjustment of status so that they can secure their green cards.

Why Is There a Backlog?

Caps have been placed on the number of green cards allocated for H-1B visa holders each year according to their country of origin. Many of the H-1B workers in the U.S. are from India, but the government has placed an arbitrary cap limiting the number of people who can secure employment-based green cards to 5,600 per year. About 44,000 people from India are placed on the waiting list each year. Some people from India wait 25 years or more before they are able to get their green cards.

Problems This Creates

People may live in the U.S. for decades, contributing to the community and to the economy, but be unable to become lawful permanent residents. If they are forced to leave and have U.S.-born children, their children will be forced to leave with them. Children who age-out of their H-4 dependent visa statuses may also be forced to leave the U.S. without their parents, despite the fact they have grown up in the U.S. This may lead highly skilled workers to choose other countries with better immigration systems.

Are You Exempt from the Mandated H-2B Cap?

An American Flag, Immigration LawyerCertain Illinois workers and employers may be exempt from the mandatory cap on H-2B visas, allowing them to secure the visas even if the caps have been met for the year. Congress has established a mandatory cap of 66,000 H-2B visas for each year. Of those visas, 33,000 are allocated for positions that start during the first half of the year while the remaining 33,000 are allocated for jobs that begin during the second half. If workers and employers qualify for an exemption, they may secure these visas regardless of whether the annual cap has already been met.

The H-2B Cap

The mandatory limit on the number of H-2B visas that can be issued each year is 66,000. This includes 33,000 visas that are reserved for the first half of the year, which runs from Oct. 1 to March 31st, and 33,000 for positions that begin during the second half, which runs from April 1 to Sept. 30. Visas not used in the first half of the year can be carried over to the second half of the year. If the total annual number of H-2B visas are not used, the numbers do not carry over to subsequent fiscal years. The caps are often met for each half of the fiscal year long before terms are over because of the limited number of visas available.

Exemptions to the H-2B Cap

There are some exemptions to the H2-B cap for certain types of workers. H-2B workers who are already working in the U.S. and who want to petition to stay and work longer are exempt from the H-2B cap. They are also able to petition to change their jobs or the terms of them. Laborers who will work in Guam or in the Commonwealth of Mariana have an exemption from the mandatory cap until Dec. 31, 2019. People who work in the fish roe processing industry as supervisors, processors or technicians are also exempt from the annual H-2B caps and are thus able to apply for the visas even if the cap numbers have been met for the fiscal year. Businesses that need H-2B workers should file their petitions early so they increase their likelihood of getting the workers they need for the year.

Immigrants Left in Legal Limbo as Latest Attempt at Immigration Deal Falls Through

a fail stamp, immigration lawyerIllinois DACA recipients remain without a legislative solution to their immigration issues after negotiations between the Trump administration and Democrats failed. Trump had originally demanded $25 billion in funding for the border wall in exchange for offering a pathway to citizenship for the 700,000 people who are currently protected by DACA. The Democrats wanted protections for the 1.8 million people who were brought into the U.S. as children in exchange for agreeing to the $25 billion in funding. The Omnibus budget bill was passed on March 23 without the inclusion of any measure to protect the Dreamers.

Why the Deal Fell Through

Since the Trump administration announced the end to the DACA program in Sept. 2017, Congress and the administration have been unable to come up with a solution. Trump has demanded funds for a $25 billion border wall that the Democrats had initially balked at. In February, four proposed bills were voted down by the Senate. Trump and the Republicans have demanded several things that are aimed at tightened immigration enforcement that the Democrats do not support.

During the latest round of negotiations, Trump again demanded $25 billion for the border wall. The Democrats agreed to the funding but wanted protection and a pathway to citizenship to be extended to the 1.8 million people in the U.S. who were brought to the country as children. The Trump administration only offered a three-year extension of DACA for the 700,000 current recipients. In addition, Republicans in Congress demanded additional immigration provisions that the Democrats found to be unacceptable. Ultimately, the $1.3 trillion budget bill passed and was signed into law without addressing DACA, leaving immigration lawyers in Chicago wondering the future of DACA recipients.

What Happens Now?

It is unlikely that the DACA issue will be solved during 2018. Cases are pending in several federal courts about Trump’s end to the program. DACA recipients will likely have to wait for the cases to make their way through the federal court system and probably to the Supreme Court of the United States. While a legislative fix to DACA may not happen, it is possible that the court system will weigh in and address the issue. For now, DACA recipients might want to explore other avenues of immigration.