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Is New Hope for Dreamers on the Horizon?

an approved application, immigration lawyerDreamers and people with Temporary Protected Status in Illinois may have new hope in a proposed bill that is currently under debate in Congress. Under the bill, Dreamers and TPS recipients would be granted a path to citizenship. If passed, the legislation would allow up to 2 million people to become U.S. citizens. The pathways would be different for Dreamers and those who are TPS holders.

Dream and Promise Act of 2019

The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 is under debate in committee in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. It would protect an estimated two million people, including people who were brought to the U.S. as minors and those who are in danger of losing their temporary protected status.

The Path for Dreamers to Citizenship

Under the bill, Dreamers would be able to apply for 10-year conditional residence permits or green cards. Eligible Dreamers would include people who were 17 or younger when they arrived in the U.S. and who had lived in the country for four or more years. They could apply for full green cards after they worked for three years or served in the military for two years. Dreamers would not be eligible to apply if they had been convicted of criminal offenses with sentences of a year or longer in prison. Those who had three or more convictions for minor offenses with 90-day periods of incarceration would also be ineligible. Dreamers would also be eligible for federal financial aid to help them to pay for college.  Dreamers could apply for citizenship five years after receiving their full green cards.

The Path to Citizenship for People With TPS

People who have been in the U.S. under temporary protected status have been in the country for decades. Many have bought homes, started businesses, and put down roots. The Trump Administration has threatened to end TPS for immigrants from a number of different countries. The bill would protect these people as well. People with TPS would be allowed to apply for green cards immediately. To be eligible, they must have had TPS in Sept. 2016 and have lived in the U.S. for three or more years. They must also be able to pass criminal background checks. While the bill provides promise to immigrants, it is unclear if it can pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

Ruling: Immigrants Can Challenge Expedited Removal

supreme court, immigration attorneyImmigrants whose petitions for asylum have been denied after a finding of no credible fear may be able to challenge expedited removal proceedings by filing cases in federal court. The Trump administration has relied on expedited removals to quickly deport immigrants who have come into the country at the southern border. Immigrants who present themselves to border patrol agents after arriving in the U.S. undergo a credible fear examination. If the agent determines that the immigrant does not have a credible fear, the immigrant may appeal the initial determination to an immigration law judge. If the immigration law judges find no credible fear, the immigrants may be deported. While several courts have ruled that immigrants cannot appeal the immigration judge’s ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled otherwise.

Challenges to Expedited Removal

According to the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, asylum seekers have rights to appeal their detentions in federal courts even if they are in an expedited removal process. This ruling could block the Trump administration’s use of expedited removal proceedings as a way to deport people more quickly. However, the impact of the ruling will depend on whether federal judges are willing to grant stays on the removals of appellants.

The decision by the Ninth Circuit means there is a split in the circuits about the constitutionality of the judicial procedures that are used in expedited removal proceedings. The U.S. Supreme Court will likely need to resolve the issue.

Problems With Credible Fear Determinations

When people seek asylum in the U.S., they must pass a credible fear determination. Asylum seekers who express a fear of getting returned to their home countries will undergo a credible fear interview that is conducted by an asylum officer. The asylum seekers are detained while they are waiting for the determination to be made. If the officer determines that people do not have a credible fear, the immigrants may then ask for a review of the decision by an immigration law judge. If the judge rules against them, they can be removed from the U.S. and returned to their home countries. Since immigration law judges are DOJ employees, this means that asylum-seekers who aren’t granted the right to challenge their rulings in federal court may have their due process rights violated.

Spouse Petitions: Marriage Involving Minors

a married couple, immigration lawyer chicagoPeople in Illinois who are filing spousal petitions for their foreign national minors spouses need to understand the guidelines from USCIS for marriages involving minors. The U.S. Customs and Immigration Service directs adjudicators to pay special attention to marriages that involve minors when they are considering spousal petitions. While there is not a minimum age that is defined under the law, other factors may be important when determining whether a petition will be granted or denied.

Spousal Petition Guidelines for Marriages Involving Minors

The USCIS issues guidance to adjudicators who determine whether petitions for visas should be granted or denied. The agency issued new guidance about marriages involving minors on Feb. 15 as an update to the USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual. This new guidance discusses age requirements for people who are filing affidavits of support for their spouses and it also offers some added guidelines for marriages that involve minors.

Factors to be Considered

The USCIS will look at whether the age of the minor was too young under the law where the marriage took place. The USCIS will also look at whether the age of the minor and the marriage violates the law in the state in which the couple plans to live. Some states allow marriages to minors if there is parental consent, if the minor is pregnant, if the minor is emancipated, or if there is a judicial order. However, other states do not.

The strengthened guidelines direct adjudicators to pay special attention to marriages involving minors. They are directed to look closely at several factors, including the following:

  • If the marriage was legal and recognized in the place where it occurred
  • If the marriage is legal in the state in which the couple plans to reside or is currently residing
  • If the marriage is bona fide
  • If the minor gave full and free consent to get married without coercion by another

In addition, the person who files the affidavit of support and petition on behalf of the minor spouse must be a minimum of 18 years old.

People who are uncertain about whether their marriages meet the guidelines might want to learn more about the process and try to correct any problems before they file their petitions. This might increase the chances that their petitions will be approved.

USCIS Grants: Here’s What You Should Know

financial support, Chicago immigration lawyerIn July 2018, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service announced a grant program that would offer up to $10 million in funding to agencies that help lawful permanent residents prepare for their naturalization petitions. The program may help Illinois residents who want to apply to become naturalized citizens prepare for their interviews, tests, and other aspects of the naturalization process. The funds will be available to agencies, not individual applicants. The program could help residents have a greater chance to succeed in their petitions for naturalization.

Grant Program From the USCIS

The USCIS announced that it would use fees it has collected to offer a number of grants totaling up to $10 million through its Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program. The money will be available to pro-immigrant organizations that help immigrants prepare for the naturalization process and provide them with help in learning civics, English, and U.S. history. The grants will be offered in two categories.

The first category of grants will be given to 36 agencies that help immigrants by offering services for naturalization applications as well as education to help them with the U.S. history, civics, and English portions of the naturalization test. The second category of grants will go to four agencies that help immigrants who originally entered the U.S. as refugees prepare for naturalization. Grants in the second category will go to agencies that work to help refugees develop the skills and knowledge they will need to become U.S. citizens.

In the fiscal year 2018, USCIS announced that it had awarded $9.425 million in grants to 40 agencies across the U.S. that provide services to lawful permanent residents to prepare for naturalization. The agencies and organizations that received the grants will be funded through the program through 2020.

The Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program has offered grants to organizations that serve immigrants since it was established in 2009. Through the program, USCIS has awarded 393 grants totaling $82 million to agencies located in 38 U.S. states.

Agencies that might be interested in applying for grants through the program should be aware that the process is competitive. They might want to begin preparing their grant applications and watch for information about deadlines for the next funding round.

How a Government Shutdown Impacts Immigration Services

city hall, immigration lawyer chicagoWhile the government shutdown ended on Jan. 25, its impact on immigration courts will be felt for months as the backlog was substantially increased. During the shutdown, scheduled immigration hearings were canceled, which means that those people will now have to potentially wait for months or years to be rescheduled. The immigration court system already had a backlog of cases waiting for hearings for a year or longer before the shutdown. With the shortage of immigration judges, the backlog can now be expected to drag on even longer.

Impact During the Shutdown

President Trump shut down the government in Dec. 2018 because of an impasse between his administration and Congress over funding for his proposed border wall. While Congress had negotiated an agreement that would have provided some funding for the border wall, Trump refused to sign it, leading to the shutdown. The shutdown was the longest in U.S. history, lasting for 35 days and resulting in many vital services, including the immigration courts, to be closed. This meant people whose immigration hearings were scheduled during the shutdown had their hearings canceled since the courts were closed.

Ongoing Impact of the Shutdown

While the government was reopened after the shutdown ended on Jan.25, the impact of the shutdown on the immigration system continues. When hearings are canceled, immigration courts reschedule them to the next available hearing dates. People whose hearings were canceled will effectively be placed at the back of the line and wait for a year or longer. People whose hearings involved deportation proceedings run the risk of getting deported before their new hearings are held. They can request a cancellation of removal if deportation would result in extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen child or spouse.

Other immigrants who were waiting on naturalization hearings may have to wait much longer to become citizens. Some also are waiting on hearings on their petitions for permanent resident status. People who are seeking asylum so they can bring their family members to the U.S. to escape dangerous situations in their home countries face especially perilous situations. The only group that may not see much of a delay are immigrants who are detained because their cases are prioritized over others. People whose cases are relatively weak may benefit from the impact of the shutdown.