Monday, November 25, 2013

Most Americans Support Path to Citizenship, Study Finds

The Public Religion Research Institute found that 63% of Americans supported a path to citizenship for people currently living in the U.S. without legal immigration status. The survey, published today, showed that support is widespread among people of different political parties, religions, and geographic locations within the U.S.

We'd like a path to citizenship, but we're not out of the woods yet.
Photo credit @StooMathiesen on flickr; used under Creative Commons license.

Only about one-fifth of the people surveyed wanted to increase harsh immigration enforcement strategies such as deportations. Even fewer numbers of people liked the idea of allowing undocumented people to gain green cards, but not full citizenship.

More people said they felt that the U.S. immigration system is "completely broken" in response to this survey, conducted in November, than they did in March of this year.

Survey respondents continued to be divided on the question of increased border security and fence construction, with about half in favor and slightly less than half opposed.

To learn more, visit the Public Religion Research Institute's website, and for more information on this survey please read the related article at the New York Times.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mental illness, indigency and lack of family support amount to “particular social group” for purpose of asylum application

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recently remanded an asylum case to the Immigration Judge with instructions to accept the asserted “particular social group” of individuals suffering from mental illness who are indigent and lack family support.

The respondent’s asylum claim was based upon his fear of persecution in Ghana due to his mental illness, which he described as bipolar disorder.  He contended he would be unable to obtain the necessary medication to control his mental illness.  The Immigration Judge found that the respondent’s bipolar disorder was an immutable characteristic, but that the elements of indigency and lack of family support were not.  The IJ’s findings were contradictory in that he found that individuals with mental illness in Ghana are subjected to abuse that rises to the level of persecution, but that the respondent did not show a reasonable likelihood of suffering from persecution were he to return to Ghana.

The BIA remanded with instructions for the IJ to accept the stated particular social group and to allow testimony from the respondent’s psychiatrist and other documentary materials that were relevant to the asylum application.  For more information or to access this unpublished decision, click here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Immigration Relief for Military Families

Photo credit Official U.S. Navy Imagery on Flickr.
Under a new policy released last week, the spouses, children, and parents of active military troops and veterans are now eligible to apply for legal immigration status.

Spouses and relatives of citizens and green card holders could apply for status. But under existing law, undocumented immigrants have to leave the country while their status is pending, sometimes for years at a time. This new policy means that relatives of troops and veterans can apply from within the country under a status known as "parole in place."

Changes to immigration laws have not yet been realized. The Senate passed an immigration reform bill earlier this year, but the House seems unlikely to take action on it. Some have speculated that, because of the lack of Congressional action, President Obama will attempt to reform immigration through smaller policy changes such as this.

For more information, please see this New York Times article and this Associated Press article. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Boehner Balks at Immigration Reform in 2013

The Waiting Game
Photographer Charles O'Rear 
/ U.S. National Archives
Used under Creative Commons license

On Wednesday this week, John Boehner confirmed that comprehensive immigration reform efforts on Capitol Hill are dead this year.  Apparently, House Republicans just aren’t up for it.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Boehner said that House Republicans are still working on a deal, but The idea that we're going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House.” He continued, “And frankly, I’ll make clear we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”

Unfortunately, this means that a broad bill that would include a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country will have to wait until 2014.

The Republican-controlled house has taken a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, working to pass individual bills to address border security or to overhaul the guest worker program.  The concern of the House Republicans is that these smaller wills will be swallowed up in a conference committee with the Senate’s larger plan.  Mr. Boehner has made it clear that he won’t let this happen.  

For more on this story, check out this New York times article.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

TPS for Somalians extended through 2015

Photo credit Cate Turton / Department for International Development
Used under Creative Commons license
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced yesterday that the Secretary of Homeland Security is extending the designation of Somalia for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months from March 18, 2014 through September 17, 2015.

The extension allows currently eligible TPS beneficiaries to retain TPS through September 17, 2015, so long as they continue to meet the eligibility requirements for TPS. The Secretary noted that there continues to be a substantial disruption of living conditions in Somalia based upon ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in that country that prevent Somalis who have TPS from safely returning.

Re-registration is limited to persons who have previously registered for TPS under the designation of Somalia and whose applications have been granted. Certain nationals of Somalia (or aliens having no nationality who last habitually resided in Somalia) who have not previously applied for TPS may be eligible to apply under the late initial registration provisions, if they meet: (1) At least one of the late initial filing criteria and (2) all TPS eligibility criteria (including continuous residence in the United States since May 1, 2012, and continuous physical presence in the United States since September 18, 2012).

For individuals who have already been granted TPS under the Somalia designation, the 60-day re-registration period runs from October 31, 2013 through December 30, 2013. USCIS will issue new EADs with a September 17, 2015 expiration date to eligible Somali TPS beneficiaries who timely re-register and apply for EADs under this extension.

See USCIS website here for more information.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Work Authorization Process to Become More Transparent for Asylum Seekers

EAD - crucial for asylum seekers waiting for interviews
Photo credit NPR, used under Creative Commons license
On Monday, a federal judge ordered the final approval of a nationwide class action settlement agreement which will help ensure that asylum seekers are not unlawfully prevented from working and supporting their families while the government adjudicates their cases.  The changes will go into effect on December 3, 2013.

The agreement comes out of a case filed in December 2011 on behalf of asylum seekers around the country that challenged the government’s use of the “asylum clock” to determine when immigrants who have applied for asylum may obtain permission to lawfully work in the U.S.  The suit alleged that many asylum applicants had been unlawfully denied the opportunity to obtain employment authorization if their asylum applications have been pending for six months or more.

The settlement agreement will make the process for getting work permits more transparent and fair and will leave less room for government error.  The settlement agreement also provides the following benefits: asylum seekers with Immigration Court cases may now present their asylum applications to the Court immediately, without having to wait months for an initial hearing before an Immigration Judge; certain asylum seekers whose cases have been pending on appeal will now be able to obtain work authorization when the Board of Immigration Appeals remands their cases to an Immigration Judge; asylum seekers and their attorneys will be provided with more effective notice so that they do not inadvertently accept hearing dates which preclude work authorization.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Playing the waiting game in immigration court

Anyone who's had experience with immigration court knows that the process is anything but fast. Nationwide, the backlog has reached an all-time high of 344,230 people in immigration proceedings. See TRAC Immigration for more.

Fortunately, the immigration court doesn't require you
to stand in line the entire time you're waiting for your case.
Used under Creative Commons license from @eschipul
As of September 13, Massachusetts is among the top ten states with the biggest backlog of immigration cases waiting to be processed. It also has the 8th longest wait times. In 2013, a person in deportation proceedings in Massachusetts had to wait an average of 610 days to have the case resolved, above the national average of 562 days. Click here to see some charts. Nebraska had the longest wait times with 761 days, while Hawaii is the shortest at 164.

While the wait times may seem to be a good thing for people who want to avoid deportation, the long delays mean months of uncertainty for people in immigration proceedings.