Immigration in Pandemic Times, Election Edition

The election continues as issues of immigration are being heavily contested. How will our next president approach these serious issues?

  • This past Monday, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s attempts to enforce a green card petition wealth test. Judge Gary Feinerman ruled against this commonly called “public charge” rule that allows US immigration agencies to easily reject petitions for legal residency from non-U.S. citizens who applied for means-tested public benefits. In his ruling, the federal judge stated that he found it to be a violation of the law as it greatly expanded the Congressional definition of “public charge.” However, in a matter of days, the court allowed the Trump administration rule to go back into effect while it considers the case. It should be noted that President-Elect Biden has promised to do away with the rule if elected.  
  • State Department has proposed to eliminate the “B-1 In Lieu Of H” Policy: DOS has proposed that the agency would no longer authorize the issuance of B-1 visas for certain aliens classifiable as H-1B or H-3 nonimmigrants, commonly referred to as the “B-1 in lieu of H” policy unless the foreign national independently qualifies for a B-1 visa for a reason other than the B-1 in lieu of H policy.
  • While we voted, the Trump administration quietly revoked the union rights of immigration judges, which could jeopardize their independence. The Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled this week that immigration judges are “managers,” not workers, denying them the right to collectively bargain. Immigration judges have repeatedly clashed with the Trump administration, which earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic refused to shutter courtrooms, despite local lockdown orders. The Immigration Judges’ union has asserted that it would “fight the decision using all available legal avenues.”
  • Stephen Miller, President Trump’s advisor, revealed a possible second term immigration agenda late last week. He outlined major priorities such as punishing or outlawing “sanctuary cities,” limiting asylum, limiting work visas, and expanding the travel ban, with the goal of “enhancing the standard for entry.” Further, Miller stated that lifting the current freeze on visas and green cards would be dependent on the state of the job market in the coming year. As of now, the freeze expires by the end of 2020. Thankfully, at this stage, it looks like Miller would be unable to pursue his anti-immigrant agenda.
  • A group of Cameroonians who fled their home country for fear of dying are currently waiting to be deported and will likely be killed by their government when they return. Although it took many months for them to arrive and some provided specific evidence of being politically persecuted, Immigration judges have stated that the evidence surrounding some of the cases is not enough for them to be granted asylum. As Trump has limited asylum grants to 15,000 for the upcoming fiscal year, one can only believe that cases like these will continue to occur.
  • After much delay, the Department of Stated announced per-country priority date cut-offs for November 2020 visa bulletin. Late last week, the State Department released the monthly visa bulletin which indicates who may file an Adjustment of Status application based on their “priority date.” The November 2020 Visa Bulletin advances the Final Action cutoff dates modestly, while the Dates for Filing chart remains largely unchanged from October. More significantly, however, USCIS has announced that October filing eligibility will again be governed by the Dates for Filing chart. For those who may have been eligible but unable to file an I-485 application in October, the opportunity to file will continue through November 2020.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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