The Golden Door: February 2018
Legal and Policy Issues
We are closely monitoring state and federal immigration law and policy. Please check our social media accounts for more frequent updates.
Changes to Asylum Interview Scheduling
On January 31, the United States Citizenship Services (USCIS) announced a change in scheduling procedures for affirmative asylum cases. Effective immediately, USCIS is returning to a “Last in, First out” (LIFO) policy for scheduling asylum interviews. Consequently, the most recently filed asylum applications will be processed first and pending cases will remain in backlog.
This means that people filing for asylum now must be prepared for an asylum interview within a month or so. This also means that clients who have been waiting years for an asylum interview will now have to wait even longer.
USCIS states that their reasoning for the change is to discourage people from applying for asylum solely to receive employment authorization documents. Immigration lawyers think that these changes may also be due to the end of DACA and TPS for some countries, with which may come a number of affirmative asylum applications.
ILAP is currently not accepting new asylum cases at the moment as we focus on the more than 125 clients currently represented by the pro bono panel. Starting later this spring, ILAP will begin accepting new cases for people who have not yet filed for asylum.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
TPS for El Salvador and Haiti will be ending in September 2019, but TPS holders from those countries can re-register for TPS status by March 19, 2018. ILAP has been working with these TPS holders to complete re-registrations and is conducting outreach to make sure impacted communities know of the deadline to re-register. ILAP is also holding general options consultations with Salvadoran and Haitian TPS holders to determine if they have any pathways for staying in the United States after their TPS expires.
This week, advocates in Massachusetts filed a lawsuit on behalf of TPS holders. The plaintiffs allege that the Trump administration’s decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador and Haiti was motivated by racial bias.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, also known as Dreamers, have been in the news quite a bit lately. Last week, the United States Senate considered four different proposals regarding DACA in order to open debate. Those proposals ranged widely -- from a proposal to quickly give legal status to Dreamers to a proposal drastically cutting legal immigration in exchange for a path to citizenship for Dreamers. None of those amendments garnered the 60 votes necessary to debate the issue.
While DACA’s end date is March 5th, two federal district courts have temporarily enjoined the Trump administration from terminating DACA for individuals who already have received DACA. This means that for now, USCIS must still process DACA renewals. However, this is temporary, and the Trump administration is seeking quick resolution from the Supreme Court of the United States.
Uncertainty for Dreamers can be resolved by Congress. We ask you to contact Maine’s congressional delegation and urge quick action on behalf of Dreamers and TPS holders.
Senator Susan Collins (202) 224-2523
Senator Angus King (202) 224-5344
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (202) 225-6116
Congressman Bruce Poliquin (202) 225-6306
ICE Courthouse Memorandum
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a directive last month that formalizes ICE policy over the last year of making civil immigration arrests in courthouses. The policy states that ICE will not pick up family, friends, or witnesses unless there are “special circumstances.”
ICE’s reasoning for the policy is that courthouse arrests are consistent with law enforcement practices, and are safer for officers because individuals inside courthouses have been screened for weapons. The ICE policy justifies these courthouse arrests as necessary in localities that will not hold people on immigration detainers.
ILAP worries that these courthouse arrests will lead to worsened relationships between immigrants and law enforcement. Because the directive leaves open the possibility of arresting witnesses, friends, and families, immigrant victims may be even less likely to go to police to report crimes.
In December 2017, the Supreme Court granted President Trump's request to fully enforce Travel Ban 3.0, which applies to some people traveling from: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen, while legal challenges to it proceed in lower courts.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion on February 15, 2018 finding that the travel ban violates the Constitution. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had previously ruled against the travel ban on December 22, 2017, and the Supreme Court will hear arguments in that case on April 25. The ban remains in effect while it is being litigated.