Congratulations to Poarch Thompson Law attorney Elizabeth “Betty” Stevens who was recognized by the national Federal Bar Association at their annual meeting for her hard work on legislation creating an Article I Immigration Court. Betty has worked tirelessly on this issue, including reviewing draft legislation, collaborating with stakeholders, and offering compelling congressional testimony before the Immigration Subcommittee. For her efforts on this important due process and access to justice issue, the FBA selected her for the Elaine R. “Boots” Fisher Award, which recognizes exemplary community, public and charitable service by a member of the FBA. Congrats Betty, and thanks, FBA, for this prestigious recognition of Betty’s commitment to an independent immigration court.
There has been a lot of movement with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Several changes are important and noteworthy:
DEFERRED ACTION/WORK AUTHORIZATION:
On March 7, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it is updating the USCIS Policy Manual to consider deferred action and related employment authorization for noncitizens who have an approved Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) classification but who cannot apply to adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) because a visa number is not available.
Deferred action is an act of prosecutorial discretion that defers proceedings to remove a noncitizen from the United States for a certain period. Deferred action does not provide lawful status. USCIS will consider deferred action on a case-by-case basis and will grant it if the SIJ warrants a favorable exercise of discretion. USCIS will automatically conduct deferred action determinations for individuals with SIJ classification who cannot apply for LPR status because a visa number is not available. A separate request for deferred action is not required and will not be accepted by USCIS. If USCIS grants deferred action, it will be valid for a period of four years. Beginning on May 6, 2022, a SIJ who has been granted deferred action will be able to apply for employment authorization for their period of deferred action by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a final rule which will update the regulations regarding Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS); specifically, 8 CFR § 204.11, § 205.1, and § 245.1.1 The purpose of the updates is to reflect statutory changes, modify certain provisions, codify existing policies, and clarify eligibility requirements. The regulations went into effect on April 7, 2022, and overall are a positive development for SIJS petitioners.
An important change in policy, USCIS has removed marriage of the SIJS beneficiary as a basis for automatic revocation. This means the SIJS petitioner only needs to be unmarried at the time of filing the SIJS petition and the time of adjudication of the SIJS petition. This dramatic and valuable change will allow many young people to move forward with marriage while waiting for their priority date to become current. However, it is not known at this time whether USCIS will apply this change in policy retroactively to individuals who previously married after their SIJS petition was approved but before their adjustment of status application was adjudicated.
Due to the large number of SIJS applications, for the last 5-6 years, there has been a backlog for children from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico. As of April 2021, there are 44,000 SIJS beneficiaries remaining in the backlog. SIJS beneficiaries from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have waited an average of 4 years before their priority date is current to apply for adjustment of status.
SIJS visas are part of the employment-based fourth preference category. The fourth category receives only 7.1% of the 140,000 visas generally available per year. SIJS beneficiaries are also subject to annual country caps applicable to employment-based immigration: 7% per-country limit. There is an overwhelming number of SIJS beneficiaries who are also in removal proceedings: 92% of Honduran SIJS adjustment applicants, 90% of Guatemalan applicants, and 84% of Salvadoran applicants.
If someone you know can benefit from Special Immigrant Juvenile Status due to abuse, neglect or abandonment by one or both parents, please contact our office today.
ROANOKE, Va. – Congress is weighing in on a bill that could drastically change the nation’s immigration system. The nation has hit a record, with a backlog reaching nearly 1.6 million immigration cases.
Starting October 1, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and the U.S. Department of State will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all applicants applying for lawful permanent residence with a few exceptions. All applicants who receive their medical examination from a Civil Surgeon or Panel Physician on or after October 1, 2021, must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series and provide documentation of vaccination.2 This change will impact anyone who completes Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, on or afterOctober 1, 2021. If the medical examination forms are completed before October 1, 2021, they remain valid and the COVID-19 vaccine will not be required. The Civil Surgeon must physically inspect and confirm the applicant’s documentation that they have received all appropriate doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The proper review of vaccination documentation will be in the form of a vaccination record, copy of a medical chart with physician entries, or by appropriate medical personnel. Self-reported vaccine doses without written documentation will not be accepted.
Exceptions: Blanket waivers are available for applicants who are too young to receive the vaccine, have a medical contraindication to the vaccine, or who do not have access to one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in their countries. In addition, individuals may apply for an individual waiver based on religious or moral convictions with USCIS.
Congratulations to Poarch Thompson Law attorney Rachel Thompson who was recently confirmed as President of the Salem/Roanoke County Bar Association for the 2021-2022 year. Rachel Thompson along with the Roanoke Bar Association (Dan Frankl) and Virginia Women Attorneys Association (Sue Cook) presented Judge Cullen with his robe and honored his appointment as Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
This week, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas directed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to place new limits on civil immigration enforcement actions in or near courthouses. A civil immigration enforcement action may be taken in or near a courthouse only in certain limited instances, including the following: (1) it involves a national security matter, (2) there is an imminent risk of death, violence, or physical harm to any person, (3) it involves hot pursuit of an individual who poses a threat to public safety, or (4) there is an imminent risk of destruction of evidence material to a criminal case. This policy supersedes an ICE Directive issued in 2018 and marks the first time CBP has ever had formal policy guidance regarding civil immigration enforcement in or near courthouses.
“Ensuring that individuals have access to the courts advances the fair administration of justice, promotes safety for crime victims, and helps to guarantee equal protection under the law,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “The expansion of civil immigration arrests at courthouses during the prior administration had a chilling effect on individuals’ willingness to come to court or work cooperatively with law enforcement. Today’s guidance is the latest step in our efforts to focus our civil immigration enforcement resources on threats to homeland security and public safety.”
From the March 2021 Roanoke Bar Review article by Rachel Thompson, Esq.
How has President Biden changed immigration? I’ve been asked that question dozens of times by family and friends. Immigration has been such a hot topic during the 2016 and 2020 elections and many individuals are curious about what has changed between the previous administration and the current one. The reality is that most of the significant changes that affect an immigration attorney’s day-to-day practice cannot be explained in an elevator speech or bullet list. This is not specific to the most recent administration change, but every time there is a change of presidency. I’ve now practiced under three different administrations and each new presidency brings with it a sea of change, and President Biden’s short time in office has proven to be no exception.
Some quantifiable changes under the Biden administration (and the answer to the question I believe most people are looking for) include the following:
It reaffirmed Deferred Action with Childhood Arrivals (DACA): new applications for DACA were suspended during the majority of the previous administration
It put a moratorium on deportations: certain deportations were banned for 100 days but it has since been enjoined by a Texas District Court
It lifted travel bans: certain Muslim-majority and African nations are no longer barred from entry into the U.S.
It protected asylum seekers: the Migrant Protection Program requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their hearing was suspended.