The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) today announced a change to the security enhancements to its telephone case information system. As previously announced for the August 30, 2010, launch of phase one, EOIR successfully moved the system to a more stable and reliable server that uses more modern technology. Phase two involved enhanced security features to access the system. After internal review and further consideration, EOIR has reexamined the security features projected for phase two. EOIR has determined that the security considerations could be resolved operationally without the need for additional user requirements. Specifically, this will be done by enhancing EOIR’s internal administrative and physical controls to prevent unauthorized access and disclosure of information through the telephone system. In lieu of moving forward with the second phase on October 4, 2010, EOIR will make internal operational modifications to better protect respondents’ case information. Access to the new system is, therefore, identical to the original system. Users will continue to access case information by entering the relevant alien registration number.
The Obama administration is changing the federal immigration enforcement strategy in ways that reduce the threat of deportation for millions of illegal immigrants, even as states such as Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio and Texas are pushing to accelerate deportations.The changes focus enforcement on immigrants who have committed serious crimes, an effort to unclog immigration courts and detention centers. A record backlog of deportation cases has forced immigrants to wait an average 459 days for their hearings, according to an Aug. 12 report by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), which analyzes government data. Among the recent changes: • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton ordered agency officials on Aug. 20 to begin dismissing deportation cases against people who haven’t committed serious crimes and have credible immigration applications pending. • A proposed directive from Morton posted on ICE’s website for public comment last month would generally prohibit police from using misdemeanor traffic stops to send people to ICE. Traffic stops have led to increased deportations in recent years, according to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank whose research supports tighter enforcement. The directive said exceptions would be made in certain cases, such as when immigrants have serious criminal records. • ICE officers have been told to “exercise discretion” when deciding whether to detain “long-time lawful permanent residents, juveniles, the immediate family members of U.S. citizens, veterans, members of the armed forces and their families, and others with illnesses or special circumstances,” Daniel Ragsdale, ICE executive associate director of management, testified July 1 in the administration’s lawsuit to block Arizona’s controversial immigration law. The law requires police officers to determine the immigration status of suspects stopped for another offense if there was a “reasonable suspicion” they are in the USA illegally. A U.S. district judge has held up the provision pending review. • A draft memo from ICE’s sister agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, to Morton discussed ways the administration could adjust regulations so certain groups, such as college students and the spouses of military personnel, could legalize their status or at least avoid deportation if Congress doesn’t pass comprehensive immigration reform. USCIS rules on applications for visas, work permits and citizenship. USCIS spokesman Christopher Bentley said the memo was intended to stimulate brainstorming on how to legalize immigrants if new laws aren’t passed. The administration’s new direction puts it at odds with those who believe the nation’s immigration laws should be strictly enforced and that all illegal immigrants should be deported. The changes have also drawn complaints from immigration advocates. They say deportations under Obama are at record highs and immigrants who remain behind are living in limbo, without work permits, Social Security cards or driver’s licenses. “This isn’t a free ticket,” said Raed Gonzalez, a Houston attorney who saw cases against his clients dropped last month. “The government can put them back into proceedings at any time.” Morton said in an interview that the new strategy is smarter, not softer, enforcement. At a time when more than 10 million people are in the country illegally, record sums are spent on enforcement and the federal budget faces huge deficits, it makes sense to target people who pose the biggest threat to public safety or national security, he said. “Congress provides enough money to deport a little less than 400,000 people,” Morton said. “My perspective is those 400,000 people shouldn’t be the first 400,000 people in the door but rather 400,000 people who reflect some considered government enforcement policy based on a rational set of objectives and priorities.” ICE statistics show that deportations have increased dramatically from 189,000 in 2001 to 387,000 in 2009. Much of the increase results from deportations of people who haven’t committed serious crimes, according to TRAC. This year, however, that trend took a sharp turn, according to an Aug. 12 TRAC report. The number of criminal immigrants removed by ICE “climbed to an all-time high,” the report said. In fiscal 2010, which began Oct. 1, “The removal pace of criminal aliens … is fully 60% higher than in the last year of the Bush administration, and at least a third (37%) higher than in the first year of the Obama administration.”
Undocumented immigrants who decide to leave the United States because of increasing enforcement and decreasing job prospects now face one more obstacle: the threat of arrest and deportation by border officers inspecting outbound traffic. Bonnie Arellano, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said that when illegal immigrants are detected trying to leave the country, they are not just ushered across the line. Instead, they are processed and formally removed. The consequences of an arrest can be harsh: Those deported for unauthorized presence in the U.S. may be barred for 10 years from seeking legal immigrant papers. In addition, a later arrest for illegal entry may be prosecuted criminally. Although the scrutiny was designed to catch smugglers delivering currency and firearms to Mexican cartels, immigrants with otherwise clean records sometimes get caught in that net, said Guadalupe Ramirez, director at the Nogales port. Port inspectors use discretion in deciding whether a person should be allowed to accept voluntary removal, he said. “The whole idea is there are going to be consequences now for people who come into the United States with the sole purpose of doing illegal activity,” Ramirez said. “Our job tells us if we find somebody at a port coming or going that is in violation of our laws, we are going to document it.” Arizona’s immigration law would have required police to question the immigration status of anyone stopped for another suspected offense if there was a “reasonable suspicion” the person was in the U.S. illegally. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled last week that key portions of the law could not go into effect. For the past year, border officials have conducted round-the-clock screening of southbound traffic out of the USA. Some advocates for immigrants say the policy deters illegal immigrants from leaving, even though that’s the government’s goal. “It demonstrates the inconsistency and contradictions within our laws,” said Isabel Garcia, co-chairwoman of Derechos Humanos, an immigrant rights group in Tucson. “Instead of permitting people who want to leave, we punish them in this fashion.” Even some groups dedicated to border security and immigration controls are critical of the policy. William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, last week called on the government to adopt a “safe passage” program. “We are asking the Obama administration to designate border checkpoints … illegal immigrants can use to leave the U.S. without fear.” The Obama administration — in an effort to intercept weapons and cartel money — set up the full-time southbound checkpoints. “On a weekly basis, we make multiple seizures and pick up people who have warrants for rape, child molestation and murder,” Ramirez said.
Matter of Legaspi, Int. Dec. 3694, 25 I&N Dec. 328 (BIA 2010) – An alien is not independently “grandfathered” for purposes of adjustment of status under section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1255(i) (2006), simply by virtue of marriage to another alien who is “grandfathered” under section 245(i) as the result of having been a derivative beneficiary of a visa petition
Very timely Justice Department data show that Immigration Judges are declining substantially fewer requests for asylum. Denial rates have reached the lowest level in the last quarter of a century according to a new analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
Effective September 1, 2010 there was a change in the procedure for applying for a visa at a U.S. consulate in Canada. To schedule a visa appointment in Canada, applicants must use CSC Visa Information Services to apply for a U.S. visa at a U.S. consulate in Canada. There are no surcharges for phone calls or access to the appointment service. Applicants must pay the standard visa issuance fees charged by the U.S. Department of State. As of September 1, 2010, it is necessary to pay the Machine Readable Visa fee prior to scheduling the visa appointment. The CSC Visa Information Services internet site has some helpful information for third country nationals applying for a visa in Canada, including the need for most to apply for Canadian visas in order to be permitted entry to Canada.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, PA upheld a lower-court ruling striking down ordinances adopted by the City of Hazleton, Pa., that banned illegal immigrants from renting housing or being employed there. The decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, is the broadest statement by a court to date on the vexing question of how much authority states and towns have to act on immigration matters that are normally the purview of the federal government, constitutional lawyers said. The Hazleton ordinances, which were passed in 2006 and 2007, have served as models for states and towns across the country seeking to crack down on illegal immigrants. The tug-of-war over immigration between the federal government and some states and towns has generated political tensions in many places, and led the Obama administration to sue Arizona over a particularly tough law enacted there in April. A federal judge has stayed central provisions of the Arizona law while the case is heard. The appeals court in Pennsylvania found that Hazleton had clearly overstepped its bounds. “It is of course not our job to sit in judgment of whether state and local frustration about federal immigration policy is warranted,” the judges wrote. “We are, however, required to intervene when states and localities directly undermine the federal objectives embodied in statutes enacted by Congress.” Hazleton “has attempted to usurp authority the Constitution has placed beyond the vicissitudes of local governments,” the panel of three judges concluded unanimously. Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton, who pressed for the ordinances to discourage illegal immigrants from living there, said the city would appeal to the United States Supreme Court. “This ruling is a loss for Hazleton and its legal residents,” Mr. Barletta said. “It is also a blow to the rights of the legal immigrants who choose to call Hazleton their home.” Lawyers for the civil liberties groups that brought the suit said the ruling confirmed warnings from many Latino organizations that local immigration laws could lead to discrimination. “This case was brought by Latinos who felt they were targets and the purpose was to drive them out of Hazleton,” said Cesar A. Perales. “The court recognizes that this could be an effect of the law. It is supporting what Latinos have been saying all over the country.” The Hazleton ordinances would allow the city to suspend the business licenses of employers who knowingly hired illegal immigrants. Landlords who rented to immigrants without legal status could be accused of harboring, and their rental permits suspended. A federal district judge, James M. Munley, struck down the ordinances in July 2007. Hazleton’s law, the appeals judges found, “creates the exact situation that Congress feared: a system under which employers might quite rationally choose to err on the side of discriminating against job applicants who they perceive to be foreign.” A law professor in Philadelphia, said: “The court is saying that immigration is something the federal government has given careful consideration, and the result is a very intricate federal regime. The local measures interfered with that regime, and that’s not O.K.” The constitutional lawyer who was an author of the Hazleton ordinances and a lead lawyer defending them on appeal, said the ruling “places the Third Circuit on the extreme end of these issues.” The court’s argument was “very flimsy,” he said, because there was no “unmistakable act of Congress” that bans local governments from adopting measures like Hazleton’s. The Supreme Court agreed earlier this year to hear a case challenging a law Arizona adopted in 2007 that requires employers to verify the legal immigration status of new hires and cancels business permits of those who repeatedly hire illegal immigrants. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had allowed that law to go forward, but the Third Circuit judges directly rejected many points in the Ninth Circuit opinion. Mr. Spiro said that as immigration cases made their way to the Supreme Court, the Third Circuit decision would bolster arguments by Latino and immigrant groups that local laws are unconstitutional. “Winning this battle makes it more likely they will win the war in the courts,” he said.
The Homeland Security Department plans to establish a database of immigration data that will identify fraud in applications for benefits, and provide information to intelligence and law enforcement agencies. DHS will create a mirror copy of multiple databases the Citizenship and Immigration Services uses to award federal benefits to immigrants and nonimmigrants and develop a single user interface employees use to access the stored information, according to a notice the department published in theFederal Register on Wednesday. The Citizenship and Immigration Data Repository System of Records, which will include real-time updates and a search engine, will allow officials to vet applications for fraud and national security concerns, detect misuse of immigration information by agency employees for personal gain, and respond to classified requests for information that could assist intelligence and law enforcement investigations. CIDR will sit on the department’s classified network.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reminded Visa Waiver Program travelers the $14 fee for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization applications will begin Wednesday, Sept. 8. A fee of $4 will recover the costs incurred by CBP of providing and administering the ESTA system and is in addition to the mandatory $10 travel promotion fee established by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009. The total fee for a new or renewed ESTA will be $14. All payments for electronic travel authorization applications must be made by credit card or debit card when applying for or renewing an ESTA. The ESTA system accepts the following credit/debit cards: MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover. Payment arrangements may be made through a third party, such as a travel agent, since the name on the credit card does not have to match the name of the traveler. The ESTA application will not be submitted for processing until all payment information is received. ESTA is an electronic travel authorization that all nationals of VWP countries must obtain prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP. This travel authorization has been mandatory since Jan. 12, 2009. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. Once approved, authorizations are generally valid for multiple entries into the U.S. for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires or other specific circumstances give rise to a need to reapply, whichever comes first. Travelers with an approved ESTA will not need to pay the ESTA fee when updating an ESTA application. However, travelers with new passports and re-applying for an ESTA will need to pay the ESTA fee. The VWP is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and enables eligible nationals of 36 designated countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Additional information regarding the VWP is available online.
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