Welcome to our new weekly blog segment Immigration: Week In Review.
Each week, we hope to bring you a central news platform for what has been going on in the world of U.S. immigration in a short, concise way. For additional information on any of the below, the original article will be linked within each sub-section.
USCIS Easing Visa Restrictions for Some Foreign Doctors
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is waiving certain visa restrictions so that foreign doctors assigned to rural communities may practice telehealth services outside their approved locations for the duration of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This will only apply to foreign doctors in the Conrad 30 Program, and comes in the wake of a letter to DHS from a coalition of Democratic lawmakers. “Doctors need to be able to act now to use their knowledge and training to save lives without fear of the loss of their immigration status.”
Lawsuit Filed over ‘Remain in Mexico’ Program Secrecy
The American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the law firm Winston & Strawn LLP filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Northern District of California to compel the release of records about the U.S. Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. The suit, filed under FOIA, seeks information on the implementation and handling of the program by DHS. “The ‘Remain in Mexico’ program has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, compelling thousands of people to live in camps along the border in dangerous and squalid conditions. This FOIA suit is a way to pursue accountability as we seek to understand the impact of the MPP on uniquely vulnerable asylum seekers.”
Immigration Litigation Works for Clients
Past AILA President Charles Kuck, on AILA’s blog Think Immigration, highlights a recent H-1B class-action litigation brought against the USCIS. As denials rise, Mr. Kuck stresses the importance of litigation in an immigration attorney’s arsenal. “The only way to stop USCIS from continuing to rewrite immigration law through RFE and denial is to challenge them boldly, fiercely, and publicly in the federal courts.” After filing the suit, the USCIS approved the previously denied cases and Mr. Kuck believes that this should embolden other employers to “seek corrective action on their previously denied cases.”
Trump Administration Weighs Suspension of OPT for Foreign Students
The Trump Administration has been urged by some Republican Senators to consider suspending the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. OPT allows foreign students to get 1 year (plus an additional 2 years for those in STEM fields) of training in their field upon graduation. Unsurprisingly, this has sparked an almighty backlash in the business and university community. OPT acts as a huge incentive for foreign students to come to U.S. universities. Our comprehensive thoughts on why this would be a terrible move for immigrants, foreign students, and the U.S. economy is forthcoming, but as foreign students contribute roughly $41 billion annually to the U.S. economy, the Administration may want to revise these ill-thought-out immigration restrictions.
U.S. Citizens with Immigrant Spouses Sue Government over Coronavirus Checks
Many United States citizens in “mixed-status households” (meaning that a member of the family uses an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) rather than an SSN) have sued the United States government in multiple states over the Economic Stimulus Checks they were denied. U.S. citizens with immigrant spouses who do not have an SSN were denied Economic Relief under the CARES Act, despite the fact that ITIN holder may in fact pay taxes.
As an additional round of Stimulus Payments make their way through legal proceedings on Capitol Hill, Democrats want those with an ITIN included in the next Act. As Representative Jesus ‘Chuy’ García, D-Ill, stated, “imagine being denied financial stimulus assistance simply because of the status of your spouse. Imagine U.S. children denied assistance because the parents are undocumented.” Even Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, stated “a person doesn’t lose their rights as a U.S. citizen because they are married to someone who is not documented.” However, it is reported that “Republicans do not want to see any money going to immigrants of any sort.”
Watch this space for updates on this.
USCIS Could Run Out of Money by the End of Summer
Without a $1.2 billion bailout, the USCIS could run out of money by the end of summer as fewer immigrants are applying to enter the United States. Unlike other federal agencies, USCIS receives almost no taxpayer money and is dependent on fees associated with filing applications for green cards, visas, work permits, U.S. citizenship, etc. But as immigration applications decrease dramatically, the USCIS is facing a massive budget shortfall. As additional information on this is released, we will be sure to keep you updated.
Immigrant held at Conroe Detention Center Dies from COVID-19
In sad news, Alonzo Garza-Salazar has died from COVID-19 as he was held at the Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas. Garza-Salazar’s family said ICE told them the 56-year-old died of the novel coronavirus, making him the first Texas federal detention facility inmate to die of COVID-19.
This New York Pastor says his Parish Lost 44 people to Coronavirus
A New York Pastor announced that 44 of his Parishioners have died so far due to COVID-19. “Of the deaths in the parish that church officials have logged, Arias says the majority — nearly 90% — are Latino. And many, he says, are undocumented immigrants.”