Welcome back to our 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.
Department of Justice Memo Shows EOIR Director Offered to Buy Out Immigration Board Members
A memo from the Department of Justice (DOJ) released on April 17th shows that the DOJ offered buyouts to pre-Trump Administration career members on its influential immigration appeals board as part of an ongoing effort to restructure the immigration court system.
An internal memo viewed by Roll Call shows that James McHenry, the Director of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), offered financial incentives to long-time members of the Board of Immigration Appeals to encourage them to retire or resign.
The EOIR is the DOJ agency that oversees the Board of Immigration Appeals – a 23-member body that reviews appealed decision by immigration judges and sets precedent. Critics view the move as an effort to stack the board with new hires who would align with the Trump Administration’s restrictive immigration agenda.
United States Citizenship & Immigration Services to Resume Operations on June 4th
United States Citizenship & Immigration Services announced this week that it will be reopening some of their offices to the public from June 4th. USCIS offices have been closed to the public since March 18th due to the Coronavirus pandemic, so this is a welcome sign for many who have had their appointments cancelled or rescheduled.
As services begin to reopen, offices will reduce the number of appointments and interviews to ensure social distancing. Appointment notices will contain information on safety precautions that visitors to USCIS facilities must follow. New notices will be sent to applicants regarding rescheduling appointments, interviews, and naturalization ceremonies.
Department of Homeland Security Exempting Some Professional Athletes from Travel Restrictions
Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Chad Wolf, singed an Order on May 22nd exempting certain foreign professional athletes from proclamations barring their entry into the United States.
The United States currently has Coronavirus travel restrictions in place on travelers from Iran, China, Europe’s Schengen Area, the UK, Ireland, and Brazil. Mr. Wolf stated that “professional sporting events provide much needed economic benefits, but equally important, they provide community pride and national unity…Americans need their sports” as one of the main reasons for signing the Order.
DHS will work with sporting groups to identify the particular athletes, coaches, and staff that will be covered by the exemption, but we know from the Order that the MLB, NBA, MLS, WNBA, the PGA Tour, the Ladies PGA Tour, the ATP, and the WTA are all included in the exemption. Athletes essential staff and their dependents are also included in the exemption.
Here in McEntee Law, through our ProSportsVisas division we represent many professional athletes in various sports including soccer, rugby etc. so we applaud this order acknowledging the importance of professional athletes and sports teams to the American public.
Civil Rights Coalition Files Lawsuit to Protect Families from Decades of Separation
Litigators from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Justice Action Center, and Innovation Law Lab, with pro bono support from Mayer Brown LLP, filed a lawsuit on behalf of U.S. Citizens (USC) and Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) petitioning for their children and derivative relatives to join them in the U.S. who would “age-out” while the current Administration’s Coronavirus travel restrictions are in place.
The lawsuit, Gomez et al v. Trump et al, requests the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to protect these families from harm and family separation that could result from the Administration’s current Coronavirus travel restrictions. As a threshold matter, it could force many children to backtrack years, even decades, in their visa application process if they “age out” of their current visa categories – that is, they turn 21 and lose their ability to immediately immigrate to the United States while the current travel restrictions are in place.
Threats to Expand High Skilled Immigration Restrictions
Politico and Forbes are reporting that the Trump Administration is expected to expand restrictions on high skilled immigration. The change would likely expand an existing executive order to include more categories of barred foreign workers and rumors include threats to restrict H-1B visas, suspend OPT for foreign students, and more. The Administration is also considering limiting the number of people who come to the U.S. on cultural exchanges, such as with summer camps and resorts.
Aiming to appease a frustrated political base as Americans try to return to work, immigration hardliners have been lobbying Trump to take the step, arguing that the existing executive order did not go far enough, given the skyrocketing unemployment rate and an election only months away.
We’d like to stress that as of yet, there have been no official changes beyond those already implemented and these changes are just threatened. We want to reassure our clients that we remain committed to advocating for them. As always, we will be closely monitoring this situation and will report any changes on our various platforms.
Second Immigrant Dies of Coronavirus while in ICE Custody
On May 25th, Santiago Baten-Oxlag, a 32-year old Guatemalan immigrant, passed away from Coronavirus complications while in ICE Custody. Mr. Baten-Oxlag had been held at the privately-run Steward Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA, and died shortly after being admitted to a hospital in Columbus, GA. Advocates have criticized ICE for continuing to detain many immigrants who at a higher risk for the Coronavirus, and for allegedly not adhering to CDC recommendations for infection prevention.