As April begins and we welcome the spring season, we also welcome the Biden Administration’s efforts to release children from detention centers at the southern U.S.-Mexico, as well as efforts from the U.S. Department of State to resume some routine visa services. We are hopeful that in the coming months, we will see more action by the U.S. government to strive for an immigration system that is safe, just, equitable, and efficient. Read on to learn more about the recent U.S. Department of State update on backlogs, USCIS’s internal survey to rewrite their mission statement, public support for family reunification, and the ethics of immigration lawyers using TikTok for marketing.
1. State Department Release Status Update — Tuesday, April 6th
On Tuesday, the State Department provided an updated announcement on the status of visa services. They state that they are working to reduce the significant backlog of immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants awaiting interviews. COVID-19 has severely limited the ability of U.S. embassies and consulates abroad to resume routine visa services. There are also multiple regional travel bans, quarantine requirements, and lockdowns that must be taken into consideration. The State Department will be prioritizing services for U.S. citizens abroad and “the processing of immigrant and fiancée visas, particularly for immediate relatives and other family-sponsored applicants, is our highest priority.” Embassies and Consulates that process nonimmigrant visas will be prioritizing those for travelers with urgent needs, foreign diplomats, mission-critical categories of travelers (essential workers). They will be followed by visas for students, exchange visitors, and some temporary employees. They state that they will also visa processing information available to the public in the near future. It will be important for applicants to check the website of the nearest embassy or consulate for the current operating status. Check here for more information on wait times.
“We are closely monitoring local conditions in each country where we have a U.S. presence. Local conditions that may affect when we can begin providing various public services include medical infrastructure, COVID-19 cases, emergency response capabilities, and host/local government restrictions.”
—Department of State
2. USCIS Using Survey to Rewrite Mission Statement — Wednesday, March 31st
This news is from last week, but we believe it is still very relevant. On March 31st, USCIS staff received an email from Acting Director Tracy Renaud regarding the rewriting of the USCIS mission statement. Staff members will have the chance to respond to an internal survey to help rewrite USCIS’s mission statement. Employees will be asked for three words that “best describe how we aspire to accomplish our mission [at USCIS].” The current mission statement, rewritten under the Trump administration, describes USCIS as administering “the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.” This mission statement focused heavily on enforcement and less on the value of immigrants in our country. We hope that the new mission statement will be more welcoming and focus on the value of immigration in the United States.
“I feel it is essential that we leverage your ideas and input as we craft a new mission statement and set our vision for the agency”
—USCIS Acting Director Tracy Renaud
On Monday, a survey from the Associated Press found that about two-thirds of Americans believe the Biden Administration should make reuniting separated families a priority. The Hill reported, “more Americans said this issue should be a high priority than any other immigration-related issue in the poll.” This survey also found that the public overall supports President Biden, but is less supportive of his current approach to immigration. While there were differing opinions based on political party, most Americans agreed that undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, often known as Dreamers, should be allowed to lawfully remain. The AP survey is a great look into current public opinions. We agree with the majority that the Biden Administration must focus on reuniting families, ensuring that migrant children are safe and healthy, and providing pathways for immigration relief.
4. “Tik Tok Trend That Has Immigration Lawyers Worried”, Mother Jones — Wednesday, April 7th
On Wednesday, Mother Jones shared an interview with Norma Sepulveda, an immigration attorney in Texas, about the recent trend of immigration attorneys on TikTok. Sepulveda first joined TikTok in December and noticed there was a large number of immigration attorneys sharing educational content on the platform. She also noticed a more disturbing trend, namely an uptick in misleading promises to immigrants. These misleading videos generally follow a formula: “With a mariachi song or reggaeton beat playing in the background, the lawyer dances and flashes work permits, while pop-up boxes urge the viewer to schedule a legal consultation. They also often carry the hashtag #arreglarsinsalir, or “fix without leaving,” implying that viewers can obtain legal status without having to go to an embassy or consulate abroad.” These trends mislead immigrants to believe there may be a quick fix for their legal concerns, but in reality, their cases may be much more complicated and require competent immigration counsel. In order to comply with ethical rules that govern attorney advertisements, attorneys on TikTok must provide ad disclosures on their videos and avoid all use of promissory language. While TikTok may be a useful marketing tool for attorneys and a resource for immigrants, no 15 or 60-second video can give legal advice. At McEntee Law, we believe in the value of social media marketing, but we are extremely intentional with what we post. We aim to provide educational and well-researched content to our followers. You can find our Managing Partner, Fiona McEntee on TikTok here and our Associate, Alex George on TikTok here.
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