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Jacksonville Immigration Blog

Immigration court backlog increases with government shutdown

The immigration system, with courts located in Florida and throughout the United States, is notorious for extensive backlogs. Since the government shutdown that began in late 2018 started, the problem has only become worse. Court backlogs are growing by approximately 20,000 cases per week, and more than 40,000 hearings have been cancelled according to the Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse.

Many of the individuals who are affected by this shutdown have already been waiting for their day in immigration court for months or years. Whether having to wait even longer is good or bad news depends on each person's unique position. Many may benefit from not having their cases heard until the next presidential election, but others may face incarceration from aggressive enforcement agents who push to arrest undocumented individuals.

Utilizing immigrant and non-immigrant visas

Many employers find that immigrant workers are the ideal candidates for their work, but utilizing these workers is not always an easy process. Depending on the field of work and the workers available to fill a position, obtaining the proper work visas and complying with immigration and labor laws can feel like assembling a puzzle without all the pieces.

If your business wishes to utilize immigrant workers, you should pay special attention to the visa process. In some cases, obtaining proper visas for workers take so much time and effort, it makes it less profitable than employers expect. In order for an employer to keep their interests protected, a strong legal strategy is necessary. High-quality legal resources and guidance can help you navigate this complicated field and find the workers that fit your needs while complying with the law.

USCIS changes asylum process and leaves thousands in limbo

New asylum seekers in Florida might have their cases heard by immigration authorities before people who have been waiting for years. A policy change by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services known as "last in, first out" was meant to reduce the backlog of asylum cases, but the case log has grown by 10,000 new applications since the the agency initiated the new approach. The switching of priorities has left many people who have already been in the country for years unable to make plans for the future because they might be deported eventually.

Existing asylum seekers have no idea when they might have hearings scheduled while USCIS focuses on reviewing new cases. A statement from the immigration agency justified the policy change as a way to deport people who make frivolous or fraudulent asylum claims as soon as possible.

New U.S.-Mexico asylum plan confuses many

In December 2018, the United States and Mexico announced a new immigration plan that will allow many asylum seekers to stay in Mexico until their immigration cases are heard by a judge. However, few details have been released about the plan, leaving immigration officials in Florida and elsewhere confused about how to proceed.

The new immigration policy was announced in a joint statement by U.S. Homeland Security and the Mexican government, but the statement did not provide any details about how the policy would work. For example, it is unclear how Mexico will house thousands of migrants from Central America while they await their immigration hearings. This process could take years, as more than 800,000 immigration cases are currently backlogged in U.S. immigration courts. Meanwhile, the head of the National Association of Immigration Judges said that U.S. immigration judges have not been provided any information about how the new policy will impact them, including any details on how cases will be distributed across the nation's 60 immigration courts.

Supreme Court ruling good news for immigrants in Florida

In a major defeat of the Trump Administration's policy banning asylum to migrants who illegally enter United States, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Court's four liberal justices in striking down the ban on December 21, 2018. The Trump administration had instituted the ban the preceding November, prompting a federal judge in California and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District to declare the ban unconstitutional.

The U.S. Department of Justice vowed that it would continue to fight in favor of the ban despite the fact that the Trump Administration has had 25 injunctions imposed on it by federal appellate courts. A spokesman for the Justice Department noted that the Supreme Court's ruling was only based on procedural grounds. However, many legal observers believe that the ruling signals that at least five of the Justices on the Court are unwilling to back Trump on his controversial policies designed to combat illegal immigration.

Federal judge rules against new Trump asylum rules

On Dec. 19, a federal judge ruled that new Trump administration policies denying immigrants the option of claiming asylum due to gang violence or domestic violence violate U.S. immigration laws. The ruling, which was issued in a U.S. District Court, orders the government to cease using the new rules and to stop deporting immigrants from Florida and elsewhere without providing credible fear determinations, which are required by existing law.

In June, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new Trump administration immigration policies, claiming that fear of gang violence and domestic abuse did not rise to the standard required to grant asylum. He also stated that U.S. asylum laws are not intended to solve "all misfortune" suffered by citizens of other countries. However, the U.S. District Court judge strongly disagreed, saying that the new policies were "arbitrary, capricious and in violation of the immigration laws." His 107-page decision barred the government from continuing to use the policies. It also ordered immigration officials to follow current U.S. law and provide credible fear determinations for immigrants claiming asylum. It further ordered the U.S. to return any plaintiffs who were deported without a credible fear determination and provide one for them.

Can you be deported with a green card?

While a green card does give you the right to stay in the United States and work, it does not necessarily protect you against deportation. However, if you have done nothing wrong and have not left the United States for extended periods of time, then your green card should remain valid and be accepted.

There are rules that you should know that apply to green cards. For instance, you're not usually allowed to leave the United States for an extended period of time to make another country your new home. If you do that, you're likely to lose your green card.

New immigration law is costly and likely unlawful

Officials from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have proposed a new law that would change the quota system for H-1B petitions. Currently, there is an exemption limit of 20,000 candidates with a U.S. master's degree or higher and a 65,000 limit for all other eligible petitioners. The new law would change the lottery for this quota system in favor of letting more U.S.-educated candidates into Florida and the rest of the country.

The new H-1B regulation would shift the lottery system in a way that some legal experts believe is in conflict with current law. By favoring candidates with a degree from U.S. universities, individuals with education from another country and extensive experience in their field would be disadvantaged. This could be very costly to both skilled workers and the companies that need their labor. Both small and large firms would be affected.

Asylum seekers could be at risk in Mexico

Migrant justice advocates in Florida and across the country are concerned about the potential violence or harm that Central American migrants may face as a result of U.S. President Trump's announced policy at the southern border. The Trump administration wants thousands of migrants from Central America, many of whom are seeking asylum from violence or persecution, to remain in Mexico while their asylum cases wind through the U.S. legal system. However, advocates warn that these vulnerable people could be subjected to additional trauma if they are forced to remain in Mexico.

Advocates noted that many areas near ports of entry are controlled by cartels, who regularly extort migrants seeking to escape to the United States. Asylum seekers may be vulnerable to human traffickers as well as attempts to kidnap them for ransom. Even impoverished migrants have faced ransom demands. One woman from Guatemala recalled her entire bus of asylum seekers being boarded by masked gunmen who demanded identification. The armed group demanded $3,000 from her family in Guatemala before she was released. She noted that she received no help from Mexican police when recounting her ordeal.

Americans find immigration to be top issue

For residents of Florida or any other state, illegal immigration may be a top concern. According to a November 2018 Gallup poll, 21 percent of respondents said that it was the top problem facing the United States. That was up from 13 percent in October, and it was just below the record 22 percent of respondents who listed it as the top issue in July.

When broken down by political party, conservatives were more likely to cite it as an issue than progressives. In addition to immigration, Americans also tend to believe that the government itself is an issue that needs to be examined. In November 2018, 18 percent of respondents thought the government or some aspect of it was a top issue to contend with. That figure was a decrease of 9 percent from October, but it has been at or close to the top of the list for many years running.

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