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Jacksonville Immigration Blog

Trump administration announces policy to restrict asylum rights

On Nov. 8, the Trump administration announced that immigrants who illegally enter Florida or other parts of the U.S. will forfeit their right to claim asylum. Once enacted, the strict new policy will only apply to new asylum seekers, not those who have entered the country in the past.

In a joint statement, Matthew Whitaker, who was recently installed as the new acting attorney general, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen argued that the U.S. asylum system is being overrun with "too many meritless asylum claims." They further claimed that asylum seekers who make untrue claims place a "tremendous burden" on the government, which prevents it from granting asylum to immigrants who "deserve" asylum.

For undocumented victims of crimes, U visas can offer protection

Those who come into the United States without proper documentation often live in fear that they will soon wind up caught by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents and be deported. That fear can result in undocumented immigrants in the United States failing to stand up for their own rights.

For example, workers who get hurt on the job generally have the legal right to file a claim for workers' compensation, regardless of their immigration status. However, fear about the potential for employer retaliation may result in workers not filing a claim or even reporting their injury to their employer.

Trump administration seeks to challenge asylum law

Many people who are living in Florida, especially those with immigrant loved ones, are concerned about how Trump administration policies on immigration could affect their lives. One topic of concern is the administration's statement on the right to seek asylum, widely publicized as a migrant caravan travels from Central America through Mexico to the U.S. border. Reports have indicated that Trump wants to shut down the asylum process, long part of U.S. and international law, along the country's southern border. Of course, any attempt to eliminate asylum rights would be challenged in federal court as an unconstitutional use of executive power, but a legal battle may drag on for years.

The asylum process allows foreigners with a credible fear of persecution in their home countries to seek safety in the United States. This persecution could be based on race, nationality, religion, political opinion or membership in a distinct social group, including LGBT people or those of a targeted ethnicity or caste.

Is there risk to birthright citizenship from an executive order?

Federal policies on immigration can shift rapidly, leaving those hoping to seek citizenship in the United States vulnerable to new policies, paperwork and approaches. Whenever any major change is in progress for immigration laws in the U.S., those hoping to immigrate often have to make decisions about whether to apply prior to the changes or adjust their hopes to the new requirements.

Recently, there has been a major concern from immigrants regarding the potential of an executive order that would undo birthright citizenship. The media have reported substantially on the topic, making it likely that those who wish to secure United States citizenship have heard about the potential for this policy ending in the near future.

Leaked Trump comments spark immigration debate

Immigration has become a hot-button issue as voters in Florida and around the country prepare to cast their ballots in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, and President Trump added fuel to an already incendiary debate on Oct. 30 when comments he made in an upcoming interview were leaked to the press. In the interview, Trump suggested using an executive order to end birthright citizenship in the United States. The interview is scheduled to be shown on HBO just days before the crucial vote.

Reactions to Trump's comments were swift, and House Speaker Paul Ryan was one of the first senior politicians to weigh in on the issue during an interview with a Kentucky radio station. Ryan said that only an act of Congress could amend the Constitution and presidents could not use their executive privileges to circumvent the process. Birthright citizenship, which is based on the legal principle jus soli, is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

Lawsuit challenges short H-1B visa approvals

Some employers and skilled workers in Florida have been troubled by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' policy toward the issuance of H-1B visas. The USCIS has claimed that it can limit the duration of these visas to any length; now, employers have reported receiving H-1B approvals for periods as little as one day or 12 days. Some employers have received visas that were already expired by the time they arrived at the office. A new lawsuit is challenging the USCIS' claim of authority over how long professionals can work on H-1B visas.

In one example brought forward in the claim, the USCIS mailed out an approved H-1B visa on August 28, 2018. However, the visa itself had been issued with validity from June 15 through August 10, meaning that it was already expired for nearly three weeks before being mailed. Many employers say that their businesses have been severely disrupted as they must pay attorney fees and filing fees to apply for extensions for their workers' visas. As soon as some visas are approved, employers must file immediately for an extension.

ICE agents make arrests at marriage interviews in Florida

Undocumented immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens and wish to become legal residents are required to attend what are known as marriage interviews at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices. These interviews are designed to help immigration officials to determine whether or not the marriage in question is genuine. However, media outlets have reported that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Florida are now using these interviews to identify and apprehend undocumented individuals.

Immigrant advocacy groups like Americans for Immigrant Justice say that they are aware of at least four such arrests being made recently in the Miami area alone. All of the undocumented immigrants taken into custody faced deportation and had applied for provisional waivers to become legal permanent residents of the United States. Many immigrant advocates believe that USCIS and ICE are working together to coordinate marriage interviews and arrests.

End of TPS status for some immigrants halted by federal judge

Some immigrants who are living in Florida with what is known as Temporary Protected Status have had their pending deportations halted by a federal judge. On Oct. 3, a California judge issued a preliminary injunction after immigrants filed a lawsuit.

TPS is an immigration status that allows both legal and illegal immigrants to remain in the United States if their countries are suffering from hardships such as civil unrest and natural disaster. The Trump administration has been working to end TPS for a number of nationalities.

Trump changes visa policy for same-sex partners of diplomats

In more than 70 countries around the world, a same-sex relationship might be punishable by law, which could create problems for diplomats in Florida and the rest of the U.S. under a new Trump administration policy. The U.S. State Department will not provide visas to same-sex partners of diplomats or United Nations staff unless the couple is married. This could put some in the position of getting married and risking punishment at home or not getting married and having their partner's visa denied.

Following the policy change, visa applications submitted by same-sex partners of international officials and diplomats will get the same treatment as visa applications filed by heterosexual partners. They will need a G-4 visa, also referred to as a spousal visa. Same-sex partners who want to stay in the U.S. must either leave the country or get married by the end of 2018, according to a memo by the Assistant Secretary General for Human Resources Management.

Immigrants could be denied green cards after public assistance

Some Florida immigrants who are already in the country legally and who hope to obtain a green card or another type of visa may have a roadblock in their path if a proposal by the Trump administration is successful. On Sept. 22, the administration proposed a rule that would disqualify immigrants who had received public benefits including public housing, food stamps or Medicaid. Following a period of public comment, the proposal may become a rule.

An earlier version of the proposal included taking certain tax credits or the use of Obamacare into account and limiting citizenship and green cards for people on that basis. Under the current proposal, getting Section 8 vouchers, the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy or getting more than $1,821 each year in benefits that could be monetized would all be disqualifying for getting visas or green cards.

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