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Immigration Law Update

September 2018

Diversity Visa Lottery to Open

USCIS announced that the 2020 Diversity Lottery will open for registration at noon EST on October 3, 2018 and run until noon EST on November 6, 2018. The Diversity Visa Lottery provides the opportunity to immigrate for people from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.

50,000 green cards will be available. Eligibility is based on country of birth and the completion of at least a high school education (or two years of work experience in a skilled occupation). Eligible individuals may apply here.

Eligibility requirements are set out in the Federal Register. This year, individuals from the following countries are not eligible: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, UK (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

If you have additional questions regarding the 2020 Diversity Lottery, or would like to speak to an immigration attorney before applying, please contact Karen Moss or Brad Ortman via email or telephone at 216-621-7227.

Trump Administration Seeks to Expand “Public Charge” Ground of Inadmissibility

Last week the Trump administration issued an advance copy of a proposed rule to expand the “public charge” ground of inadmissibility. Up until now this ground of inadmissibility has applied to seeking permanent residence status who are “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” The specific focus in this regard has been on people who took cash welfare (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or federal help paying for long-term care (Supplemental Security Income).

The new proposed rule would expand the types of programs that could make one inadmissible as a public charge to include Medicaid, food stamps, Section 8 rental assistance, federal housing vouchers, as well as Medicare Part D, which helps low income people to buy prescription drugs. These programs are much wider in scope, broadening the public charge designation to many working class immigrants.

This rule is not likely to take effect until 2019. After publication, there is a 60-day comment period before the rule will be finalized.

This rule is likely to have a profound effect not simply on who uses public benefits, but also on public health and poverty in general. DHS estimates that the rule would result in a 2.5% decline in the usage of public benefits, amounting to a $1.5 billion savings. Others estimate that the effect will even be more pronounced.

Certain Denied Filings May Now Result in the Issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA) in a Removal Hearing

Starting October 1, USCIS may initiate removal proceedings against certain applicants for benefits whose applications are denied.  This policy change was originally announced in June.  The policy has since been updated to be more limited in scope than what was originally announced.

The latest version of this policy specifically does not apply to employment-based petitions and humanitarian applications.

However, it does apply to common immigration filings such as Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status, Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Status, and certain types of Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

Specifically, USCIS is prioritizing the following types of cases for NTA issuance:

  1. Cases where fraud or misrepresentation is substantiated;
  2. Cases where the applicant abused a program related to the receipt of public benefits;
  3. Cases where an applicant is charged or convicted of a criminal offense;
  4. Cases in which a naturalization application is denied based on good moral character due to a criminal offense; and
  5. Cases in which an applicant will be unlawfully present if an application is denied.
Trump Administration Implements Comprehensive Effort to Limit Due Process in Immigration Court

Over the past several months the Trump administration through Attorney General Jeff Sessions has undertaken a multi-faceted effort to dramatically alter how Immigration Courts function.  These actions increasingly are receiving attention in the media and have been criticized by the union representing Immigration Judges.

These changes fall into three categories:

  1. Reducing prosecutorial discretion: In the past, prosecutorial discretion was exercised not to prosecute removal cases of long-term residents of the United States who did not have a criminal record.  This policy was discontinued in the Trump administration.
  2. Reducing the independence of Immigration Judges: In the past year, Sessions has fundamentally changed how Immigration Courts operate.  Performance quotas have been introduced, requiring Immigration Judges to process at least 700 cases per year.  Immigration Judges are also restricted from administratively closing cases or granting continuances to allow other government agencies to do their job.
  3. Limiting defenses to removal:  Most significant in this regard was Sessions’ decision in June to limit asylum claims from those who are fleeing domestic abuse and gang violence.

Taken together, these changes will fundamentally alter how Immigration Courts function. More immigrants will face prosecution in Immigration Court than ever before. Judges will face added time pressure and have their discretion constrained on how they handle their dockets. Meanwhile, immigrants will find that they have fewer legal options at their disposal when facing removal.

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If you have questions concerning any of the other items above, please contact Karen Moss or Brad Ortman of the Immigration Law Group at Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper via email or at (216) 621-7227.  Click here to sign up for our Immigration Law Update E-Newsletter

Bradley L. Ortman and Karen Gabriel Moss
Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper LLC

This Immigration Law Update contains general information that should not be considered legal advice or legal opinion concerning individual situations. Legal counsel should be consulted for specific advice.

Copyright 2018 by Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper LLC