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Lawsuit Seeks Transparency in H-1B Lottery Process

Released on Mon, May 23, 2016

Washington D.C. - The American Immigration Council (Council) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have teamed up on a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeking information about the government’s administration of the H-1B lottery. The lawsuit, filed last Friday, was brought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. is co-counsel with attorneys from the Council.

Every year, U.S. employers seeking highly skilled foreign professionals submit petitions to USCIS on the first business day of April for the limited pool of H-1B nonimmigrant visa numbers that are available for the coming fiscal year. With an annual limit of 65,000 visas for new hires—and 20,000 additional visas for professionals with a master’s or doctoral degree from a U.S. university—employer demand for H-1B visas has exceeded the statutory cap for more than ten years. 

If USCIS determines at any time during the first five business days of the filing period that it has received more than enough petitions to meet the numerical limits, the agency uses a computer-generated random selection process (or “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to satisfy the limits, taking into account a percentage of the petitions selected which will be denied, withdrawn, or otherwise rejected. Petitions not selected are returned to the petitioning employers. U.S. employers, foreign nationals seeking H-1Bs, and immigration lawyers are keenly interested in how USCIS administers the lottery process.Read more...

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Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in U.S. v. Texas

Government Makes Strong Case for Moving DAPA Forward

Released on Mon, Apr 18, 2016

Washington D.C. - Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Texas. The highest court will now decide whether the President’s deferred action initiatives announced in November 2014, known as expanded DACA and DAPA, move forward.

“The lawyers arguing for the deferred action initiatives made a convincing case that the law and the Constitution are on our side. As expected, the Justices asked probing questions to both sides, demonstrating they understand the high stakes involved this case,” said Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council.

According to the Council’s Legal Director Melissa Crow, “Much of the argument focused on whether Texas really has standing – a sufficient stake in the outcome of the case to file a lawsuit. The arguments highlighted the fact that this is a political dispute about enforcement policies, not the type of legal dispute that should be before the Supreme Court. Texas’ arguments on standing are unconvincing. As Justice Breyer noted, a finding by the Court that Texas has standing could flood the courts with lawsuits based on all kinds of political disagreements between States and the federal government.”

President Obama’s deferred action initiatives advance common-sense enforcement priorities. To qualify for deferred action, individuals must have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2010, register with the government and pass a criminal background check. Instead of tearing apart families through broad enforcement actions, the President is letting law enforcement officials focus their attention on those who pose the greatest threats to public safety.

The American Immigration Council and 325 other immigrants’ rights, civil rights, labor and service-provider organizations filed an amicus brief in the case outlining how families and communities would benefit from the initiatives.Read more...

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326 Immigrant Rights Groups Urge Supreme Court to Let Immigration Relief Programs Go Forward

Brief features profiles of families whose lives would improve if immigration directives were allowed to take effect

Released on Tue, Mar 08, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A diverse coalition of 326 immigration, civil rights, labor, and social service groups has filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Texas, urging the court to lift the injunction that blocked the executive actions on immigration that President Obama announced in November 2014.

The Obama administration’s expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) initiative were stopped by a federal district court in Texas, and that court’s order subsequently was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The lawsuit against the president’s executive actions was brought by 26 states. Late last year the federal government appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

“If the injunction is lifted, many families will be more secure, without the looming threat that loved ones will be deported at a moment’s notice,” the brief filed by the civil rights groups argues. “Many deserving individuals will also have access to better jobs and the ability to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities. DHS has discretion to grant or deny applications for the initiatives at issue, and the concocted argument to the contrary should not be used to prevent individuals from even applying.”Read more...

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Administrative Appeals Office Approves National Interest Waiver for Specialty Care Physician

Upholds Principle that Agency Interpretation Must be Consistent with Congressional Intent

Released on Wed, Feb 17, 2016

Washington, D.C. – The American Immigration Council applauds the Administrative Appeals Office’s (AAO) decision to withdraw the Texas Service Center Director’s (TSC) restrictive interpretation in Matter of H-V-P-, a case involving a national interest waiver. The TSC decision would have prevented a specialty care physician (hematology-oncology) from providing medical care in a community that has a government-designated shortage of health care professionals.

To obtain an employment-based visa in most categories, a noncitizen usually needs a job offer from a U.S. employer. However, in Matter of H-V-P-, the AAO recognized that the law requires USCIS to waive the job offer requirement for both primary and specialty care physicians who work full-time in an area with a shortage of health care professionals(and meet other requirements not at issue here).The AAO also concluded that TSC’s narrow interpretation of an implementing regulation as requiring a specific specialty care shortage certification was inconsistent with past USCIS practice and would “frustrate the statutory scheme Congress enacted to improve access to medical care in underserved areas.”

In reaching this conclusion, the AAO adopted many of the arguments in an amicus brief submitted by the Council, AILA and the International Medical Group Taskforce. 
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Eight of Twelve Families Targeted by ICE Have Been Released

Remaining Mothers and Children Still Unjustly Incarcerated

Released on Mon, Feb 08, 2016

Washington D.C. – After being held in detention for more than a month by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), eight of the families rounded up by ICE at the beginning of January have finally been released from detention while their cases proceed. The CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project had filed appeals and won temporary stays of removal from the Board of Immigration Appeals for 12 families – 33 mothers and children who fled extreme domestic violence or were targeted for recruitment, kidnapping, assault, or extortion by transnational criminal organizations. 

CARA Project Managing Attorney Katie Shepherd noted, “These terrified mothers and children were rousted from their homes on New Year’s weekend and, even after they had obtained stays of deportation, remained detained in Dilley, Texas. Many of them endured the additional trauma of transfer to yet another detention center in Berks County, Pennsylvania  – the same facility that is now on the verge of losing its state license. ICE executed one such transfer with full knowledge that a pro bono attorney from out of town was on the way to Dilley to meet with the detained mother. These families, and all asylum-seekers, deserve their liberty while they pursue their claims under U.S. law.”
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Central American Mothers Targeted in Immigration Raids and Still Detained Pen Letter to Obama

Released on Thu, Jan 28, 2016

DILLEY, Texas -- Seven women picked up and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in early January in widely publicized raids have made a direct and personal plea to President Barack Obama to allow their release while they pursue ongoing appeals of their deportation orders.

The women and their children, representing 33 people in 12 families, were picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in raids over New Year’s weekend. The families obtained temporary stays of their deportation orders with the help of attorneys from the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project based at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

Some of the 121 people ICE picked up were brought to the Dilley facility for processing The majority have been deported to their home countries. But the 12 families who received stays remain in detention, some at Dilley and others at the Berks Family Residential Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania.

Despite the fact that all of these women and children appeared at their hearings and consistently abided by the conditions of their release, DHS refuses to release them from custody while the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) considers their legal claims.

Now in their fourth week in detention, the women expressed their frustrations in a handwritten letter to President Obama, pleading with him to release them from detention and allow their children to return to their schools while their legal appeals proceed.

"Why did you choose us to…frighten other Central American families, with no regard for the suffering it causes us and our children?” they ask.
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CARA: 33 Mothers and Children Protected from Immediate Deportation

Emergency rulings reveal indefensible deportation strategy for vulnerable Central American families

Released on Wed, Jan 13, 2016

Washington D.C. – In the last week, 121 mothers and children were brought to the South Texas Residential Family Center in Dilley, Texas, after being rounded up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project reviewed the cases of 13 families, filed appeals for 12, and won stays of removal from the Board of Immigration Appeals for all 12 families – 33 mothers and children. While this is a major victory for these families, the troubling fact remains that many, who very likely also had claims for relief, were swiftly deported without the chance to consult with CARA staff or volunteers. The 12 families for whom CARA obtained stays were fleeing extreme domestic violence or targeted for recruitment, kidnapping, assault, or extortion by transnational criminal organizations.

We now call on the Obama Administration to release the families confined at Dilley pending their appeals. The continued detention of these children and mothers violates well-established law regarding the treatment of immigrant children, as reflected in the Flores Settlement Agreement. CARA Managing Attorney, Katie Shepherd explains, “Under Flores, the government may not hold children in unlicensed, secure detention centers like Dilley. The children should be released immediately, with their mothers, as the law requires. The plight of these families, victims of ICE’s recent raids, highlights more pervasive problems with our immigration system. The Obama Administration’s troubling approach toward refugee families needs to be rethought, beginning with the immediate closure of its current family detention centers.”
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Court Rejects Government’s Efforts to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Detention Conditions

Court Certifies Large Class of Immigrant Plaintiffs; Class Now Seeks to Unseal Government Documents Detailing Abuse

Released on Wed, Jan 13, 2016

Washington D.C.—On Monday, a federal district court permitted a class action lawsuit challenging harmful and unconstitutional conditions of confinement by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to move forward.

In Jane Doe, et al. v. Johnson, et al., the court certified a class of plaintiffs to include: “All individuals who are now or in the future will be detained for one or more nights at a CBP facility within the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector.” This class of thousands of present and future detainees includes traumatized asylum seekers and mothers with infants and small children who are held by CBP. The Tucson Sector covers most of Arizona, from the New Mexico state line to the Yuma County line.

The court denied the government’s attempts to dismiss the class representatives and their constitutional claims. It found that the two women representing the class were held by Border Patrol in the Tucson Sector when the lawsuit was filed in June 2015 and clearly had standing to bring this lawsuit. The court also determined that plaintiffs had set out sufficient facts in their Complaint to sustain their constitutional challenge to all of the harmful detention conditions. As a result, the case will proceed and CBP will have to publicly attempt to demonstrate that these conditions were proper and necessary.  Read more...

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After Successfully Delaying the Deportations, Groups Demand Meeting with DHS Sec. Johnson

Released on Wed, Jan 06, 2016

Washington, D.C. - Today, the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson criticizing DHS for conducting raids to arrest and remove asylum-seeking Central American families, and calling for a meeting to discuss how to guarantee due process and the necessary humanitarian protections for those families who fled extreme violence.

The letter states:

“We see no justification for DHS’s use of these aggressive enforcement tactics on such a vulnerable population that risks sending families back to life-threatening conditions in their home countries. These actions are a waste of enforcement resources, raise serious concerns about violations of due process, and foment fear within immigrant communities. Recognizing that some families may be deported as early as today, we ask that you meet with us as soon as possible, preferably this week, to discuss how to guarantee due process and the necessary humanitarian protections for these families. We also ask that DHS provide more information regarding the raids and the apprehended families—the lack of transparency has made it extremely difficult to provide assistance to those affected."Read more...

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CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project Succeeds in Winning Stays of Deportation of 12

Released on Wed, Jan 06, 2016

Washington D.C. – Last night, the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project succeeded in halting the deportation of four Central American families apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the weekend, who had been scheduled for deportation this morning. Based on interviews with the families, who are currently detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, the CARA Project appealed their asylum cases to the Board of Immigration Appeals and requested emergency stays of deportation.  

“Our interviews revealed that these families have bona fide asylum claims, but were deprived of a meaningful opportunity to present them at their hearings in immigration court,” said Katie Shepherd, Managing Attorney for the CARA Project. She continued, “It’s beyond shameful that these families, who risked everything to seek protection in the United States, were being forcibly returned to the violence and turmoil they fled in Central America.”

Thus far, the CARA project volunteers and staff have met with eight families held in Dilley. The circumstances of each family vary, but the following trends have become clear:Read more...

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