One of President Donald Trump’s main campaign promises was to build a wall, at Mexico’s expense, along the U.S.–Mexico border. While unsuccessful in building a physical wall, the Trump administration has taken several steps via regulation and policy to make the immigration process more difficult. Some of these measures constructing an invisible wall are subtle and take place with little public notice. Other measures, however, are heavy-handed and directly convey the administration’s hostility towards immigration. In this blog and several that follow, we will highlight some of the bricks in Trump’s invisible wall.

No bond for asylum seekers.

On April 16, 2019, U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced plans to eliminate the possibility of bond hearings for those seeking asylum after they have passed their initial screening, known as a credible fear interview. Previously, asylum seekers entering at ports of entry were entitled to request a bond hearing before an immigration judge after passing their credible fear interview. If they could prove they were not a danger to person or property, and were unlikely to flee, an immigration judge was authorized to set a monetary bond that would allow the asylum seeker to pay and be released from detention with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Barr announced the elimination of the possibility of bond in a case certified to him at the Board of Immigration Appeals. Barr stated that the affected asylum seekers could still be released if the Department of Homeland Security agreed to “parole” them out of detention. However, parole is reserved in these circumstances for specific reasons such as a medical emergency or an urgent humanitarian reason. The new policy, if implemented, will result in indefinite detention for individuals and families fleeing persecution in their native countries.

USCIS will now place more people in removal proceedings.

In June 2018, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it is expanding the categories of people to whom it will issue charging documents (known as Notices to Appear). Issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA) is one of the first steps in placing a person in removal proceedings. USCIS will now issue NTAs when it denies applications for Violence Against Women Act applicants as well as those applying for humanitarian benefits. This includes victims applying for T visas (human trafficking) as well as U visas (serious crimes). Not only will this place at risk victims of trafficking and domestic abuse survivors, this new policy will also have a chilling effect on the reporting of violent crimes. The very victims Congress sought to protect in passing trafficking and violence prevention laws now risk being placed in removal proceedings if their application is denied for any reason, including a mistake or technical error.

This policy is especially cruel in light of the fact that USCIS also recently announced they can now deny a petition or application without giving the applicant the opportunity to correct a deficiency or provide additional evidence. See #3 below.

USCIS may now deny applications and petitions without issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID).

In a memo from July 13, 2018, USCIS changed the rules about when it will issue denials without giving the applicant a chance to correct a mistake or submit additional evidence. Before this change, USCIS adjudicators were directed to issue an RFE or NOID unless there was no possibility the deficiency in the application could be corrected. In other words, the adjudicator could issue a denial without an RFE or NOID only if someone was clearly ineligible for the benefit sought. For example, if a green card holder filed for naturalization before accruing the requisite three or five years in that status.

Under the new policy, the USCIS adjudicator may deny an application or petition for failure to include “required initial evidence” without issuing an RFE or NOID. Now, a person who forgets (or isn’t aware of the requirement) to submit a certain piece of evidence with the application risks denial and possibly being placed in removal proceedings.

SPEAK WITH AN ATLANTA IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY ABOUT YOUR IMMIGRATION OPTIONS

The Atlanta immigration attorneys at Antonini & Cohen are experienced in counseling foreign nationals in available avenues for obtaining or retaining legal status, applying for benefits before USCIS, and spotting potential problems before filing. To schedule an appointment with one of our family immigration attorneys, contact us online or by calling 404-850-9394.. We look forward to advising and guiding you through the process of applying for the immigration benefits that will be best for you and your family.

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