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Washington, D.C. Immigration Law Blog

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USCIS to conduct interviews for certain green card applicants

Individuals who are seeking green cards based on employment will have to appear for interviews due to a new enforcement stance by the Trump administration. Immigrants in Maryland and around the country have typically been vetted already as part of the initial visa process, but United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is preparing to add 200,000 interviews to its workload to further vet individuals who apply for adjustment of status green cards.

Technically, the interview process has always been required, but USCIS has historically waived it for green cards based on employment. According to a spokesperson for the agency, USCIS plans to bring on additional staff and make use of overtime hours to handle the increased workload. The spokesperson said that dependents of applicants will also be interviewed except where they are eligible for waivers, such as young children, but that USCIS will attempt to interview all family members together.

U.S. to start collecting social media data on immigrants

Maryland readers may be interested to learn that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced plans to begin collecting social media and search results information on all immigrants. The plan was published in the Federal Register on Sept. 18 and will take effect on Oct. 18.

According to media reports, the policy will let DHS agents compile data from immigrants' Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, including their social media handles and social media aliases. It will also allow the department to obtain data on search engine results. The policy will cover immigrants who have a green card and those who are naturalized citizens. It is not yet known if the new policy gives DHS the right to obtain search histories from Google, Bing and other internet search engines.

Examining the policy of apprehending undocumented people

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said that its agents are allowed to dress in plain clothes and not identify themselves before taking undocumented immigrants into custody. This may have an impact on those living in Maryland and elsewhere in the United States. In Brooklyn, four people were taken into custody outside of a courthouse by ICE agents who did not identify themselves. They were also in plain clothes when the incident happened, and scenes such as this one have becoming increasing common.

According to current ICE policy, agents are advised to not detain anyone outside of hospitals, schools or other areas deemed sensitive. However, courthouses are not included on that list. Furthermore, the agency says that action is more likely to be taken against those with a criminal record or who otherwise pose a threat to the general public. In New York, officers are required to check in at a courthouse, and they are required to notify the judge of their presence.

Supreme Court ruling ends sex discrimination in immigration law

A ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States clarified the process for citizens in Maryland trying to bring the children of unmarried unions into the country. The law governing this process had been established in 1940, and its wording discriminated against fathers. A case representing a man who had been born of a male U.S. citizen brought this issue to light, and the Supreme Court decided that the law clearly discriminated on the basis of sex.

The law granted the child born out of the country of an unmarried U.S. woman nearly automatic U.S. citizenship. The mother only needed to have lived within the United States for one year at any point in her life. An unmarried father, however, had to meet different criteria to gain citizenship for children born in other countries. A man needed to have lived in the United States for at least 10 years, and five of them needed to occur after he was 14 years old.

Undocumented immigrant hurricane victims reassured by feds

Maryland residents are likely aware of the devastation that occurred in the Houston area from Hurricane Harvey. Many residents of the city have been displaced, including undocumented immigrants.

Some undocumented immigrants in the Houston area have been fearful of seeking help in the shelters that have been established. They are concerned because they believe that they will be rounded up and deported if they go to the shelters. Much of the fear is because of the aggressive immigration policies that have been put into place by the Trump administration.

Trump may soon end DACA program

Some Maryland residents may be concerned to learn that President Donald Trump may choose to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, by Sept. 5. According to media outlets, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has threatened to sue the Trump administration over the policy on that date.

While multiple sources have reportedly said that Trump is leaning toward terminating DACA, a senior administration official also said that he could change his mind. In January, the president told ABC News that his administration would create a tough border. However, he also claimed that he has a "big heart" and that DREAMers, or individuals shielded by DACA, do not need to worry.

Trump administration ends CAM program

Some Maryland residents may be aware that starting at the end of 2014, children fleeing from violence in Central America as well as eligible family members could apply to remain in the United States under the Central American Minors program. The program also offered an avenue for children younger than 21 with parents lawfully residing in the country to undergo a resettlement interview before coming to the United States. As of Aug. 16, however, the Trump administration has ended the program.

More than 2,700 children had been conditionally approved to enter the country, but that approval has now been rescinded. Most of the children were from El Salvador. According to the advocacy group Kids in Need of Defense, the children will probably find a more dangerous way to come to the United States.

The economic benefits of the H1-B visa program

Maryland residents have likely heard claims that the H1-B visa program is being used by employers to replace qualified Americans with foreign workers who are willing to accept lower rates of pay, but a study from the University of Michigan and the Center for Global Development suggests that the controversial immigration policy is actually good for the U.S. economy as a whole. Researchers say that the incomes of the United States and India rose by a combined $17.3 billion in 2010 due to H1-B visas, and they claim that program increased the wealth of American-born workers by $431 million.

The researchers were trying to determine what impact of the program has had on the economies of India and the United States since the early 2000s. India was selected because the country has a thriving technology sector and is home to many of the foreign workers awarded H1-B visas each year. The results of the study may not be received warmly in the nation's capital. President Trump says that the H1-B visa program is unfair to American workers and has made redesigning it a top priority.

The naturalization process for spouses of U.S. citizens

The rules and regulations covering citizenship, immigration and naturalization are established and enforced by the federal government. The same basic rules apply, generally, in Maryland as in other states. With regard to the naturalization process for spouses of citizens, the applicable statute is in the Immigration and Nationality Act, at Section 319(a). United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is tasked with enforcement of immigration rules.

An individual may qualify for naturalization under 319(a) if he or she has been a permanent resident of the U.S. for three years or more and has been married to a U.S. citizen during that time, along with several other requirements. The applicant must be at least 18 years of age, for example, and must have lived within the relevant USCIS district or state for three months or more prior to filing the application.

How human trafficking victims can remain in America

In 2000, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act became law. This led to the T nonimmigrant status, and it gave authorities more power to investigate crimes such as human trafficking. Most victims of human trafficking are poor or otherwise vulnerable. They are coaxed into coming to Maryland or other parts of the country with promises of employment or other perks.

Those who have the T nonimmigrant status are allowed to stay in the United States to help in the prosecution of a human trafficking crime. It also provides certain protections to both current and former victims of what amounts to a modern day form of slavery. To qualify for this status, an individual must have entered the United States as a result of being trafficked. Furthermore, individuals must comply with requests to help in an investigation or prosecution if possible.

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