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flagsApplying for immigration benefits involves a substantial amount of paperwork, and it requires close and careful attention to detail. While mistakes can cause delays and other difficulties in an application, outright falsehoods have far worse consequences. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed a removal order last year based, in part, on a finding that the respondent falsely represented himself as a U.S. citizen. Matter of Richmond, Int. Dec. 3867, 26 I&N Dec. 779 (BIA 2016). A key question before the BIA was whether a person’s intent in making a false statement is relevant.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides a lengthy list of grounds for inadmissibility, including health problems, criminal activity, and national security concerns. Prospective immigrants with a history of immigration violations may also be deemed inadmissible. This includes someone “who falsely represents, or has falsely represented, [themselves] to be a citizen of the United States for any purpose or benefit under [the INA] or any other Federal or State law.” 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(C)(ii)(I). The words “purpose or benefit” are important.

According to the BIA’s ruling, the respondent in Richmond is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, who entered the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa in May 2001. After a conviction for second-degree assault—which was later overturned on appeal—the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) brought removal proceedings. It alleged that he was deportable for overstaying his visa under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(B) and for a conviction of an aggravated felony under § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii).

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visaThe Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) gives multiple federal agencies under several Cabinet departments jurisdiction over different—sometimes overlapping—processes. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), handles most visa petitions and applications for adjustment of status. The courts that hear removal cases and other matters are part of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), which is part of the Department of Justice. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), also part of EOIR, recently resolved a dispute over whether an immigration judge (IJ) could adjudicate a request for a waiver of inadmissibility by a U visa petitioner, when the petitioner was already in the IJ’s court for another matter. Matter of Khan, 26 I&N Dec. 797 (BIA 2016). The BIA held that USCIS has exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether to grant waivers of inadmissibility.

A prospective immigrant who wishes to come to the U.S. must establish that they do not fall under any of the categories of inadmissibility set forth by the INA. These include criminal convictions, national security issues, and health-related factors. See 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a). USCIS has discretionary authority, however, to admit many otherwise inadmissible people on a temporary nonimmigrant basis. Id. at § 1182(d)(3)(A)(ii). This is known as a waiver of inadmissibility.

The INA creates numerous categories of nonimmigrant visas for people who intend to come to the U.S. for a limited period of time before returning home. These include tourist and business visitor visas, student visas, and various types of work visas. The respondent in Khan was seeking a U visa, which is available to crime victims who are actively assisting law enforcement in an investigation or prosecution. 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101(a)(15)(U), 1184(p). The total number of U visas that may be issued each fiscal year is capped at 10,000, not counting spouses and parents of the principal beneficiaries. A U visa is valid for up to four years and can be extended under some circumstances.

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Marbury v. MadisonAn ongoing dispute in immigration law, which has taken on new urgency since January, involves the question of whether local authorities are obligated to cooperate with federal officials on immigration enforcement. Numerous judges have ruled that the Constitution prohibits the federal government from requiring local officials to cooperate. A recent court ruling held that a local policy requiring cooperation with federal officials is unconstitutional. LaCroix v. Junior, Nos. F17-376, F17-1770, order (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., Mar. 3, 2017). While Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and others often claim that this issue only pertains to undocumented immigrants, it actually has the potential to affect all immigrants, from people here on tourist visas to permanent residents with green cards, and many citizens as well.

The term “sanctuary cities” refers—often pejoratively—to local jurisdictions that do not cooperate with ICE to some extent. ICE often places “detainers” on individuals in local custody when it suspects them of immigration violations. The detainer directs local officials to hold the person until ICE can take custody of them, even if the person is otherwise entitled to release. Many cities and counties have stated that they will not detain people solely based on a detainer, unless ICE also presents a warrant or court order. Reasons cited by local officials include due process concerns regarding warrantless detainer requests and Tenth Amendment concerns relating to the different roles of the federal and local governments.

Legislative and executive actions have sought to penalize “sanctuary cities.” Recent court decisions have directly addressed this issue, and the U.S. Supreme Court has more broadly limited federal authority to direct local officials. In Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997), the court ruled that requiring local officials to perform duties reserved to the federal government—in that case, enforcing provisions of the federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act—violates the Tenth Amendment. The Constitution expressly reserves authority over immigration to the federal government, U.S. Const. Art. I § 8, cl. 4, so Printz would certainly seem to apply to federal efforts to direct local officials.

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Algodones sand-dune-fenceThe Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, first announced in June 2012, allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children to remain here and work, provided they meet certain eligibility criteria. The purpose of the program is to focus immigration enforcement priorities away from people who contribute to American society. The status of the program under the new administration, however, remains uncertain. Some recent enforcement actions have resulted in the arrest and detention of DACA beneficiaries. One such individual has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and an official of its agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Ramirez Medina v. Asher, No. 2:17-cv-00218, pet. for writ of habeas corpus (W.D. Wash., Feb. 13, 2017).

DACA constitutes an agreement by the federal government to refrain from immigration enforcement actions against approved individuals for a two-year period. This was made renewable for additional two-year periods in 2014 and 2016. Beneficiaries are also granted work authorization. They are not, however, granted lawful immigration status, which is outside of the president’s authority under federal immigration law. The program attracted close to a million applications, more than 700,000 of which were approved.

To be eligible, a candidate had to be under the age of thirty-one as of June 15, 2012, and had to have entered the U.S. prior to their sixteenth birthday and before June 15, 2007. They had to be physically present in the U.S. without lawful immigration status on both June 15, 2012 and the date they applied for DACA. They could not have a felony or major misdemeanor conviction, nor more than three minor misdemeanor convictions. They had to pass a national security-related background check. Finally, they had to have a high school diploma or GED, honorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces, or current enrollment in school.
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marriageThe Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the nation’s primary source of immigration law, allows noncitizens who marry U.S. citizens to obtain lawful permanent residence without numerical limitations. In order to address concerns about marriages whose sole intent is to facilitate immigration benefits, the INA sets restrictions on people who seek lawful permanent residence after less than two years of marriage. A violation of these restrictions can result in a finding of deportability, but the INA allows waivers in some situations. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recently ruled on a waiver claim in a case involving marriage fraud. Matter of Tima, 26 I&N Dec. 839 (BIA 2016). The ruling offers an extensive summary of this area of immigration law but resulted in the denial of the respondent’s claims.

An individual who obtains lawful permanent resident (LPR) status through marriage to a U.S. citizen is granted “conditional permanent resident” status if, at the time they obtain such status, they have been married for less than two years. 8 U.S.C. § 1186a. Within two years of obtaining conditional status, they must apply to have the conditions removed. The purpose of this two-year conditional period is to give the government time to investigate whether the marriage was solely entered into for immigration purposes.

If the parties are no longer married after two years, that is not automatic evidence of marriage fraud, but it will likely bring additional scrutiny from investigators. If the government concludes that the marriage was a sham, or if the immigrant fails to apply by the two-year deadline, conditional permanent residence is automatically revoked. The immigrant may then be subject to deportation. 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(D)(i).

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visa mapThe new president issued three executive orders (EOs) in January 2017 regarding immigration. The most recent of the three, EO 13769, is the most well-known. Descriptions range from a “travel ban” to a “Muslim ban,” depending on who is describing the order. The EO, which bars entry to the U.S. from seven countries with majority-Muslim populations, is currently subject to a temporary restraining order, and multiple court challenges are pending in courts around the country. New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport saw a considerable amount of confusion after the issuance of the EO, when federal agents attempted to enforce the order without clear guidelines. All we can offer is a very general overview of the EOs, since their impact—and even their legal validity—remains uncertain.

The first order, EO 13767, is entitled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.” 82 Fed. Reg. 8793 (Jan. 25, 2017). It directs immigration officials to increase patrols and deportations in response to an alleged “recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico.” Id. at 8793. It also makes “the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border” the official policy of the federal government. Id.

EO 13768 is entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” 82 Fed. Reg. 8799 (Jan. 25, 2017). It primarily sets enforcement priorities with regard to deportations. The order also addresses so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions,” which it defines as non-federal governments that “willfully refuse to comply with” a statute regarding communication between local and federal law enforcement. Id. at 8801, 8 U.S.C. § 1373. The federal government is probably limited, however, in its authority to require local governments to participate in immigration enforcement, an area of exclusively federal jurisdiction under the Constitution. See, e.g. Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997); South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987).

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Pulaski SkywayA ruling from the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) establishes new eligibility criteria for “national interest waivers” (NIWs). Matter of Dhanasar, Int. Dec. No. 3882, 26 I&N Dec. 884 (AAO 2016). The NIW is a type of employment-based immigrant visa petition in the second preference (EB-2) category. Normally, a petition for an EB-2 immigrant visa must include an employment offer and a labor certification from the Department of Labor. The NIW waives those requirements. USCIS had relied on the decision in Matter of N.Y. State Dep’t of Transp. (“NYSDOT”), 22 I&N Dec. 215 (Acting Assoc. Comm’r 1998), to determine eligibility for NIWs. The decision in Dhanasar overturns NYSDOT and establishes a more consistent standard.

EB-2 visas are available to individuals “who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees” or who have “exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business.” 8 U.S.C. § 1153(b)(2)(A). According to the statute, the individual’s exceptional ability must have the potential to “substantially benefit” the nation. Id. The individual must have an offer from an employer in the U.S., and they must obtain a labor certification, which basically shows that hiring an immigrant will not adversely affect U.S. workers. 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(k)(4)(i); 20 C.F.R. §§ 656.17(h)-(i).

USCIS is authorized by statute to waive the job offer and labor certification requirement by issuing an NIW, if doing so would “be in the national interest.” 8 U.S.C. § 1153(b)(2)(B)(i), 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(k)(4)(ii). The NYSDOT decision established a three-part test that required a prospective immigrant to establish (1) that there is “substantial intrinsic merit” in their field of employment, (2) that the likely benefits of their work will be “national in scope,” and (3) that requiring a labor certification would “adversely affect[]…the national interest.” Dhanasar, 26 I&N Dec. at 887, quoting NYSDOT, 22 I&N Dec. at 217.

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copyright symbolFederal immigration law identifies multiple criteria for admissibility to the U.S. on an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, ranging from health issues to criminal history and national security concerns. An allegation of inadmissibility may result in the denial of a visa petition or the initiation of removal proceedings for someone who is already in the country. “Inadmissibility” is different from “deportability,” at least in a legal sense. In either case, the government may try to remove, or “deport,” the individual. A person alleged to be inadmissible may be able to obtain relief through a waiver or certain other procedures, such as cancellation of removal. The first issue to consider, however, is whether the government has alleged valid grounds for inadmissibility. A recent decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) considered whether criminal copyright infringement constitutes a “crime of moral turpitude” under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The court ruled in the government’s favor on this question in Matter of Zaragoza-Vaquero, Int. Dec. No. 3873, 26 I&N Dec. 814 (BIA 2016).

The INA defines an “inadmissible” person as someone who is “ineligible to receive visas and…to be admitted to the United States.” 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a). Perhaps one of the most common grounds for inadmissibility is “presen[ce] without admission or parole,” id. at § 1182(a)(6)(A)(i), meaning that the person entered the U.S. without a visa or other official permission from the federal government. A person who has been lawfully admitted to the U.S. as an immigrant or nonimmigrant could be deemed “deportable” under certain circumstances. The key difference is that an inadmissible person, by legal definition, should never have entered the U.S., while a deportable individual has lost the legal right to remain. Inadmissible people are also deportable under the INA, id. at § 1227(a)(1)(A).

The INA identifies several types of criminal convictions that could render someone inadmissible, including any “crime of moral turpitude.” 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). The statute does not define the term “moral turpitude,” but the BIA states that caselaw has defined it as an offense that is “inherently base, vile, or depraved, and contrary to accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general.” Zaragoza-Vaquero, 26 I&N Dec. at 815

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US CongressWith a new administration preparing to move into the White House in January 2017, bringing with it a decidedly different take on immigration policy from the outgoing administration, it seems safe to say that the current state of immigration law in this country is uncertain. Most immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs are based on legislation passed by Congress and implemented through rules and regulations created by the Executive Branch. Congress has allowed a short-term extension for several immigration programs through April 28, 2017, in the Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act (FCSAAA) of 2017, Pub. L. 114-254 (Dec. 10, 2016).

The FCSAAA offers an excellent example of the complexity of both the government’s budget and its budgeting process. The bill amends the Continuing Appropriations Act (CAA) of 2017, Pub. L. 114-223, Div. C, 130 Stat. 908 (Sep. 29, 2016). That bill, in turn, authorized the appropriation of funds that Congress had already authorized in previous bills. Appropriations for immigration-related programs are mostly found in the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2016 (DHSAA), Pub. L. 114-113, Div. F, 129 Stat. 2493 (Dec. 18, 2015). Taken together, these bills extend funding for some immigration programs, including the following.

E-Verify

Federal immigration law prohibits employers from employing anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and who has not obtained authorization to work in the U.S. from the government. Employers must review certain documents presented by new hires to verify that they fit the criteria for work authorization, and they must maintain a record of this verification on Form I-9. Congress first provided for the creation of an electronic system employers could use to verify employment eligibility, commonly known as “E-Verify,” in legislation passed in 1996. See 8 U.S.C. § 1324a note.

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currencyImmigration has become a particularly controversial political topic over the past year or two, but immigrants form a critical part of our culture and our economy. Recent reports have further confirmed immigrants’ economic impact, both in New Jersey and nationwide. New Jersey is currently suffering a net population decline, as residents move elsewhere. Immigrants are making up for some of that loss. They are also starting new businesses at a considerable rate, which helps local economies and the state as a whole. Numerous immigration programs play a role in this, such as the EB-5 investor visa program and the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. While the forthcoming change in the White House is bringing significant uncertainty for immigrants, it is worth noting immigration’s economic benefits.

Congress established the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program to encourage investment, entrepreneurship, and job creation. It is available to immigrants who intend to invest a minimum amount in a “new commercial enterprise” in the U.S., which will create a minimum number of new jobs for U.S. citizens or permanent residents. 8 U.S.C. § 1153(b)(5). According to the December 2016 Visa Bulletin, the processing of EB-5 visa petitions is current for everyone except individuals from mainland China.

At least 3,000 EB-5 visas each fiscal year must be for new commercial enterprises in “targeted employment areas” (TEAs), defined as either a “rural area” or an area with at least 150 percent of the national average unemployment rate. Id. at § 1153(b)(5)(B). The minimum investment amount to qualify for an EB-5 visa is currently $1 million. 8 C.F.R. § 204.6(f)(1). For a TEA, the minimum investment is $500,000. Id. at § 204.6(f)(2). The investment must create at least 10 full-time jobs for “qualifying employees.” Id. at § 204.6(j)(4). A report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in September 2016 found that a substantial majority of recent EB-5 petitioners intended to invest in TEAs.

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