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Indianapolis Immigration Law Blog

Democrats introduce updated DREAM Act

Indiana residents who follow developments in the nation's capital will likely know that a group of young people known as dreamers have become a hot-button political issue in recent years. Dreamers are undocumented young people who would be offered a path to eventual citizenship by the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. The bill was introduced in 2001 and has yet to make it to the president's desk, but this deadlock has not prevented Democrats from introducing a new version that would go even further.

If the Dream and Promise Act is signed into law, the DREAM Act's protections would be expanded to cover immigrants who have been given Temporary Protected Status or granted Deferred Enforced Departure. To obtain conditional permanent residency, immigrants would have to meet a number of requirements. These requirements include serving in the U.S. military for at least two years, working under an employment-based visa or graduating from an American technical school or college.

Changes may be ahead for spouses of H-1B visa holders

Some H-1B visa holders in Indiana may face an additional hurdle to remaining in the United States if a proposal that changes the status of their spouse changes. The H-1B visa is an employment visa granted to workers with specialized skills, many of whom are from China or India.

Spouses of H-1B visa holders are allowed to get work permits. This can be important to retaining talent in the U.S. since it allows a couple to have a dual income instead of having to live on a single income. Since 2015, nearly 91,000 work permits have been granted to spouses. However, members of a California-based organization, Save Jobs USA, say they lost their jobs to employees with H-1B visas. They filed a lawsuit in 2015 to block the spousal work permits, which is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Update on H-2B Cap Relief:

On February 15, President Trump signed into law a funding bill for several federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security.

The funding law includes the same H-2B discretionary language as last year, which gives DHS the authority, in consultation with DOL, to increase the H-2 cap for fiscal 2019 to 135,320 (66,000 + 69,320 (the number of H-2B returning worker visas or H-2Rs issued in FY 2007)). This is the same language that was in effect for fiscal 2017 and 2018. 

Immigration cases taking longer to resolve

Over the past two fiscal years, immigration case times have increased by 46 percent. This is according to research from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). One possible outcome is that skilled employees from foreign countries may not want to work in Indiana or other states throughout the country. In some cases, those who are seeking an H-1B visa could wait more than a year before hearing back regarding their eligibility.

However, this wait can be as long as 10 years for workers from India because of quotas and other limitations. This is not the only type of immigration proceeding that is taking longer compared to previous years. In the 2014 fiscal year, it took just over five months to process an I-400 form. In the 2018 fiscal year, that increased to over 10 months. There are several reasons why cases are taking longer to process.

Class Action Member Identification Notice

On Nov. 30, 2018, in Zhang v. USCIS, No. 15-cv-995, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia certified a class that includes any individual with a Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, that was or will be denied on the sole basis of investing loan proceeds that were not secured by the individual's own assets. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated these denials and ordered USCIS to reconsider the petitions.

Reducing wait times for green cards for Indians

Individuals from India who want to obtain a green card so that they can stay in Indiana or other states face the longest wait times compared to migrants from other countries. The reason for this is a quota system that caps the number of green cards given to each country at 7 percent of the total. This is despite the fact that Indians make up about 80 percent of all employment-based applicants. An independent congressional research group says this problem could be eliminated by simply removing the cap.

According to advocate groups, lifting the per-county cap would benefit both qualified Indians seeking permanent residency and companies who need their talent. The current system causes a lot of instability and stress for these migrants, but a more fair system would end the discrimination they face when trying to earn residency. On the employer side, the tech industry would likely benefit the most from this change.

Immigration courts' backlog grows during shutdown

The government shutdown is having a major impact on federal workers and their families in Indiana and across the country, but it is also affecting others as well. For example, already-massive immigration court backlogs are becoming even greater. For every week the government remains closed, the number of backlogged cases grows by 20,000. The number of delayed cases had already reached a record high, even before the shutdown began after President Trump refused to support a budget that would not fund his proposed border wall.

Since the president withdrew support for a bill to keep the government running in December 2018, over 42,726 immigration court hearings were postponed. In many of these cases, the people going to the hearings had already waited for up to four years before being scheduled in court. The immigration courts already have a backlog of over 800,000 cases, and those cancelled by the shutdown may go to the back of the line to be scheduled for a new hearing. This could pose even greater concerns for immigrants than even the continuing long delays.

Three undocumented men arrested in Chatham

ICE arrested three undocumented men in a restaurant kitchen raid in Chatham, Columbia County, New York, last week and detained them in the Albany County Jail, according to the Albany County Sheriff and local immigration activists who interviewed one man arrested and a restaurant employee.

Confusion surrounds changes to asylum practices

For those in Indiana dealing with the U.S. immigration system, reports about the Trump administration's stance on border security may be deeply concerning. Individuals may be worried about their family members as well as their own ability to enter or remain in the country. One issue that has troubled many is the announcement that the U.S. government plans to process applications for asylum from inside Mexico. According to reports, both Mexican and U.S. officials are unsure about how the plan will operate and what effects it will have on asylum seekers.

The asylum process allows immigrants to seek safety from persecution and credible threats of violence. Trump administration officials have announced a number of initiatives designed to decrease the number of asylum applications; although, some of these policies have been blocked from implementation by federal courts. Someone who is seeking asylum will face a hearing that determines whether they have a credible fear of being returned to their country of origin. In many cases, an asylum seeker will then move forward to a hearing before an immigration judge.

Legislation my remove per-country caps for employment visas

Proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, named the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, may place per-country caps on visas for immigrants wishing to work in Indiana and other states. According to authors of the bill, the goal of this legislation is to create fairer wait times and reduce the green card backlog, especially for Indian and Chinese foreign nationals. A result of this change may mean increased backlogs and wait times for applicants from all other nations.

If passed, this law would be implemented by allocating most available visas to applicants from India and China. In order to avoid shutting out all applicants from other countries, a three year transition period would allow a certain percentage of non Chinese or Indian visas to be processed. If the bill works as intended, wait times will average out in about seven years after the law is enacted.

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