Latest News: Chaos in Implementing the USCIS/DOS Public Charge Rules and Presidential Proclamation Requiring Health Insurance

President Trump and an adviser, Stephen Miller, have cooked new public charge rules, subsequently issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS), as well as a Presidential Proclamation requiring immigrant visa applicants to buy health insurance.

Implementation has been chaotic, and these rules have been challenged in court. This article explains the status of each initiative.

USCIS Public Charge Rule

The USCIS public charge rule was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 14, 2019. USCIS then published corrections on Oct. 2, 2019. For a summary, see the USCIS Fact Sheet and our firm’s client alert.

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U.S. Judge Rules Suspicionless Searches of Travelers’ Digital Devices Unconstitutional

Reuters reports that yesterday, a federal judge ruled that U.S. border agents need “reasonable suspicion” but not a warrant to search travelers’ smartphones and laptops at airports and other U.S. ports of entry. The ruling sets a higher standard than the one CBP agents must apply to conduct routine searches of electronic devices under current policies. CBP had no immediate comment on the ruling.

The number of electronic device searches at the border has ballooned during the Trump administration, rising from about 8,500 in FY2015 to more than 30,000 in FY2018.

Read also our firm’s advice about Preparing for Possible Search of Your Luggage and Devices at the Border.

Highlights of the Dep’t of Homeland Security Public Charge Rule

On August 14, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule related to public charge in the Federal Register. The rule was set to take effect on October 15, 2019, but is currently tied up in litigation. The rule will not apply to immigration applications filed before it takes effect.

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USCIS Partial Retreat: Some International Field Offices, including Beijing and Guangzhou, Will Remain Open

Aug. 9 Update: USCIS announced in a news release today that they have cancelled plans to close operations at 7 international field offices: Beijing, Guangzhou, Nairobi, New Delhi, Mexico City, San Salvador, and Guatemala City. The news release calls these operations “cost-effective and high value”: they will continue to “adjudicate complex immigration petitions that require in-person interviews, to enhance integrity through fraud detection and national security activities, and to liaise with U.S. and foreign government entities to improve migration management capacity.” The news release gives no reason for the partial retreat in plans to axe all international offices.

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U.S. State Department Appeals to Ninth Circuit a Ruling That Same-Sex Couple’s Child Acquired Citizenship Upon Birth Abroad

Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks have twin sons, born four minutes apart. The U.S. State Department has maintained that one is a U.S. citizen and one is not. The same-sex couple has been fighting the U.S. government in federal court for citizenship rights for their young child.

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USCIS Processing of I-751s in Disarray

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ processing of Forms I-751, Petitions to Remove Conditional Resident Status is in a state of disarray.

Sandra Feist writes for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that USCIS has been adding new procedural delays and hurdles to I-751s, like brick after brick in an “invisible wall” making life difficult for spouses of U.S. citizens.

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Trump’s Wrong Assertion That He Can End Birthright Citizenship by Executive Order

President Trump baldly asserted this week that he can issue an executive order ending birthright citizenship for children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents. My initial reaction was frustration. How can the President claim–with no explanation–the power to act in a way that appears contrary to the plain words of the U.S. Constitution? Is this a serious proposal that just sounds like a flippant remark, or is it merely a cynical political ploy to rally his base before the midterm elections?

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“Alias Certificates” Required from Immigrant Visa Applicants at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou

The latest Immigrant Visa Instructions published by the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou on Nov. 24, 2017, require that an applicant who has “ever used another name or alias on legal documentation or for other official purpose must provide a certified alias certificate” (别名证明文件). Continue reading ““Alias Certificates” Required from Immigrant Visa Applicants at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou”

Death by a Thousand Cuts: Evisceration of the Foreign Service

The Trump administration’s war on immigration has included an array of tactics. There have been full frontal assaults, such as the Muslim ban, cancellation of DACA, the border wall, and the RAISE Act. Simultaneously, the Trump administration is using the tactic of death by a thousand cuts: numerous assaults in the administrative agencies and courts intended to make immigration slower, more expensive, and painful. Here’s but one example. Continue reading “Death by a Thousand Cuts: Evisceration of the Foreign Service”