Published July 30, 2020
By: Richard Hanus, Esq.
The nonstop, unprecedented flow of immigration news continues, including with regard to the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision rejecting the Trump Administration’s attempt to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Executive Order. For certain, since the SCOTUS ruling, the Administration has waffled about DACA’s future, first making it clear it was going back to the drawing board to rescind DACA and curing the legally deficient procedures previously employed to end the program. Then later, the President announced he wanted to find a way to make “DACA (people) happy” with a merit based and perhaps a permanent component for a future DACA program. In the meantime, DACA remains in place per the SCOTUS, but exactly in what form? Will Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services continue to process pending applications? Will DHS/CIS accept new applications from first time DACA applicants?
In the wake of the SCOTUS decision and notwithstanding their order to keep DACA in place, DHS/CIS initially announced it would put on hold the processing of pending DACA applications, including any future requests to extend current DACA holders’ status. Further, the Administration also declared that any first time DACA applicants will be rejected outright. That prompted lawsuits from parties claiming the Administration is thumbing its nose at the SCOTUS order to leave DACA in place until it is properly terminated. Following the commencement of litigation contesting its position, DHS/CIS announced a new, adjusted policy: No first time DACA applications will be accepted and processed, and requests to extend status for current DACA holders will only be approved for 1 year increments. This is a departure from previous protocols to approve DACA applicants for 2 year periods at a time.
This sensitive topic sadly continues to be one of the Administration’s go-to political footballs, and often without regard to the human stories surrounding the hundreds of thousands of applicants impacted. The Administration’s inconsistent voice and sensational headlines on the topic will undoubtedly continue through the election.
Massive Furloughs at DHS/CIS Avoided, For Now
At the eleventh hour, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it found a way for its immigration benefits arm – Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) – to continue be funded through the end of August. This announcement means that DHS/CIS will be able to avoid laying off some 13,000 employees, close to three quarters of its workforce. DHS/CIS, as a fee funded agency, has seen a massive decrease in revenues in recent months due to the pandemic along with what some allege to be poor decision-making by upper management. Further, given the immigration hardliners appointed by President Trump to top positions at these agencies, many commentators question whether this is a merely a coincidence or whether the pandemic is in fact being used as a pretext to reduce legal immigration into the U.S.
For certain, any furlough of this size will surely cause even more delays, if not a processing standstill, for users of an already under-supported legal immigration system, a system facing unprecedented logistical and substantive hurdles placed by this administration. This includes employers looking to facilitate legal immigration processes for employees, and individuals seeking U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residence/green cards, for themselves or family members.
More will be known about future funding of DHS/CIS in the coming month, as the agency will turn to Congress on this issue of operational survival.
PUBLISHED July 30, 2020– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2020, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois