Paul Steven Zoltan 2017-12-20 05:18:11
It has been a tumultuous year in immigration. Vowing to “restore the rule of law,” President Donald J. Trump issued two immigration-related executive orders within weeks of taking office. In February, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, followed suit with two sweeping policy memoranda. Together, these four documents have since served as blueprints for immigration officials to carefully consult and reference in any decision or action. Just one week into his administration, Trump halted refugee admissions from Syria and banned from entry for 90 days citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Federal courts quickly blocked the first two “travel ban” iterations; the U.S. Supreme Court tentatively let stand the third (this one including Chad). In September, the administration announced that in 2018 it would re-settle only 45,000 refugees—the least since 1980. The administration abandoned the Priority Enforcement Program, or PEP, which sought to focus enforcement resources on criminal aliens and recent arrivals. In PEP’s stead, DHS restored the Secure Communities program, which obligates local law enforcement officials to notify DHS of any noncitizens who come into their custody, no matter their history or circumstances. To further bolster enforcement, the administration has said it will hire new immigration officials and expand detention capacity. In Texas, the administration will build a detention center in Conroe and is contracting space from local jails. Asylum officers and immigration judges have been sent to the border to speed the deportation of recent border-crossers. Working alongside them are U.S. attorneys, whom the U.S. attorney general has tasked with vigorously pursuing immigration-related criminal charges. In April, the president announced a “Buy American and Hire American” campaign. As part of that initiative, employment-based H-1B visas now require additional evidence of eligibility. Denials are up and so too delays. In August, DHS began personally interviewing green card applicants and, with the Department of State, made it easier to attribute fraud to nonimmigrants who violate the terms of their admission. In 2017, the nation’s immigration courts confronted a backlog of over 600,000 cases. To cope, the administration announced its intention to curtail immigrants’ access to those tribunals: it will expand the expedited removal process, potentially barring the courtroom door to any noncitizen who cannot convince DHS that they’ve lived in the United States for at least two years. The roughly 800,000 young adults registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program retained their eligibility for work authorization through 2017. In October, however, the president announced he would phase out the program: on each day beginning March 5, 2018, roughly 1,000 of these “Dreamers” will revert to being undocumented. A tumultuous year indeed. PAUL STEVEN ZOLTAN has practiced immigration law exclusively since 1992. He has chaired the District 6A Grievance Committee for the State Bar of Texas, the advisory board of the Dallas office of the International Rescue Committee, and the boards of directors of Proyecto Adelante and the Center for Survivors of Torture. He has taught immigration law and legal writing and reasoning at the University of Texas at Dallas. For his work educating immigrants about their rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the Dallas Peace & Justice Center awarded him its 2017 Justice Seeker Award.
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