Leon Rodriguez to Become New Head of USCIS

Leon Rodriguez

The US Senate, on Tuesday, June 24, confirmed Leon Rodriguez as the next Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The director is responsible for administering and processing asylum and refugee applications, immigration benefits, and naturalization and visa petitions.

Mr. Rodriguez previously served as the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services from 2011 to the present. Much of his work there involved bringing cases against medical and insurance organizations for violations of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for breaches of patient information.

In 2011, President Obama nominated Rodriguez to lead the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. However, his nomination was withdrawn because of Republican opposition to his work in the Civil Rights Division. From 2010 to 2011, Mr. Rodriguez served as Chief of Staff and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice (DOJ), overseeing the division’s administrative operations and cases involving discrimination based on national origin and immigration status. Mr. Rodriguez also served as County Attorney for Montgomery County, Maryland from 2007 to 2010. During that time, he also worked for President Obama’s Justice Department transition team in 2008 and 2009.

From 2001 to 2007 Mr. Rodriguez was a partner at Ober, Kaler, Grimes, and Shriver in Washington, D.C., again focusing on health care law. He served in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) from 1997 to 2001, first as Chief of the White Collar Crimes Section from 1998 to 1999 and then as First Assistant U.S. Attorney until his departure. During his tenure at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Pittsburgh, Mr. Rodriguez focused primarily on health care fraud. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mr. Rodriguez was a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division at DOJ from 1994 to 1997 and a Senior Assistant District Attorney at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in New York from 1988 to 1994, where he prosecuted cases including some against members of the Colombo and Genovese crime families.

Rodriguez is married to a physician, Dr. Jill Schwartz. They have two children, Talia and Elias. Rodriguez speaks several foreign languages, including Spanish, French, Hebrew and Italian. The son of small business-owning Cuban immigrants who sought refuge from the Castro regime in the U.S., Rodriguez was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1962, where he lived until moving to Miami at the age of 4 with his parents. Rodriguez received a B.A. from Brown University and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. His grandparents moved from Poland and Turkey to Cuba in the late teens and early 20’s to escape anti-Semitism, giving Mr. Rodriguez a multi-generational personal experience with immigration that will serve him well as the new Director of USCIS.

Mr. Rodriguez has offered tantalizing insights into how, if approved by the Senate, he might tackle the daunting job of USCIS Director, especially in reply to Sen. Grassley’s queries. In written responses to Senator’s queries, he reaffirms his belief in the proper use of prosecutorial discretion and the need to protect internal agency whistleblowers from retaliation, agreeing to meet with union representatives of USICS employees and expressing support for recent USCIS reforms of the EB-5 program. He also stated that in limited situations it is incumbent upon the USICS Director to intervene in a pending case when the “outcome of adjudication is wrong, or when adjudication may present a legal, factual, or policy issue of broad application. Regarding the appointment, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said: “We are filling vacancies in senior-level positions in this department and injecting a new energy within its leadership.”

Two Years Later: The Impact of DACA

DACA

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program is an Obama Administration initiative implemented to extend rights and benefits to the growing number of undocumented youths and young adults living in the United States. The program allows youths and young adults meeting certain requirements to temporarily defer deportation and receive both eligibility for renewable two-year work permits and temporary Social Security numbers that allow them access to health care and higher education. The program does not provide a path to legalization for these youths, but rather it simply offers them a means to participate constructively in the mainstream American economy, breaking down the barriers to higher education and employment faced by undocumented youths. As of March 2014, 553,197 young people have been approved for the program, although hundreds of thousands of others have not yet chosen to apply. The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute estimates a total of 1.1 million people are eligible for DACA.

To be eligible for DACA, a young person must have arrived in the United States prior to age 16; have resided continuously in the United States without legal status since June 15, 2007; be less than age 31 as of June 15, 2012; and at least age 15 at the time of the application submission (unauthorized immigrants under 15 but in removal proceedings are also eligible to apply). Additionally, eligible applicants must currently be enrolled in school; have graduated high school or obtained a general development certificate (GED); or be an honorably discharged veteran. Finally, applicants are inadmissible who have been convicted of a felony, have multiple or serious misdemeanors, or who pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Prior to DACA, these young people had no alternative but to work illegally in low paying positions with little or no chance for advancement, creating a waste of talent and skill that could be used to improve both their lives and the United States economy. Most live in low-income households with family members, many of whom are undocumented themselves. As with adult immigration trends in recent years, most applicants have relocated from violence and gang-torn regions of Latin America, and they come to the United States in search of safety, and, hopefully, the chance to earn a steady wage.

Since the implementation of DACA on June 15, 2012, almost 700,000 youths have applied to the program, and approximately 72% of them have been approved.  Nearly three-fourths of these come from low-income households, and they have a median age of 22.7 years.  The vast majority of applicants (74.9%) originally hail from Mexico – there are over twenty times as many applicants from Mexico as there are from El Salvador, the second leading nation of origin. Rounding out the leading nations of origin are numerous Latin American nations and a sprinkling of applicants from other parts of the world.

Despite its successes, the program still faces considerable challenges from interest groups within the government, from misinformation about the program, and even from inconsistency in application of the program by officials. Older applicants, especially those living independently from parents, and those not enrolled in school, may have a harder time documenting that they have been living in the United States continuously since 2007. In addition, the more time that has elapsed since their entry, the longer time period they must document residence in the United States. Other potential applicants are discouraged by issues such as whether they qualify under the criteria, lack of funds for the $465 application fee, or lack of educational enrollment. Some potentially eligible individuals may not be aware of their undocumented status, especially younger people. Still others lack correct information about the program. Despite outreach by nonprofits, many lack access to support in filing applications. Further complicating the matter, US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) persistently encourages eligible youths to come forward, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to deport the friends and family of eligible youths – in some cases, it even continues to deport youths who turn out not to be eligible.

For those who do qualify, the outcome of involvement with DACA seems to be mostly positive. Almost 60% of DACA beneficiaries have obtained new jobs since approval, and have been able to increase their income.  Because the new earnings translate into a greater tax base, beneficiaries provide an important boost to the recovering economy.  Intriguingly, 21% of DACA beneficiaries have accepted internships, highlighting the valuable career training that DACA provides to youths.  57% of these youths have obtained drivers licenses, increasingly their mobility while decreasing the number of unlicensed drivers – thus creating safer roads for everyone. 49% have opened their first bank account, and 33% have obtained their first credit card. Also importantly for our crippled health care system, 21% have obtained health insurance at the state level (DACA beneficiaries remain ineligible for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at the national level). The greatest benefits of DACA seem to be for those who have already received a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college.  These respondents are far more likely than non-DACA peers to obtain jobs following their approval.

In whole, DACA has been a marked success, enriching not only beneficiaries, but also their families, friends, and communities. Community-based organizations, non-profits, legal clinics, religious organizations, and schools have diligently reached out to provide information and assistance to young persons wishing to file DACA applications.  The program provides beneficiaries with not only economic opportunities, but also social and civil opportunities previously beyond their reach.  Despite this, the program remains a partial solution because it offers no path to citizenship for even the most exemplary candidates.  With 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country, providing an efficient and equitable solution to immigration reform remains a crucial challenge.

Obama Requests More Immigration Judges

Article written by Todd Ruger, published by Legal Times.  

Immigration Judges Image

The U.S. Department of Justice would get $64 million and about 40 additional immigration judges under President Obama’s new plan to address the increased number of immigrants illegally crossing the Southwest border.

The White House plan asks Congress for $45.4 million to hire judge and support staff teams to reduce the processing time of immigration cases, as well as expand courtroom capacity with additional video conferencing and other equipment, White House officials announced Tuesday.

The request also includes $1.1 million for more immigration litigation attorneys, and $15 million for legal representation of children in immigration proceedings, the White House said. Another $2.5 million would expand legal orientation programs that provide assistance to adults and custodians of children in the immigration court system.

Overall, Obama wants to spend $3.7 billion on an “aggressive deterrence and enforcement strategy” to address the high rates of apprehensions and processing of children and individuals from Central America crossing the border in the Rio Grande valley.

“This surge of resources means that cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible, ensuring the protection of asylum seekers and refugees while enabling the prompt removal of individuals who do not qualify for asylum or other forms of relief from removal,” the White House said in a written statement.

Obama on Tuesday will send the supplemental appropriation request to Congress for fiscal year 2014, which ends Sept. 30. The fate of the request on Capitol Hill is unclear, particularly with budget constraints that have loomed over lawmakers for years.

White House officials, on a conference call with reporters, said they hope the request “will be treated as the urgent humanitarian issue that it is” and met with bipartisan support.

Obama has already requested Congress spend $17 million in fiscal year 2015 for 35 new immigration teams and 15 Board of Immigration Appeals attorneys in the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.

The immigration court’s caseload is increasing to unsustainable levels, the Justice Department said. Between fiscal years 2009 and 2013, the matters pending adjudication grew by 56 percent, from 229,000 cases to 358,000.

Combined, the 40 judicial teams in Tuesday’s emergency request and the 35 judge teams from the fiscal year 2015 budget request would provide sufficient resources to process an additional 55,000 to 75,000 cases annually, the White House said.

Still, that number falls far short of the number of judges that would have been added under the leading immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate in June 2013. That bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, calls for nearly doubling the number of immigration court judges, with 225 hires over the next three years.

However, the reform bill never got a vote in the House, and Obama and House Republicans have all but abandoned it during this election year.


Original article can be accessed athttp://www.nationallawjournal.com/legaltimes/id=1202662268496/Obama-Requests-More-Immigration-Judges#ixzz36yjJBF2F

Nationality Trends in New Naturalized Citizens in the US

Naturalization

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released its Annual Flow Report analyzing naturalization patterns for the preceding year. This report uses administrative records consisting of information from naturalization applications in the preceding year, drawing conclusions as to present and future trends of immigration.

In 2013, the United States naturalized a total of 779,929 persons, an increase from 757,434 in 2012 and 694,193 in 2011. Within the United States, the largest number of persons naturalizing lived in California (164,792), New York (107,330), and Florida (101,773).Although the number of applications for naturalization filed decreased from 2012 to 2013, the number of applications processed during this period increased, suggesting (perhaps erroneously) that the process has grown more efficient in recent years.

Naturalization rates have increased exponentially in the past century, from less than 120,000 during the 1950s and1960s, to 210,000 during the 1980s, 500,000 during the 1990s, and to 680,000 from 2000-2009. Since 2010, this number has increased to 710,000.

The relative increases have not, however, been geographically consistent. Prior to 1970, most newly naturalized U.S. citizens originated in Europe.  A number of dynamic changes have dramatically altered this pattern; increased legal emigration from Asian countries, the arrival of Indochinese refugees in the 1970s, and the historically higher naturalization rates of Asian immigrants have all caused Asia to be the leading region of origin for most new citizens since 1976. Recent data, however, suggests that this trend may be changing; the report indicates that new citizens originating in Asia (275,700) only very narrowly outnumbered new citizens from North America (271,807).

Person of Mexican birth easily formed the largest group of naturalized citizens in 2013, with 99,385 such persons naturalizing in 2013. India placed a distant second with 49,897, trailed by the Philippines (43,489), the Dominican Republic (39,590), and the People’s Republic of China (35,387). The number of naturalized citizens from Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America increased during this period, especially regarding immigrants from India (up 6,969), the Dominican Republic (up 6,239), Haiti (up 4,366), and the People’s Republic of China (up 3,519). The largest percentage increases occurred in Haiti (23% increase), Iran (21% increase), the Dominican Republic (19% increase), and India (16% increase). Former Asian and North American citizens accounted for 35% of persons naturalizing in 2013, and the 10 countries with the largest number of naturalizations accounted for almost 50% of all newly naturalized citizens.

To complete the naturalization process, an applicant must fulfill requirements promulgated in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), specifying that a foreign national seeking to naturalize must a) be 18 years of age, b) be a U.S. lawful permanent resident, c) have resided in the country for at least 5 years. Additionally, such applicants must speak, read, and write English, have knowledge of U.S. history and civics, and display good moral character. Limited exceptions to these requirement exist for some applicants, including spouses and minor children of U.S. residents and persons with qualifying U.S. military experience. Additionally, naturalization requires filing an N-400 Application for Naturalization and undergoing an interview with U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to determine eligibility. Finally, qualified residents who have fulfilled all requirements participate in an oath ceremony to officially proclaim their allegiance to their new nation of citizenship.

 

Evolving Trends in Refugee and Asylee Admissions to the US

Refugee and Asylum

Every year, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics issues a report analyzing trends in Refugee and Asylum Admissions to the U.S. The 2013 Annual Flow Report on Refugees and Asylees comprehensively compiles data from numerous governmental and other sources.

Background on Refugees and Asylees in the United States:  The United States provides refuge to persons facing persecution and abuse through two programs: a refugee program for those outside the U.S. and an asylum program for those already within its borders.  Unfortunately, the global demand for asylum status far outstrips the capacity the U.S., to provide it. Early each year, the President and Congress jointly establish an admissions ceiling for refugee and asylum applicants as well as regional allocations. During 2012, the government authorized a maximum of 76,000 individuals. The largest regional allocation, of 47%, was to the Near East/South Asia region, so as to accommodate individuals fleeing continued unrest in Iraq, Burma, and Bhutan.

Application Process for REFUGEES

Refugee status eligibility requires an individual to demonstrate that 1) (s)he is “of special humanitarian concern” to the U.S., 2) (s)he is unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, 3) (s)he is admissible under the INA, and 4) (s)he is not firmly resettled in any foreign country. Various categories identify different types of refugee applicants.

Priority One (P-1): applicants referred by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), a U.S. embassy, or certain qualifying non-governmental organizations.

Priority Two (P-2): members of groups of “special humanitarian concerns.”

Priority Three (P-3): applicants involved in family reunification cases.

Upon referral, a Resettlement Support Center conducts a pre-screening interview, helps the applicant complete the application, and determines eligibility for U.S. resettlement. Applicants who also pass security checks and a medical exam are assigned a sponsor and a resettlement agency to assist with housing, employment, and other services. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) arranges the refugee’s travel to the U.S. One year after admission, refugees must apply for Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) Status; if granted, refugees may apply for citizenship five years after admission to the U.S.

Application Process for Derivatives

A refugee or asylee’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 are also eligible to obtain derivative refugee/asylee status, as either accompanying derivative or following-to-join derivatives, if they were listed on the principal’s asylum application but not included in the principal’s grant of asylum. Accompanying derivatives enter either with the principle refugee or within four months, and following-to-join derivative may apply within two years after the principle was granted status.

The principle refugee must file a Form I-370, Refugee Asylee Relative petition for each qualifying family member.  Beneficiaries of I-730s need not demonstrate an independent claim. Once an I-730 has been approved for an individual abroad, no time constraints apply to the derivative’s travel to the U.S, provided that the principle still retains status, the relationship to the derivative remains unchanged, and, if the derivative is a child, the child remains unmarried. Beneficiaries already in the U.S. are granted derivative asylum status immediately upon approval of their I-730 petitions. Beneficiaries abroad at the time of application receive derivative asylum when admitted at a U.S. port of entry.

Modern Trends among REFUGEES

Actual Admissions: During 2012, a total of 58,179 persons were admitted to the United States as refugees – up 3.2% from 56,384 in 2011. Refugee arrivals declined during the 1990s, and then reached a low point in 2002 following heightened security and admission requirements after 9/11/2001. Refugee arrivals reached a post-2001 peak in 2009, and then decreased from 2009-2011.

Categories of Admission: Principal refugees equaled 27,355 (47%) of refugees, dependent children and spouses represented 37% and 16%, respectively, and follow-to-join beneficiaries equaled 1,213 (2.1%).

Countries of Origin: The leading countries of origin (71% of admissions) were Bhutan (26%), Burma (24%), and Iraq (21%). Other leading countries included Somalia (8.4%), Cuba (3.3%), Democratic Republic of Congo (3.2%), Iran (3%), and Eritrea (2.3%).

Age, Sex, and Marital Status : 32% of refugees admitted to the U.S. in 2012 were under 18 years of age; A slight majority of refugees were male (54%), and 38% were married.

State of Residence: The leading states of residence of refugees in 2012 were TX (10%), CA (8.9%), NY (6.1%), and PA (4.8). Texas arrivals increased 4.9% from 5,627 in 2011 to 5,905 in 2012. New refugees residing in Florida declined 23%, while new refugees residing in Michigan increased 39%.

 

Application Process for ASYLEES

Any alien either present in the U.S. or arriving at a port of entry  may apply for asylum regardless of immigration status. Asylum application involves both the filing and adjudication of the claim.

Filing of Claims: Applicants obtain asylum by filing Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal in one of three ways: affirmatively through a USCIS asylum officer, defensively in removal proceedings, or derivatively as the spouse or child of an asylee. Aliens must apply within one year from their last arrival date or establish an exception based on changed circumstances.

Adjudication of Claims: The Asylum Division within USCIS adjudicates claims through the affirmative asylum process. An asylum officer interviews the applicant to determine if (s)he meets the definition of a refugee, is credible, and is not barred from obtaining asylum. Individuals may be barred for committing certain crimes, posing a national security threat, engaging in the persecution of others, or firmly resettling in another country. Asylees may work in the U.S. and receive certain public benefits including employment assistance, a social security card, and social services. An immigration judge may grant asylum or deny the application for asylum and issue an order of removal. The applicant may appeal denial to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and further to a U.S. Court of Appeals.

Modern Trends among ASYLEES

Actual Admissions: During 2012, 29,484 individuals were granted asylum, up from 24,873 in 2011. Additionally, 13,049 individuals received derivative asylum status by virtue of close familial relationship to a person receiving asylum status.

Categories of Admissions: Affirmative asylum grants increased 31%, from 13,369 in 2011 to 17,506 in 2012. Defensive asylum grants also increased, from 11,504 in 2011 to 11,978 in 2012. Follow-to-join derivatives travelling into the U.S. increased from 9,550 in 2011 to 13,049 in 2012; follow-to-join derivatives already in the U.S. decreased from 1,176 in 2011 to 1,028 in 2012.

Countries of Origin:In 2012, five nationalities represented over half the persons granted affirmative or defensive asylum: China (34%), Egypt (9.8%), Ethiopia (3.8%), Venezuela (3.7%), and Nepal (3.3%). For affirmative asylees, 48% were Chinese (27%), Egyptian (15%), and Venezuelan (5.5%). For defensive asylees, over half were Chinese (45%), Ethiopian (3.8%), and Nepalese (3.4%). Over half of following-to-join asylees authorized for travel to the U.S. were from China (38%), Haiti (7.1%) and Nepal (6.9%).

Age, Sex, and Marital Status: 73% of affirmative asylum grantees were aged 18-44. The median age of persons granted affirmative asylum was 29 years. 51% were male, and 46% were married. Around 47% of follow-to-join beneficiaries approved overseas were under 18 years.The median age of follow-to-join beneficiaries was 18 years; reflecting that the follow-to-join population is composed of spouses and children aged under 21 years. 47% of follow-to-join beneficiaries were female.

State of Residence: Over 2/3 of affirmative asylum grantees settled in CA (39%), FL (15%), and NY (14%).

Evolving Trends in New US Legal Permanent Residents

Legal Permanent Resident Card

Background: A legal permanent resident (LPR) or “green card” recipient is a person granted lawful permanent residence in the United States, a status conferring certain rights and responsibilities. LPR flow shows an upward trend since 1945, increasing from 250,000 in the 1950s to over 1 million from 2000 to 2012. This Annual Flow Report presents information obtained from applications for LPR status on the number and characteristics of persons who became LPRs in the United States during 2012.

1,031,631 persons became LPRs of the United States in 2012; of which 53% already lived in the United States. Nearly 66% of new LPRs were granted status based on a family relationship with a U.S. citizen or LPR. Leading birth countries for new LPRs were Mexico (14%), China (7.9%), and India (6.4%).

Admission Priorities: U.S. prioritizes LPR applicants who have a close family relationship with a U.S. citizen or LPR, needed job skills, refugee or asylee status, or who are from countries with relatively low levels of immigration to the United States.

 Preference Immigration and Diversity Limits: An annual limit of 416,000-675,000 currently exists for family-sponsored, employment-based, and diversity preference immigrants. 2012 preference immigration was limited at 370,951.

Family-sponsored preferencesconsist of four categories, and the annual limit for family-sponsored preferences ranges from 226,000 to 480,000. Family-sponsored preference limit was 226,000 for 2012:

  1. unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their children;
  2. spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters of LPRs and their children;
  3. married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and their spouses and children; and

Employment-based preferencesrecognize five categories of workers (and their spouses and children):

  1. priority workers;
  2. professionals with advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability;
  3. skilled workers, professionals (without advanced degrees), and needed unskilled workers;
  4. special immigrants (e.g., religious workers, and U.S. government employees abroad); and
  5. employment creation immigrants or “investors.”

The employment-based preference limit equals 140,000 plus any unused family-sponsored preference visas from the previous year. The 2012 employment-based preference limit was 144,951, totaling 28.6% of the total for each of the first three employment preferences and 7.1% for each of the last two.

Diversity immigrantsare nationals of countries with low rates of legal immigration to the United States. Diversity preference is available to nationals of countries with fewer than 50,000 persons granted LPR status during the preceding five years in the employment-based, family-sponsored, and immediate relative classes of admission. The per-country limit of diversity visas was 3,500 in 2012, and the annual limit for diversity visas was 50,000 in 2012.

Per Country and Dependent Area Limits: A limit of 7% of the total family-sponsored and employment-based preferences is set for independent countries, and a limit of 2% is set for dependent areas. The 2012 independent foreign states per country limit was 25,967, and the dependencies limit was 7,419.

 Limit Exempt Admission: Some LPR admission categories are not subject to numeric limits.

Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens: The largest category is immediate relatives (spouses and children of U.S. citizens and parents of adult U.S. citizens aged 21 and over), and these “family-sponsored immigrants” typically equal over 40% of the annual LPR flow. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens

Refugee and Asylee Adjustments of Status: The number of persons admitted as refugees each year is established by the President in consultation with Congress. This ceiling was 76,000 for 2012. No numerical limit applies to persons granted asylum status in a year. Refugees must apply for adjustment to LPR status after one year of residence in the United States. Asylees are eligible to apply one year after they are granted asylum. Refugee and asylee adjustments of status are not subject to numerical limits.

Other Admission Categories: The remaining admission categories account for less than 2% of annual LPR flow over the past five years, and they tend to be limited to certain foreign nationals admitted under special legislation.

 Paths to LPR Status

There are two paths to LPR status depending on whether the applicant is living in the United States or another country at the time of application.

New Arrivals: Foreign nationals living abroad apply for an immigrant visa at a consular office of the Department of State. Once issued a visa, a foreign national may enter the United States and become an LPR when admitted at a port of entry.

Adjustments of Status: Persons living in the U.S. who may qualify for LPR status are include refugees, asylees, certain temporary workers, foreign students, family members of U.S. citizens or alien residents, and undocumented immigrants. These individuals file an application for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Eligibility for Naturalization: Most LPRs aged 18+ years may apply for citizenship. Children under 18 years of age may acquire citizenship when a parent naturalizes. Usual requirements include

  1. 5 years of lawful permanent residency in the United States or 3 years for those married to a U.S. citizen and
  2. Successful completion of English language, civics, and history tests.

Modern Trends of new LPRs

1,031,631 individuals were granted LPR status in 2012, a 2.9% decrease from 1,062,040 in 2011.

LPR adjustments of status also decreased, from 580,092 in 2011 to 547,559 in 2012.

New arrival LPRs increased slightly, from 481,948 in 2011 to 484,072 in 2012.

53% of LPRs in 2012 were adjustments of status and 47% were new arrivals.

Category of Admission:

Family-sponsored immigrants equaled 66% of the total LPR flow in 2012. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens accounted for 46% of new LPRs. Spouses of U.S. citizens represented 57% of immediate relative LPRs. Parents of U.S. citizens accounted for 26%, and children of U.S. citizens comprised 17%. Approximately 20% of new LPRs were admitted under a family-sponsored preference.

Employment Sponsored Immigrants accounted for 14% of the LPR flow in 2012.

Refugee and asylee immigrants represented 15% of the total LPR flow in 2012. Refugee adjustments accounted for 10%; asylee adjustments represented 4.4%.

Diversity immigrant classes of admission accounted for 3.9% of the total LPR flow in 2012.

Region and Country of Birth: The leading regions of birth of new LPRs in 2012 were Asia (42%) and North America (32%), together accounting for over 70% of the LPR flow each year from 2009-2012. In 2012, 14% of all persons granted LPR status were born in Mexico. China (7.9%), India (6.4%), Philippines (5.6%), and the Dominican Republic (4%) together accounted for 38% of all new LPRs in 2012.

State and Metropolitan Area of Residence: 58% of new LPRs in 2012 intended to reside in five states: CA (19%), NY (15%), FL (10%), TX (9.3%), and NJ (4.9%). 39% of new LPRs intended to live in five leading metropolitan areas: New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island (17%), Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana  (7.9%), Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach (6.4%), Washington-Arlington-Alexandria (3.7%), and Chicago-Naperville-Joliet (3.4%).

Age, Sex, and Marital Status: The median age for persons becoming LPRs was 31 years. Females accounted for 55% of persons granted LPR status. 58% of new LPRs were married.

Is the U.S. Becoming More Immigrant Friendly?

Carla's

In her May 19, 2014 article in Politico titled “States Take on Immigration,” Seung Min Kim explains that states are increasingly taking immigration into their own hands.  However, where states used to pass laws focusing on immigration law enforcement such as Arizona’s anti-immigration laws partially struck down in 2010, now they are focusing on expanding state benefits for immigrants.  Frustrated by federal inaction on immigration reform many states have begun to enact their own immigrant-friendly laws seeing as the last comprehensive immigration bill was in 1996, when the tough, enforcement-focused Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IRIRA) was passed.

Min Kim’s article highlights several recent examples of this trend.  While undocumented immigrants are unable to receive in-state tuition in Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana, and are not even allowed to attend public colleges in Alabama and South Carolina, at least 19 states – most recently Virginia and Florida – now offer in-state tuition rates to undocumented students.  Additionally at least 11 states, including the District of Columbia, permit undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses.  And cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore, as well as counties in Oregon, Colorado, and Washington, are refusing to hold arrested individuals in their jails when ICE places a detainer on them – a request that the individual be held in jail until ICE has had a chance to verify their immigration status or pick them up for an immigration violation. As well, in Massachusetts the Governor wants to expand the H-1 program by employing high-skilled foreign workers in public colleges and institutions that are exempt from the annual 85,000/person cap on the H-1B visa.

If the recent immigrant-friendly trend throughout the states is any indication, when Congress finally does get around to passing comprehensive immigration reform, it will likely be much more immigrant-friendly than IRIRA was in 1996. This is good news for immigrants who are already in the U.S. as they will probably receive expanded benefits and possibly amnesty over a controlled period of time. However, with reform comes compromise, and any immigration reform bill will probably also include another major crackdown on the entry and hiring of new undocumented immigrants.

 

Discriminatory Practices in the Central American Asylum Credible Fear Process

Central America

The American Immigration Council recently issued a special entitled, “Mexican and Central American Asylum and Credible Fear Claims: Background and Context.” This timely report discusses the current rhetoric surrounding the credible fear process and the state of the U.S. asylum system. Specifically, the report examines the legitimacy of credible fear claims based on situations of persecution and violence in Central America and Mexico because of the drug conflict, the gang conflict, and state responses. It further explores some of the challenges and areas of concern associated with the ways in which credible fear interviews are implemented and how potential asylees are treated in detention.

There has been tremendous discussion and momentum surrounding comprehensive immigration reform. Within this discussion, there has been a harsh critique that the current system too easily receives positive credible fear finding, and that people who enter the U.S. are ‘abusing’ the system by making affirmative and defensive claims of asylum. Since 2012, there has been a substantial increase in the overall number of credible fear interviews, with two-thirds of the claims coming from Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans also known as the Northern Triangle of Central America.

The report stresses that the asylum process, including the credible fear process, is full of obstacles, challenges, and hurdles, and is not as easy to ‘abuse’ and ‘manipulate’ as some might suggest. There are numerous areas of concern such as the fact that officers are not consistent in their decision despite case similarities; decisions are completely discretionary.  Additionally, issues of trauma are not addressed for a credible fear interview, and the interpretation of country conditions is not consistent.  For instance, the report includes several examples of families who fled Mexico due to the drug conflict and only some family members were granted credible fear findings while others, despite having had the same experiences, received expedited orders of removal.

The report also discusses the deteriorating conditions in Mexico and the Northern Triangle. Those involved in these conflicts are violent non-state actors such as drug cartels, street gangs, and organized crime syndicates. This type of conflict does not fall neatly within the current asylum framework and it has been challenging to offer legal protection for people who have been victimized and persecuted because of them.

Furthermore, the report includes a discussion of some logistical obstacles that are purposely designed to hinder individuals in the system. First, the bonds to get persons out of detention can be extremely high ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the individual circumstances. Second, individuals can be detained for extremely lengthy periods of time. Third, there is a general lack of awareness about the one year filing deadline for asylum claims. Fourth, there is resistance to find translators with knowledge of indigenous languages. Fourth, there are few resources available for pro-bono or low-cost legal services. And finally, there appears to be hostility on behalf of government agencies towards Mexican and Central American applicants. Each of these obstacles seriously affects the ability to successfully navigate the asylum system.

In order to fully adhere to the goals and the principles of the asylum system it is necessary to treat all applicants fairly, with the same opportunities, and processes. While the conflicts in Central America and Mexico are “non-traditional” and exhibit a new conceptual framework, they are incredibly violent and dangerous, and have resulted in thousands of people fleeing from their homelands. If the U.S. wants to continue to actively support human rights and the opportunity to fairly apply for asylum, everyone must be treated equally and fairly.

Enhancing the Lives of Unaccompanied Minors

Unaccompanied Minors

According to CNN, every day, hundreds of unoccupied minors cross the southwest border into the United States via rafts with instructional guides on how to reach the Border Patrol station to surrender in search of a better life. Usually, once at the station, they are given paperwork and admitted into the United States with a designated court date. Unless the children are from Mexico or Canada, the Department of Homeland Security does not deport these children back to their home country. The children are often released to family members in the United States and ordered to attend their specific court date.  Therefore, the children are able to have a better life in the United States with stable employment, economic stability, and safer living conditions. To address the rising flow of children at the southwest border, the Obama Administration announced the establishment of the “Interagency Unified Coordination Group.” The Group will oversee the coordination of state, local, and federal agencies to provide these children with adequate, short-term amenities and services, as well as long-term programs to monitor and enhance their lives.

This federal response will provide a safe haven for children when they come to the United States. Many of them want to reunite with family members or escape violence in their country. In fact, in many of the countries from which these minors escape, there is an extraordinary amount of generalized violence, such as kidnappings, extortions, and threats, which pose risks to one’s safety, while simultaneously creating a culture of fear and hopelessness.  The migration of these minors is thus virtually an escape from destabilization in their country and it benefits not only the minors but also the United States in that these children are able to remove themselves from a landscape of criminal activity and settle into a society that supports and values their hard work. Similarly, the United States benefits from the migration because these immigrants serve as the backbone of the country; they create and fulfill many necessary jobs, which, in turn, embeds them into the fabric of the country.

[Article - CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/09/us/undocumented-children-immigrants/]