Lloyd Bennett and Associate Attorney Yolanda Mendoza attend USCIS Newark staff informational meeting

So many of you have expressed your inability to put into words exactly how you feel regarding the current political and immigration climate in our country since President Trump signed the EOs. As a practitioner directly involved in defending and advocating for all of those effected, I too have struggled to put into words how I feel, I too have struggled to explain to my clients if and how they are effected, and apparently, the leadership at USCIS also struggles. On February 24, 2017, my colleagues and I met with USCIS leadership in Newark, NJ to discuss the implementation memos issued by DHS Secretary John Kelly and to discuss the impact the EOs will have on the immigrant communities generally.

I quote, verbatim, USCIS District Director John Thompson, "Quite incredible. A big change. I've been doing immigration since 1975 and I have never seen anything like this." Director Thompson went on to say that he was "stunned" at the expansion of the expedited removal program as it gives immigration officers nearly blanket authority to remove aliens from the United States and essentially no recourse to those effected. Also shocking was the reinstatement of secure communities, particularly because in the past it encouraged racial profiling by local law enforcement and was essentially the reason it was discontinued by the Obama administration. Additionally, Director Thompson noted that he read the memos three times and every single time he found something more shocking than the last. And infuriating is the fact that USCIS leadership has received virtually no guidance on how to actually implement these policies.

This was astounding to me, and quite honestly, a breath of fresh air. First, his statements reassured and solidified the fact that sections of the memos are exceptionally vague and over broad. Second, that the policies violate due process and other humanitarian protections guaranteed under the law, that the Department also feels uneasy about implementing policies that make no exceptions for certain categories of aliens, and finally, that implementing these policies just feels wrong. The memos are simply just hard to read. Another practitioner noted that in Bergen County, attendance at the grade school level had declined by 50%...50%!!!!! Children are scared of going to schools, and significantly, children are scared of going to school and coming home to an empty home because their parents were picked up by ICE.

The battle before us will be a long one, but it will be fought. To those that feel voiceless, we are listening. The courts have answered quickly and swiftly and we will keep doing our part to make sure you are heard. It is my privilege to advocate for you during these historic and trying times.

Yolanda Mendoza-Flores, Esq.