Immigration Law Update for the Week of July 13, 2020

The Trump administration has been active regarding immigration this week, prompting activists, advocates, and immigration lawyers to engage on multiple fronts. In light of multiple new developments, our New Jersey immigration lawyers believed it would be useful to round them up into a single blog.

Get informed about the latest developments below!

White House Leaves Green Card Holders Without Documents

In the Washington Post, columnist Catherine Rampell reported that the Trump administration had slowed down printing of vital immigration documents due to an expired contract. Her column, titled “How the Trump Administration Is Turning Legal Immigrants Into Undocumented Ones”, reveals that legal residents have been left without green cards, making them (quite literally) “undocumented.” 

“Some 50,000 green cards and 75,000 other employment authorization documents promised to immigrants haven’t been printed,” Rampell writes. Lack of printing is due to the fact that only one of two green card printing facilities are running at the moment, and the other is operating at a much lower capacity.

We reported a few weeks ago that the USCIS is furloughing thousands of workers if they don’t receive a $1.2 billion loan from Congress. The agency has clarified that green card printing will be among the operations affected by the furlough. Meanwhile, thousands of immigrants who have waited years, overcome countless hurdles, and passed every test are unable to get the documents they’re legally required to carry on them at all times. 

Without it, residents can be fined or jailed.

Immigration attorneys have been speaking with contacts at the USCIS for answers, but none of them have been good. There have been few updates, except for cryptic and vague messages with no hard timelines. Normally, in situations like these, immigrants without their green card could get a passport stamp from the USCIS, but with COVID limiting available services, applicants are unsure of what to do. The law requires them to furnish evidence of “critical need” without clear direction of what that entails.

Without changing the law, the Trump administration has potentially put tens of thousands of legal residents at risk of criminal charges. 

White House Walks Back the “Foreign Students Rule”

In a quick reversal, the Trump administration has rescinded a policy unveiled last week that would have required foreign students taking classes exclusively online to leave the United States. A coalition of more than 200 colleges and over a dozen state governments have sued the Trump administration over the rule, which would have severely uprooted the lives of countless foreign students. However, the White House has reversed position on the rule.

The policy was itself a reversal on an ICE policy from March that exempted student visa holders from a rule that normally required them to attend in-person classes. The subsequent lawsuit accused ICE of attempting to force universities to being in-person classes in spite of the COVID-19 risk.

As of today, foreign students are still protected by the exemption to the “in-person attendance” requirement.

Visa Services to Restart Worldwide

Since the beginning of the global pandemic, embassies and consulates worldwide have suspended visa services. It’s one of the chief ways that the Trump administration has halted legal immigration in recent months. However, this week the State Department has committed to resuming visa services, although they didn’t specify when that would begin. 

"The resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by-post basis, in coordination with the Department's 'Diplomacy Strong' framework for safely returning our workforce to Department facilities," a spokesperson from the State Department said. So far, no specific embassy has announced that it would resume visa processing. Many of these embassies are short on staff, due to diplomats and their families returning to the U.S. in March. 

While visa services are resuming, the Trump administration has limited which visas are currently available by executive order. Work visas have largely been affected by the visa suspension under the executive order. 

Our New Jersey immigration law firm are on top of every new obstacle in the immigration landscape. If you have questions about your case, speak with us in a confidential consultation at (800) 909-8129. Se Habla Español.