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CLINIC Administrative Advocacy Priorities: 2014

Each year CLINIC presents its Administrative Advocacy Priorities for the coming year to the board of directors for review and approval. These priorities serve as a guide for the work of CLINIC’s Advocacy section and the Executive Office in its dealings with USCCB, the federal government, and nongovernmental partners. The full list of Administrative Advocacy Priorities follows.

 

For 2014, many of the priorities remain the same in substance as in previous years. These include items related to immigration reform, benefits, and federal immigration enforcement and detention practices. 

 

Items of particular importance to CLINIC for 2014 include:

  • Advocating for broad and fair adjudication of applications for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers;
  • Active participation in the Administration’s efforts to inform immigrants about and mitigate the harm caused by the unauthorized practice of immigration law;
  • Improvements to immigration detainees’ access to telephones, particularly to contact legal counsel;
  • Continued advocacy for legal protections for the most vulnerable among us, including the mentally incapacitated and children;
  • Support for CLINIC programs assisting individuals released from detention through the pilot project conducted by USCCB and ICE; and
  • Assisting state-level advocates to promote legislation that would assist immigrants and support their integration into our communities. 

 

 

The activities below are categorized according to the following criteria:

Category 1:     Very important issue to CLINIC and its network, and policymakers will likely be open to our efforts this year.  Proactive approach needed, involving research, documentation, active advocacy, and public education, including use of media as appropriate, to effect change.

Category 2:     Very important issue but administrative advocacy at this time will not likely result in positive change, due to the current political climate.  We will continue to document the issue and conduct advocacy as appropriate.

Category 3:     Important issue, to CLINIC and its network, and policymakers will likely be open to our efforts this year.  A proactive advocacy approach is needed.

Category 4:     Important issue but administrative advocacy at this time will not likely result in positive change, due to the current political climate.  We will continue to document the issue and advocate as appropriate.

Category 5:     Indicates an issue of great importance to CLINIC but which needs to be solved primarily through legislation. CLINIC does not work on federal legislation but will continue to stress this as a priority issue with MRS.

 

Immigration Reform

  • Advocate for immigration reform through collaboration with the Justice for Immigrants (JFI)Campaign. Share legal expertise and the experiences of CLINIC’s network at meetings and through webinars and conferences to educate grassroots advocates.  (1)

  • Work with MRS in providing feedback and analysis on pending legislation, and raising the concerns of member agencies on issues that need to be included in any immigration bill to advocate that any proposed reform include simple and broad eligibility requirements, provisions for maintaining the confidentiality of information shared with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and funding for nonprofit legal services and legal orientation programs. (5)

Immigration Benefits

  • Work with CLINIC affiliates to identify individual and systemic problems with application processing and adjudication at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) service centers and district offices.  Recommend solutions to resolve issues such as: petitioners that go for years with no communication from the agency; notices not received by petitioners or their representatives; overly burdensome or repetitive Requests for Evidence; inappropriately long delays in adjudication; and erroneous case decisions. (1)

  • Urge DHS to revisit USCIS’s interpretation of the section of its Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver regulation that prohibits eligibility if USCIS has "reason to believe" that the applicant may be subject to a ground of inadmissibility other than inadmissibility based on unlawful presence.  Seek re-training for adjudicators and re-opening of cases improperly denied based on the “reason to believe” standard.   (1)

  • Advocate for expansion of USCIS’s Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver to include individuals in the family preference categories, individuals with grounds of inadmissibility other than unlawful presence, and individuals whose Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) spouse or parent will suffer extreme hardship due to separation. (2)

  • Urge USCIS to adjudicate waiver requests consistently, quickly, and fairly, to reduce the time that families are separated.  Urge USCIS to meet or exceed a goal of adjudication within 3 months.  (1)

  • Monitor the application of the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) and litigation arising related to its application. Advocate that USCIS extend benefits under the CSPA (automatic conversion and retention of priority dates) to aged-out derivative beneficiaries to ensure that children and families are treated consistently throughout the country. (3)

  • Monitor the implementation of INA 204(l), related to survivor benefits, and work with USCIS to ensure transparency in adjudications.  Urge the agency to interpret the statute generously, adjudicating applications for adjustment of status filed after the death of the petitioner.  (3)

  • Advocate for TPS, Parole in Place, and other forms of relief for specific populations whenever there is a humanitarian need that prevents a country’s residents from returning there safely. (3)

  • Monitor the adjudication of applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to ensure that requests are handled in a timely manner, and consistently throughout service processing centers.  Continue to advise USCIS on eligibility criteria.  (1)

  • Monitor the quality and consistency of services provided to naturalization applicants both nationally and in district offices. Ensure that fee waiver applications are consistently adjudicated according to agency policy and that the process – from application to oath – is completed within 3 months across the country.  (1)

  • Collaborate with the Administration on its Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL) initiative so that immigrants and their families understand the dangers of unauthorized or unscrupulous practitioners, know where to find quality representation, and are able to file complaints if they have been taken advantage of. (1) 

  • Monitor the conduct and results of USCIS investigations related to the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law.  Ensure that cases appropriately handled by representatives found to be engaged in UPIL are not required to be re-investigated or their cases re-adjudicated.  (3)

  • Document problems with and advocate for continued improvements to be made to USCIS’s customer service systems.  Ensure that representatives can reach competent assistance every time they contact the National Customer Service Center and that information on the agency’s website is accurate and up-to-date.  (1)

  • Monitor USCIS’s implementation of electronic filing to ensure that it is simple and safe to use.  Throughout the transition, advocate that applications filed by mail are adjudicated as quickly and consistently as those filed electronically.  (3)

  • Support federal appropriation of funds for USCIS in amounts that support application processing without fee increases.  Ensure that any increases in USCIS filing fees are necessary and fair.  (5)

  • Support appropriation to the USCIS Office of Citizenship to continue to direct a national citizenship program.  (5)

Asylee and Refugee Issues

  • Monitor the effects of the material support bar on asylum seekers to ensure that as groups and activities are exempted, the agency is reviewing its “on hold” list and identifying cases that are eligible for adjudication.    (2)

  • Monitor USCIS’s efforts to correct the backlogs in Reasonable Fear and Credible Fear Interviews and advocate for additional remedies as necessary, including prioritizing the cases of detained asylum seekers. (3) 

  • Advocate for effective dissemination of information regarding benefits and social services available to asylees and refugees.  (4)

  • Advocate that funds be appropriated to support a national hotline for this purpose.  (5)

  • Advocate for USCIS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to increase outreach to inform individuals when they are eligible to file for permanent residence as soon as eligible. USCIS can send notices at the time of granting status or employment authorization.  ORR can require resettlement agencies to provide education and provide funds for legal assistance.  (4) 

Enforcement and Detention

  • Advocate against DHS’s encouraging local communities to engage in immigration enforcement, through measures such as pre-conviction detainers and the 287(g) program.  Document cases that illustrate problems with these enforcement mechanisms – especially violations of humanitarian guidelines and civil rights.  Present problematic cases and proposed solutions to DHS officials.  Potential solutions may include: returning to a system in which localities choose whether to opt in to cooperation with the federal government through Secure Communities, issuing detainers only upon conviction, and ending the 287(g) program.  (2)

  • Advocate that all DHS agencies implement Prosecutorial Discretion consistently nationwide and according to its guidelines.  Present problematic cases and proposed solutions to DHS.  (1)

  • Gather data from network on aggressive policing, difficulties with the courts, detention standards violations, and other potential human and civil rights violations.  Empower affiliates by sharing information on how they can file civil rights complaints.  (1)

  • Engage DHS’s oversight agencies, including the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Office of the Inspector General to encourage investigation and reporting.  (2) 

  • Encourage DHS to investigate and share data on whether changes in ICE’s detainer form and guidance have affected the number of individuals held over for ICE. Advocate that DHS clarify that detainers be treated as requests and not mandates with which local law enforcement must comply.  (2)

  • Provide technical support to MRS for its legislative activities opposing anti-immigrant enforcement legislation and state/federal partnerships forced on local law enforcement agencies.  Provide legislative analysis, talking points, and alternative legislative language. (5)

  • Advocate that ICE continue to amend/apply its detention standards to correspond with the goal of a civil, not penal, system.  ICE should finalize and codify its detention standards into regulations, comply fully with them, and apply the standards to all facilities.  (2)

  • Advocate that detention facilities improve detainees’ access to telephones, especially for the purpose of contacting legal representation, and that ICE monitor the issue to ensure compliance with the detention standards.  (1) 

  • Advocate that DHS take additional steps to identify and protect vulnerable populations, including indigent minors; individuals who are physically or mentally ill, impaired, or otherwise incompetent; and those who have suffered extreme trauma.  Absent the individual presenting a flight risk or risk to public safety, ICE should refrain from detaining these vulnerable groups. (2)

  • Advocate for alternative to detention (ATD) programs that are true alternatives to detention, and that do not effectively extend detention to people who would otherwise be released. Advocate that restrictive ATDs constitute custody for purposes of satisfying mandatory detention rules.  Advocate for the release of vulnerable individuals, especially minors and the mentally incompetent, as well as for government-funded legal services throughout the duration of proceedings. (4)

  • Support CLINIC’s affiliate programs as they serve released detainees under the USCCB/ICE Memorandum of Understanding, by engaging with ICE senior advisors as necessary and helping to foster relationships with agency staff in the field.  (1)

  • Continue to monitor DHS’s implementation of parole guidance.  Advocate that all facilities be required to make parole determinations based on DHS’s policy guidance.  (3)

  • Engage partner agencies in assessing issues related to immigration enforcement and detention that are ripe for litigation. (3)

  • Support efforts to secure additional appropriations for Legal Orientation Programs (LOP) expansion as well as federal funding (to CLINIC) for management of the BIA Pro Bono Project. (5)  

  • Support advocacy for a Congressional appropriation for non-profit organizations to develop ATD programs.  (5)

State and Local Measures

  • Provide legal analysis of immigration-related proposals on the state/local level to State Catholic Conference Directors and other local advocates. (1)

  • Strengthen advocates' capacity to respond to rapidly changing local legal environments by helping them to devise state-wide and regional advocacy, communication, networking, and coalition-building strategies.  (1)

  • Document and share successful advocacy strategies. (1)

  • Track litigation regarding state/local measures, and provide legal analysis of decisions to advocates. (1)

  • Support the efforts of state/local advocates regarding positive, pro-immigrant measures that focus on integration, such as drivers’ licenses, tuition equity, funding for civics and English classes, and other integration-related activities.  Support the implementation of state measures to protect immigrants from fraudulent legal service providers.  (1)

  • Track the negative impact of anti-immigrant measures that have been implemented.  Share this information with advocates working to combat similar laws.  (1)

  • Oppose state and local enforcement legislation designed to force unauthorized immigrants and their families to “self-deport” or to promote attrition through enforcement.  (2)

  • Oppose initiatives that mandate that state and local law enforcement officials enforce federal civil immigration laws and support anti-detainer measures. (2)

  • Oppose measures that would inhibit religious freedom by limiting the ways individuals and organizations can provide charity and services to those who are undocumented. (2)

Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)

  • Lead liaison meetings with EOIR on issues of importance to the network, including recognition and accreditation.  Document examples of decisions based on incorrect legal interpretations and bring them to the Board’s attention. (1)

  • Support advocacy for additional federal funding to increase the number of immigration court judges, courtrooms, and staff and reduce the unacceptable and still increasing backlogs in immigration courts. (5)

  • Provide input, both formally and informally, on the anticipated final regulations regarding BIA Recognition and Accreditation. Advocate that evidentiary requirements for agency recognition be limited to evidence of the organization’s nonprofit mission and accountability to the community it serves, rather than the amount of fees charged; that required documentation for recognition and accreditation not be a burden on individuals or agencies; that agency action or inaction that would lead to withdrawal of recognition be clearly delineated; and that self-policing and reporting of unscrupulous actors by trial attorneys, the private bar, judges and court clerks be encouraged. (1)

  • Encourage EOIR to develop an online database for organizations and representatives to use to update their information annually so that EOIR will have the most up-to-date information and defunct organizations will no longer be listed on the recognition roster.  (3)

  • Advocate that EOIR require training in substantive immigration law as well as ethics and professionalism for accreditation.  (1)

  • Ensure that immigration judges take special care in adjudicating cases of vulnerable individuals, especially minors and the mentally incompetent.  Monitor the implementation of EOIR’s Qualified Representative program for incompetent detainees.  Advocate that the program be expanded to provide representation to all incompetent individuals, regardless of their detention status.  (1)

Religious Workers

  • Advocate that site visits be conducted within one month of the filing of an application, and that USCIS notify petitioners upon completion of a site visit.  (2) 

  • Encourage USCIS to establish a Religious Workers-In-Residence program, similar to its Entrepreneurs-In-Residence program.  A multi-faith group of religious leaders would be of great assistance in advising the agency on the traditions and procedures of different faiths.  The group should be tasked with helping to revise training materials so that adjudicators have a better understanding of the training and work of religious workers and can make better-informed decisions related to applications.  (3)

  • Engage with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to obtain information about the process of entry to the U.S. related to the issuance and recording of electronic I-94 Arrival/Departure Records.  Advocate for improved customer information on these practices, such as Frequently Asked Questions and ways to resolve common problems associated with this newly implemented program.  (3)