Sita is a mother of three. She fled political persecution in Ivory Coast and recently became a U.S. citizen after nearly a decade of struggle. The asylum process took longer than she expected—a wait of more than 4 years. Despite hardship, Sita has never wavered in her commitment to bring stability and peace back into her life and that of her children.
Since 2001, the BIA Pro Bono Appeals Project, an initiative within CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations department, has matched immigrants with pro bono counsel to defend their cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals, or BIA. The majority of appeals reaching the BIA involve orders of removal and applications for relief from removal. As a legal assistant for the project, I have multiple responsibilities: sending out consent forms, answering phone calls from detention centers, redacting briefs, drafting case summaries for the weekly newsletter, and assisting clients after they have obtained relief. There is one of my responsibilities, however, that has offered first-hand accounts on the conditions and needs of people in detention.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has recently strengthened the guidance and standard it applies when adjudicating I-130 petitions involving spouses who are under 18 years of age. To determine whether marriages between parties under the age of 18 violate public policy, the agency looks to the law of the state where the parties are currently residing or intend to reside, in addition to the jurisdiction where the marriage took place. This means that immigration practitioners need to know what their state requires when underage parties seek to marry, whether those requirements were satisfied, and whether any age-specific requirements were satisfied if the marriage took place in another state or country.
Updates from CLINIC’s border initiative since last November have been consistent in two ways: 1) Luis Guerra—CLINIC’s strategic capacity officer and one of the organization’s many superheroes—was working hard to organize chaos; and 2) the situation in Tijuana, Mexico sounded like a warzone. When I arrived, I only found one to still be true.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is part of a pilot project launched by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’s Office of Migration and Refugee Services. The Catholic Accompaniment and Reflection Experience program connects Catholic members with their new neighbors to provide support as they integrate into the community.
Immigrant youth ages 18 to 21 who have been victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment are now protected by a newly signed law in Colorado. The legislative process that culminated with Gov. Jared S. Polis signing HB19-1042 into law on March 28 involved stakeholders from many sectors, including immigrant advocacy groups, civil rights and faith-based organizations, legislators, and the community. CLINIC helped connect some of the groups and provided essential legal advice on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, or SIJS.
Religious workers have faced various delays in the permanent residency process under the current administration. In particular, applicants are going through additional steps when filing Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status to Permanent Resident. The Form I-485 is the final step in the green card process for religious workers. After the I-360 petition is approved, Form I-485 is then filed to request that the applicant’s status be changed to permanent resident. Lately, the processing times for Form I-485 have been steadily increasing. In fact, the average processing time was 12.2 months by Dec. 31, 2018.
By the end of fiscal year 2019, self-scheduling of InfoPass appointments will be a thing of the past. In Oct. 30, 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the expansion of its Information Services Modernization Program to more field offices. The ISMP would require a person to first speak to the USCIS National Customer Center—now the USCIS Contact Center—by calling its 800 number before being able to schedule an in-person appointment, or InfoPass appointment, at a local field office.
Ever wonder how many religious workers obtain permanent residence in the United States every year? Me too! While the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service may not always operate as smoothly as we would like it to, it does provide annual reporting data that is useful to identify immigration trends. For instance, the annual number of all religious workers, and their spouses and children, obtaining permanent residence fell approximately 44 percent from 2008 to 2017. You may recall that 2008 was a significant year for the religious worker visa program. That year, USCIS implemented new regulations for these programs. If the intended effect was to curtail those numbers, it seems to have had that result.
Parents, family members and other potential sponsors of immigrant children held in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR—the agency tasked with the care and custody of unaccompanied immigrant children apprehended by immigration authorities—fear immigration enforcement actions if they volunteer to be a sponsor. CLINIC published a new fact sheet with information on the risks of ORR sponsorship and guidelines to important resources.