President Trump’s Planned Use of Emergency Powers to Fund Border Wall

February 19, 2019 § Leave a comment

On Friday, February 15 President Trump announced that he will declare a national emergency to build a wall on the border with Mexico, using money from other federal accounts, after Congress declined to authorize sufficient funds to satisfy him in legislation that averts another government shutdown.  Since then on Monday February 18, a coalition of 16 states, including California and New York, have challenged President Trump in court over his plan to use emergency powers to spend billions of dollars on his border wall.

President Trump has changed his rhetoric on the wall after the government shutdown has ended. At first, he admitted that he used talk of the wall as a tactic to keep people from leaving his rallies. “If it gets a little boring, if I see people starting to sort of, maybe thinking about leaving, I can sort of tell the audience, I just say, ‘We will build the wall!’ and they go nuts”, Trump told New York Times editors. During his candidacy, Trump often discussed how Mexico would be responsible for paying for the wall at the border. However, after realizing this idea was getting him nowhere with Congress, he decided to start the government shut down and demand $5.7 billion in funding.

During the government shutdown, Trump began to ease his wording. His speeches quickly went from “wall”, to “barrier” or “whatever you want to call it” in hopes of persuading Congress. On January 25th, President Trump temporarily reopened the government until February 15th to work out a deal with Congress that involved his funding.

If Trump were to get his funding, he will have to deal with expensive repercussions similar to the 2006 Secure Fence Act. The government utilized its eminent domain power along the border, taking 128 miles worth of land from Texas citizens. 13 years later, court cases are still being resolved and the government has paid massive amounts of money to the previous land owners, including one man who received $5 million for 6 acres.

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The Federal Government Shutdown

January 21, 2019 § Leave a comment

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history has affected the jobs of over 800,000 federal government employees. Many agencies have run out of money and have furloughed over half of their employees. The Environmental Protection Agency has completely run out of funds and has only kept enough employees (about 5%) to work on the prevention of environmental threats. Other agencies, like The National Park Service, are losing money every day – $400,000 every day. National Parks, The Smithsonian, The National Gallery of Art and The National Zoo have closed for the shutdown. On January 11th, workers missed their first paycheck and if the shutdown continues, they will miss a second paycheck on January 25th.

About half of the federal workers affected by the shutdown, including Secret Service agents, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, pilots, corrections officers and Border Patrol agents are still required to work without receiving pay. By law, federal government workers are prohibited from striking. In 1981, Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers who refused to work. As a result of the law, TSA agents have called in sick at double the regular rate, tremendously slowing down security lines in airports.

Scared of President Trump’s threats that the government shutdown could last for “months or even years”, unions representing federal workers have started filing lawsuits against the Trump administration in hopes to end the shutdown soon. Unions have held rallies advocating for the pay of federal workers. Many government employees live paycheck to paycheck, some only earning $500 biweekly.

Critics have expressed their concerns about President Trump’s attitude toward the shutdown. Bill Samuel, Director of Government Affairs for the union A.F.L.-C.I.O, said that “[Trump] seems to see them as well-paid professionals working in downtown Washington, D.C.”, referring to the idea that all employees could live without a paycheck for an extended period of time.

Historically, U.S. presidents acknowledge and address the burden of a government shutdown on federal employees. However, Donald Trump has not taken this approach. He has yet to make a public comment addressing the employees affected.

2018 Midterm Election & Immigration Forecast

November 26, 2018 § Leave a comment

The results from this year’s midterm election show that Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives, but experts still believe that gridlock on immigration issues will occur. During House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s acceptance speech, she announced her priority in the House was to check the current administration, especially on Trump’s immigration policies. While Democratic House committee leaders will be interested in investigations that look into previous policy decisions by the administration (such as the “Zero-Tolerance Policy”), the Senate remains a Republican majority causing gridlock between the two chambers.

Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from New York, will most likely become the chair of the House Judiciary committee where these investigations are likely to take place. Nadler is well known for his work in immigration policy in favor of immigrant children and families. Nadler’s counterpart, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, was a part of the bipartisan group of senators that passed a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013. He is on the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, Graham’s views on immigration policy have changed under the influence of the current administration. Experts believe he will be weary of immigration policies that are too lenient.

Two battles that the Democratic House will have to face soon are the fight for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and TPS (Temporary Protected Status). Currently, the only factor keeping the two programs alive are orders from the federal courts. Trump has been trying to eradicate the programs since the beginning of his administration.

Fired Jeff Sessions

Last Wednesday, President Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Session’s Chief of Staff, Matthew Whitaker. Whitaker has been known for expressing his views in favor of Trump in the Russia investigation. With this in mind, Democrats requested that he recuse himself from being head of the investigation similar to how Jeff Sessions did.

DOJ asks SC to Intervene

The Department of Justice has recently requested that the Supreme Court take a second look at the three rulings that block the termination of DACA in hopes that the Trump administration can move forward with the removal of the program.

On November 8, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued a decision affirming the lawfulness of the preliminary injunction that stops the Trump Administration from halting the DACA program. In its decision, the court reasoned that the plaintiffs in the case were likely to prevail on their claim that the Trump administration’s termination of DACA was “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore unlawful.  For more details, visit the DACA Litigation Timeline.

International Students Founding Start-Ups

Forbes has found that nearly 25% of billion-dollar startups in the U.S. were founded by international students. Also, these start-ups have proven to benefit the economy by creating at least 1,400 jobs per start-up and have a collective value of $96 billion, which is “equal to market capitalization of the companies listed on the stock markets of Peru and Portugal”.

Tent Cities

President Trump has announced that he has plans to sign an executive order that would jail anyone caught crossing the border and bar them from returning to the U.S. Trump has also told military at the Southern border that if immigrants begin throwing rocks, the rocks should be treated as rifles. When the issue of space was brought to the President’s attention, he said that he would jail immigrants in tents instead. The president has referred to the influx of immigration at the border as an “invasion” and even mentioned deploying 15,000 troops at the border to address the situation.

New NTA Policy

October 29, 2018 § Leave a comment

In June of 2018, USCIS released a new policy on their issuance power of Notice to Appear documents. Its memo titled “Updated Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Deportable Aliens” effectively increases the number of NTAs that USCIS is required to issue. A Notice to Appear document is what an individual receives to inform them that removal proceedings will begin.

Following 9/11, in 2002 under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 the federal government divided legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service into three current agencies, all falling under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS): U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  While CBP and ICE were tasked with enforcement responsibilities, USCIS has been tasked with the primary function as an immigration services entity that is separate from the enforcement components.  During the fiscal years 2013 to 2017, USCIS has only issued NTA’s in 12% of the cases, while CBP and ICE accounted for issuing 88% of the NTAs.

Previously, USCIS officers had the ability to issue (or not to issue) NTAs based off of prosecutorial discretion (when an agent can determine whether removal proceedings are necessary based off of the situation). Under the new NTA policy, officers will have much less discretion and are required to issue NTAs more frequently.  Additionally, individuals who were asked to leave were typically given the opportunity to leave by themselves. With the new policy, it will force the individuals to stay in the U.S. until removal proceedings are complete. Finally, NTAs will now be issued if a denied applicant was not lawfully present at the time of the application, if abuse of public benefits or fraud are suspected, if the applicant has been charged with a crime (a conviction is not required) or if a naturalization case is denied for lack of good character.

Experts are concerned about this policy change because of the costly and time-consuming effects. Another concern is that due to the increase in NTAs issued, the immigration court system will continue to be severely backlogged and will get little accomplished. The Department of Justice has addressed this concern by stating that they plan to release more policy changes in the future, hire more immigration judges and increase the members of the Board of Immigration Appeals. However, in May, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that judges and members of the board can no longer administratively close cases to decrease the backlog, exponentially increasing the judges’ workload.  Now with the new NTA policy, the immigration court backlog will continue to grow.

In Fiscal Year 2016, Department of Homeland Security released data showing that 98.5% of denied applicants returned to their home country, leaving less than 2% of denied applicants unlawfully present in the United States. This data shows that denied applicants have a tendency to leave on their own in a timely manner without needing removal proceedings and unnecessary court appearances. Also, denied applicants will have the ability to appeal or refile their applications at the same time as their removal proceedings. If this is the case, it would be unnecessary to take time for removal proceedings if the applicant has a second chance for approval. There are also options for denied applicants to seek outside relief (such as spousal support) and it is likely that these applicants would pursue these options.

A denied applicant begins to accrue time for unlawful presence once their application is officially denied. However, if their application is denied and they receive a Notice to Appear, they are not allowed to leave the U.S. until their proceedings are complete. If the denied applicant had the opportunity to leave on their own, there would be no penalty. If the individual has accrued unlawful presence by being forced to stay in the U.S. until their proceedings are complete, they could be penalized by a three-, five-, or ten-year entry ban.

The new NTA policy is expected to affect many groups of people including families, students, employment-based nonimmigrants and visitors. Employees and students who apply for adjustment of status, change of employer and extensions are being increasingly denied. If an application is approved, there is no problem. If an applicant’s status expires in the process of review and the application ends up being denied, the applicant will receive an NTA and must appear in court. Visitors who fall ill during their time in the U.S. and must stay to seek medical care will also receive NTAs.

House Rejects Two Immigration Bills

June 29, 2018 § Leave a comment

A bill proposed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), titled the “Securing America’s Future Act of 2018” failed through the House of Representatives on June 21, 2018. This Act detailed getting rid of the ability for U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents to sponsor their relatives. The elimination of this option for foreign nationals would create a temporary 5-year nonimmigrant visa for parents of U.S. citizens who meet the requirement of being able to financially support their parents (including providing health insurance). The “Securing America’s Future Act of 2018” would eliminate the Diversity Visa Program and prohibits the filing or approval of pending applications in categories that have been terminated. More about the Act can be found at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4760/text.
The House voted on another immigration bill on June 22, 2018. The “Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018”, supported by Speaker Paul Ryan, would allow a path for DACA recipients to obtain green cards, increase border security funding, eliminate the Diversity Visa Program and reform other immigration laws. The “Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018” failed by 121 “yes” votes and 301 “no” votes. A summary has not yet been posted on Congress’ website, but you can track the action of the bill at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/6136.

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