By Attorney Susan Kivuvani, Esq
Since President Trump signed his executive orders on immigration, there has been increased concern within immigrant communities with most of the attention focused on the President’s travel ban. While the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate President Donald Trump’s travel ban it is important to note that other parts of the executive order are still in place and will have a significant impact on our community. Most importantly the new enforcement priorities put in place by the Executive Order. ICE uses Enforcement Priorities to determine whether an individual is a priority for removal. Unlike the Obama administration enforcement priorities which had prioritized expulsion of undocumented immigrants who threatened public safety or national security, had ties to criminal gang activity, committed serious felony offenses or were habitual misdemeanor criminal offenders, President, Trump’s order goes far beyond that.
The President’s executive order “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” orders DHS to prioritize for removal deportable immigrants who:
(a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
(b) Have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved;
(c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
(d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
(e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
(f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or
(g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.
The new order gives immigration agents a broad new rein to enforce immigration law, and prioritizes individuals who have been “charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved”; and those who “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense”. A chargeable offense could include very minor offenses such as driving without insurance, driving without a license, and yes…. the habitual offense of driving under the influence. In addition, under the new priorities undocumented immigrants, as well as visa violators and lawful permanent residents could now be considered a priority. Green card holders….. time to dust off that naturalization paperwork and file.
There are already signs of the new enforcement priorities taking effect, most recently with the story of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who was deported on Thursday after her check in with ICE in Phoenix, Arizona. It was her eighth check in since her 2008 arrest and conviction for using a fake Social Security number, an offense that now made her an enforcement priority under the President’s order.
While it is important to avoid creating panic within the community it is also important for individuals to create safety plans. If you find you have to deal with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or other law enforcement officers at home, on the street, or anywhere else, remember that you have the rights. You have the right to remain silent. You may refuse to speak to immigration officers. Before you sign anything, talk to a lawyer. Always carry with you any valid immigration document you have. Memorize the phone number of a friend, family member, or attorney that you can call if you are arrested. Keep important documents such as birth certificates and immigration documents in a safe place where a friend or family member can access them if necessary. Make sure they have your alien registration number written down, if you have one. If you are detained by ICE your loved ones can use ICE’s online detainee locator to find an adult who is in immigration custody. Or they can call the local ICE office. Most importantly, keep a rainy day fund that can be used to post your bond if necessary.
Apart from changes in ICE enforcement, USCIS is making some chnages of its own. While this has been a practice in some USCIS local offices, attorneys are reporting that more and more USCIS Field Offices are requesting that adjustment of status applicants provide Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification during interviews to show prior employment. The aim is to determine whether the beneficiary made a false claim to citizenship or previously used a false social security number for employment purposes. On December 14, 2016, the USCIS Policy Manual was updated to provide guidance to adjudicators, that guidance specifically identifies false claims made on an I-9 form for the purpose of obtaining employment as potentially meeting the criteria for a false claim to citizenship. A false claim to citizenship has dire immigration consequences. It is imperative that you seek legal counsel before filing any petition with USCIS.
In addition to the above changes, we anticipate the President to unveil his plans for Employment-Based Immigration. A leaked draft of the President’s order proposes gutting many employment based non-immigrant visa programs, rescinding the recently adopted entrepreneur parole regulation, ramping up employer enforcement, and generating a stream of new government reports highlighting the number of persons in the US holding immigrant and nonimmigrant employment authorization.
In these times of uncertainty, arm yourself with information from credible sources, have a plan, remain hopeful and gear up for the new normal well…. at least for the next four years.
Susan Kivuvani, Esq.
Ahluwalia Law Offices P.C.
14180 Dallas Parkway, Parkway Office Center
Suite 720, Dallas, Texas 75254
(972) 361 -0999 (fax)
Her Facebook profile: Susan Kivuvani on Facebook