As published in the Immigration Daily on August 24, 2021
New Texas preliminary injunction against prosecutorial discretion focused on detention only
Judge Drew B. Tipton issued a preliminary injunction against the government last Thursday, August 19, 2021, in Texas v. United States, 6:21-CV-16 (SD Texas 8/19/21), and immediately thereafter ICE’s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) suspended reliance on its May 27, 2021, memorandum, “Interim Guidance to OPLA Attorneys Regarding Civil Immigration Enforcement and Removal Policies and Priorities”, which touched on a number of situations in which OPLA attorneys could exercise prosecutorial discretion, including in canceling Notices to Appear (NTAs), continuing and even dismissing proceedings. It is hoped that OPLA will quickly set forth a revised memorandum while the Administration contemplates appealing the court’s order as Judge Tipton’s preliminary injunction only focused on detention, and not other major parts of the May 27, 2021, memorandum. In his order, Judge Tipton did not even mention the May 27, 2021, memorandum, but only certain sections of prior DHS memoranda in January and February 2021. The issue dealt entirely with the suing states’ position that the government should comply with 8 USC §§1226( c) and 1231(a)(2) which provide that the government “shall” detain certain aliens when they are released from custody or during their removal period, respectively.
*Note: On August 23, 2021, the court granted a stay of its preliminary injunction to the government’s emergency motion for administrative stay and stay pending appeal. The stay is in effect until noon on August 30, 2021, to allow the government time to appeal.
Visa chart largely humdrum for September except for Indians – will there be an October surprise?
The September visa chart came out last week and it is mostly humdrum with the salient points being – FB (family-based) final action dates: F-1 worldwide moved from 11/22/14 to 12/1/14 and F-4 three weeks from 3/1/07 to 3/22/07 and everything else basically remained the same; FB dates of filing had no movement at all except for Mexico’s F-2B advancing almost 2 months to 10/1/00; EB (employment-based) final action dates: worldwide mainly stayed current with important exceptions that China EB-2 moved three months to 7/1/18, and India three months to 9/1/11, EB-3 China remained the same at 1/8/19 while India moved six months to 1/1/14; EB-3W for China moved one month to 2/1/10 and India six months to 1/1/14, and China EB-5 direct investments gained a week to 11/22/15. EB dates of filing saw China EB-2 advance two months to 9/1/18 with no advance for India, and EB-3 China remained the same at 7/1/19 while India’s EB-3/EB-3W categories moved one month to 3/1/14. Regional center EB-5 cases are still closed due to the lack of extending legislation. The China and Indian movements do not really do a lot for filing cases as everyone who had a labor certification and a priority date before 1/1/15 (India) was eligible to adjust under EB-3 or EB-2 downgraded to EB-3 in October 2020. For China’s EB-2 with the final action date of 7/1/18, China natives could have filed long ago under a downgrade to EB-3. However, the six-month Indian EB-3 movement will allow many of the Indian October filings to be approved if USCIS can work on and prioritize their cases. A word of advice is that those who filed for adjustment of status under the EB categories in the first quarter of this fiscal year (October-December) and whose priority dates will be current in September under the final action dates chart should take their medical examinations (I-693s) now if they did not submit them with the filing or have not already taken such since that time. Amazingly, with a 600,000 Indian backlog in the employment based categories last year, the Department of State has managed to move the Indian EB-3 final action date from its September 2020 availability date of 10/1/09 to a September 2021 date of 1/1/14, a jump of four years and two months within one year. USCIS did not help in other types of cases as its adjustment charts for September showed it sticking to the familiar pattern – filing dates on FB, final action dates on F-2A, and final action dates on EB. One wonders whether the Department of State and USCIS are planning another October surprise akin to the one in this year in which the EB-3 dates of filing moved almost 5 years for India born and 11 months for China born, and USCIS allowed the dates of filing chart for EB cases to be used. It is estimated that there will be at least 290,000 EB numbers available in the next fiscal year, 150,000 over the normal allotment.
H-1B restrictions continuing under Biden administration
Note that not all is peaches and cream with the Biden administration in the realm of legal immigration. He did not put up Marty Walsh, the unionist, as Department of Labor Secretary for nothing. The Administration filed a cross motion for summary judgment in defense of the regulation that would base the H-1B selection process on the highest wages to be paid in Chamber of Commerce v. US Department of Homeland Security, Case No. 4:20-CV-7331, and the Chamber just filed a reply in support of its motion for summary judgment and opposition to the government’s cross motion for summary judgment that will be heard before Judge Jeffrey S. White of the Northern District of California on 9/17/21. The regulation was finalized on January 8, 2021, but postponed by the Biden White House in January. USCIS then published a final rule delaying the effective date to December 31, 2021. The Chamber’s reply solidly asserts three grounds for which the regulation should be declared invalid – that it goes against the statutory language that H-1B visas be issued “in the order in which petitions are filed for such visas”; that it was issued under the purported authority of Chad Wolf, who eight district courts unanimously concluded never lawfully occupied the office of Acting Secretary of Homeland Security; and it arbitrarily disregarded relevant comments and vested reliance interests in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Hold onto your hats!
Multiple reports on dearth of F-1 visa interest worldwide
APM Reports stated on August 3, 2021, that the pandemic, visa restrictions, rising tuition and a perception of poor safety in America have driven new international student enrollment down by 72%. The difficulty now and in the future is that an important part of the innovation in our economy is F-1 students going from OPT to H-1B and then employment-based green cards. SEVIS said in its “2020 SEVIS by the Numbers Report” that in 2019 and 2020, China sent 91,936 fewer students in 2020 as compared to 2019, a -19.38% drop, so that the total of Chinese students in 2020 was 382,561 while India sent 41,761 less, a 16.76% decrease, and its population in 2020 was 207,460 students. A third report in the Washington Post said that from 2020 to now, schooling applications to the US from China have continued to drop and only about 19,000 Chinese students filled in the common application required to attend most undergraduate schools this winter, a 16% decrease from the last cycle. Also that it is no longer very in vogue for Chinese families to send their children to American institutions.
Congressional research service report shows in absentia rate for hearings only 17%
The question is at what rate noncitizens appear for their removal hearings, and a Congressional research service report on August 5, 2021, said that in using the all matters method, the total in absentia rate over an 11-year period was 17% taking into account those appearing at initial case completions, pending cases, and administratively closed cases. That was opposed to the Initial Case Completions (ICC) method in use by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) that only counts the first dispositive decision rendered by an immigration judge which had a 34% in absentia rate. This is of course a hot button topic with immigration detractors claiming that the majority of illegal immigrants who are released do not show up for their hearings. However, the report showed that EOIR’s methodology only divided the number of annual in absentia orders by the number of annual immigration court decisions involving grants, denials, terminations, and voluntary departures, while not considering persons who showed up but whose cases were not completed, whose cases were administratively closed or moved to an inactive pending docket, and those ordered removed in absentia whose cases were subsequently reopened by the courts.