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The Role Of The Immigration Lawyer In The Age Of Trump

Our role as immigration lawyers has never become more important since the morning of November 9, 2016. Notwithstanding his conciliatory speech after his upset win, President elect Donald Trump will have to deliver on some of his campaign promises that got him votes such as building a wall, extreme vetting and cancelling Obama’s executive actions such as the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

We are already getting a glimpse of the people who are being selected to be part of the immigration transition team. Kris Kobach has joined the team. He is avowedly anti-immigrant and was the architect of state enforcement laws, including Arizona’s notorious SB 1070, which includes the notorious “show me your papers” provision. SB 1070 authorizes local law enforcement to ask people for proof of their immigration status when there is “reasonable suspicion” that they might not be in the country legally. Kobach also coined the idea of “self-deportation” through attrition, which assumes that undocumented immigrants will leave on their own if the laws are applied harshly against them.

Another person who has joined the transition team is Danielle Cutrona who is Senator Jeff Sessions’ counsel on the Judiciary Committee. Senator Sessions is opposed to both legal and illegal immigration. He believes that even legal immigrants are bad for the United States.  When you have these sorts of people inducted into the immigration transition team, one can only imagine that they will want to implement as much as Trump’s vision on immigration, which he articulated in a fiery anti-immigration speech in Phoenix, Arizona:

  1. Begin working on an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border, on day one. Mexico will pay for the wall.
  2. End catch-and-release. Under a Trump administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country.
  3. Move criminal aliens out day one, in joint operations with local, state, and federal law enforcement. We will terminate the Obama administration’s deadly, non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets.
  4. End sanctuary cities.
  5. Immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties. All immigration laws will be enforced – we will triple the number of ICE agents. Anyone who enters the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country.
  6. Suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur, until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put into place.
  7. Ensure that other countries take their people back when we order them deported.
  8. Ensure that a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system is fully implemented at all land, air, and sea ports.
  9. Turn off the jobs and benefits magnet. Many immigrants come to the U.S. illegally in search of jobs, even though federal law prohibits the employment of illegal immigrants.
  10. Reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, keeping immigration levels within historic norms.

It may not be possible for Trump to implement his entire vision, as he would also need the cooperation of both houses of Congress. For example, Congress would have to agree to provide funding for Trump’s wall. However, when Kobach was asked about the wall, Kobach answered that there is “no question” that it would be built. “The only question is how quickly will get done and who helps pay for it.” Still, one is hearing that there is hedging on the election promises and the wall may no longer get immediate priority. While it would be nice to hope that all that Trump said was election blather, he has also been advised by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) whose goal and mission is to severely curtail immigration. If you take a look at their talking points to the next President on how to severely restrict immigration through administration actions, you will know what I mean. It is a scary 79-point list that if implemented will totally gut the system the way we know it.   Therefore, it would be a mistake to wait and see rather than taking action right away.

The low hanging fruit  is to cancel DACA (although I would prefer if they rather built the wall but left DACA untouched). There are hundreds of thousands of young people who have received benefits under DACA and have done extremely well in their careers. It would be a tragedy if DACA was rescinded, which is easy to do, since the policy was based on a memo of the Obama administration. Still, it will look bad on the Trump administration and the Republican party if this happens since jeopardizing the lives and careers of DACA recipients will generate much sympathy. Also, DACA recipients are active and know how to mobilize to protect themselves. Indeed, it is because of their effective activism that they were able to convince the Obama administration to implement DACA in the first place. Needless to say, DACA recipients should consider alternatives as soon as possible. If they have a legal basis for permanent residence, they should explore it, such as through marriage to a US citizen spouse or through some some other green card sponsorship basis. Even if they cannot adjust status in the US if they previously entered without inspection, they can leave on advance parole and return without triggering the 3 or 10 year bar, which would provide a basis for eligibility to adjust status as an immediate relative of a US citizen.  Alternatively, they can take advantage of the provisional waiver rule (and since it is a regulation in the federal register, it cannot be cancelled as easily as DACA), which allows one to waive based on extreme hardship to a qualifying relative the 3 or 10 year bars in advance of the departure from the US in order to process the immigrant visa at the US consulate.  And even if DACA is cancelled, the employment authorization document (EAD) is not unless the government specifically revokes it pursuant to 8 CFR 274a.14(b), and only after the EAD recipient has been given an opportunity to respond through a Notice of Intent to Revoke. These suggestions are by no means exhaustive and may not be accomplished by January 20, 2017 when Trump takes office, so DACA recipients must consult with advocacy organizations and attorneys to fully explore all their options.

Vulnerable immigrants need advocates more than ever before to defend and protect them. We have a new and renewed mission, and this should propel us forward and give us a new purpose. Trump’s immigration advisors will likely appoint hostile judges, officers and leaders in charge of immigration policy. He will be harsh in the enforcement of the immigration laws, and is likely to restrict business immigration in favor of an America first policy. There is a possibility that the Obama administration’s prosecutorial discretion policies may also get cancelled and people will be more susceptible to deportation. The proposed extreme vetting can become a nightmare, and for some, it could be a proxy for not being allowed to come into the United States at all. Immigration lawyers need to be strategic regarding advising clients to apply for citizenship and travel out of the US.  We will use our legal acumen and every skill to protect our clients and our client’s businesses. We will be the shield for them against all the hateful anti-immigration rhetoric that is bound to manifest itself even more from his supporters. We will do what we do best with a renewed sense of purpose.

Finally, we sincerely hope that Donald Trump as a President with respect to his immigration policies will be different from Donald Trump as a candidate. A new President elect should herald optimism in everyone rather than cause fear to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable immigrants. There has been no statement from Trump to allay their fear. Why should we think that Trump has changed after all the hateful rhetoric he spewed against immigrants and refugees? Just like a leopard does not change its spots, a bigot will always remain a bigot. The fact that Kobach and Cutrona have joined the team only heightens such fears. After 9/11, although we feared the worst, there were no drastic limits or moratoriums due to the resilience and strength of the immigration movement. 11/9 poses yet another grave challenge, but we are ready to brace for the fight to defend immigrants in the age of Trump and xenophobia. And prevail we must as the cause is righteous and just.

(This blog is for informational purposes, and should not be considered as a substitute for legal advice)

Some Preliminary Reactions to the Oral Argument in United States v. Texas

As most readers of this blog will likely be aware, the Supreme Court heard oral argument today in the case now captioned United States v. Texas, regarding the lawsuit brought by Texas and a number of other states to stop implementation of DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) and expanded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).  The transcript of the argument is now available online, although the audiotape will not be available until later in the week.  There has been much media coverage of the argument, including by the always-insightful SCOTUSBlog, and a number of media organizations and commentators have suggested that the Court may divide 4 to 4, thus leaving the Fifth Circuit’s decision intact and preventing DAPA and expanded DACA from going into effect at this time.  While that is a possibility, however, there are also some reasons to be optimistic that it may not come to pass.

I do not wish to recap all of the voluminous coverage of the argument by the media and commentators, but will focus in this blog post primarily on one or two things that I have not seen highlighted by other commentators. However, there is one observation about the argument, not original to me, which does seem worth passing along, and which falls under the heading of reasons for optimism.  As Chris Geidner has pointed out in his review of the oral argument on Buzzfeed, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often seen as a swing vote in cases where the Court is closely divided, raised the possibility that the more appropriate way for Texas to have proceeded would have been to challenge the application of the regulation granting employment authorization to deferred action beneficiaries, 8 C.F.R. §274a.12(c)(14), under the Administrative Procedure Act.  Justice Sotomayor discussed with Solicitor General Verrilli on page 31 of the transcript the possibility that, if Texas had wanted to attack the 1986 regulation that allows employment authorization under many circumstances including deferred action, they could have petitioned the agency for rulemaking under section 553(c) of the Administrative Procedure Act.  If that failed, they could then have gone to court.  Instead, Texas went directly into court without first raising its concerns with the agency—a procedural shortcut which a majority of the Court may not be willing to tolerate.  This is separate from the constitutional concern, also discussed at length during the argument, that Texas may not have standing to attack DAPA where its asserted injury relates to its own decision to subsidize the issuance of driver’s licenses to certain classes of individuals.

Another notable portion of the oral argument was the discussion of the outsized importance that the plaintiff States have attached to the brief mention in the DAPA memorandum of “lawful presence”. As Marty Lederman explained in a post on the Balkinization blog prior to the oral argument, the significance of “lawful presence” in this context relates primarily to eligibility for certain Social Security and Medicare benefits, as well as to the tolling of unlawful presence for purposes of potential future inadmissibility under 8 U.S.C. §1182(a)(9)(B).  Neither of these things, however, has anything to do with the injury that Texas alleges.  Nor are they of particularly great significance in the context of DAPA as a whole.  Professor Lederman had described the lawful-presence argument as “the smallest of tails wagging a very large dog”, a phrase that Solicitor General Verrilli expanded upon (or should I say contracted upon?) on page 32 of the oral argument transcript by noting that the lawful-presence issue was “the tail on the dog and the flea on the tail of the dog.”  (He also returned to the basic “tail of the dog” formulation on page 88, in his rebuttal.)  If necessary, he offered, the Court could simply take a “red pencil” and excise the offending phrase from the memo, and this would be “totally fine” with the government.

Just as the issue of “lawful presence” lacks a connection to the injury Texas alleges, it was also discussed at the oral argument how even the employment authorization that is a much more important component of DAPA as it would operate in practice, and which seems to be what Texas is in large part challenging, does not really relate to Texas’s alleged injury. As Solicitor General Verrilli and also Thomas Saenz, arguing for intervenor prospective DAPA beneficiaries, pointed out, Texas, under its current policy, gives driver’s licenses based on the granting of deferred action itself, rather than based upon employment authorization.  Even if the federal government restricted itself to deferring any removal action against the intended beneficiaries of DAPA – as Texas, in the person of its Solicitor General Scott Keller, seemed to concede on page 50 of the transcript that it would have the authority to do – and simply, as Justice Ginsburg suggested, gave out ID cards noting the low priority status of the beneficiaries, Texas would still, under its current policy, apparently have to give those beneficiaries subsidized driver’s licenses.  Thus, besides the other problems with Texas’s claim that it is harmed sufficiently by DAPA to have standing to challenge it, there is the problem of redressability.  A decision forbidding the federal government to give out employment authorization documents, or declare “lawful presence”, under DAPA, while still permitting it to defer removal actions against DAPA’s beneficiaries, would not actually solve the problem that Texas is claiming DAPA has caused.  It is, instead, merely a convenient hook for what is actually a political dispute.  Solicitor General Verrilli returned to this point in his rebuttal argument, noting that Texas had offered no response to it.

Another notable portion of the oral argument relating to employment authorization was the discussion of how, as Justice Alito asked on page 28 of the transcript, it is “possible to lawfully work in the United States without lawfully being in the United States?” As Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli attempted to explain, while this may seem peculiar, employment authorization based on a mere pending application for lawful status, such as an application for adjustment of status or cancellation of removal, is quite common.  Many, many people receive such authorization pursuant to the administrative authority recognized by 8 U.S.C. §1324a(h)(3), as discussed in my prior blog post Ignoring the Elephant in the Room: An Initial Reaction to Judge Hanen’s Decision Enjoining DAPA and Expanded DACA.  The suggestion that such authorization cannot exist would wreak havoc on our immigration system as we now know it.  As Solicitor General Verrilli pointed out on page 31 of the transcript, reading the §1324a(h)(3) authority as narrowly as suggested by the plaintiffs would eliminate well over a dozen of the current regulatory categories of employment authorization.  It would, to quote from Solicitor General Verrilli’s rebuttal argument at page 89, “completely and totally upend the administration of the immigration laws, and, frankly, it’s a reckless suggestion.”

Indeed, as I pointed out in a blog post several years ago, there are many circumstances under which even someone subject to a removal order can be lawfully granted work authorization.  Those whose asylum applications were denied in removal proceedings but who are seeking judicial review of that denial, for example, may obtain employment authorization under 8 C.F.R. §274a.12(c)(8).  An applicant for adjustment of status under INA §245 or cancellation of removal for nonpermanent residents under INA §240A(b) who has his or her application denied by an immigration judge and the BIA, is ordered removed, and petitions for judicial review of the order of removal under 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(2)(D) on the ground that a legal or constitutional error has been made in adjudicating the application, may also renew employment authorization.  Even outside the context of judicial review, an applicant for adjustment who was ordered removed as an arriving alien, and who is nonetheless applying to USCIS for adjustment of status pursuant to Matter of Yauri, 25 I&N Dec. 103 (BIA 2009), can be eligible for employment authorization.

The anomaly of concurrent authorization to work in the United States and lack of authorization to be here, paradoxical though it may have seemed to Justice Alito, can exist even with respect to some of the forms of employment authorization authorized by very specific statutory provisions, rather than under the general authority of 8 U.S.C. §1324a(h)(3)—the forms of employment authorization that even Justice Alito and Texas acknowledge should exist. In 8 U.S.C. §1158(d)(2), for example, Congress specifically indicated that while “an applicant for asylum is not entitled to employment authorization . . . such authorization may be provided under regulation by the Attorney General.”  The implementing regulations at 8 C.F.R. §208.7(b) and 8 C.F.R. § 274a.12(c) make clear that such employment authorization is renewable pending the completion of administrative and judicial review of a denial of the asylum application.  Thus, an asylum applicant whose application was denied, resulting in an order of removal, and who is seeking judicial review of that order, can obtain renewed employment authorization.

Admittedly, in some cases, a court of appeals can grant a stay of the order of removal for an asylum applicant in this situation, pending adjudication of the petition for review—which one might consider a form of authorization to be in the United States. But a stay of removal is not a precondition for a grant of employment under 8 U.S.C. §1158(d)(2) and 8 C.F.R. §274a.12(c)(8), either in theory or in practice.  It is fairly common for asylum applicants who are not detained to pursue judicial review without a stay of removal and to renew their employment authorization while doing so.  They are authorized to work in the United States, even though in theory they are not authorized to be here.  As long as they are here, because the government has not thought it worth removing them during the pendency of their court case, they can lawfully work.

Given Justice Alito’s follow-up question about whether the categories of persons who had employment authorization without lawful presence were “statutory categories”, however, it is also worth emphasizing that other kinds of employment authorization besides those specifically authorized by statute can persist even in the face of a removal order. Employment authorization based on a pending application for adjustment of status or cancellation of removal, under 8 C.F.R. §274a.12(c)(9) and 8 C.F.R. §274a.12(c)(10), does not stem from the sort of type-specific statutory authorization at 8 U.S.C. §1158(d)(2).  Nonetheless, these types of employment authorization, which have been granted for many years in significant volume with little controversy, can be obtained by someone with a final removal order who is seeking judicial review of that order, or who is seeking adjustment of status under Matter of Yauri.  To the extent Justice Alito meant to imply that the seeming paradox of authorized employment without authorized presence could only be justified by a specific statutory authorization, this too was an inaccurate description of the world of immigration law since long before DAPA.

While the discussion at oral argument of employment authorization separate from lawful status did not go so far as to address this issue of employment authorization for those subject to orders of removal, it did seem that the Solicitor General’s emphasis on the sheer scale of those grants of employment authorization may have made an impact on Chief Justice Roberts.  The Chief Justice, at the end of Solicitor General Verilli’s rebuttal, returned to the question of how many of these sorts of employment authorization documents are issued, and the answer on page 90 that there were 4.5 million in the context of adjustment of status since 2008 and 325,000 for cancellation of removal was the last substantive portion of the argument transcript.  This was potentially a strong closing argument, which may be a hopeful sign.

Attempting to predict the outcome of a case from oral argument is always a risky endeavor, and we will have to wait and see what the Court actually does. Nonetheless, it is my hope that the above observations may perhaps provide some additional insight.

A QUICK KNOCKOUT: SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO’S LAWSUIT AGAINST PRESIDENT OBAMA’S EXECUTIVE ACTION DISMISSED FOR LACK OF STANDING

By  David A. Isaacson

On November 20, 2013, the very same day that President Obama announced a series of executive actions aimed at “Fixing Our Broken Immigration System”, a lawsuit against the newly announced executive actions and against the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was filed by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Sheriff Arpaio’s name may be familiar to readers of this blog: among other lowlights of a long and controversial career, he has been found by the Justice Department to have engaged in “unconstitutional policing” targeting Latinos, and was similarly found by a federal judge in the private class-action lawsuit Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio to have engaged in unconstitutional racial profiling.  Barely a month after Sheriff Arpaio’s lawsuit was filed, on December 23, 2013, the Arpaio v. Obama lawsuit was dismissed by a Memorandum Opinion and Order issued by Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  
In his lawsuit, Sheriff Arpaio sought to challenge DACA as originally implemented, DACA as revised by the November 20 announcement, and the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program that will provide deferred action similar to DACA to some parents of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents.  Judge Howell’s Memorandum Opinion found that Sheriff Arpaio lacked standing to sue regarding any of these programs, for a number of reasons. 
As Judge Howell explained in her Memorandum Opinion, the Supreme Court has held that the power of federal courts under Article III of the U.S. Constitution to hear “Cases” and “Controversies” is restricted to instances in which the plaintiff meets certain requirements of standing to sue.  

The Supreme Court has explained, “the irreducible constitutional minimum of standing contains three elements.” [Lujan v.] Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. [555,] 560 [(1992)]. First, the plaintiff must have suffered an “injury in fact,” i.e., “an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Second, there must be “a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of,” i.e., the injury alleged must be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant. Id. Finally, it must be “likely” that the complained-of injury will be “redressed by a favorable decision” of the court. Id. at 561. In short, “[t]he plaintiff must have suffered or be imminently threatened with a concrete and particularized ‘injury in fact’ that is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Lexmark Int’l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1377, 1386 (2014).

Sheriff Arpaio, Judge Howell found, failed to satisfy all three of these requirements.  First of all, he had not properly alleged any injury in fact to him resulting from the challenged deferred action programs.  To the extent that he sued in his personal capacity, and claimed only the interest of every citizen in governmental compliance with the law, Sheriff Arpaio was asserting a generalized grievance of the sort that the Supreme Court has consistently held not to confer standing.  His assertion of past threats against him by undocumented immigrants was not a basis for standing because those threats, besides being in the past, were not traceable to the challenged deferred action programs and would not be redressed by any action the court might take against those programs. As for Sheriff Arpaio’s claims in his official capacity as Sheriff of Maricopa County, the injuries he asserted there as well, having to do with alleged increases in workload, were generalized to the point of not being cognizable, and extremely speculative to boot: he alleged that the deferred action programs would attract new undocumented immigrants into Maricopa County, and yet the programs by their own terms applied only to those who had already been present in the United States prior to January 1, 2010.
Nor did Sheriff Arpaio’s complaint demonstrate causation and redressability, the other key requirements of standing.  As Judge Howell’s Memorandum Opinion explained, “it is the actions taken by undocumented immigrants—migrating to Maricopa County and committing crimes once there—that are purportedly the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injury.”  Arpaio v. Obama slip op. at 22.  But those actions would not be authorized by the challenged government programs.  Indeed, by enabling federal authorities to focus their resources on actual criminals, the challenged deferred action programs might help rather than harm Maricopa County:  

In the present case, the challenged agency action—the ability to exercise enforcement discretion to permit deferred action relating to certain undocumented immigrants—does not authorize the conduct about which the plaintiff complains. The challenged deferred action programs authorize immigration officials to exercise discretion on removal; they do not authorize new immigration into the United States (let alone Maricopa County); they do not authorize undocumented immigrants to commit crimes; and they do not provide permanent status to any undocumented immigrants eligible to apply for deferred action under any of the challenged programs. Contrary to the plaintiff’s assertion that a consequence of the challenged programs will be an increase in illegal conduct by undocumented immigrants and an increase in costs to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office, these programs may have the opposite effect. The deferred action programs are designed to incorporate DHS’s enforcement priorities and better focus federal enforcement on removing undocumented immigrants committing felonies and serious misdemeanor crimes. Since the undocumented immigrants engaging in criminal activity are the cause of the injuries complained about by the plaintiff, the more focused federal effort to remove these individuals may end up helping, rather than exacerbating the harm to, the plaintiff.

Arpaio v. Obama slip op. at 24.  Sheriff Arpaio, the court found, had “submitted no evidence showing that the challenged deferred action programs are, or will be, the cause of the crime harming the plaintiff or the increase in immigration, much less “substantial evidence.””  Id. at 25.
Moreover, given the limited resources available to the executive branch for removal of noncitizens from the United States, Sheriff Arpaio also could not establish that his alleged injuries would be redressed by the relief he requested, an injunction against the challenged deferred action programs.  Such an injunction, after all, 

w[ould] not grant additional resources to the executive branch allowing it to remove additional undocumented immigrants or to prevent undocumented immigrants from arriving. Thus, the plaintiff’s complaint regarding the large number of undocumented immigrants and the limited number of removals w[ould] not change as a result of any order by the Court in this litigation. 

Given Sheriff Arpaio’s lack of standing to bring the suit, Judge Howell found herself compelled to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction.  She did, however, go on to detail, in the course of addressing Sheriff Arpaio’s request for a preliminary injunction, some of the other obstacles that his lawsuit faced as well.  Among those obstacles were the fact that “the challenged deferred action programs continue a longstanding practice of enforcement discretion regarding the Nation’s immigration laws,” that they “still retain provisions for meaningful case-by-case review,” and that they “merely provide guidance to immigration officials in the exercise of their official duties.”  Arpaio v. Obama slip op. at 31-32.  For all of these reasons, and given the absence of irreparable harm to Sheriff Arpaio and the public interest weighing against a preliminary injunction Judge, Judge Howell denied the motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the suit.
For any readers who may be disturbed that a case of this nature would be dismissed before entirely reaching the merits, it is worth noting that the requirements of standing have played an important role in other controversial areas of law as well.  It was these requirements that led the Supreme Court to rule in Hollingsworth v. Perry, 133 S.Ct. 2652 (2013), that proponents of a California initiative prohibiting the marriage of same-sex couples did not have standing to appeal a decision striking down the statute enacted by that initiative where the governor and Attorney General of California did not appeal.  It was also those same standing requirements that led the Supreme Court to order dismissal of a lawsuit by environmentalists seeking to overturn an administrative rule that limited application of the Endangered Species Act in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555 (1992).  Whatever one thinks of modern standing doctrine, it has clearly gored the proverbial oxen of plaintiffs of all ideological persuasions, immunizing government actions across the political spectrum from judicial review at the behest of bystanders without a sufficient concrete stake in a particular matter.
Sheriff Arpaio’s lawsuit against the President’s executive actions may not be the last to founder for lack of standing.  As explained in a recent post on this blog by Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta, even the lawsuit filed in December 2013 by a group of states led by Texas to challenge President Obama’s immigration initiatives is likely to fail for lack of standing.  The United States’ Memorandum in Opposition to the states’ request for a preliminary injunction in that litigation also sets out in great detail why standing is lacking there.  The states’ lawsuit, like Sheriff Arpaio’s, is also deeply problematic on the merits, for the reasons explained in that same blog post and in the United States’ Memorandum in Opposition.  For both reasons, the Texas lawsuit may soon meet the same fate as Sheriff Arpaio’s.

DACA RENEWALS AND THE UPHOLDING OF EXECUTIVE ACTION IN ARIZONA DREAM ACT COALITION V. BREWER

August 15, 2014 marks the two-year anniversary of the implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  The policy was announced through a memorandum by then Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on June 15, 2012.  The Memo directed the heads of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to implement DHS’s decision to grant deferred action, and employment authorization, to certain eligible individuals who entered the U.S. when they were younger than 16 years old.  Now, nearly two years have passed since DHS began accepting applications for the program on August 15, 2012.  DACA recipients who were among the first to apply and receive DACA and employment authorization must now undergo the process of renewing their DACA.

ICE and USCIS released their renewal processes in February and early June, respectively.  ICE had begun issuing DACA to eligible immigrants in removal proceedings prior to August 15, 2012, when USCIS began accepting applications.  To be eligible for DACA renewal, the recipient must (1) not have departed from the U.S. on or after August 15, 2012 without advance parole; (2) have continuously resided in the U.S. since the first DACA approval; and (3) not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national safety or public safety.

The renewal process for ICE-granted and USCIS-granted DACA recipients is the same:

Complete and submit the following forms:

    • The new version of Form I-821D (6/4/2014 edition)
    • Form I-765
    • Form I-765 Worksheet
  • Submit the $465 fee for the employment authorization application
  • Submit only new documents involving removal proceedings or criminal history that was not previously provided to USCIS (Note: USCIS does not require previously submitted documentation establishing the applicant’s DACA eligibility)

USCIS has advised DACA recipients to renew approximately 120 days (4 months), but no more than 150 days (5 months), before their current DACA grant expires.  USCIS also anticipates that in the event it cannot process the submitted applications before the initial DACA expires, it might issue extensions of the initial DACA to prevent any lapse in time before the renewal is approved.

Since its implementation, DACA has been granted to over 550,000 recipients, according to USCIS statistics released on March 2014.  DACA has provided more than half a million young immigrants security from removal and a means to work lawfully in the U.S. The DACA recipients, sometimes also called Dreamers, can now live openly, work, and contribute to their own and their families’ wellbeing.  The economic and social repercussions of this have not yet been fully studied or revealed, though the American Immigration Council recently published a studyof the economic impact of DACA on the recipients.  The study found that through DACA, many young immigrants have benefitted economically through such activities as obtaining new jobs, getting driver’s licenses, and opening bank accounts.  We can also imagine what has been the psychological impact on these young immigrants of coming out of hiding and being able to be productive members of American society and the American workforce.  They have experienced the excitement of receiving an approval notice and the much sought after work permit, then a valid Social Security Number and card, and then oftentimes a State Identification Document in the form of an ID or driver’s license.

Though it has undoubtedly bettered the lives of half a million recipients, DACA has been a double-edged sword.  While it provides recipients protection from removal from the U.S. and allows them to work legally, DACA is still far less than what these young immigrants would have received from the government had the DREAM Act or Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) passed in Congress.  The DREAM Act would have granted a way for eligible young immigrants to apply for permanent residence, and therefore, lawful status.  S.744, the CIR bill passed by the U.S. Senate on June 27, 2013, and that has since stalled in the House of Representatives, included stipulations for the implementation of the DREAM Act’s provisions.  In contrast, DACA is only granted for two years, and DACA recipients must renew before the expiration of their deferred action and work permits.  Moreover, DACA recipients do not have lawful status in the U.S. (although they do not accrue unlawful presence upon the grant of DACA since they are still authorized to remain), and there is no direct pathway to permanent residency or U.S. citizenship.

One limitation that some DACA recipients face is getting a driver’s license.  Until recently, two states, Arizona and Nebraska, refused to grant driver’s licenses to DACA recipients.  The Ninth Circuit, on July 7, 2014, struck down Arizona’s law that denied driver’s licenses to DACA recipients.  Arizona Dream Act Coalition v. Brewer, No. 13-16248, WL 3029759 (9th Cir. July 7, 2014).  This much-maligned law (see Cyrus Mehta’s take down of it here) was put in place as soon as DACA was first announced in the summer of 2012.  Governor Jan Brewer issued Executive Order 2012-06 “Re-Affirming Intent of Arizona Law In Response to the Federal Government’s Deferred Action Program,” August 15, 2012, directing Arizona state agencies to design rules to prevent DACA recipients from becoming eligible to obtain state identification such as driver’s licenses.  Arizona’s Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Decision changed its requirements for state identification eligibility such that Employment Authorization Documents (EADs or work permits) with the DACA category code of (c)(33) would not be accepted as proof that the license or ID applicant’s presence was authorized in the U.S.  Five DACA recipients living in Arizona, along with the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, filed suit to stop Arizona from enforcing its policy.  The Ninth Circuit found that the law violated the Equal Protection Clause and there was no rational basis for the Arizona government’s policy.  The decision hinged on Arizona’s refusal to accept as proof of “authorized presence” in the U.S. an EAD based on DACA category (c)(33) work while they continued to accept EADs based on (c)(9) and (c)(10) categories, which respectively correspond to applicants for adjustment of status and applicants for cancellation of removal.  The Ninth Circuit systematically rejected each of Arizona’s arguments that it had a legitimate state interest in upholding the policy. Initially the Court rejected Arizona’s argument that (c)(9) and (c)(10) noncitizens could demonstrate authorized presence in the U.S. while (c)(33) could not.  Putting aside the nonsensical use of the term “authorized presence” which holds no actual meaning in immigration law, Arizona conflates the immigration concepts of unlawful presence and unlawful status – two very different things.  Unlawful presence is used in determining admissibility under the 3- and 10-year bars, while a noncitizen not in lawful status may be authorized to stay in the U.S.  The Court’s clearly did not make that mistake: “Employment Authorization Documents merely “tied” to the potentialfor relief [i.e. (c)(9) and (c)(10) categories] do not indicate that the document holder has current federally authorized presence, as Arizona law expressly requires.”  Arizona Dream Act Coalition, at *9.  Moreover, the Court found that Arizona’s other four arguments also could not hold up against a rational basis test. Arizona could not show it might have to issue licenses to 80,000 unauthorized immigrants (less than 15,000 Arizona residents have applied for DACA). DACA recipients cannot access state or federal benefits using a driver’s license alone.  Though the DACA program might be canceled at any time and DACAs could lose their authorized stay, the same could occur to (c)(9) and (c)(10) noncitizens whose corresponding applications are denied.  Therefore, these arguments also do not pass the rational basis test.  The Court went on and mentioned that additionally, Arizona’s policy “appears intended to express animus toward DACA recipients themselves, in part because of the federal government’s policy toward them.”  Id. at *25.  The court pointedly stated: “Such animus, however, is not a legitimate state interest.”  Id.

Interestingly, the Court struck down the law on equal protection grounds rather than conflict-preemption.  Generally, courts use preemption analysis to strike down a conflicting state law acting to regulate immigration.  In a concurrence, Circuit Court Judge Christen analyzed the case’s conflict-preemption argument and found that Arizona’s policy effectively created a new class of noncitizens who are not under “authorized presence” – a descriptor not recognized in immigration law.  The act of creating a new immigration classification, in Judge Christen’s view, is preempted by federal law because states may not directly regulate immigration.  Id. at *13, citing Valle del Sol Inc. v. Whiting, 732 F.3d 1006, 1023 (9th Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 134 S. Ct. 1876 (2014).  Moreover, in footnote 3, the Court notes that Judges Pregerson and Berzon agree with the concurring opinion, and specifically that the plaintiffs in the case could succeed on a conflict preemption argument.

Here, however, the Court’s majority analyzed Arizona’s law from an equal protection perspective, which gives it lasting and powerful impact.  By going this route, the 9th Circuit recognized DACA recipients to be part of a protected class.  This can have huge implications for any other state laws that purport to discriminate against this now recognized protected class of noncitizens.  Moreover, the Court, in footnote 4, acknowledged that the Supreme Court in other cases applied strict scrutiny standard of review when state action discriminates against noncitizens authorized to be present in the U.S., see e.g. Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365 (1971).  But here, the Court states it did not have to analyze under strict scrutiny review because Arizona could not even make its case under the lower rational basis test.  In its analysis the Court found it could “identify no legitimate state interest that is rationally related to Defendant’s decision to treat DACA recipients disparately from noncitizens holding (c)(9) and (c)(10) Employment Authorization Documents”  Arizona Dream Act Coalition at *8. (emphasis added).  It is also worthwhile to note that, unlike the Arizona district court which also held that the Arizona government’s arguments failed a rational basis review, the 9th Circuit found that the protected class, here the DACA recipients, would likely suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction.  The irreparable harm was the limiting of the DACA recipients’ professional opportunities, hurting their abilities to seek or maintain a job in a state where 87 percent of its workers commute by car.

The decision lays bare the type of backlash that occurred after the Obama administration introduced DACA.  Conservative pundits and anti-immigration groups believe that these young people should receive no acknowledgement or benefits from a country to which they do not belong.  This type of thinking is not only wrong, but it fuels hatred toward a group that, for all intents and purposes, took no part in the decision to enter the U.S. without inspection or to overstay visas.  The point of the DACA policy is to respond to the cries from millions of young immigrants brought into the U.S. as children, who have grown up in the U.S., but who are forced to stay in hiding.  They are punished for someone else’s sins.

I have personally processed over 100 DACA applications in the past two years.  When talking to these young immigrants and their families, it is often impossible to tell apart the individuals who were born here and the ones who were brought here.  DACA requestors speak like Americans, look like Americans, and dream the American dream like native-born Americans.  It is hard to put into words the unfairness of their lives: to live in a country that is oftentimes the only one they have known, and yet to be denied full recognition and basic equal treatment.  Worse, they are called “illegal” and are made to feel unwanted and unwelcome.  This treatment is confusing and painful to many of these young people who had no choice about coming to the U.S.  Yet they are undoubtedly the future of this country.  They will help shape the U.S. cultural, economic, and political landscape.  And we are not doing enough to acknowledge their presence, since they are here to stay, and provide them with the tools to be full active members of American society.

The Obama administration has implemented regulations and executive policies to alleviate some of the pain from long-standing immigration problems that Congress has time and again failed to address.  DACA, for instance, was the Executive’s response to Congress’s failure to pass the DREAM Act in 2010.  Recently President Obama spoke out angrily against Congress’s ability to compromise on immigration reform, calling it the reason behind his decision to direct more resources to address the ongoing crisis of unaccompanied children.  As has been pointed out on this blog, Obama can expand the use of Executive action to confront problems in immigration law while we wait for Congress pass CIR.  The Obama administration can do more than just grant deferred action to young immigrants.  DHS could grant deferred action to DACA parents.  The Department of Education could grant federal student loans to DACA recipients.  Paradoxically, the Obama administration has specifically rendered DACA recipients ineligible for healthcare benefits under the Affordable Care Act even though prior to the August 2013 rule, DACA recipients would have been eligible.  There are myriad ways Executive action, such as DACA, can provide relief to millions of immigrants who live and work beside us every day.  Until such time that Congress takes action, the Executive will have to be the branch taking action, and immigrants must be content with its limitations.

Because the basis of a deferred action grant is DHS’s policy of prosecutorial discretion, it remains only in the form of executive action and it is not an actual law passed by Congress and signed by the President.  DACA and any other executive action are thus vulnerable to attacks from groups and individuals who consider them an overreach by the Obama administration. These attacks, such as Arizona’s driver’s license law, are often informed by fear and a fundamental misunderstanding of immigration law.  Litigation to strike down these anti-immigrant and anti-immigration state laws, which are arguably preempted by federal law, can sometimes take years.  Moreover, executive action while necessary in the face of Congressional inaction is limited in scope: it cannot grant visas or permanent residence, which only Congress can do by expanding the eligibility categories for permanent residence.  Meanwhile, immigrants languish in backlogged visa lines, wait months and years for hearings before an immigration judge, face harsh vitriol from anti-immigration groups, and DACA recipients still do not have a way to become fully integrated into American life.

The Lazarus Effect: How Comprehensive Immigration Reform Can Survive The House GOP and Come Back to Life

By Gary Endelmanand Cyrus D. Mehta

“The only true test of leadership is the ability to lead and lead vigorously”

President John F. Kennedy

The Republican National Committee passed a resolution on Friday calling on Congress to pass immigration reform by the end of the year. Unlike the Senate Bill, s. 744, the Border, Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which grants a path way to citizenship, the RNC resolution contemplates legalizing immigrants who came to the US above the age of 18, but only by granting them 2 year renewable work permits. For those who came to the US as minors, they would get a renewable 5 year permit. There is no pathway to citizenship in the RNC’s resolution.

This tepid resolution is completely at odds with BSEOIMA, which will dramatically reform the immigration system. Although the bill does not have everything that everyone wants, S. 744 offers a pathway to legalization for the 10 million undocumented, a new W visa to allow for future flows of lower skilled immigrants and attempts to clear up the backlogs in the employment and family preferences. It also reforms the existing system in many ways by removing the 1 year bars to seeking asylum, creating a startup visa for entrepreneurs, clarifying a contentious provision under the Child Status Protection Act, providing greater discretion to both Immigration and Judges to terminate removal proceedings, among many other beneficial provisions.

Therefore, it remains uncertain whether any measure that the House passes can get reconciled with BSEOIMA, which truly reforms the immigration system. The intransigence in the GOP controlled House, while frustrating the hopes and aspirations of all those who believe that a reformed immigration system will benefit America, also further foreshadows doom for the party in future elections.  What caught our attention was a statement by Senator Rubio on the anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, one of the main Republican architects of BSEOIMA, when he warned his party members in Congress that if they did not pass a reform bill then President Obama could extend the administrative relief for young people to everyone through administrative action.

The authors have since 2010 been advocating the ability of the President to ameliorate the plight of non-citizens trapped in a broken system through administrative measures. We have also proposed that the President can resolve the crisis in the backlogs in the employment and family based preferences by not counting derivative family members.  It was thus heartening to know that Rubio also acknowledged the President’s ability to pass an executive order, although he sees this more as a threat for his party.  First, if Obama provides ameliorative relief to millions of immigrants, it will benefit the Democrats in future elections, just as DACA benefited the President in his reelection in November 2012. Second, if the President were to expand DACA to a broader group of undocumented people, and allow them to apply for work authorization and travel permission, this might be better than the GOP immigration reform proposal, if it got passed into law as part of a compromise with the Senate. Such an executive order will not be accompanied by a needless and expensive militarization of the border (which is also a feature of S. 744), along with mandatory E-Verify that will bog down business large and small.  It will not include draconian provisions that the House might likely pass in exchange for legalization, such as authorizing enforcement of immigration law by state police or criminalizing undocumented status.

This is not to say that a Presidential executive order is a substitute for comprehensive immigration legislation. The President will not be able to grant permanent residence to the undocumented, only work authorization and travel permission, and the family and employment based preferences will continue to have a limited supply of visas. Still, in the absence of Congress passing a comprehensive bill to reform the broken system, something is better than nothing. As we have already commented, if we do not count family members, that in itself would dramatically reduce waiting times in the family and employment preferences. Many of the people who will be legalized under an executive order may be able to ultimate get permanent residence through existing pathways.  It is true that the President will not be able to increase badly needed H-1B visas through executive fiat, but it may be possible to give employers greater access to the unlimited O-1 visa by broadening the definition of “extraordinary ability” to allow many more accomplished foreign nationals to work in the US. While an executive order will not include a new start up visa, if the current Entrepreneurs Pathways initiative is implemented faithfully, many entrepreneurs can start companies in the US under existing work visa categories.

While the authors support the passage of  S.744, it is tempting to add that executive action can avoid the economic illiteracy that plagues the H-1B wage provisions embraced by the Senate as the price of passage and avoid the misguided tendency of House Republicans to extend this inflationary regime to other categories such as the TN.  Unlike S. 744, it will not discourage employers from hiring foreign nationals by mandating artificially inflated wages for foreign nationals, a feature of S. 744 that sharply conflicts with expanded H-1B quotas and more generous provisions for employment-based migration. It will not cripple start-up companies who badly desire key foreign personnel but will under the new law be unable to afford them. It will not price American companies out of the green card sponsorship market, divert precious funds that would otherwise be invested in cutting-edge research or  dry up surplus capital that would be better spent on equipment modernization. Executive action will be devoid of the hugely inflationary wage rules adopted by the Senate as part of the deal making that resulted in the passage of S. 744, thereby encouraging more employers to refrain from moving jobs offshore or to low wage labor markets out of the United States. As a result, when compared to S. 744, action now by President Obama might make it more, not less, likely that companies will sponsor foreign workers for green cards.

The President always has this ace up his sleeve, which is the ability to grant relief through an executive order, to force Congress to pass immigration reform. If Congress in fact fails to pass immigration reform, the President can actually bring about immigration reform, which may look better than any of the reform proposals being floated by the GOP in the House. Of course, a future President can get rid of such administrative measures, but this usually does not happen as it would be politically too dangerous to further alienate the Latino vote. It is more likely that a future Congress will bless such administrative measures like the way BSEOIMA did with DACA recipients. So, in light of  all the uncertainty regarding the passage of a comprehensive immigration bill, a Presidential executive order, or the potential for one (as Rubio presciently realized)  may not be such a bad thing.

The invocation of executive action would allow the undocumented to remain in the United States with the opportunity for employment authorization and seek to utilize existing avenues for transition to lawful permanent resident status. It puts them in the same position as everyone else who seeks the green card. From this perspective, executive action would be consistent with the compromise proposal advocated by House Judiciary Committee Chair Robert Goodlatte ( R-Va.).  Many of the undocumented already have, or will, over time, acquire adult US citizen children; others may marry American citizens and still others could attract employer sponsorship. Keep them here, allow them to come in from the shadows, and let the undocumented regularize their status through the disciplined utilization of existing remedies. Not only is this a solution that does not require the House GOP to abandon dysfunctionality as their prime governing philosophy, something they are manifestly loath to do, but, even if Congressional ratification subsequently is felt necessary or desirable, this is precisely the path to legalization that Represenative Goodlatte has already outlined.

The President cannot grant more L-1 intra-company transferee visas but he can restore the relevancy of those that now exist by ending the war on claims of specialized knowledge. No new allowances for extraordinary ability can come through the stroke of a pen but an enlightened decision to banish the suffocating Kazarian final merits determination would give new hope to aliens who now have none but otherwise satisfy what the law requires.  Only Congress can exempt green card categories from the tender mercies of PERM but no legislative sanction is required to halt the use of audits as a tool of intimidation. The need for change should not blind us to the ample opportunities for remediation that the present law affords.  As valuable as comprehensive reform is, as badly needed as the benefits it will bring most surely are, no law will succeed if those who enforce and interpret it lack the moral courage and political will to usher in a newer world. As that fan of Tudor prerogative told us long ago in no less contentious times, “the fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves.”

(Guest author Gary Endelman is Senior Counsel at FosterQuan)

NIGHTMARE IN ARIZONA: GOVERNOR BREWER’S NONSENSICAL AND MEAN-SPIRITED EXECUTIVE ORDER AGAINST DREAMERS

On August 15, 2012, the day that the Consideration of Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals programs (DACA) took effect, thousands of young undocumented people lined up at legal assistance clinics with hope and joy. They got to know whether they were eligible to file an application under DACA, and by filing an application, their deportation would be deferred and they would also obtain employment authorization.

It was extremely gratifying to be an immigration attorney that day volunteering at a DACA legal assistance clinic organized by the New York Immigration Coalition, among others. I could see in the twinkle in the eyes of each potential youth applicant when told that he or she could file under DACA. That twinkle revealed a whole new world of opportunity opening up. The sky seemed to be the limit, which before the June 15, 2012 announcement was simply unimaginable.

I could not help broadcast this tweet, @cyrusmehta.com:

To see hope and joy in the faces of 100s lining up at pro bono #DACA clinic of #NYIC+ #AILA NY makes being an #immigration attorney gratifying

As I was basking in the glow of that day and returning home on the New York subway, I saw on my Twitter feed that Governor Brewer of Arizona passed a mean spirited and hateful executive order that evening. According to the executive order, since deferred action does not confer lawful status or lawful presence, the alien granted employment authorization under DACA continues to be unlawfully present, and thus cannot avail of benefits in Arizona, including a driver’s license. I love Twitter because I can instantly express my thoughts, and hopefully there is an audience. These were my new tweets, quite different from the prior exuberant one, in reaction to the horror of Brewer’s executive order:

Brewer’s executive order is unlawful & wicked – there are many who are allowed to remain without lawful status. When is she being sued? #DACA

Brewer’s mean spirited exec order against granting #DACA applicants AZ driver’s licenses will help Obama in elections, http://bit.ly/N4LE8E

I write this blog to expand on my impetuous tweets of last evening.

First, deferred action has existed for several decades. Many have been granted deferred action, including John Lennon. Prior the announcement of DACA, non-citizens who have demonstrated extenuating circumstances, such as medical emergencies or who have lost parents, have been granted deferred action. In recent times, battered spouses, crime victims and widows/ers of US citizens have also been granted deferred action. There are other non-ctiizens who may not have lawful status but are allowed to remain in the US. These include people who are presently in removal proceedings. Even those who have been ordered removed, such as through the grant of withholding of removal (based on persecution in their home countries), can remain in the US and obtain work authorization. Moreover, due to a quirky split in jurisdiction involving arriving aliens between Immigration Court and USCIS, arriving aliens cannot file defensive adjustment applications in Immigration Court, but have to file them with the USCIS while an Immigration Judge can still order them removed. If the adjustment application is approved, they can become lawful permanent residents despite the removal order. How will Brewer’s executive order be able to differentiate between each of these categories of people who have been allowed to remain in the US?

Second, the grant of deferred action stops the accrual of unlawful presence. However, unlawful presence is different from unlawful status. Governor Brewer’s executive order does not seem to understand the difference. Unlawful presence is relevant, according to the USCIS DACA guidance, only with respect to determining whether one is inadmissible under the 3 and 10 year bars. Unlawful presence has nothing to do with status or the ability to remain in the US. There are situations when one may not be in lawful status and yet not be accruing unlawful presence since they are in a “period of stay authorized by the Attorney General.” A classic example is someone who entered lawfully as a tourist, fell in love with a US citizen and married him. She filed an adjustment of status application based on the US citizen spouse’s green card sponsorship. She is allowed to remain in the US while waiting for the green card, although her underlying tourist visa has expired. Such a person may not be in lawful status but is in a “period of stay authorized by the Attorney General” and is also not accruing unlawful presence. Governor Brewer’s executive order does not seem to have grasped any of these distinctions.

Third, in Arizona v. USA, the Supreme Court acknowledged the federal government’s role in exercising prosecutorial discretion. As noted in a prior blog I wrote with Gary Endelman, Justice Kennedy writing for the majority in that decision noted:

A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials…… Federal officials, as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all. If removal proceedings commence, aliens may seek asylum and other discretionary relief allowing them to remain in the country or at least to leave without formal removal….

Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns. Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime. The equities of an individual case may turn on many factors, including whether the alien has children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service. Some discretionary decisions involve policy choices that bear on this Nation’s international relations. Returning an alien to his own country may be deemed inappropriate even where he has committed a removable offense or fails to meet the criteria for admission. The foreign state maybe mired in civil war, complicit in political persecution, or enduring conditions that create a real risk that the alien or his family will be harmed upon return. The dynamic nature of relations with other countries requires the Executive Branch to ensure that enforcement policies are consistent with this Nation’s foreign policy with respect to these and other realities.

Arizona v. USA, supra, Slip Op. at pages 4-5.

Although the Supreme Court struck down all of the other provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070, it narrowly upheld 2(B), the “show me your papers” law, which requires state officers to make “a reasonable attempt….to determine the immigration status” of any person they stop, detain, or arrest on some other legitimate basis if “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States.” Section 2(B) further provides that “[a]ny person who is arrested shall have the person’s immigration status determined before the person is released.” The Supreme Court upheld the provision, for now, since it had not taken effect, but cautioned that a person’s detention under an Arizona provision cannot be prolonged because the state cannot readily determine this person’s immigration status.

Governor Brewer, through her executive order, has perhaps unwittingly opened up another challenge to 2(B). By not recognizing that a grant of deferred action to remain lawfully and work in the US, it will be disregarded by Arizona’s law enforcement personnel, such as by the notorious Sheriff Joe, and his troopers, when he stops a non-citizen for jay walking and suspects that a person is unlawfully present in the US. Even if this DREAMer shows Sherrif Joe an employment authorization that was issued through a DACA filing, it could be disregarded and the person’s detention could be needlessly prolonged even though the federal government has allowed this person to lawfully remain in the US and no longer considers him unlawfully present for purposes of the 3 or 10 year bar.

Finally, it remains to be seen whether Brewer’s executive order will be politically viable. The GOP may see more Latino voters flee by the November elections, and the future of the party without support from Hispanics and minorities looks grim. Moreover, the granting of status to undocumented youth under the proposed DREAM Act, with promise to do well and contribute to the US, has broad support among the American people. Governor Brewer will likely find herself on the wrong side of history, only to be relegated forever in its garbage heap.

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: ADVENTURES WITH ARRABALLY AND YERRABELLY IN IMMIGRATION LAND

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Arrabally and Yerrabelly are not characters in a children’s fantasy story book. They were the respondents in a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals styled Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly, 25 I&N Dec. 771 (BIA 2012), which to immigration attorneys is like a fairy tale story come true. The decision is magical, and truly benefits foreign nationals who are subject to the 3 and 10 year bars even if they travel abroad.

Indeed, Arrabally and Yerrabelly, husband and wife respectively, were unlawfully present for more than 1 year. A departure after being unlawfully present from the US for one year renders the individual inadmissible for a period of 10 years. Specifically, § 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides:

Any alien (other than an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence) who –

(II) has been unlawfully present in the United States for one year or more , and who again seeks admission within 10 years of the date of such alien’s departure or removal from the United States, is inadmissible

A companion provision, INA § 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I) triggers a 3 year bar if the non-citizen is unlawfully present for more than 180 days and less than one year, and leaves the US prior to the commencement of removal proceedings.

The 3 and 10 year bars create a federal Catch-22. An individual who is unlawfully present cannot generally apply for lawful permanent residence in the US through adjustment of status unless he or she falls under limited exceptions. Such an individual who is ineligible to apply for a green card in the US must leave the US to process for an immigrant visa at an overseas consular post. But here’s the catch: If this person leaves the US he or she will trigger the bar and cannot return for 10 years. Thus, this person, even though approved for a green card, remains in immigration limbo.

Arrabally and Yerrabelly were unlawfully present too for more than 1 year, and would have triggered the 10 year bar had they “departed” the US. Fortunately, they were able to file Form I-485 applications for adjustment of status under an exception, INA § 245(i), after the employer’s I-140 petition got approved. § 245(i), which expired on April 30, 2001 but which could still grandfather someone if an immigrant petition or labor certification was filed on or before that date,  allows those who are out of status to  be able adjust status to permanent residence in the US. Due to a family emergency in India, they left the US under advance parole, which is a special travel dispensation one can obtain when one is a pending applicant for adjustment of status. At issue is their case was whether they effectuated a “departure” under advance parole and thus triggered the 10 year bar.

The DHS has always taken the position that leaving the United States under advance parole effectuates a departure and thus triggers the 10 year bar under § 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II) if the individual is unlawfully present for one year.

The adjustment of status applications of Arrabally and Yerrabelly were denied on the basis that they were inadmissible for 10 years, and were subsequently placed in removal proceedings. The Immigration Judge affirmed the DHS’s finding, but the BIA like magic reversed on the ground that their leaving the US under advance parole did not result in a departure pursuant to § 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II) thus rendering them inadmissible under the 10 year bar. The BIA reasoned that travel under a  grant of advance parole is different from a regular departure from the US, since the individual is given the assurance that he or she will be paroled back in the US to continue to seek the benefit of adjustment of status. Thus, traveling outside the US under advance parole does not trigger the 10 year bar. Although Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly interpreted the 10 year bar provision under § 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I), its logic can apply equally to the 3 year bar under § 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I).

The decision now allows foreign nationals like Arrabally and Yerabelly, who may have been unlawfully present to travel outside the US on advance parole while their adjustment of status applications are pending without fearing the 10 year bar. But the decision opens up other amazing possibilities too. If a person is unable to adjust status by virtue of being out of status, and cannot do so under the § 245(i) exception, another exception is by adjusting status as an immediate relative of a US citizen. The spouse, minor child or parent of a US citizen can adjust status in the US even if they have violated their status. However, this individual must still be able to demonstrate that he or she was “inspected and admitted or paroled” in the United States under INA § 245(a) as a pre-condition to file an adjustment of status application in the US.  Thus, a person who enters the US surreptitiously without inspection is ineligible to adjust status to permanent residence in the US despite being married to a US citizen. Such a person may still have to proceed overseas at a US consulate for immigrant visa processing, and will need to overcome the 10 year bar through a waiver.  This would not be necessary if such immediate relative could be granted “parole-in-place” which at this point of time is only granted to spouses of military personnel in active duty. In the leaked July 2010 memorandum to USCIS Director Mayorkas, the suggestion is made that the USCIS “reexamine past interpretations of terms such as ‘departure’ and ‘seeking admission again’ within the context of unlawful presence and adjustment of status.”

Notwithstanding the lack of “parole in place” for all applicants,  in yet another ground breaking case, Matter of Quilantan, 25 I&N Dec. 285 (BIA 2010), the BIA held that someone who presents herself at the border, but is waived through, is still inspected for purposes of adjustment eligibility. For example, a person who is a passenger in a car, and is waived through a border post at the Mexico-US border can still establish a lawful entry into the US. Matter of Quilantan can be further extended to someone who enters the US with a photo-switched fraudulent non-US passport. Such a person has also been inspected, albeit through a fraudulent identity. Foreign nationals in such situations, if they can prove that they were inspected, can qualify to apply for their green cards in the US through adjustment of status if they marry a US citizen or are the minor children or parents of US citizens.  They may however be subject to other grounds of inadmissibility, such as fraud or misrepresentation, but they can at least file those waivers with an I-485 application in the US. While it is true that in another feat of administrative innovation, the DHS has proposed that some can apply for the waiver of the 3 and 10 year bars in the US prior to their departure, this rule may not extend to applicants who are applying for an additional waiver, such as to overcome the fraud ground of inadmissibility.

Despite Matter of Quilantan, USCIS examiners during an adjustment of status interview require corroborating evidence of this admission, and may not accept only the sworn statement of the applicant regarding the manner of his or her entry into the US. They may want to actually see the photo-switched passport, which may no longer in the possession of the applicant.  Such a person may still be found ineligible to adjust status despite being inspected and admitted in the above manner under Matter of Quilantan. But if this person, after filing an adjustment of status application, left the US under advance  parole and returned to the US, he or she would be considered  “paroled” into the US and qualify for a new adjustment of status application as an immediate relative of a US citizen. If the first I-485 application is denied, he or she could file this second application where the “parole” would be a clearer basis for adjustment eligibility than the initial “waived through” or fraudulent admission.  Moreover, under Matter of Arrabally and Yerabelly, this individual would not have triggered the 10 year bar during travel under advance parole during the pendency of the first adjustment application. Travelling abroad under advance parole during the first adjustment application without triggering the 10 year bar could give an applicant a second bite at the apple in filing another adjustment application if the first one gets denied for lack of evidence of an admission. There is one caveat though. This is still an untested theory but the authors do not see why it could not be argued in the event of a denial of the first adjustment application, assuming it was filed in good faith and denied only because of lack of corroboration of the admission. Using Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly in the manner we propose seeks to do just that. Once again, as with the concept of parole, we seek to build on past innovation to achieve future gain.

Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly can come to the rescue of DREAMers too. In our recent blog, DEFERRED ACTION: THE NEXT GENERATION, June 19, 2012, we proposed extending the holding of Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly to beneficiaries of deferred action. There are bound to be many who will be granted deferred action who will also be on the pathway to permanent residence by being beneficiaries of approved I-130 or I-140 petitions.  As already explained, unless one is being sponsored as an immediate relative, i.e. as a spouse, child or parent of a US citizen, and has also been admitted and inspected, filing an application for adjustment of status to permanent residence will generally not be possible for an individual who has failed to maintain a lawful status under INA § 245(a). Such individuals will have to depart the US to process their immigrant visas at a US consulate in their home countries. Although the grant of deferred action will stop unlawful presence from accruing, it does not erase any past unlawful presence. Thus, one who has accrued over one year of unlawful presence and departs the US in order to process for an immigrant visa will most likely face the 10 year bar under INA § 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II). While some may be able to take advantage of the proposed provisional waiver rule, where one can apply in the US for a waiver before leaving the US, not all will be eligible under this new rule.  A case in point is someone who is sponsored by an employer under the employment-based second preference, and who may not even have a qualifying relative to apply for the waiver of the 10 year bar.

Since the publication of our blog, the USCIS has issued extensive guidelines for consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), which will take effect on August 15, 2012.  We were pleasantly surprised to find in the FAQ that those granted deferred action beneficiaries can apply for advance parole.  It is yet unclear whether one who has been granted deferred action and who has accrued unlawful presence and travels under advance parole can take advantage of Arrabally and Yerrabelly and the current FAQ does not suggest it.  At this point, a DACA applicant should assume that Arrabally and Yerrabelly will not apply, and an individual who has accrued over one-year of unlawful presence and leaves even under advance parole could face the 10-year bar.    Still, there is no reason for Arrabally and Yerabelly’s magic to not apply in this case too. Here too, the individual will be leaving the US under advance parole, which under Matter of Arrabally and Yerabelly, did not effectuate the departure under INA § 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II). This is something worth advocating for with the USCIS as the DACA program unfolds. Obviously, USCIS will tread carefully as it is already facing criticism from opponents of the program, including members of Congress. Yet, applying Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly to young people who have been granted a fresh lease of life would be a logical extension.  The FAQ also indicates that the USCIS will only grant advance parole if one is travelling for humanitarian purposes, education purposes or employment purposes. Again, the FAQ does not expand on what humanitarian, education or employment purposes mean.  A deferred action beneficiary with an approved I-130 or I-140, which has become current for green card processing, can conceivably apply for advance parole based on humanitarian purposes to apply for immigrant visa at the consular post overseas.   His or her departure under advance parole, if Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly applies, will not trigger the 10 year bar. If this person successfully comes back on an  immigrant visa to be granted permanent residence upon admission, query whether the holding will still apply.  After all, the BIA in Arrabally and Yerrabelly contemplated a return as a parolee and not as a permanent resident.  Yet, again, just as the BIA performed magic when interpreting “departure” to not apply to those leaving the US under advadnce parole, there is no reason for the USCIS to not stretch it to a scenario where the deferred action beneficiary will leave on advance parole, thus not triggering the 10 year bar, in order to return to the US as an immigrant.  This is clearly not the current position of the USCIS as articulated in its FAQ.  The purpose of our blog is to advance interpretations that would be favorable for DREAMers down the road.

On the other hand, Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly can be more readily applied to those who otherwise would not be able to adjust status if they made an entry without inspection but were immediate relatives of US citizens. Such people would not need to process an immigrant visa at a US consulate overseas if they could adjust status.  Unlike an adjustment of status applicant, a DACA applicant can file an application for deferred action even if he or she entered without inspection. If later, this applicant, now granted deferred action, married a US citizen, he or she could leave under advance parole and not trigger the 10 year bar. At the same time, he or she would have also been paroled back into the US, making him or her eligible to adjust status, which prior to the parole would not have been possible. This fact pattern clearly falls under the four corners of Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly as opposed to someone proceeding overseas under advance parole and returning as a permanent resident. Yet, we reiterate, at this point, it is not at all clear whether Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly will apply to deferred action beneficiaries who travel abroad, and they should seek the advice of competent legal counsel before they wish to apply for advance parole in order to travel.

While DACA is clearly not designed to create a pathway to permanent residence, Matter of Arrabally and Yerrabelly can facilitate this indirectly through independent I-130 or I-140 petitions that were filed on behalf of the deferred action beneficiary. Although only Congress can change the law, the President can find new ways to expand the relief available under current law. Our proposal would relieve the Administration from the burdens of extending deferred action every two years (assuming the program lasts for that long) once the beneficiary is granted permanent residence. After all, until Congress acts to reform our broken immigration system, it behooves us to be wildly creative, even to the extent of imagining that fairy tales might become reality, like what the BIA achieved in Matter of Arrabelly and Yerrabelly. Indeed, precisely because DACA is a remedial initiative, it deserves and should be granted the most generous administration infused with the central goal of remaining true to the reasons that inspired its creation. For this to happen, we turn to the wisdom of Albert Einstein:

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking
All we have to do is dream!