DACA Update: Supreme Court Rejects Government’s Appeal, for Now

After a Federal District Court in California struck down the Administration’s September 5, 2017 rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the Administration appealed directly to the Supreme Court, trying, in an extraordinary maneuver, to skip over the usual appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Following briefing and arguments on whether it should hear the appeal without the case first going to the 9th Circuit, today the Supreme Court declined to accept the Administration’s appeal.

That means that if the Administration wants to appeal the lower courts’ decisions (there are now two separate Federal District Courts that have ruled against the Administration), it must proceed first to the appropriate Circuit Courts of Appeal.

It also means the injunctions against the DACA rescission remain in place and USCIS must continue to accept certain DACA renewal applications.  Anyone wanting to renew their DACA status should talk ASAP with a competent immigration attorney.

What is next?   The government may appeal to the proper Circuit Courts of Appeal.  Or the Administration could decide to again announce that it will rescind DACA, and provide a different rationale that will stand up in court (the DACA rescission was struck down because the courts determined the rescission was based on flawed legal reasoning).   It will be interesting to see what the Administration decides to do.

In the meantime, DACA holders need certainty and only legislation giving them a path to permanent residency will provide that.  We must continue to work for passage of the Dream Act or another durable solution for DACA/Dreamers.

Lady Liberty Weeps: USCIS’s New Mission Statement

Travel bans. Extreme vetting. Frontal attacks on prioritizing keeping immediate families together when they immigrate.

And now, it has come to this. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has unveiled a new mission statement that denies our history and our present, and signals trouble for our future, by striking the words that acknowledge the very essence of our country, “nation of immigrants.”

Here’s the prior Mission Statement that appeared on USCIS’s website through February 22, 2018 (emphasis added):

And here’s the new Mission Statement:

This is a striking change in tone, and raises the question of which “values” are being referred to in the new mission statement.   Given the removal of the concept of our “promise as a nation of immigrants” and the insertion of language regarding “protecting Americans, securing the homeland”, one could infer that the “values” no longer prize offering safe haven and opportunity to those who believe in the United States, and who want nothing more than the chance to become Americans and to create  a better life for themselves and their children.

For those who haven’t done so recently, now is a good moment to reread The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus, written to help raise funds for the Statute of Liberty’s  installation, and now affixed to its base.

Words have meaning.  Please ponder those of Emma Lazarus, and those of USCIS’s new mission statement, and recall your own family’s immigration history as you do.






Changes in Asylum Procedures Harmful to Many in Maine’s Workforce

Immigration authorities recently announced a significant change in procedure that will affect all asylum seekers applying for safe haven before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  All asylum applicants undergo a personal interview with USCIS to assess their eligibiity for asylum.   Because of growing backlogs, USCIS  will begin scheduling interviews on a “Last in, first out” (LIFO) basis to try to keep the backlog from growing.

Under the new procedure, USCIS will only schedule interviews with applicants whose cases were filed before early January 2018 if USCIS is able to keep up, via LIFO,  with newly filed asylum applications.   USCIS will chip away at the backlog, if possible, by working from more to less recently filed cases.

Maine asylum applicants have routinely waited as long as four years to be interviewed on their applications.  Now, individuals who have already waited nearly four years will likely be waiting many years longer for their interviews.

Conversely, under LIFO, new asylum applicants may be interviewed within 2 to 3 months of filing.  Many asylum seekers will be unable to find lawyers to help them properly prepare their applications and get ready for their interviews in this time frame, which may result in asylum seekers losing their cases.   The asylum application process is extremely complex, and asylum applicants without lawyers are far more likely than those who have competent legal representation to have their applications denied.

How does this affect Maine employees?

Asylum cases often present life or death situations.  Waiting for a decision on one’s asylum application means living a life in limbo, temporarily safe, but unsure if the U.S. will eventually allow a new, permanent future in the U.S., or will force the asylum seeker’s return to persecution abroad.  Waiting for years for this decision is extremely stressful.

Many Maine workers, especially those who have arrived in recent years from countries such as Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Angola, are asylum seekers authorized to work while their cases are in process with USCIS.   In addition to their concerns about their own futures in the U.S.,   many are separated from their spouses and children who can only join them here once the asylum seekers have been granted asylum.   For asylum applicants already stuck in the backlog, the LIFO system will prolong by years their strain and worry about their futures and their family separations, as they wait for interviews, and decisions in their cases.

How can Maine employers help?

Employers who offer an EAP as an employee benefit can make sure that their employees are aware of that benefit, and other support that may be available.

DACA: Administration’s hard line scuttles hopes for bipartisan solution

When President Trump spoke last September about his decision to rescind DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, he stated that he had great sympathy (and even “love”) for these young adults (the so-called Dreamers), and urged Congress to get a deal done that would provide them with a path to stay in the U.S. permanently.

That was then.  On January 12, 2018, when presented with a bipartisan proposal to help the Dreamers, President Trump rejected the deal.

And this week, with debate on DACA underway on the Senate floor, and following countless hours spent by bipartisan groups of legislators to reach good faith compromises to allow for legalization of DACA/Dreamers, President Trump announced that he would veto any bill not incorporating his “four pillars”.  He then endorsed a 592 page bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley that went far beyond the scope of DACA and border security,  proposing arguably the most fundamental change in the values of U.S. immigration policy since 1924, when Congress imposed race-based national origins immigration quotas.

On February 15, 2018, the Senate voted on four immigration proposals. All of the proposals failed, including the bipartisan  Immigration Security and Opportunity Act (S.A. 1958) and the bipartisan  USA Act of 2018 (S.A. 1955), both of which were narrowly tailored to address DACA/Dreamers and border security.   MeBIC supported both of these measures, which had elements that both sides could like and hate, but at least were thoughtful compromises.  Of the four items voted on, S.A.1958,  sponsored by Senator Angus King and co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins, gained the most votes in favor (54-45).  The Adminstration-backed Grassley bill received the least votes, suffering defeat  by 60-39.

The Senate will be on recess next week, while March 5, 2018, the last date of the DACA program (absent Court rulings blocking the rescission), looms.   When the Senate returns to work, it is imperative that they continue to make crafting a permanent solution for the Dreamers a top priority.

There is little doubt that President Trump’s veto threat influenced the outcome of this week’s debate.  Holding the nearly 800,000 DACA holders who are already integral members of our communities and the country’s economy hostage in order to achieve a massive overhaul of the U.S. immigration system is unconscionable from a humane perspective, and unwise from an economic one.   Any massive immigration overhaul should be the result of careful thought and a deliberative process, with hearings and input from a wide range of experts.   The 60 Senators who voted against the Administration-backed Grassley bill apparently agreed.

We can only hope that President Trump will revert to his earlier willingness to sign any bill that resolves the status of the DACA/Dreamers that gains bipartisan support, and will allow other immigration issues to be tackled at a later date.

Update: DACA Renewals Resume Following Federal Court Order, but Congress Must Act

Update:  On January 13, 2018, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will resume processing applications to renew DACA status and work authorization in compliance with the January 9th Federal Court order discussed below.  Only persons who already had DACA can apply; USCIS will not accept applications from persons who had never had DACA protections previously.

On February 13, 2018, a second Federal District Court in New York also ruled against the government’s rescission of DACA  and ordered USCIS to process DACA renewal applications under the same terms as defined by the California federal court order.

Those interested in renewing should consult with experienced immigration attorneys for more information.  Since the government is appealing the Court’s ruling, this relief may be short-lived.


On January 9, 2018 the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the Administration’s decision rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was based on a “flawed legal premise” and should be blocked from taking effect. For background on DACA, read this post.

What does this decision mean for DACA holders?

The Court’s order applies nationwide.   It orders the government to continue processing DACA applications from those who already have had DACA. A person who has never had DACA will not be able to file a first-time application.

Estimates are that over 13,000 DACA holders have already lost their DACA status and their permission to work. Under this order, the government must allow them to apply to renew both their DACA status and their work authorization. Should this order stand, the more than 8500 people whose DACA status and work permits will expire each week starting on March 6, 2018, can apply to extend their status.   The order does not allow DACA holders to apply for “advance parole” so that they can temporarily leave and reenter the U.S., however.

What’s next?

In a highly unusual move, the government has asked the Supreme Court to take up its appeal, without first having appealed to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.  This decision is a reprieve, but not a solution for those with DACA. These young adults need a path to permanent residency, not temporary fixes that leave them and their families, communities and employers in a cloud of uncertainty.

Congress must pass a bill creating a path to permanent residency for the DACA/Dreamers.  That debate is ongoing as of this writing,


Myth vs Fact: What the Jordan Commission really said about Immigration Reform

In the run-up to his State of the Union address, President Trump issued a statement honoring the late Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas, who chaired the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform. In that statement, and in his address, he implied that the Administration’s call to drastically reduce immigration to the U.S., particularly the family-based immigration that has been the cornerstone of our immigration policy for generations, aligns with that Commission’s recommendations. Here’s an informative, and informed, rebuttal by the Executive Director of that Commission.

2018 Maine State Legislature: MeBIC supports LD 1492

LD 1492, An Act to Attract, Educate and Retain New Mainers to Strengthen the Workforce. Sponsor: Sen. Roger Katz

LD 1492 addresses Maine’s shrinking labor supply by recognizing immigrants as a critical part of the solution. Passed out of the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs with 11-2 support, it was later carried over to 2018.   At a January 31, 2018 work session, LD 1492 once again received strong Committee support.  As amended, the bill would provide funding to expand the availability of adult English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, offer combined ESL and job training at worksites in public/private partnerships, expand the New Mainers Resource Center model operating in Portland into the Lewiston-Auburn area, and provide funds for planning grants for communities experiencing growing influxes of immigrants to assess services needed to help reduce brain waste and accelerate immigrant integration.

There was no 2018 testimony taken, but at last year’s public hearing, the bill received broad support from Maine’s business community, including several MeBIC partners, such as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., the Maine Healthcare Association, Barber Foods, Pro Search, Inc., SIGCO, Inc. Smith’s Farms, as well as from adult education providers, the Lewiston City Council, other individual employers, and Maine residents. The Maine Innkeepers Association and the Maine Restaurant Association also submitted testimony supported key portions of the bill.

The bill is now headed to the full Legislature for a vote.  See a summary here.

English language skills are one of the biggest barriers hindering immigrants from reaching their full potential in the workforce and in our communities. Maine’s immigrants want to improve their English, but often face daunting waiting lists to get into adult education English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in Portland and Lewiston, or find that classes matching their level of English are simply not offered yet in communities whose immigrant populations have been growing recently, such Augusta, Bangor and Biddeford. Moreover, research has shown the effectiveness of contextualized ESL classes, and workplace based classes combined with job training, as proposed in the bill, improve both workplace skills, and also ESL class accessibility, so that students don’t need to choose between the short term need to work and their long term learning goals.  LD 1492 would take a strong first step at lowering barriers to immigrant integration, benefiting immigrants and Maine’s labor supply alike.

MeBIC urges Maine’s business community to contact their Representatives and Senators to voice their support of LD 1492.   For further information about LD 1492, contact Beth Stickney at MeBIC.