Appeals Court Rules Administration Can Terminate TPS for nearly 300,000 People

On September 14, 2020, a divided federal appeals court overturned a lower court’s nationwide injunction blocking the administration from ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for citizens of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan.   Maine was one of 21 states that filed a brief supporting the plaintiffs’ challenge to the TPS termination effort.

TPS is offered to citizens of countries that the U.S. deems unsafe due to natural disasters, wars, civil conflict and instability, so that those already in the U.S. on the date that their country is designated for TPS can apply to remain and work here legally.  It is typically offered in 18 month increments, and has often been extended repeatedly.

Approximately 195,000 Salvadorans have had TPS since 2001, and more than 50% of them have lived in the U.S. for over 20 years.  As of 2018, they were parents of 192,000 U.S. citizen children.  Nicaraguans have had TPS since 1999, Haitians since 2010, and Sudan since 1997.

Maine has hundreds of individuals with TPS living and working throughout the state who are integral members of our communities and labor force who face being placed in removal proceedings in 2021 if this ruling stands.  The plaintiffs have indicated they will seek further appellate review, but these individuals, who have solid roots in the U.S. and in Maine, deserve a path to permanent residency.

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act in June, 2019, which would provide a path to permanent residency for those with TPS and with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status (DACA).   The Senate has never taken up the bill.  It is past time that it do so.


Administration’s Assault on Legal Immigration Continues

In a  proposed rule published on September 11, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) once again attacks legal immigration, and opens up a new front against lawful permanent residents in the U.S.    While the rule’s title, “Collection and Use of Biometrics by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services” may seem benign, the impact and the intent are anything but.

Comments opposing the proposed rule, which would be carried out by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), are due by midnight on October 13, 2020.

This proposed rule continues the administration’s “death by a thousand cuts” efforts to  end legal immigration almost entirely.  And consistent with other regulatory reforms, such as the 2019 “public charge rule” change, this proposed rule,  while broadly applicable on its face, takes particular aim at immediate family immigration.

At the same time, it represents a sweeping collection of personal identifying data of U.S. citizens and immigrants alike.   The proposed rule estimates that 6.07 million people annually would be required to submit biometrics, a 55% increase from the average of 3.9 million currently.  Applicants for immigration status have long been required to submit biometrics so that DHS can vet them, but this new rule will require biometrics from anyone who files or is “associated with” an immigration application or petition filed on behalf of another.

The proposed rule’s biometrics requirements also apply to most nonimmigrants, but only if their countries require fingerprinting of U.S. citizens “temporarily residing” (a term which the rule fails to define) there.

Key provisions of the proposed rule include:

  • Expanding the types of biometrics USCIS will collect to include not just the current photos, fingerprints, and signatures, but also palm prints, voice prints, iris prints, and in many cases, DNA.
  • Requiring the following to submit biometrics in order for their  immediate family members to be approved to immigrate, including:
      • U.S. citizens (native-born or naturalized) petitioning for their spouses, parents, children, siblings, and fiancé(e)s;
      • permanent residents (“green card” holders) petitioning for their spouses and unmarried children;
      • refugees and asylees petitioning for their spouses and children.
  • Expanding those subject to providing biometrics to children of any age (currently those younger than 14 are exempt from routine biometrics submission).
  • Requiring biometrics of certain immigrant crime victims and human trafficking victims.
  • Requiring biometrics from any U.S. citizen or permanent resident joint financial sponsor of an intending immigrant.  Many immediate family members simply cannot immigrate without joint financial sponsors in addition to their petitioning U.S. citizen and permanent resident sponsors.  This change especially raises new barriers to immediate family immigration, by discouraging individuals from agreeing to be a joint financial sponsor due to the privacy concerns raised by the biometrics requirement and by the rule’s more cumbersome, intimidating, and expensive (sponsors must pay an $85 biometrics fee) process.
  • Authorizing CBP to designate certain foreign workers as subject to the
    Temporary Worker Visa Exit Program, requiring them to submit biometrics and exit through specified ports of entry.
  • Giving immigration agencies unprecedented authority to require biometrics of any noncitizen, including permanent residents , on a repeated basis “for purposes of continuous vetting, unless and until he or she is granted U.S. citizenship.”   This is notwithstanding that the rule states that DHS will store the biometrics digitally and can reuse them.

This last requirement not only casts aspersions that  “continuous vetting” of immigrants is needed, when to the contrary, data indicates that immigrants do not present  elevated crime or terrorism risks, but it also puts immigrants’ legal status at risk, since the rule says that DHS can revoke or rescind an immigrant’s status if s/he misses a biometrics appointment (which can easily happen when DHS sends a biometrics notice to the wrong address).  Put simply, this reflects an administration that doesn’t regard immigrants as the full and equal members of U.S. society that they are, who, like centuries of immigrants before them, have left everything dear to them behind, to come to the U.S. to work and to strive for a better life for themselves and their children.

Immigrants are already choosing to take their talents to other countries due in part to perceived hostility towards immigrants in the U.S.   That perception will only grow if immigrants are harassed through repeated calls to appear for biometrics already electronically stored in DHS’s files.

Even before the onset of the pandemic, since FY 2016 the U.S. has experienced steep legal immigration declines,  and executive actions following the onset of COVID-19 blocking entry of nearly all new immigrants from April 24, 2020 through December 31, 2020 will result in plummeting numbers this year.  The proposed rule, which would apply to those getting permanent residency from within the U.S., would reduce legal immigration even further.

The U.S., and Maine, need immigrants.  The proposed rule must be opposed, both for the reduction in immigration it will cause, and for the hostile message that it sends to immigrants that they are not valued and fully part of the “we” that makes up this nation.

MeBIC will be opposing this rule. 

Report Highlights COVID-19’s Disparate Impact on, and Recovery Challenges of theLatinx Population

McKinsey & Company has issued US Hispanic and Latino lives and livelihoods in the recovery from COVID-19, a September 2020 report that goes beyond looking at  COVID-19’s disparate health impacts on the U.S. Latinx population, also examining the economic impact and the challenges to economic recovery on these critical members of U.S. society.  As the report summarizes, the disparate impact affects the country as a whole because “(t)he population’s size and composition make it crucial to the US economy and society, and its vulnerability threatens the country’s overall recovery from the pandemic.”

The report notes that pre-pandemic, Latinx ownership of businesses with at least one employee had been increasing at rates higher than the non-Latinx population, but that about half of those businesses are concentrated in the five sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, including construction, hospitality, retail, and transportation.

During the pandemic, Hispanics’ and Latinos’ incomes—and safety—are in jeopardy in jobs that are vulnerable to both the pandemic and automation. The net effect is a drain on families’ financial and emotional reserves, and Hispanics and Latinos are more likely than white Americans to report being concerned about the financial implications of the pandemic….

Hispanic and Latino population growth means the country’s long-term recovery is inextricable from the recovery of Hispanic and Latino families, communities, and businesses. Indeed, the community’s unique assets—such as its relative youth and above-average rates of entrepreneurship—can contribute to more equitable postpandemic recovery and growth.

The report includes recommendations that the private and public sectors could follow, including steps to improve the Latinx population’s access to healthcare, education, housing, and capital.

Access the full report here.




TPS for South Sudan Extended through May 2, 2022

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will extend its Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for South Sudan through May 2, 2022.  The current TPS period was due to expire on November 2, 2020.  The time frame for eligible South Sudanese to re-register for TPS has not yet been announced.

TPS is offered to citizens of countries that the U.S. deems unsafe due to natural disasters or wars and civil conflict, so that those already in the U.S. on the date that their country is designated  for TPS can apply to remain and work here legally.  It is typically offered in 18 month increments, and has often been extended repeatedly.  South Sudan was first designated for TPS in 2011.

Eligible citizens of South Sudan should check this USCIS webpage frequently for information about when they will be able to re-register for TPS.  Immigration filing fees will increase on October 2, 2020, and applicants should be prepared to pay $550 to renew their TPS work permits if re-registering on or after that date.



MeBIC Engages with Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee

The Education and Workforce Subcommittee of Governor Mills’ Economic Recovery Committee invited MeBIC to provide information and ideas aimed at ensuring that immigrants are fully included both in Maine’s plans for short term recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and also in the talent attraction and development goals set out in the Maine Economic Development Strategy 2020-2029.   In addition to presenting and answering questions at a Subcommittee meeting, MeBIC provided its top recommendations to the Subcommittee on September 3, 2020.

MeBIC underscored that the need for Maine to address the lack of affordable, high quality childcare, affordable housing, robust public transportation infrastructure, and no-barrier access to quality healthcare is urgent for Maine’s immigrants, as it is for all workers regardless of immigration status, particularly those who are low-income.

MeBIC also recommended that for talent development, Maine must:

  • substantially increase capacity for adult education English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and combined ESL/job skills classes, through full funding of LD 647, An Act To Attract, Educate and Retain New State Residents To Strengthen the Workforce, a bill already approved by both chambers of the State Legislature;
  • create a standard driver’s license available to state residents without regard to immigration status, as 15 other states have done, which would improve immigrants’ work and family mobility, and facilitate the ability of asylum seekers who are stuck waiting more than a year for their work permits to work as independent contractors;
  • support ongoing efforts to reduce or prevent immigrant “brain waste” by easing barriers to professional licensure for those whose education, skills, and credentials were acquired abroad, and follow the recommendations of those working on this issue, such as Maine’s Department for Professional and Financial Regulation.

To attract new immigrant talent to the state, Maine should:

  • ensure immigrant access to General Assistance, which serves as a workforce attraction tool by helping asylum seekers and other immigrants meet their basic needs while they wait for their work permits, and is quickly repaid through their income taxes once they begin work;
  • actively engage with Maine’s Congressional delegation to oppose  recent immigration reforms that, among many others, drastically reduce the ability of professional workers, immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, as well as refugees and those selected in the visa lottery, to immigrate to the U.S.,  that delay or prevent asylum seekers from working,  and that prevent foreign workers and students from coming to the U.S.,  and work with the delegation to pass legislation modernizing the nation’s outdated immigration system so that it aligns with the U.S.’s and Maine’s economic and family needs.

In addition to these recommendations, MeBIC included more than a dozen other suggested policy initiatives, several of which could be accomplished relatively quickly without legislation or substantial financial investment, to help Maine attract and retain immigrants by becoming a national leader in reducing inequities and advancing immigrants’ opportunities and ability to reach their full potential.

Despite the pandemic, Maine’s demographic challenges as the nation’s oldest state, coupled with low birthrates, mean that Maine still needs new workers to come to and settle in the State.  Becoming a destination of choice for immigrants is critical, if Maine is to have strong communities and a strong workforce in the future.

The Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee appears to be aware of this.  MeBIC was pleased to be invited to contribute to their work through the Education and Workforce Subcommittee.


New Forms Required in Nonimmigrant Worker Cases as of October 2, 2020

Coinciding with a final rule increasing the filing fees for many immigration forms, on September 2, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced updates to its Policy Manual reflecting that only the newest versions of certain immigration forms will be accepted as of October 2, 2020, when the new filing fees take effect.

In addition, USCIS is issuing revised forms specific to each subcategory of temporary foreign worker, doing away with the current generic I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker form.

Employers will need to use the updated form version dated October 2, 2020 for any nonimmigrant worker petition that will be received by USCIS on or after that date.   In Maine, the most relevant forms that employers must use for petitions filed on or after October 2, 2020 are:

  • New I-129H1 form- Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker: H-1B or H-1B1 Classifications
  • New I-129H2A form – Petition for H-2A Workers
  • New I-129H2B form – Petition for H-2B Workers.

New forms have also been created to petition for other classes of nonimmigrant workers visas, including L and O visas.

USCIS has also updated its Policy Manual to reflect another change from the new filing fees rule, lengthening the allowed time from 15 calendar days to 15 business days for the agency to act on petitions filed by employers who pay the premium processing fee for faster processing.

In addition, noncitizens filing for employment authorization on or after October 2, 2020 must use the October 2, 2020 version of the I-765 form.


Study Tallies Huge Economic Cost of Excluding Undocumented Taxpayers from CARES Act Relief

A recent report out of UCLA looks at the economic contributions of undocumented workers, and at the economic cost to the nation of Congress’s failure to include undocumented workers who pay taxes with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) from the economic relief provisions of the CARES Act.   This CARES Act omission resulted in an estimated 15.4 million individuals being denied economic relief, including 9.9 million undocumented immigrants and 5.5 million of their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouses and children.

Some of the key findings in the report include:

  • Undocumented workers contribute  $1 trillion annually to the nation’s GDP.
  • They contribute $190 billion annually in tax revenue .
  • They generate economic activity supporting 20 million jobs nationally.
  • Had CARES Act economic relief provisions gone to undocumented taxpayers and their U.S. citizen spouses and children (who were disqualified from economic stimulus payments if their spouse or parent were undocumented), $10 billion would have been added to the economy, supporting 82,000 jobs nationally.
  • The HEROES Act (passed by the House of Representatives in May, 2020) would include taxpaying undocumented immigrants in its pandemic economic relief provisions.   This would cost $9.5 billion, but would be more than made up for by generating  $14 billion in economic output, supporting over 112,000 jobs.
  • Over 78% of undocumented workers are employed in jobs deemed “essential” by the Department of Homeland Security during the COVID-19 crisis, including in health care and the food supply chain.
  • Undocumented workers have been the worst hit of all demographic groups by COVID-19’s effects, with their wages falling by 25% and their unemployment rate rising to 29% due to the collapse of other sectors where they are highly concentrated, such as hospitality.  By June 2020 both of those rates had improved somewhat but were still trailed other demographic groups.

The reports recommends that future federal COVID-19 relief legislation should:

  • Include undocumented workers and their U.S. citizen children and spouses in all federal, state, and local economic relief and stimulus programs.
  • Pass the provisions of the HEROES Act in the Senate that include taxpaying undocumented workers in COVID-19 relief and would include rebates for the economic stimulus payments,they should have received under the CARES Act.
  • Include all undocumented workers in tax rebates, cash transfers, business development loans, rent allowances and other emergency measures passed to overcome the effects of COVID-19.

The report notes that should Congress fail to include these workers in future pandemic relief, states should do so.   The economic benefit to states of extending state funded economic impact payments and unemployment benefits to undocumented immigrants substantially compensates for the costs of those benefits as the funds are plowed back into their local economies, generating jobs and tax revenues.

As the report concludes,

excluding undocumented workers from relief programs is bad for the workers, bad for economic recovery, and bad for government budgets. Including undocumented workers in government relief measures would support economic recovery, generate much-needed jobs, and increase government revenue.

You can find the report here.