Litigation Update

Since its very first week, the Trump administration has bypassed Congress to reshape the nation’s legal immigration landscape through executive orders, presidential proclamations, regulatory revisions, and internal processing procedures and delays.  Collectively, these efforts have been called the “Invisible Wall”, and are doing more to curb immigration to the U.S. than any physical barrier on the country’s borders would.

The administration’s revised policies particularly target immediate family immigration to the U.S., and the refugee and asylum framework.  About two-thirds of new permanent residents (“green card” holders) to Maine are family-based immigrants whose U.S. citizen or permanent resident immediate family members petitioned for them. Refugees have also been an important source of immigration to Maine.

Lawsuits challenging many of the administration’s changes are ongoing.  Here is a brief update on where some of these cases stand. 

    • Presidential Proclamation re: health insurance mandate for immigrant visa issuance. This proclamation would have the effect of cutting the number of immigrants to the U.S., particularly immediate family immigrants and Diversity Lottery winners, by an estimated 60%. It was to take effect on November 3rd, but has been enjoined while litigation against it continues.  Learn more about the Presidential Proclamation here.
    • Public charge rule: This final rule particularly targeted immediate family immigration, and would likely have cut family immigration by over 50% by imposing new requirements for English proficiency, a high school education, or a minimum of 250% of the Federal Poverty Line as the household’s income.  It was to have taken effect on October 15, 2019.  Nine lawsuits were filed challenging it, including one brought by California’s Attorney General that the State of Maine joined, and the rule was enjoined before it took effect.   The Ninth Circuit recently overruled three district court rulings enjoining implementation of the rule, including the case that Maine joined. However, nationwide injunctions remain in effect as a result of decisions by federal district courts in New York and Maryland.  Learn more about the public charge rule here.
    • Consent to refugee resettlement:  An Executive Order issued in September requires, for the first time ever, that states and localities must consent before any refugees can be resettled in their communities. For example, if a governor does not consent, no refugees may be resettled in that state. If the governor consents, and a city does as well, but the county where that city sits does not grant consent, no refugees may be resettled in that city. No refugees have been resettled in Maine in FY 2020 as Catholic Charities works with the state and counties and municipalities to get their consent. Several refugee resettlement agencies have sued to block the Executive Order.  Initial arguments will be heard in January 2020.   Learn more about the refugee resettlement consent issue here.
    • Social media scrutiny:   The Administration is now requiring all visa applicants, for both nonimmigrant (temporary) and immigrant (permanent resident) visas, to provide information on all their social media accounts and handles for the past five years. Both forgotten and thus omitted handles, or content on a visa applicant’s social media feed, even if posted by others and not commented on or “liked” in any way by the visa applicant, may lead to visa denials.   Among others, this would affect those at the final stage of the process to immigrate to the U.S., those coming on work visas, or student visas to attend U.S. schools and universities, as well as visitors from countries where a visa is needed to travel to the U.S.  Maine, of course, benefits from all of these categories of immigrants and nonimmigrants, and will likely be adversely impacted by this new policy, along with the rest of the country.  A lawsuit was filed on December 5th to challenge the new requirement.  Learn more about this issue here.