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Phoenix Immigration & Naturalization Law Blog

Diplomatic visa policy bars unmarried same-sex partners

People in Arizona who are concerned with LGBT rights and immigration issues may be disturbed to learn about a Trump administration policy announcement concerning diplomatic visas for the same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats. The administration ordered unmarried domestic partners to marry before the end of 2018 or lose their visas and ability to stay in the country. The policy would apply to foreign diplomats and United Nations employees, whose unmarried same-sex partners were given until Dec. 31 to show proof of marriage to the State Department.

According to the U.S. mission to the United Nations, the policy is merely an update to international visa practices that reflects existing U.S. law and the legality of same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage was legalized throughout the country in 2015 in a Supreme Court ruling and, since then, policy has required that new diplomatic visas only be issued to married spouses. However, human rights advocates criticized the move, even if the U.S. claims to treat opposite-sex and same-sex spouses equally in visa policies.

Use of public benefits could put a visa or green card at risk

Those wishing to enter Arizona or immigrants already residing in the country legally could experience trouble getting visas or green cards if they collect public benefits. The Trump administration has put forward a new rule that would alter an existing law that already curtailed the ability of immigrants to get documentation to live in the country if they had received cash benefits. After the public comment period, the proposed rule could expand the disqualifying benefits to include food assistance, Section 8 housing vouchers, Medicaid or the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy.

The concept of preventing immigrants from collecting welfare emerged in the 19th century. Known as the public charge rule, it was designed to turn away immigrants who might drain public funds. A representative from the National Immigration Law Center described the currently proposed restrictions as a way to favor wealthy immigrants and disrupt attempts by families of limited economic means to unite with relatives.

A bureaucratic 'wall' delays immigrant citizenship

Making the adjustment to the American way of life can be difficult for some lawful permanent resident immigrants as they take the necessary steps to become U.S. citizens. One aspect of which many immigrants are experiencing first-hand is the often cumbersome American bureaucracy. Although there has a backlog for years, since the Trump administration has assumed the reins of power, the time required to become a citizen has doubled or tripled in Arizona and most areas of the country. In sections where there are large immigrant communities, the wait could be four to six times as long.

Critics of the administration suggest a nefarious scheme is at hand while supporters point out there are good reasons for the delays. Administration officials suggest part of the responsibility for the delay is due to Obama-era changes in lengthening the application and point out the numbers of new citizens has remained consistent over the years.

H-4 visa rule faces final clearance review

The debate over immigration has been contentious in Arizona and around the country since Donald Trump announced that he would be running for president in 2015, and the row over H1-B visas has been particularly fierce. These are the employment-based visas that allow companies to attract job candidates from overseas when workers with the necessary skills cannot be found locally, but critics of the program say that technology firms in particular take advantage of H1-B visas and use them to bring in cheap foreign labor instead of paying fair market rates to Americans.

The furor over employment-based visas has also raised questions about whether or not the spouses and minor children of H1-B visa holders, who are issued what are known as H-4 visas, should be allowed to work in the United States. President Trump thinks they should not, and he proposed that the rules be changed to reflect his views when he signed his 'Buy American and Hire American" executive order in April. The proposed rule change only apples to certain H-4 visa holders, but the executive order does not make clear how these decisions will be made.

ICE reportedly targeting married undocumented immigrants

The Trump administration's hardline immigration stance has resulted in many deportations from Arizona and the rest of the nation. While the government may try to claim that the immigration policies are focused on law and order, that claim is belied by the recent focus on deporting undocumented immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens.

According to news sources, officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement are working with the United States Customs and Immigration Service to entrap and arrest married undocumented people when they come in for interviews. Regulations from the Obama administration that allow undocumented people who are married to U.S. citizens to remain in the U.S. while they are waiting for their green cards still are the law. Despite these regulations, ICE agents have reportedly been attending USCIS interviews so that they can arrest and deport the immigrants when they come to their interviews.

Fewer immigrants passing credible fear interviews

Those who enter the United States in Arizona or other recognized locations may request asylum upon arrival. The first step in obtaining asylum is the credible fear interview. This is when an individual shows evidence such as physical wounds to a government agent. However, there is no guarantee that a person will be found credible. One woman was denied despite showing scars and a hand with missing fingers after an attack in Honduras.

Despite her story and the physical evidence to go along with it, her claim was rejected. This is because the United States has changed its asylum policy to exclude those seeking protection from gang or domestic violence at home. According to the Trump administration, the fact that 75 percent of immigrants seeking asylum passed the credible fear review was not a positive thing. The director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said that the bar to pass the review had been set too low.

Judge orders a halt to reunited immigrant family deportations

Many Arizona residents were shocked to learn that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were separating the children of undocumented immigrants from their parents at the Mexican border, and they may have been relieved when a national backlash prompted the Trump administration to abandon the controversial policy. However, a new outcry ensued when it emerged that reunited immigrant families were being deported without delay.

The American Civil Liberties Union responded by mounting a legal challenge to the deportation policy. The nonprofit organization argued that under U.S. immigration law, reunited immigrant families should be given time to consider pursing asylum in the United States before being returned to their home countries. On July 16, a federal judge in California was swayed by this argument and issued an order that temporarily halts immediate deportations. Attorneys representing the federal government and the ACLU were then given a week to file a response to the order. The judge will make a permanent ruling after considering these responses.

Visa overstays

Non-citizens who visit or work in Arizona sometimes have concerns about overstaying their visas. In general, there can be severe legal consequences for not departing the United States before the visa has expired. There are some circumstances under which overstaying a visa may incur minor penalties.

When someone from another country comes to the United States, he or she is issued a visa. Unless a person has been granted permanent residency, the visa will expire at some point. Those who remain in the U.S. after their visa expires have "overstayed" their visa.

Avoiding problems in keeping permanent resident status

People in Arizona who are not U.S. citizens but have secured permanent resident status should keep their green cards in good standing. The two main ways that green card holders can jeopardize their permanent residencies are by violating the law or spending extended periods of time outside of the United States.

There is no official list of violations that will qualify a person for deportation, so it's a good idea for any permanent resident who is arrested or charged with a crime to consult an immigration lawyer. Criminal attorneys may not have a full understanding of the cooperation of criminal and immigration laws. Additionally, legal violations that jeopardize green card status need not be criminal. People have been deported for committing civil offenses that required no jail time.

Trump administration to fingerprint immigrant child sponsors

On May 29, the Trump administration announced that it would soon start fingerprinting parents who attempt to claim custody of unaccompanied children detained for entering the U.S. illegally. However, immigrant advocates claim the move may cause undocumented adults in Arizona and elsewhere to abandon their children for fear of being deported.

Because U.S. laws limit the amount of time minors can be held in custody, immigration officials have historically released unaccompanied children to adult sponsors who live in the U.S. The sponsors are then expected to bring the children to court for their deportation hearings. However, a representative of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services told media outlets that the government now intends to fingerprint adult sponsors with the intention of performing thorough background checks. Critics of the policy say that it will stop some parents from picking up their children, leaving them to sit in detention centers. An HHS representative disagreed, saying that parents who are afraid to pick up their children don't deserve to be sponsors.

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