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Phoenix Immigration & Naturalization Law Blog

Obtaining an H-1B visa

Arizona employers who wish to obtain an H-1B visa for foreign workers must prepare well before the filing season opens on April 1. Although the fiscal year in which those workers would be eligible for employment does not begin until Oct. 1, the volume of applications means the window of eligibility is usually only open for one week. The cap may be reached even sooner. In 2018, it took only five days.

Only 65,000 new H-1B visas are granted each year, and another 20,000 new ones are granted for people who have obtained graduate degrees from universities in the United States. Employees can only work for the employer who obtains the visa, and the visas are good for three years. They can be renewed for a maximum of six years. Which petitions are accepted is determined by a lottery process.

Trump administration announces new asylum policy

Arizona residents are likely aware that several thousand migrants from Central America are gathered in Tijuana, Mexico, and plan to apply for asylum in the United States. Many of these migrants have tried to cross the border illegally at the San Ysidro port of entry, which has prompted the Trump administration to change the way asylum claims are processed. Department of Homeland Security officials have announced that asylum-seekers apprehended in the United States will now be returned to Mexico to wait until their petitions are reviewed.

Prior to the Jan. 25 implementation of the new rule, asylum-seekers were permitted to remain in America while their petitions were pending provided that they were able to pass what is known as a credible fear interview. The Trump administration's decision may have been influenced by a 2015 federal court decision that set the maximum detention period for immigrant families with children at 20 days.

How the Trump administration has hindered immigration courts

Citizens of Arizona may be interested to learn that despite the Trump administration promising to streamline the legal immigration system, plenty of the decisions made by the administration have proven deleterious to the immigration courts, the latest of which has been the government shutdown and how it has been causing the cancellation of 20,000 cases every week. Experts believe that if the shutdown persists until the end of January, the number of backlogged cases during these five weeks could be more than 100,000.

During Trump's first 16 months as president, the backlog of immigration court cases grew by about 33 percent, reaching 714,000 cases. To make matters worse, this increase in the number of cases that have no scheduled court date is not due to an increase in the number of case filings but rather due to decisions made by the Trump administration.

The process of appealing an immigration decision

In most cases, those looking to appeal an immigration decision will do so through the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) or, as a last resort, federal court. Since immigration is a function of the executive branch, the rules may differ from those imposed in an Arizona courtroom. Whether an appeal is made to the AAO or BIA depends on which agency made the original immigration decision.

For example, if an application was denied by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USICS), the AAO will likely hear the appeal. If the appeal relates to a ruling made in immigration court, it will typically be heard by the BIA. An immigration court ruling can be appealed either by the immigrant or the government. Regardless of which court hears the appeal, it must typically be made within 30 days from the date an application was denied or a ruling was made.

What Arizona residents should know about asylum claims

The 2018 fiscal year for the United States government ended on Sept. 30. As of that date, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says credible fear asylum claims at the Mexico border increased 67 percent from the previous year. That translates to a total of 92,959 claims as opposed to just 55,584 a year prior. Furthermore, the number of credible fear claims as a percentage of all people stopped at the border increased to 18 percent from 13 percent a year earlier.

During the 2018 fiscal year, 21 percent of asylum claims were granted by a judge. In most instances, those who pass the credible fear threshold are given ankle monitors and released until their cases are heard. It is believed that about 75 percent of those who ask for asylum make it past the initial part of the process. The increase in individuals claiming asylum at the United States border with Mexico is partially because of a caravan of individuals coming from Central America.

Getting a passport a prime reason for becoming a citizen

Those living in Arizona or any other state as a permanent resident may not have thought much about becoming a full citizen. However, as a result of recent immigration policies, the number of applications for naturalization is on the rise. In Minnesota alone, there has been an increase of 88 percent since 2016. To apply for citizenship, an individual needs to wait two years, pass a test and take part in a naturalization ceremony.

In most cases, individuals who have a green card are eligible to apply for citizenship within three to five years. Once it is granted, an individual has the same rights as those who were born in the country. This means that he or she will have the right to vote, get a passport and remain in the country. Those who apply for citizenship also have the right to leave the United States and return at their leisure.

Trump asylum ban blocked by federal judge

For people in Arizona who are affected by U.S. immigration law, President Donald Trump's policies have raised a great deal of concern. Political rhetoric has escalated on the issue of immigration, and many people are concerned that their own applications could be negatively impacted as a result. However, there has been a response in the courts; on Nov. 19, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration's attempt to refuse asylum to people who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without documentation.

The judge heard arguments in the case brought by two civil rights organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, before issuing a temporary restraining order. On Nov. 9, Trump issued a presidential proclamation saying that people who crossed the southern border outside standard ports of entry would not be eligible to seek asylum. This comes into conflict with standing federal immigration law, which explicitly provides the right to apply for asylum to people who did not enter at standard entry points. If the presidential order is allowed to remain in place, thousands of people fleeing violence may face a more difficult process that could result in deportation.

Migrant caravan stirs asylum debate

Arizona residents have likely read reports about the migrant caravan that's currently making its way from Honduras to the United States. The migrants making this difficult trip say that they are fleeing violence and poverty in their home country and plan to seek asylum in America. The journey is necessary because the rules for asylum claims are strict and individuals must already be in the country or present themselves at a recognized port of entry to apply.

The asylum process was originally put into place by the United Nations in 1951 and became part of U.S. law with the 1990 passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The rules state that asylum should be granted to individuals who can provide credible evidence that they would face persecution if they were forced to return to their home countries based on their race, nationality, religion or beliefs.

Caravan moves closer to border

Arizona might be one destination for a caravan of more than 7,000 people from Central America who are traveling toward the U.S. border. Although many of these immigrants may plan to apply for asylum and expect to be accepted, experts say that acceptance is unlikely.

This is the largest known caravan to travel to the border. In April, 1,500 people from Central America reached the border, but just 250 are currently still in the country. Asylum has been granted to just three of them. Around the same time that caravan arrived, the policy of family separation began. This has been modified to give parents a choice between remaining in detention with their children or having their children released while they remain in detention. This appears to be unlikely to deter asylum seekers.

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.

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