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Immigration Corner

On February 16, just two days before the expanded DACA was supposed to open, a federal district court in the Southern District of Texas temporarily blocked its implementation. As of March, the district court in Texas still has not ruled on the government’s request for an emergency stay.  As a result, the Department of Justice is seeking an emergency stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. As of April, the court has not yet issued its decision, but we need these lawful, common-sense policies implemented as soon as possible.

What does that mean?

The expanded DACA and DAPA programs are temporarily put on hold until the decision is overturned. The federal government is seeking an emergency stay, so people can apply for the expanded DACA and DAPA programs as soon as possible.

Read more from the National Immigration Law Center: Texas v. US District Court and Asian Americans Advancing Justice Coalition: Immigration relief after Texas v. United States.

Why did this happen?

In December, 26 attorneys generals and governors filed this lawsuit as an anti-immigrant political and PR stunt. They chose to file this in a very conservative area in Texas and with anti-immigrant U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen.

Texas decided that the federal government had not followed the Administrative Procedures Act’s requirements. The federal government did not use those procedures because the initiatives are discretionary—which exempts them from those procedures.

What will be the verdict?

Texas is not following legal precedent. In a public statement, DHS said, “The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts and even other courts have said that our actions are well within our legal authority.” President Obama has said, “The law is on our side, and history is on our side.”

Read more about potential reactions from other states.

What is the timeline?

We do not know when things will be put off hold, but those who are eligible to apply should continue applying for the original 2012 DACA program and prepare for the expanded DACA program and DAPA program when they do open.

Read more about the stay.

We are expected to hear a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court any day. At the beginning of July, the courts will hear oral arguments regarding the Department of Justice’s appeal on Judge Hanen’s ruling.

Why does this matter?

There are 11 million undocumented immigrants, and over 1.3 million of them are of Asian descent. There are 4.4 million people waiting in visa backlogs, and 1.6 million of them are in Asia. Nearly 500,000 APIAs may benefit from the expanded DACA and DAPA programs. In all, these programs allow families to stay together and remove fear of deportation.

Read more immigration statistics.

What else is going on?

The Senate tried to defund DACA, DAPA and immigration policy changes dated Nov. 20 or 21, 2014 as well as those made on/after Jan. 9, 2015. Fortunately, Senator Susan Collins’ bill S. 534 failed on procedural vote in the Senate and has been rejected by NCAPA, policy experts, DREAMers, the ACLU, and more.

DHS is funded and will not go through a shutdown. Read more.

Cross Check Arrests and Deportations

From March 1-5, 2015, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) led nationwide raids targeting undocumented immigrants. They arrested 2,059 individuals from 94 countries—majority of the people arrested had misdemeanors. It has been reported that 15  of the people arrested had DACA. Many of those arrested are subject to immediate removal from the US, while others are in ICE custody, awaiting a hearing or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future. President Obama committed to helping our communities, but the actions of his administration are tearing our families apart. We do not support these operations that promote profiling, detention and deportation of our communities. If you or a community member have been caught in a raid and need support, please contact pabitra_benjamin@nqapia.org.

Read the DHS press release.

What about visa updates?

On April 1, 2015, USCIS will accept H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2016 cap (65,000). The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap. We recommend that you file within the first five business days. If they receive an excess of petitions during that time, they will begin to use a lottery system to randomly select who fits within the cap. Those who do not make the cap will automatically be rejected.

As of May 26, 2015, the spouse and children of H-1B visa holders may apply for an H-4 visa. Those with H-4 visas may obtain a driver’s license, pursue education, open a bank account, and may obtain a tax ID for employment purposes.

Read a commendation from NCAPA.

What is NQAPIA’s work on immigration?

You can find out more about NQAPIA’s work on immigration here.

President Obama issued a request for information on the subject of modernizing and streamlining the US visa system. NQAPIA provided feedback in regards to streamlining visa processing for family-sponsored and employment-based immigrant visas, operational changes for visa petitions, how to fully and fairly allocate visas each year, sharing priorities in data collection, and more. We are waiting for a response from USCIS. Check out NQAPIA Comments for Visa Modernization RFI.

We also released factsheets to help you better understand President Obama’s Executive Order including the expanded DACA and DAPA. Factsheets are in English, Chinese, and Hindi.

We are working to ensure all LGBTQ communities are included in upcoming relief. Tell President Obama, Don’t Discriminate Against LGBTQ Immigrants. Join NQAPIA, Familia Trans Queer Liberation Movement, and other partners in asking President Obama to include LGBTQ immigrants without children in upcoming relief. Sign the petition!

Join us for RISE UP! Week of Action on Immigration. Demand an end to profiling, detention and deportation of our communities.

NQAPIA is regularly involved in advocacy meetings with DHS and the White House, and we react and respond with the needs of our community. If you would like to work with us on immigration or other issues, please contact pabitra_benjamin@nqapia.org.

Get updates at our Immigration Corner.

Intern Blog: Senate Debate on Immigration Reform

By Steven

During Monday’s debate on S.744, which is the Senate bill on immigration reform, I heard arguments that made me cringe. At the debate, a senator tried to invalidate paths to citizenship by claiming that though “we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws.” While that is true, some of our laws used to claim that slaves were less than people and that the Chinese should be excluded from the nation. The idea behind our legislative system is that laws would not be permanent, and that they should be subject to refinement or removal if they no longer serve the needs of our people.

Read more