U.S. House of Representatives Passes Bill to Protect Dreamers, TPS and DED Recipients
The House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) on a bipartisan vote of 237 to 187, the first time the House has passed a bill on protection for Dreamers since 2010. The bill offers permanent legal status for “Dreamers” and thousands of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders. Some two million people would benefit. However, it remains if the bill will ever become law. That would require passing a vote in the Senate and a signature by the President.
Strict Enforcement of Affidavits of Support (Form I-864) on the Horizon
For the past 20 years, Congress has required a foreign national’s sponsor to sign an affidavit of support (Form I-864) pledging financial support in the event the sponsored foreign national applies for or receives means-tested public benefits. The law requires that when a foreign national receives certain forms of means-tested public benefits, the agency providing the public benefit must request reimbursement from the financial sponsor. The law also requires that when a foreign national applies for certain means-tested public benefits, the sponsor’s financial resources must be counted as part of the foreign national’s financial resources in determining both eligibility for the benefits and the amount of benefits that may be awarded. The major means-tested public benefits programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). (There are exceptions for those who have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty or who would be unable to obtain food and shelter without the public benefits, for children and pregnant women who are lawfully residing in the United States and receiving medical assistance from a state under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Medicaid, and for those receiving SNAP benefits who are members of the sponsor’s household or are under 18 years old.)
The White House recently issued a memo directing relevant agencies to update or issue procedures, guidance, and regulations by Aug. 21, 2019, as needed, to strictly enforce the existing income-deeming and reimbursement laws when sponsored immigrants seek certain means-tested public benefits and thereby ensure that ineligible non-citizens do not receive such public benefits. The memo states that agencies are not adequately enforcing these requirements, both due to insufficient procedures and guidance for implementing reimbursement and for the deeming requirements.
Among other things, the memo directs relevant agencies to update or issue guidance relating to procedures for notifying the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security of the sponsor’s nonpayment and procedures for requesting that the Attorney General bring a civil action against the sponsor.
On a related note, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a proposed rule that would require the verification of the eligible immigration status of all recipients of assistance under HUD’s public housing programs who are under the age of 62.
More on the Government’s Attempts to Restrict Asylum Protection
It seems like every month the Administration comes up with yet another way to restrict the ability of asylum seekers to obtain protection from persecution in order to deter the flow of refugees. On April 29, President Trump issued a memorandum ordering changes to U.S. asylum policies. The memo orders the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to propose regulations within 90 days that would:
Require asylum seekers to pay a fee to apply for protection.
Require applicants to pay a fee to apply for work authorization for the first time. (Right now, asylum applicants – who must wait 180 days before qualifying for work authorization – can apply for their initial period of work authorization without paying a fee but are required to pay for subsequent renewals.)
Place people who have shown a credible or reasonable fear of being persecuted or tortured into limited removal proceedings that would restrict the judges’ ability to consider any forms of relief aside from asylum or withholding of removal.
Prohibit anyone who has entered or attempted to enter the U.S. unlawfully from qualifying for work authorization until their asylum applications are approved.
Give immigration courts a 180-day limit to adjudicate asylum claims “absent exceptional circumstances.” The White House memo fails to address the 800,000-case immigration court backlog that causes years-long delays to asylum cases and will make it impossible for the government to meet this deadline.
This proposed change would be the first time in U.S. history that asylum seekers would have to pay to apply for asylum. People fleeing violence and persecution are among the most vulnerable in the world, and often leave their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs. Forcing them to pay a fee, even if nominal, would be an insurmountable challenge to many asylum seekers, leaving them unable to access protections that they are entitled to under both international and domestic law. Moreover, the proposal to place asylum seekers into special, limited proceedings means that the Administration is blocking people from applying for relief that Congress has made available to individuals in these vulnerable situations. Currently, a person who arrives at the border and establishes a credible fear of persecution can prepare and build their case for asylum and present it before an immigration judge. The changes proposed by the White House would curtail an asylum seeker’s ability to present their case and would continue to strain the immigration courts.
While the memo sets forth the expectation that asylum cases must be adjudicated in 180 days absent “exceptional circumstances,” it does nothing to resolve the immigration court backlog that has contributed to asylum seekers waiting years to have their claims heard. These proposed regulations would cause immigration court dockets to be reshuffled once again, forcing people who have been waiting in line for years to wait even longer.
These latest proposed changes would significantly affect families seeking safe passage under long-standing U.S. asylum protections.
Dilip Patel of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, a board-certified expert on immigration law, can be reached at (813) 222-1120 or email email@example.com