Largest Civil Settlement in Employer Sanctions Case ($90 million)
Just in case you thought that the I-9 form for checking employment authorization for new hires was “just paperwork,” pay attention. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that Asplundh Tree Experts, one of the largest privately held U.S. companies, pleaded guilty to unlawfully employing individuals not authorized to work in the US and was sentenced to an $80 million criminal forfeiture judgment and $15 million in civil payment, the largest immigration payment ever levied.
More on DHS Expansion of In-Person Interview Requirement for Adjustment of Status Applicants
On Oct. 1, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began phasing in in-person interviews for all employment-based I-485 adjustment of status cases when the underlying petition is a Form I-140 (EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3) and when the case was filed after March 6, 2017. During several public informational meetings, USCIS provided further guidance on who is subject to the new requirement, what the process will be, and what applicants can expect. Here are the highlights:
I-360-based adjustment of status cases (Special Immigrant Visas) are currently not subject to the in-person interview requirement.
USICS will incrementally expand the requirement to I-730 petitions for beneficiaries who are in the United States and are petitioning to join a principal asylee/refugee applicant.
Children under the age of 14 are eligible for a waiver of the interview requirement.
USCIS will endeavor to schedule family members together.
The National Benefits Center (NBC) will conduct pre-processing case review to ensure that the case is “interview ready.” Interviews will be held at local USCIS field offices.
NBC will issue requests for evidence for a medical exam or Supplement J, if not submitted with the initial adjustment of status filing.
USCIS will entertain the possibility of permitting remote or Skype participation by attorneys so that applicants represented by out-of-district counsel can continue to be represented at the interview by that attorney rather than having to retain local counsel.
USCIS will not readjudicate the underlying petition but will seek to validate the evidence included with the I-140; thus, the interview itself will focus on the applicant’s work as well as issues of admissibility.
Derivative family members should be prepared to bring to the interview evidence of their relationship to the principal applicant.
USCIS anticipates a 17 percent increase in workload at USCIS field offices, which will affect family-based and naturalization application interview processing times.
The 10 most affected offices are San Jose, San Francisco, Newark, New York, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.
The overall impact of the expanded interview requirement will not be seen for several months, both in terms of its value and delays.
Keep an Eye on Your Social Media Accounts
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to collect social media information on all visitors and immigrants, and disclosing that information is becoming a prerequisite on visa applications. Consular officials, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), ICE, and USCIS have been collecting this information for the past several years, but there has been a new push for extremely broad data collection. However, immigration officials cannot request social media information that is private (not available for public viewing) without a warrant, unless the subscriber has consented to disclosure when signing up for the service. We advise all foreign nationals to review their facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms, especially before applying for a visa or traveling to the U.S. It is also important to make sure your social media posts do not contradict your stated intentions regarding travel and activities in the U.S. In short, be smart about what you post online because the U.S. government is paying attention.
Meanwhile, in September, 10 U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging, on First Amendment and Fourth Amendment grounds, searches and seizures of smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices at the U.S. border (Alasaad v. Trump).
ICE Implements a Major Data Collection Program
DHS has created and implemented a number of technology and data-driven programs to assist in locating, tracking, and removing foreign nationals. Last year, ICE began developing a data collection program that would assist in their interior immigration enforcement efforts. The program collects and analyzes varied data related to targeted individuals, essentially modernizing the gathering of utility bills, driving records, insurance claims, phone numbers and addresses, and other public and private information that ICE already uses. This includes access to local jail bookings, now available through the Secure Communities executive order. However, due to the aggressive surge in interior enforcement operations, the data has become so massive that ICE has to outsource the workload. Included in the contract terms was the capability to track up to 500,000 people at one time.
Dilip Patel of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, a board-certified expert on immigration law, can be reached at (813) 222-1120 or email firstname.lastname@example.org