While the nation is focused on the confinement of immigrant children, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is furtively updating its immigration policies. The USCIS is an agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and is responsible for processing immigrant applications, petitions, and benefits.
As of July 2018, the USCIS released statements announcing new policies that could endanger the rights of documented immigrants. For example, the USCIS now has absolute discretion to “immediately deny any application without giving individuals the opportunity to submit further evidence or without having to notify them of the agency’s intent to deny the case.” The agency claims the intent of the new guidelines is to support President Donald Trump’s developing immigration policies.
Under the new guidelines, immigration officials serving under the USCIS have been granted considerable latitude when it comes to issuing Notices to Appear (NTA). These documents are the first step in the deportation process. If you receive an NTA, you are required to appear before the court on the date specified in the document.
USCIS immigration officials can also deny and deport citizenship applicants based on expanded moral character grounds. This includes, “applicants convicted of aggravated felonies prior to November 29, 1990, or applicants convicted of deportable offenses after obtaining lawful permanent resident status.” If an application is denied, an immigrant may be considered “unlawfully present” and forced into removal proceedings.
Immigrants are currently trapped in a catch-22 situation. Under the new policies, green cards no longer act as insurance policies against deportation. When immigrants are issued green cards, they are allowed access to benefit programs including Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. However, immigrants are now blocked from obtaining residence if they receive those public benefits. Plus, any immigrant who is purported to have abused “any program related to the reception of public benefits” can be summoned by an NTA.
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Contact K. Dean Kantaras, P.A. if you have concerns about your immigration status. Our experienced Clearwater immigration specialists have over 30 years of experience, and can help you navigate the complexities of federal immigration laws.
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