Immigration Enforcement Priorities Announced by DHS
On Monday, November 29, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will begin implementation of the Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law signed by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas on September 30.
"Today is an important step forward in ensuring that our workforce is empowered to exercise its prosecutorial discretion and focus its enforcement efforts on those who pose a threat to our national security, public safety, and border security," said Secretary Mayorkas. "DHS will carry out our mission to safeguard our country justly and humanely. In making our enforcement decisions, we will focus our efforts on the greatest threats while also recognizing that the majority of undocumented noncitizens, who have been here for many years and who have contributed positively to our country's well-being, are not priorities for removal."
With the new guidelines, officers will, to the fullest extent possible, obtain and review the entire criminal record, administrative record, and any other investigative information available, to include both aggravating and mitigating factors, in making their enforcement decisions. This will ensure a thorough and case-by-case assessment of whether enforcement action is warranted and appropriate, thus allowing DHS to focus its limited resources on cases of greatest importance to the national interest.
Officers are receiving continuous training on the guidelines and participating in small group sessions to ensure consistent application of the guidelines nationwide. Officers also are receiving ongoing web-based and in-person training to ensure effective implementation.
As described in the September 30th memo announcing the new guidelines, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will ensure there is a fair and equitable case review process that affords noncitizens and their representatives an opportunity to obtain expeditious review of an enforcement action taken. ICE will be issuing a memo in short order describing this process.
Secretary Mayorkas will continue to hold engagements with the DHS workforce and leadership across the country, as well as with a range of stakeholders including law enforcement, civic, and community leaders as the new guidance is implemented.
Source: U.S Department of Homeland Security, Office of Public Affairs: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2021/11/29/dhs-begins-implementation-immigration-enforcement-priorities
Biden Administration Swiftly Imposes Travel Bans to Contain Coronavirus Variant
In a rapidly developing situation, President Biden said that most travelers (excluding U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents) who have been in any of eight countries in southern Africa for the prior 14 days will be barred from entry into the United States as of November 29, 2021. The countries include South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. He said this was in response to concerns and unknowns about a new coronavirus variant, called Omicron (B.1.1.529), which appears to be rapidly spreading in South Africa and present in other countries.
The Biden administration indicated that more countries could be added to the restricted list if warranted. Several other countries also issued similar travel bans and restrictions, including the European Union, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The variant, which is being studied to determine its contagiousness, severity, and ability to circumvent immunity, has been detected in several countries in addition to Africa, including Belgium, Brazil, Hong Kong, Israel, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
Meanwhile, as of November 27, 2021, the Department of State issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for South Africa: "Do not travel to South Africa due to COVID-19."
Source: ABIL Newsletter, November 28, 2021
- "A Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019," White House, Nov. 26, 2021, https://bit.ly/312b35x
- "U.S. Imposes Travel Ban From Eight African Countries Over Omicron Variant," Nov. 27, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-impose-travel-curbs-eight-southern-african-countries-over-new-covid-19-2021-11-26/
- "U.S. Announces Travel Restrictions Over New Covid-19 Variant," CNN, Nov. 27, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/new-covid-variant-south-africa-11-27-21/index.html
- "Travel Doors Slam Shut as New Covid Variant Triggers Alarm, Stranding Hundreds of Passengers," CNN, Nov. 27, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/new-covid-variant-travel/index.html
- "Omicron Variant Detected From Britain to Hong Kong as Countries Race to Impose Controls," Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/covid-variant-fallout-omnicron/2021/11/27/8c6e0548-4f02-11ec-a7b8-9ed28bf23929_story.html
- South Africa Travel Advisory, Dept. of State, Nov. 27, 2021, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/south-africa-travel-advisory.html
Biden Administration Likely to Reinstate Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' Immigration Policy
President Biden is set to reinstate the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" immigration program as soon as this week after multiple attempts to end the policy, according to reports. In a refinement from the previous Trump policy, however, migrant adults enrolled in the program will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine, although they cannot be forced to take it. Implementation of the policy was ordered in August, by Texas District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk who ruled the administration must take good faith steps to reinstate the policy. The policy, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, forced thousands of migrants and refugees to wait in Mexican border regions as their claims to asylum were being adjudicated in U.S. courts hastily set up in tents near the border.
So far the implementation of the policy has been delayed due to Mexican government concerns. Among the conditions Mexico is imposing are that these U.S. immigration cases must be wrapped up within six months, to ensure timely and accurate access to case information and allow for easier access to legal counsel for migrants seeking asylum. Mexico is also asking the U.S. to accelerate development programs for southern Mexico and Central America in order to address the root causes of migration. In addition, Mexico requested that Washington offer migrants medical attention; respect designated return points; provide "additional resources" for shelters and non-governmental organizations to improve the conditions for migrants waiting in Mexico; and provide legal advice for the migrants so that their processes can "be carried out as expeditiously as possible."
Source: Andy J. Semotiuk, Forbes Magazine: https://www.forbes.com/sites/andyjsemotiuk/2021/11/29/trumps-remain-in-mexico-immigration-policy-likely-to-be-reinstated-by-biden/?sh=4a60f2f97193
Adjudication Guidance Now a Feature in USCIS Policy Manual
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on November 23, 2021, that it is incorporating existing guidance from the Adjudicator's Field Manual (AFM) into the USCIS Policy Manual. In general, USCIS said, the update does not make major substantive changes but simply consolidates and incorporates existing AFM guidance on general adjudication topics into the Policy Manual, streamlines USCIS immigration policy, and removes obsolete information.
USCIS said the update "explains how officers should handle cases involving unreliable evidence, including consulting the Department of State's Reciprocity Table, providing information on voluntary DNA collection options, and referring certain cases for in-person interviews. The update also clarifies "that when a petitioner, beneficiary, or authorized representative requests a copy of a signed sworn statement taken during an interview, officers provide a copy of the statement to the affiant (the person making the statement) at the conclusion of the interview where the statement was taken."
Source: ABIL Newsletter, November 28, 2021
- USCIS alert, Nov. 23, 2021, https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/uscis-incorporates-general-adjudications-guidance-into-the-policy-manual
- USCIS Policy Manual, https://www.uscis.gov/policy-manual
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