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Nashville Legal Blog

Pregnant women face visa obstacles

Many people in Tennessee have been concerned about changes to U.S. immigration law made by the Trump administration, especially people who are looking to protect their status in the country. People may feel uncertain about the future, especially given the frequent changes and new executive rules that alter the way that visa or green card applications are handled. On Jan. 23, 2020, the administration issued another rule changing the way that visa applicants are treated, this time addressing pregnant women. According to reports, consular officials were directed to deny visas to pregnant women unless they can show a consular officer that they are not coming to the U.S. for the birth or have a legitimate medical need.

While the administration says that it is meant to crack down on people who come to the U.S. only to obtain citizenship for their children born in the country, others say that consular officials are not medical experts who have the knowledge to assess a pregnant woman's health status. Others noted that women who are denied visas based on a consular officer's belief that they are coming to the U.S. for "birth tourism" have no means to appeal the decision legally; they can only apply again for another visa.

Mexico policy raises concerns for asylum seekers

The "Return to Mexico" initiative of the Trump administration has caused significant worry among friends and family of asylum seekers in Tennessee and nationwide. People who arrive at the southern border to make a claim for asylum were, in the past, often admitted to the United States. They may have been detained or released to the community, especially if they had family members or loved ones willing to support them and vouch for them. Under the new policy, however, over 55,000 asylum seekers have been forced to stay in Mexican, even after they present themselves to a U.S. border official and make a claim for asylum.

The Trump administration says that the policy is aimed to crack down on individuals who remain in the U.S. unlawfully even after they lose their asylum cases. However, advocates point out that many people who are fleeing danger and persecution to seek asylum may continue to be vulnerable to violence and abuse in Mexico. They also say that the system does not work in many cases. Even when people receive an initial success in immigration court after waiting for months on end to see a judge, they may find themselves sent back to Mexico.

Failure to pay child support could impact immigration status

When Tennessee residents think about the requirements for an individual to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, child support payments may be the last thing on their mind. However, when a person applies to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, one of the questions they are asked is if they have ever failed to pay child support or alimony.

One of the motives behind this question could be that the way a person views paying child support has an impact on whether they are of good moral character. The interesting thing about this question is that it encompasses more than court-ordered child support. It is based on the idea that a parent has the responsibility to care for their minor children.

LGBT couples are being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border

Tennessee residents will likely be aware that thousands of Central American migrants have entered the United States in recent months hoping to be granted asylum. Some of these migrants are LGBT couples who are fleeing persecution and violence in countries where they are not permitted to marry or enter into civil unions. These couples are usually separated when they make their petitions for asylum because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy only allows couples to remain together while they wait for a hearing if they can produce a civil union or marriage certificate.

This separation can have profound consequences if LGBT couples are sent to detention centers in different states as asylum claim approval rates vary widely. In Colorado, almost one in four petitions for asylum is successful. In Louisiana, asylum claims are denied more than 90% of the time. Another problem that LGBT asylum seekers face is homophobic abuse and violence in immigration detention centers.

When do you need to change child support arrangements?

Child support orders exist so that you can provide for your child even when you may not be with them all the time. It’s crucial, therefore, that you make changes to your child support arrangements when necessary so that you can continue to support your child and meet their needs.

Here are just three reasons why you might need to change your child support orders.

Ballroom dancing hurt by immigration crackdown

Since the tightening of immigration rules at the beginning of the Trump administration, it has become more difficult for ballroom dance studios in Tennessee and other states to hire the instructors they need. Even when studios have found the right applicants, deportations and other processes have stymied the hiring process. Since the most popular ballroom dance forms are foreign, hiring instructors from overseas is often necessary.

National representatives from a dance studio chain as well as immigration attorneys have argued that increased backlogs for visa applications and necessary evidence requests have contributed to this problem. They claim that the Trump administration has erected an invisible wall that's making it difficult for all types of industries, not just ballroom dancing, to hire the workers that they need. Data from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services showed that immigration case processing time rose by 46% from 2016 to 2018.

Immigrants unlikely to move for health care, study finds

Immigrants in Tennessee and throughout the country are unlikely to move around based on what states offer them better health care access. This was one of the findings of researchers at Stanford University, who used data from the American Community Survey to determine that expansion of public health care options was unlikely to lead to an influx of immigrants.

This has been a concern raised by the Trump administration although most Democratic candidates support making health care available to all immigrants whatever their status. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that citizens are substantially more likely to have health insurance than noncitizens. Along with six other states, Washington, D.C., offers unauthorized immigrant children health care. California has expanded this benefit to unauthorized adults as well.

Expanded Expedited Removal Temporarily Blocked

Expedited removal is the process of removing a non-citizen from the United States without a hearing before an immigration judge. This is contrasted with normal removal proceedings which involve a hearing before an immigration judge to determine first the non-citizen's removability and then, if removable, any eligibility for relief under the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA").


First, expedited removal should not be confused with "reinstatement of removal," wherein a previously deported respondent is apprehended after returning unlawfully to the United States and removed without a hearing when their prior removal order is reinstated. Expedited removal is also not stipulated removal, where a respondent in removal proceedings agrees to their own removal and waives their right to a hearing. Expedited removal applies only to a certain class of non-citizens discussed below. While its use has historically been limited, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") announced in July 2019 a significant expansion of expedited removal.

Lawmakers propose special visas for Syrian Kurds

Tennessee residents who follow international news will likely be aware that President Trump recently announced that he planned to recall U.S. troops from Syria. A fierce reaction from both sides of the political aisle has prompted the White House to revise its position, but questions still linger about American intentions in the region and what will be done to protect Syrian Kurds who have put themselves in harm's way by working with U.S. troops.

American forces rely on help from local populations to overcome language barriers and navigate over hostile terrain. During recent military operations in the Middle East, thousands of Syrian Kurds worked with U.S. soldiers as guides and translators. On Oct. 30, a bill was submitted to the House of Representatives that would provide up to 4,000 special immigration visas each year for Kurds and other foreign nationals who assisted the U.S. military in the fight against the Islamic State.

White House proposes collecting DNA from immigrants

Individuals in Tennessee and around the country who are taken into custody by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would be required to provide a sample of their DNA if a measure proposed by the Trump administration on Oct. 21 is implemented. The proposal would allow information derived from the genetic material to be added to a database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The proposed policy change was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 22. The public has 20 days to submit comments about the measure.

The White House downplayed criticism of the proposed measure by pointing out that collecting DNA from individuals who enter the United States illegally was authorized by Congress in 2005. The Department of Homeland Security suspended the practice during the Obama administration. In addition to improving border security, an administration representative said the DNA collected could be used to prevent fraud and solve open criminal cases.

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