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Nashville Legal Blog

Expanded version of DREAM Act introduced in U.S. House

On March 12, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a new, beefed-up version of the DREAM Act. If passed, the new version of the bill would offer U.S. citizenship opportunities to a larger group of immigrants living in Tennessee and around the country than the original version did.

First introduced in 2001, the act offered a path to citizenship to undocumented young people who were brought into the country as children. However, the new version of the bill, called the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, also extends that opportunity to immigrants with Deferred Enforced Departure and Temporary Protected Status. The goal of the bill is to finally provide a legal way forward for immigrants who have been living in limbo for decades.

H-1B workers' spouses could be denied work authorization

Some foreign employees of Tennessee companies may face hard choices after a regulation was proposed that could end employment authorization for the spouses of employees in the country on H-1B visas. The spouses of these visa holders are currently issued H-4 visas, which allow them to work as well. H-1B visa holders are highly skilled or technical workers who are sponsored to come to the United States by their employers, and they often pursue permanent residency in the United States. Their spouses can also work, a program that allows these families to support themselves.

However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has proposed a regulation that would eliminate these authorizations for spouses on H-4 visas. It is not clear whether this change would also affect people who have work authorizations or whose applications are already in process. Many H-1B visa holders are very concerned about this issue, especially because there is a lengthy backlog in processing green card applications. Once the H-1B holder becomes a permanent resident, his or her spouse could receive a work authorization. This change could produce significant financial hardship for many people whose spouses are currently able to work in the United States.

Detalles sobre la inmigración familiar

La unificación familiar es un principio importante. La categoría de inmigración basada en la familia permite a los ciudadanos y a los residentes legales permanentes de los Estados Unidos llevar a ciertos miembros de la familia a dicho país. Es así como, las personas que han sido solicitadas en base al grado familiar son admitidos dependiendo de su parentesco o relación con los ciudadanos estadounidenses o a través del sistema de preferencias familiares.

Filing season for H-1B visa petitions begins on April 1

The H-1B visa program allows employers in Tennessee and around the country to temporarily hire foreign workers to fill highly specialized positions when suitably qualified American candidates cannot be found. Individuals issued an H-1B visa are permitted to remain in the United States for three years, but they can only work for the company that sponsored their application. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services grants 85,000 H-1B visas each year, but 20,000 of them are reserved for applicants who have earned an advanced degree from an American university.

The competition for H1-B visas is fierce, and the USCIS generally stops accepting applications just days after the filing season opens on April 1. In 2018, the agency received 94,000 petitions in five days. Once all of the petitions have been received and processed, visas are issued using a random selection process. This is also referred to as the H1-B visa lottery.

How much marijuana is a felony?

In Tennessee, if you are in possession over a certain amount of marijuana, you will likely be charged with felony. You can also be charged if you possess less than the threshold amount, but other circumstances are present that indicate the manufacture of or intention to sell marijuana--such as plants, scales, and baggies.

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Asylum-seekers may be forced to remain in Mexico

For people in Tennessee dealing with the immigration system, reports of the rapidly changing and widely publicized migration policies of the Trump administration may give many people cause for concern. According to the Department of Homeland Security, rather than allowing asylum-seekers to remain in the country while waiting for a hearing, the administration is planning to send some back across the southern border to wait in Mexico for the adjudication of their cases. This policy will apply to people who try to enter at San Ysidro, a crossing to California from Tijuana. Thousands of asylum seekers are already waiting there, including people originally from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

This differs from current policy, under which migrants who are believed by initial interviewers to face a credible fear of persecution in their own countries may remain in the United States while waiting to be heard by an immigration judge. In many cases, single people are detained during this period, but families with children may not be held for more than 20 days according to a federal court ruling dating to 2015. The Trump administration denounced that ruling and sparked global outrage when it began separating migrant children from their parents at the border in the summer of 2018.

How Trump's shutdown is affecting immigration cases

In what has been described as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the Trump administration has been having deleterious effects on several important governmental functions, one of which is the legal immigration system. Citizens of Tennessee might be interested to learn that every week the government remains shut down, approximately 20,000 cases are added to the immigration court case backlogs.

To get a more concrete picture, it might be preferable to look at actual numbers. Ever since the shutdown started in December 2018, there have been about 42,726 immigration court hearings cancelled. To make matters worse, people whose cases were cancelled were people who usually had to wait two to four years just to get a hearing; getting a hearing cancelled means going back at the end of a long line and having to wait for another few years.

How to prepare for your naturalization interview

The path to U.S. citizenship can be a long and winding one. You may be one of many who has waited several months just to hear back on the status of your petition, and you might even have recently found out that you have an interview coming up with the USCIS. While earning the naturalization interview can feel like a large milestone in and of itself, it is important that you prepare for the upcoming date as much as possible.

The naturalization interview consists of two components: answering general questions about yourself and your application, and taking the naturalization test. The first component may seem self-explanatory, but it is particularly important that you study for the test. There are many resources and study materials online that you can make use of, and you may want to review how the test breaks down before you begin studying:

Confusion follows announcement on asylum seekers in Mexico

For many people in Tennessee who are dealing with the immigration system, reports about the Trump administration's crackdown on border security may be concerning. The potential of significant changes to a long-established system can be confusing and worrying. One such policy change provoking confusion is the administration's announced plans to keep Central American asylum seekers in Mexico after they present themselves to border officials at a port of entry.

The asylum system is meant to provide a means for people fleeing violence, repression and other forms of persecution due to their social group or protected identity to find safety. However, the process can be grueling. Asylum seekers are now also facing increased uncertainty with the announcement of the new procedures. While the Mexican government echoed the announcement, it also specified that it would not deport asylum seekers during the process. For many, the waiting period could be long. Experts estimate that there is a backlog of over 800,000 cases in U.S. immigration courts. An asylum seeker may wait months or years for their case to be finalized.

Federal judge rules against Trump asylum restrictions

On Dec. 19, a federal judge ruled that new Justice Department policies designed to make it harder for immigrants to claim asylum violated federal laws. The decision, which could affect immigrants in Tennessee and the rest of the United States, was handed down in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The new policies, which were ordered by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, eliminated the ability of immigrants to cite a "credible fear" of domestic abuse or gang brutality as the basis for asylum. Sessions argued that the U.S. asylum program cannot be viewed as a blanket solution for "all misfortune" suffered by immigrants. He further argued that an individual's fear of becoming a crime victim in his or her home country was not enough to qualify them for asylum.

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