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Nashville Legal Blog

The president has limited power to end asylum

Tennessee residents have likely heard of the migrant caravan traveling through Mexico. While some may have dreams of reaching the United States, the Trump administration has said that it wants to stop the asylum process to prevent this from happening. However, this process is enshrined in both American and international law. The United States immigration laws are entrenched in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, and its subsequent revisions, outlining the asylum process. The U.S. is also party to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention.

Anyone can apply for asylum when they reach border or after they enter the country. This is true even if they reside in the country illegally. Most people however have a 1 year deadline from when they enter the United States to apply. An Asylum Officer will determine whether the applicant is deemed to have a credible fear of returning home, and an Immigration Judge may decide if immigrants are granted the right to remain in the United States.

How are assets split in a divorce?

Marriage isn’t just a union between two people, it also blends all of their stuff — well, sort of. Despite what many divorcing couples may think, property division is complicated.

It doesn’t happen in one discussion and the final decision may not concern either spouse’s opinion. Here are just a few ways who gets what is decided.

USCIS policy on H-1B visas challenged in court

For many Tennessee employers and skilled workers, the H-1B visa can be essential. This visa allows professionals to work in the United States when they are sponsored by an employer. The employer handles the visa paperwork and extension applications. However, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' policy is making the process difficult and unpredictable for employers and skilled workers alike. Companies have reported increasing numbers of problems with visa approvals and the length of extensions.

As a result, some employers have filed suit against the USCIS to challenge the agency's position that it can determine the length for which an H-1B visa is issued. Under existing USCIS regulations, an H-1B visa can be issued for three years or for a shorter period if requested by the employer. However, the USCIS says that it can determine how long the visas are required. Many employers say that receiving extensions of less than six months at a time is now common practice. For a business, this means mounting legal costs and efforts as managers must apply for a new extension immediately after the approval of the first.

Immigration attorneys report concern over green card changes

Some immigrants who are living in Tennessee may be reluctant to seek out government programs they are entitled to in the wake of a Trump administration announcement that green cards will be limited based on what benefits immigrants received. Attorneys report that they are counseling worried immigrants who are considering not applying for or pulling out of programs they are entitled to, and in some cases, those actions put the health and well-being of them and their families at risk.

The policy will not go into effect for months, increasing the sense of uncertainty around what benefits may or may not be acceptable. Furthermore, it is written in a broad enough manner that even programs that are not specifically listed could disqualify a person from green card eligibility. The proposal itself says that in part, discouraging immigrants from participating in these programs is precisely one of the things it is designed to do.

Judge approves asylum plan for separated immigrant families

Tennessee residents may be aware that President Trump's zero-tolerance immigration policy has been challenged in court by attorneys representing immigrant families separated at the Mexican border and advocacy groups. In July, a federal judge in California ordered the administration to reunite the separated families and asked the attorneys involved to develop a plan to deal with their asylum claims.

Many of the parents involved said that they were unprepared for their asylum hearings because they were concerned about their children. Some of these parents have been deported and many more face deportation because they were unable to establish that they were fleeing their home countries because of a credible fear. On Sept. 14, the judge announced that he approved of a plan submitted by attorneys representing the Department of Homeland Security and immigrant families that would give many of these immigrants a second chance to petition for asylum.

Trump administration seeks to detain families longer

Immigrant families in Tennessee may be concerned about reports that the Trump administration plans to avoid a longstanding agreement in federal courts that oversees the treatment of children in immigration detention. The administration said in September 2018 that it plans to detain families for longer periods of time in an attempt to deter undocumented migrants from crossing the southern border. New proposed regulations from the Department of Homeland Security eliminate the existing Flores agreement, which mandates that children should be held in the least restrictive setting.

The agreement also mandates the release of children within 20 days after their initial immigration detention. However, in the summer of 2018, one federal judge rejected a request by the government to allow families to be held for longer periods. The change will likely lead to a new lawsuit over the 1997 case that created the initial agreement. When the administration announced its so-called "zero tolerance" policy at the southern border, its treatment of immigrant children became particularly controversial.

New proposed regulations seek to circumvent Flores settlement

New regulations proposed by the Trump administration seek to lengthen the amount of time the government can detain migrant children beyond the current standards set in the 1997 Flores settlement. The settlement, stemming from Reno v. Flores (1993), limits detention of migrant children to 20 days and sets out standards for facilities used to house children.

The new proposed rule titled “Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children” would effectively replace the Flores settlement as a new federal rule for managing the detention and treatment of migrant children. The new rule entered the Federal Register September 6 and now waits in a 60-day period of open comment before full implementation can begin.

Legal permanent residents targeted for deportation

Legal immigrants in Tennessee with green cards may be concerned about reports of the Trump administration's immigration crackdown. While many people think that only undocumented immigrants are being arrested and slated for deportation, even legal immigrants and green card holders are being targeted for potential deportation on the basis of old criminal convictions. Further actions from the administration could threaten permanent residents who have used transit subsidies, Medicaid and other forms of social assistance.

Every year, around 1 million green cards are issued, and there are approximately 20 million green card holders who live in the United States. While a green card means permanent residency, multiple cases have emerged in which a legal immigrant is accused of an old criminal conviction, detained or even deported. In one case, a man from the Philippines received his green card and has lived in the United States legally since 1988. In 2007, he was arrested on drug and firearm possession charges, but he was only convicted of illegal possession of an airsoft pistol, an imitation firearm that fires plastic pellets rather than bullets. He received a sentence of probation.

Do Non-Citizens have Constitutional Rights?

There is a misconception that the U.S. Constitution applies only to U.S. citizens. Some passages and phrases in our laws explicitly state only "citizens" are afforded certain rights, such as the right to vote. When the terms "resident" or "person" is used instead of citizen, the rights and privileges afforded are extended to protect citizens and non-citizens alike. Moreover, protections under the 14th Amendment ensure that no particular group is discriminated against unlawfully.

ACLU accuses immigration agencies of setting traps

Immigration has become a hot button issue in Tennessee and the rest of the country. Now the American Civil Liberties Union is claiming that federal immigration agencies are coordinating efforts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to facilitate deportations of individuals seeking citizenship through marriage. According to documents related to a class-action lawsuit being filed by the ACLU, officials are setting "traps" that violate the constitutional rights of immigrants attempting to become legal citizens.

An ICE spokesman has called allegations of inappropriate coordination between various Department of Homeland Security agencies "unfounded." The ACLU claims that immigration regulations established by the previous administration are still in effect. These rules allow immigrants with spouses who are U.S. citizens to remain in the United States while they go through the process of getting their green card.

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