Court blocks deportation freeze

IMMIGRATION CORNER - Michael J. Gurfinkel (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2021 - 12:00am

As I reported in a previous article, on Jan. 20, 2021, just after taking office, President Biden issued an executive order calling for a 100-day pause on most deportations or removals.

Immediately after that order was released, Texas filed a lawsuit, seeking a temporary restraining order, and on Jan. 26, 2021, a Texas federal judge granted a 14-day temporary restraining order barring the Department of Homeland Security from pausing most deportations across the country. The Biden administration is expected to appeal.

What this temporary restraining order means is that ICE is to resume all deportations despite Biden’s executive order, which prioritized deportation for those who are considered felons, terrorists and threats to national security, but had temporarily suspended enforcement actions against those who fall outside these three categories.

The federal judge stated in his ruling that federal agencies such as DHS “do not have discretion to completely disregard” immigration laws, which state, “When an alien is ordered removed, the Atty. Gen. (DHS) shall remove the alien from the United States within a period of 90 days.” In other words, immigration law requires DHS to deport or remove people within 90 days of their being ordered removed.

But what is sad and alarming is that in 2011, President Obama did the very same thing: he came out with a policy of “prosecutorial discretion,” where the government would focus on felons, terrorists, etc., but would use discretion and not vigorously pursue removal actions against those who, although out of status, did not pose a threat to society. That “pause” on such deportations was not challenged in court, but now Texas is doing so.

In addition, the executive branch of government (which is the President) is in charge of enforcing the law and part of his authority or discretion is to determine how or the manner in which laws are enforced. This judge seems to say that the executive branch must fully and vigorously enforce removal orders for everybody.

This is a developing story and could affect so many people in removal proceedings or have been ordered removed. Biden was going to go easy on most people, but as a result of this lawsuit and injunction, it remains up in the air how vigorously immigration laws will be enforced.

So, keep reading these articles, or watch my YouTube channel, US Immigration TV, as I will keep you updated on any new developments.

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The February 2021 priority dates continue to provide great news for workers in the EB-3 (skilled/professional) and “other worker” (unskilled workers like caregivers) categories. The priority dates for all countries (except India and China) are current. This includes the Philippines. This means visas are available, regardless of the person’s priority date. If a person is being petitioned by an employer, and their Form I-140 employment-based petition has been approved or is pending, they could possibly be eligible to file for adjustment of status and work authorization, assuming they are otherwise eligible for adjustment of status (i.e. no issues re maintaining status, no fraud/crimes, etc.). People with approved or pending I-140 petitions should see an attorney about their eligibility to file for adjustment, now that the priority dates for these employment-based categories are current.

Each month, the Visa Office of the State Department publishes, in the Visa Bulletin, the priority dates for that particular month, for the various family and employment-based categories. A priority date is a person’s “place in line” for a visa, meaning immigrant visas (or green cards) would be available for persons whose priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed below. If your priority date was “current” but later retrogressed (or “moved backwards” and became unavailable) before your immigrant visa was issued (or before you adjusted status in the US), you would have to wait until it becomes current again.

The priority dates for the Philippines are as follows:

WEBSITE: www.gurfinkel.com

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