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05/23/16 | Lawsuit Seeks Transparency in H-1B Lottery Process

Washington D.C. - The American Immigration Council (Council) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have teamed up on a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeking information about the government’s administration of the H-1B lottery. The lawsuit, filed last Friday, was brought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. is co-counsel with attorneys from the Council.

Every year, U.S. employers seeking highly skilled foreign professionals submit petitions to USCIS on the first business day of April for the limited pool of H-1B nonimmigrant visa numbers that are available for the coming fiscal year. With an annual limit of 65,000 visas for new hires—and 20,000 additional visas for professionals with a master’s or doctoral degree from a U.S. university—employer demand for H-1B visas has exceeded the statutory cap for more than ten years. 

If USCIS determines at any time during the first five business days of the filing period that it has received more than enough petitions to meet the numerical limits, the agency uses a computer-generated random selection process (or “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to satisfy the limits, taking into account a percentage of the petitions selected which will be denied, withdrawn, or otherwise rejected. Petitions not selected are returned to the petitioning employers. U.S. employers, foreign nationals seeking H-1Bs, and immigration lawyers are keenly interested in how USCIS administers the lottery process.

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05/17/16 | Winners of the 19th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest

Washington D.C. - The American Immigration Council is pleased to announce that the first place winner of the American Immigration Council’s 19th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest is Eliana Jaffee from the Pardes Jewish School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Eliana’s poem was chosen from among thousands of entries nationwide. Her poem “Why We’re Here” describes America as a place of freedom, hope, and refuge for new arrivals. Eliana writes:

 

That morning when the sun had risen,

my shores, my seas,

my hopes freed from prison,

the poor,

the rich, and

all the forgiven came to me.

 

Go,

ask that girl to compare,

a life of despair to a breath of free air,

ask her why are you here,

not somewhere over there?

 

To read the entire piece and the other winning pieces, click here.

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04/18/16 | Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in U.S. v. Texas

Washington D.C. - Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Texas. The highest court will now decide whether the President’s deferred action initiatives announced in November 2014, known as expanded DACA and DAPA, move forward.

“The lawyers arguing for the deferred action initiatives made a convincing case that the law and the Constitution are on our side. As expected, the Justices asked probing questions to both sides, demonstrating they understand the high stakes involved this case,” said Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council.

According to the Council’s Legal Director Melissa Crow, “Much of the argument focused on whether Texas really has standing – a sufficient stake in the outcome of the case to file a lawsuit. The arguments highlighted the fact that this is a political dispute about enforcement policies, not the type of legal dispute that should be before the Supreme Court. Texas’ arguments on standing are unconvincing. As Justice Breyer noted, a finding by the Court that Texas has standing could flood the courts with lawsuits based on all kinds of political disagreements between States and the federal government.”

President Obama’s deferred action initiatives advance common-sense enforcement priorities. To qualify for deferred action, individuals must have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2010, register with the government and pass a criminal background check. Instead of tearing apart families through broad enforcement actions, the President is letting law enforcement officials focus their attention on those who pose the greatest threats to public safety.

The American Immigration Council and 325 other immigrants’ rights, civil rights, labor and service-provider organizations filed an amicus brief in the case outlining how families and communities would benefit from the initiatives.

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04/06/16 | Beth Werlin Named Executive Director of the American Immigration Council

Washington D.C. - Today, the Board of the American Immigration Council (Council) is announcing that Beth Werlin, Esq., will take the reigns as the new leader of the organization. Beth follows Ben Johnson, who left in January to become the Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Beth has worked for the American Immigration Council since 2001 in multiple roles. First she served as a fellow, then staff attorney, followed by deputy director of the legal department and, most recently, as director of the policy team. She has been involved in nearly every major legal issue the Council has tackled over the past decade, including working to protect the rights of noncitizens and ensuring that the immigration agencies are held accountable for violations of the law. She has represented plaintiffs and amicus curiae in immigration litigation in the federal courts and before the Board of Immigration Appeals and is the author of numerous practice advisories.

Beth first joined the legal team in 2001 as an Equal Justice Works fellow (formerly NAPIL) and before that was a judicial law clerk at the immigration court in Boston, Massachusetts. She earned her J.D. from Boston College Law School and her B.A. from Tufts University. 

“Beth’s deep commitment to the Council’s mission and its staff is only one of her many fine qualities,” said Paul Zulkie, President of the Board of Directors of the American Immigration Council. “Beth is also well-known and respected in the immigration law community. I cannot think of a better, more qualified candidate to lead the Council into the future.”

Beth is also an avid runner and lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband Michael Wiesenfelder and her two children, Sarah Rose and Aaron.

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For more information, contact Wendy Feliz at wfeliz@immcouncil.org or 202-507-7524

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03/16/16 | Angy Paola Rivera Named Council’s 2016 Immigrant Youth Achievement Award Recipient

Washington D.C. - Today, the American Immigration Council is pleased to announce that Angy Paola Rivera is the winner of the 2016 Immigrant Youth Achievement Award. Angy is a powerful young advocate who has brought to light the difficulties of carrying two painful, personal secrets through life: being undocumented and surviving sexual abuse. 

Angy has been an activist in the undocumented youth movement in New York City since 2009. She also writes a column called “Ask Angy” hosted by the New York State Youth Leadership Council. She provides advice to the undocumented community on a range of topics. In addition, she uses her column and AskAngy YouTube channel to speak out about sexual abuse. 

Angy came out about her undocumented status publicly in 2010. Two years later, in an article she wrote for The Progressive, she recollected the night she told her mother she was going public about her status:

“I still have her tears from the night I told her I would be coming out—tears laced with fear, etched on my heart. My mom blankly stared at me, and then she accused me of wanting to put myself and our family at risk. I was going against all the warnings she had given me. The look in her eyes convinced me that this was something I needed to do, not just for myself but also for her.

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03/08/16 | 326 Immigrant Rights Groups Urge Supreme Court to Let Immigration Relief Programs Go Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A diverse coalition of 326 immigration, civil rights, labor, and social service groups has filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Texas, urging the court to lift the injunction that blocked the executive actions on immigration that President Obama announced in November 2014.

The Obama administration’s expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) initiative were stopped by a federal district court in Texas, and that court’s order subsequently was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The lawsuit against the president’s executive actions was brought by 26 states. Late last year the federal government appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

“If the injunction is lifted, many families will be more secure, without the looming threat that loved ones will be deported at a moment’s notice,” the brief filed by the civil rights groups argues. “Many deserving individuals will also have access to better jobs and the ability to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities. DHS has discretion to grant or deny applications for the initiatives at issue, and the concocted argument to the contrary should not be used to prevent individuals from even applying.”

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02/17/16 | Administrative Appeals Office Approves National Interest Waiver for Specialty Care Physician

Washington, D.C. – The American Immigration Council applauds the Administrative Appeals Office’s (AAO) decision to withdraw the Texas Service Center Director’s (TSC) restrictive interpretation in Matter of H-V-P-, a case involving a national interest waiver. The TSC decision would have prevented a specialty care physician (hematology-oncology) from providing medical care in a community that has a government-designated shortage of health care professionals.

To obtain an employment-based visa in most categories, a noncitizen usually needs a job offer from a U.S. employer. However, in Matter of H-V-P-, the AAO recognized that the law requires USCIS to waive the job offer requirement for both primary and specialty care physicians who work full-time in an area with a shortage of health care professionals(and meet other requirements not at issue here).The AAO also concluded that TSC’s narrow interpretation of an implementing regulation as requiring a specific specialty care shortage certification was inconsistent with past USCIS practice and would “frustrate the statutory scheme Congress enacted to improve access to medical care in underserved areas.”

In reaching this conclusion, the AAO adopted many of the arguments in an amicus brief submitted by the Council, AILA and the International Medical Group Taskforce. 

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02/08/16 | Eight of Twelve Families Targeted by ICE Have Been Released

Washington D.C. – After being held in detention for more than a month by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), eight of the families rounded up by ICE at the beginning of January have finally been released from detention while their cases proceed. The CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project had filed appeals and won temporary stays of removal from the Board of Immigration Appeals for 12 families – 33 mothers and children who fled extreme domestic violence or were targeted for recruitment, kidnapping, assault, or extortion by transnational criminal organizations. 

CARA Project Managing Attorney Katie Shepherd noted, “These terrified mothers and children were rousted from their homes on New Year’s weekend and, even after they had obtained stays of deportation, remained detained in Dilley, Texas. Many of them endured the additional trauma of transfer to yet another detention center in Berks County, Pennsylvania  – the same facility that is now on the verge of losing its state license. ICE executed one such transfer with full knowledge that a pro bono attorney from out of town was on the way to Dilley to meet with the detained mother. These families, and all asylum-seekers, deserve their liberty while they pursue their claims under U.S. law.”

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01/28/16 | Central American Mothers Targeted in Immigration Raids and Still Detained Pen Letter to Obama

DILLEY, Texas -- Seven women picked up and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in early January in widely publicized raids have made a direct and personal plea to President Barack Obama to allow their release while they pursue ongoing appeals of their deportation orders.

The women and their children, representing 33 people in 12 families, were picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in raids over New Year’s weekend. The families obtained temporary stays of their deportation orders with the help of attorneys from the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project based at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

Some of the 121 people ICE picked up were brought to the Dilley facility for processing The majority have been deported to their home countries. But the 12 families who received stays remain in detention, some at Dilley and others at the Berks Family Residential Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania.

Despite the fact that all of these women and children appeared at their hearings and consistently abided by the conditions of their release, DHS refuses to release them from custody while the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) considers their legal claims.

Now in their fourth week in detention, the women expressed their frustrations in a handwritten letter to President Obama, pleading with him to release them from detention and allow their children to return to their schools while their legal appeals proceed.

"Why did you choose us to…frighten other Central American families, with no regard for the suffering it causes us and our children?” they ask.

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01/13/16 | Court Rejects Government’s Efforts to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Detention Conditions

Washington D.C.—On Monday, a federal district court permitted a class action lawsuit challenging harmful and unconstitutional conditions of confinement by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to move forward.

In Jane Doe, et al. v. Johnson, et al., the court certified a class of plaintiffs to include: “All individuals who are now or in the future will be detained for one or more nights at a CBP facility within the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector.” This class of thousands of present and future detainees includes traumatized asylum seekers and mothers with infants and small children who are held by CBP. The Tucson Sector covers most of Arizona, from the New Mexico state line to the Yuma County line.

The court denied the government’s attempts to dismiss the class representatives and their constitutional claims. It found that the two women representing the class were held by Border Patrol in the Tucson Sector when the lawsuit was filed in June 2015 and clearly had standing to bring this lawsuit. The court also determined that plaintiffs had set out sufficient facts in their Complaint to sustain their constitutional challenge to all of the harmful detention conditions. As a result, the case will proceed and CBP will have to publicly attempt to demonstrate that these conditions were proper and necessary.  

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