In a closely watched asylum appeal, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a decision that will adversely affect the ability of victims of domestic and gang violence to find protection in the United States.

Matter of A-B- was originally decided, in December 2016, in favor of the asylum seeker by the Board of Immigration Appeals.  The BIA is an administrative branch of the US Department of Justice.  It accepts appeals, filed by either government attorneys or immigrants, of decisions made by civil immigration courts throughout the country.

In late 2016, the BIA overturned the 2015 denial of A-B-‘s asylum claim by a judge in Charlotte, North Carolina, where asylum was denied at a rate of 72 to 84.5 per cent between 2011 and 2016.  Finding the denial was “clearly erreoneous,” the BIA said A-B- had proven she was persecuted based on membership in a “particular social group”; specifically, “El Salvadoran women who are unable to leave their domestic relationships where they have children in common.”

In March 2018, Sessions referred the BIA’s decision to himself – a controversial practice that gives a political appointee, and the head of a law enforcement agency, absolute power to overturn the decision of an independent and neutral tribunal of administrative judges.  Sessions’s decision yesterday, which comes as a surprise to no one, vacates the BIA’s grant of asylum as “wrongly decided” and says:  “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes—such as domestic violence or gang violence—or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”

Calling it “an affront to the rule of law,” a group of 15 former immigration and BIA judges said Sessions’s finding erased “a 15-year process through the immigration courts and BIA” to develop nuanced and reliable legal standards on the “particular social group” basis for asylum.

This week, Tom Homan, acting Director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced that he has instructed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative branch of ICE, to quadruple the number of worksite inspections.  Danielle Bennett, spokeswoman for the agency, confirmed this directive and added “ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy continues to address both employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers and the workers themselves.”

What does this mean for U.S. employers? This means that employers should expect to see increased HSI visits during which HSI will conduct not only I-9 audits to ensure that employers are complying with established employment eligibility verification requirements, but also other investigations related to compliance with immigration and labor regulations.

Continue Reading Employers Should Take the Necessary Steps to Prepare for Increased Worksite Inspections

Last month, the Homeland Security Investigation Worksite Enforcement Unit of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a significant change in policy regarding use of electronic I-9 software.

Many such systems integrate data from other HR databases in order to prepopulate information on Section 1 of Form I-9, the section employees fill out during the employment eligibility verification process.

In an April 11, 2013, meeting with the Verification and Documentation Liaison Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), ICE has now confirmed its position that this practice is impermissible, even if the preparer/translator section of Form I-9 is completed, and even though the employee provided the prepopulated information in the first place.  ICE also confirmed that the pre-population prohibition applies to both existing and future I-9s.

On October 5, 2012, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) issued additional criteria  for determining when individuals who are in committed, long-term, same-sex partnerships may avoid removal (i.e., deportation) from the United States.  According to the memorandum, the following factors are relevant (though not sufficient) in exercising favorable prosecutorial discretion:

  • The partners are each other’s sole domestic partner and intend to remain so indefinitely;
  • The partners are not in a marital or other domestic relationship with anyone else; and
  • The partners typically maintain a common residence and share financial obligations and assets.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today that undocumented youth who were brought here as children and who meet certain criteria are now eligible for “deferred action,” a form of long-term relief from deportation that allows employment authorization and college attendance, but does not lead to a green card.  Known as DREAMers (after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which Congress has failed to pass each time it has been introduced since 2001), these young people have become increasingly vocal and visible in public protests and in the media.

Continue Reading Obama Gives DREAMers Relief from Deportation