On July 5, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released a memo saying that they are widening the range of cases where they will put immigrants in removal.
USCIS has been allowed to issue NTAs, Notices to Appear, which begins removal proceedings and means that immigrants are required to appear before an immigration judge. USCIS NTAs are usually limited to specific situations like fraud. USCIS would refer the case to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who would move from there.
But according to the new memo, USCIS officials can directly issue NTAs in many different circumstances now. For example, if the immigrant has a criminal offense in the history or if a case is denied and the applicant is unlawfully present in the United States.
Immigration advocates were alarmed by the memo, which only furthered when another memo was issued on July 13 that allows USCIS to simply deny applications for lack of evidence without issuing requests for more evidence or notifying the immigrant of USCIS’s intent to deny the case.
According to the director of government relations for AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers Association), Greg Chen, “These two memos work in tandem and are effectively a one-two punch that will render our adjudication processes even less fair and even more harsh for people that are applying for their families, for workers to be able to come here, for students who want to stay here or change their status…Businesses, universities, families, and communities are going to be hurt tremendously.”
USCIS director, Lee Francis Cissna, said, “For too long, USCIS officers uncovering instances of fraudulent or criminal activity have been limited in their ability to help ensure U.S. immigration laws are faithfully executed.” The purpose of the new policy is to equip “USCIS officers with clear guidance they need and deserve to support the enforcement priorities established by the president…”
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