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US immigration law -- changes to DACA

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- DACA -- has helped immigrants in Louisiana who were brought to the United States as children without documentation. Those who apply for protection and are approved can get work permits, attend school and more. However, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced certain changes to this part of U.S. immigration law.

For the past 12 years, DACA recipients only had to renew every two years. These changes now require DACA recipients to file renewals on a yearly basis. Renewals will supposedly be subject to the same scrutiny according to immigration law as they were before, and advanced parole applications will be automatically rejected unless there are extraordinary circumstances.

US immigration law and criminal convictions

Being arrested is an overwhelming experience. Like other people who have faced criminal allegations in Louisiana, you are probably worried about your future. However, you have an added concern -- your immigration status. Your legal status in the United States can be revoked if you are convicted of a crime. Here are a few things you will need to understand about criminal convictions and U.S. immigration law.

One type of conviction is when a judge sentences someone to jail or other type of punishment following a trial in court. However, pleading guilty to a charge or receiving a suspended sentence are also considered convictions. For the purpose of immigration, a deferred adjudication or diversion program might also be a conviction if they require the defendant to plead guilty first.

Immigration policy causes uncertainty for international students

International students studying at universities in Louisiana were recently faced with a troubling situation regarding their statuses in the United States. The problem was that an immigration policy would have forced some of those students to return to their home countries. Although the policy has since been rescinded, there is still a lot of uncertainty about how these students will navigate the upcoming school year.

Student visas generally require international students to enroll in in-person classes if they want to stay in the country. In March 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- ICE -- announced that students would be allowed to stay even if they only took classes online. In July 2020, they withdrew that reprieve and told online international students that they could either enroll in in-person classes or return to their home countries.

Employment immigration: Changes to asylum rules

Every year, many people want to immigrate to the United States to change their lives for the better. That can mean many different things, but some come feeling persecution in their home country, either by their government or from an entity that their government cannot protect them from. They are often granted asylum or temporary protected status here in Louisiana. In the past, there were certain restrictions in place set by the Department of Homeland Security pertaining to employment for asylum-seekers. Recently, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a change that should help those applications, and supporters are hopeful it will help everyone involved in employment immigration.

The new rule will go into effect late next month. Before, the USCIS had only 30 days to grant or deny an application for employment authorization for asylum-seekers. This restriction is set to be lifted, giving USCIS more time to complete necessary background checks of applicants. USCIS says that to meet demand before meant it had to deprioritize other benefit requests. 

Temporary employment immigration ban extended through 2020

Successfully getting a green card is a fairly long process. It is common for people to spend months waiting to hear back about their applications. This can be especially frustrating for immigrants who have secured a job in Louisiana and hope to start working soon. An extension on a temporary employment immigration ban will extend this wait even more.

Although the 60-day ban for green cards issued in other countries was set to expire in late June 2020, it was recently extended until the end of the year. Government officials also expanded the ban to include a number of different temporary work visas, such as the H-1B. This type of visa is heavily favored by tech companies that recruit the most qualified candidates from all over the world.

Eligibility for US permanent residency

While the extraordinary events in Louisiana and across the world may have delayed the hopes of many hoping to immigrate to the U.S., there is good reason to be optimistic about the future. Some who desire U.S. permanent residency may have to wait a little longer. Still, this can be a good time to learn more about the process to avoid delays once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services lifts its suspension in certain green card categories.

The first step to achieving permanent residency in the U.S. is determining one's eligibility. The government offers numerous options for seeking a green card, and each comes with its own set of qualifications. For example, if someone wishes to join other family members who are already permanent residents or citizens of the U.S., he or she may apply under a family member's sponsorship. This sponsorship may include a spouse, parent or fiancé.

Employment immigration -- women fired for hospital visit

The Louisiana economy thrives when both domestic and foreign workers are active members of the workforce. But while these workers are all necessary, they are not always treated the same. Those who are in the United States because of employment immigration sometimes face significant hurdles when they need help the most. For example, two women who were working at a crawfish farm on H-2B visas were fired after they sought medical care.

The women claim that they wanted to go to the hospital after they developed symptoms of a serious illness that was spreading among some of the other workers. Instead, their employer made them leave their regular employee housing -- a typical arrangement with H-2B visas -- and sent them to quarantine housing instead. The employer also threatened to call immigration authorities if they tried going to the hospital, and fired them when they actually did.

Getting citizenship takes time

The emotional journey of immigrating to the United States is unique to everyone, but most experience many similar frustrations. While this country is undoubtedly a melting pot of different cultures, ethnicities and religions from all over the world, the path to citizenship is daunting. On top of that, the process requires lots and lots of waiting. This can be frustrating for those who are waiting to make Louisiana their home.

Getting citizenship is not as easy as just submitting a single application and waiting for a "yes" or "no." For foreign nationals, the first step is to apply for a green card with the I-485 application. These applications take quite some time to process on top of an extensive backlog. In June 2018, nearly 682,000 applications were pending review. That number had dropped to approximately 572,500 by Sept. 2019, still a sizable number.

Employment immigration -- hockey coach's petition denied

Sports teams only succeed when they have athletes and coaches who have the right skills, experience and dedication. Many teams in the United States -- especially those that compete at an international level -- rely on the talent of both citizens as well as foreign nationals. Unfortunately, bringing in coaches and players from other countries can be difficult sometimes. Louisiana hockey fans might even know that one team recently filed suit against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, claiming that it wrongfully denied a coach's EB-1 visa. In employment immigration, EB-1 visas are used for those with extraordinary abilities.

An out-of-state hockey team -- the Sabres -- originally hired its strength and conditioning coach back in 2015. Before moving to the United States to fill the position, he had worked as the strength and conditioning coach for a rugby club in his home country of England. In Oct. 2019, the Sabres filed a permanent residency application on the coach's behalf. USCIS denied the petition.

Don't take bad US immigration law advice

There is a lot of confusing information about immigration, and it can be hard to separate the good advice from the bad. Of course, people usually do not give out misguided advice on purpose. The problem is really that U.S. immigration law is complicated. But for however complicated it might be, there are a few pieces of advice that might be helpful to immigrants in Louisiana.

First, expect delays. Whether submitting an application for a visa or waiting for a renewal, the immigration process is unfortunately not that fast. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is rarely on schedule. This means that applications that would otherwise proceed quickly can take months or even years to be processed.