Updates on Immigration Policy Changes

August 22, 2017: DACA Uncertainty

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, marked its fifth anniversary this month. Nearly 800,000 young people have received DACA, and one-quarter are enrolled in higher education.

The president’s campaign promises always suggested that the future of DACA was uncertain. But a lawsuit threatened by ten Republican state attorneys general has added pressure to end the program. The state attorneys say they will file suit in an unfriendly court if the administration does not phase out the program by Sept. 5, 2017.

There are many possible scenarios. Some speculate that the administration will announce the sunset of the program, stop approving applications and ask Congress to deliver legislation.

Even if the administration does not end the program, it is not clear the Department of Justice would defend DACA in court. White House chief of staff Gen. John Kelly (formerly Homeland Security Secretary) was reported to have told lawmakers he did not think the program would survive a legal challenge.

Several bills have been introduced in Congress, including the bipartisan Bridge Act (to protect current DACA recipients) and the Dream Act (to extend similar protections to young people in the future). Recognizing America’s Children Act was introduced in the House by DACA-supporting Republicans.The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota is a local nonprofit encouraging people to voice their support of the legislation.

For anyone with DACA or thinking of applying for DACA:

If you currently have an attorney, talk to your attorney.

If you do not have an attorney or you if you have questions about how your status might affect your academic plans, consult with Marissa Hill-Dongre, director of the Immigration Response Team. Marissa is an immigration attorney and can talk to you about your situation and help you find appropriate legal resources. Contact Marissa at immigration@umn.edu or 612-624-4224.

University departments and units, including all UMN system campuses, can also consult with Marissa as well if they have concerns about how the uncertainty or changes to DACA might affect their students.

The National Immigration Law Center has provided a detailed list of questions for those with DACA or who are thinking of applying for DACA, including both positive and negative factors to consider for different situations.

June 25, 2017: Supreme Court to Hear Travel Ban: Travel Ban Will Go into Effect (with Some Exceptions)

Today the Supreme Court announced that it would consider whether President Trump’s travel ban order is lawful. The Supreme Court lifted part of the injunction blocking the ban, which will allow the travel ban, with some exceptions, to go into effect.

The executive order in question suspended the refugee resettlement program and banned travel to the United States by people from six predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.  

With regard to the travel ban, the court said that the injunctions issued by the lower courts were too broad, and announced that in part, the travel ban should be allowed to go into effect. However, the court also stated that the travel ban could not be enforced against people from those six countries that have a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The court provided examples of such a “bona fide relationship” as being:

  • People who want to visit or live with a family member in the United States;
  • Students at U.S. universities or individuals that have already been admitted into a U.S. university;
  • Employees of U.S. companies or individuals that have already accepted employment with a U.S. company; or
  • Lecturers invited to speak to an American audience.

The court also allowed the administration to temporarily suspend refugee resettlement with the exception of those refugees who have a credible claim of a relationship with a person or entity in the United States.

Last week, the President signed a memorandum in which he stated that the Executive Order would go into effect 72 hours after the injunction was lifted. That would mean the ban goes into effect Thursday morning, June 29.  

In coming days and weeks it will become more clear how refugees, visa holders and visa applicants seeking entry to the U.S. will be reviewed by embassies, consulates, and Customs and Border Protection.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in October, and noted that it might be moot since the travel ban was intended to give the administration 90 days to review vetting procedures. It asked to be briefed on that issue when it hears the case.

If you are a University of Minnesota student, staff or faculty from one of the six countries who has plans to travel outside the U.S., we would like to hear from you. Please email us at immigration@umn.edu.

We strongly encourage international students and scholars to consult with ISSS before considering travel outside the United States.  

Read the Supreme Court’s travel ban decision here.

June 23, 2017: Dreamers can Stay...For Now

The Trump administration announced that it will not immediately end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but its long-term prospects remain uncertain. DACA provides undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. The program allows young people to get driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and makes college more affordable.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, this announcement is not a final decision. During the campaign, President Trump often said he would end DACA.

We encourage students with DACA who have questions about renewal or travel to contact Student Legal Students. Students who think they might be eligible for DACA should also contact Student Legal Services or the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.

We are also available to consult with any student who has questions about DACA and the University of Minnesota. You can reach us at immigration@umn.edu.

While announcing the current status of DACA, the administration ended a program intended to allow immigrant parents of U.S. citizens to remain in the United States. That program, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), never went into effect because of legal challenges. The administration’s announcement effectively ends that litigation.

For more information, see the Department of Homeland Security Fact Sheet on deferred action policy.

Undocumented students should also read about the MN Dream Act which provides certain benefits to undocumented students, including in-state tuition and state financial aid to those who qualify. The Minnesota Dream Act is the official policy of the University of Minnesota.

June 14, 2017: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Travel Ban Injunction

For the second time, a federal appeals court upheld an injunction against portions of the president’s revised travel ban. On Monday (June 12, 2017), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Hawaii district court’s national order prohibiting the government from enforcing portions of the executive order widely known as the “travel ban” or “Muslim ban.”

As with the 4th Circuit Appeals Court ruling on May 25, this is not a final decision. For now, individuals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen can enter the United States with valid visas. Refugees will continue to be resettled and visa applications will continue to be processed.

The 4th and 9th Circuit courts took different approaches in their decisions. The 4th based its ruling on a constitutional grounds, saying the president’s order violated the First Amendment prohibition of government establishment of religion.

The 9th circuit’s decision was based on statutory grounds, and held that the executive order exceeded the legal authority granted to the president by Congress.  While presidents have broad authority to deny foreigners permission to enter the United States, the court said, “National security is not a ‘talismanic incantation’ that, once invoked, can support any and all exercise of executive power.”

June 8, 2017: Trump Administration Moves Ahead with "Extreme Vetting"

We learned this week that the Department of State and consular officials have begun to implement new procedures in line with President Trump's promise of "extreme vetting." Visa applicants may be required to complete this new form if consular officials determine they “warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.” Administration statements indicate that they expect approximately .5 percent of US visa applicants will be required to fill out this form. 

In May, the Immigration Response Team wrote a comment letter expressing concerns about what were then proposed changes. Many other organizations, including the ACLU, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Association of American Universities, wrote comment letters as well. Despite the concerns raised, embassies and consulates around the world are now instructed to use the new form when they deem it necessary.

It remains to be seen what effect this will have on visa applicants generally, and more specifically on members of the University of Minnesota community. If you have questions or concerns regarding this new procedure, please contact the Immigration Response Team at immigration@umn.edu.

May 25, 2017: Federal Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban

Today the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate the executive order known as the “travel ban” or “Muslim ban.” In their 10-3 majority decision, the court said the president’s broad authority on immigration policy was not absolute, writing, “It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation.”

While this is not a final decision, for now, individuals from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen can enter the United States with valid visas. Refugees, including from Syria, will continue to be resettled, and visa applications will continue to be processed.

We are also waiting for a decision in another similar appeal. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to announce its decision in the coming days. In light of today’s decision, we are cautiously optimistic that the 9th circuit will uphold the injunction.

Because the situation remains extremely fluid, we encourage international students and scholars who are considering travel outside the United States to consult with ISSS. The Immigration Response Team also remains available to respond to questions and to assist with referrals.

May 5, 2017: Trump Executive Order to Expand Federal-State Immigration Enforcement

The Immigration Response Team has heard many people at the University of Minnesota express concern about whether federal immigration agents will enlist local police in immigration enforcement.

Two executive orders signed in January contributed to this alarm, as the intent was, essentially, to outsource immigration enforcement to local police. Many law enforcement leaders reject this effort because they feel it undermines community trust and harms public safety.

This update focuses on one order that calls for expanding an existing program to commit local police to carry out immigration law.

Since 1996, Program 287(g) has allowed local and state law agencies to enter into agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deputize local officers so they can interview, detain and arrest anyone who might be violating immigration laws.

Few law enforcement agencies (including no Minnesota police departments) have these agreements with ICE. As of this writing, 40 agencies in 16 states have immigration enforcement arrangements, according to ICE.  The American Immigration Council documented several significant issues with Program 287(g):

  • The program resulted in widespread racial profiling;
  • The program did not target serious criminal offenders, with many people detained for misdemeanors and traffic offenses;
  • The agreements are expensive for local governments;
  • Oversight, training and supervision of deputized local officers was poor;
  • Agreements hindered community policing and threatened public safety.

Despite low participation in Program 287(g) by local police departments, thousands of counties across the country provide substantial assistance to ICE for deportations. A report by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center found 72 percent of counties offer ICE whatever help they ask for, often without analyzing whether their actions are legal.

A separate executive order (see April 25 update below) aimed at forcing local involvement in the program by threatening to withhold federal funds. That order has been temporarily blocked and can be appealed.

The mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis have expressed continued support for a bright line between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement.

April 25: Ruling Blocks Order Targeting ‘Sanctuary Cities

On April 25, 2017, federal district court Judge William Orrick issued a ruling blocking enforcement of President Trump’s executive order to withhold federal funding from local governments that refuse to help federal agents apprehend and deport undocumented immigrants.

The lawsuit, brought by the counties of San Francisco and Santa Clara, challenged the constitutionality of the order. Thirty-four cities and counties, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, joined an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the counties’ position.

Trump campaigned on the promise of massive deportation, which would need local and state law enforcement assistance to carry out on a large-scale. But many local police leaders believe engaging in immigration enforcement decreases community support and makes combatting crime more difficult.

To compel local cooperation in federal enforcement, Trump’s order threatened to withhold federal funds of cities that do not cooperate.

Orrick’s ruling noted that only Congress can impose conditions on federal funds, not the president; and described Supreme Court limitations on conditions Congress can place: that the conditions must be unambiguous and not be imposed after funds have been accepted; there must be a connection between the federal funds at issue and the program’s purpose; and the financial inducement cannot be coercive.

Like similar rulings on other recent executive orders, this is not a final decision but a preliminary injunction against enforcing a portion of Trump’s order. The underlying issue (in this case, whether the federal government can withhold funds to force cooperation) is yet to be resolved by the courts. But the injunction shows concern about the legality of actions required by the orders. The ruling can be appealed.

March 29, 2017: Federal judge extends restraining order; executive order on travel remains blocked

On March 29, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson turned what had been a temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction on President Trump's second executive order on travel/visas (issued on March 6). The preliminary injunction is a longer-term halt to the implementation of the executive order. Judge Watson wrote in his order, “Enforcement of these provisions in all places, including the United States, at all United States borders and ports of entry, and in the issuance of visas is prohibited, pending further orders from this court..." If students, staff, or faculty from the six affected countries have questions regarding personal travel plans, they should contact International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) or the Immigration Response Team.

March 15, 2017: Temporary restraining order halts immigration executive order

Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have issued nationwide temporary restraining orders on the most recent executive order on immigration. These actions will prevent the executive order from being put into action today, as had been previously scheduled. The University is closely following developments as this lawsuit makes its way through the court system and will provide updates as the implications become more clear. If students, staff, or faculty from the six affected countries have questions regarding personal travel plans, they should contact ISSS.

March 7, 2017: Statement from Provost Karen Hanson and AVP Meredith McQuaid

Karen Hanson, Executive Vice President and Provost and Meredith McQuaid, Associate Vice President and Dean, International Programs released a statement today affirming the U's support for members of the University community impacted by the new Executive Order on Immigration and plan to create a new immigration response team.

"We understand the anxiety and concern this new executive order causes for many members of our University community, and we reiterate our compassion and support for them. The University is a truly global institution, and we will continue to welcome people from around the world. We value all that they bring to our campuses and the trust they place in us for their education, employment, and training. 

To ensure that all who are affected by immigration policy changes have access to resources and support, President Kaler last week announced the creation of an immigration response team. This team will provide outreach to the greater University community on the impact of this most recent executive order, immigration regulations, and issues connected with DACA and immigration status."

March 6, 2017: New Executive Order on Immigration

President Trump signed an updated executive order on immigration today, replacing the one issued on January 27. The executive order will go into effect on March 16, 2017. It states that citizens of six countries (Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen) will not be granted a visa to enter the U.S. for 90 days. Permanent residents, and individuals who already have a valid visa, will be allowed to enter the United States. This executive order does not apply to individuals from Iraq, unlike the previous executive order on immigration. The University continues to carefully review this executive order to understand the implications for international students, scholars, researchers, staff, and faculty. 

March 3, 2017: President Kaler announces new immigration response team

In his State of the University address on March 3, President Kaler announced the formation of a campus immigration response team :

“It’s a collaborative effort with many Twin Cities campus and system-wide partners, including our Global Programs and Strategy Alliance, the Office for Equity and Diversity, the Office for Student Affairs, University Relations, Office of Human Resources and the Provost's Office. The Provost and I are committed to ensuring that all who are affected by any immigration policy changes will have a clear and accessible path to resources and support, and to get their questions answered in a timely fashion. We will also provide outreach to the greater University community on issues around immigration, DACA, and diversity. The Provost and I are committed to identifying resources, including a dedicated website and reallocating staff and funding as needed, to support this important work. Look for further announcements soon as we work urgently to get this team in place.”  

March 3, 2017: USCIS suspends premium processing for H-1B visa applications

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is suspending "Premium Processing" for all H-1B visa petitions for up to 6 months (effective Apr. 3). This will impact all job offers requiring an H-1B visa, as these individuals may not be able to start until November 2017 or later. Please contact your department's human resources or payroll offices with questions or concerns. More information from ISSS >>

IRT Comments on "Extreme Vetting" Proposal

The Department of State has proposed significant changes to the visa application process with additional questions requiring 15 years’ worth of detailed information about travel, address and employment. IRT submitted comments to express concerns about the affect such changes could have on institutions of higher learning. NAFSA: Association of International Educators also submitted a letter explaining the negative impact such changes could have on US higher education and scientific collaborations.