July 2021
Immigration Updates from BOILA
Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates, PC is a Washington, D.C. boutique firm devoted exclusively to immigration law. We have the highest possible rating for lawyers for legal acumen and ethical standards, and we have been practicing law since 1981. We are well versed in all aspects of immigration law, including, employment based immigration, VAWA and U-visas, citizenship, asylum, deportation and removal proceedings, and appellate work. 

We accept clients from all over the country. We welcome referrals from current and past clients, as well as friends and colleagues. Our top-notch lawyers represent professional workers, business owners, families, and asylum-seekers from all over the world. We provide the absolute best professional service possible to our clients and aid them in every step of their immigration processes. We prioritize ensuring our clients are not only assisted with their immigration cases but are thoroughly educated about the processes, laws, and requirements. All of our attorneys and legal staff at Beach-Oswald have a genuine desire to help those in need. We ensure the highest quality of professionalism and legal expertise.

For further information please visit our website at www.immigrationlawdc.com
or give us a call in the office at 202-331-3074.

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We Continue To Work for You!
After two appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals, including an Interlocutory Appeal, Mr. Atem has been granted asylum in the United States!

Mr. Atem is a native and citizen of Cameroon. He entered the United States in 2018 fleeing persecution in Cameroon. Mr. Atem was a journalist, and it is due to his profession as a journalist, and his role assisting in the distribution of information critical of the Cameroonian government that he was persecuted in his country of Cameroon.  

In 2018, Mr. Atem covered the story of Mr. Julius Ayuk Tabe’s detention in Nigeria by the Cameroonian Government. Mr. Julius Ayuk Tabe is a leader of a separatist movement in Cameroon seeking an independent state for the nation’s Anglophone regions called by them Ambazonia. During this program, Mr. Atem condemned the Cameroonian Government for violating international law and challenged President Biya’s presidency. After leaving the radio station that day, Mr. Atem was arrested by the Cameroonian security forces and his personal belongings were seized, including his cellphone which contained news items for government brutality against Anglophones. He was detained at the Central Police Station in Kumba. During his arrest he was questioned extensively about his political opinion and accused of being a secessionist and separatist because of his broadcast and the news items found on his cellphone. During his detention he was badly beaten and was detained for ten days and only released after his mother paid a bribe of about 500,000 CFA.

When Mr. Atem was released he went in hiding for months until he went back to the station in June 2018. During his time in hiding the Anglophone crisis deepened and Mr. Atem felt the need to warn the Anglophones about how government was dispatching military troops and machine guns to the English speaking villages in Cameroon. On June 30, 2018, while at the radio station, Mr. Atem received an anonymous call threatening him that he would be arrested, taken to the Yaoundé Maximum Security Prison and killed. Mr. Atem did not wait around to see if he would be arrested and he packed a few essential items and hid for a few days until he found safe passage to Nigeria and then to the United States. 

Mr. Atem applied for admission to enter the United States at the San Ysidro, CA Port of Entry on October 11, 2018. At his individual merits hearing, Mr. Atem represented himself (pro se) and presented evidence and testimony that he endured past persecution on account of imputed political opinion. On February 12, 2019 the IJ denied Respondent’s applications for asylum, withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture basing her adverse credibility on alleged minor inconsistencies in Respondent’s testimony.

For his appeal, Mr. Atem retained BOILA. When BOILA received the case, immediately filed for a request to get Mr. Atem paroled and released from ICE custody. Soon after BOILA filed for Mr. Atem’s custody redetermination, he was released to his sister custody and they were finally reunited after years apart. Nex, BOILA filed Mr. Atem’s appeal before the Board of Immigration appeals. On December 6, 2019, the BIA remanded Mr. Atem’s record to the Immigration Court. In its decision, the BIA agreed with BOILA’s argument that the IJ did not address any of the subjective corroborative evidence that Mr. Atem submitted to corroborate his applications for relief. Further, the BIA noted that the IJ did not evaluate such corroborative evidence in conjunction with the country conditions evidence of record. Lastly, the BIA stated that a remand was needed for a new assessment of Mr. Atem’s credibility in light of his proffered corroborative evidence, a for a new decision on the merits.

After the BIA remanded his case, BOILA filed a Motion to Change Venue to the jurisdiction of his residence Baltimore, Maryland, now that he had been released from detention in California. The Office of Chief Counsel filed a written non-opposition. On February 10, 2020 the IJ in California denied the Motion to Change Venue. BOILA renewed the request on February 11, 2020. However, the IJ again denied the Unopposed Change of Venue on February 18, 2020.
On February 20, 2020, BOILA filed an Emergency Interlocutory Appeal that was granted by the BIA on May 26, 2020. After the Interlocutory Appeal was granted, Mr. Atem’s venue was changed to Baltimore, Maryland.

With a well-documented case and supporting documents collected and prepared by our office the judge granted Mr. Atem’s application for relief and his asylum was granted.

Now Mr. Atem can remain in the United States legally and in one year he will be eligible to apply for Adjustment of Status and a Green Card.
USCIS Announces Lockbox Flexibility
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will offer filing flexibilities to provide relief to certain applicants and petitioners impacted by delays at a USCIS lockbox. These flexibilities only apply to benefit requests submitted to a USCIS lockbox and not to USCIS service centers or field offices.
The following temporary flexibilities are effective for 60 days from June 10 until Aug. 9, 2021:
  • If you submitted a benefit request to a USCIS lockbox between Oct. 1, 2020, and April 1, 2021, and that request was rejected during that timeframe solely due to a filing fee payment that expired while the benefit request was awaiting processing, you may resubmit the request with a new fee payment. If USCIS concurs that it has rejected the benefit request because of the delay, USCIS will deem the request to have been received on the initial filing date it was first received and waive the $30 dishonored check fee. 
  • USCIS will allow applicants and petitioners to submit documentation with a benefit request resubmission demonstrating that because of the time that elapsed between when a benefit request was originally submitted to a USCIS lockbox and when USCIS rejected it, an applicant, co-applicant, beneficiary or derivative has reached an age that makes them no longer eligible to file for the benefit requested. If USCIS agrees that the delayed rejection caused the person to be ineligible due to age, USCIS will accept the request and deem it to have been received on the date the initial benefit request was received. This flexibility does not apply to Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322.

Applicants and petitioners can contact USCIS to verify previously filed benefit requests have not been rejected in error. If USCIS concurs, we may allow applicants and petitioners to resubmit an erroneously rejected benefit request and deem the benefit request to have been received on the date the initial benefit request was first received at a USCIS lockbox.

Expanded Criteria for MPP Enrollment

DHS announced that it will expand the pool of MPP-enrolled individuals who are eligible for processing into the United States. Beginning June 23, 2021, DHS will include MPP enrollees who had their cases terminated or were ordered removed in absentia.

DHS stated:
“As part of our continued effort to restore safe, orderly, and humane processing at the Southwest Border, DHS will expand the pool of MPP-enrolled individuals who are eligible for processing into the United States. Beginning June 23, 2021, DHS will include MPP enrollees who had their cases terminated or were ordered removed in absentia (i.e., individuals ordered removed while not present at their hearings). DHS will continue to process for entry into the United States MPP enrollees with pending proceedings. Individuals who may be eligible for processing should stay where they are currently located and register online through https://conecta.acnur.org.”
Asylum Update

The Attorney General issued two decisions vacating decisions of the previous administration that attempted to significantly restrict asylum eligibility.

In Matter of L-E-A-, the Attorney General vacated a previous decision calling into question the viability of family as a particular social group. The new decision “return(s) the immigration system to the preexisting state of affairs pending completion of the ongoing rulemaking process….” It supports the recognition of family as a particular social group.

In Matter of A-B-, the Attorney General vacated previous decisions calling into question the availability of asylum relief for victims of domestic violence or involving private conduct generally. The new decision also returns the law to the preexisting state prior to the previous administration’s ruling. It instructs that “pending rulemaking, immigration judges and the Board should follow pre A-B- 1 precedent, including Matter of A-R-C-G-.” Matter of A-R-C-G- recognized “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” as a cognizable particular social group.
New Supreme Court Case and TPS Recipients
On June 7, 2021, the Supreme Court unanimously held in Sanchez v. Mayorkas that a grant of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) does not qualify as being "admitted and inspected" for purposes of adjustment of status. Prior to this decision, federal circuit courts were split on the issue. Accordingly, many TPS recipients living in parts of the country who previously held that TPS was an admission and inspection may no longer be able to adjust status. TPS beneficiaries who were previously prohibited from adjusting status for their unlawful entry will continue to be ineligible for adjustment of status unless they qualify through other exceptions in the law.

The Supreme Court's decision, written by Justice Kagan, based its reasoning on a technical reading of a federal statute, which indicates that TPS beneficiaries are in nonimmigrant status but omits the mention of admission. The textual decision did not address the reasoning of the three federal circuit courts that interpreted this statute differently, the inconsistent treatment of the petitioner, or the impact the decision would have on TPS recipients and their families.
In an important footnote in its decision, the Supreme Court reserved the issue of whether TPS beneficiaries who were "paroled" into the United States after receiving TPS benefits are eligible for adjustment of status. Federal law allows those who were paroled to seek adjustment of status. Many TPS beneficiaries, including those who initially entered without inspection, seek parole when needing to temporarily travel abroad for humanitarian reasons. The Trump Administration prohibited TPS beneficiaries who were paroled after August 20, 2020, from seeking adjustment of status. The rescission of a long-standing policy was challenged and is currently unresolved. The Biden Administration has yet to undo this policy, which appears to be contrary to what is required under federal law.

The decision was among the most significant immigration cases in the Supreme Court's term, as there are approximately 400,000 TPS recipients from 12 countries living throughout the United States. TPS provides the right to live and work in the United States temporarily but does not offer a direct pathway to lawful permanent residence. TPS recipients must past a criminal background check and cannot be convicted of felony or more than one misdemeanor. TPS beneficiaries can be eligible to renew their benefits every 18 months, provided that DHS permits re-registration for the designated country. Hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries have lived in the United States for decades, own businesses, own homes, work in all sectors of the economy, and have U.S. citizen children. The Trump Administration attempted to end benefits for most TPS beneficiaries but was temporarily blocked by federal courts. Given the precarious nature of the benefits that could be eliminated with changing political tides, most TPS beneficiaries wish to permanently remain in the United States.

It is important to note that the Supreme Court decision will not affect TPS beneficiaries who were initially admitted and inspected or can qualify for an adjustment through "245(i)," or are seeking adjustment through a humanitarian benefit rather than a family or employment-based petition. However, the vast majority of TPS recipients do not qualify for these specific exceptions in law and will be negatively affected by the decision. The House of Representatives did pass legislation allowing for a pathway to permanent residence for TPS recipients, but it will likely fail in the Senate.

Changes to U-Visa Processing

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is updating the USCIS Policy Manual to implement a new process, referred to as Bona Fide Determination, which gives victims employment authorization sooner, as well as other benefits.

Through this new process, USCIS will issue employment authorization and grant deferred action to petitioners in the United States with pending U visa petitions that it determines are bona fide (made in good faith and without intention of deceit or fraud) and who merit a favorable exercise of discretion. To be considered bona fide, the petition must include a certification from law enforcement that the petitioner was a victim of a crime and that the victim has been, is being, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of that crime.

Congress has capped the number of principal U visas available each fiscal year at 10,000, but since 2010 USCIS has received more than 10,000 U visa petitions each year. As a result of this high case volume, U visa petitioners now wait approximately five years before receiving a determination that allows them access to an employment authorization document and deferred action. This wait time not only leaves these individuals vulnerable to financial instability and fear of deportation, but it also can disincentivize victims from coming forward and cooperating with law enforcement. Through this policy update, victims with pending bona fide petitions will receive the stability they need as they rebuild their lives while working with law enforcement to investigate and prosecute criminal activity. This increase in victim cooperation will further fortify law enforcement’s ability to protect communities throughout the United States.

USCIS will deem a petition bona fide if: 

  • The principal petitioner properly filed Form I-918, including Form I-918B U Nonimmigrant Status Certification; 
  • The principal petitioner properly filed a personal statement from the petitioner describing the facts of the victimization; and 
  • The result of the principal petitioner’s biometrics has been received.

USCIS will issue employment authorization and deferred action if, after conducting and reviewing background checks, the agency determines, in its discretion, that petitioners merit a favorable exercise of discretion and do not pose a risk to national security or public safety. 

This guidance is effective immediately and applies to all Form I-918 and Form I-918A petitions that are currently pending or filed on or after June 14, 2021. 
Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking and other qualifying crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and who cooperate with law enforcement authorities during the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. In the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, Congress specifically authorized DHS to grant employment authorization to a noncitizen who has a pending, bona fide petition for U nonimmigrant status. This guidance implements that authority.
This reform is one of a number of initiatives designed to eliminate complex, costly, and unjustified administrative burdens and barriers, and thus to improve our immigration processes. 

Policy Changes to Naturalization
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USCIS updated policy guidance in its Policy Manual regarding applicants' registration to vote through a state's department of motor vehicles or other state benefit application process and the effects on an applicant's good moral character (GMC).
This is a key development because applicants for naturalization must demonstrate GMC during the required period of time immediately before filing and up to the time they take the Oath of Allegiance.
The update is effective immediately, and provides clarifications regarding applicants who have or may register to vote through a state's benefit application. The guidance contained in the Policy Manual is controlling and supersedes any related prior guidance. Below are the key takeaway points from the policy update:
  • Clarifies that USCIS will not penalize an applicant who unknowingly or unwilfully registers to vote.
  • Clarifies that USCIS does not consider an applicant to have unlawfully registered to vote if the applicant did not complete or sign the voter registration section (including electronic signature, if applicable) in the motor vehicle or other state benefit application.
  • Clarifies that USCIS does not consider an applicant to have unlawfully claimed to be a U.S. citizen if the applicant did not affirmatively indicate that he or she is a U.S. citizen. However, if the applicant registered to vote, the applicant has the burden to prove that the registration form did not contain a question about whether the applicant is a U.S. citizen or that the applicant did not indicate, in response to the question, that he or she is a U.S. citizen.
  • Clarifies that an applicant may be considered to have falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen for the purpose of registering to vote, and therefore may lack GMC because he or she committed an unlawful act in violation law, if the applicant knowingly answered "yes" to a question asking whether he or she was a U.S. citizen in order to register to vote. This may apply even if the applicant's registration to vote was done simultaneously with the process of a driver's license or ID card application, or an application for other state benefits.
U.S. Citizens Returning to The U.S. with Expired Passports
U.S. citizens will be able to return to the United States on an expired U.S. passport through December 31, 2021, if they:
  • are currently abroad seeking to return to the United States;
  • are flying directly to the United States, a U.S. territory, or have only short-term transit (connecting flight) through a foreign country on their return to the United States or to a U.S. territory;
  • have an expired passport that was originally valid for 10 years (or 5 years if the individual was 15 years of age or under when the passport was issued); and
  • have an expired passport that is undamaged and in their possession.
Note that an expired U.S. passport may not be used to travel from the United States to an international destination for any duration longer than an airport connection. DOS recommends U.S. citizens delay any travel abroad and reminds that return to the United States requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, taken within 72 hours of their flight's departure.
Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) Extended through December 20, 2021

The filing period for certain Liberian nationals and family members to apply for adjustment of status under the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) provision has been extended from one year to two years, through December 20, 2021. Individuals who are applying to adjust status based on LRIF, must properly file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and USCIS must receive the form by December 20, 2021. 

Enacted on December 20, 2019, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included the LRIF provision that provides an opportunity for certain Liberian nationals and their spouses, unmarried children under 21 years old, and unmarried sons and daughters 21 years old or older living in the United States who meet the eligibility requirements to apply for lawful permanent resident status. 
USCIS Updates
USCIS Adopts AAO Decision on TPS and Authorized Travel

USCIS announced a Policy Memorandum  adopting the Administrative Appeals Office decision on Matter of Z‑R‑Z‑C.

The decision holds that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries who travel abroad using a Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-issued travel document under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 244(f)(3) generally will retain the same immigration status on their return that they had at the time of departure. Exceptions apply to aliens inadmissible under certain criminal or national security grounds or with immigrant or nonimmigrant visas they present for admission to the United States.

This travel does not satisfy the “inspected and admitted or paroled” eligibility requirement for obtaining adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence. This is consistent with the agency’s previous clarification that a TPS beneficiary’s authorized travel does not execute a final order of removal.

Recognizing TPS beneficiaries’ potential reliance on USCIS’ past practice and treatment of their temporary travel abroad, USCIS will limit how it applies Matter of Z-R-Z-C to minimize adverse impacts to this group. This decision does not affect TPS beneficiaries who adjusted status to lawful permanent residence under past practice and/or prior guidance or who have pending applications for adjustment of status.

In addition, USCIS will only apply Matter of Z-R-Z-C prospectively to TPS beneficiaries who departed and returned to the United States under section 244(f)(3) of the INA after Aug. 20, 2020, the date of the AAO’s adopted decision.