July 2020
Immigration Updates from BOILA
We know times are difficult and filled with uncertainty. Know that we remain dedicated to you and your cases. We are stronger together and divided. Let's remember to continue to support each other and fight for what's right and just!

Please feel free to contact us should you have any questions or concerned. We hope to see you all soon.

Please do visit the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/ and your local government sites to stay abreast of changes with covid-19 virus.
USCIS has updated its visitor policy requiring all applicants, petitioners, and visitors over the age of two to wear face coverings while in a USCIS office.

USCIS is also placing limitations on who can accompany applicants with scheduled appointments and prohibiting guests at naturalization ceremonies.

To limit the number of people in the waiting room, applicants with scheduled appointments may only be accompanied by:
  • An attorney;
  • An interpreter (in some cases, interpreters will need to be available by phone);
  • A parent,
  • legal guardian or a trusted adult, if the applicant being interviewed is a minor;
  • Immediate family members listed as dependents on the application or interview notice; and
  • An individual assisting a disabled person. 

At this time, USCIS cannot allow guests at naturalization ceremonies.

Ceremonies will be limited to the candidates who are scheduled to be naturalized and individuals providing assistance to disabled persons. Face coverings are required during the naturalization ceremony, even if it is held outside of a USCIS space.
USCIS Announces Fee Increase Effective 10/2/2020
USCIS announced a final rule on July 31st indicating a fee increase on certain applications and petitions. The goal of the fee increase being to assist in operational costs for the Service.

The nearly 20% fee increase takes effect on October 2, 2020. One of the most upsetting fees to be introduced in October is the fee for asylum applications (now $50) and the requirement for asylum applicants to pay for their work permits - which up til now have been free.

See the chart below for changes to the applications and petitions we most regularly deal with. Full list of changes can be seen here

Feature Grant Stories
Ms. Margaret Chuale is a native of Cameroon born on September 25, 1985 in Tombel, South West Region of Cameroon. Mrs. Chuale was a victim of domestic violence and forced marriage practices in Cameroon. She left her country due to the threats made on her life because of her forced marriage with the Chief of her Tribe Bamileke-Bafang who was considered as the highest authority of the land and who is also a member of the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement, CPDM, which is the ruling political party in Cameroon.
During her childhood in Cameroon Ms. Chuale witnessed how girls from her Tribe were discriminated against men. They were forced to marry at a young age. Is it well-known that in Cameroonian women and girls are considered inferior; they don't have the rights to make decisions. The men are the authority figures and make all of the decisions.

Witnessing all this discrimination coming from her own culture made Mrs. Chuale fight against inequality and to protect herself from being discriminated that’s when she decided to pursue her education and obtain a Master in Law Studies in 2010.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Chuale was betrayed in 2014 by her own family (her uncle) who against her will sold her as a bride to the Chief of her village Bamileke-Bafang. She was taken to the village under presumption she was going to attend a festival with her uncle. Mrs. Chuale as soon as she arrived to the village, she was taken to the Chief’s palace and locked inside. During this time Mrs. Chuale was not allow to see anybody. She was beaten by the chief’s guards and sexually harassed by the chief of the village who wanted to forcibly consummate the marriage.

After a month an half of suffering she was able to escape the chief’s palace with the help of one of the eldest chief’s wives who knew her grandmother. Soon after Mrs. Chuale managed to escape she remained in hiding in one of her friend’s homes in Yaoundé. She was soon recognized by other village women who threatened to take her back, forcing Ms. Chuale to s eek refuge someplace else. During this time her family also suffered from persecution, threats and harassment from the villagers.

Ms. Chuale, felt herself trapped and with no other option but to flee Cameroon as she knew the chief will not stop until find her and forced her to consummate the marriage.

Ms. Chuale finally arrived in the United States in 2014. She was apprehend by the immigration authorities and later released under parolee after two months in detention.

After being represented by another attorney in Florida, Mrs. Chuale moved to MD and decided to hire BOILA to help her on her asylum application.
After Ms. Chuale’ s first consultation with BOILA it was determined that she not only had a vailed claim for asylum based on force marriage practices in Cameroon but due to her political opinion as she joined the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) upon her arrival to the united states making her a direct target for the Cameroonian government if she was force to return to Cameroon.

Once BOILA represented Ms. Chuale at her Master Hearing at the Baltimore Immigration Court an Individual Hearing was set for July 2020 before Immigration judge Crosland. BOILA through an extensive compilation of documents, analysis and working closely with Ms Chuale to obtain the best evidence to support her application could successfully demonstrate the immigration judge that Ms. Chuale would suffer greatly if she was ever forced to return to Cameroon not only because of her forced marriage but because of the current country conditions in Cameroon and her strong ties and political involvement with the SCNC in North America.

Winning this case was the primarily goal for BOILA and with this victory BOILA once again assert that working as a team and giving the best to our client everything is possible, now Ms. Chuale can remain safe in this country and fight for women equality knowing that she would not be forced to anything again without her will.

Thanks to BOILA she will be eligible to apply for a green card next year.

Ms. L a native and citizen of Cameroon came to our office in October 2019 after having been interviewed for her Naturalization application more than four months prior. Ms. L was extremely worried that her case would not be approved so we entered our appearance as her attorney of record, submitted a status inquiry to USCIS requesting adjudication of Ms. L’s naturalization. A month later, Ms. L was called in for an oath ceremony, and subsequently became a US Citizen. We also entered our appearance to represent Ms. L’s two adult children living in Cameroon whose I-130, Alien Relative Petitions had been pending since December 7, 2016. As Ms. L had recently become a US Citizen, we requested that the Service update Preference Classification to Adult Child of USC.   Just a couple of months later, Ms. L’s 2 I-130 petitions were both approved.

Mr. F a native and citizen of Cameroon has been a longtime client of BOILA. He came up to us initially during his asylum application process. We helped Mr. F obtain asylum from the asylum office. In March 2010 we made sure he adjusted his status to lawful permanent resident. A year later Mr. F lost his wife and went through some tough times. It was not until 2019 that Mr. CF came back to us ready to file his Naturalization and live his American dream. We were more than happy to support Mr. F in the filing of his Naturalization. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. F’s original naturalization interview was rescheduled 5 months after its original date. All the same, we prepped Mr. F and successfully represented him at his naturalization interview a week ago. Mr. F was even sworn in on the same day he was interviewed for his Naturalization. It was a very emotional moment for this beloved client. After all the lemons life had thrown at him, he was able to make lemonade and is now ready to fulfill his American dream.  

Nationwide Injunction on DOS and DHS to Stop Enforcing Public Charge Rule During COVID-19 Pandemic

A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from implementing its public charge rule  during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The rule makes it more difficult for immigrants to obtain legal status if they use public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers. The Supreme Court twice  denied a request  from New York and other states to block the rule, saying it could go into effect nationwide while legal challenges played out. The second time the court indicated the  states could go back to the lower courts , which they did. J udge George Daniels said the worsening coronavirus pandemic provided more urgency.

Daniels underscored the dangers the rule might pose in the midst of a pandemic,  despite an alert pushed out by US Citizenship and Immigration Services  saying Covid-19 medical treatment and services would not count against immigrants.

"Any policy that deters residents from seeking testing and treatment for COVID-19 increases the risk of infection for such residents and the public. Adverse government action that targets immigrants, however, is particularly dangerous during a pandemic," Daniels wrote.

Earlier this year, amid the challenge to the public charge rule arising from the Covid-19 virus, Chief Justice John Roberts took the lead against immigrant interests yet mollified liberals poised to dissent publicly. The more liberal justices believed the pandemic had transformed the situation and wanted the administration to clarify its rules to help places like New York hit hard by the virus in the spring. Roberts was unmoved and believed administration guidance was clear that immigrants could obtain Covid-19 care without consequence to their green card applications. Other conservative justices agreed.

But Roberts, in an effort to tamp down tensions with the court's liberals, agreed to a modest compromise that sent a signal the liberals sought in the court's order and ensured that the challengers were not prevented from pressing ahead.

That order opened the door to New York's renewed challenge and Wednesday's ruling by Daniels.

U.S. No Longer Safe Third Country According to Canadian Court Ruling

A Canadian court has ruled that the United States is no longer a country to which the Canadian government could safely return asylum seekers who crossed the U.S-Canada border. 

On July 22, the Federal Court of Canada  ruled  that sending asylum seekers back to the United States from Canada under its longstanding “Safe Third Country” agreement violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court delayed implementation of the decision for six months until January 22, 2021 to provide the Canadian parliament time to respond.

Under U.S. law, it is  legal to seek asylum  and most noncitizens in the country or at the border have the right to apply. Among the exceptions, are those who can be returned under an agreement to another country where a person would not face persecution or torture and would be afforded a full and fair process to seek protection. That is considered a “Safe Third Country” agreement.

Over the past nine months, the U.S. government has entered into controversial “ Asylum Cooperative Agreements ” with  El Salvador Guatemala , and  Honduras . The administration pushed for the agreements despite these countries being the originating country for many people fleeing grave harm. Each country also has nearly nonexistent asylum protections.

The organizations challenging Canada’s agreement with the United States are urging the administration of Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau to implement the court’s decision immediately, despite the six-month delay permitted by the court. Whether and how the Trudeau administration will abide that request—or appeal the decision—is unclear. But the safety and well-being of those fleeing persecution must remain central to the equation.

President Trump's Census Executive Order
On June 21, President Trump issued an executive order that excluded undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census.

The numbers generated from the census are used to ensure that each state receives their fair share of seats in the U.S House of Representatives. It also directs hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding for more than 100 programs.

The executive order states that in January 2021, the president intends to submit a plan to Congress that excludes all undocumented immigrants from participating in the Census. Under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, the census counts “the whole number of persons in each State” every 10 years. Between January 3 and January 10 following a census year, the president is required by law to submit a statement with that number to Congress. After that point, Congress uses the count to reapportion seats between states for the House of Representatives.

The order says that when the president submits that statement next January, he will exclude all undocumented immigrants from the count. He declares he has the discretion to determine that the word “persons” does not include undocumented immigrants.

The executive order compares immigrants to tourists, who aren’t counted. That ignores that the average undocumented immigrant has  been in the United States for over 15 years and have established lives in the U.S. and are contributing members of society.

Since the late 19th century, the Supreme Court has been clear that the word “persons” in the Constitution refers to all people, regardless of immigration status. Since 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau has counted every person residing in the United States during the census, regardless of immigration status. Even international students attending a university during a census year are counted.
But even if the executive order was legal, it would still be almost impossible to carry out. In 2019, the Supreme Court  blocked the Census Bureau from adding a citizenship question . This means the Census Bureau will be unable to accurately determine who is or is not an immigrant and further, who is or is not undocumented.

President Trump’s abuse of power shows the lengths to which he will go to distract and divide the country in his war on immigrants. Hopefully, this illegal plan will be swiftly squashed in court.

The DACA Rescission Memo

After nearly six weeks of inaction following its stinging  defeat before the Supreme Court  on June 18, the Department of Homeland Security released a  memo  gutting the  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals  (DACA) initiative.

The Supreme Court had ruled that the Trump administration did not adequately explain its decision to end DACA.

The July 28 memorandum falls short of a total rescission—but does serious damage to the initiative and creates a cruel uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s what you need to know about the new memo.

First-time DACA applications stopped on August 23, 2018 after a  lower court ruling  in the case challenging the initiative. But after the  Supreme Court’s ruling on DACA , USCIS was permitted to resume accepting first-time applications. The administration responded in the past few weeks by refusing to act on those first-time applications. The July 28 memo makes that practice official—and it will prevent approximately  66,000  eligible Dreamers from being approved for DACA for the first time.

All DACA renewals will be adjudicated on a “case by case” basis, but if granted will only provide for one-year renewals.

DACA adjudications were always handled on a case-by-case basis, so it is unclear how much of a change this element of the announcement will represent. But the shift from two-year renewals of work permits and stays of deportation to one-year renewals makes the program much more costly and less attractive to applicants. It doubles the expense of applying, already high at $495 per application.

Almost all advance parole requests will be denied.

Advance parole permits a DACA recipient to travel abroad and reenter the United States lawfully. This permission to travel has been essential for Dreamers to be able to visit with loved ones living in other countries.
Although fewer people are flying internationally under COVID-19, the announced cessation of nearly all advance parole requests is unnecessarily mean-spirited.

Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Falling Short for LPR Status

A program created in late 2019 to allow certain  Liberian noncitizens in the United States to become lawful permanent residents  (LPRs) is falling far short of its potential, according to a  new report .

The program in question is  Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness  (LRIF), a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 enacted on December 20, 2019. Eligible Liberian nationals who have been physically present in the United States since November 20, 2014, as well as their spouses and unmarried children, can apply for a green card under LRIF.
However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has yet to approve a single application under the program which launched four months ago.

Data from USCIS reveal that only 1,177 Liberians had applied for relief under LRIF as of April 17. The report also found that:
  • The top three states of residency for applicants so far are Minnesota (18%), Pennsylvania (16%), and Maryland (9%).
  • Just over half of applicants (54%) are over the age of 45.
  • 58% of applicants are female.

Moreover, recent estimates indicate that far more people are eligible for the program than previously thought. The report found that 10,000 Liberians, plus 300 of their family members, are eligible to apply for LPR status under the program. This is far more than a widely cited previous estimate that only 4,000 people were eligible to apply.

The situation is unlikely to improve given the severe budget problems currently being experienced by USCIS, which is requesting $1.2 billion in emergency funding from Congress and may soon  furlough two-thirds of its workforce .
From 1991 to 2019, Liberia was continuously designated for  Temporary Protected Status  (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) due to unsafe country conditions. However, Liberians in the United States who were protected from deportation under these temporary relief programs had no opportunity to acquire a more permanent status. LRIF was supposed to change that.

Currently, the deadline for eligible Liberians to apply for relief under LRIF is December 20, 2020. As the report correctly concludes, given USCIS adjudication delays, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the much larger number of potential applicants than previously anticipated, the December 2020 deadline should be extended for at least one additional year.
Trumps Efforts to Eliminate Asylum System
On June 11, 2020 President Trump proposed a new asylum rule. The  proposed rules , which impose nearly a dozen new bars to asylum, would rewrite asylum law to exclude nearly all people seeking refuge. Should the rules go into effect, the United States could no longer call itself a country that offers refuge to the persecuted.

Who would the new asylum rules apply to?
The rules would apply to any person seeking asylum in the United States, regardless of how they enter the country. Unlike prior rules that focused on the southern border, the new rules would even affect people who fly to the United States on a visa and later seek asylum.
They could also affect people who already applied for asylum and have pending cases. Over 300,000 people currently have affirmative asylum applications pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Hundreds of thousands of additional people have asylum cases pending in immigration court.
What are the new bars to asylum?
The proposed regulation instructs immigration judges and Asylum Officers to deny asylum to individuals who have:
  • Passed through at least two countries prior to arriving in the United States or stayed in another country for at least 14 days prior to arriving in the United States.
  • Ever failed to pay taxes, paid taxes late, or failed to report any income to the IRS.
  • Been unlawfully present in the United States for at least one year.
Several other bars to asylum are included in the regulation. Immigration judges are instructed to use a person’s unlawful entry into the United States as a “significant adverse factor” when deciding whether to grant asylum. This would be applied despite the fact that many people are “ metered ” or turned away at ports of entry, and it is legal to seek asylum between ports of entry.
Individuals who were denied asylum for these reasons would still be eligible for withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture. But the rules also make it harder to win both of those forms of relief.
The proposed regulations also impose expansive new grounds for having an asylum application declared “frivolous.” A person whose asylum application is declared frivolous is banned from any other immigration relief.

How would this regulation change asylum law?
This proposed regulation would go further than any of the Trump administration’s previous attempts to change asylum law, including when former Attorney General Jeff Session’s  tried to eliminate asylum for victims of domestic violence . The rule would redefine what it means to be “persecuted,” raising the definition of “persecution” to cover only “extreme” harms. This would be a much higher standard than the current one.

The administration also wants to redefine what it means to be persecuted on account of “membership in a particular social group” or on account of “political opinion.”

Many Central Americans who were the victims of MS-13 or other transnational criminal organizations previously won asylum on these grounds. The proposed rules would effectively eliminate that possibility by declaring that “particular social groups” relating to opposition to gangs or terrorist organizations do not qualify, nor would political opposition to those groups.

There would also be an outright ban on applying for asylum on account of gender. Even women fleeing from sex slavery at the hands of ISIS would not be allowed to argue that they were persecuted “on account of gender.”

The rules also redefine what it means to have “firmly resettled” in a third country. Anyone who could have resettled in a third country on their way to the United States—even if they didn’t know it was a possibility—was indeed “firmly resettled” by the government’s definition.

Other changes included heightened standards for protection under the Convention Against Torture, heightened screening processes at the border, and new burdens on asylum applicants to prove that they could not have relocated elsewhere to avoid persecution.

What procedural changes do the new rules make?
The rule makes two major changes to the asylum process.
Individuals who seek protection at the border who pass the first stage of the asylum process would no longer be put into full immigration court proceedings. Instead, they would only be given access to narrower “asylum-only” court proceedings. In these proceedings, even if they were eligible for another form of relief than asylum, they would not be allowed to apply for it.
Second, the new rules would permit judges to deny asylum applications without a hearing. Currently, asylum applicants must be permitted to testify about their case. But under the new rules, judges could declare that an applicant hadn’t put enough evidence in the application itself and deny a person their day in court. This change would be particularly harmful for those without lawyers.

What’s next for the asylum rules?
Beginning on Monday, June 15, people have 30 days to submit comments responding to the rule.

After the 30-day period is over, the government must take those comments into account when preparing a final rule. Because this process can be lengthy, the rule is not expected to go into effect until the fall at the earliest. Should the rules go into effect, they would represent the end of the asylum system as we know it.
USCIS Updates
Update to Travel for TPS Beneficiaries in Removal Proceedings

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is updating the USCIS Policy Manual to clarify the effect of travel outside the United States by Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries who are subject to removal proceedings.
In particular, this  update (PDF, 317 KB)  covers beneficiaries who have final removal orders, and who depart the United States and return with an  advance parole travel document . TPS beneficiaries in removal proceedings who travel abroad temporarily with the authorization of DHS remain subject to those removal proceedings. If they are under a final order of removal, the travel does not execute or fulfill the order. The alien in question remains subject to the removal order.