Making Sense of the Headlines | July 30, 2019

Erick Widman

Trump Announces Expansion of Expedited Removals

In the wake of a new policy aimed at curtailing the influx of asylum seekers at the southern border, the White House has announced that they also plan to broaden the scope and power of “expedited removals” in the US, effective immediately. This policy change will further restrict the asylum process and will dramatically affect immigrants with h2 ties and established lives in the US.

Under the current policy, which was implemented in 1996, expedited removal is the standard process for immigrants who crossed the border within 2 weeks and who are within 100 miles of the Canadian or Mexican border at the time they are encountered. ICE officers have the power to put these individuals into expedited removal proceedings, which eliminates due process and does not allow them to present their case to an immigration judge or seek legal counsel. The only way to avoid immediate removal in this situation is to claim credible fear for returning home, in which case the individual will be assigned to an asylum officer to see if their claim is legitimate.

Trump’s plan extends and expands this process so that it can be used for any undocumented person anywhere in the country who cannot immediately prove that they have been in the US for longer than two years. Low level ICE officers will have the power to determine if someone meets this criteria and can put the person into expedited removal with only the approval of their immediate supervisor. In these cases, the individual will not have an opportunity to present their case before a judge or be given time to come up with the evidence required to keep them from getting deported.

This policy expansion is unprecedented, far-reaching, and potentially very dangerous, as there will be no checks on ICE’s ability to swiftly remove someone from the country who may in fact have a legal option to be here. There is a significant amount of room for officer discretion during encounters and a high potential for erroneous removals if someone who is stopped by an ICE officer cannot prove on the spot that they have been in the US for longer than two years or that they actually have legal status. It will be more important than ever for immigrants in this country to carry their important documents with them at all times.

Under the new policy, immigrants throughout the country who may have US citizen children, spouses, or other relatives and who may be active and dedicated members of their communities will receive the same treatment as someone who just crossed the border. In the absence of due process, ICE officers will become increasingly powerful, working not only as police, but also as prosecutor, judge, and jury. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is already in the process of filing a lawsuit in response.

Significant Changes Coming to EB-5 Investor Visa Program

While a great deal of attention is being paid to humanitarian- and family-based immigration options in the US, policy changes from the White House are also affecting those with business and employment interests in the US. This week, the Trump administration has announced a major change to the EB-5 investor visa program that nearly doubles the cost of investment.

The EB-5 visa is often referred to as the “golden visa.” It allows investors to obtain a two-year conditional green card simply by investing $500,000 in the US. Starting in November of this year, the price tag for this visa will increase from $500,000 to $900,000, with the minimum amount for investing in high population areas increasing to $1.8 million.

The EB-5 investment visa program became popular in 2008 following the recession and housing crisis, when real estate developers became desperate for funding. It has since continued to promote economic growth and create jobs. Despite guidelines in place that intend for the program to benefit areas in the US with low education and high unemployment (called “Target Employment Areas”), in many cases, the visa is not being used in this way. The newly-announced changes to the program aim to more clearly define and regulate issuance and use of this visa.

The initial investment price of $500,000 was set in 1990, and this week marks the first time in 30 years that action has been taken to account for economic inflation. Going forward, the required investment amount will be subject to increase every five years. Immigration attorneys nationwide expect there to be an influx of new applicants in the next few months before the price increase officially takes effect.

Undocumented Immigrants in Oregon Will Soon be Allowed to Drive Legally

In happier news, the Oregon House of Representatives has passed a bill to make it legal for noncitizens and non-permanent residents to legally obtain driver’s licenses. This is a huge step toward passing the “Equal Access to Roads Act” which would amend state law in Oregon to make it possible to get a driver’s license without producing proof of citizenship or legal residency.

Under the proposed new bill, individuals would still need to pass a driving test and prove that they reside in Oregon, but they would not be required to present a birth certificate, passport, or Social Security card. The new law would immediately benefit young recipients of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), who grew up in the US but were not able to receive driving permits or licenses along with their peers.

Equal Access to Roads would also benefit undocumented residents who live in rural areas and those who are currently unable to drive to work or drive their children to school, as well as those who have already applied for an immigrant benefit but are stuck waiting on unprecedented delays at USCIS. For those who have needed to drive illegally in order to keep their job or other reasons, they will now be able to purchase car insurance, leading to safer driving for all.

The bill has passed through the House and is now on its way to the Senate, where Democratic Governor Kate Brown is expected to sign the legislation. If the bill passes, Oregon will be the 14th state to allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally.

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