There have been many policy and practice updates over the last few weeks. We’ve compiled a short list of a few important updates to help you keep track. 

  1.  Upcoming Closures
    • USCIS temporarily suspends in-person services. USCIS announced Friday afternoon that it will temporarily suspend in-person services next Tuesday and Wednesday. USCIS issued the following notice:
      • “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced it will temporarily suspend in-person services at all field offices, asylum offices and application support centers on Jan. 19 and 20 to ensure the safety of our employees and individuals with appointments. USCIS will reschedule individuals who had appointments on Jan. 19 and 20 and send them notices with their new appointment dates. The USCIS website and USCIS Contact Center will remain available for information, case status updates, and other online tools and resources.”
         
    • EOIR closures:  On Friday, January 15th,  EOIR announced it will close immigration courts on Tuesday and Wednesday January 19 and 20 in certain cities where planned protests have been announced. The announcement was posted on Twitter, and states “Due to planned protests, the Arlington, Atlanta – Ted Turner Drive, Boston, Denver, Hartford, Phoenix, and Sacramento immigration courts will be closed Jan. 19 and Jan. 20. The Salt Lake City Immigration Court will be closed Jan. 20. Please monitor EOIR’s website for information about the agency’s operations nationwide.
       
  2. USCIS Fee Rule Enjoined:On December 28, 2020, the government filed an unopposed motion for voluntary dismissal of its appeal in ILRC v. Wolf. This means that the increased fees and changes to fee waiver policies and procedures under the August 2020 rule will not be implemented by USCIS at this time.  In addition, changes to the I-912 form initially proposed in September 2018 continue to be enjoined pursuant to cases City of Seattle v. DHS.  Thus, USCIS will continue to accept current editions and fees, and adjudicate fee waivers according to guidance found in the Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) Chapters 10.9 and 10.10.  (i.e. USCIS will accept fee waivers based on the three stated grounds of means-tested benefit, income at or below 150% FPG, and economic hardship.) 
     
  3. Asylum Updates
    • Harmful Asylum Rule Blocked: On January 8, 2021, The U..S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction blocking a sweeping Trump administration rule that would gut protections for people fleeing persecution and torture. The case, Pangea Legal Services II v. Barr, was filed by organizational plaintiffs Pangea Legal Services, Dolores Street Community Services, Inc., Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition following the rule’s publication in December. The groups are represented by the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, and Sidley Austin LLP. For more information, see CGRS’ bilingual statement here.  
       
    • Matter of A-B- On Thursday, January 14, 2021, Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen issued a new ruling in Matter of A-B-, the asylum case that has been pivotal for survivors of domestic violence, gang violence and other abuses since its initial certification in 2018.  Read more about this from our partners at the Center for Gender and Refugees Studies.
       
  4. Receipt Notice Delays at USCIS Lockbox Facilities. In a notice to stakeholders late Friday January 8, 2021, USCIS acknowledged Receipt Notice delays and issues at all USCIS lockbox facilities (Chicago, IL, Phoenix, AZ and Lewisville, TX), Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, USCIS is experiencing delays in issuing receipt notices for some applications and petitions filed at a USCIS lockbox facility. The information below explains the current state of our lockbox operations and the issues affecting receipt notices.”  USCIS recommends filing online where possible, creating a USCIS online account, and submitting Form G-1145 E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance. Because of these delays and the potential for receipt notice irregularities, we remind ASISTA members of these filing tips:
    • Submit all filings to USCIS using a trackable delivery method.
    • Track and maintain evidence of delivery confirmation for each case filing. 
    • Check the filing date (and priority date, if applicable) on each I-797 receipt notice immediately upon receipt for any potential discrepancies.
    • For additional case practice tips, visit ASISTA’s Practice Advisory page. As always, if you have case-specific questions, please submit your technical assistance request through our members-only portal
       
  5.  Is approval of TPS status an admission? The Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether approval of TPS status is an “admission” for purposes of adjustment of status under INA §245. In the underlying decision, the 3rd Circuit found that TPS is not an admission, siding with the 5th circuit and breaking from the 6th and 9th circuits which found that approval of TPS is an admission.
     
  6. Automatic Extension of LPR cards:USCIS has recently changed procedures to automatically extend LPR cards –  LPR cards will now be extended automatically for 12 months when an I-90 is filed. The extension will be noted on the I-797 receipt notices. This change came about as part of Ruiz v. DHS (CD Calif), a pending class action regarding the unavailability of I-551 stamps. The I-797 notices will be similar to those issued to extend conditional permanent resident status upon filing of form I-751. Huge thanks to ASISTA members representing the plaintiffs: Javier Maldonado, Stacy Tolchin, Megan Brewer, and Sabrina Damast!
     
  7. . EOIR Guidance on Continuances:  EOIR issued new policy guidance on Continuances on January 7, 2021.  This guidance contains a “non-exhaustive list of relevant legal and policy principles as an aid to adjudicators considering common types of continuance requests.”  This guidance “encourages” adjudicators to consider EOIR’s new proposed rule on continuances for “helpful information” even though the proposed rule has not been finalized. ASISTA strongly opposes this new proposed rule (see our comment here) and are deeply concerned about this language in the guidance. 

For any questions about these announcements, please contact us at questions@asistahelp.org. 

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