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Immigration Policy Updates

Since the inauguration of President Donald Trump on January 20, 2017, the new administration continues to issue Executive Orders and other agency directives that change immigration policy in the United States.

Below is an evolving timeline of changed policies that impact non-U.S. citizens and the implementation of immigration laws, along with guidance and commentary from STERN Law.

Stay tuned for continuing developments and updates.

Immigration Updates


USCIS Policy Memorandum on Referral of Cases to Deportation

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) releases policy memorandum that updates its guidance for referring cases to deportation proceedings in matters involving inadmissible and deportable aliens. This stricter policy calls for issuing Notices to Appear (NTAs) and Referrals to ICE (RTIs) to non-U.S. citizens that interact or have interacted with USCIS and who are deemed inadmissible or deportable under immigration law. NTAs and RTIs initiate deportation proceeding.

This policy places higher scrutiny on applicants and effectively turns many immigration benefit denial and termination notices into deportations. Non-U.S. citizens with past criminal or immigration issues are now at an even higher risk of entering deportation proceedings. This policy was announced alongside another policy memorandum on DACA recipients and applicants, which reaffirms and encourages for information submitted in DACA documentation to be used to issue NTAs and RTIs.


Executive Order on Family Separation, Indefinite Children Detention

On June 20, 2018, President Trump signs Executive Order “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” responding to the public outrage of family separation at the Southwest Border of the United States. This Executive Order intends to keep non-U.S. citizen families together in detention, but continues the administration’s zero-tolerance policy. According to experts, this policy could effectively mean immigrant children would be detained indefinitely.

This newest policy could violate previous federal court orders on children detention. The administration continues to push inhumane treatment of immigrants to force a nonsense immigration deal.


Family Separation at Border after Attorney General Sessions “Zero-Tolerance” Memorandum

On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces in a Department of Justice memorandum a “zero-tolerance policy” for illegal entries across the Southwest Border of the United States. This begins family separation at the border, with at least 1,995 children separated from their parents just 6 weeks after the policy announcement.

STERN Law rejects this egregious policy and the extremely harmful effect it is having on Non-U.S. Citizen families. We are committed to fighting against this barbaric and inhumane practice.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) has released a fact-sheet with resources and recommendations on how to help end family separation: How You Can Help End Family Separation and Ensure Protection for Children.


USCIS to accept all DACA Renewal Applications temporarily during pending federal lawsuit.

Due to another court injunction, USCIS will now accept all requests to renew deferred action under DACA. The scope of the Feb. 13 preliminary injunction issued in the Eastern District of New York is the same as the Jan. 9 preliminary injunction issued in the Northern District of California. Until further notice, and unless otherwise provided, the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017.

This should apply to all prior recipients of DACA, regardless of whether their application expired more than a year prior to the renewal request. It should still be treated, and accepted, as a renewal application, so long as the applicant previously was a recipient of the program.

No new DACA applications will be accepted, and DACA recipients cannot apply for Advanced Parole.

Read more here, and find USCIS information here.


ICE gives federal agents the authority to detain undocumented immigrants at courthouses.

ICE can now detain  “specific, targeted aliens with criminal convictions, gang members, national security or public safety threats, aliens who have been ordered removed from the United States but have failed to depart, and aliens who have re-entered the country illegally after being removed”

It’s important that there is proper protection before any court appearance to defend against uncertain ICE detention for removal proceedings. Don’t be discouraged from going to court where you then get a warrant for your arrest.  But go to court armed with the best attorney possible.

Read the full directive here.


USCIS to again accept DACA Renewal Applications (only) temporarily during pending federal lawsuit.

Due to a federal court order, USCIS has resumed accepting requests to renew a grant of deferred action under DACA.  Until further notice, and unless otherwise provided in this guidance, the DACA policy will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017. It’s critical to discuss legal consequences of any criminal history BEFORE filing any renewal application to USCIS.

Access here.


Limited Travel Ban restrictions are re-implemented and in effect at airports and U.S. consulates worldwide.

Timing: Official Customs and Border Protection (CBP) guidance says they’ll start implementing their directives at at 8pm on Thursday the 29th. Some airports have said they’ll start as early as 10:30am on Thursday (no word on Atlanta).

Direct from CBP: “The impact at the ports will be minimal, because all individuals already in possession of valid visas will be authorized to travel.”

Direct from Department of State (DOS): Nothing, yet. DOS is responsible for drafting the bulk of the policy guidance for how this will be implemented going forward, as the government anticipates this will mostly impact those abroad.

Report: We need to know how monitor the implementation of the Supreme Court’s “bona fide relationship” test. Attorneys should report what you see/hear/experience here:

Plan for Now: Local attorneys have volunteered in shifts to be ready at the airports to assist with blocked admissions. We’re in coordination with them to monitor and see if more volunteers will be needed.


U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision on the travel ban – keeping some of the federal court injunctions but unfreezing other parts.

The Supreme Court is allowing the travel ban to go into effect (sections 2(c) and section 6) relating to “foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” People with connections—people with family in the US, students at U.S. universities, lecturers invited by a U.S. entity—can come in. However, discrimination against people with no connections to the U.S. is allowed. The Court’s order could lead to chaos and rights violations at the airport, since it’s not clear how the “bona fide” language will be interpreted by the Department of State during visa interviews. Decision here.


Federal Appeals Court scheduled to hear argument on the current block of Administration’s Travel Ban Order

Ninth Circuit hearing on the Court’s injunction of travel ban will air live on C-Span.  Access here.


President Trump issues Executive Order, “Buy American and Hire American”

This Order calls for the prioritization of American products and labor. The Order itself does not change any law or remove existing legal options for foreign workers, but it requires that the foreign worker programs be reviewed and reformed “to ensure that H1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

Find full Executive Order here.


Increased immigration enforcement proves to have significant impact on immigrant communities and the legal system. STERN Law issues guidance on how to fight ICE detention and deportation.

Changes in immigration enforcement policy now call for ICE enforcement against anyone who is unlawfully in the United States. During President Obama’s administration, ICE focused its resources only on removing people with certain types of criminal convictions. If you did not fit into that category, ICE would not bother you. However, things are very different now under the Trump administration. Currently, anyone who is in the U.S. unlawfully is at risk of ICE detention and removal proceedings in Immigration Court.


The continued existence of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program is in a fragile position, with the possibility of the President’s elimination by Executive Order. STERN Law provides recommendations for DACA applicants.

Currently, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program still operates. Indeed, none of the Executive Orders or DHS memos have eliminated it. Applications are being accepted, and hopefully we will continue to still see application approvals. However, we do not know exactly how US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently processes DACA applications. It isn’t clear whether they are processing as usual, or if they are slowing down the processing and approvals to wait on some action by the President. Find full recommendations here.


Federal Judge blocks Administration’s Revised “Travel Ban” Order.

Federal Judge in Hawaii stops the implementation of the March 6th Order that banned admission of visa applicants from listed Muslim-majority countries. Travel and admission may continue as usual, as it did prior to any travel ban orders issued by the Trump Administration. The federal lawsuit will continue and the Judge’s “freeze” will remain in place until there is a more developed hearing on the issues presented by both sides. To Be Continued..


President Trump revisits the Travel Ban (previously issued under EO 13769) and signs Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”

This revised Order modifies travel restrictions in a way that the Executive Branch hopes will pass constitutional scrutiny and that it’s allowed by the Courts. It removes the restriction on lawful permanent residents and visa holders who have been previously admitted. This Order still limits refugee admissions, those from Syria and first-time visa entrants with employment and family-based visas.

Find full Executive Order here.


DHS publishes implementation memos on latest Executive Orders: “Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvement Policies” and “Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest.”

The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) created an information webpage with links to relevant memos and fact sheets on the topic of ICE detention, removal and other internal enforcement policies.


STERN Law publishes in depth Immigration Update to address impact of recent Executive Orders.

STERN Law provides guidance on the administration’s continuing policy changes with an in-depth Immigration Update. It covers: International Travel, ICE Enforcement of Immigration Laws within the U.S., and the immediate future of DACA protections. You may find this update here, and the Spanish version here.

CNN hosts Attorney Jessica Stern once again to continue the discussion on President Trump’s Executive Orders.


President Trump signs 2 Executive Orders 1) EO 13773 – “Enforcing Federal Law With Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking,” and 2) EO 13774, “Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety.”

The Executive Orders have not changed any actual law that exists. Instead, the orders direct the agencies under the control of the Executive Branch of U.S. government to operate differently. It changes policies, but it does not eliminate or change any legal benefit, right or protection provided by federal statutes or the Constitution of the United States.

Find full Executive Orders here and here.


Federal Judge blocks “Travel Ban” Order and admissions from banned countries are permitted entry.

Seattle Federal Judge issues temporary injunction on Executive Order that banned entry from non-U.S. citizen nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. As of today’s date, the travel ban Order is on hold during back-and-forth federal court litigation after the States of Washington and Minnesota sued to protect the rights of its citizens and businesses affected by the travel ban.


USCIS releases an Internal Memo instructing USCIS officers to continue processing immigration applications despite country of nationality (in light of Travel Ban EO 13769).

USCIS confirms that it will continue approvals of applications for adjustment of status or naturalization despite ban on travel from certain Muslim-majority countries. USCIS affirms that the country of nationality alone should not prevent adjudication decisions.


President Trump signs Executive Order 13769, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” – AKA the Travel Ban.

Attorney Jessica Stern explains the controversial “travel ban” on CNN National News.

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