Interesting Updates from the 2014 AILA Spring Conference


The 2014 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) spring conference, “Government Agency Update,” presented many interesting revelations and discussions involving relevant agencies such as the Department of Labor, U.S.C.I.S., Customs and Border Protection, Executive Office for Immigration Review, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of State. Some of the more interesting points to this writer are below:

1. The F-2A category for spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of permanent residence will retrogress. According to the Department of State, there is a lot of demand here. The comments at the conference emphasized the information in the May 2014 visa bulletin that, “At the current rate, such demand will require a retrogression of the F-2A cutoff date within the next several months.” The EB-5 (immigrant investor) category is manageable given the demand by China, but the Department said that it could do a cut off prior to the end of the fiscal year. On EB-2 (advanced degree holders or persons of exceptional ability), India will have no movement until July at the earliest. And on EB-3 (skilled workers or professionals), the demand has increased and it is tough to project for the future.

2. A new policy is being implemented by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that it will accept unsigned G-28 authorizations of representation when a person is detained. The policy was established the day before the conference. This is a large boon to detained aliens and their attorneys, especially where there is long distance between the detained and their chosen counsel. In many cases, friends and relatives have been stymied by detention facilities from even bringing in representation forms to be signed. For the non-detained, a signed G-28 will still be required.

3. The number of H-1B submissions was approximately 172,500, and the lottery was already run. Premium processing cases were to be receipted first (and the couple of lawyers in the audience had already received receipts), and premium processing for the receipted cases would begin around April 28th. U.S.C.I.S. was optimistic that Service Center Operations would be able to handle the cap H-1B’s without impacting other I-129 cases although Donald Neufeld, Associate Director, Service Center Operations Directorate, acknowledged that it could not be nothing, but that they would do their best in juggling the workloads. He estimated 60 days for the non-premium processed cases to be worked on, and immediately was questioned as to whether the real time for H-1B’s would be between 2 – 6 months.

4. I-130 immediate relative cases for spouses are being worked down from 7 months and in 1-2 months will be back down to 5 months processing time. 264,000 petitions were transferred from the National Benefits Center and so there was a lot of volume and when the cases are run for the background, they need to be resolved. Nebraska appears to have a bottleneck in these cases.

5. Good news was the theme from Ron Rosenberg, Chief of the Office of Administrative Appeals (AAO) in stating that all cases are being done within 6 months and that people could go back to filing appeals. (In the recent past when some appeals were taking over 2 years, this writer had questioned the value of filing any appeals at the AAO). He also noted that there is a revamped AAO website with much information on it and that people should visit it. AAO is also working on a practice manual. Mr. Rosenberg noted that the biggest problem now appears to be getting the cases to AAO as its timeline only starts when the cases are actually received. Therefore attorneys should track their cases if it has been 75 days and they have received nothing, they should pick up the telephone and dial the 1-800 number or the field office where the file is being held.

6. On cancellation of removal cases (known by many as 10 year green card cases), there is a 4000 annual cap for grants, and for this year, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) did not even open the line at the beginning of the government fiscal year, October 1st, because there were already so many cases in the queue. Now EOIR is following the policy of preserving the integrity of the line by keeping track of the cases by time and date. The immigration judges cannot grant or deny the cases until a cap number becomes available, at which time they are informed that they can release the decision. The immigration judges then have to convene and issue a decision (either granting or denying the case) before EOIR would even know whether the cap number had been used.

7. On Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals, U.S.C.I.S. affirmed that it is meeting every day to see that everything is being done properly; that the agency is taking the program seriously; this is a top priority; and they would love to have feedback. It did acknowledge among other things that for “stuck” cases, background checks are a problem in Nebraska.

There were of course many other important pieces of information related, some probably much more important dependent upon the reader’s interest. The writer congratulates AILA for presenting an informative conference with excellent panelists from itself and the government.

This article © 2014 Alan Lee, Esq.

About The Author

Alan Lee Alan Lee, Esq. is a 30+ year practitioner of immigration law based in New York City holding an AV preeminent rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Director, registered in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, on the New York Super Lawyers list (2011-12, 2013-14), and recognized as a New York Area Top Rated Lawyer in 2012. He was awarded the Sidney A. Levine prize for best legal writing at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1977 and has written extensively on immigration over the past years for Interpreter Releases, Immigration Daily, and the ethnic newspapers, World Journal, Sing Tao, Pakistan Calling, Muhasba and OCS. He has testified as an expert on immigration in civil court proceedings and was recognized by the Taiwan government in 1985 for his work protecting human rights. His article, "The Bush Temporary Worker Proposal and Comparative Pending Legislation: an Analysis" was Interpreter Releases' cover display article at the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in 2004, and his victory in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in a case of first impression nationwide, Firstland International v. INS, successfully challenged INS' policy of over 40 years of revoking approved immigrant visa petitions under a nebulous standard of proof. Its value as precedent, however, was short-lived as it was specifically targeted by the Bush Administration in the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004.

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