Immigration Law Year in Review – The positives and negatives of 2015


Immigration was the spotlight issue of 2015. Everyone was talking about it from politicians to the media to the general public. Unfortunately, the discussions were often negative and focused on keeping people out of the U.S. Even though 2015 was bad for immigration policy in a political sense, legally there were a lot of positive changes mixed in with some disappointments.

Here are some of the top developments of the year:

January 2015

New Immigration priorities set by the Obama Administration in November 2014 are set to begin in January and May 2015. Among the changes are new rules to temporarily shield from deportation many of the 5 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Unfortunately, they were postponed by a lawsuit enjoining U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from implementing the immigration reform. This litigation is still pending and won’t be resolved until 2016.

February 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court hears the case of Kerry v. Din, in which a U.S. citizen wife sued over the denial of a visa for her immigrant spouse. The issue was whether the wife had standing to sue. Unfortunately, the Court decided later in the year that she did not have the right to sue because she did not have a right to live with her spouse and bring him to the U.S.

March 2015

The Board of Immigration Appeals issues a decision finding that children born out of wedlock may qualify as “legitimated children” for purposes of deriving naturalization through a parent. This is good news for many families since this issue arises regularly. The decision held that if a child comes from a country that doesn’t distinguish between out of wedlock and wedlock children for citizenship, then the distinction wouldn’t matter in the U.S. either and the child could derive citizenship through their U.S. citizen parent.

April 2015

The Department of Labor announces it will begin to certify U-visa applications for victims of criminal exploitation in the work place. Originally focusing on victims of human trafficking, the U-visa program has begun to find broader application in other contexts. Those who qualify can get legal residence in the U.S for an initial period of three years.

June 2015

New York Immigration Law Center Blog launches.

July 2015

California moves to allow undocumented immigrants to purchase Obamacare insurance.

New guidance regarding H1-B visas allows spouses of H-1B workers to apply for work authorization for themselves. This means H1-B employees do not have to be the sole support of their families and eases their financial burden.

September 2015

The Department of Homeland Security announces Temporary Protective Status (TPS) classification for Yemen for 18 months due to the ongoing armed conflict within the country.

The Department of State releases new visa bulletins to help those applying for adjustment of status know when their visa will become available. The new rules implement the White House’s initiatives to modernize and streamline the immigration process.

October 2015

The hotly debated EB-5 program gets a temporary extension. The EB-5 program enables foreigners to obtain legal permanent residency in the US through investment in a new commercial enterprise. Although the program brings almost $2 billion into the US annually, it has been subject to ongoing criticism. We expect the issue to be taken up again in December or January.

USCIS launches its electronic immigration system allowing immigrants to file certain documents online, such as applications for green card renewals and replacements.

November 2015

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit says mandatory detention of undocumented immigrants who commit certain crimes is allowed, but it cannot be indefinite. They have a right to a bail hearing.

December 2015

On December 8th, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes a bill imposing new visa waiver restrictions on those traveling to the U.S.

Immigration will continue to be a big issue for next year and we expect new challenges as well as positive changes. We will continue to keep you up-to-date on the latest developments and help you understand what it means to you.

This post originally appeared on NY Immigration Law Center. Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Joseph Caraccio Joseph Caraccio, Esq. is an associate attorney at Pollack, Pollack Isaac & DeCicco, where he has been practicing in the immigration department since 2012. His legal practice is focused on helping immigrants obtain legal status in the United States and defending those who face removal (deportation).

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.