A Response to Recent Questions about the Florida Bill

The Florida law proposals have been a huge question and many have inquired regarding the specifics. While many of the specifics may still be unknown as to how it will be carried out, the general provisions are explained below.

As of May 2, 2023, Florida Senate Bill 1718 has been approved by both chambers of the Florida Legislature. With the assumption that this bill will be carried out, it intends to do the following:

  • Require business owners to use E-verify to check employee work eligibility;
  • Suspend employer licenses for unqualified workers;
  • Enhance human smuggling penalties;
  • Ban local governments from issuing identification cards; and
  • Require hospitals to collect data on immigrants without legal status.

Below are some specific provisions of the law:

Driver’s licenses and other IDs

The bill addresses the effect of driving with a driver’s license issued by another state. In some states, like in Virginia, unlawfully present immigrants are allowed to obtain a driver privilege card that allows a resident of that state to drive lawfully even if they do not have lawful status within the state. This new bill allegedly allows Florida to treat this type of license as invalid, thereby treating the license holder as if they are driving without a license. Violation of this law could result in a citation to the driver, which would be considered a misdemeanor if found guilty.

Transportation Limits

According to this proposal, a person cannot knowingly bring a person who is unlawfully present in the United States into Florida. If a person has reason to believe they are bringing someone unlawfully present in the United States into Florida, they could also be in violation of this law. Violation of this law could result in a conviction of a third-degree felony. Bringing a child into the state of Florida when it is known or should be known that the child is unlawfully present in the United States could result in a conviction of a second-degree felony.

Healthcare Requirements

This bill would also require hospitals that accept Medicaid to include a question on their intake forms that asks if a person is in the United States lawfully or unlawfully. Hospitals must then submit a quarterly report each quarter stating how many people were admitted to the hospital that reported their status as unlawfully present.

Employment Considerations

Lastly, this bill would affect a person who knowingly employs a person who does not have authorization to work in the United States. If an employer knowingly employs a person without legal authorization to work in the United States, that employer can be subjected to a fine. Public employers must verify an employee’s eligibility to work within three business days after the employee begins working. Private employers with 25 or more employees are also subjected to this requirement.

Any person with any pending immigration application or petition before the USCIS or the Immigration Court should be cautious when traveling anywhere and should contact their attorney if they have any questions. This summary is intended to provide guidance but not legal advice. Contact your attorney for more information.

PTL Attorney Betty Stevens recognized by Federal Bar Association

Congratulations to Amaryllis Law attorney Elizabeth “Betty” Stevens who was recognized by the national Federal Bar Association at their annual meeting for her hard work on legislation creating an Article I Immigration Court. Betty has worked tirelessly on this issue, including reviewing draft legislation, collaborating with stakeholders, and offering compelling congressional testimony before the Immigration Subcommittee. For her efforts on this important due process and access to justice issue, the FBA selected her for the Elaine R. “Boots” Fisher Award, which recognizes exemplary community, public and charitable service by a member of the FBA. Congrats Betty, and thanks, FBA, for this prestigious recognition of Betty’s commitment to an independent immigration court.  

Updates for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Recipients 

There has been a lot of movement with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Several changes are important and noteworthy:

DEFERRED ACTION/WORK AUTHORIZATION:

On March 7, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it is updating the USCIS Policy Manual to consider deferred action and related employment authorization for noncitizens who have an approved Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, for Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) classification but who cannot apply to adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) because a visa number is not available.

Deferred action is an act of prosecutorial discretion that defers proceedings to remove a noncitizen from the United States for a certain period. Deferred action does not provide lawful status. USCIS will consider deferred action on a case-by-case basis and will grant it if the SIJ warrants a favorable exercise of discretion. USCIS will automatically conduct deferred action determinations for individuals with SIJ classification who cannot apply for LPR status because a visa number is not available. A separate request for deferred action is not required and will not be accepted by USCIS. If USCIS grants deferred action, it will be valid for a period of four years. Beginning on May 6, 2022, a SIJ who has been granted deferred action will be able to apply for employment authorization for their period of deferred action by filing Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

MARRIAGE:

The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a final rule which will update the regulations regarding Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS); specifically, 8 CFR § 204.11, § 205.1, and § 245.1.1 The purpose of the updates is to reflect statutory changes, modify certain provisions, codify existing policies, and clarify eligibility requirements. The regulations went into effect on April 7, 2022, and overall are a positive development for SIJS petitioners.

An important change in policy, USCIS has removed marriage of the SIJS beneficiary as a basis for automatic revocation. This means the SIJS petitioner only needs to be unmarried at the time of filing the SIJS petition and the time of adjudication of the SIJS petition. This dramatic and valuable change will allow many young people to move forward with marriage while waiting for their priority date to become current. However, it is not known at this time whether USCIS will apply this change in policy retroactively to individuals who previously married after their SIJS petition was approved but before their adjustment of status application was adjudicated.

SIJS OVERVIEW:

Due to the large number of SIJS applications, for the last 5-6 years, there has been a backlog for children from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico. As of April 2021, there are 44,000 SIJS beneficiaries remaining in the backlog. SIJS beneficiaries from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have waited an average of 4 years before their priority date is current to apply for adjustment of status.

SIJS visas are part of the employment-based fourth preference category. The fourth category receives only 7.1% of the 140,000 visas generally available per year. SIJS beneficiaries are also subject to annual country caps applicable to employment-based immigration: 7% per-country limit. There is an overwhelming number of SIJS beneficiaries who are also in removal proceedings: 92% of Honduran SIJS adjustment applicants, 90% of Guatemalan applicants, and 84% of Salvadoran applicants.

If someone you know can benefit from Special Immigrant Juvenile Status due to abuse, neglect or abandonment by one or both parents, please contact our office today.

Local immigration lawyers push for separate immigration court to combat case backlog

ROANOKE, Va. – Congress is weighing in on a bill that could drastically change the nation’s immigration system. The nation has hit a record, with a backlog reaching nearly 1.6 million immigration cases.

Read Full Article: https://www.wsls.com/news/local/2022/03/08/local-immigration-lawyers-push-for-separate-immigration-court-to-combat-case-backlog/

COVID-19 Vaccinations Required for Applicants Applying for LPR Status in US & Abroad

Starting October 1, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and the U.S. Department of State will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all applicants applying for lawful permanent residence with a few exceptions. All applicants who receive their medical examination from a Civil Surgeon or Panel Physician on or after October 1, 2021, must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series and provide documentation of vaccination.2 This change will impact anyone who completes Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, on or after October 1, 2021. If the medical examination forms are completed before October 1, 2021, they remain valid and the COVID-19 vaccine will not be required. The Civil Surgeon must physically inspect and confirm the applicant’s documentation that they have received all appropriate doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The proper review of vaccination documentation will be in the form of a vaccination record, copy of a medical chart with physician entries, or by appropriate medical personnel. Self-reported vaccine doses without written documentation will not be accepted.

Exceptions: Blanket waivers are available for applicants who are too young to receive the vaccine, have a medical contraindication to the vaccine, or who do not have access to one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in their countries. In addition, individuals may apply for an individual waiver based on religious or moral convictions with USCIS.

Contact Amaryllis Law for more information.

Actualización de las Reglas de Visa U: Proceso de Determinación de Buena Fe para Víctimas de Delitos Cualificados, y Autorización de Empleo y Acción Diferida para Ciertos Peticionarios

Resumen. El 14 de junio del 2021, USCIS emitió una regla que finalmente permite a los peticionarios de Visa U obtener autorización de empleo mientras están esperando (¡por años!) la adjudicación de sus peticiones. La actualización completa de la regla está disponible aquí: https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-issues-policy-providing-further-protections-for-victims-of-crime?fbclid=IwAR1jMX1NqEwOY6_lKuCzYWnMjeNabE7snfxfRqxTzDE1hxN8_d-G7-OKzq0. See USCIS Policy Alert, PA-2021-13, “Bona Fide Determination Process for Victims of Qualifying Crimes, and Employment Authorization and Deferred Action for Certain Petitioners” (June 14, 2021).

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U Visa Policy Update: Bona Fide Determination Process for Victims of Qualifying Crimes, and Employment Authorization and Deferred Action for Certain Petitioners

Overview. On June 14, 2021, USCIS issued a new policy which ultimately permits U Visa petitioners to obtain work authorization while waiting (for years!) for their petitions to be adjudicated. The full policy update is available here: https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-issues-policy-providing-further-protections-for-victims-of-crime?fbclid=IwAR1jMX1NqEwOY6_lKuCzYWnMjeNabE7snfxfRqxTzDE1hxN8_d-G7-OKzq0. See USCIS Policy Alert, PA-2021-13, “Bona Fide Determination Process for Victims of Qualifying Crimes, and Employment Authorization and Deferred Action for Certain Petitioners” (June 14, 2021).   

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DHS Limits ICE and CBP Civil Enforcement Actions In or Near Courthouses

This week, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas directed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to place new limits on civil immigration enforcement actions in or near courthouses. A civil immigration enforcement action may be taken in or near a courthouse only in certain limited instances, including the following: (1) it involves a national security matter, (2) there is an imminent risk of death, violence, or physical harm to any person,  (3) it involves hot pursuit of an individual who poses a threat to public safety, or (4) there is an imminent risk of destruction of evidence material to a criminal case. This policy supersedes an ICE Directive issued in 2018 and marks the first time CBP has ever had formal policy guidance regarding civil immigration enforcement in or near courthouses.

“Ensuring that individuals have access to the courts advances the fair administration of justice, promotes safety for crime victims, and helps to guarantee equal protection under the law,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “The expansion of civil immigration arrests at courthouses during the prior administration had a chilling effect on individuals’ willingness to come to court or work cooperatively with law enforcement. Today’s guidance is the latest step in our efforts to focus our civil immigration enforcement resources on threats to homeland security and public safety.”

How has President Biden changed immigration?

How has President Biden changed immigration? I’ve been asked that question dozens of times by family and friends. Immigration has been such a hot topic during the 2016 and 2020 elections and many individuals are curious about what has changed between the previous administration and the current one. The reality is that most of the significant changes that affect an immigration attorney’s day-to-day practice cannot be explained in an elevator speech or bullet list. This is not specific to the most recent administration change, but every time there is a change of presidency. I’ve now practiced under three different administrations and each new presidency brings with it a sea of change, and President Biden’s short time in office has proven to be no exception.

Some quantifiable changes under the Biden administration (and the answer to the question I believe most people are looking for) include the following:

  1. It reaffirmed Deferred Action with Childhood Arrivals (DACA): new applications for DACA were suspended during the majority of the previous administration
  2. It put a moratorium on deportations: certain deportations were banned for 100 days but it has since been enjoined by a Texas District Court
  3. It lifted travel bans: certain Muslim-majority and African nations are no longer barred from entry into the U.S.
  4. It protected asylum seekers: the Migrant Protection Program requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their hearing was suspended.

To read the full article, please continue on the Roanoke Bar Association website.

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