Local & National Immigration Updates

Friday, April 20, 2012

NATIONAL IMMIGRATION ISSUES

Helpful BIA Decision on Humanitarian Grants of Asylum
In Matter of L-S-, the Board of Immigration Appeals Board found that an asylum applicant who had established past persecution but who no longer has a well-founded fear of persecution may warrant a discretionary grant of humanitarian asylum based on compelling reasons arising out of the severity of the past persecution or “a reasonable possibility that he or she may suffer other serious harm” upon removal to his or her country under 8 C.F.R. §1208.13(b)(1)(iii)(B) (2011). The Board held that the “other serious harm” may be unrelated to the applicant’s past harm and need not be connected to one of the protected grounds (race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion). The Board, however, held that the “other serious harm” must be so serious that it equals the severity of persecution.  In determining whether an applicant has established a reasonable possibility of other serious harm, adjudicators should focus on current conditions that could severely affect the applicant, such as civil strife, ongoing human rights abuses, and extreme economic deprivation, as well as on the potential for new physical or psychological harm that the applicant might suffer. The full case can be found at: Matter of L-S-, 25 I&N Dec. 705 (BIA 2012), http://www.justice.gov/eoir/vll/intdec/vol25/3742.pdf.  

BIA Denies Applicants Because of Firm Resettlement Issues
In Matter of D-X- & Y-Z-, the Board, using the four-step analysis, as set in Matter of A-G-G-, 25 I&N Dec. 486 (BIA 2011), to find that the respondents were firmly resettled prior to coming to the U.S. and thus, were ineligible for asylum. In this case, the Board held that a facially valid permit to reside in a third country, though obtained through fraudulent means, constitutes prima facie evidence of an offer of firm resettlement pursuant to section 208(b)(2)(A)(vi) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b)(2)(A)(vi) (2006).  The applicants’ residency permit in the country of Belize, which they previously used to travel in and out of Belize, suggested that they did not remain in Belize merely for “as long as necessary to arrange onward travel,” but rather had been conferred legal status.  Having been resettled, the applicants did not present any evidence of an exception, such as difficulty (harassment, discrimination, threats to safety) in residing in the country. The full case can be found at: Matter of D-X- & Y-Z-, 25 I&N Dec. 664 (BIA 2012), http://www.justice.gov/eoir/vll/intdec/vol25/3737.pdf.

USCIS Announces TPS for Syrian Nationals
Due to the violent upheaval and deteriorating situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), USCIS announced that eligible Syrian nationals (and persons without nationality who last habitually resided in Syria) in the United States may apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  Details and procedures for applying for TPS are provided in the Federal Register notice and are available at www.uscis.gov/tps. The TPS designation for Syria is effective March 29, 2012, and will remain in effect through September 30, 2013. The designation means that eligible Syrian nationals will not be removed from the United States, and may request employment authorization. The 180-day TPS registration period begins on March 29, 2012 and ends on September 25, 2012.

To be eligible for TPS, Syrians must meet all individual requirements for TPS, including demonstrating that they have continually resided and been continually physically present in the United States since March 29, 2012. All individuals who apply for TPS will undergo a thorough security check.  Individuals with criminal records or who pose a threat to national security are not eligible for TPS and their applications will be denied. The eligibility requirements are fully described in the Federal Register notice and on the TPS webpage at www.uscis.gov.

Syria joins El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan as countries currently designated for TPS. 

USCIS’s Issues New LGBTI Training Module
In January 2012, USCIS released a newly-created training module, “Guidance for Adjudicating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Refugee and Asylum Claims,” which instructs asylum officers on substantive aspects of the law and highlights the unique difficulties that LGBTI claimants may experience in articulating their claims for asylum. The LGBTI Training Module can be found at: 
http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Humanitarian/Refugees%20&%20Asylum/Asylum/Asylum%20Native%20Documents%20and%20Static%20Files/RAIO-Training-March-2012.pdf

Online Status Check for FOIA Applications
The status of your USCIS FOIA request is now available online, simply by entering your client’s receipt number. If your request is pending, the status will indicate the position of your request relative to all pending USCIS requests in the same processing track. If your request has been processed and responded to within the past six months, you will be given the date your request was processed. For more information, visit:  http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.8d416137d08f80a2b1935610748191a0/?vgnextoid=f3a2ba87c7a29110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f3a2ba87c7a29110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD.  

LOCAL IMMIGRATION ISSUES

Boston EOIR Court Update
Effective March 1, 2012, the Boston Immigration Court will open Monday through Friday, from 7:50 AM to 4:30 PM. Filing hours are Monday through Thursday, from 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM; Friday, from 8:00 AM until 3:30 PM.

Reminder When Submitting Supplementary Material for an Affirmative Asylum Interview
If you need to supplement your client’s asylum application after submitting the I-589, you should submit all supplementary materials to the Asylum Sub-office on the Monday morning before the interview.  The asylum office has begun to pre-assign officers to cases and wants all packets before the day of the interview.  Please submit your client’s materials at the JFK Building (Room 605). When doing so, give the receptionist your client’s supplemental packet with a copy of the interview notice. Please ask if an asylum officer has been assigned to the case.  If you have a Monday afternoon interview, please mail your materials to the JFK Building, attn: Asylum Sub-Office, USCIS several days before the interview.