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12 Immigration Hot Topics for 2013

What are the hot topics to watch in 2013?

We’ve got a hot topic for each month of the year that will surely reemerge!  Many of these topics will affect practitioners and their ability to provide accurate and timely service to immigrants.  You’ll be glad to hear we’re keeping tabs on these topics.

1.     Party Politics Will Accelerate Immigration Reform

The results of the November election revealed a significant shift in the Latino electorate that has shaken much of the core beliefs of the Republic Party.  Even the most conservative congressional leaders are ready to consider comprehensive reform that includes a variety of immigration issues.

2.     DACA Path to Citizenship

The issue of what to do with the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States will finally be addressed in 2013.  A compelling percentage of those 11 million individuals are DREAMers; young immigrants who came either without documents or inspection, or overstayed their original authorized stay but meet criteria qualifying them as low health and safety threats in the U.S.  Like it or not, politicians will be faced with this highly-charged question during comprehensive immigration reform discussions.  Some states are steering the discussion by initiating the talks sooner rather than later.

3.     Continued DACA Applications

We wrote about the latest DACA statistics here, but until a comprehensive immigration reform package is passed and signed into law, DACA will remain the best alternative for eligible candidates to seek authorized work and stay in the U.S.  In fact, statistics show that applications continue to rise.

4.     Driver’s Licenses for DREAMers

Ever since DACA candidates have been receiving approvals from USCIS (and ICE), some states have been eager to deny DACA recipients the ability to apply and receive a driver license.  Other states have been silent on the issue.  A recent lawsuit filed by DACA recipients though, pave way for a standoff in 2013.  Although this issue may become moot once comprehensive immigration reform is underway, it still remains contentious. We’ll have to see how the courts decide on this issue as legal challenges are filed.  You can download and read the latest legal complaint here.

5.     Immigration Fraud Issues

In the past couple of years, many reports have arisen related to fraud in the immigration context.  The fingers tend to point towards petitioners and sponsors amidst sensational reports.  The data on actual fraud incidences is still not definitive but USCIS nevertheless has issued many internal memos and directives, recently revealed in a FOIA lawsuit victory won by the American Immigration Council.  DHS will likely go back to the drawing board to determine ways to address issues of fraud.

6.     Struggle with Secure Communities 287(g)

DHS admitted in a July 2012 during a Congressional hearing that the Secure Communities program was not quite as successful as described on its website.  The issue remains that many communities still struggle with the Secure Communities program and are figuring out how to move forward and collaborate with the federal government.  This struggle will continue in 2013.

7.     Entrepreneur Investment Program Developments

Large entrepreneurial projects remain a priority for USCIS but figuring out an effective way to administer the program continues to haunt the agency.  Though, USCIS has made very positive gestures of including stakeholders and experts in devising a palatable adjudicatory strategy, thanks to the leadership of Director Mayorkas.  The recent creation of the EB-5 Program Office in Washington D.C. is a start but its efficacy will be revealed in 2013.  Active practitioners of EB-5 visas should definitely be taking notes.

8.     EIR Start-Up Visa Progress?

We recently wrote about the EIR Program’s progress. The issue of entrepreneurial visas for immigrants who start companies in the U.S. is actually not in contention.  Rather, congressional leaders aren’t sure exactly how to create such visas and under what eligibility requirements to do so.  In the meantime, USCIS has deflected some attention by offering a nifty website.

9.     STEM Bill

Although passed by the House in November 2012, the Senate has yet to pass a STEM bill.  It’s currently being used as a political birdie being volleyed back and forth over the net.  The issue remains how to manage current visa quotas.  Does Congress have the power to raise total immigration quotas?  Yes.  Should they?  That’s the big question up for debate and the STEM bill has fallen victim as the vehicle to make that point.

10. DHS Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Sexual Abuse and Assault in Confinement Facilities

Congress is getting serious about the reports on sexual violence in the prisons which immigrants who are incarcerated face.  In response, a recent Federal Register notice by DHS announced plans to set guidelines and standards to “help prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse and assault in DHS confinement facilities.”

11. Same Sex Couples

Foreign governments in other countries seem to view same-sex marriage in a different light than our federal government.  The tides might be shifting, even if ever so slightly.  The rise of reports and discussions in the media indicates some willingness to address the direst issues affecting bi-national same-sex couples.  We’ll likely see more of this issue debated in greater detail in 2013.

12. Continued Removal of Immigrants

Make no mistake; DHS is still very serious about enforcement efforts, including removing the most dangerous criminals who pose a health and safety threat to our country.  The removals by ICE through August 12, 2012 are astounding!  These efforts will certainly continue in 2013, as evidenced by ICE’s latest press release.

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