On October 1, 2018, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began implementing a new policy to issue Notice to Appear (NTA) in cases where it has denied a benefit to an applicant if the applicant does not have any lawful immigration status. NTA is a document that instructs an immigrant to appear before an immigration judge on a certain date. The issuance of an NTA means the start of removal proceedings against the immigrant.
USCIS has announced that it will not issue NTAs in cases involving DACA petitions, employment-based petitions, or humanitarian-based petitions. However, this new policy leaves open the possibility of thousands of other types of immigration applications being subjected to the issuance of an NTA.
This policy also comes shortly after another policy, announced in July 2018, making it easier to deny certain cases merely for missing a single document. Hypothetically, this leaves open the possibility of an applicant filing for a green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, but forgetting to include a copy of her birth certificate, being denied and placed into removal proceedings. These policies, when taken together, will likely have the effect of overwhelming an already backlogged immigration court system.
This is a massive change from the current policy where such cases were referred to Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) to allow ICE the option of picking which cases to pursue for removal. This is a continuing trend of turning USCIS - an agency that is intended to be non-adversarial - into a hostile government entity that is merely an extension of immigration enforcement. Seemingly, the only goal being pursued is that of chilling the petition and application for immigration benefits through fear and intimidation. Overwhelming the immigration court system and taking prosecutorial discretion out of the hands of immigration enforcement experts does nothing to keep our country safe, to ensure the timely grant of immigration benefits in qualifying cases, or to expeditiously remove those who fail to qualify for benefits.
It is more important than ever to be properly informed about the legal implications of applying for benefits with USCIS. Thus, we strongly encourage acquiring the assistance of a legal counsel when considering filing to ensure your best chances of receiving your immigration benefit and avoiding adverse immigration court results. Contact one of our attorneys to inquire about a consultation on any application or petition you are thinking of submitting to USCIS.