November 18, 2019
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Last week, AILA learned
that as of August 7, 2019 USCIS has stopped accepting and
adjudicating requests for non-military deferred action at its local field offices
throughout the country. This includes, but is not limited to,
requests based on urgent or incredibly sensitive medical needs of undocumented
immigrants and their families. The change is especially harsh as
it affects a highly vulnerable population and applies retroactively. That means it impacts not just those
seeking to request deferred action but also all requests that were
already pending with the agency on or before August 7, 2019. USCIS has already begun issuing
denial notices for these requests. USCIS has been clear that this change
does not affect DACA or other deferred action requests that are
currently handled at USCIS service centers, such as deferred action requests for
VAWA or U visa-based cases. Also, this change does not impact
requests of deferred action made for members of the military,
including veterans, enlistees, or their family members. Deferred action is a form of
temporary relief from deportation for applicants and families facing
complex or serious issues. This change in USCIS policy
impacts a group of extremely vulnerable immigrants
and family members seeking to remain in the United States
due to specific circumstances. This includes people with severe
medical conditions such as cancer,
cystic fibrosis, and HIV. The denial of these requests means
that at least for the time being many of these families will be without
work authorization and in some cases a driver’s license, making it increasingly
difficult to take care of the urgent issues that qualified them for deferred
action in the first place. Already AILA members have shared
examples of individuals and families that will be impacted by this change,
including a case involving two parents who need deferred action so that they
can continue providing care and support for their young U.S. citizen child
who is currently battling an incurable and
potentially fatal illness. USCIS has indicated that
moving forward, it will be deferring to ICE
to handle non-military requests. It is unclear if ICE will be establishing
a process for making these requests. However, AILA is concerned that shifting
responsibility for handling these requests to an enforcement agency will likely deter
individuals from coming forward in order to seek life-saving protection or the ability
to continue caring for their families. Congress intended USCIS
to function as a service-oriented immigration benefits agency. But USCIS has increasingly shifted its focus
toward immigration enforcement. By eliminating its deferred
action program and handing over responsibility
for such requests to ICE, USCIS has taken yet another step away
from its statutory mission and further blurred the line between itself
and DHS’s enforcement components. We encourage AILA members and
the general public to join AILA National in urging Congress to demand that
USCIS reverse this policy change. You can do so in under
two minutes by sending an email to your member of Congress
through AILA’s Take Action. In addition, AILA is seeking
examples of impacted individuals to lift up to Congress and the media. We encourage all submissions
for individuals and families that will be negatively impacted
by this change. Together, we will aggressively push back
on this mean-spirited policy change and work to ensure that
vulnerable children and families receive the protection they deserve.

Tony wyaad