Department of Homeland Security

This blog was updated on July 8th to reflect the Harvard and MIT lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a policy change on July 6 that will substantially disrupt higher education for the fall semester. This major change in policy was issued without any opportunity for notice and comment by the public.

Despite the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic, ICE announced that it will no longer continue to allow 100% online studies programs for F-1 (academic) and M-1 (vocational) students. ICE has directed international students who presently participate in 100% online studies programs must either (1) transfer to an ICE-approved educational institution that allows hybrid (online and in-person) or fully on-campus, in-person courses, or (2) leave the U.S. or (3) remain in the U.S. without the underlying support of the school and suffer the possible initiation of removal (deportation) proceedings. ICE also indicated that it would publish a temporary or interim final regulation to a similar effect.
Continue Reading ICE Gives the Cold Shoulder to Foreign Students

In-Person Services Suspended Until At Least May 3

In response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) developments, as of April 1, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its office closures suspending routine in-person services until May 3rd.

What does this mean for cases in progress?

USCIS will reschedule appointments for applicants with permanent resident (green

Seyfarth Synopsis: The outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has resulted in unprecedented travel restrictions, U.S. consular appointment cancellations, and changes to USCIS operations. To help navigate these challenges, Seyfarth is providing a brief summary of recent developments from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Department of Labor.

Updates from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Continue Reading COVID-19 Immigration Updates From the Agencies

President Trump’s October 9, 2019 overtures landed as music to the ears of many a grizzled immigration lawyer who persistently suffers battle fatigue from the culture of virtually never.  On that day the President released a double album, each with artfully penned liner notes:

The songs of TAFCAEA and IAGD,  resonating beautifully, and soothing frazzled heartstrings, make clear that in adjudicating and enforcing federal laws all covered Executive-Branch agencies must:

  • publish clear guidance rules that spell out permissible and prohibited conduct by regulated parties;
  • eliminate instances of “unfair surprise” so that members of the public (the regulated community) are not blindsided by unforeseen changes in how the agencies interpret federal laws;
  • place any purportedly binding agency rules not published in the Federal Register (known as sub-regulatory guidance) into an indexed and searchable section of each agency’s website (or else, the “rules” go away); and
  • soon announce rules of procedure governing administrative inspections and then be held accountable to comply with the published ground rules.


Continue Reading The Trump Administration Releases a New Hymnal to Curb the Administrative State; Immigration Lawyers Erupt in Rapturous Song

By Randy Johnson and Dawn Lurie

Seyfarth Synopsis: On July 10, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1044 – the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019,” on the Suspension Calendar[1] with a bipartisan vote of 365-65. The legislation, originally introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), would eliminate the existing “per-country cap” for employment-based immigrants while also increasing the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas.

The current employment-based system for immigrant visas (i.e. “green cards”) is based on “per-country caps” which set a cap, or quota, per-country at 7% of the total amount of employment-based green cards issued annually by the United States.[2] As one employer-based coalition put it, “[t]his means that India and China, which account for over 40% of the world’s population are allowed the same number of visas as Greenland, a country that accounts for 0.001% of the world’s population.”  For more information on the operation of the per-country caps, see the Congressional Research Service’s December 2018 analysis here.


Continue Reading Houses Passes Bill Lifting “Per-Country Caps”

By: Dawn M. Lurie and Greg Morano*

On March 1, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced that it would continue to preserve the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador. As we have previously written, to comply with the federal court order in Ramos et al. v. Nielsen et al, DHS’s Federal Register Notice (“Notice”) yet again protects the TPS designation for each country and provides automatic extensions to existing work authorization documents. TPS and related documentation for Nicaragua, Sudan, Haiti, and El Salvador are now automatically extended through January 2, 2020.


Continue Reading TPS Update: Last Minute Automatic Extensions For El Salvador and Three Other Countries

By: Dawn Lurie

Seyfarth Synopsis: The government has temporarily been reopened and E-Verify is back in business, at least until February 15th.  The President and Congress have until that time to provide long term funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Our friends over at the Verification Division of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) have been very busy preparing for the onslaught of E-Verify activity that began early this morning, after the very long 35-day government shutdown.  USCIS issued E-Verify guidance yesterday, January 28, 2019, outlining what employers need to do and when they need to do it.  We expect additional guidance to be posted today in an effort to clarify some of the confusion caused by the government’s initial directives.  

With all of those E-Verify queries sitting in cyberspace or on your desk, let’s start with the basics.  Be warned – if you sleep easily at night without thoughts of E-Verify invading your dreams, this blog post is likely not for you.

Hopefully, during the 35 day shutdown you were able to follow the advice provided in Seyfarth’s previous blog Government Shutdown = E-Verify Shutdown.  If so, your company has been stockpiling E-Verify queries while completing and retaining Forms I-9 in the requisite time frames.  For those companies using electronic I-9 providers, your vendor should have been doing the same through their systems.  Your vendor should also now be providing guidance on how to process those E-Verify queries queued up in their system, and should also be addressing the likely delays, backlogs and TNC related issues.
Continue Reading E-Verify Thawed: The Government Reopens but Guidance is Messy

Over the past few days, I’ve received a large number of emails and calls from stressed out clients asking about the lack of access to E-Verify. Do not panic, employers will not be penalized as a result of the E-Verify operations shutdown.

E-Verify is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9 to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) records to confirm employment eligibility.

Since E-Verify is not fee based, the current lapse in appropriated government funding affects the program. Employers will not be penalized for any delays in creating E-Verify cases.  However, employers are reminded that they must continue to complete I-9s in compliance with the law, and when E-Verify becomes available, create cases in the E-Verify system. We expect USCIS to issue guidance—as they have during prior shutdowns— suspending the “three-day rule”  which mandates creating a query within three day of starting work for pay, for any case affected cases.  Historically, employees caught in the Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) process were also provided an extended period to resolve any issues; the same is expected this time.
Continue Reading Government Shut Down= E-Verify Shut Down

On July 24, 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a press release confirming that its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division had completed the second phase of a nationwide operation from July 16-20. HSI served 2,738 I-9 Notices of Inspection (NOIs[1]) to US businesses around the country after serving 2450 during its first phase earlier this year. In sum, HSI has now issued almost 5200 NOIs since the beginning of October 2017. Not only this, but HSI also has made 675 criminal and 984 administrative worksite-related arrests. These numbers clearly indicate that ICE takes worksite enforcement very seriously and companies should prioritize a commitment to compliance. Fines for knowingly hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized workers start at $559 per employee and can be as high as $22,363 for repeated offenses. Paperwork violations range from $224 to $2236. Companies may also face additional fines, penalties and forfeitures, and government contractors may face debarment from federal contracts.

In ICE’s press release, HSI reminded employers about its “three-pronged approach to worksite enforcement: compliance, form I-9 inspections, civil fines and referrals for debarment; enforcement, through the criminal arrest of employers and administrative arrest of unauthorized workers; and outreach, through the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE program, to instill a culture of compliance and accountability.”

These events have been expected and actually follow prior comments by HSI officials that we previously reported, confirming that 2018 will be a year of increased immigration enforcement.


Continue Reading Baby It’s Cold Outside: ICE I-9 Audits Increase Over 100 Percent

By: Dawn M. Lurie and Greg Morano*

Seyfarth Synopsis: The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rules concerning auto extensions of employment authorization and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) can be confusing, and it is important employers know how to update Forms I-9 for TPS beneficiaries.  We have previously reported on USCIS terminating TPS for El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Haiti while initially deferring a decision for Honduras.  Since then, the government terminated TPS for Nepal on 05/22/2018 and for Honduras on 06/05/2018.  The decision affects approximately 9,000 Nepalese foreign nationals and approximately 57,000 Honduran foreign nationals.

What Happened?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has terminated TPS for Nepal and Honduras with delayed effective dates.  For Honduras, TPS will terminate on January 5, 2020.  For Nepal, TPS will terminate on June 24, 2019.  This means that TPS recipients of the respective countries have until the above-mentioned dates to continue to live, and, if so authorized, work in the United States.


Continue Reading TPS Terminations and the Form I-9