If there is one area of law and policy that the Trump Administration has remained consistent about since the Mr. Trump took office, it is the idea of “extreme vetting” of visa applicants and immigrants to the United States. Our office has written about this concept in the past: questioning the meaning of the term “extreme vetting,” letting clients know about the use of lengthy questionnaires for some nonimmigrant visa applicants, warning of potential headaches at the airport where customs officers may search electronic devices, and acknowledging the establishment of the “Extreme Vetting Center.” In case you had not heard, the Trump Administration would really like to vet people before they enter the U.S. – extremely.
The latest vetting policy introduced by the administration, and potentially the most concrete example of extreme vetting set forth thus far, is the Department of State’s potential revision to the DS-160 and DS-260 applications used for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applicants. The Department of State has issued of Notice of Proposed Information Collection, wherein these two applications would be revised to include questions regarding applicants’ social media use. One question lists multiple social media platforms and requires the applicant to provide any identifiers used by applicants for those platforms during the five years preceding the date of application. Other questions include five years of previously used telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.
The Notice does not say specifically what the Department of State would be looking for in this data collection, but it is much more expansive than the existing application. Furthermore, in adding such questions to both the DS-160 and DS-260, these questions would be asked of nearly 14 million people each year who apply for visas. This proposal has not yet gone into effect, but would not only increase the length of the application, but also raises privacy and free speech concerns. Would-be applicants may fear that their content could be misconstrued by an officer or interpreted in a negative light. As usual with this Administration, we will continue to monitor how this policy plays out if and when it goes into effect.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently launched two new traveler compliance initiatives to make it easier for Visa Waiver Program travelers to check the status of their stay in the United States and remain in compliance with the terms of their admission. CBP added a new feature to its I-94 website, which allows travelers to check the status of their admission. The new feature under the “View Compliance” tab informs travelers of the number of days remaining on their lawful admission or the number of days they have remained past their admitted until date. Additionally, CBP now sends an email notification to travelers who are still in the U.S. 10 days prior to the expiration of their lawful admission period. These tools are all in an effort to prevent travelers from overstaying the terms of their admission.
To check the admitted until date and remaining number of days in the U.S., a traveler will need to enter his or her biographic and passport information on the I-94 website. Admission time frames vary for every traveler depending on class of admission and visa type. This website also provides a digital copy of a traveler’s Form I-94. It is very important that Form I-94 be issued correctly, as it provides non-immigrant visitors evidence they have been lawfully admitted to the United States, which is necessary for future immigration processes. Because of its importance, we suggest those traveling internationally review our international travel tips and information on obtaining a correctly issued Form I-94.
The Department of Homeland Security has identified 315,000 cases where fingerprint data was missing from the centralized digital fingerprint repository. The Department of Homeland Security has begun an initiative entitled Operation Janus and is working with the Department of Justice to investigate any of those with missing fingerprint data who may have sought to circumvent a criminal record or other background checks in the naturalization process.
As a result of this investigation, the Department of Justice has recently entered an order revoking the naturalized U.S. citizenship of an individual, cancelling his Certificate of Naturalization. The Department of Justice concluded that the individual unlawfully secured the immigration benefit of naturalization when he was excluded from the U.S. after entering unlawfully, but then later married a U.S. citizen and filed for residency under a different name. USCIS has since dedicated a team to review other Operation Janus cases, and the agency has stated its intention to refer approximately 1,600 cases for prosecution.
However, the Supreme Court has recently weighed in on the issue of denaturalization, and has indicated that a misrepresentation in and of itself should not necessarily lead to denaturalization. Instead, if the misrepresentation was of little consequence to the naturalization process and despite the misrepresentation the individual still would otherwise qualify for naturalization, the government should not strip citizenship from someone who met the legal criteria for acquiring it. In any case, Operation Janus marks a consistent trend in the administration’s efforts to crack down on immigration.
The Department of Justice, at the behest of the Trump Administration, has recently filed suit against the state of California regarding its sanctuary state laws. California has enacted laws to protect undocumented immigrants living in the state, barring state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes. The administration sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions to California to announce the lawsuit and continue his critique of sanctuary cities.
Since enacting the sanctuary state law, ICE warned about and has subsequently carried-out more frequent and sweeping arrests. The Administration’s decision to sue California has taken this promise a step further in pitting the administration and California’s immigration policies against each other. The president’s recent visit to California again focused on immigration and building his long-touted border wall, taking the time to denounce the state and its governor. As a result, the battle between the state and the administration wages on, as each side continues to dig in its heels and prepare its arguments for federal court. In this complicated legal area of immigration law, state’s rights, and federal law, neither side has an easy path going forward, but we will continue to follow as this case plays out and effects the ever-changing immigration landscape.