Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officially launched its Online Detainee Locator System (ODLS). This new online system lets people search for detainees currently being held by ICE. ODLS can be used to track detainees currently in ICE custody or recently released from custody (within the past 60 days). Family members can use the online system to search via a detainee’s Alien Registration Number and country of birth, or biographical information and country of birth.
There has recently been an increase in both the amount of detainees taken into custody by ICE and the rate of transfers of detainees. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, in Fiscal Year 1999, just under 20% of detainees were transferred from one facility to another. In the first half of Fiscal Year 2008, however, over 50% of detainees were transferred to another location.
ODLS is available online at: https://locator.ice.gov/odls/homePage.do.
Earlier today, a federal judge blocked key portions of Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law from going into effect. In her ruling, United States District Court Judge Susan Bolton stated that some portions of Arizona’s immigration law will be able to go into effect today, as scheduled. However, the judge issued a preliminary injection against the parts of the law that call for police officers to check and verify people’s immigration status when they are enforcing other. In addition, the preliminary injunction also took issue with the part of the law that would require immigrants to carry documentation of their immigration status at all times. Both of these parts of the law have been placed on hold while Judge Bolton listens to various challenges to the law.
“There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens,” wrote Judge Bolton. “By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose a ‘distinct, unusual and extraordinary’ burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose.”
Arizona’s immigration enforcement law was adopted in April 2010 and has caused much controversy from both sides of the immigration debate.
On July 22, 2010, USCIS published in the Federal Register a final rule that made minor changes to the rule related to electronic employment eligibility verification. The final rule now states that employers and recruiters/referrers who are required to complete and retain the I-9 Form may, for a fee, sign the form electronically and retain a digital version of the form.
Additionally, the final rule clarifies that employers are required to complete a new hire’s I-9 Form within three business days of hire (not calendar days). The rule states that employers may use paper, electronic systems or a combination of the two in their I-9 compliance management. Additionally, employers are able to change electronic storage systems, as long as those systems meet the requirements of federal regulations. Employers do not, the rule states, need to maintain an audit trail of each time an I-9 Form is viewed; instead, they must maintain records of when the form was created, completed, updated, modified, altered or corrected.
Last week, USCIS proposed for the first time a standardized fee waiver form that would provide relief for financially disadvantaged people seeking immigration services from the federal agency. USCIS posted a notice in the Federal Register and are currently seeking public comments on proposed Form I-912, the Request for Individual Fee Waiver.
This proposed fee waiver form is based on information gathered in meetings and collaborations with various stakeholders. The form will provide a standardized way for applicants and petitioners to submit fee waiver requests to USCIS by clearly delineating criteria for the waiver to applicants; this will provide consistency to the process of requesting a fee waiver.
USCIS announced this week that it has approved 10,000 petitions for the U Visa in Fiscal Year 2010, marking the first time that the federal agency has reached the statutory maximum for that visa category. The U Visa was created in the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection act, which was legislation aimed at strengthening law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other crimes, while providing protection to the victims of those crimes.
“Through the U visa, USCIS is able to provide crime victims with critical immigration protection, allowing law enforcement officials to protect victims and bring the perpetrators of crimes to justice,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, USCIS. “Through our partnership with both law enforcement and service providers, and through the dedicated work of our staff, we were able to reach – and provide this vital benefit to – thousands of deserving individuals.”
USCIS will again issue U Visas on October 1, 2010, the first day of the next fiscal year. Until that time, USCIS will accept petitions for the U visa; conditionally approved petitioners will be placed on a waiting list.
This week, USCIS announced that they will extend the registration period for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for all eligible Haitian nationals. The initial period for TPS registration for Haitian nationals was from January 21, 2010 through July 20, 2010. This period has now been extended through January 18, 2011.
The Department of Homeland Security had previously published a notice in January 2010 that announced TPS designation for Haiti for an 18 month period. This TPS designation only applies to Haitian nationals who have continually resided in the U.S. since January 12, 2010 and not to those who first entered the U.S. after that date.
USCIS recently reminded U.S. employers that they have just three days after their new employees’ dates of hire to open a case in E-Verify. In addition, this rule also applies to the completion of essential portions of the I-9 form. Section 2 of the I-9 form should also be completed within this time period. It should be noted, for clarification, that the three-day period is, in fact, four total days, as stated in a USCIS posting. For example, if an employee is hired on a Monday, these deadlines must be reached by the Thursday of that same week. The date of hire (in this case, Monday) is not counted in the three-day period.
However, there has been some question as to whether ICE will interpret the three-day rule in the same way that USCIS has stated. While ICE has informed the public that they will honor the USCIS interpretation of the three-day rule (the fourth day after a hire), ICE has not published any official notice stating this understanding and has, instead, only forwarded the USCIS posting to their field agents.