Last week, Proskauer was honored to host a summit in its New York office, led by United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, on efforts to ensure public safety and economic opportunities for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. The event, moderated by Frank Wu, the president of Queens College, brought together over 50 business, academic and community leaders, including the presidents of the Ford Foundation, Fordham University, Teachers College (Columbia University), Baruch College and the Asian American Business Development Center. The discussion focused on ways to battle anti-Asian xenophobia and racism and offered ideas to build capacity and investment in AAPI communities through federal policies and action.
Earlier this month, Proskauer submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of a group of 33 elite liberal arts college and universities in two cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of affirmative action in college admissions. The petitioners in each case (one challenging Harvard’s admissions process, the other the University of North Carolina’s) contend that consideration of race in admissions violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, respectively. They ask the Court to invalidate those policies and overrule a long line of Supreme Court precedent, starting with Regents of University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978), and reaffirmed in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), and Fisher v. University of Texas, 579 U.S. 365 (2016).
Recent events have created an urgent need for an independent Immigration Court separate from the Department of Justice. On October 17, Proskauer hosted a panel discussion in its New York office co-sponsored by Sanctuary for Families, the New York Immigration Coalition, and the Federal Bar Association’s Immigration Law Section entitled, “Lives in the Balance: Eviscerating Asylum Protection for Victims of Gender Violence.” The speakers included The Hon. Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Representative from New York’s 12th Congressional District, the Hon. Amiena Khan, Executive Vice President, National Association of Immigration Judges, Lori Adams, Director, Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families, and Lisa Koenig, a Partner at Fragomen.
The immigration lawyers on the panel provided different perspectives on Matter of A-B, a consequential decision from last summer where the Attorney General purported to overrule Immigration Court precedent, and thereby limit the availability of domestic violence as a basis for asylum. Aside from placing the law on asylum in flux, the AG’s action raises the important question of how a cabinet-level, executive branch official could claim the authority to reverse a court’s decision.
A recent change in immigration policy is adversely impacting a vulnerable population, and is likely to have a chilling effect on immigrants reporting crime and cooperating with law enforcement. Undocumented immigrant victims of domestic abuse, who prior to the updated guidance could freely file petitions for U Nonimmigrant status or Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitions without fear of bringing on deportation proceedings, now may suffer the very real repercussions of an unfavorable petition or application. If unsuccessful, they now face a mandated issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA), which is the charging document that initiates removal proceedings.
In a letter dated June 28, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued “Updated Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Deportable Aliens.” Policy Memorandum 602-0050.1, in pertinent part, provides updated guidelines regarding USCIS’s issuances of NTAs in Immigration Court. The new guidelines serve to ensure conformity with Executive Order 13768, and replaced, in its entirety, Policy Memorandum 602-00550 published in November 2011.
Yesterday, 23 law professors represented by Proskauer were granted permission to participate as amici curiae in a class action lawsuit contesting a recent U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy change affecting minors in New York who seek Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). This policy change has resulted in SIJS denials for immigrant children who would otherwise qualify for SIJS based on well-established state and federal law.
SIJS is a form of immigration relief that provides unmarried children under age 21 with a path to citizenship if they can provide a determination from a state juvenile court that they are dependent on the court or are committed by the court to the custody of a State entity or an individual; that reunification with one or both parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under state law; and that it is not in their “best interest” to return to their country of origin.
It was unlike any courtroom I had seen before. The Immigration Judge appeared on a video screen a little blurry but larger than life. My client, an eight-year-old girl, sat next to me at a long table. This proceeding in Dilley, Texas was not open to the public but was held behind two locked doors in a trailer secured within a sprawling “family residential center” that despite its friendly name, had all the indicia of a jail.
This was an expedited removal proceeding, and I was appealing an asylum officer’s negative credible fear determination for my young client. Her mother’s appeal already had been denied so this was our last chance to prevent the two from being deported. Especially considering my client’s age, I wanted to marshal the evidence and explain why the legal standard had been met in this case. “May I be heard Your Honor?” I asked. “No, you may not,” he responded. The Judge asked my client a few questions with little follow-up and denied the appeal, wishing my client, “good luck in your home country.”