USCIS Begins Implementing Plan to Issue More Deportation Notices

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued guidance to its officers in June instructing them to initiate deportation proceedings for certain applicants who were denied immigration benefits. At the same time, the agency put the guidance on hold and solicited comments from the public. On Monday, the guidance went into full effect, putting thousands of applicants at risk of deportation.

USCIS’s new policy will lead the agency to issue “Notices to Appear” (NTAs), documents which formally initiate removal proceedings against a noncitizen, whenever the agency denies an applicant with no lawful immigration status a benefit which would have provided a path to remaining in the United States.

While the authority to initiate removal proceedings is usually a matter for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Congress has also given USCIS the authority to issue NTAs in some circumstances. In the past, the agency generally only issued NTAs in cases involving national security concerns or where required by law.

When the policy was announced in June, critics argued that USCIS was being morphed into an immigration enforcement agency. In July, the agency imposed another new policy making it easier for adjudicators to deny benefits without first giving the applicant a chance to fix any errors. Taken together, these policies could lead to substantially more applicants being denied benefits and then being forced into any already backlogged immigration court system where they risk deportation.

Under the updated guidance, USCIS will now also issue NTAs in the following cases:

* Where fraud or misrepresentation is substantiated.
* Where there is evidence that an applicant abused a public benefits program.
* Where an applicant with no lawful status is charge with, convicted of, or commits acts chargeable as a criminal offense, even if the
offense would not lead to a denial of an immigration benefit.
* Where a naturalization application is denied on good moral character grounds because of a criminal offense.
* Where the applicant would be unlawfully present in the United States after a petition or application is denied.

By Aaron Reichlin-Melnick for IMMIGRATION IMPACT
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