Aug. 1, 2011, Bender's Immigration Bulletin: USCIS Performance Metrics Available, Lautenberg Amendment Sunsets, More

Aug. 1, 2011, Bender's Immigration Bulletin: USCIS Performance Metrics Available, Lautenberg Amendment Sunsets, More

On July 18, 2011, USCIS announced the availability of new data reports covering agency performance in a broad range of data and operational areas. The reports were prepared at the request of agency stakeholders.

USCIS' Office of Performance and Quality has now made ten data sets available to the public on the USCIS website, www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis >Resources > Reports and Studies > Immigration Forms Data. Four data sets will be updated monthly; including: processing times and performance data for Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization); performance data for Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status); statistics on Form I-914 (Application for T Nonimmigrant Status); and statistics on Form I-918 (Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status). In addition, the total number of receipts and approvals for all form types will be updated quarterly and year-to-date.

USCIS intends to add more data sets in the future.

Lautenberg Amendment Sunsets

USCIS announced that it will no longer offer parole to Lautenberg category members who are denied refugee status in Moscow. Those individuals who have been offered parole in Moscow must make immediate plans to arrive in the United States by September 30, 2011.

As background, a provision of the Lautenberg Amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act allows certain individuals who are paroled into the United States after being denied refugee status to adjust to lawful permanent resident status after being physically present in the United States for one year. Within the Moscow program, this provision is limited to those refugee applicants from countries that made up the former Soviet Union who meet the Lautenberg criteria. Congress has not extended this provision, which expires with respect to any category members paroled after September 30, 2011.

For more information, see the summary in the Government Documents section and Appendix A.

Public School System To Pay $4.2 Million in Back Wages for H-1B Violations

The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division obtained an agreement from Maryland's Prince George's County public school system requiring the school system to pay $4,222,146 in back wages due 1,044 workers to resolve violations of the H-1B program. Investigators found that the school system illegally reduced the wages of the H-1B workers by requiring them to pay fees that the school system was required to pay. The Wage and Hour Division's investigation covered fees associated with the H-1B application process from May 2005 to January 2011.

Due to the willful nature of some of the violations, the school system also agreed to pay $100,000 in civil penalties. The school system is debarred for two years from filing new petitions, requests for extensions, and requests for permanent residency for foreign workers under any employment-based visa program.

In a July 7, 2011, press release, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said, "The Labor Department has the responsibility for ensuring that employers who use the H-1B program follow the law and do not place U.S. workers at a disadvantage to H-1B workers. We are pleased this investigation has been resolved with workers paid all the back wages to which they are entitled."

For background information on this DOL/WHD investigation, please see 16 Bender's Immigr. Bull. 697 (May 1, 2011).

EOIR Disciplines 5, Reinstates 1 

EOIR recently took disciplinary action against five attorneys for violations of the rules of professional conduct for immigration practitioners. One attorney was reinstated.

The following two attorneys were issued orders of immediate suspension: Manuel Angel Gonzalez, suspended on June 15 based on his sixty-day suspension in California; and Kevin Gibbons, suspended on June 27 based on his temporary suspension in Arizona.

The three final orders of discipline involved Errol Ivor Horwitz, suspended from practice for thirty days based on his thirty-day suspension in California; David P. De Costa, suspended for one year, effective May 5, based on his one-year suspension in Arizona; and Michael J. Hernandez, suspended for ninety-one days, effective May 24, based on his ninety-one-day suspension in Florida.

Ronald S. Salomon was reinstated to practice on June 28 after completing his six-month suspension. A decision in his case is summarized in this issue at 16 Bender's Immigration Bulletin 1276.

BITS AND PIECES

USCIS - USCIS announced the selection of Rebecca S. Carson to serve as the new Chief of Staff of USCIS, effective June 27, 2011. Ms. Carson has served as the Chief of the Office of Citizenship since July 2009. Prior to joining USCIS, Ms. Carson managed several national and statewide political campaigns and worked for U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, as well as for the Democratic National Committee. She earned her J.D. and Public Interest Law Certificate from the DePaul University College of Law, and holds a Bachelor's in International Political Economy from Colorado College.

DHS - DHS and the Mexican Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior announced on July 11 that the Mexican Interior Repatriation Program (MIRP) has resumed for the eighth consecutive summer. The program is a bilateral, voluntary program that returns Mexican nationals found to be unlawfully in the Sonora Arizona desert region to their places of residence in Mexico. Aliens who have been convicted of violent crimes are ineligible to participate in MIRP. Individuals who volunteer to participate are flown from Tucson International Airport to Mexico City via daily flights. Upon arrival in Mexico City, participants are provided bus transportation to their hometowns in Mexico's interior. More than 102,000 Mexican nationals have been returned to Mexico under this program since 2004.

DOS/DHS - The Departments of State and Homeland Security announced July 13 that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signed a bilateral adoptions agreement that will strengthen procedural safeguards in adoptions between the United States and Russia. Under the agreement, only adoption agencies authorized by the Russian Government will be able to operate in Russia and provide services covered by the Agreement, except in the case of an adoption of a child by a relative. The Agreement also includes provisions designed to improve post-adoption reporting and monitoring and to ensure that prospective adoptive parents receive more complete information about adoptive children's social and medical histories and anticipated needs. USCIS and State will publish criteria, procedures, and guidance related to the Agreement prior to its entry into force. The Department of State released an FAQ on the Agreement, which is reprinted at Appendix B.

DOS - The Department of State has ordered all eligible family members of U.S. government employees as well as certain non-emergency personnel to depart Yemen. All immigrant visa services at U.S. Embassy Sana'a have been suspended until further notice. Consular staff members are providing emergency U.S-citizen services only. Also discontinued is the courtesy service of accepting I-130 petitions on behalf of USCIS. Such petitions must be filed with the appropriate USCIS Service Center.

DOS - On July 8, 2011, the United States and the United Kingdom imposed visa restrictions on officials of the Government of Iran and other individuals who have participated in the commission of human rights abuses related to political repression in Iran. More than fifty Iranian government ministers, military and law enforcement officers, and judiciary and prison officials are subject to the new restrictions. Any U.S. visa currently held by these officials will be revoked and new applications refused. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the action under authority granted in INA §212(a)(3)(C).

DOS - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced an agreement on the issuance of nonimmigrant business, tourist, private, and humanitarian visas to the Russian Federation, and for business and tourist visas to the United States, as well as short-term official travel visas to both countries. The agreement grants, on a reciprocal basis, multiple-entry visas valid for thirty-six months. It also streamlines the visa-issuance process by reducing the documentation required. The agreement will go into effect after an exchange of diplomatic notes in Moscow.

[This is an excerpt from the Aug. 1, 2011, issue of Bender's Immigration Bulletin.] 

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Bender's Immigration Bulletin