URGENT: Some DACA Recipients Who Received Three-Year Work Permits Must Return Them Immediately
DACA recipients should be advised the three-year work permit recall only applies to SOME individuals who received a card after the February 16, 2015, court order.
If you received a letter or were contacted directly by USCIS regarding the recall of certain three-year work permits, you must IMMEDIATELY return your three-year work permit, also called an Employment Authorization Document, to your local USCIS office.
If you fail to return your card, USCIS will terminate your DACA and all employment authorizations effective July 31, 2015. Please carefully read the information USCIS sent to you or visit uscis.gov for details.
New resources are available at uscis.gov including:
A new online tool that three-year DACA recipients can use to verify whether they need to return their work permit
If you have not been contacted by USCIS and you received a three-year card after February 16, 2015, you should use the new online tool or call the USCIS Customer Service line at 800-375-5283 and select option 1 for English, then option 8 to verify whether you are affected BEFORE returning your card.
DACA Recipients Who Received 3-Year Work Authorization Post-Injunction: Suggested Message for Use by Media and Stakeholders
DACA recipients should be advised the 3-year work permit recall only applies to some individuals who received a card after the February 16, 2015, court order.
If you received a letter or were contacted directly by USCIS regarding the recall of certain 3-year work permits, you must immediately return your 3-year work permit, also called an Employment Authorization Document, to your local USCIS office. If you fail to return your card, USCIS will terminate your DACA and all employment authorizations effective July 31, 2015. Please carefully read the information USCIS sent to you or visit uscis.gov for details.
If you have not been contacted by USCIS and you received a 3-year card after February 16, 2015, you should call the USCIS Customer Service line at 800-375-5283. Select option 1 for English and then option 8 to verify whether you are affected BEFORE returning your card.
Please be mindful of immigration scams. If you have any questions about information you hear or receive about this matter, please visit uscis.gov for official details. You can now verify online whether you need to return your 3-year DACA work permit to USCIS. You may also call the customer service line at 800-375-5283 and select option 1 for English, then option 8 or visit the USCIS office nearest you.
Re-registration Deadline for Somalia TPS is July 31, 2015
Friday, July 31, 2015, is the deadline for current Somalia Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries to re-register for the 18-month extension of TPS that runs from Sept. 18, 2015, through March 17, 2017. The law requires USCIS to withdraw TPS for failure to re-register without good cause. Therefore, if you fail to re-register by this deadline, you may lose your TPS and your work authorization.
You can find details and procedures for re-registering for TPS on the USCIS website and in the Federal Register notice announcing the extension of TPS for Somalia.
Eligible Somalia TPS beneficiaries who re-register during the registration period and request employment authorization will receive a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with an expiration date of March 17, 2017.
The Form I-765 application fee or a fee-waiver request, but only if you want an EAD. If you do not want an EAD, no application fee is required.
You may request that USCIS waive the Form I-765 application fee or biometrics fee based on an inability to pay. To do so, you must file Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, or submit a written request. You must also send in supporting documentation with your fee-waiver request. USCIS will reject the TPS application of any applicant who fails to submit the required filing fees or a properly documented fee-waiver request.
Additional information about TPS for Somalia —including guidance on eligibility, the application process and where to file—is available at uscis.gov/tps and the TPS Somalia page.
DACA Recipients Who Received 3-Year Work Authorization Post-Injunction: Quick Facts
This page contains information about the recall of certain 3-year* Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) that were issued or re-mailed to DACA recipients after a Feb. 16, 2015, court order was in place. You can find information on:
*Note: The term “3-year EADs” includes some cards that were issued with validity periods of greater than 2 years.
Who Is Affected and Why
You must return your 3-year Employment Authorization Document (EAD) if:
You are a DACA recipient who received a 3-year EAD after Feb. 16, 2015; and
USCIS has sent you one or more letters and/or notices to inform you of the action you must take. In addition, USCIS may have contacted you already or may contact you by telephone, text message, email, and/or in-person at your home.
If you received a 3-year DACA work permit after Feb. 16, 2015, you can use our online tool to verify whether you must return your EAD.
If you have any questions or if you are not sure if you are an affected DACA recipient who must return your 3-year EAD, please contact USCIS Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283 and select option 1 for English, then select option 8.
The reason for this action is that, after a court order in Texas v. United States, No. B-14-254 (S.D. Tex.) was issued, USCIS approves DACA deferred action requests and related employment authorization applications only for 2-year periods.
USCIS has sent new valid, 2-year EADs to all affected DACA recipients and rendered the 3-year EAD invalid. If you are an affected DACA recipient and have not received a new 2-year EAD, please contact USCIS Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283 select option 1 for English, then select option 8.
Important note: This action does not apply to the approximately 108,000 3-year EADs that were approved and mailed by USCIS on or before the Feb. 16, 2015, injunction date and that have never been returned or reissued by USCIS.
This action affects approximately 2,100 3-year DACA work authorizations mistakenly issued after the court order. It also affects approximately 500 EADs that were issued before the court order, returned to USCIS as undeliverable and subsequently re-mailed to updated addresses after the court order.
Failure to Return Your 3-Year EAD
If you are required to return your invalid 3-year EAD and fail to do so, USCIS will terminate your DACA and all employment authorizations effective July 31, 2015. USCIS may consider your actions as a negative factor in weighing any future requests for deferred action, or any other discretionary requests.
If you are unable to return your invalid 3-year EAD because it is no longer in your possession, you must certify that you have good cause for being unable to return it. (See Missing Required Documents section.)
Where to Return Your 3-Year EAD
You must return your EAD in person at a USCIS field office, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointment is necessary. At that time, you must either return your invalid 3-year EAD or certify that your invalid 3-year EAD cannot be returned.
Must still return your invalid 3-year EAD or certify that you have good cause for not possessing any such EAD.
Duplicate Notification to Return Your Invalid EAD
If you returned your 3-year EAD after receiving the first notification from USCIS, but received a second letter requesting its return, please contact our Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283 (select option 1 for English, then select option 8). Let us know that you returned your invalid 3-year EAD, and we can also confirm if we have received it.
If you received only a 2-year EAD but were sent a notification that your EAD is invalid, please contact Customer Service and select option 1 for English, then select option 8. We will take down your information so that we can look into your case further and get back to you with a response.
For the purpose of retrieving these 3-year EADs, USCIS may visit the homes of those individuals who have not yet returned their invalid 3-year EAD or responded to USCIS. Our goal is to ensure that the person who has been asked to return an invalid EAD continues to receive deferred action and employment authorization.
Key Facts about Home Visits
USCIS officers will
USCIS officers will NOT
Attempt to call you in advance of the visit and schedule a time when you’ll be home.
Show their credentials.
Only speak with and confirm the identity of the person who was issued the EAD.
Leave a note or any materials if they visit and you are not home.
Visit you at your place of employment.
Ask for money or bank information.
Officers will advise individuals that failure to return the invalid EAD, or certify that the individual has good cause for being unable to do so, will result in the termination of their employment authorization and deferred action effective July 31, 2015.
Some of our officers are bilingual and will be able to answer questions in other languages.
Please note: USCIS officers are not affiliated with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation officers or Customs and Border Protection border patrol agents. Our officers are visiting individuals only to collect invalid 3-year EADs. USCIS officers will not ask you or anyone else in the household for money or bank information. And they will not ask about the immigration status of anyone else in the house. If someone without the proper credentials shows up at your door and you think it is a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Read more information on common immigration scams and how to avoid them.
USCIS International Operations (IO) Division Liaison Meeting with American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
On April 15, 2015, USCIS hosted an engagement with AILA representatives. During this meeting, USCIS addressed questions related to Executive Actions on Immigration, H-4 employment authorization, FDNS site visits, and H-1B specialty occupations among several other topics. The information below provides an overview of the questions solicited by AILA and the responses provided by USCIS.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) invited you to participate in a stakeholder teleconference on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 from 2 to 3 p.m. (Eastern). USCIS officials discussed USCIS’ efforts to secure the return of certain three-year employment authorization documents (EADs) that were issued or re-mailed to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients AFTER a February 16, 2015 court order in Texas v. United States, No. B-14-254 (S.D. Tex.).
Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal
You are an:
Office Where the Application is Filed
Office Where the Application is Adjudicated
Applicant for nonimmigrant visa (other than K, T, U, or V Visa Applicants)
U.S. Consulate with jurisdiction over your nonimmigrant visa application. The U.S. Consulate will advise you on whether and how to file to obtain consent to reapply for admission.
8 CFR 212.2(b), 8 CFR 212.2(g)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
CBP/Admissibility Review Office (ARO)
Applicant who wishes to seek admission as a nonimmigrant at a U.S. Port-of-Entry who is not required to obtain a nonimmigrant visa
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). File this form in person at a CBP-designated Port-of-Entry or a CBP-designated preclearance office. It is recommended that you contact the CBP-designated Port-of-Entry or a CBP-designated preclearance office where you intend to be processed before submitting your application. To find a CBP-designated Port-of-Entry or a CBP-designated preclearance office, visit the CBP Web site at www.cbp.gov.
8 CFR 212.2(f)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)/Admissibility Review Office (ARO)
Applicant who is a citizen of Palau, the Federal States of Micronesia, or the Marshall Islands and who wishes to seek admission as a nonimmigrant
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
File this form at CBP Guam Port-of-Entry or contact the nearest U.S. Consulate to receive instructions on where and how to file to obtain consent to reapply for admission. To find contact information for the CBP Guam Port-of-Entry, visit the CBP Web site at www.cbp.gov.
8 CFR 212.2(f), 8 CFR 212.2(b), 8 CFR 212.2(g)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)/ Admissibility Review Office (ARO)
Applicant for K or V nonimmigrant visa under INA section 101(a)(15)(K) and (V)
You may request consent to reapply for admission to the United States after you have attended your visa interview at a U.S. consulate and after a consular officer has found you inadmissible.
USCIS Phoenix Lockbox
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
USCIS P.O. Box 21600 Phoenix, AZ 85036
For Express mail and courier deliveries:
USCIS ATTN: 212 1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100 Phoenix, AZ 85034
8 CFR 212.2
USCIS Nebraska Service Center
Applicant for immigrant visa who is outside the United States and in need of concurrent waiver filed on Form I-601
You may request both the waiver and consent to reapply for admission to the United States after you have attended your visa interview at a U.S. consulate and after a consular officer has found you inadmissible. You must file Form I-212 together with Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility.
USCIS Phoenix Lockbox
For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) deliveries:
USCIS P.O. Box 21600 Phoenix, AZ 85036
For Express mail and courier deliveries:
USCIS ATTN: 601/212 Foreign Filers 1820 E. Skyharbor Circle S, Suite 100 Phoenix, AZ 85034
8 CFR 212.2(d)
USCIS Nebraska Service Center
Applicant for adjustment of status or immigrant visa based on an approved VAWA self-petition (Form I-360)
USCIS Vermont Service Center
USCIS – Vermont Service Center 75 Lower Welden Street St. Albans, VT 05479-0001
INA Section 212(a)(9)(A)
USCIS Vermont Service Center
Applicant physically present in the United States, applying for adjustment of status with USCIS and inadmissible only under INA section 212(a)(9)(A) (irrespective of need of Form I-601)
You must file the application either concurrently with your application for adjustment of status (Form I-485), or at any time afterward.
USCIS office with jurisdiction over the adjustment of status application.
If you are filing Form I-212 together with Form I-485, you must file at the filing location specified on Form I-485.
If your Form I-485 is currently pending, you must file Form I-212 with the USCIS office where your Form I-485 is pending.
8 CFR 212.2(e)
USCIS office with jurisdiction over the adjustment of status application.
Applicant for immigrant visa and waiver on Form I-601 not required
USCIS Field Office with jurisdiction over the place where your deportation or removal proceedings were held
If you are inadmissible because you had previously accrued unlawful presence in the aggregate of 1 year or more in the United States, and you departed the United States and entered or attempted to reenter the United States without being admitted (INA section 212(a)(9)(C)(i)(I)), you may not have been in removal proceedings. In this case, you should file the application with the USCIS Field Office having jurisdiction over your intended place of residence in the United States.
8 CFR 212.2(d)
USCIS Field Office with jurisdiction over the place where the deportation or removal proceedings were held
Applicant is physically present in the United States but not eligible for adjustment of status because of inadmissibility under INA section 212(a)(9)(C)
You may not file the application until you have departed the United States and until you have resided abroad for 10 years since your last departure.
Once the 10-year requirement is satisfied, you may apply; jurisdiction is determined:
According to the principles outlined above for individuals outside the United States, and
Based on the individual’s need for a waiver filed on Form I-601
Matter of Torres-Garcia, 23 I&N Dec. 866 (BIA 2006) and Matter of Briones, 24 I&N Dec. 355 (BIA 2007)
Applicant is physically present in the United States but in removal proceedings
NOTE: If the alien is put into proceedings after having filed Form I-212 with USCIS, the USCIS officer should forward the application to the EOIR location with jurisdiction over the alien’s proceedings.
Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) Immigration Court with jurisdiction over the removal proceedings
If your application for adjustment of status under INA section 245 has been filed, renewed, or is pending in a proceeding before an immigration judge, you should file Form I-212 according to the instructions provided to you in immigration court. For information about the EOIR, visit EOIR’s web site at www.usdoj.gov/eoir
8 CFR 212.2(e); March 31, 2005 Memorandum, William R Yates, EOIR Processing
Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)Immigration Court with jurisdiction over the removal proceedings
Applicant seeking conditionally granted advance permission to reapply for admission prior to departure and is inadmissible only under INA section 212 (a)(9)(A) (irrespective of whether another waiver under section 212(g), (h), (i), or 212 (a)(9)(B) is needed)
USCIS Field Office with jurisdiction over the place where you are residing
8 CFR 212.2(j)
USCIS Field Office with jurisdiction over the place where you are residing
All other circumstances not listed above
USCIS Field Office with jurisdiction over the place where deportation or removal proceedings were held, or with the Field Office Director who exercised or is exercising jurisdiction over your most recent proceedings
USCIS Seeks Comments on Proposed Expansion of Eligibility for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers
USCIS is seeking public comments on a proposed rule that would expand eligibility for provisional waivers of inadmissibility based on the accrual of unlawful presence. The proposed rule would expand eligibility to all foreign nationals who are statutorily eligible for an immigrant visa and for a waiver of inadmissibility based on unlawful presence.
Read the notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Federal Register on July 22, 2015. The public has 60 days, until Sept. 21, 2015, to comment. To submit comments, follow the instructions in the notice.
The changes, proposed in the interests of family unity and to enhance customer service, would take effect on the date indicated in the final rule when the final rule is published in the Federal Register.
Currently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allows certain immediate relatives – specifically certain parents, spouses and children of U.S. citizens -- who are in the United States to request a provisional unlawful presence waiver before departing for consular processing of their immigrant visas. The waiver currently is only available to those immediate relatives whose sole ground of inadmissibility would be unlawful presence under section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and who can demonstrate that the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to their U.S. citizen spouse or parent.
Under the proposed rule, USCIS may grant a provisional waiver to foreign nationals if they are statutorily eligible for an immigrant visa and for a waiver of inadmissibility based on unlawful presence. The proposed rule also would expand who may be considered a qualifying relative for purposes of the extreme hardship determination to include lawful permanent resident spouses and parents.
These proposed changes do not take effect with the publication of the notice of proposed rulemaking. When the final rule is published, the final rule will indicate the date on which foreign nationals may begin to apply for provisional unlawful presence waivers under the changes.
At this time, foreign nationals should not submit applications requesting provisional unlawful presence waivers based on the proposed changes. USCIS may deny any such application filed before the effective date indicated in the final rule, once the final rule is published.
Hearing on Oversight of the Administration’s Misdirected Immigration Enforcement Policies: Examining the Impact on Public Safety and Honoring the Victims before the Senate Committee on Judiciary on July 2015 by USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez
U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES
FOR A HEARING ON
“Oversight of the Administration’s Misdirected Immigration Enforcement Policies: Examining the Impact on Public Safety and Honoring the Victims”
THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
JULY 21, 2015 10:00AM
226 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy and distinguished members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to testify about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Even before joining USCIS, I was keenly aware of the agency’s proud history of administering immigration services with quality and integrity for individuals from all over the world. Like you, I fully understand just how critical it is for USCIS to successfully deliver on its mission in support of the fundamental values of our nation, whether they are economic, humanitarian, or for other national interests. As I approach my one year anniversary as Director of USCIS, I am tremendously proud to lead an organization in which thousands of dedicated public servants administer our complex immigration system fairly, effectively, and professionally while working tirelessly to strengthen and improve our processes each and every day. As a former state and federal prosecutor, I am fully committed to ensuring that our immigration system is protected against individuals who pose a threat to our national security and public safety or seek to defraud the system.
It is truly an honor and a privilege to work alongside the men and women of USCIS. As the son, grandson and great-grandson of immigrants who came to the United States fleeing persecution and hoping for a better future, I know firsthand that our nation’s immigration laws and policies can change lives, provide opportunities to future generations, and contribute to our economic growth and well-being. As I have regularly said, every USCIS file contains the story of one family’s hopes, dreams, and all too often, suffering.
I was drawn to the USCIS mission not only because of my family’s experience, but also because I am a patriot devoted to our country’s values of freedom, equality, hard work, and enterprise. Immigration is the very foundation of our nation’s identity, and I am committed to ensuring that our immigration system is equipped to protect our nation while supporting our long-standing tradition of welcoming immigrants, workers, refugees, and new Americans to our shores.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
This Administration has worked diligently to focus our limited immigration enforcement resources on national security, public safety, and border security. As a part of that commitment, on June 15, 2012, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that certain individuals who came to the United States as children and meet several key guidelines can request deferred action and permission to work for a period of two years. As explained by Secretary Napolitano, the DACA process supports DHS-wide efforts to prioritize overall enforcement resources more efficiently to focus on the removal of criminals, recent illegal border crossers, and those non-citizens who pose a threat to national security or public safety, while recognizing the humanitarian principles that also underlie our immigration laws. As Secretary Napolitano stated in her 2012 memorandum, the individuals favorably considered for DACA are “young people brought to this country as children.”
USCIS first implemented DACA in August 2012. Under DACA, children and young adults may be considered on a case-by-case basis for deferred action if they meet certain threshold guidelines, including that they were under the age of 31 as of June 2012, pass criminal and national security background checks, were present in the United States in June 2012 and have lived here continuously for at least five years as of that date. All individuals requesting DACA are subjected to biographic and biometric background checks against various national law enforcement databases before USCIS will consider their DACA request. These systems include data on immigration history, public safety, national security and criminal watchlists, and other law enforcement concerns such as gang membership.
Each DACA request is considered on a case-by-case basis by an adjudicator who must make a determination about whether a specific requestor meets the applicable guidelines, whether they pose a threat to public safety or national security, and whether other factors are present that might adversely impact the exercise of discretion. DACA does not confer legal status on the recipient; it is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion to defer the removal of an individual for a specific period of time and may be reconsidered or terminated at any time.
USCIS adjudicators evaluate the evidence each DACA requestor submits in conjunction with the relevant DACA guidelines. Adjudicators assess the appropriate weight to accord such evidence, and ultimately determine whether the evidence is sufficient to satisfy the guidelines and whether there are any other factors that, in the exercise of discretion, would make the grant of deferred action inappropriate. An adjudicator may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE), which requires the requestor to submit additional evidence in support of the DACA request before the request will be decided. Since the inception of DACA through March 31, 2015, USCIS issued more than 200,000 RFEs in the process of reviewing DACA requests. Failure to respond to an RFE may result in denial of the request.
Individuals accorded deferred action pursuant to DACA are considered for employment authorization under longstanding USCIS regulations, which stipulate that persons with deferred action who demonstrate economic necessity may be authorized to work in the United States for the duration of their deferred action. In addition, DACA recipients are permitted to request a renewal of their deferred action and work authorization when their initial two-year period nears expiration. The DACA renewal period began in August 2014, two years after the first requests were accepted. DACA is funded exclusively through the fees requestors submit with the applications for employment authorization accompanying the initial DACA request and request for DACA renewal.
USCIS publishes quarterly data on the number of DACA requests received, accepted, granted and denied. Since the inception of DACA through the end of March 2015:
USCIS has received 1,175,689 DACA requests.
More than 71,000 of these requests were rejected and returned at the outset before being considered. Rejections may occur for a variety of reasons, such as the DACA request submitted is incomplete or without fee, or the requestor fails to meet the age guideline.
Of the 1,104,594 DACA requests accepted by USCIS, 748,789 were initial requests and 355,805 were renewal requests.
Of the 748,789 initial requests, USCIS approved 664,607 and denied 43,375; 40,807 remained pending.
Of the 355,805 renewal requests, USCIS approved 243,872, 414 have been denied, and 111,519 remain pending.
Denials may occur, for example, when a DACA requestor does not meet the continuous residence or education guidelines, was deemed to pose a threat to national security or public safety, or was otherwise deemed not to warrant deferred action based on the case-by-case review of each application.
These data indicate the volume of requests USCIS has received, the care with which requests are reviewed
These data indicate the volume of requests USCIS has received, the care with which requests are reviewed, and the number of individuals who have received deferred action. These statistics, however, do not illustrate the human face of DACA. Hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients are now able to come out of the shadows, attend school without fear, work to support themselves and their families, and contribute to their communities.
These figures represent real people. I recently learned about the situation of twin sisters who were born in Mexico and were brought to the United States by their mother at age five. As time passed, these sisters became proficient in English and continued to excel academically. Prior to DACA, these young women, who had spent nearly their entire childhood in the United States, did not know if they would ever go to college because they were undocumented. The sisters were accorded deferred action pursuant to DACA, and went on to graduate from high school with honors. Now, they attend a prestigious college and have said they are committed to continuing to work hard so they can give back to the university and the nation.
These sisters are just two of the many examples of young people who are now able to fully contribute to their communities and to this nation because they can finally emerge from the shadows, and give back to the community. Indeed, DACA is part of a greater DHS effort to ensure that valuable and limited enforcement resources are spent wisely and focused on those individuals who are a danger to national security or a risk to public safety rather than the three young people I just described. It is this very principle that serves as the foundation of President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions.
Immigration Accountability Executive Actions
Recognizing the need to fix our broken immigration system, President Obama requested that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice undertake a rigorous and inclusive review to assess the initiatives the Administration could pursue--within the confines of the law and the Executive Branch’s authority--to increase border security, better focus enforcement resources, and ensure accountability in our immigration system. In conducting his review, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson considered the advice and input from the men and women charged with implementing the policies as well as the views of Members of Congress and a broad range of stakeholders.
Following this review, on November 20, 2014, Secretary Johnson issued ten memoranda to the DHS workforce outlining a series of immigration initiatives that President Obama announced to the American people the same day. Included in the ten memoranda were initiatives designed to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons rather than families, and promote public safety by allowing certain undocumented immigrants who have family ties to the United States and who pass criminal and national security background checks to request consideration for deferred action.
Several of the initiatives announced would directly affect USCIS, including:
Expanding the population who may be considered for deferred action under DACA to individuals who entered the United States before the age of 16 and have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010, regardless of whether an individual was older than 31 years of age in June 2012, and immediately granting periods of deferred action and employment authorization of three years (rather than two) to any person granted DACA under the existing 2012 guidelines (and for those who would later be granted DACA under the expanded 2014 guidelines);
Allowing certain parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), provided, among other things, that they have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010, pass required background checks, and are not enforcement priorities;
Modernizing, improving and clarifying immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs to grow our economy, and create jobs and promote family unity; and
Promoting citizenship education and public awareness for lawful permanent residents and providing an option for naturalization applicants to use credit cards to pay the application fee.
After the President’s announcement and the issuance of the Secretary of Homeland Security’s memoranda, the men and women of USCIS immediately began efforts to implement each of these initiatives. As outlined in the Secretary’s November 20, 2014 memorandum entitled, Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children and with Respect to Certain Individuals Who Are Parents of U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents, USCIS was directed to begin accepting DACA requests under the new criteria within 90 days and DAPA requests no later than 180 days of issuance.
In addition, the guidance stated, “The period for which DACA and the accompanying employment authorization is granted will be extended to three-year increments, rather than the current two-year increments. This change shall apply to all first-time applications as well as all applications for renewal effective November 24, 2014. Beginning on that date, USCIS should issue all work authorization documents valid for three years, including to those individuals who have applied and are awaiting two-year work authorization documents based on the renewal of their DACA grants.”
The months that followed were a period of intense activity as USCIS continued to consider DACA requests under the existing 2012 guidelines and as we readied the agency to accept DACA requests from an additional group of individuals under the new guidelines in anticipation of a February 18, 2015 launch. Preparations were also undertaken for the intended May 2015 implementation of DAPA, which included initiating hiring actions, form revisions, and IT system modifications. Throughout these preparations, USCIS adjudicators also continued to process high volumes of initial DACA requests and renewals under the 2012 guidelines. USCIS processed an average of more than 13,000 DACA requests (both initials and renewals) per week, and as directed in the Secretary of Homeland Security’s 2014 memorandum, beginning on November 24, 2014, individuals who received DACA after a case-by-case review under the 2012 guidelines were accorded deferred action and, if eligible, work authorization for three-year periods rather than two-year periods.
On February 16, 2015, just two days before the agency was prepared to begin accepting DACA requests under the new guidelines, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Brownsville Division issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting USCIS from implementing the 2014 Secretary Johnson memorandum entitled, Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children and with Respect to Certain Individuals Who Are Parents of U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents.
USCIS Compliance with Preliminary Injunction Entered in Texas v. United States
When the District Court issued its preliminary injunction, USCIS immediately took steps to ensure that the agency ceased preparations to implement the new DACA eligibility guidelines and to implement DAPA. USCIS also took immediate steps intended to ensure that we ceased issuing three-year (rather than two-year) periods of deferred action and work authorization to DACA recipients processed under the 2012 memorandum (a change that had commenced, as directed by the memorandum, on November 24, 2014). Between November 24, 2014 and the date of the injunction, USCIS had granted approximately 108,000 three-year EADs to renewal and initial requestors who were granted deferred action under the 2012 DACA guidelines. The vast majority of these requests were filed prior to the issuance of the November 20, 2014 memoranda. The large number of requests and decisions during this period reflect the natural cycle of DACA renewals, as the initial two-year periods of deferred action and work authorization were expiring for those persons who were granted DACA during the initial months after its launch in 2012.
Under my direction, the agency’s efforts to comply with the preliminary injunction began in the very early morning of February 17, 2015, just hours after the preliminary injunction ruling was issued, and have continued thereafter in an agency-wide effort to ensure that USCIS achieved, and remained in, full compliance with the District Court’s injunction. Specifically, these actions included:
Instructions from me to USCIS leadership the morning of February 17 directing that no further action be taken to implement the Secretary’s deferred action memorandum on expanded DACA and DAPA.
Orders from USCIS leadership on February 17 directing staff to immediately suspend approval of all deferred action or employment authorization, including temporarily under the existing DACA guidelines, and to cease issuance of notices of approval or Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), regardless of the authorized period of time. Note: reauthorization was given on February 18 to approve requests and to resume issuing approval notices and EADs under the 2012 DACA eligibility guidelines, but only for two-year periods, as provided by the 2012 DACA policy.
Notification to the entire USCIS workforce on February 17 regarding the injunction and the need to suspend preparations for implementation of the Secretary’s November 20, 2014 deferred action memorandum;
Notification to communications staff to halt the planned posting of the new expanded DACA request form on February 17, 2015;
Addition of a banner to the USCIS public website on February 17 stating that implementation of the expanded DACA guidelines and new DAPA guidelines had been enjoined;
Removal of the new expanded DACA form instructions and related “Frequently Asked Questions” that had been posted on the USCIS public website on February 14, 2015;
Reversion to the 2012 public guidance in place for DACA prior to November 20, 2014;
Cessation of policy and operational discussions to develop guidelines, procedures and forms to implement DAPA; and
Suspension of new hiring actions to bring staff on board to support DAPA.
The actions taken by USCIS reflect the agency’s clear intent to comply fully with the court-ordered injunction. However, while USCIS initially stopped issuing three-year EADs that had been approved prior to the injunction, USCIS failed to prevent the release of approximately 2,000 three-year EADs for individuals eligible for 2012 DACA once the agency’s initial February 17 freeze on all EADs was lifted, and thereafter erroneously issued a small number of three-year EADs due to manual errors. In addition, USCIS re-mailed some three-year EADs (approximately 500) that had initially been mailed before the injunction, were returned by the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable, and were re-mailed by USCIS after the injunction.
As the Director of USCIS, I accept full responsibility for these mistakes. The Secretary of Homeland Security has asked the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the circumstances of the issuance of the approximately 2000 three-year EADs after the issuance of the preliminary injunction order. USCIS fully supports this investigation, and like Secretary Johnson, I have notified agency leadership and relevant staff components directing full and expedited cooperation with the OIG.
USCIS has implemented corrective measures, including the conversion of all the validity periods of deferred action and employment authorization to two years, and USCIS is in the process of issuing new two-year EADs, for each of the 2,000 erroneously issued three-year EADs, as well as those approximately 500 returned as undeliverable as earlier described. In addition, USCIS is in the process of retrieving all erroneously-issued three-year EADs and has notified those individuals who received the now-invalid three-year EADs that their deferred action and employment authorization will be terminated on July 31, 2015, if those individuals do not comply with the requirements for returning the invalid EAD. Additionally, I have directed the agency to take additional precautions, including the modification of USCIS computer systems and additional quality control measures to further minimize the potential for manual error that could lead to unintended issuance of three-year EADs, instead of two years, in future DACA cases.
I am confident that USCIS has taken the actions necessary to correct the mistakes and prevent similar issues in the future. I am particularly grateful that our workforce proactively identified the problem and mobilized to address it.
USCIS is committed to ensuring the integrity, accuracy and efficiency of its processes. We are a large agency – with approximately 19,000 employees and contractors – and we process nearly 8 million applications, petitions, and requests each year. The talented and dedicated USCIS workforce consistently rises to this challenge, recognizing that our work represents individual circumstances, histories, and hopes that serve as the foundation for our nation.
The American people deserve an immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. While DACA serves the dual purpose of the wise use of enforcement resources and fairness, it cannot substitute for comprehensive immigration reform. The Administration and DHS will continue to urge Congress to enact lasting, comprehensive reform. USCIS stands ready to support the implementation of these reforms once they are achieved.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I look forward to your questions.