Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Complaint Demands Government Transparency on Expansion of Deportation Policies

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fails to Respond to Request for Clarification on "Notice to Appear" Policies

LOS ANGELES -- Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) complaint yesterday to demand greater government transparency about dramatic changes to policies on issuing Notices to Appear (NTA), generally the first step for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to begin deportation proceedings.

In June 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes USCIS, announced sweeping changes to USCIS's NTA policy by greatly expanding the circumstances under which a non-citizen applying for an immigration benefit would receive an NTA. A major break from past practice, the new policy attempts to transform USCIS into an enforcement agency similar to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol. Affected individuals include those seeking humanitarian relief who have their applications denied, including victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and undocumented young people that have been abandoned by a parent.

"The expansive language of the new NTA policy is the latest effort by this administration to restrict all channels of immigration," said John Trang, Staff Attorney at Advancing Justice-LA. "It has created a chilling effect on immigrant communities. We have already witnessed community members decline to apply for immigration benefits in fear of being placed in removal proceedings. This new NTA policy completely undermines the purpose of these life-saving humanitarian visas."

The FOIA request, filed by Advancing Justice-LA on December 21, 2018, sought to understand the justification for the new NTA policy, and how it would be implemented. Despite its potential impact on millions of immigrants, details about the new NTA policy are sparse. Troubling to advocates, USCIS has taken the position it may apply the new policy retroactively on pending applications. Under the new policy, USCIS is seemingly mandated to issue NTAs to any noncitizen whose application is denied and is not otherwise authorized to reside in the country, irrespective of the applicant's family ties, years of residency, or lack of criminal history. As of February 19, 2019 USCIS has failed to timely respond to Advancing Justice-LA's FOIA request as required under law.

"We filed the FOIA complaint because the public deserves to know more about this policy," said David S. Cohen, Partner at Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP. "We are exercising our right to know the legal basis and implications of the revised guidance, and believe that more transparency is required to uphold  the legal and ethical commitments our country has made to individuals seeking humanitarian-based immigration relief."

Advancing Justice-LA will continue to fight the Trump administration's attacks against immigrant communities - particularly the most vulnerable amongst us. We remain concerned with the federal administration's policy to "execute the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens" and will continue to fight for the right to just treatment through the immigration system.

Download a copy of the complaint here.

Jessica Jinn, (213) 241-8817, [email protected]
About Advancing Justice - LA: 
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) is the nation's largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). Through direct services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building, Advancing Justice-LA focuses on the most vulnerable members of Asian American and NHPI communities while also building a strong voice for civil rights and social justice.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019


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