Immigration Denial and Discretion

It is common for our office to hear, ” I was denied and I don’t understand why I was denied.”  In the U.S. immigration system, officers have a wide array of “discretion” when making decisions to approve or deny an immigration benefit.

Discretion is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “individual choice or judgment.”  So, an immigration officer’s discretion means that officers individual choice or judgment.  Sometimes the officer’s individual choice or judgment is based on facts presented, evidence presented, case law, statutory rules or just his/her gut feeling at the time.

Immigration officers have discretionary judgment when deciding whether to issue a B-1/B-2 visas or any non-immigrant visa after an U.S. Embassy interview.  Unfortunately, officer’s discretionary decision on B-1/B-2 visas and other non-immigrant visas are not appealable.

The following immigration benefits also require the use of officer discretion in deciding whether to approve or deny an applicant: permanent residency (a green card), asylum, extension of stay, waiver of inadmissibility, temporary protected status, fiancé petition, and employment-based petitions.

There is no exhaustive list of factors that an immigration officers must consider. To perform a discretionary analysis, officers must weigh all positive factors present in a case against any negative factors in the totality of the record. There is no formula for determining the weight to be given a specific positive or negative factor.  The analysis must be comprehensive, specific to the case, and based on all relevant facts known at the time of adjudication. The officer may not exercise discretion arbitrarily, inconsistently, or in reliance on biases or assumptions.

January 23, 2020, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a decision warning U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of demanding excessive proof of eligibility that goes beyond the standard of proof required by precedent. (Baez-Sanchez v. Barr, No. 19-1642 (7th Cir. 2020).  It is well established that in visa petition proceedings, the petitioner bears the burden of proving eligibility by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Thus, even if the director has some doubt as to the truth, if the petitioner submits relevant, probative, and credible evidence that leads the director to believe that the claim is “probably true” or “more likely than not,” the applicant or petitioner has satisfied the standard of proof. See U.S. v. Cardozo-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).

So, where a denial can be appealed or challenged, contact legal counsel and exercise your right to contest the abuse of discretion by immigration officers.

For more information on Immigration Denial and Discretion,

text/call 407-292-7730 | whatsapp 407-353-1363 |email gail@gaillaw.com

FREE phone & in-office consultation – FREE Live Chat www.GailLaw.com

Copyright © 2020, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

Fee Increase October 2, 2020

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced an astronomical 80% fee increase on cost to become a U.S. citizen, obtain a green card and other immigration services. This filing fee increase could make the legal immigration system inaccessible to millions of people.  The increased filing fees will become effective on October 2, 2020.

Adjustment of Status

When filing for adjustment of status in the U.S. or a green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, the total filing fees are $1760.  The fee increase will charge an extra $1,150 bringing the new cost of obtaining a green card to $2,910.

Naturalization/Citizenship

USCIS increased the total cost of a naturalization application or becoming a U.S. citizen by over 80%.  Online naturalization applications will now run $1,170, up from the previous price of $640. USCIS says the new fee will cover the full cost to process the application as well as some overhead costs.  Say good-bye to fee waivers as USCIS is also eliminating almost all fee waivers that it previously provided for low-income immigrants seeking citizenship.

H-1B

Filing fees for employers petitioning for an H-1B worker will increase by 70%. The cost to petition for one worker will total over $3,000. The agency is also increasing the time it takes to process H-1B visas. Employers who pay for “premium processing” of their petitions will now have to wait almost twice as long to receive a decision.

Fee for Asylum Applications

USCIS will now charge a $50 fee to apply for asylum. This will be the first time the United States has charged a fee since WWII. This makes the United States only the fourth country in the world to charge a fee for asylum applications. Iran, Fiji, and Australia also charge a fee.  USCIS also refused to provide any fee waivers for this expense.

USCIS’ History of Financial Mismanagement

USCIS has furlough two-thirds of its staff and has enormous budget shortfalls.  The agency claims that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent office closures wiped out most of the fee-based agency’s revenue.  But USCIS has long suffered from fiscal mismanagement. In reality, the fee hikes represent the culmination of years’ worth of financial recklessness and poor policy changes. These issues have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. The published rule, however, says the agency did not take COVID-19 into consideration when determining the new fees.

Immigration Benefit/Forms Current Fee Final Fee Change ($) Percent Change
I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (online filing) $455 $405 -$50 -11 percent
I-90 Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (paper filing) $455 $415 -$40 -9 percent
I-102 Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document $445 $485 $40 9 percent
I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant worker $460 N/A N/A N/A
I-129CW, I-129E&TN, and I-129MISC $460 $695 $235 51 percent
I-129H1 $460 $555 $95 21 percent
I-129H2A – Named Beneficiaries $460 $850 $390 85 percent
I-129H2B – Named Beneficiaries $460 $715 $255 55 percent
I-129L $460 $805 $345 75 percent
I-129O $460 $705 $245 53 percent
I-129H2A – Unnamed Beneficiaries $460 $415 -$45 -10 percent
I-129H2B – Unnamed Beneficiaries $460 $385 -$75 -16 percent
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) $535 $510 -$25 -5 percent
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (online filing) $535 $550 $15 3 percent
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (paper filing) $535 $560 $25 5 percent
I-131 Application for Travel Document $575 $590 $15 3 percent
I-131 Refugee Travel Document for an individual age 16 or older $135 $145 $10 7 percent
I-131 Refugee Travel Document for a child under the age of 16 $105 $115 $10 10 percent
I-131A Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation) $575 $1,010 $435 76 percent
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker $700 $555 -$145 -21 percent
I-191 Application for Relief Under Former Section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) $930 $790 -$140 -15 percent
I-192 Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant (CBP) $585 $1,400 $815 139 percent
I-192 Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant (USCIS) $930 $1,400 $470 51 percent
I-193 Application for Waiver of Passport and/or Visa $585 $2,790 $2,205 377 percent
I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the U.S. After Deportation or Removal $930 $1,050 $120 13 percent
I-290B Notice of Appeal or Motion $675 $700 $25 4 percent
I-360 Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant $435 $450 $15 3 percent
I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence $1,140 $1,130 -$10 -1 percent
I-485 Application to Adjust Status $750 $1,130 $380 51 percent
I-526 Immigrant Petition by Alien Investor $3,675 $4,010 $335 9 percent
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (online filing) $370 $390 $20 5 percent
I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (paper filing) $370 $400 $30 8 percent
I-589 Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal $0 $50 $50 N/A
I-600/600A Adoption Petitions and Applications $775 $805 $30 4 percent
I-600A Supplement 3 Request for Action on Approved Form I-600A N/A $400 N/A N/A
I-601 Application for Waiver of Ground of Excludability $930 $1,010 $80 9 percent
I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver $630 $960 $330 52 percent
I-612 Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement (Under Section 212(e) of the INA, as Amended) $930 $515 -$415 -45 percent
I-687 Application for Status as a Temporary Resident $1,130 $1,130 $0 0 percent
I-690 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility $715 $765 $50 7 percent
I-694 Notice of Appeal of Decision $890 $715 -$175 -20 percent
I-698 Application to Adjust Status from Temporary to Permanent Resident (Under Section 245A of the INA) $1,670 $1,615 -$55 -3 percent
I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence $595 $760 $165 28 percent
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (Non-DACA) $410 $550 $140 34 percent
I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (DACA only) $410 $410 $0 0 percent
I-800/800A Adoption Petitions and Applications $775 $805 $30 4 percent
I-800A Supplement 3 Request for Action on Approved Form I-800A $385 $400 $15 4 percent
I-817 Application for Family Unity Benefits $600 $590 -$10 -2 percent
I-824 Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition $465 $495 $30 6 percent
I-829 Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions $3,750 $3,900 $150 4 percent
I-881 Application for Suspension of Deportation $285 $1,810 $1,525 535 percent
I-881 Application for Special Rule Cancellation of Removal $570 $1,810 $1,240 218 percent
I-910 Application for Civil Surgeon Designation $785 $635 -$150 -19 percent
I-924 Application For Regional Center Designation Under the Immigrant Investor Program $17,795 $17,795 $0 0 percent
I-924A Annual Certification of Regional Center $3,035 $4,465 $1,430 47 percent
I-929 Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigran $230 $1,485 $1,255 546 percent
N-300 Application to File Declaration of Intention $270 $1,305 $1,035 383 percent
N-336 Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (online filing) $700 $1,725 $1,025 146 percent
N-336 Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (paper filing) $700 $1,735 $1,035 148 percent
N-400 Application for Naturalization (online filing) $640 $1,160 $520 81 percent
N-400 Application for Naturalization (paper filing) $640 $1,170 $530 83 percent
N-400 Application for Naturalization (paper filing) $320 $1,170 $850 266 percent
N-470 Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes $355 $1,585 $1,230 346 percent
N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (online filing) $555 $535 -$20 -4 percent
N-565 Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document (paper filing) $555 $545 -$10 -2 percent
N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship (online filing) $1,170 $990 -$180 -15 percent
N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship (paper filing) $1,170 $1,000 -$170 -15 percent
N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate (online filing) $1,170 $935 -$235 -20 percent
N-600K Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate (paper filing) $1,170 $945 -$225 -19 percent
USCIS Immigrant Fee $220 $190 -$30 -14 percent
Biometric Services (Non-DACA) $85 $30 -$55 -65 percent
Biometric Services (DACA only) $85 $85 $0 0 percent
G-1041 Genealogy Index Search Request (online filing) $65 $160 $95 146 percent
G-1041 Genealogy Index Search Request (paper filing) $65 $170 $105 162 percent
G-1041A Genealogy Records Request (online filing) $65 $255 $190 292 percent
G-1041A Genealogy Records Request (paper filing) $65 $265 $200 308 percent

For more information on USCIS Fee Increase,

text/call 407-292-7730 | whatsapp 407-353-1363 |email gail@gaillaw.com

FREE phone & in-office consultation – FREE Live Chat www.GailLaw.com

Copyright © 2020, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

F-1 M-1 International Students Can Take Full Online Courses & Remain in U.S.

On July 14, 2020 after lawsuits filed by several states, Harvard and MIT, the Trump administration said it would no longer require international students to attend in-person classes during the coronavirus pandemic in order to remain in the country.
DHS and ICE rescind or ended the policy barring International Students from taking online courses due to COVID-19. ICE will revert back to the guidance it issued in March that allows foreign students to take online courses to reside in the United States on F-1/M-1 visas. ICE agreed to a resolution less than five minutes into a hearing for the case Harvard and MIT filed last week
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On July 6, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications  to a temporary exemptions for nonimmigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester. In summary, F-1 M-1 students taking full online courses cannot remain in U.S. – they must attend in-person classes full-time for the fall 2020 semester.
Temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester include:

  1. Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States. The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States. Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status. If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.
  2. Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools operating under normal in-person classes are bound by existing federal regulations. Eligible F students may take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.
  3. Nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online. These schools must certify to SEVP, through the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” certifying that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program. The above exemptions do not apply to F-1 students in English language training programs or M-1 students pursing vocational degrees, who are not permitted to enroll in any online courses.

Schools should update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) within 10 days of the change if they begin the fall semester with in-person classes but are later required to switch to only online classes, or a nonimmigrant student changes their course selections, and as a result, ends up taking an entirely online course load. Nonimmigrant students within the United States are not permitted to take a full course of study through online classes. If students find themselves in this situation, they must leave the country or take alternative steps to maintain their nonimmigrant status such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.

Due to COVID-19, SEVP instituted a temporary exemption regarding online courses for the spring and summer semesters. This policy permitted nonimmigrant students to take more online courses than normally permitted by federal regulation to maintain their nonimmigrant status during the COVID-19 emergency.

Orlando Immigration Lawyer Gail Seeram advises F-1 and M-1 students to seek guidance from their school counselor.  If the F-1 M-1 students taking full online courses at current school then maybe the student may want to transfer to another school that has in-person classes so not to violate their F-1 M-1 status.

For more information on F-1 M-1 students taking full online courses,

text/call 407-292-7730 | whatsapp 407-353-1363 |email gail@gaillaw.com

FREE phone & in-office consultation – FREE Live Chat www.GailLaw.com

Copyright © 2020, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

Eligibility for U.S. Government Benefits due to Coronavirus and Public Charge Rule

With over 30 million people unemployed in the U.S. and availability of certain U.S. government benefits, many lawful permanent residents (or green card holders) and temporary non-immigrant visa holders are confused as to what benefits they can apply for and use without being considered a “public charge”. We will try to address some of the common questions about public charge and U.S. government benefits under coronavirus. 

Do people with green cards need to worry about using government services due to the coronavirus? No. The current public charge rule applies to people seeking to obtain a green card and does not apply to those who already have a green card. The new rule also requires those seeking to extend or change their nonimmigrant status to submit information on public benefits use.  This means that lawful permanent residents—those who already have green cards—do not need to worry about triggering the harsh effects of the public charge rule by using government services during the coronavirus.

Does filing for unemployment put someone at risk under public charge? No. When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the public charge rule, it made clear that receiving unemployment benefits is not considered to be receiving a “public benefit.” This is because unemployment is an “earned benefit” that workers pay into with their paychecks. This includes Medicare and Social Security.  People seeking to file for unemployment generally must be legally authorized to work. Some states extend unemployment benefits to individuals with DACA, while others do not.

Does receiving government support for a coronavirus test put someone at risk under public charge No. Guidance posted on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website says that “USCIS will neither consider testing, treatment, nor preventative care (including vaccines, if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 as part of a public charge inadmissibility determination.”  The rule itself also exempts the use of Medicaid benefits for treatment of an “emergency medical condition.” Immigrants should not worry about using emergency Medicaid if they become sick with the virus and need treatment.

Could a period of unemployment due to the coronavirus put someone at risk under public charge? Maybe. Immigrants who are laid off due to the coronavirus could have their diminished financial wellbeing counted against them if they apply for a green card in the future or are forced to rely on public benefits to survive.  However, USCIS has indicated that individuals in that situation should provide additional evidence along with their application for a green card. They can explain that the hardship was due to COVID-19.

For more information on Coronavirus and Public Charge Rule,

text/call 407-292-7730 | whatsapp 407-353-1363 |email gail@gaillaw.com

FREE phone & in-office consultation – FREE Live Chat www.GailLaw.com

Copyright © 2020, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

Immigration Closure? What about my case?

Processing of immigration petitions continue during the coronavirus pandemic.  The only services that have been temporarily suspended are in-person services and face-to-face interviews.

Immigration petitions can be filed on-line or by mail with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  All immigration forms are being accepted and processed with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services and receipt notices continue to be issued.  At the local field offices, all interview and biometrics appointments have been canceled and new appointments will be mailed to applicants automatically once the offices resume normal operations.

During the immigration closure, any response due to Form I-290B, Requests for Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID), Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) or Notice of Intent to Terminate (NOIT) will received an additional 60 calendar days after the stated response due date or deadline to give applicants additional time to respond.

As for U.S. Embassies, all interviews have also been canceled and will be rescheduled when the Embassy resumes normal operations.  Most U.S. Embassies continue to respond to email communications.  Embassy email addresses can be found on their websites.

U.S. Immigration Courts continue to accept filings and for most courts, filings can be submitted by mail.  No extension has been issued for filing deadlines.  All non-detained master and individual hearings scheduled through May 1, 2020, have been postponed or canceled and will be automatically rescheduled.  As for individuals who are detained, call your attorney or contact the detention center for clarification on upcoming hearings.

With regards to Immigration & Custom Enforcement (ICE), Enforcement and Removal Offices operations, it is on a case-by-case basis.  We recommend calling your local ICE office by using this website: https://www.ice.gov/contact/ero.  If you have a reporting date or need to post a bond, then call your local ICE office for information on office opening and closure.

For more information on immigration closure,

text/call 407-292-7730 | whatsapp 407-353-1363 |email gail@gaillaw.com

FREE phone & in-office consultation – FREE Live Chat www.GailLaw.com

Copyright © 2020, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

Trump Expands Travel Ban to Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania

Trump expands travel ban 3.0 upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court to Africa’s biggest country, Nigeria, as well as Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and Tanzania. The proclamation, which President Trump was expected to sign on January 31, 2020, will take effect on February 22. The ban would prevent immigrant and non-immigrant visas from being issued however, a waiver is available but very difficult.

All of the newly added six countries have substantial Muslim populations. The total number of countries now on the restricted travel list stands at 13 – Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, Somalia AND Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and Tanzania.

The effect on Nigeria, not only Africa’s most populous country but also its largest economy, could be particularly severe. The United States issued more than 7,920 immigrant visas to Nigerians in the 2018 fiscal year, the second-most of any African country.

“We’re adding a couple of countries” to the ban, Trump told reporters at a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We have to be safe. Our country has to be safe. You see what’s going on in the world. Our country has to be safe,” he said.

For more information on Trump expands travel ban,

text/call 407-292-7730 | whatsapp 407-353-1363 |email gail@gaillaw.com

FREE phone & in-office consultation – FREE Live Chat www.GailLaw.com

Copyright © 2020, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

Green Card Denials at U.S. Embassy based on Public Charge

New rules are being applied at the U.S. Embassy to determine if an immigrant visa applicant will be a “public charge.”  One of the changes decrease the weight given to the affidavit of support in deciding whether a person is likely to become a public charge. Previously, a qualifying affidavit of support (Form I-864) was generally sufficient to establish that an immigrant visa applicant was not likely to become a public charge.

An affidavit of support still must be submitted, where required, but the weight it carries has diminished. Now, a “properly filed and sufficient Form I-864 may not necessarily overcome a denial on public charge at Embassy interview.  Instead, it is merely one, “positive factor” as part of the totality of the circumstances test.

The “totality of the circumstances” involves consideration of other factors such as the applicant’s age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education, and skills.  This test is not new, but the fact that an affidavit of support that meets the financial requirements has been reduced in weight to simply one factor of many is new. A sufficient affidavit of support generally was considered adequate evidence that the person had overcome any public charge concerns. It is now considered only a factor in the assessment of whether an immigrant will be a public charge or dependent on U.S. government benefits such as medicaid or food stamps.

Thereby, expect to see the language below in denial notices for green cards issued by the U.S. Embassy:

Examples of documents to bring to the Embassy interview to overcome public charge at embassy interview:

  • For older applicants: health records showing they are in good health despite advanced age
  • Proof of private medical insurance, or other proof of how the applicant pays for healthcare
  • Proof of on-going relationship with petitioner and joint sponsor (i.e. recent emails, pictures, screenshot of social media post where chatting and interacting)
  • If joint sponsor is not related, declaration of joint sponsor briefly explaining their commitment to support the applicant
  • Proof of applicant’s job offer or job with decent salary and savings in bank account
  • Copies of applicant’s degrees, certificates, licenses, etc. to show education, skills, and overall “employability”

All immigrant visa (green card) applicants appearing for their interview at the U.S. Embassy need to be aware that more documentary evidence (besides a Form I-864 affidavit of support) will be required to prevent a denial based on public charge at embassy interview.

For more information on public charge at embassy interview,

text/call 407-292-7730 | whatsapp 407-353-1363 |email gail@gaillaw.com

FREE phone & in-office consultation – FREE Live Chat www.GailLaw.com

Copyright © 2020, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

Green Card through New Spouse if Form I-751 Denied

Effective November 21, 2019, a new policy guidance applies the case law Matter of Stockwell and clarifying when USCIS may adjust the status of an alien whose Conditional Permanent Resident (CPR) status has been terminated due to Form I-751 denied . An immigration judge does not need to affirm the termination of CPR status before the alien can file a new adjustment of status application.

An applicant/immigrant obtains conditional permanent resident status either based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (if the marriage is less than two years at the time the alien adjusts status or is admitted for lawful permanent resident status) or based on an immigrant investor (EB-5) visa.

In the past, when Form I-751 was denied, the applicant/immigrant had to wait for a master hearing date in immigration court for the immigration judge to review the Form I-751 denied and to terminate conditional resident status before the applicant/immigrant could marry another spouse and file for adjustment of status.

However, under the new policy, the applicant/immigrant does not have to go to immigration court to have status terminated.  USCIS may adjust an alien’s status if their Conditional Permanent Resident status has been terminated by a Form I-751 denied and:

The alien has a new basis for adjustment of status;
The alien is otherwise eligible to adjust status; and
USCIS has jurisdiction over the adjustment of status application.
Time spent in the prior CPR status does not count toward the residency requirements for naturalization.

This guidance applies to adjustment of status applications filed with USCIS on or after Nov. 21, 2019

For more information on Form I-751 Denied,

text/call 407-292-7730 | whatsapp 407-353-1363 |email gail@gaillaw.com

FREE phone & in-office consultation – FREE Live Chat www.GailLaw.com

Copyright © 2019, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

No More Interpreters in Immigration Court

According to news reports, the policy of no more interpreters in immigration court was officially announced to judges on Thursday. The policy is set to begin nationwide on the week of July 15, 2019. However, it has not been publicly confirmed by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the agency which oversees the immigration courts.

All immigrants in removal proceedings have a right to interpretation, but how that interpretation is carried out varies from place to place. In most locations, interpreters sit next to immigrants when they appear in front of a judge, translating from the immigrants’ language to English and vice versa. 

Under the new policy, interpreters in immigration court will not be available for initial hearings or master hearings. Instead, immigrants who don’t speak English will watch a video orientation in “multiple languages,” and will not be permitted to ask questions about the video. Once the immigrant appears in front of the judge, they will only be able to receive interpretation through the phone.

Telephonic interpretation is often of lower quality than in-person interpretation. Telephonic interpreters have to wait longer to determine whether someone has finished talking, slowing proceedings down. Since they can’t see people, they can’t consider facial expressions or body language in their interpretation. Low-quality telephone lines and volume problems may prevent them from understanding everything that was said.

Before the policy rolled out, immigration judges expressed significant reservations. In leaked emails revealed by BuzzFeed, judges attacked the policy as misguided, with one judge suggesting that playing a video means he will be sitting in court “twiddling my thumbs while the message plays.” Another judge said that the “entire premise of this plan is wrongheaded,” and indicated that it is “disruptive to my court and definitely will not be a time saver.”

About the Author: Aaron Reichlin-Melnick is a Policy Analyst at the American Immigration Council, where he works primarily on immigration court issues and the intersection of immigration law and policy.