The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued two memos related to immigration enforcement initiatives for the new administration. Here are some items of note from the memos:
DHS has prioritized certain individuals subject to removal from the U.S. The list includes:
  • Anyone convicted of a crime
  • Anyone charged with a crime (even if innocent)
  • Anyone who has committed an act which would constitute a criminal offense (even if not charged)
  • Anyone who engaged in fraud or misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a government agency
  • Anyone who has abused a program related to receipt of public benefits
  • Anyone who has been ordered removed from the U.S. but has not left
  • Anyone who, in the judgment of an immigration officer, poses a risk to public safety or national security

In order to trigger the “removal priority” list, an individual must first be “removable” from the U.S. Those who qualify as “removable” include anyone who has violated a visa status in any way. Students who drop below required course loads, or who work without authorization, or faculty and staff who fall out of status (even inadvertently) or overstay the end date on the I-94 record render themselves removable. In order to avoid being placed in removal proceedings, it is more important than ever to make sure that international students (and faculty and staff) maintain their legal status in the United States at all times. 

DHS has extended “expedited removal” proceedings nationwide, rather than just within 100 miles of a border. People who are unable to show evidence of their lawful immigration status in the U.S. can potentially face expedited removal without a hearing. It is imperative that individuals carry proof of legal status with them at all times. 

  • F-1 students should carry passports, visas, their I-20, printed copies of their most recent I-94 and their Employment Authorization Document (EAD), where applicable
  • J-1 students should carry passports, their DS-2019 and printed copies of their most recent I-94
  • Faculty and staff using temporary visas should carry passports, I-797 approval notices and printed copies of their most recent I-94
  • Permanent residents should carry their green cards

DHS plans to hire 10,000 new Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers who will span the country to locate immigration violators. DHS also plans to hire 5,500 new Customs & Border Protection officers. With the number of new, inexperienced hires, and the tone of the enforcement memo, foreign nationals must be prepared to demonstrate their legal status at any time.

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