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Latest Updates from the American Immigration Lawyers Association Annual Conference

Attending the annual conference of the American Immigration Lawyers Association in San Francisco are partners Raymond Fasano and Donald Madeo. Throughout the conference we will be sharing the latest news and information on our immigration laws.

This morning's keynote address was given by Alejandro Mayorkas, the Director of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. He gave an excellent speech outlining the efforts to optimize the services provided to our immigrant clients. His sincerity and commitment were clear from his discussion of his own immigrant story of having fled Cuba with his family as a young boy.

The address was followed by a discussion of the "hot topics" in immigration law. This afternoon the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support but it will take the next few months to see if a consensus can be built in the House of Representatives. The leaders at AILA are cautiously optimistic that we will see some real reform (albeit with numerous compromises) before the end of this year.

One of the biggest topics of discussion has been yesterday's Supreme Court ruling overturning a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Attorney General and Secretary of State have already issued positive statements on the ruling and we believe that the door is now open for Immigration to fully recognize same sex marriages. This will not only affect family based petitions but also I-360's, U visa petitions and asylum claims as well. This is a monumental decision certain to aid so many of our clients.

Another interesting topic was the automation of the I-94 process. Non-immigrants who now enter the U.S. via an airport will no longer be issued an I-94 card which is so important to proving admission. CBP will record the entry in their computers and the non-immigrant can then print out confirmation of their entry by going to the CBP website. However, there have been early reports of people being unable to obtain confirmation. We are strongly suggesting that newly arrived non-immigrants try to print out their I-94 confirmation as soon as possible after entry and that if there is any difficulty, to consult with a respected immigration attorney immediately.

In other news, it has been reported that over 539,000 DACA applications have been filed with USCIS and the general feeling is that USCIS has been adjudicating these in a fair and speedy manner. It has also been reported that DACA recipients have been getting advance parole petitions approved allowing them to travel for humanitarian, educational or medical reasons. However, USCIS has been giving short durations of time within which to travel so it is important that we request a little more time than we think might be needed for a planned trip abroad.

Turning to the new Provisional Waiver program, USCIS has not yet released data on approval rates. However, there have been reports of USCIS rejecting cases where there is a "reason to believe" there might be a ground of inadmissibility other than the unlawful presence bar. This has included relatively minor criminal matters and border encounters known as "turn backs" where the client may have given a different name upon apprehension. There will surely be more information on these cases in the coming months.

With respect to the Prosecutorial Discretion program that has now been in effect for two years, data indicates that only 4.5% of the Immigration Court caseload has actually resulted in administrative closure pursuant to PD. Moreover, there has not been a noticeable slow down in issuance of Notices to Appear in Immigration Court so it is fair to say that the PD program has been a bit of a disappointment.

Stay tuned for more information from this largest gathering of immigration lawyers in the United States with over 4,000 attorneys in attendance. And if you are a fellow colleague, be sure to catch Raymond Fasano who is the discussion leader on the "Effective Strategies for Dealing with ICE Detainers" panel and Donald Madeo who will be speaking on the "I-751 Petitions to Remove Conditions from Residency" panel!

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