President Biden's U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 has zero chance of becoming law in present form. While it may become law if Democrats are willing to do some major horse trading with Republicans, currently the chances of that seem scant.
Biden's plan would permit the undocumented to apply for a temporary legal status and then parlay that status into lawful permanent residency after five years. Certain classes of immigrants could be eligible for permanent residency without any wait such as DACA, TPS grantees, and agricultural workers.
However, Biden can make significant changes to immigration policy without his proposed legislation becoming law. First, he could grant TPS (Temporary Protected Status) to noncitizens who cannot return to their home countries due to a crisis there, i.e., COVID-19. Second, Biden could permit a broader swathe of noncitizens to apply for parole-in-place so that they do not need to return to their home countries to become permanent residents. Third, Biden could allow would-be immigrants waiting for their visa numbers to become current to wait inside the United States.
USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) announced that it would be reverting to the 2008 version of the naturalization civics test as of March 1, 2021.
On Dec. 1, 2020, USCIS implemented a revised naturalization civics test (2020 civics test) as part of a decennial test review and update process. USCIS determined the 2020 civics test development process, content, testing procedures, and implementation schedule may inadvertently create potential barriers to the naturalization process. This action is consistent with the framework of the Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems, which directs a comprehensive review of the naturalization process to eliminate barriers and make the process more accessible to all eligible individuals.
The 2008 civics test was thoroughly developed over a multi-year period with the input of more than 150 organizations, which included English as a second language experts, educators, and historians, and was piloted before its implementation. USCIS aspires to make the process as accessible as possible as directed by President Biden’s request to review the process thoroughly.
The civics test is administered to applicants who apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization and is one of the statutory requirements for naturalizing. Applicants must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, principles, and form of government of the United States. The decision to naturalize demonstrates an investment in and commitment to this country. USCIS is committed to administering a test that is an instrument of civic learning and fosters civic integration as part of the test preparation process.
Applicants who filed their application for naturalization on or after Dec. 1, 2020, and before March 1, 2021, likely have been studying for the 2020 test; therefore, USCIS will give these applicants the option to take either the 2020 civics test or the 2008 civics test. There will be a transition period where both tests are being offered. The 2020 test will be phased out on April 19, 2021, for initial test takers. Applicants filing on or after March 1, 2021, will take the 2008 civics test.
The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) published a decision in the case of Matter of L-L-P-, 28 I&N Dec. 241 (BIA 2021) today. The decision held that an applicant for special rule cancellation of removal under section 240A(b)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b)(2) (2018), based on spousal abuse must demonstrate both that the abuser was his or her lawful spouse and possessed either United States citizenship or lawful permanent resident status at the time of the abuse. The case was one of first impression because the statute is silent as to the temporal requirement, if any, of the abuser's status. Special Rule Cancellation still has fewer requirements than a self-petition filed with Form I-360.
Third Circuit: Zengkui Li v. Attorney General United States, No. 20-1817 (3d Cir. 2021) (not precedential)
The Third Circuit released its decision in Zengkui Li v. Att'y Gen. et al., No. 20-1817 (3d Cir. 2021) on February 17, 2021. On appeal from the District of New Jersey where Li sought habeas corpus relief, DHS released Li from detention while the appeal was pending. On account of his release, the Third Circuit reasoned that his petition was moot and vacated the District Court's order denying relief and remanded to that court with instructions to dismiss.
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) announced that the Philadelphia Immigration Court will be closed on February 18, 2021, on account of the expected snowstorm.
USCIS announced that the Philadelphia Field Office and the Application Support Center in Northeast Philadelphia will be closed on February 18, 2021, due to the expected snowstorm.
As of at least February 8, 2021, the USCIS Philadelphia Field Office has a few new procedures for checking in. First, there are no longer any live officers at the reception desk. Instead, they have an officer who appears over video chat on an iPad at the Reception Desk. Second, there is an electronic temperature taker next to the iPad where you must position your forehead so that the machine can scan for your temperature. Presumably, if you have a fever, the scanner will detect it.
On February 2, 2021, President Biden published Executive Order 14010 entitled "Creating a Comprehensive Regional Framework to Address the Causes of Migration, to Manage Migration Throughout North and Central America, and to Provide Safe and Orderly Processing of Asylum Seekers at the United States Border." The EO ends the Prompt Asylum Claim Review (PACR) and Humanitarian Asylum Review Process (HARP) pilot programs.
The EO directs the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security to work together to expand lawful pathways for protection for individuals from Northern Triangle countries. The EO lists three immigration avenues for individuals from Northern Triangle Countries: (1) identifying ways to offer protection within and in conjunction with the U.S. Refugee Admissions program; (2) the potential renewal of the Central American Minors (CAM) parole program; and, (3) the use of discretionary parole to permit beneficiaries of approved family-sponsored immigration visa petitions to join family members in the United States of America.
Further, the EO revokes EO 13767 of January 25, 2017, Proclamation 9880 of May 8, 2019 and three Presidential Memoranda, as well as any agency memoranda issued in furtherance of these policies. The policies concerned border wall construction, ending “catch and release," and other topics.
The USCIS Philadelphia Field Office, and the Application Support Center (ASC) in Northeast Philadelphia, will both be closed on February 2, 2021, on account of the snow storm. The USCIS Office Closings webpage states that the Philadelphia Field Office is closed today, February 1, 2021, but still does not have an announcement up for tomorrow, as usual.
The USCIS Philadelphia Field Office is closed on February 1, 2021, due to the snow storm. All interviews, appointments, and oath ceremonies will be rescheduled. However, USCIS' Office Closings page is not current with the closure announcement at the time of writing.