Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Customs and Border Protection’

8th July 2010

Although this blog rarely discusses issues surrounding the physical borders of the United States, when important legislation is proposed it should be noted. In a recent publication promulgated by the Congressional Research Service, Chuck Mason, a legislative attorney, summarized the current legal situation arising along the Southern Border of the United States of America. The following is a direct quotation from the aforementioned  publication:

The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is charged with preventing the entry of terrorists, securing the borders, and carrying out immigration enforcement functions. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component of DHS, has primary responsibility for securing the borders of the United States, preventing terrorists and their weapons from entering the United States, and enforcing hundreds of U.S. trade and immigration laws. Within CBP, the U.S. Border Patrol’s mission is to detect and prevent the illegal entry of aliens across the nearly 7,000 miles of Mexican and Canadian international borders and 2,000 miles of coastal borders surrounding Florida and Puerto Rico.

The United States Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP) is tasked with an incredibly broad mandate. In many ways, the consolidation of the immigration agencies formerly under the authority of the Department of Justice was necessary as prior to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security the bureaucratic hurdles encountered by agents in the field could apparently be nearly insurmountable. Since the formation of the Department of Homeland Security it would appear that the task of monitoring the US border has become more streamlined. However, there are some who feel that more manpower is required to properly patrol the American border. Some feel as though intervention by the US military is necessary. To quote the previously mentioned report:

Although the military does not have primary responsibility to secure the borders, the Armed Forces generally provide support to law enforcement and immigration authorities along the southern border. Reported escalations in criminal activity and illegal immigration, however, have prompted some lawmakers to reevaluate the extent and type of military support that occurs in the border region. On May 25, 2010, President Obama announced that up to 1,200 National Guard troops would be sent to the border to support the Border Patrol. Addressing domestic laws and activities with the military, however, might run afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA), which prohibits use of the Armed Forces to perform the tasks of civilian law enforcement unless explicitly authorized. There are alternative legal authorities for deploying the National Guard, and the precise scope of permitted activities and funds may vary with the authority exercised.

As legal restrictions likely apply to usage of the Armed Forces personnel in patrolling the US border, some members of Congress have taken steps to see to it that intervention by US troops is authorized:

In the 111th Congress, various types of legislation have been introduced, including S. 3332 and H.R. 4321, which, if enacted, would authorize the utilization of National Guard troops along the southern border. Additionally, H.Con.Res. 273 expresses the sense of Congress that the escalating violence along the southern border is a national threat and that National Guard troops should be deployed to the border.

Although it remains to be seen how the current situation will play out, there are those who feel that no matter the what outcome, the United States is at a watershed moment with regard to its policy on border protection.

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10th June 2010

A frequently discussed topic on this blog is the US Tourist Visa. The US Embassy Bangkok processes a significant number of US Tourist Visa applications each year. In the past, most non-immigrant visa applications required the submission of form DS-156. Recently, the US State Department announced that the DS-156 should no longer be used  by those seeking a US B2 Tourist Visa:

The new DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, is a fully integrated online application form that is used to collect the necessary application information from a person seeking a nonimmigrant visa. The DS-160 is submitted electronically to the Department of State via the Internet. Consular Officers use the information entered on the DS-160 to process the visa application and, combined with a personal interview, determine an applicant’s eligibility for a nonimmigrant visa.

Apparently, the DS-160 has been introduced in an effort to streamline the visa process for those seeking non-immigrant visas outside of the United States of America. To quote the above announcement further:

All U.S. Embassies and Consulates that process nonimmigrant visas now use the new online DS-160. Therefore, visa applicants will need to apply using the online DS-160 for most, but not all, nonimmigrant visa categories. Review the [State Department] FAQs for exceptions and to find out which nonimmigrant categories continue to use the DS-156 at this time.

There are many who worry that these recent changes will impact other types of applications. This worry seems to be most prevalently felt by those seeking K1 visa benefits or K3 Visa benefits for a foreign fiancee or spouse. That said, consultation with an American legal professional may be necessary in order to determine which forms should be used when filing for certain visa categories. As always, it should be noted that only a licensed American attorney is entitled to assist in American Immigration matters. That said, many find that applying for a US Tourist Visa does not require the assistance of an American lawyer as such assistance would likely add little value to such an application. However, many applicants for US family immigration benefits find that attorney assistance is beneficial.

It should be noted that many applicants find their application for a visa denied pursuant to the Consular Officer’s application of Section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. Such a finding basically means that the applicant was unable to show requisite “strong ties” to their home country and “weak ties” to the United States. Those seeking a visa to the USA should be advised that if immigration is the ultimate goal, then a tourist visa is not the proper travel document. Even if a visa application is approved by a US Consulate overseas, the foreign national could still be placed in expedited removal proceeding upon arrival at the port of entry in the USA if the Customs and Border Protection officers have reason to believe that the applicant is an undisclosed intending immigrant attempting to enter the USA.

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3rd June 2010

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as the name suggests, is tasked with, among other things, monitoring US internal and external security mainly from the perspective of Immigration. One component agency of the Department of Homeland Security is the US Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP). This agency is tasked with securing US Ports of Entry by monitoring those entering the USA in order to counter possible terrorist threats to the American people. In a recently promulgated press release, the Department of Homeland Security announced that new cooperative measures have been initiated in concert with the French Republic. The following is an excerpt from the aforementioned press release:

Washington, D.C. – Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced that the United States and France have established an arrangement to implement the Immigration Advisory Program (IAP)–which allows for the identification of high-risk travelers at foreign airports before they board aircraft bound for the United States–at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle International Airport. “Terrorism is a global threat that requires an international response,” said Secretary Napolitano. “This collaboration will enhance both the United States’ and France’s capabilities to protect our immigration systems as well as the global aviation network from abuse by terrorists and transnational criminals.” IAP allows specialized U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel posted in foreign airports to utilize current targeting and passenger analysis information and/or an assessment of passengers’ documentation to identify high-risk persons bound for the United States and make “no board” recommendations to carriers and host governments. The arrangement–formalized over the weekend by DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman and French Minister of Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Mutually-Supportive Development Eric Besson–will help combat the use of fraudulent travel documents, prevent terrorists and other criminals from entering the United States, disrupt human smuggling and strengthen cooperation between CBP and French officials. A formal signing of the IAP arrangement will follow in August.

Advocates for The International Advisory Program (IAP) seem to hope that the program will streamline the process by which government personnel identify possible threats in the form of criminals entering the USA. Of particular interest is that the program seems focused upon deterring and suppressing the use of false travel documents. It would also appear that new initiatives will be undertaken to decrease human trafficking to the USA. This has become an ever-increasing concern among immigration officials as more foreign nationals attempt to enter the USA illegally through use of organizations that attempt to “smuggle” them through US ports. This author applauds the efforts of officials in both the USA and France as they attempt to better ensure the safety of international travelers.

For information regarding US Immigration from Thailand please see: US Visa Thailand or K1 Visa Thailand.

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23rd December 2009

For those who have been married to an alien spouse for less than 2 years, the only immigrant visa category that the couple may apply for is a CR1 visa. For those who have been married for more than 2 years at the time of application an IR1 visa may be available. Usually, when the alien spouse travels to the United States of America on a CR1 visa he or she will be admitted with conditional lawful permanent residence. However, there is a question on the lips of many couples: what if we were married less than two years when we filed a visa application, but more than two years when we obtained the visa? The answer: the alien spouse’s status at entry may depend upon the duration of the marriage at the time of his or her admission to the United States of America.

For aliens with conditional lawful permanent residence, it is necessary to file for a lift of conditions before the alien will be granted unconditional lawful permanent residence.

When an alien is admitted to the United States, they must pass through a Customs and Border Protection checkpoint, this is commonly referred to as a port of entry. It is a common misconception that a US visa gives the visa holder the “right,” to enter the USA. In reality, a visa only provides the bearer with the right to travel to a US port of entry and ask for admission. When a CR1 visa holder travels to the USA they are admitted in lawful permanent residence, but the conditionality of that residence is determined by the Customs and Border Protection Officer admitting the alien. For couples who have had their two year anniversary before the alien spouse’s first trip to the USA, Customs and Border Protection will likely admit the alien spouse to unconditional permanent residence because conditionality is determined at the time of entry.

In some cases where a couple fails to meet the two year marriage requirement, but their second anniversary is in the very near future, it may be prudent for them to simply wait until after their second anniversary before the alien spouse asks for permission to enter the US for the first time. This way, the couple would not need to apply for a lift of conditions after the alien spouse enters the USA because the alien spouse will likely be granted unconditional permanent residence upon arrival in the United States.

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12th December 2009

After the tragedy of 9/11 many changes were made with regard to Homeland Security. Specifically, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created and many tasks previously undertaken by other agencies were brought under the jurisdiction of DHS. One example is the United States Customs Service which was reincorporated into the Department of Homeland Security as the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service. This agency is responsible for patrolling the borders and ports of entry to the United States of America. They are also responsible for screening those who enter the United States of America either on a US passport, US visa, or US visa waiver. CBP plays an integral part in the US Immigration process.

Prior to this publication, there has been a rumor circulating that those who wish to enter the United States of America must fist obtain a vaccination for the H1N1 influenza vaccination. As a matter of fact, this is not true. Apparently this rumor is unfounded. AILA has provided a quote from a statement from the Customs and Border Protection Service:

“[United States] Customs and Border Protection would like to address rumors regarding U.S. entry requirements and the H1N1 virus: Travelers do NOT need to present proof that they received the H1N1 flu vaccine in order to enter the United States. No such vaccination requirement exists. Travelers are encouraged to visit the Department of Health and Human Services Flu Web site for current information on seasonal flu prevention, and the “Know Before You Go” section under the Travel tab of the CBP Web site for helpful traveler tips.”

For those seeking entry to the United States a flu vaccination is not required at this time.

In recent years CBP has been granted more and more authority to deal with real time situations. This leads many to wonder just how much authority CBP has. This is an interesting question as they are given major discretionary powers with regard to those seeking entry to the United States. For example, CBP is authorized to place foreign nationals into expedited removal (deportation) proceedings if they deem it necessary. One who has been removed through expedited removal could be barred from reentering the USA for as long as five years. That being said, this only seems to come up in the context of US Family Immigration when the loved one of a US Citizen is improperly using a US tourist visa for undisclosed immigration purposes. In situations such as this, CBP may feel it necessary to use expedited removal to send the subject back to their home country. Therefore it is usually wise to process things correctly and utilize the proper visa for a loved one traveling to the United States.

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6th November 2009

The United States visa waiver program, not to be confused with an I-601 waiver, allows citizens from certain countries to enter the United States of American without obtaining a visa prior to arrival. In recent years the United States government has implemented ESTA, also known as: the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. ESTA requires that travelers wishing to enter the country on a visa waiver inform the US Immigration authorities prior to arrival so that a pre-screening can be conducted. The United States Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service is tasked with monitoring those seeking travel clearances using the ESTA system. Recently it has been reported by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that 221g denials must be reported in the ESTA form, to quote AILA directly:

“CBP recently informed AILA that it, after consultation with the Department of State (DOS), is classifying all §221(g) actions on visa applications as visa “denials.” Thus, Visa Waiver Program (VWP) applicants, who are subject to INA §221(g) refusals, should answer affirmatively in their ESTA applications that they have been denied a visa. This suggestion applies even if the reason for the refusal is due to consular administrative processing. If VWP travelers do not disclose such a “denial” on their ESTA applications or provide an update regarding such “denials,” they may have their ESTA registration rejected or be sent to secondary inspection and potentially refused entry when they apply for admission to the United States.”

This is important to note for those originating from a country participating in the US visa waiver program. For example, if the foreign fiancee of a US Citizen has been issued a 221g with regard to a K1 visa application, then that 221g must be disclosed as a denial on the ESTA form if said fiancee intends to visit the US and the foreign fiancee’s home country participates in this program.

As AILA’s article went on to point out, the Department of State does not even consider 221(g)’s to be outright denials,

Technically, the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) classifies a §221(g) action as a visa “refusal,” but DOS explicitly retains authority to “reactivate” the visa application upon receipt of required documents or completion of a government mandated administrative clearance. See 9 FAM 41.121 N2.4.

This situation is a classic example of two different government agencies taking a differing view of the same situation. The Department of State seems to view 221g refusals as administrative refusals to issue a visa without further documentation while the Department of Homeland Security seems to view such refusals as US visa denials that could be viewed as grounds for denying a person’s subsequent entry into the USA.

This issue will likely not be particularly problematic in the Kingdom of Thailand as Thailand is not a country participating in the visa waiver program, but for others around the world this issue could lead to problems entering the USA.

For those in this situation, it is always advisable to be honest, but it may be possible to explain the situation by answering “yes” to the question: Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or entry? After answering in the affirmative there should be space to explain. Therefore, the applicant probably should note that the denial was: a 221(g), at the Embassy or Consulate (example: US Embassy Bangkok, US Consulate Chiang Mia, US Embassy Burma, etc.),  and the reason for the “denial” (example: Embassy conducted administrative processing, Consulate requested further documentation, etc).

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