The BBA has been closely following the developments of the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public charge rule since December 2018,
when then-President Jon Albano submitted comments in opposition to the
policy and urged others to join.
2019, the Trump administration proposed a change to the regulation known as
the “public charge” rule. This regulation would deny green cards to immigrants
deemed likely to become reliant on various forms of social welfare. Under
current policy, only immigrants who are primarily dependent on cash benefits or
in government-funded, long-term institutional care would be considered public
charges. The proposed rule would dramatically expand the list of public
benefits that could lead to an immigrant being considered a “public charge”,
including the perceived likelihood that that person will require public benefits
in the future, even if they are not currently using them. The Migration Policy Institute study that we
cited in our September
2019 Immigration Update found that this
regulation would disproportionately impact immigrants from Mexico, Central
America, Africa, and Asia.
Throughout the past several months, the rule was challenged
in several federal courts and more than a dozen state attorneys general, including
Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, under the argument that it discriminates
against low-income immigrants and immigrants of color. One of the major
concerns was the impact of the policy on public health, encouraging immigrants
to withdraw from public healthcare programs and thereby imposing a huge cost on
local and state governments. Furthermore, this concern is heightened by the fear
and misconceptions held by the affected population, which may lead people to
withdraw from, or not apply to, programs and benefits that are not covered by the
rule. These impacts will hit entire families, including spouses and children
who may be citizens.
In November, we published an Issue Spot blog post citing the
temporary injunctions that judges from New York, California, and Washington had
issued to prevent the rule from taking effect on October 15, 2019, as planned.
In January, Twitter, Microsoft, and other tech companies signed on to an amicus brief in support of
appealing the public charge rule.
On January 27, 2020, the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to set
aside the preliminary injunction from New York that prevented the public charge
rule from taking effect nationwide. This was the last of the three district
court nationwide injunctions standing, which means that the rule can now go
into effect nationwide while litigation continues. This ruling was extremely
disappointing for immigrant advocates and civil rights organizations who have
been working diligently to litigate against it. The rule is now expected to be implemented on
February 24, 2020.
There are still appeals concerning the reasoning of the
injunctions that are ongoing. The appellate cases are moving on expedited
schedules and could be decided within a couple of months, and positive
appellate court results could expand the injunction beyond Illinois. The
national Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) campaign
is bringing advocates from around the country together to fight back against
the negative effects the public charge rule will have on immigrant families. On
February 6, Attorney General Maura Healey joined a coalition of attorneys general in
filing two amicus briefs opposing the public charge rule. The briefs “call on
the Trump administration to immediately halt unprecedented new rules that
direct the State Department to deny green cards and visas to immigrants who are
likely to use government assistance programs in the future.” Attorney General
Healey said that “we cannot allow these new rules to overturn decades of
immigration policy and deprive people of a path to citizenship in our country.”
If you would like to help or to learn more about the
potential effects of this regulation, the BBA is hosting a training
on March 10. You can also access the following resources:
Iranian Students Turned Away at Boston Logan
past several months and amid the escalation of tension in U.S. foreign policy
with Iran, reports indicate that Iranians have been increasingly denied entry
at the U.S. border despite having valid visas.
January 20, an Iranian student, Shahab Dehghani, was turned
away from Logan Airport despite having a valid visa to study at
Northeastern University. When he landed in Boston, he was abruptly taken aside
by CBP and told that his visa had been revoked without an explanation or the
chance to contact an attorney. He was held at the airport overnight for
questioning. In the meantime, his lawyers obtained a court order directing the
immigration authorities to allow him to remain in the country for 48 hours
while his case was reviewed. But Mr. Dehghani had already been put on a plane
back to France, just minutes after the court order was issued.
officials claimed that there was evidence that Mr. Dehghani could pose a
potential security threat, his lawyers questioned the truth of the allegations,
given that such a threat would have certainly been uncovered during the months
of extensive vetting that he endured before being granted a visa to enter the
is one of at least 13 Iranian students who have been turned away since August
at airports across the country despite having valid visas. This raises
significant concerns that Iranian immigrants are being treated differently
because of their heritage. In interviews with 10 of the Iranian students who have been removed since
August, many said that their visas had taken months to be processed, and that
they had spent their entire savings, or taken out loans, to pay for plane
tickets, entrance exams and university applications. Even those who were not
denied entry were extensively questioned for no apparent reason.
Higher education is important to
this region and the actions of the Logan Airport immigration authorities have
the potential to have a chilling impact on applications to Boston universities.
These ramifications may extend beyond colleges and universities to the business
sector as a whole. We stand firmly against the policy of denying students
access because of their heritage and hope that Boston continues to be a safe
and welcoming city for immigrants.
23, 2020, the Department of State posted
rule amending its current regulation concerning the issuance of B
nonimmigrant visas for individuals on a visit for “pleasure”. The rule amends
the Department of State’s regulations on B nonimmigrant visas to clarify that
traveling to the United States in order to obtain citizenship for a child by
giving birth in the United States, or “birth tourism,” is not a permissible
activity for a temporary visitor visa.
outlines that, “under this amended regulation, U.S. consular officers overseas
will deny any B visa application from an applicant whom the consular officer has
reason to believe is traveling for the primary purpose of giving birth in
the United States to obtain U.S. citizenship for their child”.
administration’s attack on “birth tourism” aligns with his ongoing battle
against “birthright citizenship”, the granting of citizenship, under the
Constitution, to anyone born in the United States regardless of the parents’
nationality or immigration status. The new rule gives consular officers the
authority to reject women they merely believe are pregnant or “likely to give
birth” from entering the United States. The rule raises the burden of proof for pregnant women by
outlining in writing that giving birth in the country “is an impermissible
basis” for visiting the United States. Even if a woman says she is entering the
country for medical treatment — a legitimate factor for visa eligibility — she
will need to satisfy visa officers that she has enough money to pay for such
treatments. She will also need to prove that the medical care she is seeking
was not available in her home country.
Department has failed to provide an example of how “birth tourism” presented a
national security risk, as they argued, and the rule has been criticized by
immigrant rights advocates for “turning embassy employees into reproductive
Administration Expands the Travel Ban
In 2017, the
Trump administration proposed a travel
ban that imposed restrictions on citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North
Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Although there was large public
outcry against the ban, the Supreme Court allowed
the third version of the ban (which spared Sudan and Iraq) to go into effect
while legal challenges against it continued. We spoke
out against the ban in 2017 and mentioned it explicitly in our 2018
Immigration Working Group Principles, citing its disregard for due process
and equal protection rights for immigrants:
“The BBA has long supported measures to uphold due process and equal protections rights and access to counsel for immigrants, and in recent months has spoken out against the “travel ban” that would limit immigration from several Muslim countries; condemned the practice of separation of immigrant families at the border; and opposed proposed changes to “public charge” regulations that would make it more difficult for immigrants to access essential benefits and services.”BBA Immigration Working Group Principles, 2018.
31, the Trump administration announced that it will extend
the travel ban to impose restrictions on six additional countries: Nigeria,
Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, and Tanzania. The new order, which will go
into effect on February 22, will affect nearly 350 million people, including a
quarter of Africa’s population. Unlike the original travel ban, which prohibited
citizens of the countries mentioned above from entering the United States, this
ban will restrict citizens of Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, and Kyrgyzstan from
obtaining immigrant visas and will prevent citizens of Sudan and Tanzania from moving
to the U.S. through the diversity visa lottery.
advocacy groups are vehemently opposed to the expanded rule. “The ban should be ended, not expanded.
President Trump is doubling down on his signature anti-Muslim policy — and
using the ban as a way to put even more of his prejudices into practice by
excluding more communities of color,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s
Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Families, universities, and businesses in the
United States are paying an ever-higher price for President Trump’s ignorance
and racism.” The BBA continues to be opposed to the travel ban and the singling
out of specific immigrant groups.
- Massachusetts Sheriffs Receiving Funds from ICE
for Housing Detainees
uncovered that the Commonwealth has received more than $160 million in
funding from federal immigration authorities since 2012, “mostly in exchange
for keeping and transporting ICE detainees in jails run by four Massachusetts
in question stemmed from agreements between ICE and the sheriff’s offices for
Plymouth, Bristol, Franklin, and Suffolk counties. Suffolk ended
its relationship with ICE this past October but the other sheriffs’ offices
have defended the arrangements, claiming that their relationships with ICE have
made Massachusetts safer.
- Information Sharing Between BPS and ICE
brought by Lawyers for Civil Rights
(LCR) and other civil rights and education advocates revealed documents that
showed “extensive interactions” between Boston Public Schools (BPS) and federal
immigration enforcement. A statement
released by LCR outlines that since 2014, at least 135 student incident reports
generated by BPS have been made accessible to ICE via the Boston Regional
Intelligence Center (BRIC), an information-sharing network of local, state, and
federal law enforcement agencies that is funded by the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security and housed within the Boston Police Department.
entanglement between BPS and ICE first came to light in 2017, when an East
Boston High School student was the subject of a BPS incident report of a failed
attempt by students to start a fight. ICE accessed the report after BPS shared
it with the BRIC and the student was deported. Since then, City officials have denied
between BPS and ICE, but LCR asserts that the extent of collusion between the
two is “alarming” because “BPS is creating a dangerous school-to-deportation
- SJC Decision on Osman Bilal Case
January, the SJC came to a decision in
the controversial Osman
Bilal case. Bilal pleaded guilty to stealing jewelry from a Boston street
vendor in 2011 and was at risk of deportation to Somalia, a country his family
had fled when he was just two days old, due to this misdemeanor conviction. The
judge who accepted his plea had rejected four motions for a new trial when the
case was picked up by attorney Kelly Cusack in November. She worked with Donna
Jalbert Patalano, general counsel for Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins,
to try again.
Patalano appeared before Boston Municipal Court Judge Michael Coyne on November
15 and prosecutors dismissed the charges. But, six days later, Judge Coyne
called the lawyers back to court and accused them of deception for not
informing him that Bilal’s prior judge, Sally Kelly, had previously denied four
motions for a new trial. Coyne vacated his order granting Bilal a new trial and
reinstated his conviction.
point, D.A. Rollins’ office filed an emergency petition with the SJC, arguing
that Coyne had no authority to reinstate the conviction. SJC Justice David Lowy
vacated Bilal’s conviction, saving him from facing deportation proceedings.
has made it one of her top priorities to help defendants get convictions
dismissed when it appears that they unjustly faced “harsh collateral
consequences”, including deportation, under federal immigration law. “This
is the unfortunate state of our federal immigration law,” Rollins said in a statement.
“Mr. Bilal’s current situation is the very definition of extreme and unjust
collateral consequences. We are better than this. I know it.”
 With the exception of Illinois, where it is still blocked by a statewide injunction.
Government Relations Assistant
Boston Bar Association