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A federal judge blocked the rule ending fee exemptions for citizenship applications.

On December 12, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction on the rule that ended fee exemptions for many poor immigrants seeking citizenship. The previous rule allowed a fee exemption for anyone on government aid or who could show financial hardship (such as medical expenses or unemployment). The blocked rule eliminated fee waivers for government benefits and allowed waivers only to those who could show hardship or who were making no more than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, meaning that many poor immigrants would have to pay the $725 fee. The main reason for the injunction was that the Trump administration disregarded the law when it did not seek or consider public comment on the new rule.

Immigration Judges Quit in Response to Administration Policies

CNN reports that over the past year, nearly double the number of immigration judges left their positions in comparison with fiscal years 2018 and 2017. While the reasons for individual judges moving on from their posts vary, interviews with judges who left in recent months reveal a common theme of frustration over a mounting number of policy changes that, they argue, have chipped away at their authority.

USCIS Begins Accepting Green Card Applications Under Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness

USCIS announced that it will begin accepting applications to adjust status to lawful permanent resident from certain Liberian nationals under Section 7611 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2020, Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF). USCIS will only accept properly filed applications until December 20, 2020

Another injunction against the expanded public charge rule has been lifted, but one is still in place.

The 4th Circuit lifted a lower court injunction against Trump’s expanded public charge rule on Monday. The rule expands what is considered a “public charge” for immigration purposes, encompassing a wide range of public benefits, like Medicaid and public housing vouchers, that were not considered before. The 9th Circuit similarly lifted an injunction, but a nationwide injunction out of New York remains in place, still blocking the policy from going into effect. 

The U.S. has started to send families to Guatemala.

The United States has started sending families seeking asylum in the U.S. to Guatemala. This follows an agreement with Guatemala saying that all asylum seekers who pass through Guatemala before arriving to the U.S. border must first apply for asylum there. Guatemala faces many of the same problems as other Central American countries: violence, corruption, and poverty, and the U.S. has many asylum seekers fleeing Guatemala. For the first time on Tuesday, U.S. officials began sending non-Guatemalan families there

A Texas federal court blocked defense funding for the border wall.

Judge Briones in El Paso, Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the president’s use of $3.6 billion in military construction funding for the border wall. The president’s proclamation that allowed the use of those funds violated congressional restrictions that limited border wall funding to $1.375 billion. This $3.6 billion was separate from the $2.5 billion in drug interdiction funding. The Supreme Court lifted the injunction against the $2.5 billion in July, meaning that the Trump administration can use those funds while litigation proceeds.

The issue of American Samoans’ citizenship is still unclear.

A federal judge said American Samoans should be considered U.S. citizens, not U.S. nationals. However, on Friday another federal judge issued a stay on that order until the issue is resolved on appeal. Being a U.S. national means that American Samoans cannot vote in U.S. elections or hold certain government jobs. The government’s position on appeal is the courts cannot make citizenship decisions, only Congress can. The government of American Samoa agreed with the U.S. government, saying that “imposed” U.S. citizenship would violate American Samoa’s self-determination.

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