Photo of Elizabeth (Liz) Espín Stern

Elizabeth Espín Stern, a partner in Mayer Brown's Washington DC office, leads the firm’s Global Mobility & Migration practice, which forms part of the Employment & Benefits group. She is a seasoned veteran, advising on US and global immigration, HR and mobility services. She is consistently ranked as a leading business immigration lawyer by Chambers GlobalChambers USAWho's Who LegalThe International Who's Who of Business Lawyers, and national and local publications. In addition, she has been named in Best Lawyers in AmericaSuper Lawyers and "Women in Law Awards 2014" by Lawyer Monthly and named one of National Law Journal’s “Outstanding Women Lawyers 2015.” She spearheads Mayer Brown's new global worksite management initiative. This "Global People Solution" offers multinational clients, in a variety of sectors including financial services, IT, defense, telecommunications and multimedia, a comprehensive compliance and risk management program in connection with their mobile workforce. Liz regularly speaks and writes about immigration policies and contributes to major news agencies and publications, including Law 360, Quartz.com, Global Business News and a host of global HR publications.

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On Tuesday, June 19, 2018, President Donald Trump told House Republicans to send him a compromise immigration bill to address border security and other key issues. Within less than 24 hours, in a move designed to stave off the continued public outcry over the separation of children from migrant parents detained at the southern border, on June 20 the president signed an executive order, “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation.” The executive order states that officials will continue to prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally but will find or build facilities to hold families together while the parents’ cases are considered by the courts.

Zero Tolerance Policy Reiterated

The president indicated the border will be “just as tough,” with borders “very strong,” but families will no longer be separated.   In a news conference where he was flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, President Trump indicated, “We are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero tolerance.”  The executive order similarly reiterates the administration’s hard-line policy to detain any adults entering the country illegally, a policy that, according to statistics released on June 19, has led to the separation of more than 2,300 children from their parents.  As stated in the order:

Continue Reading President Trump Signs Executive Order to End Migrant Family Separation by Indefinitely Detaining Parents and Children Together at the Border

On May 10, 2018, USCIS issued a Policy Memorandum entitled “Accrual of Unlawful Presence and f, J, and M Nonimmigrants,” providing new guidance to USCIS officers in the calculation of unlawful presence of students, vocational students, and exchange visitors who remain in the US beyond their authorized period of stay. The Memo is a departure from policy guidance put in place more than 20 years ago.  To make sense of the new policy, Forbes turned to Mayer Brown’s Paul Virtue, who, in 1997, authored the “Virtue Memo” when he served as Executive Associate Commissioner for Programs of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).  The Virtue Memo established the government’s interpretation of unlawful presence which has been adopted and applied ever since.  The new Memo reinterprets how USCIS officials should calculate unlawful presence for F-1, J-1, and M visa holders, as well as their dependent family members.

Read the article.

 


In a recent analysis of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)—the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) system used to monitor academic students (F-1), vocational students (M-1) and exchange visitors (J-1)—DHS determined that of the nearly 1.5 million students and exchange who were either expected to change status or depart the United States in FY 2016 there was an estimated overstay rate of 6.19% for F-1s, 11.60% for M-1s and 3.80 % for J-1s.  These figures were included in a report to Congress along with overstay data for other nonimmigrant categories and a game plan for reducing these figures, the centerpiece of which is a new biometric exit verification capability to be implemented by US Customs & Border Protection (CBP).

Last week, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) took another step in the overall DHS effort to reduce the rate of overstays with a focus on the student and exchange visitor populations. By memorandum dated May 10, 2018, USCIS announced a change, effective August 9, 2018, in the way it will calculate periods of unlawful presence in the United States for students and exchange visitors who remain beyond completion of their academic/training program or otherwise violate the terms of their status.  Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a foreign national who remains six months or one year beyond his or her authorized period of stay faces a bar to reentry of three or ten years, respectively, following departure from the United States.   The issue of calculating unlawful presence for students and exchange visitors arises because foreign students and exchange visitors have historically been admitted, not until a date certain, but for the duration of their academic or training programs, designated on the Form I-94 (arrival/departure record) as duration of status or “D/S.”

Continue Reading USCIS Changes Policies on Unlawful Presence Calculation and Worksite Location Requirements for Foreign Students

An article in Law360 outlines the key items addressed in the Trump administration’s spring 2018 regulatory agenda, which was made available to the public in early May 2018.  Topics on the list include structural changes to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the office within the US Department of Justice that oversees US immigration courts; changes to the EB-5 investor visa program, including increasing the minimum investment amount from $500,000 to $1.35 million; and rescission of the International Entrepreneur Rule (“IER”), a program implemented during the Obama administration to grant parole to entrepreneurs seeking to establish and build startup businesses in the United States.

The article can be read here.

 

On Wednesday, April 25, 2018, the US Supreme Court will hear argument in Trump v. Hawaii. Mayer Brown’s Legal Update provides background on this challenge to the third in a series of travel bans issued by President Trump and summarizes the questions before the Court in this final oral argument of its current term.


On Tuesday, April 10, 2018, President Donald Trump announced that restrictions on travel would be lifted for citizens of Chad, one of eight countries included in the third version of the administration’s controversial travel ban.   In doing so, the president cited improvement in Chad’s identity-management and information sharing practices. Originally announced on September 24, 2017 in the “Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats,” Travel Ban 3.0 imposed restrictions on travel for nationals of Chad and seven other countries: Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.   Mayer Brown’s Legal Advisory in September 2017 addresses the precise restrictions on each of the countries. Continue Reading President Lifts Travel Ban 3.0 for Chad, But Seven Other Countries Remain Barred

The Washington Post reported that US Citizenship & Immigration Services, the federal agency that adjudicates petitions and applications for immigration and naturalization benefits, is creating an internal division to police caseworkers who “may be too forgiving toward applicants for permanent legal residence or citizenship . . .”  See Washington Post, US Immigration agency to more closely monitor caseworkers, documents show, March 16, 2018.   Agency officials confirmed plans for an internal oversight office, but denied that the office would be focused on monitoring caseworkers perceived as too lenient.  See, e.g., The Hill, Federal immigration agency denies that it’s creating a new division to police caseworkers, March 17, 2018.   An agency spokesperson indicated that a final decision had not been made and all mission or structural considerations are “pre-decisional until they are formally announced.” Continue Reading Getting to No Through a Crackdown on “Lenient” Case Officers at USCIS

The March 5, 2018 date the president set in September 2017 for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program to sunset came and went, with no clear deadline established for when Congress will act.  The White House, state attorneys general, and immigrant advocacy groups urged prompt action, with demonstrations around the country advocating for legislative relief to provide a path to citizenship for “DREAMers,” the name informally used to refer to the estimated 800,000 beneficiaries of DACA.  For now, the DACA program remains active, based on a California federal court’s continuing preliminary injunction. Continue Reading DACA’s March 5, 2018 Deadline Passes With No Clear Deadline for Legislative Action


The first senior leadership conference of the nation’s immigration services agency, US Citizenship & Immigration  Services,  resulted in the agency stripping the phrase “nation of immigrants” from its mission statement.  USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna stated that the agency’s mission is more “simple and straightforward,” and emphasized that immigrants are not “customers” of USCIS, in the news release announcing the change.  As of February 22, 2018, the new mission statement reads:

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.” Continue Reading USCIS Removes “Nation of Immigrants” From Its Mission Statement

The President issued a memorandum directing the establishment of a National Vetting Center (the Center), subject to oversight by a National Vetting Governance Board (the Board), to coordinate screening and vetting of individuals seeking to enter the United States.  Led by the Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with  the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Director of National Intelligence, the Center will be tasked with integrating and improving the work of federal intelligence agencies in screening foreign visitors and immigrants.  The agencies have a six-month deadline to establish the Center. Continue Reading President Announces National Vetting Center To Screen Visitors and Immigrants