Siskind Summary – H.R. 3591 – The American Hope Act of 2017

Posted on: September 28th, 2017
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Siskind Summary – H.R. 3591 – The American Hope Act of 2017

By Greg Siskind (gsiskind@visalaw.com)

Section 1. Short Title – The “American Hope Act of 2017”

Section 2. Definitions.

Eligible Nonprofit Organization – A nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, including a community, educational, faith-based or other immigrant-serving organization whose staff has the qualifications to serve immigrants, refugees, asylees or persons applying for these statuses.

Institution of Higher Education – Based on Section 101 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 which is limited to nonprofit institutions offering associate’s degrees and higher.

Section 3. Restoration of State Option to Determine Residency For Purposes of Higher Education Benefits.

Section 505 of the 1996 Immigration Act is repealed. That provision bars states from offering in-state tuition to illegally present immigrants (some states have bypassed this by offering in-state tuition based on graduating from a high school in the state rather than based on residence). The repeal is made retroactive to 1996.

Section 4. Cancellation of Removal and Adjustments of Status of Certain Residents Who Entered The United States as Children.

Special Rule for Certified Residents Who Entered the United States as Children.

DHS will cancel the removal of and adjust to the status of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence on a conditional basis (CPR) an alien who is inadmissible or deportable from the US if the alien shows that

  • The alien has been continuously present in the US since 12/31/2016 and was younger than 18 when the alien entered
  • The alien isn’t inadmissible for the following reasons
    • Criminal grounds – INA Section 212(a)(2)
    • Security grounds – INA Section 212(a)(3)
    • Permanently ineligible for citizenship or a draft dodger – INA Section 212(a)(8)
    • Polygamists – INA Section 212(a)(10)(A)
    • International child abductors – INA Section 212(a)(10)(C)
    • Former citizens who renounced citizenship for tax purposes – INA Section 212(a)(10)(E)
  • DHS may waive these grounds if the offense is immigration-related, a misdemeanor offense or its equivalent or any offense that is not a crime of violence where the waiver serves humanitarian purposes, family unity or is in the public interest.

DHS shall by rule set a procedure to apply for this status without requiring being placed in removal proceedings. Minors may request the benefit through a legal guardian or counsel. People in removal proceedings or previously ordered removed are eligible to apply.

DHS shall conduct background checks on all aliens applying for relief.

Any period of continuous presence in the US of an alien who applies for cancellation of removal under this section shall not be considered to have terminated when the alien is served a notice to appear in a removal proceeding.

Departures of 90 days in a row or an aggregate of more than 180 days will be considered a failure to maintain continuous presence unless the departure was authorized by DHS. Exception for brief, casual and innocent absences whether or not authorized by DHS. DHS may also extend these periods in exceptional circumstances such as the serious illness of the alien, or death or serious illness of a spouse, parent, grandparent, sibling or child.

CPRs won’t count against green card numerical limits.

DHS shall propose regulations within 180 days of enactment and shall be effective immediately. Within an additional 180 days, final regulations are due.

Aliens denied applications may seek a review from DHS.

DHS may not remove people with pending application or who are prima facie eligible.

Section 5. Conditional Permanent Resident Status.

Valid for an initial period of 8 years.

Termination of status. DHS may terminate status if the alien has engaged in conduct that renders the alien deportable. Aliens who have their status terminated will revert to the status they had immediately before being granted CPR. Aliens who have their CPR terminated may request review of the determination in a removal proceeding. The burden of proof is on DHS.

CPRs may submit a request to remove conditions. An approved applicant will have conditions on green card removed. Denied applicants will have CPR status terminated. An alien denied may have that determination reviewed in a removal proceeding. The burden of proof is on DHS with a preponderance of the evidence standard.

Applicants may file within six months of maintaining conditional status for 3 years a removal of conditions application. The application must show the alien has not become ineligible for one of the admissibility grounds noted above and has not abandoned residency in the US. Abandonment presumed if the alien has been absent from the US for 365 days in the aggregate during the CPR period unless the alien can show otherwise. Time in the armed services abroad doesn’t count.

Time in DACA shall count toward the 3-year period governing when conditions can be removed.

Time in CPR can count toward the naturalization period but applicants cannot apply to naturalize until conditions are removed.

Applicants seeking a removal of conditions must undergo a new background check.

Section 6. Exclusive Jurisdiction.

DHS has exclusive jurisdiction except for people in removal proceedings and in that case the Attorney General has exclusive jurisdiction until proceedings are terminated. After this, DHS shall resume jurisdiction.

Section 7. Confidentiality of Information.

The government may not use information furnished by the alien to initiate removal proceedings or publicize information in the petitions except to assist law enforcement agency investing crimes or terrorism or a coroner to identify a deceased individual. $50K potential penalty.

Section 8. Grant Program to Assist Eligible Applicants.

DHS may establish with USCIS a program to award grants to eligible nonprofit organizations to assist eligible applicants apply for benefits under the act. No specified dollar amount except “such sums as may be necessary.”

Section 9. Presidential Award For Business Leadership in Promoting American Citizenship

An award shall be given to companies and other organizations that make extraordinary efforts in assisting their employees in learning English, attain GEDs and increasing their understanding of American history and civics.

Section 10. English Learning Program.

The Secretary of Education shall develop an open source electronic program that is useable on computers and the Internet which provides instruction on the English language, is available for free, is readily accessible in public libraries and is fully accessible to speakers of the top 6 foreign languages spoken by immigrants in the US.

Section 11. Higher Education Assistance.

Outlines which federal student financial aid programs are available to CPRs.

Section 12. GAO Report.

Within 7 years, the Comptroller General of the US shall submit a report to the Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate setting forth the number of people who applied for benefits and statistics on the adjudication of those benefits.