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Immigration News, Analysis and Commentary – November 30th, 2022

1. Massachusetts New Laws Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Get a Driver’s License

Over 200,000 immigrants live in Massachusetts without legal status. A new law offering those who are undocumented the right to drive will grant these privileges to an estimated 80,000 people by 2026.

The new law states that you’ll need to show your passport or other document issued by a consulate, embassy or other government agency at the registry of motor devices in order to apply for a license. Additionally, immigrants are now required to show one of the following documents in order to receive this license: a driver’s license from another U.S. state or territory, a birth certificate, a foreign national identity card, a foreign driver’s license, or a marriage certificate or divorce decree from any U.S. state or territory.

The law states that applicants need to be vetted as potential safe drivers and have insurance in case of accidents.

Immigration groups celebrated the passage of the law with public safety in mind. Although there were people who supported it, there were also those who opposed the law. Some of those who disagree with this ruling include Republican candidate for governor Geoff Diehl and Charlie Baker, former Republican Governor. They say it’ll make it easier for undocumented citizens to vote, but it has so many safety precautions in place that supporters believe ‘fraud can be prevented’.

2. Obstacles for immigrants who need care during pregnancy

Last spring, two pregnant women came to the Program Director of EMBARC, Abigail Sui’s home from Myanmar with hopes of seeking prenatal care. EMBARC is an Iowa-based nonprofit that supports immigrants. Sui worked to help these two women to find their way around the healthcare system. However, she had a hard time getting support.

The two women came to the USA and have visas. However, they were denied Medicaid because of a federal statute. This statute prevents immigrants, even those with green cards and/or visas, from getting any support from the government before they reach their first five years of living in the US. Some states are able to make exceptions for pregnant women, but not all of them have enacted this exception. This includes several states in the Midwest: Missouri, Indiana, and Iowa.

The two women were blocked from receiving health insurance they could afford – they weren’t eligible for either accessing the Affordable Care Act Marketplace or getting on a plan from their respective spouses’ employers.

Abigail Sui determined that the only option for these two expectant mothers was to sign a contract with a local hospital that promises they would cover prenatal treatment by paying for it themselves (out of pocket).

Due to this delay in deciding to seek treatment without insurance, one of the expecting mothers had to pay a large fee for medical care when she finally did go in for an appointment during her third trimester.

3. Following Veteran’s Day, the U.S. military has naturalized more than 4,000 military members

US officials often reward certain immigrants by offering them benefits as a result of what they’ve done to contribute to the country.

This list of servicemen and servicewomen includes: active members of the military, veterans, and their families. Veterans and active-duty service personnel specifically can be eligible for citizenship based on the the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The requirements are that the applicant has lived in and been physically present in the United States for a particular amount of time. These prerequisites for naturalization can be shortened with special provisions.

Following Veteran’s Day, News Americas has discovered that 3,890 Jamaican and Haitian-born military personnel have become citizens in just the last five years. In FY 2022, 1,080 Jamaicans naturaliazed in the United States.

According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, 880 US military members who were born in Jamaica were nautralized in FY 2021. Only 380 were naturalized in FY 2020. The second most naturalized service members came from Jamaica, while Haiti ranked 7th. They are now able to vote and get other benefits from the government.

Immigrants have played a huge role in the US military since the Revolutionary War. 8,000 people who are not citizens of the United States join the military. Currently, over 30,000 non-citizens active service members. Many of them recently got their citizenship.

4. Tech Layoffs: Current H-1B visa status holders may lose their immigration status

Recent layoffs from tech companies as Twitter, Meta, and several other internet firms have been causing fear for foreign workers who are in the United States on an H-1B visa.

Tech firms hire many employees from abroad, bringing them to the US on H-1B visas. The H1-B visa gives an opportunity for American businesses to hire international workers in order to bring specialized human capital in-house. If someone who is here on an H-1B visa holder gets laid off or loses their job, they have sixty days to either get a new employer sponsor, switch to a new type of visa, or leave the States and go back to their native country.

During a layoff, especially an unexpected one, the short 60 day window afforded to immigrants is not enough time for them to figure out what to do next. Option for people in the situation would be to enroll in school and switch to a student visa. In some cases, people opt to apply for a B-2 (tourism) visa to get more time in the US.

Layoffs can be disturb the process for an H-1B visa holder’s prospects who is working to get a green card and become a US citizen. Many foreign employees of US technology companies are homeowners, or are paying for their children to be educated in the United States. In these situations, a layoff can be a massive problem and threat to their family’s wellbeing.

5. Virtual Asylum Petitions can be submitted online

In November, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that, effective November 15th, 2022, affirmative asylum applicants may now go online to file Form I-589, the Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal.

USCIS wants more people to be able to file forms online and is trying to design new ways to make the process easier for both the agency and its stakeholders, including applicants, petitioners, and requestors. USCIS is continuing to transform itself. They’re moving away from paper records and going more electronic.

In FY 2021, the agency received more than 8.8 million petitions for immigration-related requests and benefits (including 61,150 I-589 forms). Since online filing was introduced in 2017, this type of submission has been growing at a very fast rate. More than 1.21 million online requests were submitted in FY 2021, which is a 2.3% increase from the year before.

To file online, you must register for an account with USCIS on their website. This is a secure and efficient option for sending in paperwork. Then, you must monitor your immigration request from the USCIS throughout the adjudication process. The account is free of charge and you get special benefits from creating one. Through your portal, you can contact USCIS directly about your application, and respond to requests for evidence on the website Finally, you may apply online for this form.