According to the Michigan Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) as well as reports from other AILA chapters around the country, as of October 1, 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“USCBP”) is now prohibiting attorneys from accompanying clients in secondary inspection for all matters, with no exceptions, including “up-front” adjudication of TN and L status admissions to the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”). According to the Michigan Chapter, this new policy has been confirmed by USCBP supervisors at Detroit ports-of-entry, and apparently includes all ports in Michigan. The new policy is not reflective of a problem with immigration cases recently presented at Michigan ports-of-entry, but is apparently part of nationwide USCBP policy which has yet to be published or confirmed at the federal level. 

Among other benefits or applications, applications for admission under the TN category for NAFTA occupations and L status admissions under the NAFTA agreement are presented to Free Trade Officers at U.S. ports-of-entry. Although foreign nationals seeking admission to the U.S. do not have the right to legal counsel until they are inspected, admitted or paroled into the U.S., the new policy goes against a long-standing practice by the USCBP to permit attorneys to be present in secondary inspection so long as they did not interfere with the inspection process. 

We believe that the new policy is consistent with the Trump Administration’s new hard-line immigration policy directives made to the various U.S. government agencies involved in U.S. immigration decision-making, including to USCBP under the Trump Administration’s “Buy America, Hire America Executive Order” (“EO”) signed in April, 2017. Under the EO the Trump Administrations directed U.S. government agencies to propose reforms and directed agencies to take a more aggressive stance on policy and decision-making in favor of U.S. workers and U.S. manufactured products.