U.S. Restrictions on Travel to and Trade With Cuba Return

Effective November 9, 2017, new regulations took effect limiting U.S. travel and trade with Cuba. 

Decades ago, the United States imposed a commercial embargo on Cuba. The embargo existed in one form or another until 2015, when the United States eased some of its restrictions on trade and travel. Then, on June 16, 2017, President Trump signed the National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba. In accordance with the NSPM, the U.S. Department of State has now published a list of restricted entities associated with Cuba. The list names entities with which direct financial transactions will “generally be prohibited” under the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. The entities on the list are those that are “under the control of, or acting for or on behalf of, the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services or personnel with which direct financial transactions would disproportionately benefit such services or personnel at the expense of the Cuban people or private enterprise in Cuba.” Numerous hotels and tourism agencies, as well as retail shops popular with tourists, are included on the list. As a result, U.S. citizens will again have to travel as part of a group that is accompanied by a group representative and licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The new restrictions will not impact certain existing transactions. Contracts that were in place and travel arrangements that were made prior to the new rule taking effect may move forward.

This post was written by Natalie L. McEwan of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.,© 2017
For more Antitrust Law legal analysis, go to The National Law Review 

U.S. Implements President Trump’s Cuba Policy

On Nov. 8, 2017, the U.S. Government announced new regulations in furtherance of the Trump Administration’s policy regarding Cuba.

In June 2017, President Trump published his National Security Presidential Memorandum “Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba” (NSPM), which announced modification of U.S. policy with respect to Cuba to target the Cuban military, intelligence, and security agencies.  In the NSPM, President Trump emphasized the need to promote the flow of economic benefits to the Cuban people, rather than to its military.  The NSPM further directed the Commerce, State, and Treasury Departments to take various actions implementing the new policy.

Accordingly, regulations were released this week by the U.S. Department of State, Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to implement the NSPM, and clarify the limitations imposed on U.S. persons wishing to travel to or do business in Cuba.

This post was written by Sonali Dohale, Kara M. BombachYosbel A. Ibarra & Carl A. Fornaris of Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved.,©2017
For more Antitrust legal analysis, go to The National Law Review 

Trump Administration Limits Affordable Care Act’s Contraceptive Coverage Mandate

On Friday October 6, 2017, the Trump administration released two interim final rules expanding the exemptions allowed under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (the “ACA’s”) contraceptive coverage mandate. Under the ACA, employer group health plans generally are required to cover contraceptives, sterilization, and related patient education and counseling, with exemptions provided for religious houses of worship. The exemption was expanded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby 34 S. Ct. 2751 (2014), which held health plans of closely held for-profit corporations are not required to cover contraceptives if doing so would contradict the owner’s religious beliefs under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The interim final rules, released by the Treasury Department, Department of Labor (DOL), and HHS, are effective immediately and provide exemptions from the contraceptive coverage mandate to many employers with “sincerely held religious beliefs” or “sincerely held moral convictions”. The interim final rules limit the exemption for “sincerely held moral convictions” to houses of worship, tax-exempt entities, and closely held for-profit corporations, but permit publicly traded for-profit entities to use the exemption for “sincerely held religious beliefs.” According to the Trump administration, the United States has had a long history of providing protections in the regulation of health care for individuals and entities with objections based on religious beliefs or moral convictions. To take advantage of the new exemption, eligible employers must notify employees that they will no longer provide contraceptive coverage but need not inform the federal government. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA) requires that a Summary of Material Modification (SMM) is provided within 60 days of a “material reduction” in covered services or benefits provided under a group health plan. A material reduction includes the elimination of benefits payable under a group health plan. According to an Obama administration report released last year, 55 million women have gained access to no-cost birth control as a result of the contraceptive coverage mandate. It is not clear how many entities may claim the exemptions, but HHS has predicted about 200 entities (affecting 120,000 women) may do so based on the number of entities that filed lawsuits.  Written comments on the interim final rules are due December 5, 2017.

This post was written by Cassandra Labbees of Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. All rights reserved., ©2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

Trump Administration Issues “Principles” in Exchange for Relief for DACA Recipients

Deferred action for DACA recipients will start to expire in March 2018 and there is still no certainty about what will happen to them.  Amidst legal challenges to the rescission of DACA, the introduction of a number of statutory fixes, and a supposed “deal” between President Trump and Democratic leaders to protect the “Dreamers,” there is now a new twist.  The Trump Administration has announced a list of principles to include in any deal for the Dreamers.  Those principles, some of which derive from the President’s various Executive Orders, include:

  • Construction of a wall across the US southern border;
  • Improve infrastructure and security on the northern border;
  • Eliminate loopholes that make it difficult to return Unaccompanied Alien Children (primarily from Central America) and their families to their home countries;
  • Hire 10,000 immigration agents and 300 Federal prosecutors;
  • Hire 370 Immigration Judges and 1,000 ICE attorneys;
  • Increase scrutiny of asylum petitions and impose penalties for baseless or frivolous claims;
  • Terminate “catch and release” policies;
  • Expand grounds of inadmissibility and deportability;
  • Deny federal aid to sanctuary jurisdictions;
  • Discourage visa overstays by classifying overstays as misdeameanors;
  • Require use of E-Verify by all employers and increase penalties for a pattern or practice of violations;
  • Eliminate extended family “chain migration” and establish a new merit-based green card system; and
  • Eliminate the diversity lottery.

It is not clear whether these principles represent a first offer in a negotiation or if these principles are non-negotiable. Some Democrats in Congress have threatened the possibility of a government shutdown in December if DACA recipients receive no relief. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has pieced together parts of other proposed legislation and introduced what he believes would be a compromise bill, the Border Security and Deferred Action Recipient Relief Act. This Act provides:

  • DACA recipients or other children who have been in the U.S. since 2012 can obtain Conditional Resident Status for 10 years by pursuing vocational or higher education, are gainfully employed or by enlisting in the military. Upon meeting certain conditions, after the 10 years, they will be eligible to apply for Green Cards.
  • $1.6 billion for border security measures: 74 miles of border fortifications and funding to plan for further construction.
  • Construction of border access roads to simplify CBP patrols of the border.
  • Targeting of gangs and cartels for deportations.
This post was written by Forrest G. Read IV of Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2017
For more Immigration legal analysis go to The National Law Review

Revised Travel Ban Coming?

The Trump Administration reportedly may replace the current travel ban with a country-specific set of restrictions.

In June, the Supreme Court allowed the government to begin enforcing the 90-day travel ban against individuals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen who had no bona fide relationship to the United States. The 90-day ban will expire on September 24. The 120-day ban on refugees also went into effect in June. The Supreme Court plans to hear the full travel ban case on October 10.

The Department of Homeland Security’s recently finalized classified report on screening foreign travelers may support anticipated changes to the travel ban. Substituting a new ban could change the dynamics, potentially making the case before the Supreme Court moot or leading to a remand of the case for further hearing at the lower court level.

The new restrictions are expected to be open-ended and based upon the DHS review and identification of countries with deficient security standards. More than six countries may have been identified. Additional countries could be added to the banned list, others could be removed, and still others might become subject to certain visa restrictions.

This post was written by Michael H. Neifach of Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

Trump Administration Issues New Guidance for Automated Driving Systems

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced yesterday the Trump administration’s first significant guidance concerning autonomous vehicles and Automated Driving Systems (ADS).

The new voluntary guidelines, titled Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety, are intended to encourage innovation in the industry and are being touted as the administration’s “new, non-regulatory approach to promoting the safe testing and development of automated vehicles.” One of the most important aspects of these guidelines is the NHTSA’s clarification of its view of the delineation between the roles of the states and the federal government with respect to ADS technology.

The new guidelines replace the Federal Automated Vehicle Policy (FAVP), which was released by the Obama administration in 2016A Vision for Safety comprises voluntary guidance for vehicle manufacturers, best practices for state legislatures when drafting ADS legislation, and a request for further comment.

Autonomous-vehicle manufacturers are asked to undertake a voluntary self-assessment addressing 12 safety elements discussed in the new guidance. That is a slight departure from the FAVP, which detailed a 15-point safety assessment. The safety self-assessment remains voluntary, and NHTSA emphasizes that there is no mechanism to compel manufacturers to participate. The agency also stated that the testing or deployment of new ADS technologies need not be delayed to complete a self-assessment.

In what may be the most significant component of the guidance, NHTSA made clear its role as the primary regulator of ADS technology by “strongly encourage[ing] States not to codify th[e] Voluntary Guidance . . . as a legal requirement for any phases of development, testing, or deployment of ADSs.”

Further acknowledging the potential problems associated with a patchwork of state laws, the agency expressed its belief that “[a]llowing NHTSA alone to regulate the safety design and performance aspects of ADS technology will help avoid conflicting Federal and State laws and regulations that could impede deployment.” States are instead tasked by A Vision for Safety with regulating licensing of human drivers, motor vehicle registration, traffic laws, safety inspections, and insurance.

The new guidance comes just one week after the House of Representatives passed the SELF-DRIVE Act designed to eliminate legal obstacles that could interfere with the deployment of autonomous vehicles. However, as NHTSA and Congress are seeking to speed up ADS development by removing regulatory and legal impediments, it is noteworthy that on the same day NHTSA announced A Vision for Safety, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for NHTSA to require automakers to install “system safeguards to limit the use of automated vehicle systems to those conditions for which they were designed.”

In an abstract of its forthcoming final report on the 2016 fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S operating in semi-autonomous mode, the NTSB concluded that “operational limitations” in the Tesla’s system played a major role in the fatal crash and that the vehicle’s semi-autonomous system lacked the safeguards necessary to ensure that the system was not misused. These recent developments only underscore the uncertainty facing the industry as regulators attempt to keep pace with fast-developing technology.

This post was written by Neal Walters and Casey G. Watkins of  Ballard Spahr LLP Copyright ©
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

Impact of the Trump Administration’s Decision to Terminate DACA

On September 5, 2017, Elaine Duke, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), issued a memorandum rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. The DACA program, instituted in 2012 under the Obama administration, defers deportation and provides work authorization for individuals who were brought to the United States as children and who pass criminal and national security background checks. The DACA program was designed to assist individuals who were raised in the United States but who do not possess lawful status in the United States. These individuals are often referred to as “Dreamers.”

Citing a recent 4-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which in effect allowed a lower court injunction of a program providing similar relief for undocumented parents of U.S. citizens to stand, the Trump Administration determined that the DACA program should end on March 5, 2018. Effectively, this provides Congress with six months to provide a legislative solution for the nearly 800,000 individuals impacted by the DACA program rescission.

For individuals eligible or currently enrolled in the DACA program, this will have the following impact:

  • Currently valid DACA benefits, including Employment Authorization Documents (“EAD”s) and Advance Parole documents (I-131 applications, authorizing beneficiaries of DACA to travel) will remain valid until their expiration. These documents remain subject to termination or revocation under the existing DACA program rules.
  • No new DACA applications (I-821D applications) will be accepted as of September 6, 2017.
  • Currently pending initial DACA applications and extensions will be adjudicated.
  • USCIS will not accept any new advance parole applications where the basis of that application is an approved I-821D.
  • Currently pending advance parole applications will be administratively closed, and I-131 filing fees will be refunded.
  • Individuals whose DACA benefits expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 will be allowed to file an extension of their DACA benefits until October 5, 2017. If approved, we anticipate that extensions will be valid for two years, and not end on March 5.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”, the agency that oversees administration of the DACA program) will not affirmatively provide information regarding DACA recipients to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”, the agency in charge of interior immigration law enforcement) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”, the agency in charge of border security) unless the DACA recipient meets existing deportation enforcement guidelines.

Once an individual’s DACA benefits expire, that individual will no longer have work authorization, and his or her deportation will no longer be deferred. This does not mean that individual will be automatically deported by ICE. However, it does mean that the individual will no longer be protected from deportation. In essence, without congressional action, Dreamers will once again become subject to potential removal from the United States.

A lawsuit has already been filed challenging the DACA program’s termination. It is hard to know whether the case will succeed, however. In the meantime, Dreamers plan to press Congress to pass a legislative solution before March 5.

A DHS memorandum outlining rescission of the DACA program is here. An FAQ is here.

 

This post was written by David J. Wilks of Miller Mayer LLP. All Rights Reserved. © Copyright 2013 – 2017
For more Immigration legal analysis go to The National Law Review