Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs
COVID-19 Information and Community Support
Please note that the City of Minneapolis has created a COVID-19 resource page, which is frequently updated with information and links to community support resources. If there are resources that you want to share that would benefit immigrant and refugee communities at this time, please contact Michelle Rivero at [email protected] or 612-394-6018.
The goal of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) is to ensure that Minneapolis is a safe and welcoming place for all. Our office is in the Department of Neighborhood & Community Relations, and supports the City's One Minneapolis goal to “eliminate disparities so that all Minneapolis residents can participate and prosper."
Communities impacted by COVID-19
MN Immigrant Family Fund: accepting financial donations to support communities who do not qualify for state or federal financial support.
Immigration related updates in light of COVID-19
The following information may be useful to immigrant and refugee communities with immigration related concerns in light of COVID-19:
The federal administration has issued a new travel ban which took effect at midnight Friday March 13. The ban affects individuals traveling to the U.S. from Europe. A factsheet on the ban from the Office of Customs and Border Protection can be found here. The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM), on March 17, announced a suspension of all refugee resettlement.
The Executive Office for Immigration Review has cancelled non-detained court hearings until April 10, 2020. People who have cases scheduled before the immigration court should call 1-800-898-7180 to learn about case rescheduling. The office's COVID-19 announcement and additional immigration court related updates can be found here. Case status information can be found by calling 1-800-898-7180 or visiting the office's webpage.
The Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sensitive location policy, prevents agents from conducting immigration enforcement operations in sensitive locations, including health care facilities, except in emergency circumstances. ICE's webpage explains this policy in light of COVID-19. More general information on the policy can be found here. On March 18, ICE also issued a public notice indicating that it will delay immigration enforcement actions against people who are not a public safety risk or subject to mandatory detention on criminal grounds.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has suspended all in person interviews through April 1. The webpage with this information is available here and people should check frequently for updates, including information on USCIS office closures. It may also be helpful to refer to USCIS's policies in cases where individuals are impacted by natural disaster or special situations.
COVID-19 and public charge: USCIS has issued a statement indicating that there will be no negative public charge impacts of obtaining testing or preventive treatment for those with symptoms resembling COVID-19. Up-to-date public charge information is available in multiple languages on the Protecting Immigrant Families webpage. Questions about public charge can be directed to Mid Minnesota Legal Aid, a legal service partner of the City of Minneapolis, at 1-800-292-4150.
US Supreme Court decision allows implementation of Public Charge Rule
A decision issued by the United States Supreme Court on Monday January 27, 2020 allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement a new "public charge" rule in every state but Illinois, where a statewide injunction remains in place. Public charge is a term used by the Department of Homeland Security to refer to a person considered primarily dependent upon the government for financial support, as evidenced through the receipt of certain cash benefits, or institutionalization for long term care at government expense. In certain circumstances, a person found to be a public charge may be ineligible to obtain permanent residence.
In August 2019, DHS issued a new public charge rule that expands the category of benefits the government can consider in making its public charge determination to include some non-cash benefits, and also expands the criteria the government can examine in the public charge analysis. Federal litigation challenging the legality of this rule resulted in multiple national injunctions, that, until this week, had prevented DHS from employing this new test. The Supreme Court lifted the last nationwide injunction that had been in place, so DHS may start using the new rule at any time.
Many people are not subject to the public charge test at all, including:
US Citizens, permanent resident (green card) holders, asylees and refugees (and people applying for permanent residence based upon their asylee and refugee status), Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) renewal applicants, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries, Special Immigrant Juveniles, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) beneficiaries, and U and T visa applicants/holders
This factsheet explains who is and is not impacted by the new public charge rule, and what benefits are at issue. People who are concerned about whether this rule impacts them are encouraged to contact Mid Minnesota Legal Aid's public charge hotline at 1-800-292-4150 for a free, confidential consultation. Public charge information will also be shared at the City of Minneapolis Community Connections Conference this Saturday, February 1, and immigration attorneys will be on site to provide information about the new rule.
Please know that this week's Supreme Court decision is not the final word on whether the new public charge test is in fact legal, as several federal court cases are still addressing that issue, including one case in the 9th Circuit where the State of Minnesota is a plaintiff.
The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is committed to ensuring that community members have up to date and accurate information so that they can make informed decisions for themselves and their families. Please contact OIRA at 612-357-1875 or [email protected] for additional information and outreach opportunities on this subject.
Temporary Protected Status Extended for Citizens of Somalia and Yemen
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has been extended for citizens of Somalia currently maintaining TPS status in the US. The TPS extension will last until September 17, 2021. TPS was also recently extended to September 3, 2021 for citizens of Yemen. More information on TPS extensions and expiration dates for citizens of all countries covered by the TPS program can be found here.
New Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act enables eligible Liberian citizens to apply for permanent resident status in the US
On December 20, the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (LRIF) was signed into law. This provision permits certain citizens of Liberia to immediately file applications for permanent residence in the United States. The passage of this measure was the result of decades of advocacy, as described in this recent NBC news story. Eligible applicants must apply within 1 year of the law's enactment, or by December 20, 2020. More information about this Act is on a dedicated Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota page as well as a USCIS webpage. Those who need help identifying a legal service organization to assist in filing LRIF applications should click on the Immigration Legal Services button at the top of this page or contact the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs directly by phone at 612-357-1875 or email at [email protected]
International Migrants Day is December 18 -- Art Exhibit at City Hall
December 18 is International Migrants Day. On this day in 1990, the United Nations adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their families. The Convention emphasizes and encourages respect for the human rights of migrants and states that e In recognition of International Migrants Day, the City of Minneapolis will be hosting an art exhibit at City Hall. The installation is entitled “Mirame” which means “Look at Me” in Spanish and provides viewers with an interactive opportunity, through masks, photographs and written personal accounts, to learn about residents of the state of Minnesota who have migrated to the US. The exhibit will be on display from 10:30-2:30 in the Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda. More information about this exhibit can be found here.
City of Minneapolis passes Resolution reaffirming support of Refugees
On Friday, December 13, Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis City Council approved a resolution reaffirming the City's commitment to supporting the resettlement of refugees in the City of Minneapolis. The resolution follows an executive order issued by President Trump that, for the first time, instructs federal officials to seek written consent from state and local governments before accepting refugees in their communities. The resolution states, "The Mayor and City Council do hereby affirm the City's status as a Welcoming City, and a city that strongly supports resettling refugees without regard to race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or country of origin." It notes that more than 70.8 million displaced people have been forced from their homes around the world--a larger number than at any time in recorded history. The resolution also acknowledges that Minnesota and Minneapolis are home to some of the largest and most diverse populations of refugees and immigrants in the United States, contributing to the City's economic strength and cultural richness.
December 10 is Human Rights Day
Tuesday December 10 is Human Rights Day, the day that the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations. The Declaration preamble recognizes that the inherent dignity and "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family" are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. How can we support human rights right here in Minnesota? Learn more by reading the Declaration, attending this week's open house sponsored by the Advocates for Human Rights on Tuesday December 10 from 4-6PM, and visiting the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts Human Rights program.
Proposed Rule to increase USCIS application fees--public comment deadline EXTENDED to December 30, 2019
The Department of Homeland Security has issued a proposed rule to increase filing fees for many applications for immigration status, including DACA, Naturalization (US Citizenship) and Adjustment of Status. The proposed rule would also eliminate the ability to obtain a fee waiver for most application types, and would require asylum applicants to pay a fee to submit their applications. A sample of proposed fee changes is contained below (courtesy of Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota):
Lawful Permanent Residence
These proposed fee increases, in combination with elimination of the ability to submit a fee waiver for most applications for immigration benefits, will likely reduce the number of individuals who are able to successfully apply for immigration status. There is a 30 day comment period for this proposed rule, and any member of the public can submit a comment as long as it is done no later than December 30, 2019. City of Minneapolis immigration services contract partner Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota has more information about this rule including a link to the Federal Register notice. Organizations that may be interested in submitting a comment may be interested in this guidance.
Temporary Protected Status extended for citizens of certain countries
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that Temporary Protected Status will be extended until January 4, 2021 for citizens of the following countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan. Separately, USCIS extended TPS for citizens of Syria, through March 31, 2021. More information, in multiple languages, is available on the TPS page of the USCIS website. Those who qualify should regularly check the TPS webpage in addition to consulting with an immigration attorney/nonprofit legal service organization to learn more about this extension.
DACA oral argument before the Supreme Court on November 12, 2019
The US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on November 12 on the subject of whether the Trump administration's termination of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program was lawful, with a decision expected to be issued by June 2020. DACA recipients should consult with an attorney now for advice on filing renewal applications. Partner organizations that work with the City of Minneapolis and are ready to provide information about DACA renewal eligibility include Volunteer Lawyers Network (651-752-6677) and Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (651-641-1011). DACA recipients who cannot afford to pay the $495 renewal fee and are citizens of Mexico may contact the Mexican Consulate at 520-612-7874 to learn whether they qualify for assistance in paying the filing fee. Please contact the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs if you are interested in helping a DACA beneficiary pay the DACA renewal fee.
People interested in sharing their DACA story and learning more about DACA can visit the Home is Here webpage.
Immigration update: Asylum news
A person who has been persecuted or has a well founded fear of persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group may qualify for asylum in the United States. Our federal government has issued a rule which will prevent applicants who 1) entered the US after July 16, 2019, 2) transited through a third country before entering the US and 3) did not apply for asylum in that third country before entering the US from qualifying for asylum. There are exceptions to this rule, and the rule is being challenged in federal court. It is important to know that other forms of relief from deportation are still available to victims of persecution, including relief under the Convention Against Torture. More information about the impact of this rule can be found here.
Also in asylum news, on September 9, the federal government issued a proposed rule that would eliminate the federal regulation requiring initial work authorization documents for asylum applicants to be processed within 30 days. More information about the proposed rule here. There is a 60 day notice and comment period which allows anyone to express their opinion about the rule, so long as this is done by the end of the comment period, which is November 8, 2019.
On Wednesday, August 14, the federal government issued a immigration agency rule which could impact the ability of some people to qualify for permanent resident, or "green card," status. This rule is commonly known as the "public charge" rule, and it expands the criteria and type of benefits that the government can point to in deciding whether to grant or deny green card applications for certain applicants. This rule is anticipated to take effect 60 days after publication. Several states, including the State of Minnesota, have joined a lawsuit in federal court in Washington state to prevent this rule from taking effect.
Community members should know that the public charge test does NOT apply to applicants for US citizenship, people who hold asylum or refugee status, Special Immigrant Juveniles, TPS, VAWA, U or T visas, or green cards based upon these classifications. You can get free legal information advice on public benefits and public charge, either by phone or through a presentation in your community, by contacting Mid Minnesota Legal Aid at 1-800-292-4150. Additional information about the subject of public charge can be found on the webpage for Protecting Immigrant Families and Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.
UPDATE: On Friday, October 11, 2019 federal courts in multiple states granted injunctions preventing implementation of the public charge rule nationwide while the legality of the rule is decided upon by the courts. More information is available at the Protecting Immigrant Families webpage, indicated above.
Immigration update: Expedited Removal
On July 23, the federal government issued a notice expanding expedited removal to individuals who have been in the United States without authorization for less than 2 years. Expedited removal is a way for immigration officials to quickly deport people from the US without allowing them to see an immigration judge or attorney, although a person who expresses a fear of returning to their home country must be referred for an interview before an asylum officer. An informational sheet on expedited removal prepared by Pennsylvania State University Center for Immigrant Rights can be found here. For more information regarding the expedited removal process, please contact OIRA at [email protected].
Immigration Update: July 12, 2019
News outlets report that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may start enforcement operations in ten U.S. cities starting this Sunday. While Minneapolis was not listed by ICE as one of these ten cities, we know that reports like these cause fear. Minneapolis is a Welcoming City and we remain vigilant. OIRA is working closely with our immigration legal service partners to connect people to existing legal clinics, know your rights presentations, and community organizations that offer protection, advice and support when our community members need it most
Mayor Jacob Frey, City Council President Lisa Bender and Minneapolis Police Chief Medeira Arradondo have made their position on threatened immigration enforcement activity clear. A portion of their statement is excerpted below:
"The City of Minneapolis condemns any actions that would put our residents and families at risk or actions that instill fear in our community. The City of Minneapolis is a welcoming city that believes all people, including immigrants, are valuable contributors to society, vital to the success of our communities and to our shared future.
Minneapolis Police have not and will not cooperate with, nor participate in, any such ICE activity. Minneapolis officials are prohibited from taking any action to detect or apprehend people based solely on their immigration status. Our entire city is proud to stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers, sisters and neighbors. By replacing fear with knowledge, the City of Minneapolis works to make our communities safer. The City partners with legal service organizations to ensure that residents have access to competent legal information and advice, regardless of ability to pay."
Immigration Related information and Resources
Please Contact OIRA for additional resources
- City of Minneapolis Frequently Asked Questions on Immigration Enforcement
- Sample Motion to Reopen Instructions
- United We Dream video
- Know your rights: ACLU of Minnesota
- Finding an immigration lawyer in your area
- Additional Know Your Rights Resources:
- Mexican Consulate in St. Paul:
- (651) 334-8562 (Mexican Consulate Protection Line)
- (520) 623-7874 (24/7 Mexican Consulate Protection Hotline)
- Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota: 651-641-1011
- If you see deportation agents or someone at risk you can contact the MigraWatch Hotline at 1-844-363-1423 (Open 24/7)
Important Immigration News
- Immigration Bulletin, June-July 2019
- Immigration Bulletin, April 19-May 17, 2019
- Immigration Bulletin, March 16-April 18, 2019
- DED Extended for Citizens of Liberia to 2020 March 28, 2019
- Immigration Bulletin February 15-March 15, 2019
- TPS and DED update
- Immigration Bulletin January 16-February 14, 2019
- Immigration Bulletin December 24, 2018- January 15, 2019
Applying for US Citizenship
Applying for naturalization, or US citizenship, is an important step for US permanent residents. US citizens have legal rights, including the right to vote, to obtain a US passport, and to sponsor a relative for immigration benefits. There are many legal service organizations in the Twin Cities area that provide information and legal representation for those who are interested in learning more about how to apply for US citizenship.
Information on how to qualify for and obtain assistance in applying for US citizenship:
- International Institute of Minnesota
- Mid Minnesota Legal Aid
- Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
- Hennepin County Office of Multicultural Services
- Volunteer Lawyers Network
Our principal responsibilities are to:
- Inform City leaders about federal immigration developments and advise on policy initiatives to support affected residents.
- Equip community members with information regarding immigration developments, positioning them to protect and defend their rights.
- Educate residents about existing resources to address immigration issues and other needs, whether through local government or through legal, social service or other nonprofit organizations.
The Office takes a proactive, coordinated, enterprise-wide approach to accomplish the following:
- Enhance the civic and social integration of immigrant and refugee communities.
- Promote economic development and ensure access to resources and programs within immigrant and refugee communities across Minneapolis.
- Collaborate with federal, state and local governing bodies, nonprofit organizations and community stakeholders on immigrant and refugee issues, programs and policies.
- Advocate for continued immigration reforms at all levels of government to eliminate inequities.
- Provide relevant, accurate information and education—including community resources—to residents regarding significant issues that impact immigrants and refugees.
- Ensure that Minneapolis remains a welcoming city for immigrants, refugees and existing residents.
Responsibilities of the Office include:
- Educate policy-makers, City departments and the public on the needs of immigrant and refugee communities, and represent the City in the public discourse around immigration with constructive messages.
- Analyze the impact of City programs and policies on immigrant and refugee communities, and recommend improvements.
- Lead a multi-departmental team to create programs and activities that strengthen the City’s immigrant and refugee communities.
- Manage referrals to community organizations that serve immigrants and refugees, providing information and contacts.
- Support the establishment of an Immigrant and Refugee Commission upon approval of City Council.
- Build strategic, meaningful relationships with stakeholders and the larger community to advocate on behalf of immigrant and refugee families.
- Coordinate work with the department’s community specialists concerning immigrant and refugee initiatives.
- Support the City’s membership and activities with local, regional, national and international networks, collaborations and organizations.
Meet Director Michelle Rivero
Michelle Rivero is the Director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, housed within the Neighborhood and Community Relations Department. Michelle has been an immigration attorney for the last 18 years. Her work has included representing clients in immigration court proceedings (detained and nondetained), asylum applicants, crime victims seeking U visas, VAWA applicants (victims of domestic violence), Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries, applicants for US citizenship, as well as individuals petitioning for family members to come to or remain in the United States.
Community Engagement and Research
To build awareness and inform the work of our office, we have begun a community engagement process—interviewing stakeholders and convening community round tables. Information from this process defines our scope of work. We asked you what we should focus on and these themes emerged:
- Economic advancement
- Promotion of values
- Cultural work and healing
Last updated Mar 27, 2020