Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
The present immigration system is flawed and vicious. The expansion of the term "aggravated felony" in 1996 made nearly every alien convicted of a felony deportable without relief, no matter how long they lived here, whether anyone was hurt by their crime, or how their family would be affected.
ICE arrests far too many non-criminal aliens, and the private facilities in which they are jailed are a national disgrace. ICE routinely "disappears" aliens, and leaves their family wondering what happened to them for 72 hours or more -- when it would seem easy to let the alien make a phone call.
Bring on that reform Mr. President, and be ambitious about it, for God's sake!
Monday, September 21, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
My client is a native of Nicaragua, who has been married to his wife for more than seven years. they have four USC kids together, and she is the one who petitioned for him to get permanent residence in the first place. But -- when the couple failed to appear for their interview for removal of conditions, he was put in deportation proceedings and ordered deported.
Nevermind that the address they sent his notices to was NOT the address he specified as his mailing address on his petition to remove conditions (a cautious man, he wanted to make sure he got his notices, so he got a P.O. Box expressly for that purpose).
Nevermind that the ISO did not notice the mistake when my client failed to show for his interview. Nevermind that the Judge failed to notice that when he ordered my client deported. Nevermind that my client was nearly deported to the wrong country and he has been physically abused the entire month he has been at Krome --and that my client is deaf and they cannot communicate with him at Krome -- this story will have a happy ending.
But, for the love of God! ISOs -- if you have an alien miss an appointment, call the number on the petition! Check the address on the mailing, and make sure it went to the right place! Judges, do not be so quick to believe the government when they state that they sent a notice to the correct address. Check it out for yourself!
Incredibly annoying that they don't know where my client is for his 751 interview. They don't know where he is for his court hearing. But they do know exactly where he is when they want to arrest him.
We are better than this, America!
A tip of the cap to my esteemed colleague at the Chief Counsel's office who chose not to oppose the Motion to Reopen. I hope you do not get in too much trouble for doing the right thing.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
His aged mother and father, his wife and kids, and his brothers and sisters all were quite happy that he got to stay. The IJ was even kind enough to salute my client's six year old daughter, who wrote a touching letter to the IJ that brought my client to tears when he read it aloud at the request of the IJ.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
These quotas encouraged ICE agents to go after any alien here without permission, so that they could fill their assigned number of arrests. Their focus should properly be on the aliens who have been ordered deported already, or who have been convicted of crimes that make them a danger to american society.
I have know too many families that were torn apart for no reason lately. Now I know the reason, and I glad to see that the quota system has come to an end.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Top 5 things that must change in immigration:
1. Bond must be available to all non-criminal detainees. It serves no one to keep non-criminal aliens in custody (and costs the US money). This no brainer should have happened already.
2. The term "drug trafficking" needs to be redefined, so that a drug felony does not make one inadmissible for life. It makes sense to penalize drug traffickers, and who can be against that? But as it is defined now, drug trafficking includes nearly every felony drug crime, and that is incredibly stupid. And how about a time limit?
True fact: Murder someone and you may apply for permanent residency. Get convicted of possession with intent to sell one vicodin, and you may never apply. I have a client convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to sell in 1975. He cannot ever gain permanent residence in the US, because he is a "drug trafficker."
3. More visas need to be allocated to those awaiting permanent residence based on a family preference petition. Do you know that if you are a permanent resident who wishes to have your wife and child join you here, currently you must wait six years before they will be able to come here (unless you are from Mexico, where the wait is 18 (18!) years. You politicos say you want people to come legally. How about making it possible and making the wait less arduous and long.
True fact: If you are here with a work visa, your wife appears at the US Embassy and gets her visa and comes to join you immediately (two to four weeks). If you are a permanent resident, then you wait six years. If you are a US citizen, you apply for your wife and she will be here in 1 to 1 1/2 years. Crazy.
4. Create a retirement visa. It is insane that wealthy foreigners cannot come in here to spend their money without working, unless they want to do it for six months per year. Let them come in and spend, so long as the agree to summary removal if their stay in the US costs the government any money at all, and they provide proof of insurance.
5. Give permanent residence to any alien who has a Masters degree. The European Union currently does this, and they are attracting the best and brightest over there. The US will not maintain its position atop the world based on number of people (China), resources (Russia) and we are currently hard pressed to do it based on education and technology (India). Why not use the thing we have that everyone wants, residency, and use it to get the best and brightest here? This would allow us to poach the best brains from around the world, and allow us to maintain our supremacy abroad.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
But in this case, there is no other reason why my client was arrested than his religion. My client entered the US legally, on a B-2 visa. He got married to a US citizen and applied for permanent residence (all perfectly legal and above board).
My client is from a predominantly Muslim country, and he is Muslim as well. When we went to get his permanent residence, at the interview we were informed that he needed to register for NSEERS to get his green card. This was news to me. My client had no duty to register for NSEERS when he arrived -- it was not like he made a mistake and did not register, nor is he an alien who ignored the registration requirements while he lived here. As a new arrival, he would have been registered upon his entry if that was necessary.
Yet, we dutifully made the appointment with CBP and went to register. At registration, my client, a non-criminal 19 year old, was arrested and taken to the Immigration Facility (PRISON) euphemistically named the "Broward Transitional Center". When I last saw my client, he was in a 6' by 6' cell, with a chrome toilet with no seat. My client was shocked and terrified that he was being arrested, and I had no answers for him. It does make no sense.
I questioned the CBP officers and asked if he was being arrested for violating rules -- did he not register when he should have? Did they think his marriage to the US citizen was not real? What did he do wrong?
The incredibly unsatisfying answer they gave me was that he had done nothing wrong, but since he was "out of status", because his B-2 entry expired, they had to arrest him. I pointed out that my client was not deportable, as he was an applicant for permanent residence, but the officer said that was a matter for the Immigration Judge. My client was arrested for being Muslim.
I handle about 100 cases per year which are simple applications for permanent residence in Tampa. Very few of the applicants have current visas or are "in status". No one, except anyone Muslim, apparently, is arrested.
We could not have extended the B-2 while pending an application for permanent residence -- as one must prove that they intend to leave the US soon to extend the B-2.
My client will get his green card and will live here in the future, after being in jail for two to three weeks and dealing with incredible paperwork hassles, but now the actions of my government embarass me and make me wonder who does this arrest serve?
The arrest does not benefit the US, as this kid posed no threat to anyone. The arrest does not benefit the Immigration Court, as they have plenty of cases to deal with. The arrest most certainly does not benefit the US government's image with Muslims in America, who already worry that they are treated differently than everyone else.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Today we met with one of the great ISOs at Tampa, and he easily approved the case, finding that my client's marriage to her US citizen former husband was a real and bona fide relationship.
Congratulations my friends! Felicidades mi amigas!
See you in 2011 for citizenship.....
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The wrong charge on the NTA affected my client greatly as he was held in KROME with dangerous criminal aliens -- murderers, rapists, drug dealers -- rather than with the aliens he should have been held with.
The wrong charge did not hurt my client for too long, and I got him qualified for bond Friday morning, with the assistance of the wise ACC Michael Mansfield. The aggravated felony charge (which normally forbids bond) was ignored by Mr. Mansfield and a reasonable bond was set. I had the bond paperwork in my hand at 8:15 a.m. My client should get out that day from KROME easily right? Right?
Not so easy. Although the IJ ordered bond at 8:15 a.m., the Deportation Officer in Miami in charge of my client's case did not have the paperwork for the bond until close to 2 p.m. My client's father, who was at Tampa CIS waiting to provide the bond, had to just sit and wait from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. until they finally let him post bond. I have to acknowledge the great work by Tampa ICE making sure that my client got released the same day from KROME, as generally bond provided that late does not ensure a same day release.
My client was free at 8:45 p.m. His father was there waiting to pick him up. Now we will go to Orlando to return my client to his lawful permanent resident status.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
It is a fairly simple thing to file if the couple is still together. You file proof that the marriage continues, and CIS will either grant the permanent green card or call you in for an interview.
It is a fairly simple thing to file if the couple is divorced. The alien needs to file proof that the marriage was real, and CIS will most likely call the alien in for an interview.
BEWARE -- if you divorce within two years of gaining your lawful permanent residency, CIS may presume that your marriage was fake, and the burden will be entirely on you to show that it was real. If you divorce more than two years after you got your residency, it is presumed that your marriage is real, and the burden is on the government to show that it was false if they want to take your green card away.
The problem with I-751s has always been that CIS does not know what to do when you file as a married person and then divorce prior to your I-751 interview. Tampa CIS's view has been recently that your joint I-751 must be denied before you can then file a new I-751 on your own. Now a memo from CIS HQ (Neufeld, Acting Assoc. Director) shows that a joint petition may be changed to a waiver petition by request of the alien. This commonsense view is long overdue, and actually returns CIS to the policy INS had from 1999 - 2002 (or thereabouts).
This change change change would be comical if it did not affect so many people's lives. I have had clients who filed three separate I-751s before CIS would give them a decision on their marriage. I also know too many who never knew their joint petition was denied because the notice denying the petition and the notice sending them to Immigration Court was sent to the marital address (where they no longer lived). They learned about the denial when ICE came to arrest them (because THEN CIS knew where they lived).
Can we not have a form that allows married couples and unmarried aliens to petition for removal of conditions, that does not have all these loopholes and "gotcha's"? It should be enough to keep the green card if an alien, married or unmarried, can prove that the marriage was real.
The new memo helps some, but we really need a new form.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
How to check your attorney's (we will call him "Bobby Lawyer") reputation:
1. Google "Bobby Lawyer complaints"
2. Check the state bar website. This will tell you (in Florida) only if he is a member of the bar--and if he has any disciplinary history it will show here -- here it is http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/flabarwe.nsf
3. go to http://avvo.com and find your lawyer -- this is a website that allows lawyers and clients to post their thoughts on practicing attorneys. You cannot pay to have a better rating, nor can you influence the site by advertising.
4. Talk to your friends, family and others you know, and see if anyone knows about this lawyer.
5. Ask many questions of your lawyer when you meet him. If he is insecure in the least about his knowledge of the subject you are discussing, he will be upset that you dare to question him.
By following these simple steps, you can most likely find out if hiring the lawyer you are considering is a good or bad idea. Good luck!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
That means, to those of you with evil inclinations, that you may bring your fiancee here, marry her, and then keep her in bondage by refusing to apply for her green card. Your fiancee will have to keep you happy, and hope that in the future you will apply for her -- or she can go home.
There are a few means clever attorneys may use to get around the K-1 entry restriction, but why does it exist in the first place? A spouse who comes over to join her US citizen husband may divorce him on shortly after arrival in the US and keep her green card or get a different green card from another spouse.
Surely the K-1 entrant can be judged as may be the spouse, and we may look to their behavior after they entered the US to determine whether or not they intended to meet and marry their betrothed. There is no need for this ridiculous rule for only fiancees.
In my career as an immigration attorney, I have seen the K-1 visa misused a great deal, and it has been my pleasure to save some nice aliens from their US citizen spouses, despite the K-1 restriction. But if there is no great reason for the restriction, why does it still exist?
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
There are many competing bills in Congress. Here are the new bills dealing with immigration introduced in June 2009.
from AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 09070666 (posted Jul. 6, 2009)
People Resolved to Obtain an Understanding of Democracy Act, or PROUD Act (H.R. 2681)Introduced by Rep. Baca (D-CA) on 06/03/09Summary: To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for naturalization for certain high school graduates.
Employee Verification Amendment Act of 2009 (H.R. 2679)Introduced by Rep. Giffords (D-AZ) on 06/03/09Summary: To extend certain immigration programs, and for other purposes.
Reuniting Families Act (H.R. 2709)Introduced by Rep. Honda (D-CA) on 06/04/09Summary: To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to promote family unity, and for other purposes.
Criminal Alien Accountability Act (H.R. 2837)Introduced by Rep. Issa (R-CA) on 06/11/09Summary: To amend section 276 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to impose mandatory sentencing ranges with respect to aliens who reenter the United States after having been removed, and for other purposes.
Orphans, Widows, and Widowers Protection Act (S. 1247)Introduced by Rep. Menendez (D-NJ) on 06/11/09Summary: A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to promote family unity, and for other purposes.
H.R. 2954Introduced by Rep. Quigley (D-IL) on 06/18/09Summary: To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to extend the authority of the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive certain requirements under the visa waiver program for an additional 2 years.
Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act of 2009 (S.1337)Introduced by Rep. Akaka (D-HI) on 06/24/09 Summary: A bill to exempt children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas.
Note: Each week hundreds of bills are introduced into the House and Senate, and the likelihood of any particular bill moving is usually very small. The bills posted on this page represent all immigration-related legislation introduced this week, not legislation AILA believes is important or likely to succeed.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Example: When my clients go to their final hearing in deportation proceedings, they have met with me and my associate attorney three to six times to prepare for the hearing. They have a written list of what questions I will ask, and they know my estimation of what the government attorney and the Immigration Judge will be most interested in that day. They know what will happen, where they will sit when they are answering quesitons, and they know how to dress and how to sit to look their best.
I know for a fact that some aliens with attorneys do not know that their final hearing is their final hearing until the Immigration Judge tells them when they are standing before him. They have not prepared for the hearing, and they did not know they would be asked questions.
Who do you think has a better chance of getting the relief from deportation that they seek?
For my adjustment of status clients, we have a pre-meeting in my office where we collect and copy bona fide marriage evidence, and review the file and prepare for the interview. We discuss questions that may be asked, and I tell my clients exactly what will happen when at their interview.
That is why most of my clients have a pleasant time at CIS, and why they most often leave with the stamp in their passport showing they are now lawful permanent residents, like the wife of the couple here:
More satisfied clients! Damn -- I love my job.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Why then, do some ACCs see their job as incomplete unless someone is deported? Some ACCs seem to view their job as prosecutor for the government. They will concede no relief to any applicant, even if the evidence is clear and the Immigration Judge indicates he will rule for the alien.
An ACC recently appealed a decision of the IJ in one of my cases, where my clients were appealing for relief based on extreme hardship. The wife of the family already has a green card, so if the husband and kids get green cards, the US gains a legal, tax paying family, and the US is not harmed because my clients are not law breakers or bad people. The ACC appealed the IJs ruling of relief in the case, saying that he misapplied the "extreme hardship" standard.
The practical effect of the appeal was that my clients had to hire me, again, to handle the appeal for them, but what does the ACC win if he wins his appeal? He wins a family torn apart, where the mother must remain in the US without her husband and kids, if she wishes to become a US citizen so that she can petition for them to return. He wins the return of the husband and kids to the hellhole they left at great risk 10 years ago to come to the US. He wins nothing.
I am sure the ACC in that case can assure himself that he bears no grudge against the alien, and he would tell me that he is just doing his job, and trying to make sure the law is properly applied. And I would say, "it may be legal, but that doesn't make it right."
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The officer today went out of his way (again) to tell my clients, who were previously represented by an attorney in Miami, that they needed to prove that a waiver was justified in their case. He explained at length what the waiver was for, and explained that although they come from a poor and dangerous country, that is not enough, on its own, for a successful waiver application. Their previous attorney had submitted a one page letter by the wife, broken into three bulletpoints, about the hardship she, and her four children, would suffer were her husband denied his lawful permanent residence. The letter from the wife (written by the lawyer, I imagine) even misspelled the name of the husband.
This one letter, by itself, constitutes a terrible application for a waiver that must be denied, regardless of the hardship one could properly assume for one from a country so poor and dangerous.
This nice Immigration Service Officer was entitled to deny the waiver and send these people on their way (see "Matter of Brantigan"), but he decided to bring the people back in so that he could explain the waiver requirements to them again. Uncalled for, incredibly nice, above and beyond the call of duty, and a credit to this officer and his office.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Permanent Resident Card Production Delays
USCIS is announcing that applicants may experience up to an eight week delay in the delivery of their permanent resident card while we are in the process of upgrading our card production equipment. USCIS Field Offices will be issuing temporary evidence of permanent residence in the form of an I-551 stamp to applicants approved for permanent residence at the time of their interview. You will need to take your passport to your appointment. If you do not have a passport, you must bring a passport style photo and government issued photo identification to receive temporary evidence of permanent residence.
If the application is approved subsequent to your interview or by a Service Center or the National Benefit Center, the applicant should bring the above documents to an INFOPASS appointment to be issued temporary evidence of permanent residence in the form of an I-551 stamp.
Monday, June 22, 2009
In one of my favorite cases, my client came to see me after she saw a well known Tampa immigration attorney. She was in deportation proceedings because she lied about being unmarried at the time she got her green card (she was married, and not eligble for the green card). The other attorney told her there was nothing she could do, and he encouraged her to make plans to leave the country. When my client got home from the consultation with this lawyer, she got a phone call from a realtor, who wanted to know if she needed help selling her home. She believes that the realtor was told of her situation by the lawyer she met, which would be a shocking violation of attorney-client priviledge.
My client came to see me for a second opinion (thank God!) and I was able to tell her that she was going nowhere, she did not have to make plans to leave, and that I would help her regain her lawful permanent residence. My client is again a permanent resident, waiting for citizenship, and she and her family never had to move. I love this job!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
In some cases the officer will see each spouse separately, and will ask questions designed to discover if the marriage is real or is one entered into solely for immigration benefits. Some sample questions are:
- where do you shop for groceries?
- what is trash day in your neighborhood?
- who sleeps on which side of the bed?
- who got up first this morning?
- what did you do last weekend?
- how did you celebrate your husband's birthday?
The questioning can last a significant time. So long as the Immigration Service Officer ("ISO") is reassured that the marriage is real, the interview will continue. In some cases, the ISO is not reassured, and the case and the people are turned over to the fraud specialists at USCIS.
That is where an interview can get uncomfortable. It would not be unusual for fraud detection officers to use police-like techniques on applicants and their spouse to determine if the marriage is real or not. Tampa USCIS is very good at finding fraud, and if you commit fraud and are caught you will never get a green card here in the US.
Without a finding of fraud, the applicant and spouse will then provide documentary evidence that their marriage is real. This evidence may consist of:
- Photos from vacations, holiday gatherings, and from visits with friends and family;
- Envelopes showing that both receive mail at the marital address;
- Driver’s license showing the same address;
- Statements from joint credit accounts;
- Statement from joint bank accounts, with canceled checks signed by the both spouses, evidencing an active account;
- Joint tenancy in the marital home, shown by lease or mortgage documents (i.e, deed, mortgage, note, title policy, homeowner’s insurance)
- Cable, phone, water and electricity bills mailed to the home address which show "Mr. & Mrs."
- Joint tax returns (if applicable);
- Joint health insurance;
- Joint car insurance (copy of most recent policy showing both drivers)
- Evidence showing that spouses have named each other as beneficiaries of life insurance policies;
- Evidence showing that spouses have named each other as the person to contact in case of emergency at your place of business;
- Affidavits from friends, neighbors, and relatives showing that they know of the good marriage and how they know about it (i.e. "We play bridge every Thursday night at their home"). The writers should also state how long they have known about the relationship. The affiants will have to include their signature, address, printed name, and phone number. If possible, the affidavits should be notarized.
- Copy(s) of birth certificate(s) for all children born to this marriage
If you are prepared for your interview with ample evidence, and your marriage is real, you should not have too much difficulty. If you want to be sure that you will be treated fairly and that you will have your best chance of success you will hire a competent immigration lawyer to represent you at the interview.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Shocker! They are mostly good guys and good girls and all they want is a chance to make a nice life for themselves and their families in the US. If you could see the places they come from and where they lived, slept, and where they got their drinking water from you would understand their desire to climb any obstacle, and endure any hardship to live where their children will have a chance at a decent life.
If you are a US citizen upset about these people coming over here and "stealing your job," I have to tell you something. If you and an illegal immigrant are trying to get the same job, and you, with your US education and legal work papers and ability to read and write English cannot beat out the alien for the job -- you have bigger problems than immigration to worry about.
Our great country was founded as a melting pot of different peoples coming together to form one country. Aliens are not a threat to us, our way of life, or to your job. Let's make legal the aliens who are here and go forward with our lives.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Typically appointments are made at this office for people having interviews for purposes of attaining lawful permanent residence or citizenship. There is an office of Customs and Border Protection located at the same office, and I encourage people who are illegally present or who have been ordered deported in the past to NOT got to the office for any reason.
Few applications are filed at the local office anymore, but applicants may make appointments there to check on the status of their filed and pending cases.
Remember that the Immigration Officers you see are human, and that they are unlikely to respond well if you treat them poorly. It is in your best interest to dress well, smell good, and to treat the Immigration Officer well at any appointment you have.
The main benefit a competent immigration lawyer will bring to your interview is that you will be prepared in advance for questions you will get, and that the lawyer will be there to keep a record of the entire interview. A competent lawyer will also never let you file an application that will result in your arrest and possible deportation.
I love practicing immigration law, because it is one of the few fields in the law where I can help people without hurting other people. When most lawyers win, someone else loses. When my clients win, they win and the US wins as well.
I am active in the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and held a variety of leadership posts back in 2000 - 2003. I have three lawyers at my law firm, and we primarly handle removal/deportation, family immigration and adjustment of status, complicated waiver issues and applying for people to return after deportation, and we handle all business immigration issues.
I offer a free initial consultation, and I like to only be hired when I can do something for my clients. Regrettably I cannot win every case I take, but I pride myself on giving my clients a realistic expectation of their chance for success when they hire me for a case.