Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The joy of my job

I had another hearing today, a 212(c) hearing. My case was well prepared, the client did well, and the government attorney was generous, so everything went fine. My client, who was looking at being deported to his home country if he did not show that he was a good man who was unlikely to offend again the laws of the US, was undestandably relieved.

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.

Good times.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

237(a)(1)(H) granted!

My client was returned to her lawful permanent resident status, because the government attorney in the case recognized that relief was appropriate in this case. Congratulations!

No quotas mean good news!

from the LA Times: "The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday in Los Angeles that he has ended quotas on a controversial program designed to go after illegal immigrants with outstanding deportation orders."

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

What is Obama thinking?

President Obama stated recently that immigration reform, which he called "a priority" must wait until 2010 because of other pressing concerns. He must not know what is going on in the "trenches" of the immigration practice. I have clients who are arrested for nothing, and people who are declared inadmissible for life, because of non-violent crimes committed 30 years ago. Incredibly stupid things are continuing to happen in immigration, and they are now happening on your watch, Mr. President.

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.

CIS sure has changed!

I had a couple inteviews today at CIS. One was an adjustment case that was fairly complicated. My client got voluntary departure and left the US more than 20 year ago and returned illegally after 7 years in his home country. His original application for Permanent Resident was pending from 1996-2006 before it was denied, because he failed to appear for a fingerprint notice. The ISO today (ISO Hon) could not believe it had been pending ten years -- I had to explain to him the "pocket veto" technique of years past when an immigration officer who was not sure what to do on a case could just stick the file in his cabinet and wait.

Clearly such delays are no longer allowed, and CIS gives decisions quickly. Today, for example, my client was told he needed a waiver, because of unlawful presence issues. I was pretty sure that unlawful presence did not apply to my client, and the officer invited me to let him know what I discovered when I returned to my office. I e-mailed the officer and the supervisor (Ms. Warner) two hours later, and let them know what I found, and I was contacted within 5 minutes by the supervisor, letting me know that I was right, and that my client would be approved immediately.

Ten minutes after that I got an e-mail from the ISO, telling me that my client could come down today for his LPR stamp, if he wished. My client, who has been waiting 13 years for his residency, and who has an ill mother in Colombia, does wish to get that stamp today!

I am incredibly impressed with the efforts of ISO Hon and Supervisor Warner. They were never concerned with defending the decisions they made, they just wanted to be right. And that is the right way to do it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Arrested for being a Muslim

I know, I know. This kind of sensationalist headline is usually followed by a story that shows that a guy was arrested correctly, and it had nothing to do with his religion.

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.