Month: August 2015

Lawsuit Nets Client Quickly Approved Naturalization

We have a client.  He is Muslim.  He is from India.  He applied for citizenship on August 20, 2012.  He was fingerprinted, but USCIS never scheduled him for an interview.

So he waited.  And waited.  And waited.

He visited USCIS from time to time and they told him that they were waiting for the results of his background check.  He called the USCIS 1-800 number.  And he waited some more.

On August 12, 2015, he hired us to sue USCIS to compel them to act on his case.  We filed suit that same day.  We brought USCIS a copy of the lawsuit the next day.  USCIS finally interviewed our Muslim Indian client on August 25, 2015.  He was approved on the spot.

So this kind man went from waiting for three years for USCIS to decide his case to an approved naturalization applicant.  In less than two weeks after hiring us.  Certainly, every lawsuit case does not resolve this quickly, but it is amazing what happens when USCIS gets called out in federal court for their delays.

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Immigration Judge criticized for not ruling on long-delayed deportation and asylum cases

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A Houston immigration judge, Judge Mimi Yam, has reportedly failed to do her part to reduce the overcrowded immigration court docket by going a total of 24 months in the last five years without issuing a single ruling.  She has decided only a small fraction of the cases as her fellow judges.  

Like most deportation courts, Houston has faced a record number of pending cases in 2015.  There are currently 31,000 pending cases at that city’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.  Judge Richard Walton decided 700 cases through May of this year, while Yam has decided only 15 in that same span of time.

An attorney that represents Judge Yam, claims that she was placed on leave for whistle-blowing.  Jason Zuckerman, a Washington, D.C. attorney, said in a statement, “The Executive Office of Immigration Review has retaliated against Judge Yam in violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act.  The EOIR should reinstate Judge Yam immediately.”

The head of the National Association of Immigration Judges, Hon. Dana Leigh Marks, explained that 233 immigration judges are hearing cases full time.  That means that each judge could be handling an average of 2,000 cases.  For comparison, federal district court judges handle about 440 at a given time.

Due to President Obama’s prioritizing of certain cases, many cases are being pushed back to be heard during or after 2019.  The average delay in Houston is roughly 673 days.  

Between July 2014 and May 2015, Yam decided only 293 cases.  In October, she decided zero cases, while in September she decided 122.  Judge Walton decided more than 1,400 cases and two other judges (Brisack and Yates) decided over 1,000 cases.  

Houston immigration attorney’s explain that even straightforward cases would remain stagnant in Yam’s court.  The long delays are said to correlate with her long absences and unstable docket.  

Delays in immigration courts can leave immigrants in peril.  This delay also allows immigrants to stay for years when they perhaps should’ve been sent home quickly.  

One case involved an Ethiopian woman that sought asylum because she could face death for losing her virginity outside of marriage.  She is quoted as saying, “”They would have had to harm me to keep their access to heaven,” in reference to her family’s interpretation of Islam.  She has been waiting for asylum since 2013.  Before her case could be heard in Yam’s court, the hearing was postponed to 2019.

 

 

Chicago immigration attorney indicted for allegedly filing false asylum cases

Robert DeKelaita, a Chicago-based immigration attorney, was indicted following his client’s admission to authorities that Mr. DeKelaita advised him to lie on his asylum application.  Mr. DeKelaita specializes in representing Iraqi Christians. DeKelaita has been said to have continuously told his clients to distort their past when being interviewed by immigration authorities.  

According to the September 23 indictment, the misinformation included “false names, false religions, false dates of travel, false dates of entry into the United States,” among a host of other falsifications.  The indictment further charges that he “wrote and created false asylum statements detailing non-existent accounts of purported religious persecution, including fictitious accounts of rape and murder, and attached these statements to the [CIS] Form I-589 he submitted on behalf of his clients.”  

Mr. DeKelaita’s translator also faces indictment for “mistranslat[ing] answers given by the clients and add[ing] testimony not actually stated by the clients during the course of the asylum interviews.”

U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon charged Mr. DeKelaita with three counts of immigration fraud, three counts of suborning perjury and one count of conspiracy to commit immigration and naturalization fraud.  

According to federal law, asylum is only granted upon proof of persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, or had a well-founded fear of persecution.”  Those that are granted asylum are eligible to receive lawful permanent residency, and possibly naturalized U.S. citizenship.  

Several clients have allegedly been coached to present false information by Mr. DeKelaita.  M.J., a client of DeKelaita’s, was reportedly advised to tell federal immigration officers that she had been threatened by Muslim extremists. Another client, identified as “Client H.A.,” falsely claimed that his house in Iraq had been burned down by Islamic extremists and that his brother was “put on an elimination list.”

 

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Cuban physicians stuck in Columbia await help from the U.S.

A protest made up of roughly 100 Cuban doctors took place in Colombia on Saturday.  The protest aimed at drawing attention to their difficulty in entering the United States due to President Obama’s attempt to normalize relations with Cuba and disband a 2006 program that sought to bring doctors away from the island nation.  The doctors were fleeing from Venezuela in the hopes of coming to the U.S.  

The doctors described harsh conditions and mistreatment in Venezuela which has led many to contemplate illegally crossing the border into the United States.  Ailen Garcia, a pregnant 25-year-old dentist, has been waiting for a response on a U.S. visa for six months.  She and her husband have been renting a small room in a working-class neighborhood for $200 a month.  

Since the 1960s, Cuba has sent health care professionals around the world as part of this international outreach program. There are currently 50,000 Cuban health care workers practicing medicine around the world.  The idea of this program is to boost international revenue.

In 2006, the U.S. created a program that intended to cut off the communist government from much of its foreign revenue.  It is believed that a majority of the money the Cuban government collects from the nations it serves goes straight back to the Cuban government, as opposed to the medical professionals.

The U.S. State Department has claimed that the U.S.’s recent attempt to normalize relations has had no correlation with the 2006 program’s receding influence.

The sign used as the backdrop for press briefings at the U.S. Department of State is seen before a press conference at the State Department Thursday, Aug. 10, 2006 in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The sign used as the backdrop for press briefings at the U.S. Department of State is seen before a press conference at the State Department Thursday, Aug. 10, 2006 in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

 

Man born on military base not a US citizen, can be deported

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a man born on a U.S. military base in Germany is not a U.S. citizen and can be deported.  The Court upheld the decision of an immigration judge authorizing the deportation.

Jermaine Amani Thomas was born in August of 1986 on a military base in Frankfurt, Germany.  His father was a naturalized U.S. citizen.  Thomas’s mother was a Kenyan citizen.  Thomas was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in July of 1989.  After arrival, Thomas was convicted of a crime of domestic violence and two or more crimes involving moral turpitude.  In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security issued a Notice to Appear, seeking to deport him due to the convictions.

As his lone defense, Thomas asserted that he was a U.S. citizen by operation of law.  The immigration judge initially ruled that because Thomas was born in Germany and outside the U.S., he was presumed to be an alien and not a citizen.  The judge then reviewed the Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual and the Constitution and held that despite being born on a military base, Thomas was not a U.S. citizen.  The Board of Immigration Appeals sided with the government and denied the man’s initial appeal.

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He appealed to the Fifth Circuit.  The Court began its analysis by noting that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants birthright citizenship to “all persons born … in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”  At the time of Thomas’s birth, Congress extended birthright citizenship to children born abroad to one citizen parent and one alien parent, if the citizen met certain physical-presence requirements.  Thomas’s father did not meet the physical presence requirement.  As such, the only way that Thomas could be a U.S. citizen would be if the military base in Germany was legally “in the United States” for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Thomas’s attorneys argued that the Fourteenth Amendment should be extended to include any place where the U.S. “exercises its sovereignty,” i.e., a military base abroad.  The Court refused to adopt this approach, instead using a literal reading of the Fourteenth Amendment and the use of the word “in.”  The Court refused to liken Thomas’s situation to people born in American territories, instead sticking to its literal interpretation of the express language of the Amendment.  As such, the Court ruled that Thomas can be deported.

 

 

Weekly Immigration Update – August 10, 2015

The Hacking clan just returned from a whirlwind trip to Florida.  We managed to catch a minor league baseball game, go snorkeling, enjoy the sun and the beach and visited Universal Studios in Orlando for a few days.  The kids had a great time.  Amany and I are ready for them to head back to school next Monday.

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Here’s this week’s immigration news.

USCIS Finally Issues Asylum Scheduling Bulletin

For the first time, the asylum office of USCIS has issued a scheduling bulletin.  The bulletin provides insight into the timing and delays associated with the processing of affirmative asylum cases by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service.  This is a good step towards greater accountability from the asylum office.  One of the biggest complaints that we receive from our clients is that asylum interviews take a very long time and that USCIS does a poor job of communicating regarding the delays.  USCIS promises to update the asylum scheduling bulletin every month.  It reveals that these cases are taking a very long time to be scheduled for interview.  For instance, the Chicago Asylum office is currently scheduling interviews for applications filed in May of 2013, more than 2 years ago.

Runners to Race Across U.S.-Mexico Border

In a show of international solidarity, the first officially sanctioned running event between the cities of Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas, took place last week.  Juarez has been known as one of the most violent cities in the world, due to drug-cartel related violence.  Now, Juarez has seen a resurgence and a decrease in crime.  Last week’s 10K race was scheduled to celebrate greater cooperation between the two cities.  The race began in El Paso and participants then crossed into Juarez before crossing the finish line at the center of a bridge between the two cities.  Athletics serve as a great way to unite people and we are excited about this interesting race.

US News Offers International Students’ Guide to U.S. Scholarships

Last week, US News and World Report published a guide to help international students obtain scholarships in the United States.  International students typically pay the highest tuition rates at American colleges and universities.  This report shows the wide array of scholarship options available to international students.  The report highlights the Institute of International Education which publishes a list of financial aid opportunities which is frequently updated.  You may be surprised by the amount of such scholarships – for instance the University of Oregon awards more than $1 million each year to students born outside of the U.S.

Obama Wants to Keep Moms and Kids Locked Up

Department of Justice lawyers filed a brief in federal court last week arguing that the Obama administration should not be required to release migrant mothers and children into the U.S. and should instead be allowed to continue its current detention policies.  Last month, a federal judge issued a scathing ruling decrying the fact that children were being held in “widespread and deplorable conditions” and called for their mass release within 90 days.  The DOJ has fired back claiming that they have streamlined policies and denying that they have a punitive “no release” policy in place to deter anyone from trying to enter the country illegally.  The DOJ response has been decried by immigration advocates who note the horrible conditions that allow for these mothers and children to be detained in prison-like conditions for months on end.

On that sad note, we wish you a happy week!

USCIS Asylum Office Issues Scheduling Bulletin

For the first time, the asylum office of USCIS has issued a scheduling bulletin.  The bulletin provides insight into the timing and delays associated with the processing of affirmative asylum cases by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service.

The asylum division of USCIS has prioritized the processing of cases and now proceeds in the following manner:

  1. Applications that were scheduled for interview and then rescheduled due to either the applicant’s request or the request of USCIS;
  2. Applications involving minor children; and,
  3. First come, first-served, i.e., in the chronological order in which they were received.

In the bulletin, USCIS also provides data on which cases are currently being processed.  This is a good step towards greater accountability from the asylum office.  One of the biggest complaints that we receive from our clients is that asylum interviews take a very long time and that USCIS does a poor job of communicating regarding the delays.

USCIS promises to update the asylum scheduling bulletin every month.  It reveals that these cases are taking a very long time to be scheduled for interview.  For instance, the Chicago Asylum office is currently scheduling interviews for applications filed in May of 2013, more than 2 years ago.  And cases are rarely decided on the date of the interview.  We have cases in which the interview occurred in early 2014 that still have not been decided.

This is a good first step towards greater transparency, but something must be done to speed up these cases.  USCIS has been hiring additional officers, but the delays continue.

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