Month: June 2016

Judge OKs class action for children in deportation hearings

A glimmer of hope for immigrant children has emerged in a relatively dark and messy period for American immigration and deportation policies. This June, U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly of Seattle has approved a class action lawsuit to determine whether impoverished children are entitled to lawyers during deportation hearings.

Brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and immigration advocates, the case challenges the government’s failure to provide lawyers to children during deportation hearings.

A class action suit, or a representative action as some refer to it as, is a type of lawsuit in which one of the parties is a group of people who are represented collectively by a specific member of that group. In this case, the group of people represented is thousands of children throughout the West.

For years, the United States of America has encountered many cases in which minors are potentially eligible for asylum or citizenship but can’t afford legal representation. Under current policies, the country has run on a system that Matt Adams says “pits unrepresented children against trained federal prosecutors.” Matt Adams, the legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, is highly involved in the lawsuit and has stated that under the ruling, the merits of the practice will be argued in a single case, and the government will have to defend an unjust system.

This lawsuit is coming late in the game, but it is needed now more than ever for the immigrant community. Since 2013, more than 7,000 immigrant children have been deported without appearing in court. What was originally a border crisis for the United States has now become a due process crisis. Wendy Young’s advocacy group Kids in Need of Defense, as well as many other advocacy groups, have been pushing for a system more supportive of minors when it comes to court proceedings.

While it is an alarming thought that America’s fundamental due process right has been repeatedly abused with regards to immigrant children, the class action suit is one of the first steps of many in improving immigration policy that has for a long time been due reformation.

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Supreme Court Kills Off Obama’s Deferred Action Program for Parents of U.S. Citizens

The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked in its review of a lower court’s decision on President Barack Obama’s controversial Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

DAPA would have temporarily halted the deportations of undocumented immigrants and allowed them to work in the U.S. legally.

The 4-4 tie was expressed yesterday in a single sentence “the judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.”

Texas and twenty-five other states challenged the DAPA program which would have shielded as many as 5 million undocumented aliens from deportation. Those eligible included the parents of U.S. citizens and green card holders. The states argued that Obama exceeded his jurisdiction in adopting the program.

A federal judge in Texas ruled against Obama and halted the program a week before it was set to begin in 2014. The feds argued that Texas and the other states lacked standing to bring the action and the judge agreed. An appellate court also agreed which meant that when the Supreme Court tied, the lower court ruling stayed binding.

This ruling deals a harsh blow to many mixed-immigration-status families throughout the U.S. It is expected that deportations will increase following this ruling.

The decision also stresses the importance of federal elections. Republicans have refused to allow comprehensive immigration reform to come to the floor of Congress for a vote. President Obama acted only after years of inaction on the part of Congress.

Republicans also refused to allow Obama’s nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Elections have consequences.

In his comments yesterday, the President said, “If you keep on blocking judges from getting on the bench, then courts can’t issue decisions.  And what that means is then you are going to have the status quo frozen, and we are not able to make progress on some very important issues.”

Hopefully, voters will remember these things in November.

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Former Miss Universe Seeks Citizenship to Vote Against Trump

Former Miss Universe ‘who was dubbed Ms Piggy by bully’ Donald Trump becomes a US citizen just so she can vote against him

Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump is accumulating more and more opponents as November and it’s accompanying 2016 Presidential Election creeps closer.

Recently, Alicia Machado, the 1996 Miss Universe winner from Venezuela, announced that she plans to become a U.S. citizen for the sole purpose of voting against Tump. Ms. Machado has lived in the United States for a solid 20 years, however, it wasn’t until Trump declared his ballot that she took it upon herself to do something about it.

Her distaste for Donald Trump and his campaign is driving her determination to be more politically active this upcoming election. The hatred she has for Mr. Trump stems from a series of events that date back to 1996.

Not long after her impressive victory at the pageant as a 19 year old, Ms. Machado began to gain some weight, which Trump reacted to with verbal bullying and called her “Miss Piggy.” Not only did Trump verbally abuse her, but he invited media outlets to watch her exercise without telling her they would be there.

Questioned by reporters shortly following the abuse, Trump was quoted saying, “She weighed 118 pounds or 117 pounds and she went to 160 or 170. So this is somebody that likes to eat.”

Ms. Machado revealed that the continued harassment led her to suffer from multiple eating disorders for years to follow. He was also accused of calling her “Ms. Housekeeping” in front of crowds of people. These certainly add to the list of instances of Trump’s rude behavior towards females and Ms. Machado is taking a mature path that involves the the naturalization process to do her part in addressing it.

Ms. Machado will go through a naturalization process that consists of five steps. The first would be checking eligibility for citizenship, which includes the minimum age requirement of 18, lawful permanent residency, at least five years living in the U.S., and good moral character.

If these are satisfied, Ms. Machado or anyone else applying for naturalization, would complete an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) and send it in along with the necessary documents and fees to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. The applicant is then interviewed to verify their genuine desire to be a citizen and moral character. The process proceeds with taking an English and civics test.

Assuming the first four steps are successfully completed, the applicant takes an Oath of Allegiance and becomes a citizen. With this process in mind, it doesn’t seem like Ms. Machado should have any trouble becoming naturalized and filling out her first American ballot.

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Location can play a factor in whether your asylum case is approved (hint: don’t file in Atlanta)

Thus far in 2016, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reported that federal immigration authorities have taken 336 young people and 121 family units into custody in the United States.  This high number of detainments is partly in response to the influx of immigrants from Central America that come to the United States seeking asylum.   ICE’s field office in Atlanta is responsible for two-thirds of the family units and one-third of the young people being detained.  

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) reports that in 2015, Atlanta’s immigration judges denied 98 percent of petitions for asylum.  Only 16 percent of asylum petitions were denied in New York City and roughly 52 percent were denied nationally according to the EOIR’s statistics.  

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A staff attorney with Catholic Charities of Atlanta, Will Miller, stated that the extremely high rate of denials has scared many attorneys away from dealing with asylum cases.  Mr. Miller is quoted as saying, “I know that when I first started, the general consensus was, ‘Don’t take asylum cases, because they’re just going to be denied, and you’re just going to be wasting your client’s money.'”

Mr. Miller stated that attorneys pursuing asylum should prepare to take their case to the Board of Immigration Appeals and, if that is unsuccessful, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  He further commented, “You’re going to be in for the long haul.  It’s not just going to be a matter of handling the case in downtown Atlanta immigration court. There’s going to be a denial, and you’re going to have to handle the appellate part as well. It’s just a long, arduous process.”

A spokesperson for the EOIR, Kathryn Mattingly, said that her office “takes seriously any claims of unjustified and significant anomalies in immigration judge decision-making.”  

Recently, a number of immigration lawyers have teamed up to form the CARA project.  The CARA project is a pro-bono legal network that collects resources from many large nonprofit organizations and a national association of attorneys to take cases in family detention centers in Texas.  While this model is not readily available everywhere, immigration law clinics at law schools are good alternatives to tackle these complex asylum cases.  

Pakistani man indicted for immigration scheme

On Thursday, May 26, 2016, a federal grand jury indicted Vera Lautt, Ijaz Khan, and Ibar Khan for naturalizing and procuring U.S. citizenship by fraud and a conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Ijaz Khan and Fahad Khan face charges for conspiring to obstruct justice and for obstructing justice, and for smuggling and conspiring to smuggle artifacts from Pakistan into the United States.

The indictment states that Ijaz Khan and Vera Lautt met on the internet in 2001. Lautt traveled to Pakistan to meet Ijaz Khan for the first time in early 2002. While in Pakistan, Lautt and Ijaz Khan signed marriage documents.

Ijaz Khan and Lautt both allegedly submitted forged documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS), which helped Ijaz Khan to move to the United States in 2003 and eventually become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009.

When Ijaz Khan signed marriage documents with Lautt, he was already in a marital relationship with a Pakistani woman, had children, and continued to have children with the Pakistani woman while he was supposedly married to Lautt. The conspiracy included eleven attempts to obtain immigration benefits by fraud.

The indictment further claims that Ijaz Khan used his illegally obtained U.S. citizenship to aide in the immigration and naturalization of his four oldest children. Ijaz Khan also helped with a petition filed on behalf of his brother, Ibar Khan.

The indictment states that Ijaz Khan divorced Lautt, before his four oldest children arrived in the United States, and went to Pakistan to obtain proper marriage documents for his Pakistani wife.

When Ijaz Khan returned to the United States, according to the indictment, he began filing for immigration benefits for his Pakistani wife, his mother, and two more of his children.

The indictment states that Ibar Khan took part in the conspiracy to defraud the DOS and USCIS, and to fraudulently obtain U.S. citizenship.

The indictment also alleges that a shipment of Pakistani artifacts was inspected and seized by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Fahad Khan, Ijaz Khan, and others conspired to submit various false and fraudulent documents to the CBP in an attempt to have their shipment released.

John Bryan McNamara, one of the conspirators, pleaded guilty to making false statements to agents when questioned about the shipment. Fahad Khan and Ijaz Khan are both charged with conspiring to and making false statements associated with the federal grand jury investigation and the criminal investigation in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Richmond Federal Courthouse, Location: Richmond VA, Architect: Robert A.M. Stern Architects. The new Federal Courthouse will present a formal public entrance to Broad Street, taking its place amongst other important civic buildings including City Hall, the State Assembly Building, and the State Library which front Richmond's main thoroughfare.