Month: July 2017

Winning the Diversity Visa Lottery is Just the First Step

Winning the lottery is just the first step.

Back in the fall of 2016 we were approached by a family – mom, dad, and two adorable kids.  Mom had just won the diversity visa lottery.  The couple was originally from Iraq and were here in the United States studying on F1 visas.
This is an annual process in which the U.S. State Department accepts annual entries of people from countries that are underrepresented in immigration to the United States.  If they are selected, they are then eligible for immigrant visas for themselves, their spouse, and their kids.
If the winners are outside the country, the case is processed through an Embassy abroad.  If they are inside the country with a valid status, such as a student visa, they can apply for their green cards in the United States.
As with everything in immigration, however, there is a catch.
Winning the lottery gives you a number and that number gives you the earliest date at which you can apply for your green cards, in this case the middle of spring.  And the case needs to be completed by September 30, for a process that with other kinds of green cards frequently takes up to a year.  No room for error.
We worked with this family throughout the spring to gather all of the documents so that we could get it on file as soon as possible.  We filed four green card applications  in late April and requested expedited interviews.
On July 27, mom, dad, two kids, a toy dinosaur, and attorney Andrew Bloomberg went to the USCIS office here in St. Louis for a very thorough interview.  Later that day, we got word that all four cases had been approved.
Congratulations to our four new permanent residents, and a reminder that sometimes it pays to play the lottery!

I Became a U.S. Citizen Today!

It’s not often that you receive an email with a headline like this.

But that is exactly what one of our clients happily reported to us last week.

His name is Nurudeen.  He is a doctor in Wisconsin.

Here’s what else he had to say:

Can’t thank you enough for your professional advice and promptly filling my [writ of mandamus] which I believe expedited my naturalization interview.
I highly appreciate Andrew Bloomberg services and review with me..
It’s a glorious day in my life thanks. Attached is my picture and certificate.

Thank you and best regards.

Nurudeen also was kind enough to include the picture from his oath ceremony.

Nurudeen contacted our office two months ago.  He had been waiting for his naturalization interview for months and months.  He tried to get answers from USCIS but to no avail.

Nurudeen contacted his members of Congress and called the 1-800 USCIS number over and over.

Nothing worked.

We scheduled a Skype call to find out what was going on with Nurudeen and to ask him why he thought his case might be delayed.  Nothing made a lot of sense as he is a physician and is taking care of sick people in Wisconsin every day.

We decided to file a writ of mandamus lawsuit on Nurudeen’s behalf.  We filed the suit in the district court for the District of Columbia.  We served copies of the lawsuit on the Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship & Immigration Services, John Kelly (DHS Secretary), Jeff Sessions (Attorney General) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Things started happening quickly at that point.  Nurudeen finally received his naturalization interview notice.  Andrew Bloomberg from our office attended in the interview with Dr. Nurudeen last week and he was approved on the spot

He became one of our newest citizens last week and we could not be happier for him.

Congratulations, Dr. Nurudeen!

As Trump Eases Enforcement Priorities, Undocumented Immigrants Feel the Squeeze

If you want to understand what it feels like when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) comes to get an undocumented immigrant, read this article in Newsweek.

As a candidate for President, Donald Trump promised to round up the “bad hombres.”  His Attorney General has routinely called for stricter enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws.  John F. Kelly, the head of Homeland Security, has similarly promised that until Congress changes our immigration policies, his agency would enforce the laws on the books to the fullest extent possible.

Enter Jonatan Palacios, an undocumented man from Honduras.  Back in 2008, he was ordered deported by an immigration judge.  ICE recently found Mr. Palacios and took him in to immigration custody.

In an interview with Newsweek, Palacios said “I was so panicked.  I was trying to think through every little detail. Eventually, there was nothing else we could do and I just got out of the car, gave Lillie a hug and went with them.”

Immigration lawyers across the country explain that since Trump came into office, ICE has moved sharply away from the Obama-era policy of deporting criminals first.  Now, all undocumented immigrants are at risk.

Under Obama, agents were required to follow a specified list of priorities. Under Trump, ICE can investigate any undocumented immigrant they deem to be a “risk to public safety or national security” —a deliberately vague mandate, say immigration experts, that gives individuals in the agency a lot of leeway to make their own choices.  For better or worse.

This is contrary to candidate Trump’s promise to focus on “bad hombres.”

It should also spark a debate about what our nation’s immigration process should look like.

Do we really want to deport millions of people who have lived in the U.S. without proper authorization for years and years but who have committed no crimes?

Or, given the limited financial resources that ICE and other law enforcement agencies have, do we want to prioritize those who violate the laws?

In addition, the current approach under Donald Trump appears hostile, mean-spirited and destined to break up thousands of families.

 

 

Two Months After We Sue USCIS, Imtiaz Becomes a U.S. Citizen

Our office was hired earlier this year to file a mandamus lawsuit against USCIS and various other federal agencies because they were taking too long to decide a naturalization case filed by our client, Imtiaz.

His case was stuck at the Tampa field office of USCIS and he could not get any answers when he asked why his case had taken more than a year and a half to decide.

There was nothing unusual about his case.

No problems with the law.

No problems with immigration.

Imtiaz was a successful IT professional and a very nice fellow.

We filed suit on behalf of Imtiaz in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on April 21, 2017.  The lawsuit asked a federal judge to compel USCIS to decide his case.  We also asked the judge to examine a previously-secret program known as the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP) and to determine whether the program was illegal.

We believed (and still believe) that USCIS was delaying Imtiaz’s case because of his religion and his country of origin.

Once we served each of the defendants with a copy of the complaint and two copies of the federal summonses, things started happening on Imtiaz’s long delayed case.

We were quickly contacted by the assistant U.S. Attorney who had to defend the lawsuit.  The AUSA informed us that Imtiaz would be scheduled for a naturalization interview immediately.

The interview was held on June 7, 2017 in Tampa.  Firm attorney Jim Hacking attended the interview which went very smoothly.

The supervisor who conducted the interview requested just a few pieces of additional evidence.  We provided all documentation requested to the Tampa field office the following day.

After a few more weeks of processing, Imtiaz’s case was approved and he was scheduled for his oath ceremony.  In Tampa, if you are not changing your name, you can be naturalized at the local USCIS office, which is what happened in Imtiaz’s case.

On June 27, 2017, Imtiaz was sworn in as a U.S. citizen.  From the time we filed suit until the time that he became a citizen, just a little over two months of time had gone by.

We are very happy for one of the newest U.S. citizens around.

 

 

Thai National Overcomes Alleged Misrepresentation, Obtains Lawful Permanent Resident Status

In December of 2015, our office was contacted by another immigration lawyer in town.  Her clients had been waiting for a green card for the foreign-born wife for over a year and a half.

The lawyer thought that our office could help.

We met with Frank and Gigi (* not their real names) and they told us their story.

Gigi was born in Thailand and was a widow.  Her husband had died in a motorcycle accident shortly after the birth of their second daughter.

A few years later, Gigi applied for a visit visa to come and visit relatives in the U.S.  Her first request for a visa was denied.  Then she hired a “visa consultant” in Thailand who “helped” Gigi fill out the visa application.

Gigi and the consultant completed the DS-160 and Gigi did her best to answer the questions truthfully and honestly.

But one of the questions asked about Gigi’s marital status.  She indicated on the form that she was “married.”  Gigi thought the question meant had you ever been married so she said yes.

The visa was approved and Gigi came to the United States.

A few months after she arrived, Gigi met a man named Frank.  Frank was a U.S. citizen and a former Marine.  Frank and Gigi decided to get married.

Frank completed an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and Gigi applied for adjustment of status.  Wisely, they hired an attorney to help them with the application process.

Frank also filed I-130 Petitions for Gigi’s two daughters back in Thailand.  They were staying with Gigi’s parents.

The St. Louis field office scheduled Gigi and Frank for a green card interview.  They successfully completed the interview but then the case dragged on for months and months.

Frustrated and unable to get any answers from the local USCIS office, the attorney recommended that Gigi and Frank visit our office to see if we could help.

After discussing the situation and learning about the confusion surrounding Gigi’s visa application, we sent a letter to USCIS and threatened to sue them if they did not decide the case quickly.

Instead of issuing a grant or a denial, the Service sent us a new interview notice.  They claimed that Gigi had misrepresented herself at the embassy and wanted to discuss it with us.

We attended the interview and explained that there was no fraud or misrepresentation.  We explained that the only problem was that Gigi had misunderstood the question about marriage.  We provided proof of her ex-husband’s death and explained how it was all a misunderstanding.

A few months later, the Service invited us to file an I-601 waiver for the alleged misrepresentation.

Without conceding that Gigi had misrepresented herself, we did go ahead and file for the waiver.  We submitted evidence of how Gigi supported Frank, how she helped take care of Frank’s elderly father and the extreme hardship that would befall Frank if Gigi were not granted the waiver.

While we awaited that decision, the I-130s for the girls back in Thailand had been approved.  Gigi could not leave the country due to her shaky immigration status.  So Frank, the ex-Marine, went back to Thailand on his own to get the girls.

And that he did.

Shortly after Frank and the girls returned to the U.S., Gigi’s waiver and green card were approved.

Now the family is all united in St. Louis.  We ran into them yesterday at the Webster Groves Fourth of July carnival.

Turns out that Gigi is now pregnant.

We couldn’t be happier for this awesome family.

How Do I Know if My Case is Delayed by CARRP

What is the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program and how might I figure out if my case is subject to it?

Hi my name is Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of office here in St. Louis, Missouri.

A lot of people have not heard of CARRP which is the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program. CARRP was a program started about 10 years ago, in secret by the federal government and what it is, is 35 agencies working together to slow down immigration to the United States by Muslims or people from predominantly Muslim countries. Around the world there are countries that are predominantly Muslim where many of the people that live there follow the Islamic faith and the government decided in secret to start holding these cases to extra scrutiny. In fact, what they do is they assume that the person whose applying from this predominantly Muslim country, is in fact a terrorist or a bad person and then sort of works through backwards a system to get the person off the list.

This results in cases taking much longer for people from those countries and so, we see this with people from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen throughout the Middle East, Afghanistan, South Asia many of these countries have people that then fall into this trap of CARRP and they can’t find their way out. People ask me sometimes how do I know whether my case is subject to CARRP? How do I know whether my case is being delayed? The first sign I think is that if your case is taking more than a year. If your case is far outside normal processing times, that’s usually a good sign that your case is being delayed due to CARRP.

Another sign is that if the FBI has come to visit you in the past, either at your home or your business and this could be 15 years ago, basically if the FBI has touched your immigration file in anyway, this often leads to delays because immigration officers are reluctant to move the case along and you might have to take some extra measures to get your case resolved. We’ll talk about those in another video, but for now we’re just talking about the signs. We talked about if the case is taking more than a year. We’ve talked about if the FBI has come to visit. If you take a lot of trips overseas this is another thing that can slow down your immigration case if you’re visiting predominantly Muslim countries. This will slow down your immigration case.

If you send a lot of money overseas, or receive money from overseas, these are other things that might have raised a flag in your file. If you had any kind of interaction with law enforcement outside the FBI, if you’ve been detained by immigration officials or state or local law enforcement officials, these are other things that can get your case slowed down.

If you got your immigration benefit, if you got your green card or some earlier benefit without an interview, this is another way that things can slow down later, so the immigration service sometimes scrutinizes cases heavily when there haven’t been past opportunities, like in an employment visa context to interview someone. If you ever gotten any kind of conflicts at your place of worship or with other people, if anyone’s ever gone down to the immigration office and said bad things about you, these are things that can really cause you to be placed under the CARRP list and have your case delayed.

If you continually make InfoPass appointments and call the 1-800-USCIS number, and you don’t get any answers this another sign that your case is being delayed by CARRP. We have a lot of people who contact us at the end of the rope. They’re pretty frustrated, they’ve done all those things I’ve just listed plus they’ve contacted their members of congress, if you can’t get any kind of answers, if they tell you things like “Err, we are looking for your file” or “your case is on background check” or “security check”, these are all signs that your case is being delayed by CARRP.

In other videos we talk about what you can do, how you can file a lawsuit against the immigration service and the other government agencies involved in CARRP. The program has been challenged in Court, so far the immigration service has been allowed to continue the program and so for now, your only recourse really is to file a lawsuit, a writ of mandamus to try to ask a federal Judge to compel immigration to rule on your case. We’ve litigated many of these cases, we have handled many.

Green card delay cases, citizenship delay cases, overseas visa delay cases and even asylum delay cases. If you have any questions about this, how this works, how a lawsuit might help, get you off the CARRP list and get your case moving along again, feel free to give us a call at 314-961-8200 or you can email us at jim@hackinglawpractice.com.

If you liked this video, please be sure to click the like button, share it with your friends and make sure that you subscribe to our YouTube channel and have a great day. Thanks a lot.

 

Family Law 101

In law school, most lawyers (myself included) take a class on family law.  We do this not necessarily because we want to become family law attorneys, but it is a subject that could be tested on the Bar Exam to get our license.  Additionally, it is an area worth having some background in as it can come up in different practice areas.  

 

In the family law class, we learned about how society and law define what is a “family.”  We learned about the changing nature of families (same-sex couples, single-parent households, etc.), as well as the legal definition of marriage, divorce, parenting, child support and adoption, among other things.  It was an important and interesting class, but not an area I wanted to devote my career to.

 

Interestingly, almost 20 years later, I find myself spending quite a bit of time with clients talking about the implications and impact of family law and marriage on their immigration status.  

 

For one client, she and her husband were here on nonimmigrant visas and have a US citizen child.  Shortly after having the baby, the husband became abusive to her and her child. While he is on his way to obtaining immigrant status in this country, she is left worried about her child and her status in this country.  Family law and divorce law will impact her immigration case directly.

 

In another case, an immigrant spouse has been married to a US citizen for almost two years and it is time to remove the conditions on the green card so the spouse can obtain the 10-year green card.  Unfortunately, around the same time, the immigrant spouse has become abused by the US citizen spouse and the immigrant spouse wants to leave the marriage.  But she is concerned about her immigration status and wants to figure out how they can stay in the country.  Whether the marriage is still in effect will have a direct impact on her immigration case.

 

Yet another way that family law is brought into immigration practice is when couples get married and come to see us about starting their family petition to sponsor the immigrant spouse.  One of the first things we do in that situation is talk to the couple directly about how they met and what their plans are for the future.  

 

We are, in a way, testing the validity of the marriage in our law office, as that is what the immigration office will do.  It is essential that couples come together when they meet the lawyer and have some documentation of their relationship before they got married, and how things have changed/stayed the same since their marriage.  For instance, wedding pictures, copies of their marriage license, joint bank accounts, joint lease, etc. can provide solid evidence of a valid relationship.  

 

Some red flags for couples that can make it challenging to prove the validity of the marriage are if the marriage was secret (in other words, family and friends are not aware or part of the relationship), the couple is not living together or the couple does not share finances or financial responsibility in the marriage.  Family law and the validity of the marriage in particular directly impact the future of the client’s immigration status in this country.

 

So, while we are immigration attorneys, family law still plays an important role in what we do.