Month: September 2017

Company Being Investigated for Preying on Detained Immigrants

Virginia-based company, Libre by Nexus, is being investigated in at least two states because they are accused of preying on detained immigrants.

Libre by Nexus aids in posting bond for immigrants held in immigration detention centers while waiting for the cases to go to court.  Immigrants sign contracts agreeing to pay $420 per month and wear the company’s GPS ankle device.

Lawsuits and claims of fraud have been made by immigrants claiming they did not understand the contracts they were agreeing to.  Three years ago, ICE determined that the company was not breaking the law.

But, at least two states are now investigating the company despite the ICE decision because of an article in the Washington Post on March 9, 2017, depicting the struggles of Libre clients who struggle with paying the monthly fee for the ankle device.  Clients in the article claimed that Libre employees threatened the clients with returning them to ICE custody if they could not pay the monthly fee.

Libre by Nexus denied the allegations.

A class-action complaint was filed against the company by two Honduran immigrants in February.  A similar lawsuit against Libre by Nexus was settled last month.

Rep. Norma J. Torres of California introduced legislation on Thursday that targets companies that bond people out of detention centers in return for monthly fees and GPS monitoring.  The “Stop Predatory Bail Contracts Act” is aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants from an “exploitative industry.”

According to Rep. Torres, “Many [undocumented immigrants]are victims…fleeing very violent communities, coming to our border…out of desperation, they are jumping into contracts they don’t truly understand.”  Torres says her constituents in Southern California have complained about Libre by Nexus.

The bill would prohibit companies such as Libre from charging clients more than the cost of GPS monitoring (according to court documents, this is less than $100 a month; Libre disputes).  It would also apply to companies using GPS monitoring with criminal bonds.

Bond agencies posted more than 8,000 immigration bonds worth approx. $100 million in the 2016 fiscal year.  The average cost of a posted immigration bond has risen by more than 70 percent from 2013 to 2016.

For more information, click here.

What Happens if I Need to Cancel My Immigration Interview

What should I do if I have an emergency and need to cancel my immigration interview?

Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.

We had an interesting and somewhat sad situation come up at our office recently and I thought I’d make a video about it so I could explain it to everyone. In this situation, we have a client who has applied for a green card based on her marriage to a US citizen, and as it turns out, this client has been waiting a very long time for her interview, over a year. The St. Louis office has been behind on spouse cases. This Canadian client has been waiting a really long time for her interview. Her interview is set for today, actually. She called me last week and she told me, very sadly, that her dad is dying. He’s in the process of passing away and only has a few more days to live. It was sort of touch and go over the weekend. We were wondering whether or not she was going to be able to actually come to the interview. Obviously when a situation like that arises, you have sort of more important concerns than the green card, but at the same time you have been waiting a long time.

The question comes up, what do I do when I have an emergency and want to cancel my appointment? Now this is, frankly, one of the benefits of working with an immigration attorney because if my client had had to leave suddenly over the weekend and was not going to be able to attend her interview, I would have gone down there myself and explained it to the officer, exactly what had transpired and they would have, most likely, rescheduled it.

What if you don’t have an attorney? Well, in those situations I think you have to do everything you can to notify the office that you won’t be there. Now they don’t have a regular telephone number. You can’t call the local office in most situations. You might want to have someone else from your family go down and explain it to them. This is probably not preferred by immigration service, but I think you really want to document what efforts you made to let them know that the appointment would not be made. At the very least, I would try to make an InfoPass appointment before I left, if possible, to go down there and alert them that you’re not going to be there.

Generally in our experience, if you miss an appointment, they usually reschedule it once as a courtesy. That doesn’t mean that they have to though, so you can’t rely on that. I think you really have to do everything you can to notify them somehow. Either before the interview, hopefully, or even on the day of the interview or after the interview, why you missed. You might want to submit documentation as to why you had to leave. With a sick father, it would be hospital records or a dying father, their death certificate. These kinds of things.

You don’t want to leave things dangling in the wind. You want to make sure that if you can, that you convey to them that you did everything you could to be at the interview, but that you just weren’t able to make it because of this family emergency. Then you want to make sure that you do everything in writing. That you back it up, that you keep notes. If you go down and talk to someone at the immigration office, that you write down their name, the date, the time that you came. Or the people that went for you, what information they were able to get.

Most importantly you want to document it. You also probably want to follow it up with a cover letter explaining why you missed it. At this point, if you’re not working with an attorney, you probably should get an attorney involved so that they can reach out. Maybe they have contacts at the local office that they can sort of get things back on track. You could also make an InfoPass appointment for when you come back and explain to the officer at the window what happened and why you missed.

We hope this answers the question of what you need to do if you have an emergency on a immigration interview. If you have more questions, feel free to email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. Or you can call us at (314) 961-8200. If you like this video, please be sure to click like and sign up as a subscriber as you get updates for all of our future videos.

 

Parents Awaiting Two-Month-Old Son’s Operation Arrested by Border Patrol

We see a lot of appalling conduct at our office when it comes to how cruel federal immigration officials can be.  But this next case may be at the top of the list regarding callous disregard of any human emotion on the part of Customs and Border Patrol.

Oscar and Irma Sanchez’s two-month old son, Isaac Enrique Sanchez, was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis, a condition causing vomiting, dehydration, and weight loss in infants.  Enrique’s condition was curable, but no pediatric surgeon in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas was capable of performing the surgery on his stomach.

Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, was the Sanchez family’s only hope.  But, the hospital that was only a few hours away via highway would mean that the Sanchezes would have to pass a Border Patrol checkpoint.  The Sanchezes were undocumented.

A Border Patrol officer showed up in the Harlingen, Texas hospital and offered to arrange officers to escort the Sanchezes through the checkpoint, but the Sanchezes would be arrested and put into deportation proceedings once they arrived at the hospital.  Oscar and Irma Sanchez agreed, their son’s best interest in mind.

The Sanchezes’ situation is a part of the controversy over ‘sensitive locations.’  During the Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security abided by a policy that immigration agents should avoid arrests at hospitals, schools, churches, and public demonstrations unless there were special circumstances.

Immigrant advocates are afraid that the Sanchez family’s experience demonstrates the Trump administration’s way of handling enforcement actions in sensitive locations.  The Sanchezes had no criminal records and were desperate to help their son.

At Driscoll Children’s Hospital, the officers never left the Sanchezes alone.  They even asked Mrs. Sanchez to leave the door open while breast-feeding Isaac and escorted Mr. Sanchez to the bathroom.

Customs and Border Protection claimed that they are required to monitor subjects in custody “at all times” and attempted to do so “in the least restrictive manner possible.”

Oscar Sanchez says that, “Everywhere we went in the hospital…they followed us.”

For more information, click here.

Firm Attorney Andrew Bloomberg Notches 3 Wins This Week

Sometimes in immigration wins come in strange forms.

This was certainly true this week for three cases that firm attorney Andrew Bloomberg is handling.

Back in March, we were approached by a couple two weeks before their marriage-based green card interview.  The immigrant, who we will call Robert, had just been arrested and charged with a crime which, if he had been convicted, would likely have led to not only to the denial of his green card application, but very possibly to his deportation.

Andrew prepped the couple on how to talk about the arrest at the interview in a way that was honest, but did as little damage as possible.  The couple attended the interview with Andrew and readied themselves for the inevitable request for evidence from USCIS.

Andrew also got in touch with Robert’s criminal defense attorney to work with him in trying to get an outcome to the case that would have the least possible immigration consequences.  The criminal case dragged on and Andrew had to get an extension of the request for evidence deadline.

Finally, last month, it seemed like Robert had the opportunity to plead guilty to a much less serious offense.  Andrew was on the phone with the criminal defense attorney and the client while the plea was being written, and we were able to convince the prosecutor to change the document in the Courthouse to make it better for our client – details always matter in immigration, and particularly when criminal convictions are involved.

When the plea was finalized, Andrew submitted it to USCIS with an explanation of why it shouldn’t impact Robert’s green card application.  Less than a week later, we got word that Robert’s green card had been approved.  Robert pleaded guilty – but by doing it in the right way, he won his green card.

Also in the last few weeks, we were hired separately by two families whose undocumented loved ones had been arrested and taken into custody by ICE.  Both families live in California, but their loved ones were taken into custody in Missouri.

In deportation proceedings, timing can be everything – in addition to the hardship of being incarcerated, proceedings for detained individuals move very, very fast.  We believe that both of these clients have defenses available to them, but the defenses require the gathering of lots of complicated evidence.

Trying to get them released on bond was important not just to get them out of jail, but to gain time to build defenses.  Both clients had some criminal issues over the years, which often makes it very hard to get immigration bond.

Andrew worked with the families to gather supporting evidence of their rehabilitation, and their ties to the community, and submitted this to the Immigration Court along with a short memo on why bond should be granted.

In telephone proceedings at the EOIR in Kansas City this week, Andrew argued that our clients were not threats to the community or flight risks, and the Immigration Judge granted both bonds over the objections of the Government attorney.

While these clients are still in deportation proceedings, they can be with their families and there is much more time to build the strongest possible cases to keep them in the United States.

Congratulations to Andrew.  We are lucky to have you at the firm!

Salvadoran MIT Janitor Taken Into Custody Days Before His Son was Born

Francisco Rodriguez-Guardado, a Salvadoran janitor at MIT, was taken into custody by federal immigration officials for deportation a few days before his first son was born.  “They tell me he has my eyes,” Rodriguez-Guardado says.

Supporters of Rodriguez Guardado include U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, faculty at MIT, and his labor union. The ACLU has filed briefs in support of Rodriguez-Guardado. He does not have a criminal record, volunteers at his church, and runs his own carpet cleaning business.

Arrests of non-criminal undocumented immigrants has increased 145 percent from the first half of last year.

Rodriguez-Guardado entered the U.S. undocumented in 2006, fleeing El Salvador after a work colleague had been murdered by a gang member.  Rodriguez-Guardado was a technician at an engineering firm and owned a car wash in San Salvador.

In 2009, Rodriguez-Guardado was denied asylum in 2009 and had an appeal rejected in 2011.  He was ordered in June by ICE officials to make travel arrangements back to El Salvador.

On July 13, he was arrested because, according to ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer, the plane ticket he booked was not “timely.  Rodriguez-Guardado had booked the plane ticket for after his son’s expected birth date.

Rodriguez-Guardado has credited his Christian faith with preparing him to accept what comes next.  He is in an inmate prayer group and frequently reads his Bible.  “We follow what God wants for us,” he says.  “If they want us to move from here, it’s because there is something better for us someplace else.”

If Rodriguez-Guardado is not allowed to stay in the United States, he is considering trying to move to Canada or Costa Rica rather than going back to El Salvador.  He says, “Believe me…if El Salvador was a safe and peaceful country, I would have never thought of coming here.”

For more information, click here.

USCIS to Renew Premium Processing for FY 2018 H1B Visas

 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Monday that it would resume premium processing for all H1B visa petitions covered by the Fiscal Year year (FY) 2018 cap. Congress limits the number of H1B visas each year to 65,000 for all U.S. employers, except for institutions of higher learning and affiliated research facilities.  USCIS will also now accept requests for premium processing for the 20,000 additional H1B visas available to individuals who have a masters’ or higher degree from an American college or university.

Premium processing currently costs $1,225.  Employers who use premium processing are promised to have a decision for the I-129 Petition for an Alien Worker within 15 working days.  If the 15- calendar day processing time is not met, the agency promises to refund the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continue with the “faster” processing of the application.

Earlier this year, USCIS suspended the use of the premium processing program immediately before most employers filed their H1Bs before the April 1, 2018 deadline.  This has led to long delays in the processing of this year’s cap-subject H1Bs.

H1B visas are limited to individuals who work in specialty occupations.  These visas are not available for every job in America, but only a limited category of specialty jobs such as accountant, software developer, physician, etc.

Because the federal fiscal year starts on October 1 each year, the start date of the approved H1B visas is typically October 1 and they last approximately three years.  Federal law allows employers to file six months early, i.e., April 1.

Since Congress has limited the number of available H1B visas every year to 65,000, plus the additional 20,000 for individuals with higher degrees, USCIS typically conducts a lottery each year.  Some applications are accepted, many are not.

Those applications which were not selected have already been returned.  USCIS continues to adjudicate many of the visa applications submitted back on April 1st.  Employers who have H1B applications that remain undecided will have to figure out if it makes sense for them to pay for premium processing at this late date.

One final note: H1B premium processing remains unavailable for extensions of the H1B visa, as well as “transfers” for H1B employees from one job to another.

When should I consider withdrawing my immigration case at USCIS?

Every now and then, people come to see us at the office, and they have a case that is completely messed up. These are usually cases that they have filed pro se, which means they filed them without an attorney, and their case has gotten a bit more complicated, and we have to start considering the option of withdrawing a case.

Now, you never really want to withdraw a case because obviously you’ve paid your filing fees, and when you withdraw the case, you do lose your filing fees. You also might have a lot of time invested in the processing of your case, and you might’ve done a lot of work to get it as far as you did, but in certain circumstances, it is a really good idea to go ahead and withdraw the case.

What are some examples of this? Well, one time somebody came to see us, and after he had filed his citizenship application, he had gotten arrested, and his criminal charges were pending. It looked like we were not going to be able to get the criminal case disposed of before the citizenship interview, so we went ahead and withdrew the case.

We had another situation where a young couple came to see us, and they had gotten their case so complicated, and there were so many bad facts in the case that we decided to withdraw that case as well, and the clients agreed.

What happened in that situation is that the couple had been fighting off and on over time, and there was a family member who was not happy about the marriage. That family member had gone down to immigration and reported them as having these marital problems, and we were worried that if we went ahead with the interview with everything just as it was, it’d really put us in a bad light, and the case would probably be denied because there are things worse than a denial because you can be caught with a fraud or a misrepresentation allegation, and that’s even worse than just having your case denied.
It’s relatively easy to withdraw a case. In most situations, USCIS is glad to close the file and move on to the next case. All you have to do is send a letter with your case numbers on there and reference the fact that you want to withdraw the case. They’re generally pretty willing to do that. They’ll do it all the way up until the interview. What you don’t want to do is make them do all this extra work and then try to withdraw it.

Now, USCIS is not required to allow you to withdraw the case. We have had a few situations where we tried to withdraw a case, and immigration service did not allow us to do that, so it’s a good idea if you’re thinking about withdrawing the case or if you think that there’s something wrong with your case that you want to make sure that you go talk to a competent immigration attorney. You want to see a good immigration lawyer and make sure that everything gets squared away properly and that you’re getting good advice as to whether or not you want to withdraw the case.

It’s not something you’re going to do in every case, but it is an option, and sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. That’s an old expression, and what it means is that sometimes you want to be able to live and fight another day. You want to have another chance, and so in a lot of these cases that we’ve withdrawn, we’ve re-prepared them, we’ve gone over the facts and done things a little bit differently than the people did without an attorney, and we’ve been able to get those cases approved.

If you have any questions about your case or if you’re wondering, “Is there something wrong about my case that would make me want to withdraw it,” feel free to give us a call.

The other thing that this points out is the fact that you really want to have a good representation from the beginning because a lot of these mistakes were things that were done by the couple because they didn’t have an attorney, so this whole problem of having to potentially withdraw a case highlights the fact that it’s really important to have good immigration counsel right from the beginning.

If you have any questions, like I said, give us a call, 314-961-8200, or you can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com.

Thanks for watching the video. If you liked it, make sure that you like it on Facebook and YouTube. Be sure to share it with your friends and subscribe to our Facebook and YouTube channels so that you get updates whenever we shoot a new video.

Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

What’s Going to Happen to the Refugees?

President Trump and his team of anti-immigrant crusaders have made slowing down the entry of refugees into the United States one of their major reforms to our immigration system.

When the President announced his travel ban from 7 (and later 6) predominantly Muslim countries, he also announced a temporary halting of all refugee processing.

These measures obtained a significant amount of press coverage.

Lost in all of that coverage, however, was a more subtle change to the refugee process.

Legislation passed in 1980 requires the President and the administration to set the number of refugees that should be allowed into the United States each year.

For quite some time, that number has hovered between 100,000 and 110,000.

President Trump sought to cut that number in half.  Recent reports seem to indicate that the number could fall even lower than 50,000.

So there is a lot of activity surrounding the refugee question.  The President’s team argues that it is cheaper to assist refugees while they remain overseas and that there is no real reason to allow the people into the U.S.

Refugee advocates point to our nation’s long history of helping displaced people from around the globe to build a new life in the U.S.  Another argument is that it is simply a humane thing to do.

Some of these issues appear headed for a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently halted the President’s ban on refugees from entering the U.S.

However, this week, the Supreme Court stayed that decision and allowed the refugee ban to stand.

The ban is set to expire in about 6 weeks.  The Trump Administration has not made clear whether it will extend the ban, make it permanent or discontinue it.  Signs point to a more permanent situation.

For this reason, the Supreme Court will take up the issue of the President’s authority to halt refugee processing under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

In the meantime, people who have lost everything due to war and natural disasters around the world are being prevented from entering the greatest country on Earth.

Our United States.

 

 

Politics Sends DACA Bill to the Back of the Line

Republican and Democratic members of Congress responded quickly to President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on March 5, 2018.

Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Durbin held a press conference to announced their re-introduction of legislation intended to protect the so-called DREAMers, undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. without inspection as children and who have lived here ever since.

But a series of events has pushed immigration reform for DREAMers to the bottom of the legislative pile.

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and now Irma has landed in Florida, causing massive damage and requiring significant federal resources.

Members of Congress are now scrambling to obtain needed federal benefits for their respective districts and disaster relief is first and foremost on legislators minds.

The President and members of the Republican leadership in the Capitol are looking for tax reform.

Finally, some member of the President’s own party are angry that he has joined Democrats on the complicated issue of the debt ceiling.

The result: little appetite for DREAMer legislation and a number of other topics calling for legislators’ attention.

According to a recent piece by the McClatchy wire service, immigration is low on the list of most legislators priority list:

Conservative Republicans are demanding that significant border security measures are included in any proposal that deals with Dreamers, and House Speaker Paul Ryan is well aware that angry conservatives conspired to oust his predecessor, John Boehner, over immigration.

In addition, there is the general problem that Democrats and Republicans do not agree on the best path forward for immigration.  Republicans want increased border security, Democrats want to still push for comprehensive immigration reform.  It is unclear as to whether the parties will reach consensus on the issue, especially in light of the six month window provided by the President.

What is Extreme Vetting

What is extreme vetting and how is it going to affect my immigration case?

Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer, practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.

With the election of President Donald Trump, he threw around the phrase “extreme vetting” in the immigration context. We’ve had a lot of clients ask us what does extreme vetting mean and how is it going to impact my case? We thought we’d shoot this short video to discuss it.

One thing you need to know about the immigration process, I think we can all agree it takes a very long time, that when you’re dealing with agencies like U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of State, Customs and Border Patrol, that there are a lot of steps for the process and no one would ever accuse the Federal Government of moving quickly on immigration cases. This is cases that take place within the United States, like adjustment of status or citizenship and also involves cases overseas where a U.S. citizen or an employer is trying to bring over a foreign national to come to the United States and have to go through the State Department and the Embassy. No one would ever say that these cases go by lickety-split, in fact, they take a very long time. The reason that they take a very is because the government is already doing an extreme amount of vetting.

Just in the last five years, we’ve seen forms balloon in size. For instance, the application to adjust status used to be six pages long. It is currently 20 pages long and growing. The same for citizenship, citizenship used to be just a few pages long, and now it is many, many pages. In the spouse visa context, we use an I-130. That form used to be two pages and now it is not two pages, but it’s much longer. It actually involves two different forms, one for the spouse, who is a U.S. citizen and one for the overseas spouse. The federal government knows how to make things grow and especially when it comes to forms and making things more complex.

Add to all this, President Trump claiming that he wanted to increase vetting to cause extreme vetting to occur when someone applies for an immigration benefit. We’ve already seen the results of this as these forms are slowly implemented. Things are slowing down at the Immigration Service. Things are slowing down at the State Department. We have cases that use to take four or five months that now take eight or nine months and they’re really being nitpicky and they’re coming up with ways to slow things down. We think that the Trump Administration has brought in experts in Immigration Law and they’ve come up in ways that are pretty devious and pretty creative to really make it harder for you to bring your loved one to the Untied States, to keep your loved one in the United States, to help them get lawful status, to help them get citizenship and we’re really seeing the consequences of this with the delays.

The other thing is that when you have an agency that’s own heightened alert like this and that wants to make things harder for everybody that we’re really seeing that denials are increasing, frustration is increasing. We’re getting a lot of people who come to see us having filed for themselves and they screwed up their case. We do what we can to help them, but this is a new era. The Trump Administration has brought a new sense of scrutiny to the Immigration Service with a harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric. The people that work at the Immigration Office seem to have slowed things down and we’re really seeing clients that are frustrated.

If you need help with this, if you’re wondering how is extreme vetting going to hurt my case or slow down my case? How could I do things to make things better, how can I increase the chances of success? How can I make sure that I do everything possible to speed my case along? You’re probably going to need to talk to an experienced immigration attorney. You’re probably going to need help. It’s a new day. It’s a new time. There’s a new President and he has made immigration one of his focus issues. He has decided to have his Administration do what they can to slow things down, especially for people from particular countries, from the Middle East, from predominantly Muslim countries. These cases are going to take a lot longer, a lot harder.

We see this too in the asylum context, that it’s going to be a lot harder and a lot longer to get asylum. The Immigration Courts are backlogged, everything’s slowing down and that is by design. The Trump Administration wants to slow down immigration to the United States. They want to make it harder for people to come here and stay here. We’ll do what we can to fight for you to help you, to help smooth line the process, to help you not have to worry so much.

We hope you liked this video. Be sure to give us a call if you need some help. (314) 961-8200 or you can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. If you liked this video, be sure to click “Like” below to share it with your friends and to subscribe to our YouTube and Facebook channels, so that you get updated whenever we shoot a video like this.

Thanks a lot. Have a great day.