Category: Deportation Defense

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.

President Trump is Ending DACA

Hey everybody, it’s Jim. I wanted to shoot this video to go over some of the thoughts that I have on the President’s decision to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. I want to explore what the decision to end DACA means and how that’s going to affect people who are currently benefiting from Deferred Action. Molly, can you let me know, can you hear me, what I’m saying? I don’t know if my microphone’s working. I have a new microphone. So if someone could give me a thumbs up or let me know that the microphone’s working, I’d appreciate it.

We’re going to talk through what Deferred Action is and was and … Thanks, Nick. All right, hot mic. So we’re going to talk about what Deferred Action is, what it isn’t and sort of what’s happened. I’m going to be doing a little bit of reading, and I apologize for that, but I just want to be sure that I’m thorough in talking this through to everybody.

Back in 2011, 2012, the Democrats and the Republicans in the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented people in the United States who have been in the United States for a long time and who entered without inspection. This law was introduced by Senator Durbin and Lindsey Graham and some other people. It was a bipartisan bill that the Senate passed overwhelmingly, and they sent it to the House for approval or for a vote. There was every indication that the House had the votes to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But some immigration hardliners like Steve King from Iowa refused to let it come to the floor for a vote, because they knew it was going to pass, and so no immigration reform happened under President Obama’s watch. What happened instead, frustrated with the Congress’s inability and refusal to process or to pass legislation bringing about comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama adopted a program called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This was put into place in the summer of 2012, and basically what happened is that immigrants, undocumented people who came to the United States as young people, who came as children, who’d been in the United States and who were either getting their GED or had finished high school and were studying and not gotten into any kind of criminal trouble, basically what happened was that those people had their deportation actions deferred. And that’s sort of where the “Deferred Action” comes from.

President Obama and the Attorney General, Eric Holder, and some other people, Janet Napolitano, people at the Department of Homeland Security, came to the conclusion that they weren’t going to be able to deport 12 million people. And so what they decided to do was to come up with priorities. They wanted to focus on people who had been arrested, people with criminal convictions, people who had entered the United States over and over and over, and so they did that. They adopted an Executive Order back in the summer of 2012 that said listen, we’re not going to deport these young people, we’re not going to put them at the top of our list unless they’ve committed some kind of crime. In fact, what we’re going to do is we’re going to give the ability to obtain work authorization and to have their deportations halted.

That sort of has been in place. It’s important to remember that this was not a piece of legislation. This was not something that was passed by Congress. This was just an Executive Order. And so with an Executive Order, that can always be undone by the next president. And that’s exactly what happened today. As a candidate, Donald Trump ran on a campaign to do away with Deferred Action. He and some other immigration hardliners viewed it as an unconstitutional abuse of power. Many legal scholars have refuted that, and most legal scholars have said that this was within the President’s ability to prioritize who he wanted to deport, and that President Obama’s actions were completely legal.

Lately, there have been rumblings from some states, some southern states and some other anti-immigrant attorney generals around the country, that they were going to file litigation to challenge the legality of Deferred Action. Enter stage left Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Jeff Sessions was one of the most anti-immigrant members of the Senate before he became President Trump’s Attorney General, and he has now allegedly concluded that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is unconstitutional, and he’s like, “Oh no, I can’t defend this Executive Action in court, so President Trump you have to do something.”

What has happened today after much to-do, President Trump has finally come about and announced that he’s going to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. There is an estimated 800,000 people, more than 800,000 young men and women who are law abiding people, who have been in this country for a very long time, who know no other country in which they live, and the program is going to come to an end in six months unless Congress acts. So the President has dropped a little poison pill, I believe, on the Congress, on Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Don’t forget, he’s very frustrated with these people, and now he has taken a very, very hot political topic and dropped it in the lap of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, who he’s been fighting with for a long time.

Let’s get into the meat of it. Let’s talk about what the announcement today covers on September 5, 2017. This means that those young people are eventually going to have their temporary protected status and their work authorization go away. The first thing to keep in mind is that as of today, September 5, 2017, if you have not applied for Deferred Action and if you are eligible, it is now too late. Some really smart immigration attorneys have been filing these DACA applications over the last couple weeks for the people that waited to the last minute, but the program is now ended. So they will not be accepting any more Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival applications.

For those people who have already been granted Deferred Action, the question is then what happens to them? What happens to their work cards, what happens to their deportation cases, and there’s so many angles to this that we’re going to be shooting video all this week, and then we’re going to post it out to all our social media channels, because we want to get out the word as to what’s going to happen to these people. For the people who already have Deferred Action, if it expires before March 5, 2018 … in other words six months from today … if it expires by March 5, 2018, if you already have DACA and it’s going to expire, you can apply for a two-year renewal, but your application must be received one month from today. It must be received no later than October 5, 2017.

In our office, we’re going to be going over all of our Deferred Action applications, all of our beneficiaries, and we’re going to shoot those applications over for renewal for the people that are eligible. If you have Deferred Action and it expires after March 5, 2018, you’re not going to be eligible for that extension, and your DACA and your work authorization will expire on the date that’s shown on that red work authorization card that you have.

If you have a new DACA application that was filed before today, it is going to continue to be processed. They are not going to stop processing Deferred Action applications that were on file prior to September 5, 2017.

Now, one of the great things about the Deferred Action program, and one of the things that really has driven the hardliners crazy, is that with Deferred Action, not only could you get work authorization, and not only could you get your deportation halted, you also had the ability if you needed to get back to your home country to apply for something called “advance parole.” Advance parole is permission before you leave the United States to return to the United States, and it allows you to go out of the country. And if you have a qualifying relative, that is if you’re married to a US citizen, now that you’ve come back you can apply for a green card, for lawful permanent resident status through that advance parole and through that Deferred Action that you’ve been previously given. And it allows you to be properly inspected so that you can adjust your status.

We did this for a good number of clients, where we had people who had obtained Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, they had a reason to go back home, some kind of family emergency. They’d go back to their home country, and when they return, they come through customs on that advance parole, and now they’ve been properly inspected and they’re allowed to adjust their status. In fact, we had one approved this very morning. We had a case that we’d been sweating. We weren’t sure what was going to happen with Deferred Action. We thought that it might be going away, and one of our long time clients who has had Deferred Action for quite some time and is married to a US citizen got the word today that he’s going to get his green card.

The question is are people who have Deferred Action and who have already obtained advance parole, are they going to be able to leave the United States or are they going to be able to come back to the United States and adjust their status. And the answer to that question is yes. If you’re outside of the United States and you’ve been granted advance parole, the good advice would be to come back as soon as you can, but you are going to be able to do that maneuver that we mentioned and, hopefully, obtain your lawful permanent resident status. That will still be considered a good entry for purposes of adjustment of status.

The USCIS as of today will no longer process those advance parole applications, so some of our clients do have pending advance parole applications. Those will not be granted. As far as people who have final orders of deportation and are in deportation proceedings, we’re going to cover that in tomorrow’s video, but as of now I think it’s safe to assume that those people are going to have their cases what are called “re-calendared”. They’re going to be sent back to Immigration Court, and they’re going to have to be responsive to the charges of deportation, and if they’ve already been ordered deported I suspect that eventually, and probably sooner rather than later, ICE is going to start effectuating those orders of removal. So we’ll see if that’s paused or not. I’m not sure exactly if that’s going to happen yet, but we’ll see.

One thing to keep in mind with all this is you should not be relying on the advice of strangers, you should not be relying on the advice of notarios. You want to make sure that you are using an immigration attorney, preferably one who’s in the American Immigration Lawyers Association, lawyers who specialize in immigration. There are a lot of people in times of crisis like this who try to take advantage of people, and there are many, many, many good immigration attorneys around the country. I encourage you to talk to one of them.

We are going to continue to fight for our clients, and we’re going to continue to press Congress to take action. That will be the topic of another video later this week, but for now, if you have questions about the ending of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, if you have any questions about what your particular situation is, be sure to give us a call at (314) 961-8200. You can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. Make sure to like our Facebook channel, our YouTube channel so that you find out all of our future updates as to what’s been going on. We are sorry to say good night to you on this very sad evening.

You’ve gotta keep hope alive, as Reverend Jackson said. We’re going to keep fighting. We have friends in Congress, and there have been a lot of good signals that have come out of Congress that this might be changed legislatively, and that would take away a lot of the arguments that Trump, Sessions, and Kris Kobach have for doing away with Deferred Action, and we’re hopeful that even in this dark hour that things will turn around and that we’ll be able to find a good solution for a lot of the great quality people that we’ve met and we haven’t met who’ve all been benefiting from this Deferred Action program. There’s absolutely no reason these children, these young people, these quality individuals should be sent back to their home countries, and we pray and hope and will strive to make sure that that doesn’t happen.

Peace out.

What Immigration Changes Can Trump Do All By Himself

Can Donald Trump change the US immigration system all by himself?

Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. At the time we’re shooting this video in August of 2017 there’s been a lot of noise, and circumstance, and news reporting about all the changes that Donald Trump he himself might bring into the immigration landscape, and we thought we would shoot this short video to dispel some myths and walk you through what he can and can’t do.

One of the things that’s been really interesting since Trump took office is that we’ve all gotten a lot of good lessons in the way that our civic system works and our system of checks and balances and that is the three branches of government, of course. We have the three branches of government which are the judiciary, the legislature and the executive branch, which is headed by President Trump. There have already been things over the course of his short administration that have impacted each of those branches of government and demonstrate the kinds of points that I want to make today.

The first thing to keep in mind is that there are three branches of the government and that the executive can only do so much. Now, one of the things that I often say about elections is that when a person becomes president, they put in people in charge of their departments, their administrators, their secretaries in the cabinet, and these people are making small tweaks to the law that you don’t see on a regular basis. They’re updating regulations. They’re changing things that most people don’t pay attention to.

Now, when it comes to immigration, we pay pretty close attention to changes in the regulations and the rules and of course any changes in the law. But, the executive’s job is to enforce the law. The executive can’t make new law and the executive can only direct the people beneath him or her to follow the law and to the extent that the executive tries to overstep the law and to do things that aren’t legal, that is going to be stopped and I’ll tell you how in a minute.

We saw an example of this with the so-called Muslim ban, President Trump’s attempt to keep people from seven predominantly Muslim countries and then six Muslim countries out of the United States while they supposedly figure things out with the immigration system and whether those countries were helping the United States vet those people to see if we should allow them into the country. You might recall that he released that program on a late Friday afternoon. And, by early the next week, there were lawsuits already on file challenging it, and we saw the three branches of government lay bare. The judiciary stopped President Trump and that executive order banning Muslims from those countries, so it’s important to keep in mind. I understand the fear, the consternation and the worry about what Trump can and can’t do, but there are checks on him. The courts will make sure that he’s following the law and that he’s following the constitution. As any good immigration student knows, that the constitution is a supreme law of the land and that the president has to follow the constitution and laws written by congress have to follow the constitution.

One point I really want to drive home is that the president can only do so much. If he tries to impose an executive order that is contrary to laws on the books or the congress overrides with a specific law, then it’s really a check on his power. He is not a king. He is not a dictator. He’s simply the president of the United States and he has to follow the law just like everybody else.

Another thing to keep in mind is that he does have a lot of flexibility though in how the law is interpreted. A lot of people criticize President Obama because he decided to halt deportations for young people who were brought here as minors, and he viewed the immigration deportation system as overly harsh on these young people, and so he directed the Department of Homeland Security to come up with enforcement priorities and to focus on deporting people who had either committed crimes or had been repeatedly entered in the United States illegally. That was all done by executive order. President Trump has not done away with that program yet. He could at any time. Congress has not acted and pass legislation to make that protection for those young people part of the law. The president could undo any executive order done by President Obama or any other prior president. Executive orders are not law. They have to follow the law, but they can definitely impact the lives of Americans as we can tell with the many people who have benefited from President Obama’s Deferred Action program.

The flexibility and the power that Trump has is, one, the fact that he can change executive orders and the other is his role as a mouthpiece and an advocate for change. Now, President Trump hasn’t been particularly successful in this realm. A lot of people are tuning him out. His popularity numbers are way low and so people in congress and around the country are not as afraid as they were as to the impact that he has.

Recently he and some Republican Congresspeople came forward and put forward legislation that would really roll back immigration, especially family based immigration. He really put a lot of fear in people. That’s the genesis of where this video is coming from is that we wanted to make sure that right now everybody knows that this only a proposed legislation. It hasn’t been put into law, that we’ll continue to monitor it. But, basically, that if he wants to roll back the way that immigration visas are given out and cut in half those numbers of immigrant visas, then he’s going to have to do it through congress. Pay attention to what’s going on. If you’re a US citizen, contact your senators or congress people and make sure that your voice is heard because this is really important. Again, the congress acting or not acting is another check on President Trump.

Overall, I want you to be confident. I want you to be educated. I want you to be paying attention to what’s going on. Understand that he’s not king and he can’t just snap his hands and make the changes to the immigration laws. That there’s a process and a procedure and that he has to follow the law. If he doesn’t follow the law, then people will take him to court. People like me and our firm and people like the ACLU and other great organizations will take him to court, hold his feet to the fire and make sure that he’s following the law. Don’t be afraid. Do not be afraid. There are people out here who will protect you, people who will help you.

If you have any questions about this, about the changes that Trump may or may not be able to put into place, be sure to give us a call at (314) 961-8200 or you can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. If you like this video, be sure to give it a like down below, share it with your friends and family and make sure to subscribe to us on all the social media channels, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook so that you get updated whenever we shoot videos like this one. Thanks a lot and have a great day.

When Do I Appeal a Bad Decision from the Immigration Judge?

To appeal a decision made by the immigration judge (“IJ”), you must affirmatively reserve that right when asked by the IJ if you plan to appeal. It’s safest to reserve your right to appeal, even if you aren’t sure whether you want to appeal. It doesn’t mean you have to appeal, but it leaves the option open for you to do so.

If you choose to appeal, the appeal must be received by the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) within 30 days of the IJ’s decision or else it’s automatically denied. The board does not observe the “mailbox” rule.

In other words, it’s not sufficient to have proof of postage that you sent the appeal before the 30-day deadline, if it doesn’t actually arrive by that 30-day deadline. Timeliness is ultimately based on the time stamp placed on the document upon its arrival at BIA.

When filing an appeal, make sure you have the correct filing deadline. The 30-day rule counts the day of the IJ’s decision as day 0. The day following the IJ’s decision is day 1 and so forth. Make sure to calculate your deadline correctly. You don’t want to miss your deadline because you miscounted!

The 30-day deadline also applies to DHS appeals. If you win a cancellation of removal or other type of defensive application, the government must appeal its decision within the 30-day window. Otherwise, its appeal is also automatically denied.

Finally, It’s best not to wait until the last minute to file. There can be unexpected delays, unfavorable weather conditions, etc. Such delays are not tolerated by the BIA (although if the cause of the delay was unavoidable because of a natural or man-made disaster, you can file a motion asking the BIA to make an exception).

So, file ahead of time and don’t miss your deadline!

Couple awaits word on whether they will be deported to Mexico

Oakland nurse and mother of four, Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, and her husband have lived in the United States for over two decades, but they do not have legal status.  Under a federal deportation order, the couple and their youngest child, Jesus, 12, will be flying to Mexico City on Wednesday, August 16.

Mendoza-Sanchez received a call on Tuesday afternoon from Senator Dianne Feinstein.  Praying that Sen. Feinstein’s call would bring good news in the 11th hour, Mendoza-Sanchez answered the phone with hopes that her family could remain intact.

Unfortunately, Sen. Feinstein apologetically told Mendoza-Sanchez that immigration authorities had denied the request for a stay and there was nothing more she could do.  Mendoza-Sanchez, her husband, and Jesus, a United States citizen by birth, will have to leave the United States and make a new home in Mexico.

Their three daughters, ages 16, 21, and 23, will stay behind in the United States.  The two older daughters will raise their younger sister, ensuring she completes her final two years of high school.  The two younger daughters are U.S. citizens and the oldest daughter is protected by DACA status.

Immigration attorney, Carl Shusterman, represents the family.  He termed Tuesday’s denial of the stay request a “tragedy.”  ICE officials refused to make an exception for Mendoza-Sanchez and her family because, “if they did, they would have to make an exception for other people, too.”  

Maria Mendoza-Sanchez is a nurse at Highland hospital in the oncology and cardiology wing.  Her husband, Eusebio Sanchez, is a truck driver.  Neither Mendoza-Sanchez nor her husband have a criminal record.

According to an immigration expert, the denial of the stay reflects a shift in the government’s deportation approach.  When cases received high levels of media attention and local political involvement in the past, ICE would shy away from the negative publicity and alter their response.  Santa Clara University School of Law professor, Pratheepan Gulasekaram, says that ICE “is sending a message with this removal…Everybody is potentially a target.”

For more information, click here.

DACA’s Fifth Year Anniversary, But Will the Program Survive?

This week marked the five year anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Under DACA, young people brought to the United States as minors have been able to halt their deportation temporarily and to obtain work authorization cards.

These work cards have allowed them to obtain drivers’ licenses and social security numbers.  It has also allowed them to work or to attend college.

President Barack Obama implemented DACA without an actual law being passed by Congress.  The basis of DACA was Obama’s belief that federal immigration officials had limited resources and could only deport so many people.

So Obama wanted the Department of Homeland Security to focus on criminals and people who had repeatedly entered the U.S. without authorization.  Although many immigration advocates criticized Obama for his agency’s definition of what constituted a “criminal” and felt that the definition was applied too broadly, thousands of young people benefited from the DACA program.

Recent estimates indicate that some 800,000 young people from around the world have benefitted from the deferred action program.

But because DACA was based on an executive order and not on legislation passed by Congress, it has always depended upon the willingness of the executive to maintain the program.

Enter Donald J. Trump.  Trump campaigned on a harsh anti-immigrant platform, promising to terminate the DACA program.

But so far, he has not.

Those who follow immigration policy point to his appointment of immigration hard-liner Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and Trump’s meetings with Kris Kobach, a noted xenophobe and anti-immigrant politician, as signs that DACA may be through.

By leaving DACA alone, Trump has angered his base, many of whom supported him based on his anti-immigrant stance and his promise to deport as many people as possible.

The Texas Attorney General is trying to challenge the DACA program’s legality in federal court and Trump can always cancel the program unilaterally.

Last month, Republicans and Democrats in Congressed reintroduced the Dream Act, a bill to give undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children a path to citizenship, but the White House immediately shot it down. There are also bipartisan bills in the House and Senate that would provide temporary protections, but it’s unclear whether those could pass or if they would be signed into law.

The Unlucky Undocumented: How Being in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time is Getting Immigrants Deported

People often ask us how life for immigrants has changed since Donald Trump became President.

We tell them that one major change is the fact that Immigration and Customs Enforcement now routinely sweeps up immigrants during raids even when those immigrants were not the targets of the raids.

For these people, they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In these scenarios, ICE is raiding a house or work place to find a particular undocumented immigrant, but come into contact with additional, previously unknown undocumented immigrants.

And that is how they get caught.

As explained in this recent piece from Time magazine, “[u]nder the Trump Administration’s new enforcement priorities, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are instructed to detain and deport anyone who is in the country illegally, which means even so-called “non-targets” may end up in custody after a raid.”

As an example, Time cites a four-day operation in late July 23017 in which ICE arrested 650 people.  Of those, 457 were not targets of the raid.  This means that 70% of the immigrants were unlucky and got caught in the middle of a raid meant for someone else.

President Barack Obama had stated, defined priorities detailing who ICE should be looking for – namely criminals and people who had already been deported from the U.S. who were now back in America.  President Trump did away with those stated priorities.

ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett explained to Time that since the priorities have been eliminated, no classes or categories of removable undocumented immigrants are exempt from deportation.

“I think that our agency now feels that we can make arrests. They’re in compliance with federal law, there aren’t the restrictions,” she said. “It allows more flexibility for the officers to make decisions from their personal dealings with the person.”

As of now, based on raw statistical data, about 44% of those being deported under President Trump do not have criminal records.  This is a slight increase over the 42% of those deported during the Obama era.

Undocumented Dad Nabbed by ICE while Dropping Daughter Off at School Gets Another Chance

Last week, the Board of Immigration Appeals vacated a deportation order entered against Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez.  Romulo’s case drew nationwide attention after a YouTube video surfaced of his daughter weeping after his arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In February, Avelica-Gonzalez was taken into custody by ICE while he was dropping off his daughters at school.

Here is the video taken in the moments after the man was taken into custody.

He has been held at the Adelanto Detention Facility in San Bernardino County since he was taken into custody.

Romulo has lived in the U.S. for 25 years, but had no way to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the States.  He has two misdemeanor convictions – one for receiving stolen car tags and one for driving under the influence.

Avelica-Gonzalez has four children who are U.S. citizens, according to National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). He was working as a cook at the time of his arrest.

“He should not be imprisoned just for trying to live a better life and stay with his family,” Avelica-Gonzalez’s 13-year-old daughter, Fatima, said in a prepared release.

Fatima is the daughter who videotaped her father’s arrest.

Avelica-Gonzalez’s immigration lawyer has successfully gotten those convictions vacated and the Board of Immigration Appeals then granted his request for an emergency stay of deportation while it reviewed his case.

His legal team has requested that ICE release Romulo while the deportation case proceeds.  A new bond hearing is set for August 30, 2017.

ICE has a long-standing policy instructing agents to  avoid conducting enforcement activities at so-called “sensitive locations” such as churches, hospitals and schools, unless absolutely necessary. But Avelica-Gonzalez’s arrest at his daughter’s school sparked renewed concerns that ICE is loosening that policy — an accusation that federal officials have denied.

With regards to the latest BIA decision in AVelica-Gonzalez’s case, Department of Justice spokesman Kenneth Gardner said officials had no official comment about the decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals. “The decision speaks for itself,” Gardner wrote in an email.

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.

 

 

Indian Doctors Face Deportation Due to Paperwork Error

Two Indian physicians who reside in Houston, Texas, face imminent deportation from the United States due to a paperwork error.

Dr. Pankaj Satija is a neurologist who helped found the Pain and Headache Centers of Texas.  His wife, Dr. Monnika Ummat, have resided in the U.S. for many, many years.  Dr. Ummat is also a neurologist.  She specializes in treating epilepsy at Texas Children’s Hospital.  They are the parents of 2 U.S. citizens, 7-year-old Ralph and 4-year-old Zoeey.

The pair faced removal last week after immigration officials refused to extend Dr. Satija’s and Dr. Ummat’s temporary permission to stay in the U.S.  The decision by Homeland Security may cause dozens of Texans who suffer from neurological disorders to be without their doctors.

“I have 50 patients today and 40 patients tomorrow,” said Dr. Satija. “I’m just concerned they’ll be left in a lurch. They could land up in the emergency room.”

The Houston Methodist Hospital System sponsored Dr. Satija for a green card (lawful permanent resident status) in 2008.  Dr. Ummat would be eligible to adjust status as his spouse.  But because the couple are from India and because USCIS has a nearly decade-long backlog for Indian professionals to adjust status, they have not yet received their LPR status.

The couple regularly renewed their travel documents and work authorizations.  But last year, their permission to travel abroad was extended for only one year instead of two years, which had typically been what they received.  Later snafus by Customs and Border Patrol contributed to the confusion.

The couple never noticed the problem.  Then Dr. Satija’s brother called from India to tell him that their father had been admitted into intensive care and was gravely ill.  The entire family flew to India.

When they returned to the U.S., they learned that they had left the U.S. on expired advance parole documents (the formal name for the travel documents).

CBP allowed the couple to enter the U.S. on deferred inspection, which means they were allowed in but would have to explain how they believed they were entitled to stay at a later date.

When they brought their paperwork back to CBP, they were initially told that everything would be okay.  But the next day, they were told “[s]omebody up there has decided you have to leave the country in the next 24 hours.”

According to the Houston Chronicle, in two expansive immigration memos the Trump administration issued in February, it directed the nation’s three main immigration agencies to “sparingly” use the practice of parole, though it hasn’t yet detailed the new regulations.

At the end of last week, DHS did agree to give the couple another 90 days to try and sort out the situation.

This story demonstrates a few themes we talk about at the Hacking Law Practice on a regular basis.

First, it is absolutely ridiculous that we have an immigration system that takes nine years for a pair of super-qualified doctors from India to get lawful resident status.

Second, it is absurd that we are even talking about the possibility of deporting these people who serve sick Americans every day of their lives.

Third, immigrants are awesome and help this country every day.