Category: Service Areas

Widow Files Lawsuit Over Pending Immigration Petition

 

Jun Cui Seman, a widow of an American citizen, has filed a suit against multiple U.S. government officials because she has waited over three years for USCIS to issue a decision in her pending immigration petition.

Seman has a pending I-360 petition as the widow of a United States citizen and an I-485 petition for adjustment of status.  When her husband of two years, Enrique Seman, died in 2014, she filed her petition.

The suit was filed in the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI) on Thursday, August 17.  Seman would like the federal court to order USCIS to issue a decision in her petition.

Seman had an adjustment-of-status interview on August 18, 2014, and has not received a decision in the three years since.  USCIS never issued a request for additional information. Under the Administrative Procedures Act, applicants for immigration benefits can file suit against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to compel action on the agency’s behalf when the delay has been unreasonable.

The lawsuit was filed against multiple government officials, including USCIS acting Director James McCament, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Seman’s argues that there is not an administrative mechanism to address unreasonable delays in USCIS decision-making for an I-360 petition or I-485 application.  When Seman tried to find answers regarding the delay in decision-making, she was simply told that her file was pending with the USCIS office in Guam.  According to Mok, Seman is in no way at fault for the delay.

Normally, an I-360 interview decision is made within two to three weeks if no further information is requested.  By taking over three years to make a decision, the USCIS has caused Seman unnecessary anxiety and stress, putting her in “administrative limbo.”  The lawsuit also says Seman is in danger of removal by ICE since she does not have legal status.

For more information, click here.

 

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!

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.

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.

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.

The Amazing Mr. and Mrs. Box

Back in 2012, attorney Jim Hacking had a consult with a young woman named Jeni and her boyfriend Jake.

What was interesting about this consult was that Jeni brought her friend Jennifer to the meeting.

Jennifer was an attorney and Jeni brought Jennifer for backup.

She wanted to make sure that the information that Jim gave her about a possible marriage based green card for Jake was legit.

So began an excellent adventure that culminated this week with Mr. Jake becoming a U.S. citizen.

Jake is from England. He grew up in Ipswich.  He fell in love with American football and played for many years.  Eventually, he began coaching defense to Europeans who also loved the sport.

Later, Jake brought his coaching talents to the U.S. That is when he met Jeni, the love of his life.

Jake and Jeni filed for adjustment of status to allow Jake to remain in the U.S.  Jake gave up coaching football after seeing how hard the life was for coaches in having to change jobs and move families all around the country.

Jake and Jeni were kind enough to invite us to their wedding.

Jake’s green card was approved.  Two years later, we filed to have the conditions removed on Jake’s green card without a problem.

The cool thing about Jeni and Jake was that they were always very appreciative of the American immigration system and considered themselves lucky that their cases went smoothly.  They empathized with those who struggled through the bureaucracy.

Last Friday, Jake became a U.S. citizen.

Jake’s parents attended the ceremony as did Jeni and their two sons, Everett and Kellen.

As immigration attorneys, there is something very special about being along the journey with people as they build a beautiful life together.  It makes being a lawyer very fulfilling.

As Jake and Jeni are wont to do, they held a party to celebrate Jake’s naturalization and were kind enough to include the Hackings as guests.  We felt very honored to be included.

And this picture below just about sums up how special and amazing Mr. and Mrs. Box are.  We love them.