Category: Asylum

Can a writ of mandamus help in delayed asylum cases

 

Can a writ of mandamus lawsuit work for people who have delayed asylum cases? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of office here in St. Louis, Missouri. You know one of our favorite things to do here at the Hacking Law Practice is to file lawsuits on behalf of immigrants who’ve been waiting too long for immigration benefits. Typically, we do that in the citizenship context, so probably over a hundred people have benefited from working with us to file lawsuits on their behalf against the USCIS. The way it works is you file a lawsuit, you ask a federal judge who doesn’t work for the immigration service, who’s appointed for life and who is not part of the executive branch, to compel the immigration service to decide a case.

We’ve had people who’ve been waiting for their citizenship for one, two, three, four, five, even nine years benefit from us filing a lawsuit. When you file a lawsuit, it generally requires the USCIS to take the case off the shelf. For some reason, they’ve taken people’s cases and put them up on the shelf, and the lawsuit makes them explain the source of the delay. When delays have gone on for a really, really long time, the agency usually does not want to fight. They just want to move the case forward. We oftentimes get positive movement on the cases, oftentimes scheduling an interview or scheduling an oath ceremony.
We’ve always known that it works in the citizenship context. We’ve also had success, which you can learn about on other videos, when it comes to green card delays. We even had success suing the State Department for delays in processing immigrant visas for the spouses of US citizens. The one thing we’ve never done before is file a mandamus action for someone who had been waiting for asylum. One of the reasons we were reluctant to do that is we weren’t entirely sure, given the fact that the immigration service and the asylum office has so much discretion in granting or denying asylum, we were reluctant to file a lawsuit on the asylum front. We weren’t sure if it was going to work.

About six months ago, we were hired by a very nice couple from Syria who happen to live in Michigan. They had filed for asylum in December of 2012. They had their interview just a few months later, which is unusual, but it does happen. Sometimes, randomly, certain asylum cases get assigned very quickly to an interview. Their interview happened literally six weeks after they filed. The interview was in January of 2013, and at the time that they hired us in October of 2016, they had been waiting for three and a half years for their decision. They had done everything they could do to try to get help. They had contacted the CIA ombudsman. They had contacted their senators and representatives in Michigan, and they had made numerous InfoPass appointments, and they just couldn’t get any movement.

One thing to keep in mind is this couple had hired the largest immigration law firm in the country. If I told you their name, you’d have heard of them. They have offices around the country and around the world. I think generally they specialize more in business immigration, and while they did take this asylum case, when I reviewed the paperwork that had been filed, I didn’t think they had done a very job. Specifically, what I complained about was the fact that the statement that was submitted in support of the asylum application was all over the map. It wasn’t very focused. It left a lot of things wide open and a lot of issues for inquiry by the asylum officer.

I talked to my client about how the initial interview had gone. He said that it had gone very well, that the officer had talked to them for about an hour, which is also unusual, and that the asylum case, he was told by the officer, would be approved in a couple of months. None of that made real sense. Nonetheless, we decided to file a lawsuit. We filed suit in Chicago, because that’s where our client’s asylum case was pending. We filed it in federal court. We served copies on the defendants, and pretty quickly, he got rescheduled for another interview. That was last January. I attended the interview with my clients. It was a long day. My client had a lot to say, and they had a lot of ground to cover. They were revisiting and reissuing focus on the case and the questions that had been answered back in 2013, and they wanted to make sure that my client had not supported any kind of groups that the United States was worried about in Syria.
When the interview was over, we thought that we had done a good job and that we would be getting a decision shortly.

It turns out that we had to wait a little bit longer. Now, the defendants had a certain amount of time to answer the lawsuit. Typically, it’s 60 days, but because they were working with us, we had given them some extensions and were coming up against a new deadline. I got a call from the US attorney who was defending the lawsuit to tell me that, lo and behold, the immigration service, the asylum office, wanted to interview our client one more time. Now, I took this as a good sign, because I figured if they wanted to deny the case, they wouldn’t call us back in for another interview, but that’s in fact what they did. This week, we went up to Chicago and had a third interview on the asylum case. It was relatively quick, but it was about an hour long.

One thing the attorney had told me when he called was that he was willing to promise that we would leave the asylum office that day with a decision. It was a very stressful day for my client and for me. We went through that hour-long third interview, and then they asked us to wait so they could talk to the supervisor. They had a few more questions after that, and then we had to wait a few hours while they issued their decision. We spent that time pacing back and forth in the asylum office. It was back like when I had trial work, and I was waiting on a jury. I really wasn’t sure which way it was going to go. The officer didn’t want to come out and see us herself. She had the lady at the front window give us the decision, so we’re sitting there waiting for the decision. It was very suspenseful. I was very worried.

The decision was sitting across from us. I couldn’t tell what it said. I was pretty sure that it was going to be a denial, but the agent happily told us that our client had been approved. His long four-and-a-half year wait for asylum had been granted, that he’d been granted a parole into the United States, and that he was going to be treated as an asylee, that a year from now, he can apply for a green card, and then five years after that, he can apply for citizenship. This happened on a day that there was a horrible gas attack in Syria, so it only led more importance and significance to the victory. We were very, very excited for our client and his wife and his two lovely US citizen daughters. They’re not going to have to go back to Syria or to leave the United States. It was quite a victory, and we’re really happy for our clients.

Lesson learned. If an asylum case has been pending for a really, really long time … It’s not going to work in every case, and I would say a delay of two or three or four years is sort of the minimum before we file a lawsuit, but to know that the immigration service, the asylum office, and the US attorneys will work with us on asylum cases is a very valuable lesson.

If you have experienced delay in any kind of immigration case, whether it’s citizenship, green cards, visas, anything, make sure to give us a call at the Hacking Law Practice, 314-961-8200. You can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. If you like this video, be sure to click the subscribe button below. Give us a like and a shout out on social media. We’d really appreciate it. It’s a big help. If you have questions that you want us to cover, just feel free to email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com, and we’ll try to shoot a video for you. Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

 

Which asylum office is handling my case?

Clients often ask – which asylum office is handling my case.

So we thought that we would compile this handy guide to the different asylum offices and the cases that they each handle.

Arlington Asylum Office

The Arlington Asylum Office serves the following seven states: Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

This office also serves the following counties in the state of Pennsylvania: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Greene, Indiana, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Mercer, Somerset, Venango, Warren, Washington, Westmoreland.

Chicago Asylum Office

The Chicago Asylum Office serves these fifteen states: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Kentucky.

Houston Asylum Office

The Houston Asylum Office serves these ten states: Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

Los Angeles Asylum Office

The Los Angeles Asylum Office serves Arizona, Hawaii, and the Territory of Guam.

This office also serves the following counties in the state of California: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura.  

This office also serves the following counties in the state of Nevada: Clark, Esmerelda, Lincoln, and Nye.

Miami Asylum Office

The Miami Asylum Office serves Florida, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands.

Newark Asylum Office

The Newark Asylum Office serves these 8 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

This office serves the following counties in the state of New York: Albany, Allegany, Bronx, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Erie, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesse, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, New York (Manhattan), Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saint Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Wyoming, Yates.

This office also serves the following counties in the state of Pennsylvania: Adams, Berks, Bucks, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Clinton, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne, Wyoming, York.

San Francisco Asylum Office

The San Francisco Asylum Office serves the following states: Alaska, Oregon, and Washington.

The office serves the following counties in the state of California: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yolo, Yuba.

This office also serves the following counties in the state of Nevada include: Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Elko, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, Pershing, Storey, Wash, White Pine.

Nearly 60% of Syrian Refugees are Children

Approximately 60 percent of the 2015 admitted refugees from Syria were children.  This is a larger percentage than most refugees.

One reason for the high percentage is that Syrian families are generally large.  Moreover, the devastation from the war in Syria is so massive that there are simply a ton of families being displaced.

These children are now enrolling in public schools across the United States in cities like Chicago, Austin and New Haven, Connecticut.  This presents a challenge to schools trying to integrate these students into the prior student population.

According to a recent report by ABC News, Syrian children experience similar challenges to other young refugees — limited English, an education delayed by war and displacement — but they are somewhat distinct in the level of trauma they have experienced, school leaders and resettlement workers said.

“The truth is, a lot of them have seen some pretty nasty stuff,” said Eyal Bergman, a family and community engagement officer for a California school sistrict. “But I also see incredible resilience.”

Schools are increasing the number of English classes and trying to educate the Syrian parents as to how the U.S. educational system works.

Some students are enrolled in “newcomer” classes which include a heavy dose of English.  Others are placed with mainstream students right away.

For parents, the schools offer parental training sessions in Arabic on school procedures, how to read the school calendar and how to get services for their children.

Parents and advocates worry too about the harsh rhetoric from Republicans during this election season.  Statistics suggest a sharp uptick in anti-Muslim bullying following the xenophobic messages of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

One thing to remember in all of this is that the children are just that – children.  They miss the home that they left behind – their toys, their friends, their families.

St. Louis has taken in a number of refugee families due to the good work being performed by the International Institute, a refugee resettlement facility.

Acclimating to life in the United States can be very difficult.

Here’s What To Do After You Get Your Asylum Interview Notice

What do I do after I receive my asylum interview notice?

Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. You know, a lot of the videos that I shoot, that we make, are based on current situations at our office, questions that come up either from clients or potential clients. We have a very interesting situation here in the office that just occurred. We have a fair number of asylum cases for clients from Iraq right now. Probably in our office, we’re handling about fifteen of these, and some of them have been pending for two years or more.

Last week, we got not one, not two but three asylum interview notices for the same day, and so we are working with each of our clients to prepare them for their interview and to gather the supplemental documents that we want to submit prior to the interview. It’s a very interesting time here. It’s very hectic so I’m going to shoot this video as quickly as I can. Basically, I wanted to talk to you about what we do to get ready for that final interview. The one thing that we do first and foremost is we meet with our client again. We go over the statement that we submitted, so whenever we file an I-589 asylum application, we always send in a long statement from our clients detailing why they fear persecution if they return back home.

The first thing we do is we review the statement with them and we go over it line by line with them, and we do that a couple of times to make sure that they’re comfortable, to refresh their recollection. As I mentioned, many of the time, these people had filed these two years or more ago. They probably haven’t really read up on it or paid attention to exactly what’s going on day to day in their home country so we want to prepare them for the interview because when they go to the interview, usually we don’t say that much as the attorneys involved. We really want our clients to stand on their own two feet, to be able to demonstrate and explain to the officer why they feel they need asylum and protection from persecution back home.

We spend a lot of time obviously preparing the clients for that interview. The other things we do is we start gathering supplemental evidence so again the evidence that we submitted two years ago might not be timely, and especially with countries like Iraq or where things are happening quickly and sides are changing and cities are falling, all these things are important to bring up, especially as we particularize them to our client’s case.

For instance, if we have a Sunni Muslim who doesn’t want to join ISIS, then we’re going to want to demonstrate what’s happening to Sunni Muslims who don’t join ISIS these days, so we want to make everything fresh and contemporary and updated, and we also want to go through and highlight all of that in the supplemental application memo so that the officer has an easy time going through the evidence and they understand why our client still feels they’re going to be persecuted if they return back home.

The two big things are to prepare for the interview by going over your statement, recollecting why you feel you’re going to be persecuted if you go back home, and the other one is to make sure that you’re submitting supplemental evidence, updated Human Rights Watch reports, State Department Country Conditions reports and any kind of news reports that apply to the situation in your home country. The tricky thing with asylum is that you wait and wait and wait for months and years and then when you get the notice, you basically have about two weeks to get your materials together and we like to submit them ahead of time, so they’re actually going out right now, as we speak, to the officer before they come to the interview.

If you have any questions about getting ready for your asylum interview or if you’re thinking about applying for asylum or you’re wondering whether or not you’re going to be able to show a credible fear of future persecution if you return back home, be sure to give us a call at 314-961-8200 or you can email us at jim@hackinglawpractice.com.

If you liked this video, be sure to click Like below and subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you get updated whenever we post new videos. Thanks a lot and we hope to see you soon. Bye, bye.

Lessons Learned from Back to Back Asylum Interviews

What lessons did you learn attending 2 asylum interviews in 1 day?

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

I’ve had a very interesting day this week. I spent the entire day with an asylum officer and 2 of my asylum clients down at the local immigration office. In St. Louis, we don’t have an asylum office, we operate out of the asylum office in Chicago so periodically the asylum office sends officers down to St. Louis to conduct a week’s worth of interviews.

This was very interesting because while my clients have been waiting for more than 2 years for their interviews, we got about 10 days notice of the interview itself. We sort of had to scramble to get our supplemental materials in to file all that on time, and to make sure that the officer had a copy of all the evidence that we wanted to submit in support’s of our client’s claim that they would face persecution if they were forced to return back home.

We had 1 interview at 8:00 and the other one at 12:30. Our office actually had 3 interviews, but I only conducted 2 of them. We learned a lot that day. We learned a lot, we’re always trying to learn and share that information with you, and with our clients to try to help you get the most beneficial results at the asylum office and to get the information that you need so that you can put together the strongest case possible and do a good job at your interview.

What we learned. One thing we learned is that the officers are very well prepared. They’re very well advised and have knowledge of the situation on the ground. Both of my clients happened to be from Iraq on this particular case so the officer had a tremendous amount of information about Iraq and he did not need us to go into any country conditions or anything. That’s very instructive for you if you’re thinking about or preparing for your asylum interview and that is, you need to cut to the chase. You need to get started, you need to tell the officer exactly why you fear persecution if you return back home. He’s not going to want to hear just about country conditions, or she wants to hear about you. About your experience, about what your fears are, about what threats you’ve had, what incidents you’ve had that make you fear going back because the best example, the best way to show future persecution is by showing past persecution.

The officers don’t want to engage in a bunch of small talk. They dive right in. First, they go over the form, the I-589 and they go over the biographic information and then, in both interviews, the officer started off by saying “Why do fear going back to Iraq?” Then just sort of left it open.

Then he asked about prior incidents of persecution or threats or harm or harassment and they spent a lot of time talking back and forth, my client and the officer about that. This particular officer was also a very sensitive fellow, I really liked him a lot. I thought he did a tremendous job and that he was very fair with my clients.

Another thing that we know already but was re-emphasized by going through the interview is that not every question is designed to trick you, or to punish you, or to weaken your case. Sometimes the officers ask neutral questions and sometimes I think they ask questions that are designed to help the client. To help them remember things, to make sure that the officer gets all the information. This particular officer I thought was a very fair arbiter. A very fair judge. A very fair officer in assessing the evidence. He wasn’t trying to trick anybody, he wasn’t unfair I thought. I thought he was very methodical, very matter of fact, very sensitive, there were times in any asylum case where your client is expressing real fear and I think he was very sensitive to that. I think he’d been very well trained. He’d obviously handled a lot of interviews before and I thought he was very thorough.

You need to be ready. You need to be ready for your interview, you need to be able to tell your story, you need to be able to articulate it. With each of our clients, I think we prepped them each 3 times for a couple hours each time to make sure that they were ready. To make sure that they remembered everything. On the back end, at the end of the interview, I in both cases made a statement. In 1, I made sure that my client was mentioning a few of the incidents that he had neglected to mention and which the officer had not followed up on. I wanted to make sure that the officer had a thorough understanding of the facts of the case. In the other one I did make a brief closing statement and I have to tell you, I was touched by what my client said. I think the officer was touched by what my client said. It was very hard to listen to someone express such base fear of going back home. It’s going to be very dangerous for him if he has to.

We’re very hopeful that they both get asylum here in the United State. We’re feeling good about the cases. Obviously we don’t want to jinx it but we thought our clients did a really good job, that we had put together the strongest case possible, that they did a really good job of articulating their positions and I think the officer was able to assess that these are very credible fears. These are 2 men who really fear bringing their family back from the United States to Iraq and we’re hopeful that the interview went well and that eventually the clients will get approved.

The officer made a point to tell everybody before we even started that there would be no decision today, that we would be conducting the interview and it was just one piece of the puzzle, that there were other supervisors and other people that have to weigh in on the asylum claim and that the interview itself was just one small piece of that.

We hope this video enlightened you as to some of the things you need to think about as you go into the asylum interview. It’s obviously very stressful, very important. It’s almost I think, a holy or a sacred event, it’s very surreal. It’s very unusual, it’s not like any other kind of immigration interview. It’s really where someone’s basically pleading for their life to not have to go back home. I think that really come through to the officer so we’re happy about that.

If you have any questions about asylum, if you’re getting ready for your interview, if you need some help, need some pointers, make sure to give us a call at (314) 961-8200. We’d be happy to represent you, to help you file the strongest asylum application possible or to strengthen your case before you go to interview.

You can also call us at (314) 961-8200. You can email us at jim@hackinglawpractice.com

We hope you like this video. We have a lot of asylum content on the YouTube website and on our regular website so if you have questions make sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and if you like this video, please give us a like down below.

Thanks a lot and have a great day.

What is “internal relocation” and how does it affect an asylum claim?

When someone files an asylum claim in the U.S., they must show that they have a well-founded fear of future persecution if they return to their home country.  If the asylum applicant succeeds in showing this, the Department of Homeland Security has the opportunity to defeat the asylum claim be establishing that the applicant could avoid future persecution by relocating to another part of the applicant’s country of nationality and that, under all of the circumstances, it would be reasonable to expect the applicant to do so.

So, as an example, let’s say that Ahmed the Asylum Applicant is from Iraq.  Ahmed seeks asylum in immigration court due to a credible fear that he will be persecuted by Shia militias in Iraq due to his Sunni Muslim religious beliefs.  Ahmed grew up in the southern portion of Iraq in Basra, a region of Iraq under the firm control of Shia Muslims.

Assuming the immigration judge concludes that Ahmed has a credible fear of future persecution, DHS can still attack that finding by establishing that Ahmed could go back to Iraq and live in another region of the country.  Basically, they would argue that he does not necessarily have to live in his home town and that, if there are safe places within Iraq in which he could live, the asylum claim should be denied.

For the immigration judge, the first question is whether the asylum applicant has the “ability to relocate safely” in his or her country.  Stated another way, is there an area of the country where he or she has no well-founded fear of persecution.  The Board of Immigration Appeals has made clear that the purpose of the relocation rule is not to require the asylum applicant to stay one step ahead of the persecution in the proposed area.  Rather, the alternative portion of the country must present circumstances that are “substantially better” than those giving rise to the well-founded fear of persecution.

The government bears the burden of showing that there is a specific area of the country where the risk of persecution to the applicant falls below the well-founded fear of persecution level.

The second part of the internal relocation issue is whether “under all the circumstances, it would be reasonable to expect” that the asylum applicant would go live in the supposedly safer region of the home country.  The immigration judge is to first presume that internal relocation would not be reasonable, unless DHS first establishes by preponderance of the evidence that, under all the circumstances, it would be reasonable for the applicant to relocate.

In a 2012 case from the Board of Immigration Appeals, Matter of M-Z-M-R, 26 I&N Dec. 28 (BIA 2012), the Board ruled that the immigration judge had failed to conduct a complete inquiry on the issues of whether the applicant had the ability to relocate safely in his home country of Sri Lanka and also on the issue of whether it would have been reasonable to expect him to be able to do so.

sri-lanka2_1404739c

 

USCIS Asylum Office Issues Scheduling Bulletin

For the first time, the asylum office of USCIS has issued a scheduling bulletin.  The bulletin provides insight into the timing and delays associated with the processing of affirmative asylum cases by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service.

The asylum division of USCIS has prioritized the processing of cases and now proceeds in the following manner:

  1. Applications that were scheduled for interview and then rescheduled due to either the applicant’s request or the request of USCIS;
  2. Applications involving minor children; and,
  3. First come, first-served, i.e., in the chronological order in which they were received.

In the bulletin, USCIS also provides data on which cases are currently being processed.  This is a good step towards greater accountability from the asylum office.  One of the biggest complaints that we receive from our clients is that asylum interviews take a very long time and that USCIS does a poor job of communicating regarding the delays.

USCIS promises to update the asylum scheduling bulletin every month.  It reveals that these cases are taking a very long time to be scheduled for interview.  For instance, the Chicago Asylum office is currently scheduling interviews for applications filed in May of 2013, more than 2 years ago.  And cases are rarely decided on the date of the interview.  We have cases in which the interview occurred in early 2014 that still have not been decided.

This is a good first step towards greater transparency, but something must be done to speed up these cases.  USCIS has been hiring additional officers, but the delays continue.

USCIS

 

Federal court reverses BIA on standard to show likelihood of torture if immigrant sent back home

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an en banc ruling last week on the standard to be used in assessing claims for protection under the Convention Against Torture.  In a 6-5 decision, the court overruled four prior decisions which had addressed federal regulations implementing the United States’ participation in the Convention Against Torture.

Specifically, the Court held that its prior decisions conflicted with the regulations governing internal relocation of those seeking CAT protection. According to the majority, the prior cases were inconsistent with 8 CFR 1208.16(2) and (3) because they incorrectly required the person seeking CAT protection to prove that they couldn’t simply live in another part of their home country.

The Court said that showing the inability to relocate is not an element of the regulation.  The Court sent the case back to the Board of Immigration Appeals to reconsider.

According to the Associated Press, Roberto Maldonado entered the US as a child in 1966 and became a lawful permanent resident.  But after a burglary conviction, he lost status and was deported to Mexico.  There, he was subjected to beatings and torture by local police.  He fled to the U.S. three times and was deported each time.  Each time he was deported, he suffered the same brutal fate.  The immigration judge believed his claims, but believed that the Mexican national had to prove that he couldn’t live somewhere else in Mexico.  The BIA agreed, but now the Ninth Circuit has reversed that ruling.

It remains to be seen what impact this case will have in other parts of the country.

border patrol

 

Young Immigrant denied Green Card for being too late

A Yugoslavian immigrant was brought to the U.S. when she was just 1 year old. Her parents applied for a visa but missed the deadline by a few months. Growing up in the U.S., now years later, she is fighting for the right to stay in the only place she knows as home and asking for an exception.

Immigrant asking for deadline exception

Almira Kolenovic brought suit against her former attorney who she claims did a bad job and caused her family to miss the deadline for a green card application. Kolenovic is now 34 and resides in New York where she has lived out her entire life.

Her parents received temporary amnesty in 1989 when Ronald Regan signed immigration reform legislation, but the family did not apply for a green card within the three year span they had. Kolenovic’s paperwork eventually was submitted, but 19 months past the due date. She states in court papers that her incompetent attorney was to blame and she should have an exception made even though she missed the deadline.

Missed deadline has huge repercussions

Unfortunately, immigration officials are not taking the missed deadline lightly nor do they care that Kolenovic was just a baby when this was all happening. In 1995, immigration officials ended up removing the temporary right to stay in the U.S. and although she tracked down her files and filed a suit against United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Judge Ronnie Abrams, who is presiding over the case, has not decided in her favor.

The judge wrote, “The court is not without sympathy for Kolenovic,” however, Congress does not allow for the court to review late immigration status applications that were denied. The judge dismissed Kolenovic’s case and while it is unknown if she will try to appeal or not, she will most likely have to get in line with the rest of undocumented immigrants asking to receive a  green card.

If you have questions regarding applying for a visa or immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.

 

Immigrant admits to being Gay and is detained by Immigration Officials | St. Louis Immigration Attorney Jim Hacking

A gay 19-year-old student from Ethiopia was attending college in the United States but when his student visa expired, he was facing deportation back to Africa where same-sex conduct lands most individuals in prisons. The U.S. detained the student for over two months before freeing him and working on granting him asylum.

Student seeking asylum

Because of low grades in school, the Ethiopian man’s visa was revoked and he was jailed back in January. Immigration officials say the detention had nothing to do with his sexual orientation. Todd Williams, a runner up for state Senate, is working with the immigrant to go through the process of granting him asylum in the U.S.

Gay people in Ethiopia face all sorts of abuses because of intolerance and misunderstandings. In some regions, the student may face indefinite prison time for being gay. It is important that he stay in the U.S. for his own safety despite not attending school.

Ethiopian student’s case points out problem with system

Immigration advocates say the Ethiopian man’s case points out the apparent risks associated with the U.S. immigration system. Because immigrants are not automatically assigned public defenders when facing deportation, immigrants who do not understand the system or the language have no chance at even staying. During the man’s initial hearings, he did not have a lawyer and could not communicate with the court because of a language barrier so the immigration judge ordered a mental-health review.

Finally, nonprofits and Williams began working with the man realizing he needs to “seek counseling, housing, and asylum so that he can stay in the United States.” Although the court is requiring the man to wear an electronic tracking device on his ankle, his lawyer says she is “glad that the immigration officials saw that this young college student should have been released…” Individuals seeking help with immigration matters should contact a licensed immigration attorney who can properly advise them.

If you have questions regarding applying for a visa or immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.