Category: General

Trump to Ban Refugees & Prohibit Visas for People from 7 Predominantly Muslim Countries

According to recent news reports, President Donald Trump is planning to sign an executive order on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, which would institute a “temporary” ban on most refugees and a suspension of visas for citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

 

These countries are predominantly Muslim countries.

The ban is expected to stop Syrian refugees from coming to the United States immediately.  In addition, news reports indicate that the State Department will be prohibited from issuing some types, or even all types, of visas for people from the countries listed above.

During the Presidential campaign, Mr. Trump called for an outright ban on Muslim immigration to the United States.  The executive orders seem to be an attempt by the Trump administration to make the Muslim ban more politically acceptable and, perhaps, more legally defensible.

Banning people based on their religion would be harder to defend from a legal perspective than a ban on people from a particular country.

Last night, the President tweeted that he had a “big day” planned on national security today.

Many wonder whether the President’s action is legal.  According to Professor Stephen Legomsky of Washington University and a former legal advisor to President Obama, Trump’s ban is most likely legal.

“From a legal standpoint, it would be exactly within his legal rights,” Legomsky explained.

The Constitution and federal law give the President wide-ranging authority in deciding who gets into the United States and who does not.

Muslim organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council are awaiting the exact wording of President Trump’s executive order.  They and other groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, are exploring legal challenges to the order.

Our office is currently handling many immigrant visa cases for relatives from the above-listed countries.  We will be following the executive order and any litigation over the ban on a daily basis.

For now, we will continue to process these cases and to keep doing the next possible step in each case.

This proposed ban is so offensive and such a blatant act of stereotyping and scapegoating that it can hardly be put into words.  There have been zero reports of any Syrian refugees getting into any kind of terroristic trouble and our office works with people from these countries on a daily basis.

They are some of the finest people that we know.

But for now, as a reminder once again that elections have consequences, we are left to wait, watch and to prepare to fight.

If we can litigate on behalf of any of our clients, we are ready, willing and able to do so.

 

2016 American Nobel Prize Winners are Immigrants

At a time when immigration is in the spotlight and under attack by many critics, it is ironic that all but one of the 2016 American Nobel Prize laureates are immigrants. Laureate is the title given to those who have been honored for creative or intellectual achievements, and this is exactly what the Nobel Prize is awarded for.

The intellectual value that immigrants bring to American academics goes relatively unnoticed by critics like Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who throughout his campaign has proposed a crackdown on immigration.

Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, an honoree in chemistry from Scotland, says the United States is what it is today because of open borders. Moreover, he accredits American openness with the bringing of top scientists to the country and says that the scientific establishment in America can only remain strong “as long as we don’t enter an era where we turn our back on immigration.”

Trump has centered his campaign around two things that appeal to a particular segment of the American population: stricter immigration policies and the revocation of free trade deals, both of which would apparently rescind the negative effects globalization has had on the job market.

While Trump wants to strengthen immigration laws and has proposed “extreme vetting” of potential immigrants from countries with a history of terrorism, others have said that the current immigration process is already too strenuous. Duncan Haldane, an English Princeton University research who won the prize in physics, called the process a “bureaucratic nightmare for many people.”

The fact that so many top American scholars are immigrants defies the common consensus that the immigration process only feeds the low-skilled job market. Critics of immigration accuse immigrants of taking low skilled in-demand jobs from Americans, but overlook the fact that they contribute greatly to American research and education.

As the presidential election approaches rapidly and immigration continues to be viewed under a microscope, it is important to acknowledge the plethora of benefits immigrants bring to American society. Hopefully, the large number of immigrant laureates is a gentle reminder to voters of this fact.

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USCIS Announces Steep Filing Fee Increases

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS has announced an increase to many of the fees associated with filing for immigration benefits in the United States.  This is the first fee increase in six years.

The increase goes into effect on December 23, 2016.

The average fee increase is 21 percent.

The biometric fee for all applicable applications will remain $85.

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Naturalization and Citizenship

The cost to naturalize (N-400) in most cases will increase from $595 to $640 (with the biometrics fee, this amount will be $725).

One slight tweak to the filing fee requirement is that applicants with income greater than 150% but not more than 200% of the federal guidelines will pay a reduced fee of $405, including biometrics.

The naturalization fee waiver will remain available to lawful permanent residents who receive public assistance or have incomes under 150% of those poverty guidelines.

The fee for form N-600, the application for a certificate of citizenship, will increase almost 100% – from $600 to $1170.  This form is generally used for lawful permanent residents who became citizens as a matter of law, usually because their custodial parent became a citizen before they turned 18 years old.

Family-Based Immigration

The fee for an I-130 relative petition, which includes spouse petitions, will increase from $420 to $535.

Adjustment of status (I-485) application fees will go up from $985 to $1140.  So with biometrics, the total adjustment of status fee will go from $1140 to $1225.

Applications for a travel document (I-131) will increase a lot – from $360 to $575.

Employment-Based Immigration

Petitions for non-immigrant workers in the H-1b category will increase from $325 to $460 (in addition to the $750/$1500 training fee and $500 fraud prevention and detection fee).

Non-immigrant visas in the L category will also increase to $460 with the $500 fraud prevention and detection fee).

A petition for an immigrant worker for an immigrant visa (green card) – the I-140 – will increase from $580 to $700.

An application for employment authorization (EAD), the I-765, will increase from $380 to $410.

What is a DS-2019?

The form DS-2019 is the main document used by the State Department and USCIS in processing the exchange visitor program.  The form allows a prospective exchange student to seek an interview at a U.S. consulate in order to obtain a J visa to enter the United States.

Information included in the DS-2019 includes identifying information regarding the exchange visitor, their designated sponsor and includes a brief description of the appropriate exchange program.  The DS-2019 lists the start and end date of the exchange, the type of exchange and an estimated cost of the exchange program.

The DS-2019 can only be produced through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (“SEVIS”).  SEVIS is a database maintained by the Department of Homeland Security to collect background and tracking information on F, M and J visa holders.

The DS-2019 is issued by the designated sponsor after the sponsor screens and selects the exchange visitor.  Once the visitor receives the executed DS-2019 from the sponsor, they are free to apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate for the actual visa stamp.  The ultimate decision as to whether the visitor receives the J-1 visa rests with the consulate.  So obtaining a DS-2019 is not enough, the consulate has to sign off on the visa itself.

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Certificate of citizenship obtained

Many people think that if a US citizen has a newborn child overseas, that the child is automatically a citizen.  This is not always the case and depends on several factors including whether the U.S. citizen is the mother or the father and the amount of time that the citizen parent spent in the U.S. prior to the child’s birth.

Our firm was hired last year to help a young US citizen mother who had a child born in Africa.  The mom had fled the family home because her husband was abusive and she brought her child to the U.S. on a tourist visa.  We were hired to try and prove that the baby girl was a U.S. citizen.

We prepared the N-600 application for a certificate of citizenship and submitted evidence regarding the child’s birth.  USCIS issued a request for evidence, asking for proof regarding the amount of time that the U.S. citizen mom had spent in the U.S. prior to the baby’s birth.  The law requires that the beneficiary’s mother spent five years in the U.S. prior to the beneficiary’s birth, with at least 2 of the years occurring after the mother turned 14 years old. 8 CFR § 322.2(a)(2).  In this case, the mom was born in 1996, turned 14 in 2010, left the U.S. in 2013 and the baby was born in November of 2014.  After we provided a timeline and documentary support, the case was approved and our client has been scheduled for her ceremony to obtain the certificate.

Man Indicted for Fraud After Pretending to Be an Immigration Attorney

Law enforcement officials in New York claim that Howard Seidler, 69, of Brooklyn, NY posted advertisements identifying himself as an immigration attorney.  The man’s ads and business card included the titles “Esq.,” “PhD,” and “J.D.”

Detectives met with the phony lawyer at the Brooklyn Bar Association library, which he claimed to be his law office.  The undercover officers paid $3085 for help in obtaining a green card and a social security card.  The investigator later met with Mr. Seidler who allegedly provided a fraudulent, altered social security card and fake immigration paperwork.

He has been charged with practicing law without a license, forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, third-degree larceny and first-degree immigrant assistant services fraud.  The final count is based on a new New York law prohibiting fraud in the provision of immigration services.

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USCIS Ordered to Pay $47,000 in Legal Fees to Immigration Attorney

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has agreed to pay New York immigration attorney John Assadi more than $47,000 to end a long struggle over a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Mr. Assadi in 2011.  Although the agency claims no wrongdoing on its behalf, the court ordered payments strongly suggest improper delays and defective disclosures on the part of the agency.

Mr. Assadi requested documents related to communications at the agency regarding his firm between the USCIS fraud prevention unit and State Department consulates around the world.  Initially, USCIS responded by identifying 23 pages of reports related to Mr. Assadi and his firm, but the agency refused to produce the documents and sought to shield them from FOIA disclosure.  Mr. Assadi appealed and the agency stood by its decision.

Under the law, Mr. Assadi had the right to file suit in federal court seeking review of the denial and he did just that.  Initially, federal magistrate Ronald L. Ellis ruled that USCIS correctly withheld the reports because they allegedly contained private information and interagency deliberations about possible fraud in specific immigration cases.  Shortly before that ruling, USCIS revealed that there were additional documents – indeed, an additional 1,375 documents.  The judge ordered USCIS to turn over those documents.

Subsequently, USCIS revealed an additional 1,000 documents, some of which the agency claimed to have found “unexpectedly” due to an alleged email search error.  USCIS then moved for summary judgment, arguing that everything that should have been turned over was turned over.  Although Judge Ellis ultimately sided with USCIS, the fact that the agency is paying attorneys fees to Mr. Assadi suggests that – at the very least, the agency had been dilatory in how it handled the requests.

Congratulations to Mr. Assadi.  He received the documents he wanted after a bitter fight with the federal government.  And now the government is paying him back for his efforts.  A ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars for sure, but hopefully the agency will now take FOIA requests more seriously.

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Immigration Talk at Local Law Firm

Last week, one of the larger law firms in St. Louis – Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale – asked Jennifer and I to present an Immigration Basics for the Non-Immigration Lawyer lunch session.  Greensfelder has around 160 attorneys across the country.  We discussed visas, green cards and citizenship, as well as the asylum and deportation cases that we handle.  We had 20 attorneys in the St. Louis office and others at various satellite offices.

Our office frequently partners up with larger firms to help their clients when immigration issues arise.  If you have a group or organization that you work with and would be interested in an immigration basics talk, we would be happy to oblige.

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What’s the latest on the Deferred Action program?

What Happened to Last Year’s President’s Annoucement?

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced that he was going to implement two deferred action programs for parents of U.S. citizens without immigration status and certain individuals who entered this country before turning 16 years old. The program for parents was set to start in the middle of May 2015. Unfortunately, a lawsuit representing 17 states in the Union asked that a Judge stop this program until its legality could be established.  On February 17, 2015, it was announced that the program would not proceed until the lawsuit is resolved. The lawsuit remains pending.

Should I Continue to Collect My Documentation?

Yes! The President’s program is legal and we are confident that the court will decide in his favor. Although we do not know when this process will end, we believe that you should continue collecting your documentation in order to be ready when the program begins again. More than 31 cities, 13 states, and various community groups submitted petitions against this lawsuit y we are confident that if the Judge who has this case does not support the President, the Supreme Court of the U.S. will find that the program is legal.

Do I Qualify for Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens (DAPA)?

Once again… to be eligible for deferred action for parents of U.S. Citizens, you must be:

  • A father or mother of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  • Lived in the U.S. since January 1, 2010.
  • Have been present in the U.S. on November 20, 2014. This means someone outside of the U.S. or who first arrived after this date, probably does not qualify.
  • Not have any immigration status on November 20, 2014. This means that you entered the U.S. without authorization or your visa/authorization expired on this date.
  • Not having committed certain offenses including a felony or misdemeanor offense”

¿Qué Paso con El Anuncio del Presidente Obama del Año pasado?

El 20 de Noviembre 2014, Presidente Obama anuncio que iba implementar dos programas de acción deferida para padres de ciudadanos y ciertos individuales quienes llegar a este país antes de cumplir los 16 años.  El programa para padres estaba para empezar medianos del Mayo 2015.  Desafortunadamente, una demanda representando a 17 estados de los Estados Unidos pidió que un Juez detenga este programa hasta que la legalidad del programa este establecido. El 17 de Febrero, 2015, se anunció que el programa no iba proceder hasta que se resuelve esta demanda.  La demanda sigue pendiente.

¿Debo Seguir Colectando Mi Información?

Si! El programa del Presidente es legal y tenemos confianza que la corte va decidir en favor del Presidente. Aunque no sabemos cuándo se van terminar el proceso, creemos que siempre debe colectar su información para estar listos cuando empiece el programa de nuevo.  Más de 31 ciudades,  13 estados, y varios grupos comunitarios sometieron peticiones contra la demanda y tenemos confianza que si el Juez que tiene este caso no favorece el programa del Presidente, la Corte Suprema de este País va encontrar que el programa si es legal.

¿Califico Yo Para Acción Diferida para Responsabilidad de los Padres (DAPA)?

De Nuevo… para ser elegible para la acción diferida bajo el programa de DAPA, usted debe:

  • Ser padre o madre de un hijo ciudadano o residente legal permanente.
  • Haber vivido continuamente en los EE.UU. desde el primero de enero de 2010.
  • Haber estado presente en los EE.UU. el 20 de noviembre de 2014. Esto significa que alguien que está afuera del país el 20 de noviembre y regresa a los EE.UU. probablemente no va a calificar.
  • No haber tenido un estatus migratorio legal. Para calificar (1) debió de haber entrado a los EE.UU. sin autorización legal o, si usted entró legalmente, su estatus legal de inmigración debe de haber vencido, y (2) usted no puede tener un estatus legal de inmigración a la hora de aplicar.
  • No haber sido condenado por ciertos delitos, incluyendo un delito grave (felonía) o delitos menores (“misdemeanor offense”).

Alien Who Voted is Deportable, Whether She Intended to Violate Federal Law or Not

The federal Board of Immigration Appeals recently ruled that an alien who voted in an election was deportable.  Federal law prohibits non-citizens from voting in federal, state and local elections.  In fact, it is a crime to even register to vote in such elections if you are not a citizen.

Ms. Margarita del Pilar, a Peruvian national, obtained lawful permanent resident status in 2004 and obtained an Illinois driver’s license the next year.  In obtaining her driver’s license, she also registered to vote.  She later voted.  When she applied for citizenship in 2010, her application was denied and she was placed in deportation proceedings.

DHS alleged that Margarita was deportable for having violated federal law by voting.  The lady argued that she had no intent to violate the law and that she had simply been mistaken.  The BIA rejected the argument, finding flatly that the law prohibiting immigrants from voting before becoming citizens had no intent or knowledge requirement.  As such, the order removing the woman back to Peru was upheld.

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