Tag: federal court

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.

 

What Happens After You File a Lawsuit Against USCIS

What happens after you file a law suit against the Immigration Service for delaying your case? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.

We get this question a lot. A lot of people are sometimes on the fence about whether or not to sue USCIS, and the FBI, and other agencies regarding delays in their immigration cases, and we wanted to shoot this video to explain to you what happens, what the process is like.

In our office, we have filed probably 60 or 70 of these cases at the present time, and we have a pretty good system for getting them out. What we do is we craft the complaint to set out the facts of your case to explain why your immigration case has been taking so long, and, most importantly, all the efforts that you’ve made to try to get the case decided without filing a law suit. We list those kinds of things that people do, like file info pass appointments, calling their Congress person or their Senator, calling the USCIS ombudsman, all the different things that you can do to try to make your case go faster. Usually those don’t work and they’re left with having to decide whether or not to file a law suit.

We draft the complaint, because you want the court to know that you’ve made good efforts to try to get your case decided. Some people wonder, “How long is a wait too long? When should I start thinking about filing a law suit,” and we generally recommend that you don’t file a Mandamas Action or a delay action under the Administrative Procedures Act until about a year has gone by. It usually takes us a couple days to put the law suit together, and then we file it in federal court.

The filing fee in federal court right now is $400. That’s always subject to change, but it’s $400 to get the law suit on file, and after we file the law suit, we file it electronically, and the good thing about federal law is that we can generally file it anywhere around the country, but lately we’ve been filing them in Washington, DC. The DC court has more experience in handling these cases. The US Attorneys up there are more easy to deal with, easier to deal with, and we generally have a good experience so far with the DC District Court.

After the law suit is on file, the court issues what are called summons, and a summons is a notice to a defendant that they’ve been sued. Typically in our cases, we sue the US Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the heads of those agencies as well as the head of the FBI, and the FBI itself for delays in processing mostly citizenship cases, but, also, green card and VISA type cases.

The defendants might change, depending on what kind of case we have, but the process after that is pretty much the same. After the court issues summons and have them signed by the clerk of court, we then attach that to the summons and a copy of the law suit, and we send it by certified mail to the defendants. It usually takes them about ten days or two weeks to get the law suits, and then, at that point, the defendants have 60 days to file their response. In most instances, the government does not respond much until towards the end of those 60 days.

If you serve them let’s say on March 1st, then you’re generally going to hear something from them about the end of April, and usually what they do is they tell you what their plan is, but that is what gets the ball rolling, because, at that point, there’s now an Assistant US Attorney or Department of Justice attorney who is going to have to defend that law suit, and typically what they do is they contact their people at USCIS and Homeland Security, and they figure out what’s going on with the case. They figure out if they want to fight or if they want to just proceed with the case. It usually involves them scheduling someone for an interview, and then the case is really underway.

That’s the process from start to finish, from the time that you hire us and we draft the complaint and we file the law suit, and then typically there’s then another interview or an original interview, and then the case is handled the same.

The law suits are really effective to getting movement on your cases. If you have a case that’s been delayed, if you want to know about how the process works and are thinking about getting started with suing Immigration Service yourself in federal court, make sure to give us a call at 314-961-8200. You can email us at info@HackingLawPractice.com.

We hope you like this video. If you did, make sure that you leave us a comment or review, and then make sure that you subscribe to our YouTube channel or join our Facebook group, so that we can keep you posted as to any new videos that we submit.

Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

Judge OKs class action for children in deportation hearings

A glimmer of hope for immigrant children has emerged in a relatively dark and messy period for American immigration and deportation policies. This June, U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly of Seattle has approved a class action lawsuit to determine whether impoverished children are entitled to lawyers during deportation hearings.

Brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and immigration advocates, the case challenges the government’s failure to provide lawyers to children during deportation hearings.

A class action suit, or a representative action as some refer to it as, is a type of lawsuit in which one of the parties is a group of people who are represented collectively by a specific member of that group. In this case, the group of people represented is thousands of children throughout the West.

For years, the United States of America has encountered many cases in which minors are potentially eligible for asylum or citizenship but can’t afford legal representation. Under current policies, the country has run on a system that Matt Adams says “pits unrepresented children against trained federal prosecutors.” Matt Adams, the legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, is highly involved in the lawsuit and has stated that under the ruling, the merits of the practice will be argued in a single case, and the government will have to defend an unjust system.

This lawsuit is coming late in the game, but it is needed now more than ever for the immigrant community. Since 2013, more than 7,000 immigrant children have been deported without appearing in court. What was originally a border crisis for the United States has now become a due process crisis. Wendy Young’s advocacy group Kids in Need of Defense, as well as many other advocacy groups, have been pushing for a system more supportive of minors when it comes to court proceedings.

While it is an alarming thought that America’s fundamental due process right has been repeatedly abused with regards to immigrant children, the class action suit is one of the first steps of many in improving immigration policy that has for a long time been due reformation.

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Pakistani man indicted for immigration scheme

On Thursday, May 26, 2016, a federal grand jury indicted Vera Lautt, Ijaz Khan, and Ibar Khan for naturalizing and procuring U.S. citizenship by fraud and a conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Ijaz Khan and Fahad Khan face charges for conspiring to obstruct justice and for obstructing justice, and for smuggling and conspiring to smuggle artifacts from Pakistan into the United States.

The indictment states that Ijaz Khan and Vera Lautt met on the internet in 2001. Lautt traveled to Pakistan to meet Ijaz Khan for the first time in early 2002. While in Pakistan, Lautt and Ijaz Khan signed marriage documents.

Ijaz Khan and Lautt both allegedly submitted forged documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS), which helped Ijaz Khan to move to the United States in 2003 and eventually become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009.

When Ijaz Khan signed marriage documents with Lautt, he was already in a marital relationship with a Pakistani woman, had children, and continued to have children with the Pakistani woman while he was supposedly married to Lautt. The conspiracy included eleven attempts to obtain immigration benefits by fraud.

The indictment further claims that Ijaz Khan used his illegally obtained U.S. citizenship to aide in the immigration and naturalization of his four oldest children. Ijaz Khan also helped with a petition filed on behalf of his brother, Ibar Khan.

The indictment states that Ijaz Khan divorced Lautt, before his four oldest children arrived in the United States, and went to Pakistan to obtain proper marriage documents for his Pakistani wife.

When Ijaz Khan returned to the United States, according to the indictment, he began filing for immigration benefits for his Pakistani wife, his mother, and two more of his children.

The indictment states that Ibar Khan took part in the conspiracy to defraud the DOS and USCIS, and to fraudulently obtain U.S. citizenship.

The indictment also alleges that a shipment of Pakistani artifacts was inspected and seized by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Fahad Khan, Ijaz Khan, and others conspired to submit various false and fraudulent documents to the CBP in an attempt to have their shipment released.

John Bryan McNamara, one of the conspirators, pleaded guilty to making false statements to agents when questioned about the shipment. Fahad Khan and Ijaz Khan are both charged with conspiring to and making false statements associated with the federal grand jury investigation and the criminal investigation in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Richmond Federal Courthouse, Location: Richmond VA, Architect: Robert A.M. Stern Architects. The new Federal Courthouse will present a formal public entrance to Broad Street, taking its place amongst other important civic buildings including City Hall, the State Assembly Building, and the State Library which front Richmond's main thoroughfare.

The great Writ of Mandamus and how it can help speed up your immigration case.

What is a writ of mandamus and how can it help expedite my immigration case. Hi. I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law around the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. Plenty of immigrants come to our office, call us, phone us, visit us on the web, and they’re complaining about delays at the immigration service or delays at the State Department in getting a visa approved and they’re really at their wits end. They don’t know what else to do.

These very good people have called the 1-800 number at USCIS, they’ve made infopass appointments, they’ve gone down to the immigration service to ask and complain, they’ve documented all of their efforts to try to get relief at immigration or with the State Department, they’ve called their senator, they’ve called the CIS Ombudsman, they’ve called the main office. They’ve gone up the chain of command and they just can’t get any relief. At this point, they’re completely frustrated. Some people wait for benefits like citizenship or green card or visa approval for years and years. The immigration service or the State Department basically tell people just to wait.

This brings in the writ of mandamus. It’s a very old phrase. It’s basically a legal mechanism that allows you to go into federal court and to ask a federal judge to make the immigration service, or the State Department, decide your case. Obviously the State Department and USCIS have discretion and whether or not to give somebody an immigration benefit. That means they can either approve or deny a case. That part’s clear. What the writ of mandamus does is it makes them actually decide the case. It’s not a guarantee that your case is going to be approved but what happens is that the federal judge looks at the case and asks why is it taking so long. If all the lawsuit seeks to do is to obtain action on behalf of the federal agency that has the case, then the court has jurisdiction to compel action on behalf those agencies.

It’s not a nice way of doing things. It’s not necessarily the easiest thing to do but in our experience it’s the only thing that gets the immigration service or the State Department to pay attention to a case. I’m sure if you’re watching this video, you’ve been experiencing delays yourself. You’ve heard a little bit about this writ of mandamus so we wanted to shoot this video to try and break it down for you.

Basically what we do is we draft a complaint and we file it federal court. After that, the government has 60 days to respond. In many of the cases, we get movement within those 60 days. Things start happening. Interviews get scheduled. Requests for evidence get sent so they can update their records and you can sort of find out what the problem is. In some instances, after the law suit it filed, you get called in for another interview or your first interview. Basically, the government has to respond within 60 days to that lawsuit. In most cases, they try to moot out the case and they do that by deciding the case. It costs extra money. It’s not fun. It’s not fair that you have to do this but in our experience, it’s the only thing that works.

We thought when we started filing these lawsuits that the immigration service would take it personally and would be upset that we sued. In fact, we found that really they sort of understand the process. They understand what’s going on and it really is that scrutiny from a federal judge that makes them work to decide the case. In some instances, the government does decide to fight and they do that sort of on a case by case basis but we can probably count on one hand the number of instances where they actually did go ahead and fight. In the vast majority of cases, they decide to work on the case and to reach a conclusion either right before the 60 days are up or shortly thereafter. They can ask for a continuance which we’re happy to provide if that means that they’re going to finally decide the case.

These lawsuits work in certain kinds of cases. They work in naturalization delays, green cards delays, and we’ve even had success suing the State Department over people’s spouse-base visas overseas. In our research, we’ve come across all kinds of cases where this has actually worked. A lot of it depends on which judge you get. Some judges are receptive to the plight of the aggrieved immigrant. Other judges bend over backwards to try to help the immigration service and to give them as much latitude in deciding the case as they can. There is certainly an element of luck to it. We no means guarantee that the case is going to be approved but we have filed lawsuits like this on behalf of 70 or 80 people so far and our clients have been very happy with the results.

I was a litigator before I practiced immigration law. I feel comfortable in the courtroom and drafting lawsuits and dragging the immigration service into court so we can bring into the light what’s been delayed, what’s been hassled about, and what we’ve been frustrated with is actually a really good way to use my legal skills and to help people at the same time. If you have experienced delays at the immigration service and you’re thinking about filing a writ of mandamus, if you have questions about how this works, about how the Administrative Procedures Act requires the government to decide things in a reasonable amount of time, these are the kinds of things that we talk about. These are the kinds of things that we put into the lawsuit. If you have questions about that, feel free to give us a call at 314-961-8200 or you can email us at jim@hackinglawpractice.com.

 

DHS requests 90 additional days to revise OPT STEM extensions

The Obama administration is asking for an additional 90 more days to revise a program designed to allow international students to work at the completion of their studies, while maintaining their F1 student status. The program is called optional practical training period and the OPT program has been under attack in federal court. Now, the Department of Homeland Security is asking for additional time to comply with a prior court order.

At issue is a 2008 rule on optional practical training that U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle  vacated in finding that DHS did not follow proper procedure in changing the OPT program. The government says that it is trying to avoid substantial hardship for thousands of international students and their employers. It is unclear at this point as to what will happen to the students currently working on the apparently flawed program.

The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers has challenged the legality of the 2008 rule, which increased the OPT period by 17 months for foreign students with certain STEM majors (science, technology, engineering and math), claiming that the program is a default guest worker program. In August of 2015, Judge Huvelle vacated the rule, after concluding that the government failed to provide notice and comment to affected parties and that DHS had failed to demonstrate that an emergency situation existed.

That decision was stayed by the judge until mid-February 2016 to allow the government to promulgate a new rule through the proper procedures. DHS issued a new proposed rule last October that would boost the OPT extension for STEM graduates from 17 months to 24 months. This would allow STEM students to work for up to three years and, more importantly, go through the H1b visa lottery on several occasions.

We will keep you updated as to what Judge Huvelle decides to do with the extension request.
EAD

 

Lawsuit Nets Client Quickly Approved Naturalization

We have a client.  He is Muslim.  He is from India.  He applied for citizenship on August 20, 2012.  He was fingerprinted, but USCIS never scheduled him for an interview.

So he waited.  And waited.  And waited.

He visited USCIS from time to time and they told him that they were waiting for the results of his background check.  He called the USCIS 1-800 number.  And he waited some more.

On August 12, 2015, he hired us to sue USCIS to compel them to act on his case.  We filed suit that same day.  We brought USCIS a copy of the lawsuit the next day.  USCIS finally interviewed our Muslim Indian client on August 25, 2015.  He was approved on the spot.

So this kind man went from waiting for three years for USCIS to decide his case to an approved naturalization applicant.  In less than two weeks after hiring us.  Certainly, every lawsuit case does not resolve this quickly, but it is amazing what happens when USCIS gets called out in federal court for their delays.

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