Month: June 2015

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.

Howard Seidler


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.



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.


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”).

Immigration Alert – 5.11.2015

Lots of interesting immigration news this week, including a very harsh decision forimmigrants who mistakenly vote in a U.S. election.

Author Tells Sad Tale of Not Being Able to Get Lawful Permanent Residence

The Huffington Post published an interesting account of what is like living in the U.S. while hoping to obtain a work-based green card.  People ask us all the time whyimmigrants don’t all just get in line and wait their turn for permanent residence.  Unfortunately, there is no line to get in for most people.  Bronwyn Lee described having her family’s entire future depending on some bureaucrat at USCIS.  Ms. Lee’s husband is a super-successful researcher.  Due to the arbitrary nature in which our nation’s immigration agency hands out green cards, there is no certainty that Ms. Lee and her family will be able to stay.  This piece highlights, in a very personal way, how many of our clients feel when waiting on a discretionaryimmigration benefit from USCIS.  In short, it is very painful and frustrating.

USCIS Officer Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison, Asked for Cash & Egg Rolls

A few months back, we told you about the USCIS immigration officer who was accused of asking for bribes of cash and of egg rolls in exchange for favorable decisions on pending immigration cases.  Last week, the officer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.  Officer Mai Nhu Nguyen, an 8 year officer, offered to approve questionable green card applications in exchange for envelopes of cash and/or Vietnamese food, including egg rolls.  The scheme “unrolled” after one immigration applicant notified the FBI of the shakedown.  Federal agents swooped in and arrested Nguyen after the applicant recorded the bribe on tape.

Democrat Hillary Clinton Shifts Position on Immigration

As the process to nominate the 2016 Presidential candidates gets under way, the Democratic frontrunner has shifted her position on immigration and shifted to the left.  Former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has taken a harsh stance on immigration for years. Now that she needs the Latino and progressive vote to get the nomination (and the Presidency as well), the Democratic stalwart is singing a different tune.  Last week, Ms. Clinton sat down with student leaders in Nevada and stated that immigration reform must include a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.  It sounds like a bunch of convenient rhetoric from someone who wants to get back to the White House.  On a related note, Think Progress had a handy chart this week to show each candidate’s position on immigration.

Immigrants Who Vote Can Be Deported, Regardless of Intent

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.

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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BIA rules immigrant has “absolute right” to contents of alien file when in removal proceedings

The Board of Immigration Appeals recently ruled that an immigrant had been denied his due process rights after the immigration judge refused to allow him access to the contents of his alien file.  The Board remanded the case back to the immigration judge with an order to allow the alien to review his file.

In this case, a Guatemalan man sought to apply for a U visa as the victim of physical or mental abuse.  To support his claim, he requested access to all of the documents in his alien file (i.e., the file that the government maintains on every alien in the U.S.).  But the government had failed to provide a copy and the judge never ordered them to do so.

On appeal, the man argued that his A-file (alien file) played a significant role in his ability to file for the U visa.  He also alleged that his due process rights were violated when the court denied him access to the file.  The government argued that the man could have gotten his file by filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The BIA ruled in favor of the immigrant.  The court made clear that an alien has an absolute right to view the contents of his A-file.  The BIA sent the case back to the immigration judge so as to allow the Deparment of Homeland Security to provide a copy of the file to the alien so that he could pursue his U visa claim.

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Application to Remove Conditions on Green Card Back on Track

We recently got a call from a somewhat panicked young woman and her husband. This is not unusual for our office but unlike some of our calls, they actually did have a reason to panic. The husband’s conditional permanent residency had expired 6 months ago!

The background is a very common scenario. A husband or wife sponsors their spouse from overseas. They come to the U.S. and are thrilled to be together. However, if their marriage is less than 2 years old, the immigrant spouse gets conditional permanent residence.

What is conditional permanent residence? Basically, the immigrant spouse’s green card is only valid for 2 years. You are required to renew it before it expires or face losing your green card status. Even worse, the immigrant spouse can be put into deportation proceedings.

This couple had let six whole months pass. We immediately prepared the renewal form along with an argument as to why they should be allowed to submit their application at this late stage. The package was sent via overnight delivery and within two weeks, we had secured a filing receipt for the couple. With this receipt, the immigrant spouse now has proof of their legal status in the U.S. and can renew their driver’s license. They still have to wait for a final decision but for the moment, things are back on track.


Immigration Alert – 4.13.2015

Immigration Alert

From: Jim Hacking

Webster Groves, Missouri

Monday, 6 a.m.

Good morning.

Lots of news in immigration land this week.  Let’s get started.

USCIS Immigration Officer Charged With Fraud Scheme

USCIS Immigration Officer Paul Friel stands accused of orchestrating a fake marriage between his own girlfriend from Nicaragua and a U.S. national.  According to a recent indictment, Officer Friel arranged for a U.S. citizen to go to Nicaragua and marry his own girlfriend so that he could then sponsor her for a green card.  The government now alleges that Officer Friel paid for all travel related to the fraudulent marriage.  He arranged for the filing of false immigration applications and coached the U.S. citizen and the Nicaraguan girlfriend on how to answer questions at an embassy interview.  The officer married his girlfriend some time after her arrival, but lied about it to federal investigators.

Tiny group of students admitted to all 8 Ivy League Schools Have Immigrant Parents

Admission to a single Ivy League university is an amazing accomplishment.  Being granted admission to all Ivy League schools is a rare feat.  This year, each of the students to achieve this feat have one thing in common – they are the children of immigrants.  One young lady, Munira Sharif, is from Somalia and explained “When I was growing up, my mom told me her own story of growing up in Somalia. My grandfather was a very revolutionary man in that he not only wanted to educate his sons, but also his daughters.  My mom got that opportunity and passed that opportunity on to me. It put me in a position where I thought I had to give back.”

We are working on a new book, Staying Here – The International Student’s Path to Finding a Job and Visa Sponsor in the U.S.  Keep an eye out to our emails and we will let you know when it goes to print.


Mexican man denied asylum correctly predicted his own death

A former police officer from Mexico who stood up to the drug cartel was deported six months ago by the Department of Homeland Security.  DHS denied the man asylum, despite the very real fear he had for his safety.  Shortly before being deported, officer Constantino Morales told Republican Congressman Tom Latham (IA) that “[i]f I am sent back, I face more violence and I could lose my life.”  Unfortunately, officer Morales was murdered this week in Mexico.  Our office handles a fair amount of asylum work and this is the worst possible outcome that we could imagine as immigration lawyers.  It is also a sad indictment of those who kicked the officer out of the country.

Man from El Salvador dies in immigration detention

Speaking of preventable deaths, friend of the firm attorney Thomas Rolwing sent us this sad story of a Salvadoran man who died in immigration detention.  Raul Ernesto Morales-Ramos died after having spent nearly five years in immigration detention. Mr. Morales-Ramos suffered from undiagnosed intestinal cancer.  The corporation that manages medical care at the facility now stands accused of denying him treatment and refusing to provide him with proper care.  This case illustrates exactly where things stand in immigration land today: poor, undocumented immigrants being held for years in custody by a for-profit corporation that has absolutely no incentive to care for the people in their charge.  Pathetic.

Have a great week!