Author: Jim Hacking

Kansas City Restaurant In Trouble for Allegedly Harboring Undocumented Workers

A Missouri Chinese restaurant is under fire with U.S. immigration officials after the owner is charged with harboring immigrant workers who are in the country illegally. After the investigators reviewed reports, they found something suspicious and decided to pursue the case further.

Owner found harboring undocumented immigrants

The federal prosecutor filed a criminal complaint recently against the owner of Wei’s Super Buffet Restaurants which are located in Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. Wei Liu made an appearance in a U.S. District court on charges which include employing, transporting and housing workers in the country illegally. According to The Republic and Associated Press, his wife and four others are also being charged. Federal investigators began surveillance of the restaurants after they reviewed labor reports and interviewed managers of apartments where the employees were living. Some workers were even found living at the homes of the defendants.

Owner will most likely receive harsh sentence

The court case is just underway and there are still no attorneys for either side announced. However, even though it is still early on in the case, the odds are not looking in favor of Liu. Recently, ICE has been cracking down hard on businesses who knowingly employee undocumented immigrants. It is important for owners or employers to verity that the person they hire is in the country legally otherwise they face a large penalty and even jail time. Following the precedent of previous cases, depending on how the immigrants were treated and whether other offenses will be found, may determine the final sentence for the owner and his affiliates. It is recommended that when in doubt, owners should consult an immigration attorney to ensure that no laws are being broken.

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


Romanian Immigrants indicted for fraud and will most likely be deported

The Associated Press reports that eight Romanian Immigrants will most likely be deported from the country after many years here.  Florin Fleischer is one of the immigrants who has pled guilty to immigration fraud and has to sell his Home Media Solutions business before being removed from the country.

Immigrants form close knit community

Eight of the Romanians that arrived decades ago have federal prosecutors accusing them of purposefully entering into sham marriages with the intent of legally staying in the U.S. At the time they first arrived, some came as students, and other just wanted to learn English and earn some quick cash. However, once their visitor visas expired, they needed to find a way to remain in the country.

Strict visa laws have immigrants cutting corners

Seven of the individuals have pleaded guilty to fraud while another waits for further District Courts proceedings. During their time here, they have established a close knit Romanian community and businesses that hire hundreds of foreign workers. But federal prosecutors are not impressed and believe the immigrants instead offered U.S. citizens cash for fraudulent marriages which resulted in eight green cards and eventual citizenship. ICE investigators also found falsified documents and applications for residency and citizenship.

“They’re not just having to leave the country,” U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said. “They’re having to figure out what to do about homes, businesses and loved ones.” ICE only began investigating the case after a commentator in a newspaper suggested someone take a look at the Romanian community after a similar bust occurred in the Peruvian community. While most of the immigrants denied to release any statements or give interviews, one individual did say the reason for cutting legal corners was “to break free from her home country’s rusty Communist past.”

Engaging in sham marriages is never a good idea.  Immigration officials in Missouri and around the country scrutinize spouse visa applications very carefully.  You should only file for immigration benefits if your marriage is legitimate.

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



U.S. suffering “Brain Waste” because of burdensome licensing requirements

It is not uncommon for immigrants who have advanced degrees in law and medicine to be working less skilled jobs such as a taxi driver or waitress. In fact, a recent study by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) reports that the U.S. is experiencing a “brain waste” by preventing high skilled immigrants from efficiently transferring their foreign credentials.

Immigrants displaced from work

Millions of immigrants with advanced professional degrees reside legally in the U.S. but are either unemployed or underemployed. They staff lobbies as security guards and wait tables at restaurants rather than using their education and skills. These individuals come to the U.S. through a variety of pathways yet end up in a complex situation without jobs as their degrees are not transferred here. One physical therapist found herself in this difficult situation after coming to the U.S. from Ireland. She was unable to test for her license in Pennsylvania because she did not take a course in Pennsylvania history which is part of the physical therapy program in the U.S.

Shortages in labor market may help immigrants match demand

Upwardly Global is an organization that works with immigrants to try to help them find jobs in the U.S. “In their home countries they were engineers, doctors, scientists, accountants, and nonprofit professional. In the U.S. they become cashiers, nannies, and cab drivers, if employed at all.” There are several barriers that contribute to this including U.S. employers not recognizing foreign-earned credentials or licenses. This organization uses their ties with the community to work with employers and helping professionals get back into their careers.

Another study by the Brookings Institution found that over half of highly-skilled immigrants in the 100 largest metropolitan areas are overqualified for their jobs. While there are growing shortages in several markets such as healthcare, the U.S. is underutilizing the workers that are already in the U.S. with the exact skills needed to match demand. One huge part of reforming the immigration system is finding ways to allow immigrants to participate in the labor market in the careers where they belong.

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

US Customs & Border Protection Broadens Definition of “Family”

After the Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), two federal agencies announced that they would be expanding the definition of marriage and families. This has a significant impact on immigration law as it previously restricted who could apply for visas and separated nontraditional families.

Household redefined in immigration

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has also broadened what they classify as a family for those crossing the border into the U.S. “Members of a family residing in one household” is the only requirement someone needs to file a joint customs declaration.

This includes same-sex couples, other domestic relationship such as foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings, legal wards and other dependents that were not previously included. Families that are traveling together will no longer have to fill out separate forms because they reside in the same household. Two years ago same sex couples still had to fill out their forms separately and identify as “single” because of the law.

FAFSA aims to include all families

Another department of Education also issued guidance about legal same-sex marriages and recognized this for federal financial aid purposes. Before DOMA was overturned, the FAFSA still included options of mother and father whereas now, the new forms say parent 1 or parent 2. This ensures that marriages will be recognized no matter if people travel into states that do not recognize same sex marriage.

While there has been much progress in recognizing same-sex marriage, there are still many benefits and services that are not guaranteed to these couples. The Department of Veterans Administration, for example, has a separate law that only recognizes the marriage between a man and woman. So a same-sex couple in Texas will have to pay an additional $50,000 when buying a house because the VA would not approve their loan. But recognizing same sex couples as a family is more than just a financial change, but rather a completely different outlook on what it means to be a family.

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


Court Rules That Man Cannot Be Deported Until His Criminal Appeal Is Concluded

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia handed down a case this week which, at first blush, seems rather straightforward.  The Court decided that when an immigration judge is deciding whether or not to deport someone based on a criminal conviction, deportation cannot occur unless and until the direct appeal of that conviction has been resolved.

The case, Orabi v. Attorney General of the United States, stemmed from a lawful permanent resident’s conviction for fraud, counterfeiting and aggaravated identity theft in 2010.  The defendant, Mr. Omar Abd Gomaa Orabi, filed an appeal of that conviction to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  That appeal remains pending.

The Department of Homeland Security did not wait for the appeal to run its course before initiating deportation proceedings against Mr. Orabi.  In February of 2012, DHS charged that Mr. Orabi was removable because his convictions constituted an aggravated felony.  Removal proceedings began and Mr. Orabi had no attorney representing him.  The man explained to the immigration judge and to DHS counsel that he had appealed the criminal conviction and argued that the deportation proceedings should not go forward until his appeal was decided.

Apparently unwilling to wait for the conclusion of the appeal, the immigration judge ordered Mr. Orabi deported to Egypt.  The man was, in fact, deported back to Egypt.

Mr. Orabi did not give up, however.  Instead, he filed a pro se appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  The BIA upheld the immigration judge’s decision to order the man deported.  Mr. Orabi continued fighting and filed an appeal with the Third Circuit, again doing so without a lawyer.

Amazingly, the Third Circuit ruled this week that Mr. Orabi was right and that the immigration judge was wrong to order him deported while his criminal appeal remained pending.  The Third Circuit ordered DHS to return Mr. Orabi to the U.S. and to wait until his direct appeal of the criminal conviction had completed before trying again to deport him.



The Impact of Deportations on the Affordable Care Act

The Obama administration has been heavily tracking the sign-ups for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.  With a rough start getting the online system working, the Obama administration is facing another problem with getting immigrants to sign up.

Low immigrant enrollment

According to Think Progress, the success of the law heavily depends on the enrollment of Latinos who happen to be younger than the general population and also less likely to be insured. The system depends on their health to offset costs of insuring the elderly and sick people. Unfortunately, despite immigration advocates’ best efforts to spread the word to the immigrant population, too many still fear that information they put into the online system will be used against them by government officials which will lead to their deportation.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement came out with a memo last month stating that immigration agents will not use any of the health insurance information to track down undocumented immigrants. However, there remains uncertainty among immigrants as deportation rates are at an all-time high.

Mixed immigrant families missing out on affordable insurance

The problem with immigrants receiving mixed messages about signing up for health insurance is they are preventing their documented family members from receiving affordable insurance. Although undocumented immigrants are not allowed to sign up for the program, their family members are. There are many mixed families these days that contain both documented and undocumented family members and those who are citizens should have access to available opportunities.

Polls shows that Latinos support Obamacare, but the large numbers of deportations are becoming a larger factor in considering applying for the program. Latino ratings for the President have recently dropped because of stalled immigration reform and deportation rates staying strong. There is clearly an overwhelming sense of disappointment over the unsuccessful attempt at passing the Senate bill, but it remains a high priority for Congress this year as another attempt is in the making.

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


District Judge Rules that ICE Cannot Detain Immigrants for More than 6 Months without A Hearing

The U.S. District Court in Massachusetts recently ordered the Department of Homeland Security to provide Mark Anthony Reid with an immigration bond hearing.  Reid, a long time lawful permanent resident and U.S. Army veteran, has been sitting in immigration jail for over a year without a bond hearing.

Lawyers from the ACLU and pro bono attorneys at Yale Law School filed suit in federal court.  The legal team argued that the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Rodriguez v. Robbins, which held that due process requires bond hearings for immigrant detainees after six months in jail, should be extended beyond the Ninth Circuit.

Reid, who does have an “extensive” criminal history, was taken into custody by ICE on November 13, 2012 after obtaining parole on several drug charges.  Because he had committed crimes outlined in 8 U.S.C. 1226, he was deemed to be not entitled to an individualized bond hearing.  On February 13, 2013, an immigration judge ordered Reid deported and he appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals.  He filed a motion with the immigration judge to redetermine his eligibility for bond.  The judge concluded that he lacked jurisdiction to revisit bond.

The appeal was successful and the case was sent back to the immigration judge.  The judge again decided that Reid should be deported.  Reid appealed.  His attorneys also filed a petition for habeas corpus on July 1, 2013 to challenge his prolonged immigration detention.

The district court concluded that 8 U.S.C. 1226(c) included a reasonableness limit and that a post-removal order detention of more than 6 months was presumptively invalid.  The court pointed out that the burden on the government to hold a bond is minimal.  Compared to the 14 months that Reid spent in immigration detention, due process required a hearing.

Fed Appeals Court in St. Louis Denies Lawful Status to Man Who Claimed Prior Grant of Status Should Prevent Deportation

In 1986, a Jordanian citizen, entered the United States on a student visa. He married a legal permanent resident and his wife filed an I–130 petition, verifying their qualifying family relationship. The man also filed an I–485 petition for permanent residency. The Immigration and Naturalization Service granted the 1986 petitions, adjusting his status to conditional permanent resident. INS later terminated this status because the man left the U.S. and never filed to remove the conditions on his green card.

In 1992, the man’s mother, then a legal permanent resident, filed an I–130 petition on his behalf. The INS denied the petition because the man was married. Mansour and his wife divorced later that year.

In 1999, the man’s mother filed another I–130 petition on his behalf. The INS approved the petition in 2000, authorizing him to return to the United States and remain until 2005. The man returned on a non-immigrant visa, but remained past the 2005 deadline (without renewing it or adjusting his status).

In 2007, the man filed an I–485 petition, again seeking to adjust his status to legal permanent resident. Because he had not maintained a non-immigrant visa since 2005, he was ineligible for adjustment under INA § 245(a)—which permits adjustment of status for aliens who enter the United States under inspection or parole and, as applicable here, maintain lawful non-immigrant status.

Instead, the man sought adjustment under § 245(i)—which permits adjustment of status for aliens ineligible under § 245(a) or disqualified under § 245(c). Although § 245(i) expired in 2001, a grandfather provision preserved the right to adjust status under § 245(i) for certain aliens: the alien must have been the beneficiary of a qualifying immigrant visa petition (e.g., I–130 petition) filed on or before April 30, 2001; and, the petition must have been “approvable when filed” (i.e., “properly filed, meritorious in fact, and non-frivolous”).

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (INS’s successor) denied the petition, finding the man ineligible for grandfathering based on any of his three I–130 petitions. As relevant to this appeal, the USCIS determined the Jordanian man could not rely on his 1986 petition because “an application for adjustment of status cannot be based on an approved visa petition that has already been used by the beneficiary to obtain adjustment of status or admission as an immigrant.”

Removal (deportation) proceedings began.  The man renewed his petition for adjustment of status, which was denied by the immigration judge who found that the earlier granted I-130 had been “extinguished” because he had already used that petition to obtain the conditional resident status.

On appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the Board held that the regulation regarding grandfathering was vague as it only addressed qualifying petitions that were later “withdrawn, denied or revoked.”  It did not address cases where a petition was approved.  Because it was vague, the proper approach was to look at USCIS’s interpretation of the rule.

In 2005, the Department of Homeland Security had issued a memo which directs that “USCIS no longer considers an alien grandfathered once the alien is granted adjustment of status under section 245(i) because the alien has acquired the only intended benefit of grandfathering: LPR status.”  The Board used this memo to deny grandfathering to the Jordanian man and the Eighth Circuit recently upheld that decision.

Court holds man with bipolar disorder should get asylum in the U.S.

A Tanzanian man recently won an appeal at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on his asylum case.  The man argued that he had been persecuted in Tanzania for having severe bipolar disorder.  The Board of Immigration Appeals denied his asylum application, finding that the man was not a member of a social group as defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act and, that even if he was a member of that group, he had failed to estalbish that his persecution occurred because he was in that group.  The Fourth Circuit reversed the BIA and sent the case back for further adjudication.

A Mental Breakdown

During the man’s final year at university, his mother passed away, spurring a mental breakdown that forced him to leave school.  During his manic episodes, the man believes he has super powers.  He acts erratically and walks into traffic.  He spent years in asylums and prisons where he suffered violent physical abuse.  An expert testified below that in Tanzania, bipolar disorder is treated as “shameful.”  Sufferers are referred to as “mwenda wzimu” which means demon-possessed.  According to the expert, laymen and doctors alike believe that demonic possession is contagious.

As such, treatment is almost non-existent.  The man’s hands and feet were bound 5 to 7 hours per day, 4 days per week.  He was beaten with leather straps and fists.

A plea for asylum

Upon entering the U.S., the man sought immigration relief in the forms of asylum, withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”).  He argued that he faced severe persecution because of his membership in the social group of “individuals with bipolar disorder who exhibit erratic behavior.”

The immigration judge denied the claim, finding that the proposed group lacked the elements of immutability, particularity and social visibility necessary to constitute a particular social group.  The IJ also held that even if such a group existed, the man failed to establish that he was persecuted because of his membership in this group.  The Board of Immigration Appeals agreed with the IJ and affirmed.

An appeal to the Fourth Circuit

On appeal, the Court addressed two issues.  First, did the proposed group of “individuals with bipolar disorder who exhibit erratic behavior” qualify as a social group.  Second, was the asylee persecuted because of membership in that group.

Because courts are to give deference to the BIA’s determination of factual issues, the Court could only reverse if “no rational factfinder could reach the same conclusion.”  But in spite of this high hurdle, the Court concluded that a rational factfinder could not simultaneously credit all of the man’s testimony (which all parties agreed was credible and undisputed), but then reject his claim that his torture was because of his perceived demon possession.  The BIA’s decision was “internally contradictory and advances diametrically opposed conclusions within paragraphs,” which the appellate court found “is the very essence of irrationality.”

The Court also rejected the BIA’s social visibilty analysis.  As the Court noted, “a group can qualify as a social group even if one cannot identify members of the group by sight.”  The test is whether a group is in fact recognized as a group.  Because “Tanzanians still appear to view the ‘mwenda wazimu’ as a group, they are socially visible for puprposes of asylum.  The Court also found BIA error in concluding that the group lacked particularity.  The BIA erred in breaking down the man’s group into pieces and rejecting each piece, instead of analyzing the group as a whole.  Finally, the BIA erred in failing to find immutability, which the Court said was “easily satisfie[d].”


ICE allows undocumented man to stay and await immigration reform

An undocumented immigrant living in Cleveland was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement but is receiving a second chance because of possible comprehensive immigration reform.

Lawyer asking for Ramos to stay

Ricardo Ramos is a husband and father of three U.S. citizens born in America. He was pulled over by police during a regular traffic stop where police realized Ramos was in the country illegally for 16 years. Fearing that his family would be split up, he got himself a lawyer and decided to fight back rather than be deported. His lawyer prevailed upon ICE officials to grant Ramos’ request to stay in the country for just a while longer. Ramos’s lawyer, David Leopold said, “We’ve never been this close to immigration reform…What we’re asking is a chance for him to stay one year while Congress acts.”

New immigration legislation may stall deportations

This is a novel request, but with Congress ready to soon release a new piece of immigration legislation Ramos may be close to becoming documented according to this process. The decision to allow Ramos to stay in the country just in time for his 12-year-old daughter’s birthday makes him grateful for the American system. Ramos’s reaction to hearing his reprieve is “I say happy only.”

Legal scholars wonder if undocumented immigrants in other states will not be deported if they have the ability to ask the courts to let them wait to see what the new immigration laws will read. At this time the decision lies in the hands of the judge hearing the case as well as how quickly Congress votes on the new bill.

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