Category: Library

“No Pets. No Cubans”

By Amany Ragab Hacking

We had the chance last week to go see “On Your Feet!” – a musical at the Fox Theater about Gloria and Emilio Estefan.  Amany grew up listening to Gloria Estefan’s music as a little girl.  In Chicago, it was all the rave.  

Amany and her friends loved to sing along and dance to her upbeat songs like Conga, Get On Your Feet, Rhythm is Gonna Get You and Bad Boy.  Amany loved that they looked alike with her long, dark curly hair, and Amany loved her energy and passion on stage.  

To Amany, she was just another American pop singer. Amany never knew she was an immigrant who struggled to be heard and be taken seriously as a musician in America. Amany had no idea all she had overcome – just so we could share her music.  

The musical follows her and her family as they escape Cuba for a better life in America.  She was the oldest of two girls growing up and she was responsible for a majority of the household work while her mom went back to school.  Her father served in Vietnam and later suffered from Multiple Sclerosis (MS – a disabling disease of the central nervous system.  She cared for him as he aged.  She found joy and an escape in her music.

One day, she met Emilio Estefan who was looking for a singer to join his band – Latin Motion Boys.  Emilio had a vision for his band and his music, and Gloria was a big part of that.  Eventually their band would be known as Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.  They began playing in local weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and Quinceaneras, but Emilio had big dreams.  They traveled all over Latin America playing their pop Latin music.  They were a big hit!  

But Emilio wanted more – he wanted to break out into the American market. Gloria wrote and sang songs in English, but record labels refused to back them and radio stations did not want to play them.  Some said their music and songs  were “too Latin” – others said the songs were “too White.”  They were missing the point – their music was both – it was intended to be a fusion of the two cultures.  Some weren’t ready for this and did not believe it would succeed, but Emilio and Gloria persisted.  They played their music for free to anyone who would listen – they went door-to-door giving out their American singles.  They wanted Americans to hear and love their music, and they did.  

Emilio recalled his early days in America as a young man, after fleeing Cuba.  He stood up to record labels and naysayers about their lack of acceptance of their Latin-American music and his Latin culture.  He told one record producer that when he was growing up in Miami there were signs in front of apartment complexes that read “No Pets. No Cubans.”  He believed that was not the America he knew and loved, and that he could change that with his music.  He proved that he could be both American and Cuban.  

We owe much thanks to Gloria and Emilio for paving the way for immigrants with their music, dreams and persistence.  

What an inspiring immigrant success story!            

The Immigration Net is Tightening

President Donald Trump ran on a platform of America First.  As a candidate, he promised to Make America Great Again by, in part, making the United States less friendly to immigrants.

Several recent developments have made clear that Trump is following through on his campaign promises.

Employment Based Immigration

At our office, we have seen several signs that one of the Trump Team’s focus is employment based immigration.  The DHS has ramped up scrutiny of work visas and green cards through employer sponsorship.

Earlier this year, USCIS turned off premium processing for most H1b cases.  The agency also announced that it would be cracking down on the use of “computer programmer” as a specialty occupation as the basis of an H1b.

Two months ago, USCIS announced that it would now conduct face-to-face interviews on employment green cards.  USCIS always had this power, but rarely used it before Trump came into office.

We attended a naturalization interview recently with a client who came to America on an H1b, obtained a work based green card and then started his own information technology (IT) consulting company.

The N-400 interview included a whole lot of questions about our client’s work-based immigration history. The officer was extremely interested in whether our client and the companies that he worked for had complied with all of the rules regarding employment based cases.

Jim shot a short video about the interview in Tampa.

These changes represent a significant change in how employment-based visas are handled and it appears that these changes are here to stay.

Non-Immigrant Visas and Crimes

One way that we stay up to date on what’s going on across the immigration landscape is by participating in online forums and Facebook groups with other immigration lawyers.

One of those groups is called Cool Immigration Lawyers.

Earlier this week, one of our colleagues in Memphis reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had placed her H1b client in removal proceedings.

The basis of the removal proceedings was that the client had been charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol.  The Department of State quickly revoked his visa and then when the man pleaded guilty, ICE issued him a Notice to Appear, which is the document that commences deportation proceedings.  ICE also took him into custody and only released him after he paid a $25,000 bond.

We believe that ICE’s aggressive position may ultimately fail.  But that is little consolation for the foreign national who thought he was all set on his immigration status but now finds himself facing deportation from the U.S.

It is not clear whether this new approach is an isolated incident by one ICE office or part of a nationwide policy.  It is also unclear as to whether this approach will apply only to DUI’s or to other crimes committed by immigrants.

The point for now is that ICE and DHS are not playing around.  These are serious times and immigrants are feeling the pressure.

 

Khizr Khan: “No One Will Deliver You Your Rights. You Need to Fight for Them.”

On July 28, 2016, Pakistani-American lawyer Khizr Khan catapulted onto the American political scene after an emotional speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Khizr and his wife, Ghazala, were asked to speak at the DNC about their immigrant son, Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq in 2004.  Humayun was a captain in the U.S. Army and he died trying to protect his fellow soldiers from a suspicious looking vehicle which ended up exploding.

Khizr and Ghazala met in Pakistan and lived in the United Arab Emirates before coming to the U.S. as immigrants with their three boys.  Mr. Khan is an attorney and has practiced law in the United States for many years.

The DNC speech was electric.  Mr. Khan famously pulled out his pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution and challenged then-candidate Donald Trump about his plan to ban Muslims from the U.S.

Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words “liberty” and “equal protection of law.”

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing—and no one.

Donald Trump, never one to apologize or back down from a chance to be a bully, went on the attack.  He took the unprecedented step of attacking a Gold Star Family (a family with someone who died in battle).

Mr. Khan did not stop there.  He has been a persistent critic of the President’s attacks on civil liberties. He has been touring the country and has given 164 speeches since the convention in Philadelphia.

An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice is Mr. Khan’s new book.  In it, he tells his family’s story and discusses how his Islamic faith is completely consistent with Western, constitutional democracies.

Recently, Mr. Khan came to St. Louis and spoke on a panel with immigration attorney Jim Hacking of the Hacking Law Practice.  Khizr mentioned how, in America, nobody gives you your civil rights.  He said that we must fight for them.

And he is 100% correct.  We have to fight to protect our rights, especially in times of great upheaval with an autocratic President who lies, vilifies and spreads hate at every opportunity.

May God bless the Khans and may we thank them for their son Humayun, who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Trump’s Muslim Ban 3.0 Halted by Federal Judge

President Donald J. Trump’s third attempt to ban people from predominantly-Muslim countries has been halted by a federal judge in Hawaii.

The newest version of Trump’s ban was set to go into effect today, October 18, 2017.

Judge Derrick K. Wilson, who ruled previously that the prior ban was unconstitutional, found that Muslim Ban 3.0 “lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States,’ ” evidence that he believes is necessary for the ban to be enforceable.

Judge Wilson’s ruling is directed to individuals from the six predominantly-Muslim countries – Syria, Somalia, Libya, Iran, Yemen and Chad.  Wilson allowed the limited portion of the ban on the two newly-added countries – North Korea and Venezuela – to go into effect.

For the six countries, a temporary restraining order has been issued, temporarily halting the ban.

The Department of Justice has made clear that it will appeal the ruling.

In a statement, the DOJ argued that the restraining order “is incorrect, fails to properly respect the separation of powers, and has the potential to cause serious negative consequences for our national security.”

Similarly, the White House issued a scathing statement: “The entry restrictions in the proclamation apply to countries based on their inability or unwillingness to share critical information necessary to safely vet applications, as well as a threat assessment related to terrorism, instability, and other grave national security concerns.  These restrictions are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our Nation.”

Two other federal courts are also considering the enforceability of this third version of the ban.

As a candidate, Donald Trump ran on a platform of banning Muslims from the U.S.  His pre-election statements and those issued while President have crippled the DOJ’s attempts to argue that the ban is not religiously based.

 

DOJ Wants Deportation Case Quotas to Speed Up the Removal System

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to instill “numeric performance standards” on our nation’s federal immigration judges.  The immigration courts are currently processing 600,000 cases, which is three times as many cases on the books in 2009.

The National Association of Immigration Judges called the move “unprecedented” and calls Sessions’s plan the “death knell for judicial independence.”

Dana Leigh Marks, who served as an immigration judge for 30 years, said the Sessions plan constituted a “huge, huge, huge encroachment on judicial independence.”

“It’s trying to turn immigration judges into assembly-line workers,” she claimed.

Sessions also claimed last week that frivolous and/or fraudulent asylum claims were also responsible for slowing things down in the Executive Office for Immigration Review (the formal name given to the immigration courts).

The judges’ union argues that the current contract that it has with the government prevents them from being rated based on the number of cases that they complete or the total time it takes for a final decision.

(Just as a point of reference, immigration judges are not actual Article 3 federal judges, but rather administrative law judges and part of the Department of Justice itself).

The Department of Justice is now trying to ignore that language and to compel cases to start moving.

One thing that Sessions is ignoring is that while Congress has allocated significant resources for capturing and detaining undocumented immigrants, the same amount of resources has not been allocated to the immigration courts themselves.

There simply are not enough judges.  Currently, our office is getting court dates two and three years away due to the backlog.  An average non-detained case takes two years or more to be decided.

President Trump apparently plans to request an additional 370 immigration judges, which would double the current number.

While a stated goal of an efficient immigration system is understandable, blaming immigration judges for the delay is simply wrong.  Immigration judges have enormous caseloads and are already stretched to the limit.  Most judges have more than 2,000 open cases.

The fact of the matter is that these judges are often making life-or-death decisions for the immigrants before them.  Literally, life-or-death.  Do we really want them just running the cases through as quickly as possible?

Seems like a really bad idea.

Firm Attorney Andrew Bloomberg Notches 3 Wins This Week

Sometimes in immigration wins come in strange forms.

This was certainly true this week for three cases that firm attorney Andrew Bloomberg is handling.

Back in March, we were approached by a couple two weeks before their marriage-based green card interview.  The immigrant, who we will call Robert, had just been arrested and charged with a crime which, if he had been convicted, would likely have led to not only to the denial of his green card application, but very possibly to his deportation.

Andrew prepped the couple on how to talk about the arrest at the interview in a way that was honest, but did as little damage as possible.  The couple attended the interview with Andrew and readied themselves for the inevitable request for evidence from USCIS.

Andrew also got in touch with Robert’s criminal defense attorney to work with him in trying to get an outcome to the case that would have the least possible immigration consequences.  The criminal case dragged on and Andrew had to get an extension of the request for evidence deadline.

Finally, last month, it seemed like Robert had the opportunity to plead guilty to a much less serious offense.  Andrew was on the phone with the criminal defense attorney and the client while the plea was being written, and we were able to convince the prosecutor to change the document in the Courthouse to make it better for our client – details always matter in immigration, and particularly when criminal convictions are involved.

When the plea was finalized, Andrew submitted it to USCIS with an explanation of why it shouldn’t impact Robert’s green card application.  Less than a week later, we got word that Robert’s green card had been approved.  Robert pleaded guilty – but by doing it in the right way, he won his green card.

Also in the last few weeks, we were hired separately by two families whose undocumented loved ones had been arrested and taken into custody by ICE.  Both families live in California, but their loved ones were taken into custody in Missouri.

In deportation proceedings, timing can be everything – in addition to the hardship of being incarcerated, proceedings for detained individuals move very, very fast.  We believe that both of these clients have defenses available to them, but the defenses require the gathering of lots of complicated evidence.

Trying to get them released on bond was important not just to get them out of jail, but to gain time to build defenses.  Both clients had some criminal issues over the years, which often makes it very hard to get immigration bond.

Andrew worked with the families to gather supporting evidence of their rehabilitation, and their ties to the community, and submitted this to the Immigration Court along with a short memo on why bond should be granted.

In telephone proceedings at the EOIR in Kansas City this week, Andrew argued that our clients were not threats to the community or flight risks, and the Immigration Judge granted both bonds over the objections of the Government attorney.

While these clients are still in deportation proceedings, they can be with their families and there is much more time to build the strongest possible cases to keep them in the United States.

Congratulations to Andrew.  We are lucky to have you at the firm!

USCIS to Renew Premium Processing for FY 2018 H1B Visas

 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Monday that it would resume premium processing for all H1B visa petitions covered by the Fiscal Year year (FY) 2018 cap. Congress limits the number of H1B visas each year to 65,000 for all U.S. employers, except for institutions of higher learning and affiliated research facilities.  USCIS will also now accept requests for premium processing for the 20,000 additional H1B visas available to individuals who have a masters’ or higher degree from an American college or university.

Premium processing currently costs $1,225.  Employers who use premium processing are promised to have a decision for the I-129 Petition for an Alien Worker within 15 working days.  If the 15- calendar day processing time is not met, the agency promises to refund the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continue with the “faster” processing of the application.

Earlier this year, USCIS suspended the use of the premium processing program immediately before most employers filed their H1Bs before the April 1, 2018 deadline.  This has led to long delays in the processing of this year’s cap-subject H1Bs.

H1B visas are limited to individuals who work in specialty occupations.  These visas are not available for every job in America, but only a limited category of specialty jobs such as accountant, software developer, physician, etc.

Because the federal fiscal year starts on October 1 each year, the start date of the approved H1B visas is typically October 1 and they last approximately three years.  Federal law allows employers to file six months early, i.e., April 1.

Since Congress has limited the number of available H1B visas every year to 65,000, plus the additional 20,000 for individuals with higher degrees, USCIS typically conducts a lottery each year.  Some applications are accepted, many are not.

Those applications which were not selected have already been returned.  USCIS continues to adjudicate many of the visa applications submitted back on April 1st.  Employers who have H1B applications that remain undecided will have to figure out if it makes sense for them to pay for premium processing at this late date.

One final note: H1B premium processing remains unavailable for extensions of the H1B visa, as well as “transfers” for H1B employees from one job to another.

When should I consider withdrawing my immigration case at USCIS?

Every now and then, people come to see us at the office, and they have a case that is completely messed up. These are usually cases that they have filed pro se, which means they filed them without an attorney, and their case has gotten a bit more complicated, and we have to start considering the option of withdrawing a case.

Now, you never really want to withdraw a case because obviously you’ve paid your filing fees, and when you withdraw the case, you do lose your filing fees. You also might have a lot of time invested in the processing of your case, and you might’ve done a lot of work to get it as far as you did, but in certain circumstances, it is a really good idea to go ahead and withdraw the case.

What are some examples of this? Well, one time somebody came to see us, and after he had filed his citizenship application, he had gotten arrested, and his criminal charges were pending. It looked like we were not going to be able to get the criminal case disposed of before the citizenship interview, so we went ahead and withdrew the case.

We had another situation where a young couple came to see us, and they had gotten their case so complicated, and there were so many bad facts in the case that we decided to withdraw that case as well, and the clients agreed.

What happened in that situation is that the couple had been fighting off and on over time, and there was a family member who was not happy about the marriage. That family member had gone down to immigration and reported them as having these marital problems, and we were worried that if we went ahead with the interview with everything just as it was, it’d really put us in a bad light, and the case would probably be denied because there are things worse than a denial because you can be caught with a fraud or a misrepresentation allegation, and that’s even worse than just having your case denied.
It’s relatively easy to withdraw a case. In most situations, USCIS is glad to close the file and move on to the next case. All you have to do is send a letter with your case numbers on there and reference the fact that you want to withdraw the case. They’re generally pretty willing to do that. They’ll do it all the way up until the interview. What you don’t want to do is make them do all this extra work and then try to withdraw it.

Now, USCIS is not required to allow you to withdraw the case. We have had a few situations where we tried to withdraw a case, and immigration service did not allow us to do that, so it’s a good idea if you’re thinking about withdrawing the case or if you think that there’s something wrong with your case that you want to make sure that you go talk to a competent immigration attorney. You want to see a good immigration lawyer and make sure that everything gets squared away properly and that you’re getting good advice as to whether or not you want to withdraw the case.

It’s not something you’re going to do in every case, but it is an option, and sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. That’s an old expression, and what it means is that sometimes you want to be able to live and fight another day. You want to have another chance, and so in a lot of these cases that we’ve withdrawn, we’ve re-prepared them, we’ve gone over the facts and done things a little bit differently than the people did without an attorney, and we’ve been able to get those cases approved.

If you have any questions about your case or if you’re wondering, “Is there something wrong about my case that would make me want to withdraw it,” feel free to give us a call.

The other thing that this points out is the fact that you really want to have a good representation from the beginning because a lot of these mistakes were things that were done by the couple because they didn’t have an attorney, so this whole problem of having to potentially withdraw a case highlights the fact that it’s really important to have good immigration counsel right from the beginning.

If you have any questions, like I said, give us a call, 314-961-8200, or you can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com.

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Politics Sends DACA Bill to the Back of the Line

Republican and Democratic members of Congress responded quickly to President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on March 5, 2018.

Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Durbin held a press conference to announced their re-introduction of legislation intended to protect the so-called DREAMers, undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. without inspection as children and who have lived here ever since.

But a series of events has pushed immigration reform for DREAMers to the bottom of the legislative pile.

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and now Irma has landed in Florida, causing massive damage and requiring significant federal resources.

Members of Congress are now scrambling to obtain needed federal benefits for their respective districts and disaster relief is first and foremost on legislators minds.

The President and members of the Republican leadership in the Capitol are looking for tax reform.

Finally, some member of the President’s own party are angry that he has joined Democrats on the complicated issue of the debt ceiling.

The result: little appetite for DREAMer legislation and a number of other topics calling for legislators’ attention.

According to a recent piece by the McClatchy wire service, immigration is low on the list of most legislators priority list:

Conservative Republicans are demanding that significant border security measures are included in any proposal that deals with Dreamers, and House Speaker Paul Ryan is well aware that angry conservatives conspired to oust his predecessor, John Boehner, over immigration.

In addition, there is the general problem that Democrats and Republicans do not agree on the best path forward for immigration.  Republicans want increased border security, Democrats want to still push for comprehensive immigration reform.  It is unclear as to whether the parties will reach consensus on the issue, especially in light of the six month window provided by the President.

What is Extreme Vetting

What is extreme vetting and how is it going to affect my immigration case?

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

With the election of President Donald Trump, he threw around the phrase “extreme vetting” in the immigration context. We’ve had a lot of clients ask us what does extreme vetting mean and how is it going to impact my case? We thought we’d shoot this short video to discuss it.

One thing you need to know about the immigration process, I think we can all agree it takes a very long time, that when you’re dealing with agencies like U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of State, Customs and Border Patrol, that there are a lot of steps for the process and no one would ever accuse the Federal Government of moving quickly on immigration cases. This is cases that take place within the United States, like adjustment of status or citizenship and also involves cases overseas where a U.S. citizen or an employer is trying to bring over a foreign national to come to the United States and have to go through the State Department and the Embassy. No one would ever say that these cases go by lickety-split, in fact, they take a very long time. The reason that they take a very is because the government is already doing an extreme amount of vetting.

Just in the last five years, we’ve seen forms balloon in size. For instance, the application to adjust status used to be six pages long. It is currently 20 pages long and growing. The same for citizenship, citizenship used to be just a few pages long, and now it is many, many pages. In the spouse visa context, we use an I-130. That form used to be two pages and now it is not two pages, but it’s much longer. It actually involves two different forms, one for the spouse, who is a U.S. citizen and one for the overseas spouse. The federal government knows how to make things grow and especially when it comes to forms and making things more complex.

Add to all this, President Trump claiming that he wanted to increase vetting to cause extreme vetting to occur when someone applies for an immigration benefit. We’ve already seen the results of this as these forms are slowly implemented. Things are slowing down at the Immigration Service. Things are slowing down at the State Department. We have cases that use to take four or five months that now take eight or nine months and they’re really being nitpicky and they’re coming up with ways to slow things down. We think that the Trump Administration has brought in experts in Immigration Law and they’ve come up in ways that are pretty devious and pretty creative to really make it harder for you to bring your loved one to the Untied States, to keep your loved one in the United States, to help them get lawful status, to help them get citizenship and we’re really seeing the consequences of this with the delays.

The other thing is that when you have an agency that’s own heightened alert like this and that wants to make things harder for everybody that we’re really seeing that denials are increasing, frustration is increasing. We’re getting a lot of people who come to see us having filed for themselves and they screwed up their case. We do what we can to help them, but this is a new era. The Trump Administration has brought a new sense of scrutiny to the Immigration Service with a harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric. The people that work at the Immigration Office seem to have slowed things down and we’re really seeing clients that are frustrated.

If you need help with this, if you’re wondering how is extreme vetting going to hurt my case or slow down my case? How could I do things to make things better, how can I increase the chances of success? How can I make sure that I do everything possible to speed my case along? You’re probably going to need to talk to an experienced immigration attorney. You’re probably going to need help. It’s a new day. It’s a new time. There’s a new President and he has made immigration one of his focus issues. He has decided to have his Administration do what they can to slow things down, especially for people from particular countries, from the Middle East, from predominantly Muslim countries. These cases are going to take a lot longer, a lot harder.

We see this too in the asylum context, that it’s going to be a lot harder and a lot longer to get asylum. The Immigration Courts are backlogged, everything’s slowing down and that is by design. The Trump Administration wants to slow down immigration to the United States. They want to make it harder for people to come here and stay here. We’ll do what we can to fight for you to help you, to help smooth line the process, to help you not have to worry so much.

We hope you liked this video. Be sure to give us a call if you need some help. (314) 961-8200 or you can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. If you liked this video, be sure to click “Like” below to share it with your friends and to subscribe to our YouTube and Facebook channels, so that you get updated whenever we shoot a video like this.

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