DO I NEED A LAWYER?

This is a question I hear quite often, and the answer is not always easy. If the question comes from somebody who has a terrible case, who is in Deporation (“REMOVAL”), who has a criminal record, who has a “blemish” on the way he or she entered the U.S., who wishes to get an employment-based Green Card – the answer is simple: yes, you need a lawyer, and not just any lawyer – an EXPERIENCED IMMIGRATION LAWYER.

But if the person asking DO I NEED A LAWYER has a relatively simple case based on marriage (a good marriage!) to a U.S. citizen, or on a parent’s petition, or even a plain Application for Naturalization (CITIZENSHIP) – do they need a lawyer? I believe that the young MR. BROWN would say: Yes. (BROWN is his real name and story is taken from a real case.)

Mr. Brown immigrated to the U.S. with his father and mother when he was NINE years old. They all got GREEN CARDS. When he was FIFTEEN, his father and mother filed applications to become American citizens. His father’s application was approved very fast and he became a U.S. citizen, but his mother’s application was delayed and delayed and her citizenship ceremony took place only after Mr. Brown passed age EIGHTEEN. The delay of the mother’s citizenship had negative consequences for the young Mr. Brown: if BOTH his parents had become American citizens before he reached age EIGHTEEN, he would have become a citizen, too, automatically. (This was the law at that time.)

The young Mr. Brown (and his parents) understood that he had not become an American citizen, and some time later he filed his own Application for Naturalization. But at the time of his interview, the Immigration Officer noticed that both his parents were already American citizens – and cancelled Mr. Brown’s application with the explanation that he did not need it because he already was an American citizen based on the naturalization of his two parents. BIG MISTAKE.

After some time, Mr. Brown (not so young anymore) got into trouble with the law. The Immigration Service put him into DEPORTATION. His GREEN CARD was cancelled and he was sent back to the country from which he came from at age 9. All this – DEPORTATION following a criminal conviction would not have happened to Mr. Brown had he actually become an American citizen before he became a “client” of the criminal legal system.

What were the mistakes committed by Mr. Brown and his parents when he was still the young Mr. Brown? Not having an IMMIGRATION LAWYER on two occasions.

When his mother’s citizenship case was delayed – an immigration lawyer could have helped to push it through faster, before the son reached age EIGHTEEN. And when the Immigration Officer refused to grant Mr. Brown citizenship because the Officer thought he was already a citizen – which was a legal error – an immigration lawyer could have guarded his client, the young Mr. Brown, from the harm of this error.

So, every time a client asks me DO I NEED A LAWYER?, I think of the case of Mr. Brown.

TATTOOS BITE?

Yes.

If you are applying for a visa at an American Consulate your tattoos can BITE you.

The American Consul can decide that your body art – as ARTISTIC as it may be – actually means that you are, or that you have been, or that there is a risk that you might be in the future, a member of a GANG. The Consul would then deny your visa because, undeniably, America does not need more GANG MEMBERS.

How would the CONSUL know that you have TATTOOS? Especially if you are wearing a blouse or shirt with long sleeves and you button it up to your neck? This camouflage would not work, because if you apply for an immigrant visa, you must undergo a medical exam before you see the Consul, and the doctor conducting the exam will probably note the TATTOOS on his Medical Report for the Consul.

So what do you do if you are applying for an American visa and have TATTOOS? Prepare good, reasonable, believable explanations that your TATTOOS are not a sign of GANG MEMBERSHIP past, present or future. And if there was some GANG connection in your past – have good, convincing explanations that the past is over, done with, buried and would not return. Remember: There is no appeal on a Consul’s denial of a visa.

Good Luck!

POLITICAL ASYLUM – NOT A SURE THING

People who flee their countries for political reasons may apply at an American Embassy for admission to the U.S. If granted – they are called REFUGEES, and upon legal arrival in the U.S. are entitled to government and private aid for resettlement.

People (non-American) in the U. S. who don’t wish to return to their country because of FEAR OF PERSECUTION, may apply at the Immigration Service for POLITICAL ASYLUM. If granted – they are called ASYLEES, and after a certain time gain status as Legal Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) and then American citizenship.

POLITICAL ASYLUM is an “umbrella” name for different claims of PERSECUTION back in the home country. But this is not a simple, and not an easy, application. First, there is a time limit to file such an application – it must be filed within one (1) year after arrival in the U.S. Second, the applicant must convince the American government that his or her FEAR OF PERSECUTION if returned home is real – and in most cases the fear of FUTURE PERSECUTION requires proof of PAST PERSECUTION. Third, there are all kinds of “exceptions” which could lead to a denial – for example: if the applicant spent some time in a third country, between the home country and the U.S., the American government could claim that he or she should have applied for Political Asylum in that third country. Fourth, the applicant must show that the PERSECUTION, he o she is afraid of, is because of one of FIVE specific reasons: POLITICAL OPINION, RELIGION, RACE, NATIONALITY or MEMBERSHIP IN A PARTICULAR SOCIAL GROUP. In short, an application for POLITICAL ASYLUM is a difficult and RISKY project.

Why is it RISKY? Because if the application is denied, the DENIAL comes, in most cases, with an ORDER OF REMOVAL (DEPORTATION). Therefore, better think twice before you make such an application.

SUPREME DISAPPOINTMENT FROM THE SUPREME COURT

Today, Thursday, June 23, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States gave a legal “slap” to President Obama and inflicted great disappointment, anxiety and heartbreak on millions of families in the U.S.

The Supreme Court did not overturn a previous decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals which blocked President Obama’s DAPA program. Four Supreme Court judges voted to overturn the previous decision (and to approve the DAPA Program) and four judges voted to leave the previous “block” in place. This stalemate, or “draw”, means that the previous decision stays in force – and there will be no DAPA program.

The DAPA program was intended for certain illegal aliens who are parents of American citizen children. DAPA beneficiaries would have been protected from deportation for three years and also given Employment Authorization cards for the same three years. The government estimated that the number of DAPA beneficiaries could be between 4 and 5 million illegal aliens. The Supreme Court non-decision means that these millions of families would have to keep living their precarious lives as before.

President Obama already gave a speech expressing his anger and disappointment. He should be angry – first of all – with himself: In the first two years of his administration he had a majority in Congress and he could have passed the much desired Comprehensive Immigration Reform. He did not even try to do it.

HEALTH INSURANCE FOR “UNDOCUMENTED”

In California ONLY.

But not YET.

Jerry Brown, Governor of California, signed a law GIVING him the authority to request the Federal Government to GIVE him permission to GIVE illegal aliens in California the right to buy medical insurance under Obamacare.

Complicated, isn’t it? But if everything is okay, and all permits, waivers and authorizations are GIVEN (before the November elections), approximately 400,000 illegal aliens in California would be able to purchase health insurance through the state website known as “Covered California”.

It is true that California taxpayers would need to subsidize these policies, but it would cost less than the cost of visits by uninsured illegal aliens to Emergency Rooms when they get seriously ill.

Makes sense, right?

HOW HIV-POSITIVE IMMIGRANTS GET STRANDED ABROAD WITHOUT MEDS

HIV-positive green card applicants can end up stranded for months in countries such as Mexico without access to adequate medical care while they wait for the results of medical tests required for their permanent resident applications. Changing the procedure to allow undocumented green card applicants to conduct the tests in the United States would keep these individuals surrounded by their medical and family support systems. They have no place to stay and no way to earn an income in Mexico since their family is in the United States. We have a regulation that doesn’t make sense.

USCIS ADVISES ON IMMIGRATION RELIEF FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY SEVERE EARTHQUAKES

USCIS has advised that it offers immigration relief measures for people affected by natural disasters, such as the severe earthquakes that recently occurred in Ecuador, Japan and Burma and were present in the U.S. when the events happened.

The following measures may be available upon request:

  • change or extension of nonimmigrant status if the applicant is currently in the United States, even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired;
  • re-parole for those previously granted parole by USCIS;
  • expedited processing of requests for advance parole documents;
  • expedited adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
  • expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate;
  • consideration of fee waivers due to an inability to pay;
  • assistance if the applicant received a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny but was unable to appear for an interview, submit evidence or respond in a timely manner because of the natural disaster; and

replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card).

IMPORTANT LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

An important lawsuit was filed against DHS seeking more transparency in the H-1B Lottery Process. The case was brought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The lawsuit challenges USCIS’s failure to respond to a FOIA request by withholding responsive records and failing to identify and conduct an adequate search for records that describe how USCIS tracks and counts unused H-1Bs for each fiscal year and takes into account such unused numbers.

It’s high time DHS explains:

  1. How the electronic selection process works,
  2. What the process is for accepting or rejecting a petition in the lottery,
  3. How USCIS determines the number of petitions to select in the lottery,
  4. How USCIS decides it has enough petitions to meet the numerical limits for petition approvals,
  5. How USCIS keeps track of visa number usage, and

If USCIS actually allocates all of the available visa numbers.

EXPERIENCES OF RECENTLY DEPORTED CENTRAL AMERICAN FAMILIES

Over the last few years, the escalation of violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala has reached dramatic levels. Thousands of women and their children have fled and arrived in the United States with the hope of finding protection. But for many of them, their attempts to escape merely resulted in detention, deportation, and extremely difficult reintegration in Central America. In fact, for some, the conditions they face upon being repatriated are worse than those they tried to escape in the first place.

Between February and May, 2016, the American Immigration Council interviewed eight individuals who were deported (or whose partners were deported) from the United States after being detained in family detention facilities, during which time they came into contact with the CARA Pro Bono Project.

First-hand accounts from Central American women and their family members interviewed for this project reveal the dangerous and bleak circumstances of life these women and their children faced upon return to their home countries, as well as serious problems in the deportation process. The testimonies describe how women are living in hiding, fear for their own and their children’s lives, have minimal protection options, and suffer the consequences of state weakness and inability to ensure their safety in the Northern Triangle. The stories presented in this report are those of a fraction of the women and children who navigate a formidable emigration-detention-deportation process in their pursuit of safety. The process and systems through which they passed only contribute to the trauma, violence, and desolation that many Central American families already endured in their home country.

CITIZENSHIP DELAYS

If you are a Legal Permanent Resident (a Green Card holder), and you applied for naturalization to become an American citizen, and you have the impression that your application is being delayed, and delayed and delayed – you are probably right. It is being delayed.

This is especially true if you are a Moslem or if you came from a Moslem country. If your application is delayed and you make inquiries to find out why – in most cases you would not get any answer. If you are lucky, you might be told that your application is delayed for the completion of SECURITY CHECKS, and it is unpredictable how long this “completion” might take.

Nobody can object to the SECURITY CHECKS. But are they conducted with proper diligence? After all, applicants for naturalization have already been checked more than once during the Green Card process. The impression, after delays of a year – or two – or three – is that SECURITY CHECKS are only an excuse to hold up the citizenship of Moslem applicants.

The solution is – still is – a lawsuit in Federal Court against the Immigration Service. Recently, a group of 13 applicants joined together to file such a lawsuit. Maybe this will clear up the bad impression and bad feelings created by these SECURITY CHECKS that are never completed.

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