Author Archive

My American Dreams PBS Film Project

shutterstock_49320589For four years, all across the United States, they have come to law offices like ours. They have come with tidy stacks of records from their years in the United States – vaccination cards, dog-eared school grade cards, pay stubs from high school jobs, college awards. The older ones come by themselves or with their spouses. The younger ones come with anxious parents. All of them are expectant, nervous but hopeful.

These are the DREAMers, the young people eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), announced by President Obama in 2012. They are undocumented youth brought here by their parents, usually without a visa. They have grown up in our country without papers and without any certainty as to what the future may hold.

Since 2012, DACA has allowed qualified young immigrants to apply for and receive a temporary reprieve from deportation. Over the past four years, DACA has significantly changed almost one million lives, allowing DACA recipients to work legally, obtain a driver’s license, more easily attend university or enroll in other advanced educational programs, pursue careers, and otherwise live as integral members of their communities, just as their peers born here.

Continue reading ‘My American Dreams PBS Film Project’ »

Why AILA Liaison Work is Crucial Even in Contentious Times

shutterstock_242847928Liaison work has long been at the heart of AILA member services. Liaison, when effective, is a critical bridge for members who are facing issues in their practices, helping to raise those issues with the various agencies to work toward a solution. However, in recent years, some have begun to question the efficacy of liaison efforts and whether AILA might be better served pursuing other options, such as litigation, to push back on critical issues.

I have long held the belief that AILA’s liaison relationship with government agencies can and should be both respectful and spirited, and that it is through a liaison system built on trust, mutual respect, and solid relationships that we can achieve AILA’s mission of providing robust member service. This kind of liaison relationship does not foreclose the option of litigation, political advocacy, public relations, or other avenues for change, but it does serve as the bedrock for effective engagement with the government. This approach works and will continue to work as we move forward. Take, for example, a recent AILA liaison development that we hope will make a palpable difference in members’ practices.

Continue reading ‘Why AILA Liaison Work is Crucial Even in Contentious Times’ »

Fighting Roadblocks to Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants in Georgia

shutterstock_209519614Until September 2015, Georgia issued driver’s licenses to foreign nationals residing in the U.S. as long as they were statutorily eligible. Then, due to a “policy change,” the Department of Driver Services (DDS) began demanding that foreign nationals show they had been lawfully admitted to the United States, a requirement not found in the law or regulations. One AILA member, Justin Chaney, decided to fight that battle in a Rockdale County court on behalf of a client.  Mr. Chaney’s challenge to DDS will protect not only his client’s rights under federal law but also the public safety of all Georgians driving on state roads.

The REAL ID Act established minimum evidentiary requirements for the issuance of driver’s licenses by states. In particular the REAL ID Act requires documentation of both identity and lawful status. In this case, Mr. Chaney’s client, Thomas* had a receipt, issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for his application for cancellation of removal. He had also applied for and received an employment authorization document (EAD) under the (c)(10) category of the federal regulations as one who had applied for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence, i.e. the application for cancellation. In initially applying for a driver’s license, and subsequently renewing, Thomas had successfully presented his EAD and cancellation application receipt.

Continue reading ‘Fighting Roadblocks to Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants in Georgia’ »

Anything I Can Do, You Can Do Better… in Dilley!

ny chapter dilleySunday is Mother’s Day in the U.S. and having just met some of the most incredible mothers I have ever encountered, I wanted to share that experience. In Dilley, TX, I met countless mothers who risked their lives to come to the U.S. for their children.  Not for economic reasons, not for “a better life,” but for the chance for their children to survive, because that is what a mother does.

Primarily, I am a business immigration attorney. I think in terms of Hs, PERM, Es, O-1s and the rest of the business immigration alphabet. However, I have been hearing a lot about the families who have asylum cases that desperately need help in Artesia, Dilley, and Karnes for the last two years and I kept thinking about lending a hand. Throughout my career I have taken on a handful of pro bono cases and have volunteered at clinics and citizenship day events, but I could do more.

When the New York chapter sent emails around asking people to go on a team, my immediate reaction was, “Let me donate some money instead.” I don’t do well roughing it. I don’t even go camping. I’m not saying I am a princess, but my slippers are high-heeled. My idea of roughing it is waiting for my martini for an additional ten minutes. Trust me, my friends think of me more as “Business Immigration Barbie” than “Detainee Defender.”

Continue reading ‘Anything I Can Do, You Can Do Better… in Dilley!’ »

Are You Considering Canada?

Ashutterstock_197319737s the American presidential election nears, some of us in Canada have been asked by media and other interested parties what the real options are if someone wanted to head north. ABC News reported in March that Google searches for “how to move to Canada” surged as high as 1,150%. We thought we’d offer some insight into the options available to come to Canada either temporarily or permanently.

Come to Canada to Work or Study: For those seeking a temporary move to Canada, young Americans in particular may pursue post-secondary studies in Canada by securing acceptance to a Canadian college or university. Others may seek to secure a temporary job offer from a Canadian employer. Under NAFTA, there are a myriad of employment options open to Americans.  As well, those who are not American can work in Canada if they qualify as an intercompany transferee.  In general, the ability to work in Canada depends on the nature of the positon and the particular skill set one maintains. In many cases, individuals require a job offer from a Canadian employer that is supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment through Service Canada; this requires the prospective employer to demonstrate an inability to locate a qualified Canadian candidate to fill the positon.

This may sound familiar to attorneys working with business clients here in the U.S.  The most recognized temporary work visa in the U.S. is probably the H-1B, particularly this time of year, when more than 230,000 petitions were filed for the 85,000 visas available.  While in recent years Canada has made changes to their immigration laws intended to improve their immigration system, the last significant change to the U.S. system occurred more than 25 years ago.

Continue reading ‘Are You Considering Canada?’ »

Looking Back and Looking Forward

shutterstock_336606005In 2013, there was great momentum for immigration reform. The Senate had already passed its immigration bill, and pressure was being put to bear on the House to do the same. There was a sense of hope and great support for immigration reform nationwide. Pro-immigration reform blog posts and opinion pieces linked a viable immigration system to the U.S. remaining on top in innovation and pleas for immigration reform from major sectors of our economy, like the agriculture, travel and hospitality, and tech industries, were heard loud and clear. Economic giants like Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Coca-Cola, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and so many more, came out in vocal support of immigration reform. Even many conservative religious organizations stood behind immigration reform as the right thing to do. Poll after poll showed that the majority of Americans favored comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. And yet, the House failed to deliver.

Continue reading ‘Looking Back and Looking Forward’ »

Preparing for Battle

PrintIn the days following the opening of the Artesia detention center, I remember reading in awe on Facebook about the lawyers that were driving out and banging on the gates, demanding to be let in, insisting these mothers and children be allowed access to counsel. I followed, in the news, through social media, and via updates from friends, the developments as attorneys took over these cases and won. I listened to the stories of those who flew out to help. In the back of my mind, I wished I could be part of it all –but I had a demanding job, a daughter who was not yet a year old at the time, and countless other reasons, or so I told myself, that made putting my life on pause and getting on a plane to fly to the middle of the New Mexico desert impossible.

Time passed. The Artesia detention center shut down. But then the detention center in Karnes City, TX, opened, and then one in Dilley, TX, opened soon after. Dilley had a planned total capacity of 2,400 beds. This was more than 12 times larger than the Berks facility in Pennsylvania, which had been the only one in existence before Artesia and holds fewer than 200 individuals. The idea of the federal government incarcerating thousands of mothers and children at a time was inconceivable, but it was happening.

Continue reading ‘Preparing for Battle’ »

At Long Last, Volunteering at Dilley

PrintIt was a trip nearly eight months in the making, my sojourn to Dilley. As Chapter Chair in summer 2014, I heard the requests for volunteers and donations. I focused on getting the word out and supporting members who volunteered. As a business and family immigration lawyer with little asylum law experience and no Spanish language fluency, I thought “how could I help?” But at last year’s AILA Annual Conference, I heard from several colleagues that those two seemingly insurmountable issues shouldn’t stop me from doing just that — helping.  So I made the decision to go, and though I felt nervous, finding a few AILA buddies to join me helped to alleviate my worries.

Sure, my preparations required a bit more logistical wrangling than some. First, I had to identify a translator for the designated week. I remembered that Nick, my running buddy’s son, speaks Spanish.  He was a recent college graduate, so I thought that he may have some time between taking the LSAT and heading to Argentina on a Fulbright Scholarship. He reviewed the materials on CARA and agreed to join me. Thus, all the pieces were in place. The final step was finding the time, but now it was a reality. I was still anxious but committed. I had to bone up on asylum law and procedures and spend some time familiarizing myself with the CARA database. I had to buy plane tickets and make reservations. And I had to reorganize my life so that it could be put on hold while I spent a week helping families.

Continue reading ‘At Long Last, Volunteering at Dilley’ »

H.R. 4731 Does Anything but Restore Integrity

shutterstock_120251062On Wednesday, at a time when we are facing a global refugee crisis, H.R. 4731, “The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act” passed out of committee in the House of Representatives with a vote of 18-9. Unfortunately, this bill does anything but restore integrity. I suppose it depends on how one defines “integrity,” but according to the dictionary, integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” Can anyone defend what is honest or morally upright about a bill that would:

• Reduce U.S. resettlement to 60,000 refugees per year at a time when there are 60 million people displaced from their homes, 20 million of whom are refugees (more than any time since World War II);
• Negatively impact the treatment of refugees worldwide, as the world looks to the United States for leadership in this area;
• Openly discriminate against Muslim refugees (when more than 750 religious leaders and faith-based organizations have urged Congress to oppose such discriminatory legislation);
• Construct additional barriers to integration and family reunification, continuing and compounding the trauma that refugees have suffered already from losing their homes, communities, and loved ones; and
• Allow state and local governments to actively violate anti-discrimination laws and create forbidden zones for refugees.

Continue reading ‘H.R. 4731 Does Anything but Restore Integrity’ »

How the Years Add Up

shutterstock_384301372Imagine coming to the United States to seek asylum and having to wait four years just for an interview to decide whether you get to move forward with your claim. Four years. In most jurisdictions, asylum applicants are having to do just that: wait years for an interview, when before 2013, asylum applicants were able to obtain a decision on their petitions typically within four months. If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) refers asylees’ cases to immigration court, their wait time is likely to extend for an additional two to three years. In the Los Angeles asylum office alone, there may be as many as 30,000 cases in the backlog. Nationally, close to 100,000 cases may be awaiting USCIS adjudications.

Once USCIS grants asylum status, if the immediate family of the asylee is overseas, he/she may file a petition so that the family may follow and join him/her in the United States. Currently this process may take up to six months. In theory then, it may take up to eight years for a separated family to be reunified. For gay applicants, the situation is even worse.

Continue reading ‘How the Years Add Up’ »