Archive for the ‘Immigration, General’ Category.

Access to Counsel Should be Non-Negotiable

“Wait, you mean to tell me you are not allowed to contact a lawyer at the airport?”

That is a familiar response when I tell people of the lack of any protocol for allowing access to counsel to those who are coming into the United States from abroad. The fact is, when someone enters the country, whether a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, valid visa holder, or visitor without a visa, the decision to permit that person to contact their attorney for assistance or advice when problems arise is completely up to the officer’s discretion under current procedures.

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Fair Treatment Under the Law

Indiana’s highest court handed down a unanimous ruling earlier this month protecting the rights of injured unauthorized immigrants to seek recovery of lost wages and decreased earning capacity and importantly, making their undocumented status inadmissible at trial in most cases. I represented the Indiana Chapter of AILA and appeared and briefed the case as amicus. (Noe Escamilla v. Shiel Sexton Company, Inc., Indiana Supreme Court No. 54S01-1610-CT-546, decided May 4, 2017.)

The plaintiff, Noe Escamilla, is an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the United States by his parents while he was a teenager.  Escamilla had lived and worked in the United States ever since and eventually married a U.S. citizen (USC) and had three USC children.  In 2010, while employed by subcontractor Masonry by Mohler, he slipped on snow and ice as he attempted to lift a heavy stone. Escamilla suffered a hernia and severely injured his back, permanently disabling him and prohibiting him from working again as a masonry laborer.  There is no evidence that Masonry by Mohler checked Escamilla’s immigration status prior to his injury.

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MAVNI: A Successful Program Currently SNAFUed

Imagine you are a Polish- or Punjabi-speaking graduate of a United States school and you volunteered to join the U.S. Armed Forces, ready to serve this country and America’s interests. Your recruiter told you about the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) Pilot Program which allows certain lawful non-immigrants possessing critical health care specialty credentials, or language and cultural skills, vital to the national interest to join the Armed Forces. You’re promised that once you begin serving on active duty, or drilling in a reserve unit, you will become eligible for expedited naturalization. You’re ready, and you’re joined by thousands of others who, since the program’s inception, have helped make the program a success.

But, last fall, the orderly progression of the entire MAVNI Pilot Program ran into serious problems, and now it has now been completely stalled. On September 30, 2016, the Department of Defense (DoD) implemented revised eligibility, background, screening, and continuous monitoring requirements for the entire MAVNI cohort, estimated to number over 10,600 persons in the various service branches including those in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP and/or the Delayed Training Program (DTP).

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5 Questions and Answers about the EB-5 Program

It’s pretty rare that an investor visa gets press attention from all over the world. But this is exactly what happened when reports surfaced of Jared Kushner’s sister promoting the EB-5 visa in China. What I saw repeatedly in coverage was confusion about the EB-5 program, what it is designed to do, and how the Kushner family might be involved.

First, what is an EB-5 visa? It is an employment-based immigrant category that enables foreign nationals to qualify for green cards based on investment and employment creation in the United States. To be granted an EB-5 visa, a foreign national may invest $1 million in a U.S. business and employ 10 U.S. workers or invest $500,000 in either an area of high unemployment or through the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program. Projects included in the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program must be able to promote economic growth in a geographic region of the U.S. through increased export sales, improved regional productivity, job creation, and increased domestic capital investment.

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It’s time to tackle the 3/10 year bar!

Perhaps not since the Japanese internment camps of the 1940’s, or during the aftermath of 9/11, have immigrants been more fearful than they are now.  Never have I seen immigration attorneys and advocates more concerned about what might happen to their clients and communities. And never has an administration been more brazen and hostile against immigrants in the name of enforcement and the rule of law.

So what can be done?  The answer is, we raise the bar on the fight! But with so much to fight for, where do we even begin? The border wall? Detention beds? Raids? Protecting DREAMers? Defending sanctuary cities? There are so many important issues to advocate for.

What most of these issues have in common is the intent to remove people as quickly as possible, without due process or humanitarian consideration. These disastrous proposed changes will affect people who have been here since they were children and only know America as home; people who have been living here with their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident families; people who are victims of domestic violence or other crimes; people who are running their own businesses and hiring American workers; people whose only crime was to enter the U.S. without status, in most cases many years ago, and often not of their choosing.

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Say It with Me: It Is Not Illegal to Seek Asylum

Reading this recent Reuters article, from the headline to the end, I’m not sure what offends me most. Is it the Trump Administration’s concerted effort to scare people away from seeking safety in the U.S.? That’s pretty disgusting. Is it the fact that those threats only work if people believe our government would deprive them of the due process promised by our country’s founding principles? Maybe. But, I think what really gets me is the repeated use of the term “illegal” when it comes to families fleeing to the U.S. and seeking refuge under our asylum laws.

It is not illegal to seek asylum.

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ICE Enforcement in Courthouses is a Dangerous Mistake

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been stepping up its enforcement operations, this time in and around courthouses. There have been reports of ICE officers increasingly showing up in courthouses across the country to arrest unsuspecting immigrants. This is a misguided policy…and a dangerous one, for all of us.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), supported by Attorney General Sessions, recently defended ICE’s actions, stating that arresting a person in a courthouse better ensures public safety since the person would have already been screened by the courthouse and are less likely to have access to a weapon, resist arrest or flee. Ironically though, this tactic will only backfire. ICE agents appearing at courthouses will have a chilling effect on the administration of the criminal justice process and will actually make us all less safe.

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Our Battles Are Only Beginning

Regardless of the veracity of President Trump’s negative immigration rhetoric, it is undoubtedly sparking and emboldening anti-immigration groups. Constitutional battles that have long been over and won are creeping back with validation from the new administration.

In California, the American Children First organization is leading an initiative that seeks to keep undocumented children out of public schools and to charge undocumented parents of United States citizen children “non-resident” tuition. On April 5, 2017, the  that the organization had filed a notice of intent with the San Bernardino County registrar of voters in order to circulate a petition for their proposed ballot measure. The organization’s founder, Joseph Turner, told the LA Times that he felt  “invigorated” by President Trump and intends to bring these anti-immigration initiatives to the national level by first targeting a small school district. The initiative targets the Yucaipa-Mesa Joint Unified School District, which includes both San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

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Staining America’s Image

Tuesday night, I spoke at a “Know Your Rights” event in Tucson, Arizona, to a large group of concerned and fearful refugees from all over the world, including countries such as Iraq, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. Afterward, I spoke individually to several of the attendees who expressed anguish about the anti-refugee sentiment being spread throughout the United States by both our state officials and the federal government.

One man explained to me that he came to the U.S. with the impression that we would welcome him. But now he feels unwelcome. He said he loves this country but is worried about what the future may bring to him and his family. It was so disheartening to hear this. Another man told me of the gut-wrenching decision he made to leave his native land. In making this choice, he has separated from his elderly father, and most likely will never be able to see him again as his dad is extremely ill. I had to explain to him that being unified with his father would either require humanitarian parole (unlikely) or take an extremely long time via immigrant petition. While it was incredibly difficult to listen to these stories, the experience once again re-affirmed my personal commitment to help refugees and push for laws and policies that reunite families.

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Why You Need to be in D.C. Next Month

The actions and rhetoric throughout the first weeks of the Trump Administration have placed immigration at the top of the national agenda. Beginning with the three Executive Orders the first week, followed by the chaos at the airports due to the Muslim/refugee ban, and the stark realization that Candidate Trump was now President Trump with the full power of the presidential office behind him, immigration lawyers saw a shift in their everyday lives.

What may have once been a calm and quiet discussion of next steps became a frantic, terrified preparation session “in case” the worst was to happen and a family was torn apart. Business attorneys faced harried calls from Human Resources staff trying to figure out which if any of the presidential orders affected their current or future employees and how to address any gaps.

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