Archive for the ‘Immigration, General’ Category.

Mistreatment of LGBT Detainees Continues with Planned Mass Transfer to Remote California Facility

GeoOn June 19, 2015, ICE/ERO announced a new policy that could significantly change the way transgender women are treated in immigration custody. On the positive side, the policy acknowledges the possibility that transgender women can be housed in women’s facilities, and it promises to provide training on the work that must be done to respect an individual’s gender identity. AILA and other non-profit organizations greeted this new policy with cautious optimism, but expressed concern that it would result in members of this vulnerable community being isolated from counsel and community.  For example, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) commented that the policy was likely to “result in hubbing transgender women in remote areas where they cannot have meaningful access to counsel.” In the two months since ICE announced this policy, the concern over hubbing—and in particular in Adelanto, California—has only increased. Continue reading ‘Mistreatment of LGBT Detainees Continues with Planned Mass Transfer to Remote California Facility’ »

Indian Independence Day

shutterstock_134525195“Progress is implied in independence. Without self-government neither industrial progress is possible, nor the educational scheme will be useful to the nation…” – Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

When you think of the phrase “Independence Day,” naturally you think of July 4th and wonderful images of BBQs, apple pie and fireworks come to mind. August 15th is Indian Independence Day, which is relatively recent, having begun in 1947. It certainly feels recent to me since my father was ten years old at the time. Of course he later moved to Britain, where I was born, making me a British Citizen, therefore setting me up for a lifetime of combined pride and self-loathing. In the U.S., Indian Independence Day on August 15th is celebrated in numerous cities, and with a number of parades and parties.

India has come a long way. Just shy of one quarter of the world’s population and the world’s largest democracy, it is amazing to see the progress over the last decade. Modern cities and developments have sprung up all over India. The economy is booming and India is creating many different items for export. Perhaps its largest and most valuable export though, is people, in particular, highly educated people.

Continue reading ‘Indian Independence Day’ »

Conrad 30 – A “Win-Win” Response to the US Healthcare Crisis

shutterstock_102868775Affordable and accessible healthcare has long been a national priority.  However, for decades the United States has experienced a critical shortage of physicians.  The addition of millions more insured Americans to the healthcare rolls under the Affordable Care Act has heightened the problem.  In fact, the Association of Medical Colleges predicts the US will face a shortage of 46,000 – 90,000 physicians by the year 2025.[1]  While the US is now graduating more medical students than ever before, the number of graduate medical education residency and fellowship training programs has remained static.[2]  With American physicians increasingly choosing hospital-based medical specialties over primary care positions,[3] millions of vulnerable Americans are left without primary healthcare.

Fortunately, US immigration law provides an incentive to attract US-trained international medical graduates (IMGs) to parts of the country not fully served by American physicians.  Since its inception in 1994, state Departments of Health across the country have used the Conrad State 30 J-1 waiver program (“Conrad 30”) to place over 12,000 IMGs in medically underserved communities where they have provided healthcare to millions of our country’s neediest citizens.

Continue reading ‘Conrad 30 – A “Win-Win” Response to the US Healthcare Crisis’ »

EB-5 Up for Reauthorization: Part 2

shutterstock_211305115…Continued (Read Part 1 of this blog post)

In general, AILA and other industry stakeholders are finding strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate for the EB-5 program.  And yes, Congress has extended the Regional Center (RC) program numerous times since 1992.

But, and this is important, the current legislative atmosphere is uncertain and complex – especially involving immigration issues.  Many legislators, from both parties, want to address all immigration issues as part of a larger comprehensive reform package.  Extending just the EB-5 program and other sunset immigration programs could be viewed as piecemeal and diluting a comprehensive approach favored by many.

Continue reading ‘EB-5 Up for Reauthorization: Part 2’ »

EB-5 Up for Reauthorization: Part 1

shutterstock_211305115The EB-5 “Regional Center” visa program again finds itself in an all too familiar place – unless Congress reauthorizes by September 30, the program will sunset. For better or worse, the EB-5 program remains connected with three other sun-setting immigration programs (E-Verify, Conrad and Religious Workers).  AILA continues to be actively involved in the extension process and here are some updates:

Let’s start with a quick refresher. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa classification has many street names, such as the “Entrepreneur” visa, the “Investor” visa and the “Jobs Creation” visa. By any name, the U.S. Congress created this program in 1990 with the goal of encouraging the infusion of foreign capital to benefit the U.S. economy. And to that end, it would offer the privilege of U.S. residency to an entrepreneur in exchange for creating 10 new jobs for American workers.
Continue reading ‘EB-5 Up for Reauthorization: Part 1’ »

The Pro Bono Clinic: Nuts and Bolts

DSC_0294You may know that there’s a lot that goes into a pro bono clinic. But planning the AILA Annual Conference Pro Bono Clinic takes it to another level. Here are some insights on the planning and logistics of this year’s event, sharing what we learned at the AC for anyone looking to run a pro bono clinic in the future – maybe even for Citizenship Day this September!

Planning began in earnest shortly after President Obama’s announcement regarding Executive Action. The number of clients potentially eligible for Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area far exceeded the resources of area nonprofits, so AILA’s DC Chapter decided to use it as a way to give back and support the nonprofits. Originally the plan was to work with Ayuda, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, and CARECEN to assist their overflow clients who were ready to apply for DAPA since the timing would be perfect.  The clinic would take place several weeks after applications would start being accepted.  What’s that they say about best laid plans? The next thing we knew, the Texas lawsuit injunction happened and DAPA was officially in limbo.

Continue reading ‘The Pro Bono Clinic: Nuts and Bolts’ »

From Systems to Substance, Digital Innovation is Welcome News for Immigration

shutterstock_276868460Last week, the Office of Management and Budget released a plan for modernizing and streamlining the legal immigration system.   Much of the focus was on the potential positive impact of digital innovation.  Recommendations included the creation of a cross-agency digital services team to support the implementation of the modernized immigrant visa project.  This team would be charged with improving the visa applicant experience and increasing efficiencies in the adjudication process through digitization.  The plan rightly points out that “currently, the immigration application and adjudication process is mostly paper-based, requiring documents to change hands and locations among various federal actors at least six times for some petitions.”  Or in many cases, the same information must be sent separately, and in different formats, to several agencies, several times.  Take for example the H-1B nonimmigrant visa category for specialty occupations.  This category alone requires coordination between the Department of Labor (DOL), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Department of State (DOS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The DOL piece of the puzzle, the Labor Condition Application (LCA), has had an electronic option since 2002 and is today entirely online.  An employer may submit an LCA, post notice of filing and receive approval of certification from DOL without a single piece of paper.  However, the five-page LCA, once certified, must be printed out, signed and sent to one of USCIS’s Service Centers in Vermont or California as part of the H-1B petition.  Continue reading ‘From Systems to Substance, Digital Innovation is Welcome News for Immigration’ »

A Lot of Glass in Those Towers, Any Mirrors?

shutterstock_113897485Antonio Olivio of the Washington Post hit the nail on the head in his July 6th column (At Trump hotel site, immigrant workers wary) regarding the building of the new Trump luxury hotel in Washington DC.  Ever since Donald Trump made his ill-informed and untrue statements about Mexican and Latino immigrants, the spotlight has been turned onto Mr. Trump and how he earns his millions of dollars on a daily basis.  The public has since learned that Mr. Trump earns quite a lot of money on the backs of immigrant labor and even outsourced labor (see the now former Trump clothing line which was made in Mexico and China, among other countries).

As Mr. Olivio noted at the DC Trump project, many of the immigrant workers rise early and commute to the worksite in a professional manner to earn an honest living to support their spouses, children and families.  While Mr. Trump’s comments are offensive to them, the need to work and support their families is more important than pride.

However, based on Mr. Trump’s comments about Latino and Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, which he has voraciously defended as accurate, after reading this article it must be asked, how was Mr. Trump able to find enough professional Latino and Mexican immigrants who were not rapists and criminals to employ?  In the alternative, is Mr. Trump knowingly hiring the very criminals he ranted about to shamelessly obtain the media spotlight?

The truth is that Mr. Olivio’s article demonstrates what most Americans already know: the vast majority of Latino and Mexican immigrants are hard-working, self-sufficient proud people with a desire to earn a living and care for their own in the best country in the world.  They were not born into a wealthy family and left with a large inheritance like their employer.  Rather, they earn each dollar working for a man who values money more than the lives of his employees.

Take a look in one of your mirrors that was likely hung by an immigrant worker and that is now cleaned by an immigrant worker Mr. Trump, you might see someone who has earned a lot of money on the backs of hard working immigrants but has now lost something money cannot buy, self-respect.

Written by Matt Maiona, Member, AILA Media Advocacy Committee

LGBT Detention Must End

shutterstock_142284691On June 23, 2015, 35 members of the House of Representatives wrote to Secretary Johnson, calling on the Obama Administration to end the detention of LGBT immigrants in ICE custody, especially transgender women.[1] The letter requested the administration seek parole and alternatives to detention for LGBT immigrants, including supervised release. These alternatives to the status quo are urgently needed because of every five victims of confirmed sexual abuse in ICE detention, one victim is transgender. This is a staggering statistic of victimhood for transgender individuals, especially when only around 75 trans persons are detained by ICE each day. While it does not need reminding, ICE is authorized to detain and house up to 34,000 immigrants in any given day.

The advocacy centered on LGBT immigrants is not an attempt to prefer LGBT detainees over the detainee population as a whole. The goal is ensure their safety while in the custody of the U.S. government and to drive the conversation of whether ICE/ERO can and should do better in releasing LGBT and non-LGBT detainees through alternatives to detention, instead of locking them up in jails for prolonged periods of time.

There are many arguments to be made as to why detention should be used sparingly. This includes the high cost of detaining individuals and the barriers created through the detention system for those who seek to find and hire a lawyer. However, the simple question remains: if a person is not a threat or a priority for removal and the person is likely to show up for an immigration hearing in the future, shouldn’t they be released?

In the context of LGBT immigrants, many flee their home countries due to persecution they have suffered on account of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. They seek asylum in the U.S. to protect them from the harms suffered in their past or what awaits them if they are forced to return to a country that persecutes LGBT persons. Knowing why these LGBT individuals are present in the U.S. makes it extremely likely they will want to pursue their case in front of an immigration judge. Should LGBT immigrants benefit from some form of an alternative to detention, these LGBT immigrants would be safer, would be able to seek the help of family/friends, and would be able to find more resources to assist them in their legal cases. Most importantly, they would want to show up and fight their case in immigration court.

While there is much work to do surrounding the issue of LGBT detention, ICE/ERO recently announced that transgender women qualify to be housed in women’s detention facilities.[2] Additionally, ICE/ERO will train its personnel to inquire about gender identity to determine how an immigrant identifies, if that person so chooses to disclose.[3] While the impact of these trans-inclusive policies and the full implementation are yet to be seen, these actions do go a long way in the goal of ICE/ERO in providing “a respectful, safe, and secure environment for all detainees, including those individuals who identify as transgender.”[4]

Written by Mike Jarecki, Member of the AILA Media Advocacy Committee and the LGBT Immigration Issues Working Group

[1] http://www.aila.org/advo-media/whats-happening-in-congress/congressional-updates/35-reps-end-detention-lgbt-immigrants

[2] http://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2015/TransgenderCareMemorandum.pdf

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

A Long Journey for Justice: the Continuing Fight for LGBT Immigrants

shutterstock_56068639As the nation rejoiced after the Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, I recalled the celebrations at AILA’s 2013 annual conference in San Francisco on the day that the Supreme Court decided Windsor v. Connecticut.   Windsor and subsequent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directives made it clear that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would recognize marriages of couples of the same sex for immigration purposes.  However, while our clients no longer had to worry about physical separation and removal from their spouses or partners, they did have to suffer additional indignities  if they lived in a state that refused to recognize their marriage.  For that, we celebrate but also reflect on the bumpy path to equality.

As a measure of how far we have come, before 1990, being gay was a ground for inadmissibility.   Before Windsor, we had to either file for asylum for our gay clients or see them separated from their partners as we scrambled for other options in the non-immigrant realm.   While the US did not accord the right of marriage to same-sex couples, the absolute terror that many of our clients faced in their home countries due to their sexual orientation was real, and it was our job to help protect them.

I remember speaking at several forums about options for LGBT immigrants which seems so historical today.  I also recall that as AILA’s USCIS Liaison Committee Chair in 2010-2011, we pressed USCIS to hold marriage-based I-130 petitions for same-sex couples in abeyance as marriage was legal in certain states.  We argued that while it was inhumane to separate committed couples before they were allowed to marry in any US jurisdiction, it was draconian and bigoted to place someone married to a US citizen in removal proceedings after denying their I-130 petition.  It was essentially an immigration policy which was in the same league as the over-150-year U.S. ban on naturalization for “nonwhites.”

At the Upper Midwest chapter conference in 2011, I brought that issue to my co-panelist, a USCIS adjudicator from Minneapolis, and he had that same look of empathy we got from USCIS headquarters, but the same line that they could not issue a blanket policy of holding these cases in abeyance.   I loved doing that work because as with many of our actions, it was a fight both to keep people together and for basic justice.  It was an unconscionable form of discrimination nationwide and USCIS was caught in that web of injustice.  I was thrilled that AILA did its part to raise consciousness and move the universal arc one step closer to justice.

This spring I spoke on a panel with Ali Bushara, a Ugandan gay man who fled his country last year.  We talked about his personal journey, but also the increasing persecution of gay people in many parts of the world such as Russia, which has codified laws to bar adoptions by LGBT members of society.

As my conversation with Ali and my unmarried LGBT clients continue to teach me, the role that AILA has played in seeking justice, equality and protection for LGBT immigrants cannot be set aside after this momentous decision.  We should continue to write, speak and advocate on behalf of basic human rights and make sure that State Department reports are consistent with what we hear from our clients and colleagues.

Written by Mark Shmueli, Member of the AILA EOIR Liaison Committee and the Distance Learning Committee