Archive for the ‘Immigration, General’ Category.

U Visa: A Sliver of a Silver Lining for Victims of Violent Crimes

shutterstock_123147769Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in October 2000. As the USCIS website explains, this legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking of undocumented immigrants, among other crimes. These special nonimmigrant visas are for individuals who have suffered substantial mental and/or physical abuse as a result of a crime committed against them and who are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation and prosecution of the crime.

As an immigration attorney, I have worked with immigrants, like Jose, for whom the U visa offers a way forward, free from fear. In 2006, Jose, a 30-year-old Hispanic laborer, made his way to work at 5:00 in the morning.  Within minutes of parking, an unknown man in a vehicle stopped next to his car and approached Jose. This man then took out a 12-gauge shotgun and without motive, shot Jose twice, striking him in the face and shoulder.

Bleeding profusely and literally holding half of his face in the palm of his hand, Jose stumbled toward his work site and made an urgent call for help. He was rushed to the hospital, where he would remain for the next two and half months. Jose suffered a shattered jaw, lost a large portion of his tongue, and suffered extreme emotional trauma, among other injuries.

Continue reading ‘U Visa: A Sliver of a Silver Lining for Victims of Violent Crimes’ »

What I Need to Hear

shutterstock_91837658In a January 7, 2016, article in Fusion, Tim Rogers tells readers that the Obama Administration, “is on pace to deport more people than the sum of all 19 presidents who governed the United States from 1892-2000.” Think about that for a second. This is the reality as we get ready for  President’ Obama’s final State of the Union Address which takes place tonight, in the recent wake of the newly launched enforcement actions against families, women, and children who have fled some of the most dangerous conditions on earth in gang-plagued Central America.

The State of the Union used to be an opportunity to hear a message of optimism and hope, when the president would outline the administration’s goals and objectives for the coming year.  But recently, it seems we have lost our way; that we have morphed into something that we are not.  Americans have always embraced the role of our nation as protector, wise guardian, and leader. We have sacrificed thousands of brave men and women who have gone to foreign shores to protect a populace they did not know from dictators, tyrants, and terrorists because it was the right thing to do. It was the American thing to do.

Continue reading ‘What I Need to Hear’ »

Defend, Don’t Target, the Vulnerable

shutterstock_232202254On Christmas Eve, news leaked that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was going to begin raids to round up and deport Central American families. Over the holiday week, stakeholders, legislators, community leaders, and advocates pushed back hard on these planned raids and begged the Obama Administration not to move forward.

In spite of that, and without any communication from DHS in response to our efforts, on the first Saturday of the New Year the raids began. Reports surfaced quickly of mothers and children being torn from their homes, terrified of what was happening. Of ICE agents gaining access to homes under questionable circumstances. Of the latest inhumane and deplorable practices to which the federal government has subjected asylum seekers.

Continue reading ‘Defend, Don’t Target, the Vulnerable’ »

DHS Rule For Highly Skilled Immigrants: Helpful, But Timid

shutterstock_204239854Yesterday morning began with a panicked message from a software engineer employed by one of my corporate clients.  The engineer had “ported” his green card application, joining my client after having been sponsored by a prior employer for permanent residence.  The company was happy he had joined, since he brought needed skills to help upgrade the company’s infrastructure.  The engineer’s message related to his green card application: nine years after his immigrant visa petition had been approved, while he was waiting in the interminable backlog for high-skilled workers from India, USCIS decided to question its approval of the immigrant visa petition filed by the prior employer.  The engineer was now second-guessing his decision to have taken the position with my client, wondering if his immigration future might be more secure if he went back to the work he had been doing previously.

Continue reading ‘DHS Rule For Highly Skilled Immigrants: Helpful, But Timid’ »

STEM OPT Rule: Coming, But Likely Delayed (Still Not Time To Panic, Though)

shutterstock_235526545Back in October, I predicted that technology companies, universities, and foreign students would have to wait past a court-imposed February 12, 2016 deadline for a new rule that would continue the “STEM OPT Extension” part of the Optional Practical Training Program.  In order to meet the court’s deadline, I pointed out that DHS would need to publish its final rule 60 days before the anticipated effective date, December 14, 2015.  That deadline has come and gone.

The plaintiffs in the case that resulted in the February 12 deadline have appealed because they did not like Judge Huvelle’s earlier rulings that the OPT program is well within the Department of Homeland Security’s statutory authority. Judge Huvelle held that OPT is a well-established part of immigration law that Congress authorized through several major revisions of the statute over the past 25+ years.  At present, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing that issue, as well as the plaintiffs’ standing to bring the lawsuit challenging a duly-promulgated regulation based on a bare assertion that they have been harmed by the OPT program.

Continue reading ‘STEM OPT Rule: Coming, But Likely Delayed (Still Not Time To Panic, Though)’ »

Ineffective and Discriminatory is not a Winning Combination

shutterstock_310538138At the time of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, I was a teenager, completely unfazed by the events unfolding. My brother and I were both going to school in the U.K. and my older sister had already immigrated to the U.S. When the revolution peaked in late 1978, my parents were visiting my sister in Los Angeles. Tragically, within two months, our 2500-year monarchy was replaced with a repressive and regressive Islamic system of governance in February 1979. I was the last one of my family who was able to arrive in the U.S., later in 1979 to complete high school.

As with many Iranians, our extended family was scattered by the new regime. My mom’s cousin was executed for being a senator in the Shah’s government. To retrieve his body, we had to pay for the bullets used by the firing squad. My uncle was accused of crimes against humanity for being the Chief of Police in Tehran at the time of the revolution. He went into hiding and stayed there until his death many years later. My younger sister, her husband, and their baby were jailed for attempting to escape from the country on foot.

Stateside, we were dealing with the fallout from the horrendous hostage crisis where American diplomats were detained for 444 days in Iran. Agents from the FBI visited our home and interviewed all of us. Life was volatile, but at least we felt relatively safe in America.

Continue reading ‘Ineffective and Discriminatory is not a Winning Combination’ »

For Many, “Beautiful Honduras” Isn’t.

shutterstock_59018533A couple of weeks ago, I read a piece in the Huffington Post quoting Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson saying that it’s okay to deport kids to Honduras because it’s “a beautiful country.” Reading this ridiculous comment, I felt I had to share my knowledge of what is driving children to flee their homes.

The reality is Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Plagued by poverty, infested with deported violent criminals and gang members, its corrupt government fails to protect its citizens. I saw firsthand the plight of many in Honduras when I traveled to the Bay Islands on two separate occasions as an avid scuba diver a few years ago.

Continue reading ‘For Many, “Beautiful Honduras” Isn’t.’ »

Beirut and Paris, What Can We Do?

Syrian-refugee-crisis_crcleThe recent events in Beirut, Baghdad and Paris have brought feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, and helplessness. While these feelings in the coming weeks may subside and take a backseat to the holiday season, they will not entirely go away. And, they shouldn’t. The thought that there has to be something we can do, something we can fight for, will hopefully remain. Many of us are up every night thinking and talking at length about these events and their impact. This is, of course, much bigger than we are but it does not mean that we cannot or should not do anything. We need to do something.

Because this impacts all of us, especially the immigration bar, we need to start a larger discussion. We need to speak out against this xenophobic anti-refugee, anti-Muslim backlash.  We need to be open, be frank, be courageous and be hopeful. We need a deeper conversation among each other, within our communities and with those who do not share the same perspective. There is so much misinformation and misuse of facts. Fear and lack of understanding is dictating impulsive and hateful actions. Many in Congress are aiming to halt the refugee resettlement program for those from Iraq and Syria, while millions of refugees are desperately asking for help. Governors in 31 states are touting that they want to close their doors to Syrian refugees, with one governor already turning two families away. And, this is just the beginning. As immigration professionals, we are in a position to highlight the facts, speak the truth, and hold our elected officials accountable. We understand the immigration system better than anyone—we know the intricacies, the process, and what is required.

Continue reading ‘Beirut and Paris, What Can We Do?’ »

Scapegoating Refugees is Not the Solution

shutterstock_239484691Somewhere in the deepest recesses of my mind, I live in constant fear. Many of us do. It’s a natural reaction. Every day we step outside we are exposing ourselves to those things we fear. I fear a texting driver may hit my car. I fear a person with a gun could shoot up a business I’m patronizing or a nearby school. I fear my health could fail unexpectedly. Do I let this fear consume me? Not at all. But, I don’t completely discard this fear, and I am mindful of how fortunate I am to be alive each day. I am one of the lucky ones. In 1948, with the assistance of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the United States gave my own family an opportunity to survive, and we have thrived thanks to those protections provided by this country.

Continue reading ‘Scapegoating Refugees is Not the Solution’ »

Protecting the Survivors

shutterstock_242098315Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we wanted to take this opportunity to draw attention to the need for AILA member expertise to help survivors, the challenges involved, and also highlight some ways that immigration attorneys can make a huge difference by getting involved and offering assistance.

Immigration benefits for the survivors of domestic violence come in many forms, including Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitions, I-751 domestic violence-based waivers, U and T visas, and asylum cases. Whatever the benefit, immigrant survivors face numerous systemic, linguistic, and cultural barriers in accessing the legal protections designed to assist them. The lack of legal immigration status is commonly used as a weapon by abusers to maintain power and control within their relationships. Some common examples of this include threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on victims, withdrawing immigration papers, or telling victims that if they were to call the police, they would be the ones arrested for their lack of status.

Continue reading ‘Protecting the Survivors’ »