Musings on Immigration

Our Globally Recognized Team of Immigration Lawyers Sharing Knowledge and Providing Counsel on Immigration Issues that Affect You, Your Business and Your Family

USCIS Is Poorly Managed–So says DHS!

There was shocking news this week about the USCIS–management shortcomings have undermined USCIS efforts to eliminate the millions of backlogged cases:!

Let’s be serious, literally millions of immigrants have experienced the shortcomings that the DHS Office of the Inspector General points out in this report. Immigrants have been abused by officers in Adjustment and Naturalization interviews because of poor oversight of rogue officers, cases have been long delayed because there is no effective follow up by managers on case completion, and nothing short of a federal court lawsuit seems to move the USCIS to adjudicate long overdue cases.

Perhaps this report, in a new fresh administration, will spur some changes and follow up in the USCIS, under the direction of a new Director. We can only hope.

Power of Attorney – What You Should do to Prepare Yourself if You are Arrested or Deported

If you are here illegally, you SHOULD MAKE A PLAN for what you would like to have happen to your children and your property in case you are arrested or deported. Designating someone to be your agent and giving them power of attorney can be a scary thing. You must pick someone you trust particularly because their powers become effective the moment you sign the power of attorney forms. That means that they can go into your bank accounts and sell whatever property you have here in the United States. (You can offset this by keeping the documents locked in your house and tell your agent where the forms are once you are arrested.) You must also make a plan and give your agent a lot of guidance when it comes to exactly what you would want to happen to your children and property. Give them a list of emergency contacts. Make sure that the agent knows who their pediatricians, baby-sitters and teachers are. You should talk to your agent about filing the documents with your local Registry of Deeds. In North Carolina that is the sure fire way to make sure that your agent’s powers are recognized with schools and banks.

Planning for an arrest or deportation can be like planning for an “immigration funeral.” And like a funeral lot of people don’t want to think about the fact that it could possibly happen. But those who do plan ahead can have exactly what they want happen to their children, property and money that they have worked so hard for during their time here in the United States. It’s worth spending the few hours filling out all the forms. Please contact your immigration attorney for more guidance on the issue.

An Immigrant Pays Her Debt to Society…and is Rewarded!

If an immigrant commits a crime in the United States, they are often times precluded from obtaining citizenship, permanent residence status, or even the ability to remain in the U.S. at all. Even when it is within the discretion of a judge or an officer to grant an application and allow a person to remain here, they can deny that request in an instant.

On the other hand, an immigrant is sometimes fortunate enough to be treated similar to a U.S. citizen who commits a crime. That was the case this last week when an immigrant we represented committed two crimes and was convicted of two misdemeanors. She was a lawful permanent resident at the time and applied for Cancellation of Removal for Lawful Permanent Residents during her immigration court removal proceedings.

This was a case where the justice system properly penalized an immigrant, similar to that of a citizen. Granted, she spent more time in prison than she should have for the crimes she was convicted of, but she was eventually forgiven for a few reasons. She fulfilled the three main purposes of a prison sentence: 1) paying her debt to society, 2) rehabilitation, and 3) deterrence from committing future crimes. If an immigrant pays the same price that any U.S. citizen would, then why also deport a person as further punishment? Chances are, she has been fully rehabilitated and this has now deterred her from committing any future crimes. Isn’t that enough? Is it always necessary to deport an immigrant simply because it is permissible under the immigration laws? Or is it more in line with our democracy, that all people should be given a second chance to prove themselves?

The “New” Standard for Voluntary Departure–Stay in Jail AND Pay Your Own Ticket Home!

Matter of M-A-S, 24I&N Dec. 762 (BIA 2009), a new case was decided by the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) on March 19, 2009, holds that, “[a]n Immigration Judge may order an alien detained until departure as a condition of a grant of voluntary departure”. In this case, the respondent was denied his claim for asylum and as a condition of voluntary departure was ordered detained until his departure. What’s worse is that the respondent appealed this decision to the Board and has been detained for almost a year awaiting adjudication of his appeal!

The respondent argued that only DHS, not an Immigration Judge, has the authority to refuse bond and grant voluntary departure under safeguards. Voluntary departure under safeguards, by definition, means that an individual is given permission to voluntarily depart the United States, but they will not be released from detention before doing so. They will remain detained until they are removed under the order. They are not permitted release to even gather their belongings and adequately prepare for moving back to their home country.

Unfortunately, the Board disagreed with the respondent’s argument and now issued a precedent decision interpreting the regulations to mean that an Immigration Judge can also enforce voluntary departure under safeguards, if he so chooses. This is a terrible decision because it provides full discretion to Immigration Judges to deny bond under any and all circumstances that may include a grant of voluntary departure, regardless of the underlying facts of the case! In a jurisdiction such as Atlanta, where the Immigration Judges fall on the stricter side of the immigration laws, this will provide them with yet another avenue to back their harsh decisions.

Celebrity Immigration/ Adoption Fever

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I thought it would be interesting to see which celebrities adopted from where and what they had to do to emigrate their child to the United States. This may also help you if you are trying to decide which country to adopt from: Madonna and Malawi: See yesterday’s post. The country of Malawi will not finalize an adoption unless you have been evaluated by a social worker there for two years. The US will not grant a visa to your adopted Malawian child unless you are willing to live in Malawi for two years or like Madonna, you can afford to fly the social worker to your place of residence multiple times over an 18 month period.

Angelina Jolie, Julie Andrews and Jim Caviezel have all adopted from Vietnam: The United States has granted over 1500 immigrant visas to adopted Vietnamese children over the past two years. However; due to the high incidence of fraud, adopting from Vietnam can be a complicated process. Prospective adoptive parents submit their paperwork to a central body in Vietnam and are then matched with an orphan child. The US has currently suspended all Vietnamese adoptions because it’s working on a new agreement with the country of Vietnam.

Angelina Jolie and Cambodia: Due to fraud, irregularities, and allegations of child-buying in the Cambodia; it is almost impossible to get a visa for an orphan adopted from Cambodia. Adoptive parents might want to consider Thailand as an alternative to Vietnam or Cambodia. Thailand does not have the same fraud problems and wait times are less- 8-12 months for an infant.

Angelina Jolie and Ethiopia: Ethiopia has become an increasingly popular option for adoptive parents. The country itself does not impose any residency requirements- meaning you won’t have to live in Ethiopia if you want to adopt from there. There are no minimum or maximum age limits for adoptive parents. The child herself must have been relinquished or abandoned under Ethiopian law and must have been in an orphanage for at least 3 months. The adoption and immigration process can be completed in as little as 6 months.

Mia Farrow and South Korea: Mia Farrow adopted her daughter, Soon Yi Previn, from South Korea. It seemed like a good idea at the time and it still is a good idea for most people. South Korea has relaxed age limits for adoptive parents and no residency requirements. However; wait times for healthy infants can be as long as three years. Over a thousand South Korean orphans were granted immigrant visas to the United States last year.

Meg Ryan and China: China has recently instituted stricter guidelines for its adoptive parents. Adoptive parents now for example, cannot be over weight, blind in one or both eyes, suffer from hearing loss etc. Luckily for Meg Ryan, she does not suffer from any of these maladies. The process itself is well stream lined but very drawn out with many adoptions taking about 3 years to conclude.

The Immigration Soul of the Republican Party!

As we speak there is a debate raging on the website of the National Review–that bastion of Republican and Conservative thought. This debate is between the inward thinking, anti-immigrationists lead by Mark Krikorian and Rep. Lamar Smith and the forward thinking and pro-immigrant Richard Nadler. Nadler’s recent article rebutting what he calls the Big 5 Anti-immigratoinists and their immigration reform plan–mass deportation–is fantastic. He calmly and with a great deal of emperical evidence show that this ridiculous plan is a deal breaker for Republicans and Hispanics into future generations. I have been echoing this from the ground for some time, but Nadler takes it a step futher. He says that:

our candidates will lose Hispanic vote share — to the point where our performance among Hispanics mirrors that among African Americans. If conservative Republicans continue to advocate the mass removal of resident illegals, our business support will erode — not to levels typical of a congressional minority, but to levels reflecting a fundamental shift of interests favoring the Democrats.

What Nadler clearly understands is that “Americans” as a whole do not favor EITHER Mass Deportations OR an Amnesty. What “Americans” are looking for is a political solution to this political and societal problem that does not reward those directly who came here without permission, but which recognizes the contributions of these folks and the effect on U.S. citizen spouses and children from such a ridiculous policy.

While Blog comments continue to stream in which say things like: “What part of illegal don’t you understand”, “all ‘these’ people need to back to the hole they crawled out of,” and MUCH worse statements, the reality is that the Republican party is in great danger here. The Republican Party WAS the party of immigrants for a very long time. Ronald Reagan was extremely pro-immigrant (remember the whole “City on a Hill” speech) and signed into the law the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986-The last “Amensty.” As someone with lifelong ties to the GOP, I view this fight for the immigration soul of the Republican Party one very much worth having. We cannot allow Anti-Immigration Activitists and shallow politicians to drive away the future of the party. The GOP needs to stand for an effective, strong and merciful immigration law that CAN be enforced effectively, but which also answers the needs of the American Family, Business and Society. This solution is possible, but only if the GOP STOPS pandering the likes of Lou Dobbs, Mark Krikorian and Lamar Smith.

If Madonna Can Do It - Why Can’t I?

Quiet as it’s kept; celebrities like Madonna and Angelina Jolie are not above the law when it comes to international adoptions. Despite the way it appears, they do not pick up a son or daughter during a flying visit to a far off land. So how do they do it? The short answer is that they do it the same way as the rest of us. Every adoption starts with a pre-approval phase which involves a form called I-600A or I-800A, depending on whether or not the child’s country of origin is a signatory to the Hague Convention (an international law governing adoption.) Once this is completed, a child will be located; the court work completed and the visa application (either I-600 or I-800) will be filed at the U.S. Embassy.

Many international adoptions only require the physical presence of the adoptive parent in the child’s country for three or four days- an interview day with a social worker, a court date, a day to file the application with the embassy and an interview day. Unfortunately, these days rarely happen consecutively which means the adoptive parent will have to remain in the child’s home country for several weeks unless they have the funds available to them to make several trips. This is where the Madonnas and Angelina Jolies of the world do have a significant advantage. Although money and celebrity status will not help when it comes to US immigration law it may have certain advantages when it comes to abiding by the rules of the foreign country.

Many people wonder how Madonna successfully adopted from Malawi- a country that requires the adoptive parent to physically reside with the child for 18 months under the supervision of a Malawian social worker before an adoption can be granted. We all know that Madonna did not reside in Malawi while her adoption was pending. She was living in England working on a fake English accent. Luckily for her, she could afford to fly a social worker from Malawi periodically to evaluate her relationship with the baby she sought to adopt. A Malawian judge finalized her adoption after a year and a half of evaluations which no doubt included a finding that her marriage was stable and she was highly unlikely to leave her husband for a major league baseball player.

Illegal Immigrants, The Economy and The Border

The LA Times Reports that apprehensions of undocumented migrants are down significantly this year, and appear to have dropped to levels not seen since the 1970s. In fact, the Yuma Sector of the Border Patrol reported not a single arrest for 2 days in December 2008. This from a Sector that was featured on that ridiculous show “Homeland Security” featuring migrants caught last summer. Apparently, there was no guarantee of catching anyone today!

One has to ask: Is this a result of all the money the Bush, and now Obama Administrations have poured into border security and deterrence? Or, is there something much bigger at play here? What comes to mind immediately when these raw statistics are rehearsed is that old James Carville saying from the 1992 election: “Its the Economy Stupid.”

The reality of the economic impact on the sharp reduction of undocumented immigration is played out in the last paragraph of this article when it becomes clear that while there are still folks wanting and even trying to enter the United States without papers (even with the billions that have been spent on increased border enforcement in the last nine years), the job magnet that has drawn millions of people here has virtually disappeared overnight. There are just not any jobs here right now. The bigger question that we MUST consider now is what happens when the economy improves and all these jobs come back? We know that the economy will improve. Without action NOW by Congress on immigratin reform to deal with what we know will be a pent up surge for workers, both skilled and unskilled, when the economy rights itself later this year, we will be faced with more immigrant bashing and the same lack of solutions that we have enjoyed for the last decade.

Hopefully, the Obama Administration can lead on this issue. Certainly President Obama has said he would so lead. And, he is speaking tomorrow, March 10, to the Annual Legislative Conference of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C. This event would be a perfect forum for him to call out for Congressional Action this year on Immigration. Without leadership from the White House now, and through the spring, summer and fall, it is far to likely that Congress will not have the courage to act on immigration reform.

Where, O Where Have My High Skilled Immigrants Gone?

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation released a study today that indicates placing limits on foreign workers in the U.S. is not the answer to the country’s rising unemployment rate and may undermine efforts to spur technological innovation. You have to ask yourself, “Is anyone surprised by this?” I mean come on. What kind of person actually believes that by STOPPING advanced degreed university graduates from coming to the United States the United States will be better off? I mean, besides the folks in Congress!

The study by Harvard professor Vivek Wadhwa titled America’s loss is the world’s gain: America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Part IV, researchers surveyed highly skilled immigrants who had studied and/or worked in the United States and subsequently returned to their home countries.

“A substantial number of highly skilled immigrants have started returning to their home countries in recent years, draining a key source of brain power and innovation,” said Robert E. Litan, vice president of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “We wanted to know what is encouraging this much-needed growth engine to leave our country, thereby sending entrepreneurship and economic stimulus to places like Bangalore and Beijing.”

The study found that “Immigrants historically have provided one of America’s greatest competitive advantages. Between 1990 and 2007, the proportion of immigrants in the U.S. labor force increased from 9.3 percent to 15.7 percent, and a large and growing proportion of immigrants bring high levels of education and skill to the United States. Immigrants have contributed disproportionately in the most dynamic part of the U.S. economy—the high-tech sector—co-founding firms such as Google, Intel, eBay and Yahoo. In addition, immigrant inventors contributed to more than a quarter of U.S. global patent applications. Immigrant-founded U.S.-based companies employed 450,000 workers and generated $52 billion in revenue in 2006.”

Come on Congress, lets get out heads out of the sand, stop playing games with who is to blame in this economic crisis and THINK your way out of it. Expanding U.S. employers’ ability to bring in the best and brightest from around the world, AND treating this talent as they should be treated, will go a long way to fixing our economic malaise.