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

Detained by Immigration? What You Need to Know

While talks of immigration reform continue there is little spoken of the marked increased number of detained foreign nationals by ICE- the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS)
enforcement arm.   Congress’ expansion of the immigration detention system has created a profitable market for both private prison corporations and local governments.  

In fiscal year 2013 almost 244 state and county jails were contracted to house immigrant detainees on behalf of ICE (nearly 70 percent of the detained immigrant population).  Private correctional corporations have gotten in on this boom as well.  These corporations have built facilities strictly to house immigration detainees. Currently, ICE utilizes seven Contract Detention Facilities (CDF). 

Considering this reality below is a summary provided by ICE regarding ICE detainers.

Q: What is an immigration detainer?

A: An immigration detainer is a notice that DHS issues to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to inform the LEA that ICE intends to assume custody of an individual in custody. An immigration detainer serves three key functions: 1) to notify an LEA that ICE intends to assume custody of an alien in the LEA's custody once the alien is no longer subject to the LEA's detention; 2) to request information from an LEA about an alien'simpending release so ICE may assume custody before the alien is released from the LEA's custody; and 3) to request that the LEA maintain custody of an alien who would otherwise be released for a period not to exceed 48 hours (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) to provide ICE time to assume custody.
 
 
Q: What happens if ICE does not assume custody of the individual after 48 hours?hours? 
A: If ICE does not assume custody after 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays), the local law enforcement agency (LEA) is required to release the individual. The LEA may not lawfully hold an individual beyond the 48-hour period.
 
 
Q: What if the detainee believes that he or she has been held beyond the 48 hours, or has a complaint? 
A: The Notice to the Detainee advises individuals that if ICE does not take them into custody during the 48 hours, they should contact the LEA or entity that is holding them to inquire about their release from state or local custody. If the individual has a complaint regarding the detainer or violations of civil rights or civil liberties connected to DHS activities he or she should contact the ICE Joint Intake Center at 1-877-2INTAKE (877-246-8253).  If the detainee has an attorney the attorney should pursue all further action to ensure the release of the detainee beyond the 48 hr. window. 
For the full ICE- Question and Answer factsheet on detainers, go to link below:
 http://www.ice.gov/news/library/factsheets/detainer-faqs.htm


ICE is only going to increase the number of detained foreign nationals.  If someone is detained, depending on the circumstances they may still have legal options available to them to stop the removal process, qualify for legal permanent residency or other forms of relief.  The government is not necessarily going to provide you with a step-by-step of what legal recourse a detainee may have available. It’s up to the detainee, his friends or family to figure that out.  

The best way to make an informed decision is to speak to a qualified attorney who can evaluate the circumstance and provide legal counsel to determine what next steps they need to pursue.  Contact Kuck Immigration Partners at 866-286-6200.

DIY Immigration Lawyer: 5 Reasons Why You Should Not

The most common question I get from people with immigration issues is the question not being asked. When they realize they are talking with an immigration lawyer what they really want to know is: "Why do I even need a lawyer? Aren't you going to charge me an arm and a leg for something I can just do myself?" Coming from a non-professional baker who still prefers to knead her own bread, I can understand why people who are not lawyers consider this. Especially because when you seek quality legal representation you can expect it will not come cheap. But here are some reasons why hiring an immigration lawyer can be priceless (take my word for it, after all I am a professional advice-giver):

1.     First, good immigration attorneys can actually save you money.  I don't know how many times I've consulted with people who took the time to file forms or applications that were not necessary. They lose time and money and then some more money when they have to correct their mistakes. Let's prevent those mistakes!

2.     Second, good immigration attorneys will save your case. Not only will filing the wrong forms put you out time and money, but it could result in a bad situation for you and your family. Many recent immigrants from foreign countries that I meet face a reality check when they first arrive to the U. S. of A. Their Hollywood images of glamorous parties and everyone joyfully riding convertibles down tree lined streets are quickly shattered as they face the reality that is life as a hardworking taxpayer. Of course this rarely dissuades people from wanting to live in and contribute to a beautiful country they love and believe in, but in order to do so they have to be able to maneuver the laws that permit them to stay. So many good-intentioned folks end up in removal proceedings, separated from family for months and years, unable to work or go to school, simply because they preferred to try and take care of business themselves. In some asylum cases, mistakes can cost one the ultimate price: their life. The lesson they learn the hard way is there are some mistakes that are impossible to correct, no matter how much money or talent you throw at them.

3.     Third, when you hire someone that will provide you with quality service, the first thing they offer you is something invaluable: Peace of mind. I know how hard it is to have immigration concerns. I appreciate the feeling of insecurity and instability that comes along with that. You have enough on your plate as it is. But trying to decipher archaic immigration laws and regulations will not help your situation; it will only make it worse. This is not to say we don't encourage you to be informed and involved in your case. On the contrary - the cases with the best results were mainly from clients who were on top of their own case. But it's one thing to understand your case and be available and interested in assisting with the process and it's a completely different thing to do it yourself to maintain complete control over it. Please, for your sake, let go, keep watch, and let the experts handle it.

4.     Forth, it takes skill (and I'd argue it also helps to have a law degree). Attorneys are not just people who happen to wear suits and carry briefcases. To graduate law school and pass the bar, one must have vested countless hours studying, reading, writing, and practicing. Student loans remain with many of us for decades, an unpleasant reminder of this investment.  And the education does not end when the lawyer passes the bar. Continuing legal education is an obligation for every attorney to maintain their license to practice. We travel far and wide to conferences, listen to lectures in our cars, travel and volunteer at professional organizational events (such as American Immigration Lawyers Association), sign in to message boards, and read law books. It takes constant effort to keep abreast of the constant changing laws and regulations and to maintain our fitness to practice. Every hour an attorney spends on your case represents hundreds of hours he or she has spent on training herself to be an effective advocate. You can’t duplicate these results by simply reading a couple articles you found in your Google search, just like you cannot properly diagnose and treat a serious medical condition by searching WebMD.

5.     Lastly, and this is my favorite one, immigration law is one part science but the other part art. You cannot learn how to paint by just reading the instructions. You need to do it, and do it, and do it again. And you also need to have access to others who have done it; collaboration with other attorneys is essential. To be successful, you need to think outside the box and create solutions that are not written in black letter. A DIY immigration lawyer may be able to get away with a decent understanding of the black letter law, but the art involved is impossible to glean from a book.

I learned a saying when I traveled to the Middle East that translates as: "Give the baker your dough even if he eats half of it."  Don't take a chance on your case when there are good people out there that are skilled advocates happy to help you, save you money, and give you peace of mind. Experimenting in your kitchen may result in a bad meal or two, but experimenting with your immigration case can result in permanent emotional, financial damage.  If you’re on the fence about whether you need to hire an expert for your immigration case give us a call. We may not be able to figure out why your dough won’t rise, but you can rest assured that we are capable of handling your immigration issues competently and effectively.

What Do You Do When the Face Staring Back at You from behind the Glass Says No?

written by Partner Danielle Conley

Probably the most frustrating part of dealing with immigration, whether it’s USCIS, ERO, ICE, or any other immigration agency, is when the person at the front window tells you no and makes you feel like you have no options.  It’s bad enough when it happens to an attorney, so I cannot imagine what it’s like for immigrants and their families to try and push through this seemingly impenetrable barrier.

I will tell you from experience, there is something you can do.  Even if you don’t know the law and don’t know what to say, you can ALWAYS demand to see a supervisor.  Every front line employee has a supervisor they report to, and a supervisor is always on duty.  Chances are, the answer to your question may change when a supervisor gets involved.

Perfect example: three weeks ago, I attempted to file an emergency motion to keep someone in the country who was detained and on the verge of removal.  Someone from our office was trying to file the motion at the ICE window in downtown Atlanta, and of course, the person at the window was extremely rude and dismissive.  She said she absolutely could not accept the motion because the person’s valid passport was not attached.  It was not attached because the person is detained, his passport is expired, and he has no way of renewing his passport without first being released.  She still said no.

The next day I overnighted the application directly to the Field Office Director with an explanation as to why I was filing it this way.  I spoke with my client’s officer at the North Georgia Detention Center and he understood that it should not have been rejected, but said there was nothing he could do because it had to get past the woman at the front window.  By having this attitude, this gives a person who has no knowledge of the law too much power and discretion to reject otherwise properly prepared and filed applications… all while a young man is sitting in a jail cell longer than he should be.


Of course my motion returned in the mail with a note that they could not accept it ONLY because it was not filed in person.  Hmmm.  So, this morning, I went back down there myself.  I was there at 8 am, their office hours being 8 am – 3 pm.  There was no one at the window by 8:05 am, but I could hear the employees behind the closed window blinds, laughing and carrying on, while people were standing on the other side waiting to pay bonds for their family members.  So, I knocked on the officer’s entrance to their office.  An officer came to the door with a look of shock on her face that I had the nerve to knock on their door, and all I could hear behind the door was, “no she did not have the nerve to knock on the door!”, as if I was the one doing something wrong.  

My next step was to call any phone numbers I could until an officer in that building answered the phone, and the one who did was floored that no one was there to assist me.  One minute later, the blinds opened to that woman staring back at me, and I knew I was about to face that same impenetrable barrier.  Once again, she refused to accept the motion.  I said that was okay, and I expected to speak with a supervisor.  She said the supervisor would not be in until 9 am.  I told her that was fine, I would wait.  Wait I did.  Shortly after 9 am, the supervisor came out to speak with me privately and told me that no one should have refused to accept the filing.  He walked back in, and while I stared glared at her through the glass, he politely explained to her that it most certainly should have been accepted.  

A moment passed, and she stamped my copy and slipped it back under the window.  When she looked at me, I smiled and tried to make it look genuine… sort of.  She did not smile back.  That’s okay because now she knows she cannot say no the next time I try to file a motion under these circumstances.  

Please remember: ALWAYS ask for a supervisor.      

Immediate Relative Petition Delays


A few months ago, my clients and I began to notice a disappointing trend.  USCIS, which has generally been approving immediate relative petitions in approximately 6 months, was now taking 9 months to a year before issuing an approval.

This slow-down was confirmed on October 16, 2013 when USCIS released its updated processing times, showing that processing times for immediate relative petitions are now over one year!

Today, USCIS released more information on immediate relative processing times, this time stating that they are transferring some Immediate Relative Petitions to various locations around the country in an effort to balance the overall workload.  While my hope is that this will speed immediate relative processing times, the actual results of this transfer have yet to be seen.

As immediate relative petitions are filed for close family members (spouse, children, and parents) and individuals are often not allowed to immigrate to the United States until the petitions are approved, I find the over-one-year processing times very disturbing.  While sometimes we are able to move forward on cases that are far outside of the processing time, in general, there is nothing that can be done if a case is within processing times.  As I have mentioned before, patience is a virtue when dealing with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Quality, Morality, and Economics of Immigration Detention


written by Associate Attorney Rocky Rawcliffe

If you’ve watched television news lately you’ve definitely seen the talking heads debate the virtues and evils of the free market. In the interest of full disclosure I’m all for the free market, but what about goods and services where the state is the only consumer. Is the free market capable of fulfilling the needs of the state without a race to the bottom?  I say NO! Continue reading to find out why.

One of the services of which the state is the only consumer is the detention of those who have been found to be in violation of federal immigration laws. Violations of these arcane laws are administrative, not criminal, and subject the violators to administrative detention. As federal immigration enforcement has increased over the last several years, so has the requirement for administrative detention space.

Filling this requirement for more administrative detention space are companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group. These are private companies which sell detention space to the government. If that doesn’t sound Orwellian you should re-read 1984. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that these companies have an interest in lowering the costs associated with detention (to increase profit margins) and maintaining occupancy levels, i.e. – a race to the bottom, because there is no check on the quality of the detention by the ones being detained.

Why is this bad for immigrants, documented and undocumented?


SAFETY OF THOSE DETAINED FOR IMMIGRATION VIOLATIONS

The most obvious way to lower the cost of detention is to hire fewer guards. Guards are not only charged with preventing escape, but with the safety of those under their control. Fewer guards per detainee results in more detainees at risk of harm from their fellow detainees. This is especially important in the context of immigration detention, as individuals who have committed very minor offenses, such as driving while unlicensed, are detained with hardened criminals awaiting deportation. A father of three, whose only conviction is for having driven while unlicensed, might be detained next to a convicted murderer. Good job private prisons!


UNWARRANTED INFLUENCE

There are also several ways in which these companies can maintain occupancy levels. The most obvious way to maintain occupancy levels is to ensure that there are no changes in the law which make the detention of large numbers of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, less likely. What is even more troubling than maintenance of the status quo is that these private prison companies have an incentive to lobby for laws that will result in the incarceration of more people. Both companies maintain that they do not directly attempt to influence the political process, but you would have to be a fool to think that they don’t try to do so indirectly. This is the perfect example of unwarranted influence. While it may not affect the vast majority of us right now because we aren’t immigrants, what happens when these companies in their quest for profit want to make more everyday actions illegal? Who will be there to stop them?