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Showing posts from February, 2014

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY

Many friends ask what exactly I do as an immigration attorney and what kind of clients I meet and help.One thing I love about my job is that I get to handle a wide variety of different cases with people from all over the world.Though the cases may be factually different, nearly all of my cases are common in that they involve individuals with compelling cases that deserve compassionate and sensible solutions.Here is a sampling of a few of my recent consultations (the names and countries have been changed to conceal identities): 1.A young woman from El Salvador was brought into the United States ten years ago by her family when she was 16.She is married to an emotionally and physically abusive U.S. citizen who constantly threatens to call immigration if she does not comply with his demands.The husband threatens to have her deported and separated from their young child.He controls the money completely and uses that as a tool to control her as well.The woman is scared of her husband, and w…

El Chapo Arrested...What Does It Mean?

In a word - nothing.  Allow me to digress for a moment and then put a bow on this at the end. One of the most common facts that must be shown in a deportation defense or waiver of some ground of inadmissibility is hardship. The level of hardship varies based on the type of case, from your everyday run of the mill hardship to your heightened exceptional and extremely unusual hardship. The hardship is usually to your qualifying relative. The U.S. government does not care about the affect your deportation would have on you, but supposedly cares about how it will affect your qualifying relative or relatives. One of the most common ways that hardship is shown is by demonstrating that the current conditions in the country to which you would be removed are so horrible that it would be a hardship for your qualifying relative to go and live there with you.
            Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade you know there is a turf war between rival cartels in Mex…

SB 404--Why It Violates Federal Law And Should Not Be Passed

Monday's "legal," but ethically challenged passage of SB 404 in the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee hearing has created a real problem for Georgia Senators (and for House members who are considering today the possible addition of anti-immigration language from SB 404 to HB 621).  What is that problem?SB 404 violates federal law and will be struck down if it is passed.

As background, on Friday evening , February 21, 2013, SB 404 was introduced into the Georgia Senate on and published on its website.  As of Monday, February 24, 2014, at 8:00 pm., SB 404 was not yet publicly assigned to a committee in the Senate, and several people were told by the clerk of the Senate around 2:00 pm on Monday that SB 404 had not be been "pulled from the hopper," e.g. read in the Senate and assigned to a committee.  Yet, around 3:00 pm, when a large group of folks opposed to SB 404 were in the Georgia House hearing room, where HB 621 was supposed to be heard on Monday (but was…

Bad News on SB 404--Georgia Takes a Step Backwards on Immigration

Bad news.  We were told today that the House Committee on Motor Vehicles could possibly substitute into HB 621 the DACA Drivers License Takeaway bill language in SB 404.  At the committee hearing today, Chairman Rice said he was postponing today’s hearing on HB 621 til tomorrow. 
But, while our group was in the House hearing room, the Senate Non-Civil Judiciary Committee heard, voted on and passed the actual SB 404, without amendment!!
There was no notice of the hearing, nor was there anyone present to speak against it. SB 404 now goes to the Senate Rules committee, which is usually perfunctory, and which is charged by Senator Mullis.  Call Senator Mullis now and ask him to stop SB 404 for having been passed through committed in violation of Senate rules.  You can reach him at (404) 656-0057. 
We need a very loud call on this to alert Georgians that our Senators are breaking their own rules in an attempt to hurt children and damage, once again, Georgia’s reputation.    We plan on noti…

Georgia GOP State Senators Want to Take Drivers Licenses From DACA Recipients

The Georgia GOP-led legislature has decided to jump back onto the anti-immigration train that led the national party off the cliff in the last election.  Six GOP senators have introduced legislation to take away the right of DACA applicants to obtain Georgia Drivers licenses and ID cards in SB 404.   Here is the language of that proposed bill:
To amend Article 2 of Chapter 5 of Title 40 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated,
relating to issuance, expiration, and renewal of licenses to operate a motor vehicle, so as to remove evidence of approved deferred action status from the list of available documents for use in the issuance of a temporary driver's license or permit; Did you expect to see this in the last week before crossover day in the Georgia State Legislature, in an election year, with a rising tide of Latino and Asian voters already upset by the national inaction on immigration reform?  Who is behind this bill, and what can we do to stop such a stupid, self-immolating a…

Steps You Can Take to Preserve Your Green Card

An immigration attorney spends a lot of time helping immigrants achieve permanent residency in the United States. Sometimes though it’s not getting the green card that’s the hard part, it’s keeping it. Lawful permanent resident (LPR) status implies in its name “residency”.  However many green card holders still maintain ties to their home countries and travel for family or business. It’s extremely important to be aware of what you need to do to maintain your LPR status. Per USCIS, you may be found to have abandoned you permanent residency status if you: Move to another country intending to live there permanently;Remain outside the U.S. for more than 1 year without obtaining a reentry permit or returning residency visa. However you may also be deemed to have abandoned your residency even if absent from the U.S. for less than one year;Remain outside the U.S. for more than 2 years after issuance of a reentry permit without obtaining a returning residency visa;Remain outside of the United …

Hiring a lawyer for your adoption/immigration case – read this first!

I had a great discussion on facebook last night with a fellow lawyer about the challenges adoptive parents face when trying to find competent legal counsel.  Here are some things you should consider before signing a retainer agreement: 

Has the lawyer processed cases in the country you are adopting?
Every country has its own nuances. Taiwan has the PAIR program. Pakistan has Mrs. Edhi and NADRA.  Mexico has DIF. And the list goes on.  If the lawyer hasn’t processed cases in your chosen country before, they won’t know about these things, won’t be able to advise you properly and will waste your time and money while they’re trying to figure it out.
How many cases has the lawyer processed before? How long has he or she been doing this? How many of these cases does the lawyer currently have pending?
The more cases a lawyer has handled and the longer he or she has practiced, the more likely that they will be able to achieve a successful outcome for you. If the lawyer currently has case…

Head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Resigns

For those who missed the news yesterday, the acting director of ICE, John Sandweg will resign this Friday, just six months after appointment and five months on the job.Sandweg’s appointment was highly criticized in the first place due to his complete and utter lack of experience.Sandweg had previously worked as a criminal defense lawyer, and had no experience whatsoever in law enforcement.In my opinion Sandweg’s appointment showed a clear lack of leadership and direction in the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, and was a clear sign that favoritism sadly trumps qualifications in many government circles. Surely Sandweg had to know that he wasn’t qualified for the position, and that he had basically been handed the opportunity of a lifetime.The question is, how bad is it within the ranks of ICE as an organization that Sandweg would abandon the career-maker opportunity and jump ship without explanation?This has to be embarrassing to DHS and ICE specifically.I hope that they learn fr…

Voluntarily Departure Under Safeguards – What’s the point?

This week, my boss Charles Kuck blogged about voluntary departure at Stewart Detention Center and how judges there routinely grant a form of relief euphemistically called "Voluntary Departure Under Safeguards."He noted that the immigration statutes allow for "Voluntary Departure," which is basically time for a foreign national to wrap up their affairs in the US, sell property and then leave voluntarily, without an order of removal.   The invented "voluntary departure under safeguards", however, requires detained individuals to buy their own ticket and then NOT be released from custody to do any of the thing that voluntarily departure was designed to do.Furthermore, these individuals are forced to buy exorbitantly expensive open-ended tickets to leave the country, while individuals who opt for a simple order of removal are able to leave the country free of charge.

Adding insult to injury, individuals who request voluntarily departure under safeguards and pu…

Stewart Detention Center--Why Is It A Deportation Machine?

A recent headline loudly proclaimed (incorrectly) that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was now "losing" almost 50% of the cases brought before an immigration judge in all US Immigration Courts.  The headline is deceptive, because it is simply not true.  ICE does not lose almost 50% of its cases.  There is no doubt that a much larger percentage of cases are "administratively closed" by Immigration Courts on a motion by ICE than in past years, but assuredly ICE is not "losing" these cases. Perhaps they are being more generous in their application of discretion, but losing them, no.

That said, one place where this is NOT happening is at the Stewart Detention Center (SDC), in Lumpkin, Georgia.  Located 3 hours south of Atlanta (and one hour south of Colombus), in what can best be described as the middle of nowhere (go ahead click the link and see that I am right). According to the statistics released by TRAC, ICE attorneys have a success rate of  95.1% i…

Birthright Citizenship, Unjust Outcomes, and Why We Need Immigration Reform Now More Than Ever

Birthright citizenship has long been the norm in the United States and it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon. I for one am glad. As a lawyer I love bright line rules that don’t really require much interpretation. If you’re born here, that’s it…you are a citizen, end of story. That hasn't always been the case in this country and you can read all about it here.
            Most people think this is a pretty fair system, but this arbitrary way that we assign citizenship leads to many unjust outcomes. It is one of the best ways to point out how broken our immigration system really is. Let me be clear…I am not advocating that we abandon birthright citizenship, but I am saying it should be expanded to more people who weren't born in the US. To illustrate my point let me present two fairly common scenarios.
Scenario 1 – Someone born in the U.S. to non-citizen parents leaves the U.S. with them before age 1. This person grows up outside the U.S. and at age 18 decides, …

Adoption Alert- Indictment of employees of International Adoption Guides Inc. (IAG)

Employees of IAG were indicted for allegedly conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with IAG’s adoption services in Ethiopia.

IAG is an adoption agency with a program in Ethiopia. It is Hague Accredited. The scheme allegedly involved, among other things, paying orphanages to “sign off” on contracts of adoption with the adopting parents as if the children had been raised by those orphanages — even though the children had never resided in those orphanages and had not been cared for or raised there.  These orphanages could not, therefore, properly offer these children up for adoption.  The Ethiopian Courts, relying on these documents, issued adoption decrees which were then used to obtain immigrant visas to the United States. This has been going on for 5 years.


The charge of conspiring to defraud the United States carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The charges contained in the indic…

DACA -- What is USCIS Looking For To Approve Your Case?

A client was waiting a long time for their DACA to be approved, so long in fact the it was even beyond the "normal" outrageous processing times.  As most know, there is not much that can be done in such a case to "hurry up" the processing.  We decided that we would do a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a copy of his file to determine what USCIS was doing with his case.  Miraculously, we received the FOIA response back within 60 days.  Also, miraculously, his DACA was approved shortly before we received the FOIA.  So, why is this interesting?  Because as part of the FOIA response, we received the USCIS checklist for DACA processing!

Receiving something like this is like finding a piece of gold in a pile of rubble.  The value of knowing exactly what USCIS is looking at while adjudicating an application can be incalculable; and this particular document is no exception.  For example the checklist clarifies something that USCIS has been somewhat evasive abou…

Everything you need to know about the adoption Home Study!

I get lots of questions about home studies- here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions:
Everyone knows what a home study – a review of your home, family life, personal background by a licensed social worker. You must submit an approved home study to USCIS if you wish to emigrate a child to the United States.
Who needs to prepare the home study?
 A home study can be prepared by any social worker or agency licensed in your state.  If you reside abroad, then the person who prepares the home study may  be licensed in any state. The home study may also be done by a social worker or agency licensed or otherwise authorized by the foreign country to conduct home studies under the laws of the foreign country.
I live overseas, do I still need a home study?
Yes.
Should I use a private social worker or a social worker at an adoption agency?
It’s totally up to you. Both are acceptable to USCIS as long as they are licensed by the state where the orphan will live. If you decide to go with …