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

President Obama--Publish the DAPA Regulation (And Why He Won't)!

We found out this week that the "new" panel that will hear the actual DAPA appeal in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is actually the old panel.  Judges Smith and Elrod were the majority decision in motions panel which declined to lift the stay put in place by Judge Hanen from the Federal District Court in Texas.  Using polemics better suited for a political rally, Judge Hanen put a stop to DAPA and expanded DACA just as they were about to go into effect.  Judges Smith and Elrod, although less "dynamic" in their political tilt, made it clear that they were swayed by Judge Hanen and not by the rather lackluster lawyering of the Department of Justice, and refused to lift the stay.

Most advocates for reasonable immigration reform (and quite of few active Republicans) were deflated when news broke on the makeup of the panel.  There had been much hope created when the panel earlier in June had asked for briefings from both sides on whether or not the appeals panel to hear the case in July was bound by the findings and decisions of the motions panel that heard the case previously in the 5th Circuit (they are not).  But the likelihood of either judge changing their position on the DAPA and expanded DACA memo borders on 0%.

What can Obama do?  He can do what he should have done in February (and likely what he should have done in November 2014).  Publish the proposed DAPA and expanded DACA policy in the Federal Register and comply with the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).  Neither Judge Hanen, nor Judges Smith and Elrod struck down DAPA and expanded DAPA on constitutional grounds. Which is good, since the policy changes are not unconstitutional.  Rather, the change in policy was stopped because Obama did not comply with the APA by first publishing the proposed changes and giving them the force of regulation.

The process of complying with the APA, if the rule is considered an "emergency" rule i straightforward. An emergency rule can be made effective in 60 days.  Non-emergency rules can take longer. But think about it. we are now four months post the Stay ordered by Judge Hanen. Complying with the law here would have meant that we would have DAPA in place, or at the very least be very much closer to implementation than we are today.

So, why has Obama not complied with the APA?  Let me give two reasons.

First, Obama does not think he has to, and by doing so he diminishes the "power" of the presidency. There is recent Supreme Court Precedent backing this position.  In Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association, the Supreme Court held that:
The APA distinguishes between two types of rules: So-called “legislative rules” are issued through notice-and-comment rulemaking, and have the “force and effect of law,” Chrysler Corp. v. Brown, 441 U. S. 281, 302–303. “Interpretive rules,” by contrast, are “issued . . . to advise the public of the agency’s construction of the statutes and rules which it administers,” Shalala v. Guernsey Memorial Hospital, 514 U. S. 87, 99, do not require notice-and comment rulemaking.
. . . .
Because an agency is not required to use notice-and-comment procedures to issue an initial interpretive rule, it is also not required to use those procedures to amend or repeal that rule.
As such, the Obama administration may feel that DAPA and expanded DACA are "interpretive rules" that do not require APA compliance, and that by doing so he would eviscerate the administration's victory in Perez.

Second, and perhaps the real explanation, Obama believes that prolonging the fight over DAPA and expanded DACA into the presidential election cycle helps Democrats in their fight against a fractured GOP.  It is quite clear given the recent crazy talk from Donald Trump and Scott Walker (and an even nuttier know-nothing Ann Coulter), that many members of the GOP have no idea how to win back the minority vote in America.  Obviously, there are GOP contenders, like John Kasich and Jeb Bush who get it, but the vitriol is overshadowing common sense.  Perhaps Obama knows (because he did it himself by intentionally delaying immigration reform in 2008), that by keeping the anti-immigration side of the GOP on high alert and in full crazy bloom, he can maximize the chances that the GOP cannot win back the White House in 2016.

The reader can decide what Obama's motivation is, but the situation is this: DAPA and expanded DACA--designed to help millions is delayed.   The 5th Circuit will reaffirm its prior decision.  The Supreme Court may or may not take the case. If it takes the case, it will not issue a decision until June 2016, In the meantime millions of parents of US citizens will languish in an underground economy, families will be torn apart and separated by Obama's fully operating "enforcement priorities" memo, the GOP controlled Congress will allow the tail to keep wagging the dog on immigration reform, and we will be no closer to a real solution on immigration reform.  Thanks Obama.  Thanks for nothing.

Department of States System Failure Making the UFC Tap Out.

For going on three weeks now, the U.S. Department of State has been unable to issue visas of any kind due to a system hardware failure.  This means that people trying to get permission to enter the United States to work, to perform, to be reunited with their family, or just to visit Disneyland are being told to come back later (not sure when) to have their consular appointments.  Clearly this is a huge and costly inconvenience for individuals and companies.

The ever popular UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is an example of a company that has been adversely affected by this system failure.  The UFC relies on and employs the best mixed martial arts fighters from all over the world, who come to the U.S. to participate in fight cards that are scheduled many months in advance.  It has been reported that several popular fighters who were scheduled to appear on the next two fight cards have been replaced or have had their fights cancelled due to the fighters not being able to get the necessary visa to come to the U.S. and participate.  Ultimately the UFC fight cards will end up a watered down version of the previous card, causing the UFC and the fighters who are losing the opportunity to fight a substantial amount of money.  I would hate to be the consular officer who has to interview the UFC fighter when the system finally gets back up and running.

You might wonder how this could happen in a technologically advance country such as ours.  Didn’t we have a backup system in place given the affect these problems have on the economy?  Apparently there was a backup, but that too failed.  Hmmm.  I can’t help but think if congress would just raise the H1B cap, maybe, just maybe we would have exceptional computer programmers from India or another country who could make sure this didn’t happen in the first place, or at least if it did it could be fixed quickly.  Here’s hoping this gets resolved quickly for the sake of my clients, companies and families throughout the world.

El cáncer de cerebro, ICE y Deportación desde el Centro de Detención de Stewart

 Johanna Cochran es una de nuestros abogados estelares tomó recientemente un caso pro bono para un hombre mexicano detenido en el Centro de Detención de Stewart en Lumpkin, Georgia, que, a pesar de un diagnóstico y tratamiento para el cáncer cerebral, se negó puesta en libertad de buscar tratamiento médico urgente. Nuestro cliente era un residente legal permanente de los EE.UU., había estado viviendo en este país por más de 25 años, y padre de tres hijos ciudadanos estadounidenses. Fue detenido debido a un reciente cargo de agresion por el que fue condenado. Este hombre no pudo buscar el consejo de un abogado antes de declararse culpable de la acusación y no fue hasta que los oficiales del Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE) se fueron en busca de él, él buscó un abogado para tratar de reabrir su condena penal (que él se había declarado sin el consejo de un abogado). Por la reapertura del caso, a este residente permanente a largo plazo no sería deportado.

Nuestra firma rápidamente noto que nuestro cliente tenía algunas condiciones médicas graves que necesitan urgente atención médica, atención que no estaba recibiendo en Stewart. Fue diagnosticado con cáncer cerebral en el verano de 2014, se sometió a una cirugía cerebral en junio, y comenzó un tratamiento de radiación en noviembre del mismo año. En el momento en que fue detenido por el ICE (a principios de febrero de 2015), que había terminado el tratamiento de radiación, pero fue ordenado por su médico a seguir con él cada dos semanas y tomar varios medicamentos prescritos para él. Sin necesidad de decir que nuestro cliente se vio obligado a detener bruscamente su tratamiento para salvar su vida y la medicina durante toda su estancia en Stewart, que ascendió a casi 3 meses.

La salud de nuestro cliente se deterioró de manera tan dramática que desarrolló otros síntomas preocupantes. Sufría de dolores de cabeza crónicos (probablemente relacionados con su diagnóstico de cáncer cerebral) y él nos informó que el personal de Stewart se ocupó de este tema, dándole un par de pastillas de ibuprofeno al día. Él perdió una cantidad dramática de peso durante su detención y el lado izquierdo de su garganta estaba visiblemente hinchado. Nos informó que había pedido al personal de Stewart que lo llevara a ver a un médico y que no fue hasta varias semanas después de que se le concedió su petición. Sin embargo, durante su visita al médico, lo esposaron con tanta fuerza que sus manos se volvieron de color púrpura-una condición que duró varios días. Cuando nuestro cliente pidió al personal de Stewart para llevarlo al médico de nuevo, el personal se negó a hacer esto hasta que el color púrpura salió de sus manos, lo que no ocurrió sino hasta varios días después.

Nuestra empresa solicitó la suspensión de la extracción del DHS pidiendo la liberación inmediata de nuestro cliente bajo supervisión con el único propósito de buscar atención médica urgente. Sin embargo, a pesar de la abrumadora evidencia de que la vida de nuestro cliente estaba en grave peligro, DHS negó nuestra solicitud. Nuestra firma de inmediato presentó una Petición de recurso de hábeas corpus ante el Tribunal Federal de Distrito del Distrito Medio de Georgia pidiendo la liberación inmediata de nuestros clientes citando a violaciónes de la protección de la Octava Enmienda contra el castigo cruel e inusual. La respuesta de DHS? Retiro inmediato. Tristemente, el Distrito Medio de Georgia no pudo actuar con la suficiente rapidez para otorgar cualquier tipo de alivio y el DHS lo sabe, por lo que es más fácil para el Departamento para eliminar personas del país y se lavan las manos de abordar y corregir los problemas legítimos del trato inhumano en sus centros de detención.

Es una cosa mantener detenidos tras las rejas porque pueden ser un daño para nuestra comunidad, pero es bastante diferente de hacer esto en violación de la Constitución de Estados Unidos y poner sus vidas en riesgo grave. El tratamiento para el cáncer de cerebro ya no es razón suficiente, bajo la Administración Obama para  conceder una suspensión de la deportación a un residente permanente a largo plazo.

Para leer más sobre este caso, usted puede hacer clic en el siguiente enlacepara la entrevista dada por nuestro cliente para la revista Mundo Hispánico. 

La Decisión de Inmigración sobre los menores y el SIJS en Georgia

El 1 de junio de 2015, Kuck Immigration Partners, a través de nuestra abogada Anna Erwin, recibió una innovadora ( pero hasta el momento inédita) decisión de la Junta de Apelaciones de Inmigración. La Junta revocó la decisión del juez de inmigración de Atlanta para deportar a nuestra cliente de 11 años de edad, y se encontró que el juez debería haber abordado la elegibilidad de nuestro cliente para la Visa de Inmigración Juvenil Especial (SIJS), y que el juez debería haber continuado el caso de dejar que nuestra cliente persiga su SIJS a través de una petición de custodia tribunal estatal ponerla en la custodia exclusiva de su padre.

Nuestra cliente es nativa de El Salvador. Su madre la abandonó cuando era una bebé. Sus abuelos paternos se preocupaban por ella en El Salvador y su padre llego a los EE.UU. para trabajar y mantener a su familia. En 2014, los abuelos de nuestros clientes se volvieron demasiado ancianos y enfermos para cuidar de ella. Su madre seguía sin asumir la responsabilidad de su cuidado. Nuestra cliente no tuvo más remedio que venir a los Estados Unidos, donde su padre podía cuidar de ella. Nuestra cliente fue detenida por inmigración en la frontera en 2014 y puesta en proceso de deportación en Atlanta.

Esta joven vino a nuestra oficina, y vimos que ella calificó para SIJS. La ley establece SIJS se puede conceder a un menor soltero menor de 18 años de edad quien es :

 un inmigrante que está presente en los Estados Unidos (I) que haya sido declarado dependiente de un tribunal de menores que se encuentra en los Estados Unidos o los que dicho tribunal sea legalmente comprometido o/a colocado bajo la custodia de una agencia o departamento de un Estado, o una persona o entidad designada por un Estado o tribunal de menores situado en los Estados Unidos, y cuya reunificación con 1 o ambos de los padres del inmigrante no es viable debido a abuso, negligencia, abandono, o una base similar encontrado bajo la ley estatal. (II) Para los que se ha determinado en procedimientos administrativos o judiciales que no sería en el mejor interés del extranjero para ser devueltos al país de nacimiento o al de la nacionalidad de los padres o al país de la última residencia. INA § 101 (a) (27) (J).

Nuestra cliente había sido abandonada por su madre, y ella estaba en los EE.UU. con su padre, que estaba dispuesto a tomar su custodia. Hemos presentado una petición en el tribunal estatal para colocarla en la custodia exclusiva de su padre, y le pedimos al juez de la corte estatal que la reunificación con su madre no era viable debido al abandono, y que no estaba en el mejor interés de nuestros clientes para volver a El Salvador porque no había nadie para cuidar de ella.

Suena como un gol - por lo que pensamos.

Nuestro cliente sólo había estado en un proceso de deportación durante 14 días, y en su primera audiencia de inmigración se presentó al juez una copia de la petición de custodia pendiente en el tribunal estatal y una breve sobre su elegibilidad para SIJS. El juez puso el escrito a un lado y le dijo a la niña que no calificó para SIJS porque ella vivía con su padre y sólo su madre la abandonó. El consejo ICE incorrectamente afirmó que un menor sólo puede conseguir la dependencia en Georgia si ambos padres habían abandonado al niño, a pesar de que nos explicó que no estábamos persiguiendo dependencia sino custodia. El juez ordenó a nuestro cliente retirarse sin ninguna discusión sobre su elegibilidad para SIJS a través de una orden de custodia.

La Junta de Apelaciones de Inmigración leyó correctamente la ley, revocó la decisión del juez para deportar a nuestra cliente, y ordenó que el caso vuelva a la corte de inmigración. La Junta señaló que el juez hizo caso omiso de que nuestra cliente no perseguía SIJS a través de una orden de dependencia, sino más bien a través de una orden de custodia. El Consejo ordenó al juez a considerar el argumento y citó la ley SIJS que un menor puede perseguir SIJS "depende del tribunal de menores" o "puesto bajo la custodia de. . . un individuo". Además, en la Junta señalaron que el juez no sólo debería haber abordado nuestro argumento, sino que también deberían haber continuado o administrativamente cerrar el caso de nuestro cliente para la adjudicación de la petición de custodia, "evidencia ausente de inelegibilidad de un extranjero para el estado de SIJ. "El Gobierno no presentó ninguna evidencia de inelegibilidad en la audiencia debido a que el Gobierno no abordó SIJS a través de una orden de custodia.

Esta decisión es importante por varias razones. En primer lugar, la decisión está clara en el cumplimiento de la ley SIJS. La decisión tomada fue en una postura dura y clara con la ley a un juez que no dio una segunda oportunidad para deportar a un niño dentro de dos semanas sin siquiera leer su caso.

En segundo lugar, la decisión finalmente se aborda el problema en Georgia de centrarse demasiado en el uso de la dependencia para obtener SIJS y olvida el uso de órdenes de custodia y de compromiso. A lo mucho, la forma más común de perseguir SIJS en Georgia es a través de una orden de dependencia. Pero si bien la ley federal, como se ha visto anteriormente, permite que un menor de edad puede recibir SIJS si han sido abandonados por uno de los padres, la dependencia ley en Georgia requiere en gran medida el abandono o negligencia por ambos padres durante una dependencia que se conceda. Como sucede a menudo, las leyes federales y estatales están en conflicto. Sin embargo, un menor de edad puede obtener un compromiso o custodia en Georgia ponerlos bajo la custodia de uno de los padres y hacer los otros seguimientos del SIJS. Los jueces y el gobierno en Atlanta no entendían esta simple lectura del estatuto. Debido a la dependencia era la forma más común para perseguir SIJS, y la dependencia requiere el abandono de ambos padres, que tenían una visión de túnel y pensaron todas maneras de conseguir SIJS debe requerir el abandono por ambos padres. Por no mencionar esta vision cerrada que los condujo fácilmente a su objetivo - la deportación. Su interpretación de la ley no era correcta, y la Junta de Apelaciones de Inmigración vio esto.

Felicitaciones a Anna Erwin por esta victoria!

Brain Cancer, ICE and Deportation from the Stewart Detention Center

Johanna Cochran one of our stellar attorneys recently took a pro bono case for a Mexican man detained at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia,  who, despite a diagnosis and treatment for brain cancer, was refused release from detention to seek urgent medical treatment. Our client was a Legal Permanent Resident of the U.S., had been living in this country for over 25 years, and was the father of three U.S. citizen children. He was detained because of a recent battery charge for which he was convicted. This man failed to seek the advice of an attorney before pleading guilty to the charge and it was not until officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) went looking for him, that he sought an attorney to try to reopen his criminal conviction (which he had pled to without attorney advice).  By reopening the case, this long term permanent resident would not be deported.

Our firm quickly learned that our client had some serious medical conditions that needed urgent medical attention—attention he was not getting in Stewart. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in the summer of 2014, underwent brain surgery in June, and started radiation treatment in November of the same year. By the time he was detained by ICE (in early February 2015), he had finished radiation treatment but was ordered by his physician to follow up with him every two weeks and to take several medications prescribed to him. Needless to say, our client was forced to abruptly stop his life-saving treatment and medication during his entire stay in Stewart, which amounted to almost 3 months.

Our client’s health deteriorated so dramatically that he developed other worrisome symptoms. He suffered from chronic headaches (likely related to his brain cancer diagnosis) and he reported to us that the staff at Stewart dealt with this issue by giving him a couple of ibuprofen pills a day. He lost a dramatic amount of weight while in detention and the left side of his throat was visibly swollen. He informed us that he had asked the Stewart staff to take him to see a doctor and that it was not until several weeks later that his request was granted. However, during his visit to the doctor, he was handcuffed so tightly that his hands turned purple—a condition that lasted for several days. When our client asked the staff at Stewart to take him to the doctor again, the staff refused to do this until the purple color came off his hands, which did not happen until several days later.

Our firm filed a stay of removal with DHS asking for the immediate release of our client under supervision for the sole purpose of seeking urgent medical attention. However, despite the overwhelming evidence that our client’s life was in serious danger, DHS denied our request. Our firm immediately filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Georgia asking for our client’s immediate release citing to violations of the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. DHS’s response? Immediate removal. Sadly, the Middle District of Georgia cannot possibly act quickly enough to grant any kind of relief and DHS knows this, so it is easier for the Department to remove people from the country and wash their hands than to address and rectify legitimate issues of inhumane treatment in its detention centers.

It is one thing to keep detainees behind bars because they may be a danger to the community, but it is quite a different one to do this in violation of the U.S. Constitution and place their lives at serious risk.  Treatment for brain cancer is no longer sufficient reason, under the Obama Administration to be grant a stay of removal to a long term permanent resident.  

To read more about this case, you can click on the following link to an interview given by our client to the news magazine Mundo Hispanico.

Groundbreaking Immigration Decision for Juveniles and SIJS in Georgia

On June 1, 2015, Kuck Immigration Partners, through our amazing associate attorney Anna Erwin,  received a groundbreaking (but as of yet unpublished) decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals. The Board reversed the decision of the Atlanta Immigration Judge to deport our 11-year-old client and found that the Judge should have addressed our client’s eligibility for a Special Immigration Juvenile Visa (SIJS), and that the Judge should have continued the case to let our client pursue her SIJS through a state court custody petition putting her in the sole custody of her father.

Our client is a native of El Salvador. Her mother abandoned her as a baby. Her paternal grandparents cared for her in El Salvador and her father came to the U.S. to work and support his family. In 2014, our client’s grandparents became too elderly and ill to care for her. Her mother still would not take responsibility for her care. Our client had no choice but to come to the United States where her father could care for her. Our client was apprehended by immigration at the border in 2014 and placed in removal proceedings in Atlanta.

This young girl came to our office, and we saw that she qualified for SIJS. The law provides SIJS can be granted to an unmarried juvenile under 18 years of age who is:

an immigrant who is present in the United States—

(i) who has been declared dependent on a juvenile court located in the United States or whom such a court has legally committed to, or placed under the custody of, an agency or department of a State, or an individual or entity appointed by a State or juvenile court located in the United States, and whose reunification with 1 or both of the immigrant’s parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis found under State law;

(ii) for whom it has been determined in administrative or judicial proceedings that it would not be in the alien’s best interest to be returned to the alien’s or parent’s previous country of nationality or country of last habitual residence

INA § 101(a)(27)(J).

Our client had been abandoned by one parent, her mother, and she was in the U.S. with her father who was willing to take custody of her. We filed a petition in the state court to place her in the sole custody of her father, and we asked the state court judge to find that reunification with her mother was not viable due to abandonment, and that it was not in our client’s best interest to return to El Salvador because there was no one left to care for her.

Sounds like a slam dunk – so we thought.    

Our client had only been in removal proceedings for 14 days, and at her initial immigration hearing we presented to the Judge a copy of the petition for custody pending in the state court and a brief on her eligibility for SIJS. The Judge put the brief to the side and told the child she did not qualify for SIJS because she lived with her father and only her mother abandoned her. The ICE counsel incorrectly stated that a juvenile can only get dependency in Georgia if both parents had abandoned the child, even though we explained we were not pursuing dependency but rather custody. The Judge ordered our client removed without any discussion of her eligibility for SIJS through a custody order.

The Board of Immigration Appeals correctly read the law, reversed the Judge’s decision to remove our client, and ordered the case back to the immigration court. The Board pointed out that the Judge ignored that our client was not pursuing SIJS through a dependency order but rather through a custody order. The Board ordered the Judge to consider the argument and quoted the SIJS law that a juvenile pursuing SIJS can be “’dependent on a juvenile court’ or “placed under the custody of . . . an individual.’” In addition, the Board stated that the Judge not only should have addressed our argument, but also should have continued or administratively closed our client’s case for adjudication of the custody petition, “absent evidence of an alien’s ineligibility for SIJ status.” The Government presented no evidence of ineligibility in the hearing because the Government did not address SIJS through a custody order.

This decision is important for several reasons. First, the decision is in clear compliance with the SIJS law. The decision took a hard and clear stance with the law to a Judge who didn’t give a second thought to deporting a child in two weeks without even reading her case.

Second, the decision finally addresses the problem in Georgia of focusing too much on using dependency to get SIJS and forgetting about using custody and commitment orders. By far the most common way to pursue SIJS in Georgia is through a dependency order. But while federal law, as seen above, allows a juvenile to receive SIJS if they have been abandoned by only one parent, dependency law in Georgia largely requires abandonment or neglect by both parents for a dependency to be granted. As often happens, the federal and state laws are in conflict. However, a juvenile can obtain a commitment or custody order in Georgia putting them in the custody of one parent and making the other SIJS findings. The judges and the government in Atlanta did not  understand this plain reading of the statute. Because dependency was the most common way to pursue SIJS, and dependency requires abandonment by both parents, they had tunnel vision and thought all ways of getting SIJS must require abandonment by both parents. Not to mention this tunnel vision led them easily to their goal – deportation. Their interpretation of the law was not correct, and the Board of Immigration Appeals saw this.

If your client has been abandoned by one parent but is cared for by the other parent, and they are under 18, do not let yourself be bullied, get yelled at, or be told you’re wrong, Stand tall and show the immigration judge the law they don’t want to see. Kudos to Anna Erwin for this victory!