Immigration 4/57/21 – gtg

Appellate court calls for immigration injunction to stay in place

The historic plan to prevent the deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants encountered yet another legal obstacle earlier this week thanks to the holding of a federal appeals court.

To recap, the Attorneys General of 26 states asked a federal judge in Texas to issue a preliminary injunction shutting down the immigration actions back in February on the grounds that it exceeded executive authority.

The federal judge ultimately granted the preliminary injunction and later refused a request by the Department of Justice to lift it while the matter was pursued on appeal, holding that no irreparable harm would result.

The DOJ subsequently filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, requesting that it not only lift the injunction but allow the immigration programs to take effect during the pendency of the litigation.

In recent developments, a three-judge panel denied the DOJ’s request for an emergency stay or, at the very least, an order limiting the effect of the injunction to the 26 states challenging the executive authority.

Specifically, in a 2-1 ruling, the court dismissed claims by the DOJ that the AG’s of the 26 states lacked legal standing to file the lawsuit and that irreparable harm would result if the immigration initiatives were not permitted to be rolled out.

“The actions were designed to bring greater accountability to our broken immigration system, grow the economy and keep our communities safe. They are squarely within the bounds of his authority, and they are the right thing to do for the country,” said a White House spokesperson in response to the ruling.

It should be noted, however, that legal experts are indicating that this panel’s refusal of the DOJ’s request for an emergency stay doesn’t necessarily forecast a defeat on the larger issue of the agency’s appeal of the injunction. Indeed, a different panel could side with the government and lift the injunction.

It will be fascinating to see what transpires in the coming months concerning the plans to limit deportation. Oral arguments are currently scheduled.

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How big is the backlog facing the federal immigration courts?

The unfortunate reality for those people with cases pending in the federal immigration courts is that they are likely going to have to wait a long time for any sort of legal resolution allowing them to move forward due to a sizeable case backlog.

Interestingly enough, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University recently published an eye-opening report examining why the federal immigration courts are so backed up.

What did the report say about the size of the backlog?

According to the report, the backlog in the federal immigration courts stood at 445,706 cases in April. This not only constitutes a 30 percent spike since the beginning of the last fiscal year but an all-time record.

What’s behind this dramatic spike in the federal immigration court backlog?

The report indicates that the arrival of over 68,500 unaccompanied children from Central America and close to an equal number of family units from the same region put more pressure on the already strained federal immigration courts.

While the cases of the unaccompanied minors were expedited, there are still over 70,000 cases — comprising roughly 16 percent of the total backlog — yet to be resolved.

Which states currently have the largest backlogs?

The report determined that the states with the largest backlog in the federal immigration courts are California, Texas, New York, Florida, and New Jersey.

Is there any solution on the horizon?

Experts indicate that over 230 immigration judges are hearing cases across the nation with another 68 expected to be hired. This is significant, as immigration judges are believed to handle 3,000-plus cases per year.

However, they also found that close to 100 judges may be retiring in the coming year, something that could delay hearings.

It will be interesting to see what is done to help tackle this very serious issue. In the meantime, remember to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you have any questions about how the federal immigration courts work or U.S. immigration law.

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Is the new federal program just a sequel to Secure Communities?

The administration drew praise from both law enforcement officials and immigrant advocacy groups when it was announced the termination of the Secure Communities program and the introduction of the Priority Enforcement Program, which is focused on deporting “felons, not families.”

Interestingly, praise for the Priority Enforcement Program is now waning over criticism that it is perhaps not all that different from its predecessor.

Under Secure Communities, a database operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement was linked with local jails, such that people booked into custody had their fingerprints run.

In the event they were flagged in the system, an “ICE detainer” would be issued asking locals officials to keep them in custody until such time as they could be picked up by agents — sometimes beyond the length of their jail term.

Given that Secure Communities resulted in the deportations of not just violent, repeat criminals, but also vast numbers of undocumented — and innocent — immigrants, around 250 cities and counties passed legislation strictly limiting involvement in the federal program.

In recent developments, officials with both ICE and the Department of Homeland Security have recently been traveling to cities and counties across the nation to pitch the advantages of the Priority Enforcement Program, which they’ve been touting as “a kinder and gentler” version of Secure Communities.

Thus far, however, it appears as if many communities — and immigrant advocacy groups — have been unresponsive to the Priority Enforcement Program, which they say is perhaps just too similar to Secure Communities.

Specifically, they have the following questions:

Will the Priority Enforcement Program continue to have ICE agents examine fingerprints?
Will the Priority Enforcement Program truly focus on violent, repeat criminals and leave those whose only crime is entering the U.S. illegally alone?
For their part, both ICE and DHS are arguing that while they are indeed committed to deporting “felons not families,” they need some degree of cooperation from local law enforcement in order to make this happen.

Stay tuned for updates on this fascinating story …

If your loved one is being detained on an immigration violation, be certain to consider contacting an experienced legal professional to learn more about the law and the available options.

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SOCTUS decision enhances due process rights of immigrants

Anyone who has had to navigate the court system here in the U.S., whether for a civil or criminal matter at the state or federal level, knows firsthand just how mystifying the experience can prove to be.

As bewildering as this experience can prove to be for everyday citizens, imagine how much more so it can be for immigrants who must place their complete trust in their attorney to guide them through the process effectively and efficiently.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that sometimes the attorneys in whom immigrants place their trust can fail to fulfill this duty, effectively leaving them with little recourse and hopelessly adrift in an unfamiliar system.

Fortunately, a recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States should help rectify this situation by strengthening the due process rights of otherwise vulnerable immigrants.

A Mexican man who had lived in the U.S. for 15 years as an undocumented immigrant pleaded guilty to domestic assault charges. Shortly thereafter, deportation proceedings were initiated and the presiding judge ordered him removed from the U.S.

He sought to challenge the deportation decision via the Board of Immigration Appeals, but his then-attorney failed to file the necessary paperwork within the applicable 90-day timeframe.

He then hired a new attorney and asked the BIA to reopen his case on the grounds that he wasn’t made aware of his prior attorney’s malpractice until it was too late. The BIA, however, dismissed the appeal.

An appeal was then filed with the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals arguing that his due process rights had been denied and requesting that the deadline for filing an appeal be extended. The 5th Circuit, however, declined to do so, claiming it lacked jurisdiction over the matter.

He then appealed to SCOTUS, which in an 8-1 decision issued earlier this week, held that the federal appellate courts do indeed have the necessary jurisdiction and therefore can extend deadlines in deportation cases predicated upon ineffective assistance of counsel.

This is truly a groundbreaking and highly encouraging decision for immigrants, who no longer have to worry quite as much about their case being effectively closed due to their attorney’s negligence.

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Some families may find immediate family immigration helpful

There are many different reasons a person could have for wanting to come to the United States. For some, such a desire is rooted in wanting to reunite their family.

Sometimes, a family ends up being separated, with one of the members being in the U.S. and having U.S. citizenship and the other members being foreign citizens and being outside of the United States. Families in this sort of situation sometimes have a strong desire to be reunited here in the United States. Among the things such families may wonder is what options they have for trying to bring about such a reunification.

What U.S. immigration options family members of a U.S. citizen have depends on many things, including what their exact familial relationship is with the U.S. citizen.

For example, certain close relatives of a U.S. citizen may qualify for the immediate family immigration process. Minor children, parents, and spouses of U.S. citizens are typically eligible for this process. Also, there are some circumstances under which stepchildren, stepparents, and adopted children of U.S. citizens can have eligibility for this process.

As this underscores, U.S. family immigration law is a very complex area of law with many different potential avenues, and many different things can have the potential to be impactful in family immigration matters.

Given this, it can be very easy for a family to feel daunted, confused and intimidated when it comes to family immigration matters.

Thankfully, families that are seeking to be reunited do not have to try to navigate the complex web of U.S. family immigration law on their own. Immigration law attorneys can help such families understand what immigration options they have and can help them in pursuing their available options.

Our firm is very knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to matters involving U.S. immigration law and can provide families with legal services when it comes to immediate family immigration law matters and other family immigration matters.

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You don’t need to panic if your petition is denied

There’s no question that it can be utterly devastating to be on the receiving end of an otherwise unfavorable decision handed down by either an immigration judge or an official with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Indeed, imagine learning that your attempt to secure U.S. citizenship via the naturalization process has been denied or that your bid to secure a nonimmigrant visa has been denied after months of anxious waiting.

As discouraging as all of this can be, it’s imperative to understand that this may not be the end of the road, as you may have viable legal options in these situations.

For instance, depending on the circumstances, you may be able to file a motion to have your case reopened and the denial reviewed, or even file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Our firm understands how difficult this uncertainty over immigration matters can be for people and their families. As such, we always conduct a timely yet comprehensive review designed to determine whether an appeal or motion to reopen is appropriate in a given case and, if so, take the necessary measures.

Our founding attorney has considerable experience with all manner of immigration law issues and has successfully reopened immigration cases. He is prepared to help with any and all immigration appeals.

It is important to note, however, that any appeal must be undertaken within 30 days of the immigration judge’s decision, meaning time is truly of the essence.

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Providing strong legal advocacy and representation to individuals facing deportation

The United States was founded by immigrants who, despite their many differences, all shared a common dream–having the opportunity to build a better life. Despite the fact that our country’s founding fathers were all immigrants, today’s U.S. immigration laws are often restrictive and punitive for those who come to the U.S. and hope to build a better life.

For today’s U.S. immigrants, laws that govern the immigration and naturalization process are often complex and difficult to comprehend. It’s advisable, therefore, to seek the advice and assistance of an attorney.

From an individual who wishes to obtain a green card or visa to an individual who is seeking asylum, an attorney who is well-versed in all matters related to U.S. immigration and naturalization can explain the process, assist in obtaining required documentation and represent individuals who face immigration challenges.

For anyone who is attempting to stay and live in the U.S., the threat of deportation is often very real. In cases where an individual receives a summons to appear at an immigration removal hearing, it’s critical to secure strong legal representation. An individual may face the threat of deportation for a number of reasons including criminal charges or convictions as well as other visa or green card violations.

For U.S. immigrants who are facing deportation, an attorney at our Law Office can provide strong legal advocacy and representation. Our attorneys exclusively practice immigration law and are committed to assisting individuals who wish to come to and stay in the U.S. to do so by following the correct legal procedures.

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A closer look at the process of securing a Green Card

It can be a dream come true when the federal government grants a person authorization to both work and live here in the U.S. on a permanent basis, a reality evidenced by the issuing of a permanent resident card, or, as it is more commonly known, a Green Card.

As exciting as the prospect of someday holding a Green Card can be, however, it’s important to understand that the process of getting there is by no means easy thanks in large part to a rather complex set of eligibility requirements mandated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

An overview

At the outset, anyone looking to secure a Green Card should know that there are four eligibility requirements that must be satisfied, including:

Eligibility under an immigrant category set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act, including family, employment, refugee/asylum and other special categories
Filing and approval of a qualifying immigrant petition
Availability of a visa
Admissibility to the U.S.
Immigrant category eligibility: Family

Those seeking to secure a Green Card may be sponsored by a relative who has secured either citizenship or permanent residency here in the U.S.

In fact, those who qualify as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens — including spouses, unmarried children under 21 and parents — will not be required to wait for a visa, as Congress has placed no limit on the number of these visas issued in a given year, and can file their application for a Green Card immediately.

As for those family members who don’t qualify as immediate relatives, a relative who has secured either citizenship or permanent residency here in the U.S. can still sponsor them. However, these relatives will have to wait for a visa to first become available before they can file their Green Card application.

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What are the new rules governing H-4 visas?

The H-1B visa has proven to be an invaluable tool for U.S. employers looking to add individuals with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to their workforce. Indeed, the visa has helped immigrants from all corners of South Asia secure valuable work experience and forge lasting connections here in the U.S.

Interestingly enough, however, the experience of the spouses of these H-1B visa holders, the vast majority of whom are women with their own education and experience, has been decidedly different. Indeed, these spouses, known as H-4 visa holders have long been denied the chance to pursue any sort of career.

What are the restrictions governing H-4 visa holders?

Immigration law has long dictated that H-4 visa holders were not eligible for work authorization, meaning many otherwise highly educated and skilled people were unable to secure any type of employment during the six-year term of their spouses’ H-1B visas.

This inability to work and, by extension, contribute to the marital household resulted in many H-4 visa holders referring to it as a “golden cage.”

Are H-4 visa holders still subject to these restrictions?

H-4 visa holders are able to apply for work authorization.
The change came about thanks to a provision contained in executive actions on immigration.

Do H-4 visa holders then have carte blanche to seek work authorization?

No, H-4 visa holders can only seek work authorization under the following scenarios:

Their spouse is in the process of applying for a green card.
Their spouse has received an extension on their H-1B visa.

How many people will benefit from these new rules?

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, it is estimated that over 180,000 applications for work authorization will be filed by H-4 visa holders over the coming year, leveling off to around 55,000 per year thereafter.

If you have questions or concerns regarding H-1B visas, H-4 visas or any other employment-based visa, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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ICE issues new guidelines for transgender detainees

While the detention policies of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have long faced criticism from both immigration advocates and human rights groups, one policy, in particular, has recently been drawing intense condemnation: the treatment of transgender detainees.

According to statistics, there are roughly 60 transgender detainees currently being held in ICE detention centers across the country. Of these 60 transgender detainees, close to 25 are being held in a special unit in a California-based facility, while the rest are kept in the general population according to their biological gender, not the gender with which they identify.

Experts indicate that this latter practice of keeping transgender detainees in the general population is not only problematic from a human rights perspective, but from a safety perspective as they are at an increased risk of assault.

Fortunately, it appears as if real changes are now in the works following the issuance of new guidelines by ICE to its detention staff this past Monday.

These new guidelines call on detention staff to consider the preferences of transgender detainees when making decisions related to everything from pronoun use to housing and clothing.

Furthermore, the ICE guidelines indicate that detention staff will be trained on how to draft individual detention plans accounting for important items like safety and hormone therapy and that the agency itself will start gathering more data on this important issue going forward.

While many have acknowledged this guidance from ICE as a good start, still others are less than enthused. Indeed, groups like Immigration Equality argue that in light of the fact that transgender people make up such a small percentage of the overall detainee population, yet face such a heightened risk to their personal safety, it makes the most sense for them to be offered detention alternatives much like those suffering from serious health conditions or pregnant women.

It will be interesting to see whether this guidance is indeed adopted by detention staff. Stay tuned for updates.

If your loved one was picked up by ICE and is now being held in a detention center, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about the law and your options.

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Form I-130 and the road to legal immigration

There are many benefits afforded to an individual who is born outside of the U.S. and decides to take steps to become a U.S. citizen. In addition to being able to legally live and work in the U.S., an individual who is granted permanent U.S. citizenship status is also allowed to sponsor relatives who wish to immigrate to and become U.S. permanent residents.

For anyone who wishes to immigrate to the U.S., it’s important to abide by the strict regulations and protocols established by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This is especially crucial for individuals who are sponsored by a relative who is a U.S. citizen and who wish to also eventually become a permanent or naturalized U.S. citizen.

The process of legally immigrating to the U.S. can be a long, complicated and frustrating one. It may be wise, therefore to consult with an attorney who handles immigration matters and who can assist in ensuring that an individual’s application, forms and required fees are completed, filed and paid in a timely manner.

For an individual who has a spouse, parent, adult child or sibling who is a U.S. citizen; he or she must agree to be a sponsor. A U.S. citizen who agrees to sponsor a relative who wishes to immigrate to the U.S. must be able to prove that he or she has the financial means to sponsor or support a relative until that relative is legally able to work in the U.S. A form known as an I-130 is the first step in the legal immigration process.

It’s important to note that the filing of a Form I-130 does not permit an individual to immediately immigrate to the U.S. Rather; an individual must wait until a request to legally immigrate and obtain a Green Card is granted. In cases where a relative is already legally in the U.S. at the time an I-130 is filed on his or her behalf, he or she can submit Form I-485 which is an application to register permanent residence or adjust status.

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Coerced into signing voluntary return forms, Mexican citizens allowed to legally return to the U.S.

America proudly declares that is it the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” The unalienable rights of U.S. citizens are well-documented in the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. Under the decrees of these and other founding U.S. documents, citizens are protected from governmental overreaches related to unauthorized search and seizure and the right to due process.

In the U.S., issues related to immigration continue to be extremely contentious and controversial. This is particularly true when it comes to immigrants from Mexico as, according to data from the Pew Research Center, nearly six million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico currently reside in the U.S.

Despite their illegal status, many Mexicans who come to the U.S. illegally have strong U.S. ties including spouses, children and other family members that were either born in the U.S. or who legally immigrated to the U.S. The vast majority of unauthorized Mexican immigrants are hard-working and law-abiding individuals who simply want to stay with their families and be afforded the opportunity to have a chance at a better life.

In an effort to crack down on illegal immigration, units from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol routinely travel to areas that are often hundreds of miles from the U.S. and Mexican border. Consequently, through methods that often involve abuse, deception, and coercion; Mexican citizens who have been in the U.S. for years without issue or instance are sometimes ensnarled in raids and subsequently detained at immigration centers.

Last February, a Southern California federal judge ruled that ICE and Border Patrol agents employed deceptive tactics to coerce “hundreds, if not thousands, of noncitizens,” to sign forms agreeing that they would voluntarily return to Mexico. Due to the illegal actions of ICE and Border Patrol agents, these individuals were stripped of their rights to have their cases, many of which would likely have been successful, decided by an immigration judge.

Recently, six of these individuals walked freely over the U.S. and Mexican border and into the arms of waiting loved ones. They are among the first of likely many who in the coming months will be allowed to return to the U.S. to reside with family members while their immigration case is pending.

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Is the Priority Enforcement Program the solution to the illegal immigration problem?

U.S. Immigration is a hot-button issue with strong and opposing positions on both sides. From those U.S. residents who contend that the U.S. must clamp down on all immigration to those who argue for more lenient and humane policies, the issues related to immigration are complex and polarizing and unfortunately there is no right or simple solution.

While the administration’s attempts to pass legislation that would have allowed many illegal immigrants the ability to legally stay in the U.S failed, the recently enacted Priority Enforcement Program should provide the majority of illegal immigrants a level of protection against deportation. Many illegal immigrants have lived, worked, and raised their children in the U.S. for years. It is these individuals who immigration advocates contend must be protected.

In past years, the Federal government’s Secure Communities program required that local police departments notify federal immigration agents when an illegal immigrant was arrested and that they detain the man or woman until agents arrived. The program, however, was later ruled to be unconstitutional and shut down. Today, roughly 300 U.S. cities have also “passed laws limiting cooperation with federal authorities,” with regard to the notification and detention of illegal immigrants.

A replacement to the Secure Communities program took effect. Under the administration’s Priority Enforcement Program, only those illegal immigrants who pose threats to national security, are known gang members, commit felonies, or have recently been caught illegally crossing the border are subject to deportation. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security estimate that approximately 13 percent or 1.4 million illegal immigrants are included among those now being targeted for deportation.

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How K-1 or fiancé visas can complicate love

They say that love knows no boundaries. This includes national boundaries and is something that any U.S. citizen who has ever met someone special while traveling abroad knows and understands all too well. However, even when it comes to love, the U.S. government has many boundaries and rules with regard to immigration procedures and such policies often prevent U.S. citizens with fiancés from other countries from being together.

For a U.S. citizen who wants to clear the way for a foreign-born fiancé to come to the U.S., a K-1 or fiancé visa must be obtained. However, like all U.S. immigration laws, there are strict conditions and eligibility requirements that must be followed and met.

Upon filing a Form I-129F or a Petition for Alien Fiancé, an individual must prove that he or she is a U.S. citizen and that both parties who intend to marry are not currently married. Additionally, a U.S. citizen must prove that he or she met with a fiancé in person at least one time within the last two years. Lastly, the U.S. citizen and foreign fiancé must marry within 90 days, or roughly three months, from the date that a fiancé enters the U.S.

For some couples, complying with the 90-day marriage requirement can pose many challenges. However, if a couple fails to comply with this requirement, a fiancé’s visa expires and he or she is legally required to leave the U.S. voluntarily or face deportation.

In cases where a U.S. citizen’s Petition for Alien Fiancé is not approved and a K-1 visa not issued, it’s important to investigate what happened and why the petition was rejected. Universally, U.S. immigration forms are notoriously complicated. Therefore, even one small mistake or oversight may keep a fiancé out of the U.S. and delay marriage plans.

An attorney who handles immigration cases can assist individuals with obtaining a K-1 visa and assist couples who run into problems along the way.

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A case for why the U.S. asylum process must be overhauled

A recent Buzzfeed article entitled, “The U.S. Asylum System is Completely Overwhelmed,” highlights the many problems facing what critics charge is an outdated and woefully inadequate part of the U.S. immigration system. In recent years, individuals fleeing the gang and drug violence that has ravaged many Central American countries and Mexico have flooded across U.S. borders. In an effort to stay in the U.S. and avoid deportation back to what for many may be certain death, the number of U.S. asylum cases has grown exponentially.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported that some 95,000 asylum cases were pending. Despite the significant increase in the number of persecuted and desperate individuals seeking to stay in the U.S., the number of asylum cases being processed and decided has not kept pace. Consequently, many asylum seekers are caught in limbo and those who are already in the U.S. are not allowed to legally work or collect any type of federal benefits.

With violent wars and conflicts being waged throughout the Middle East and North Africa, millions of displaced people are fleeing to Europe. As European countries struggle to take in people fleeing from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya; the U.S. has come under criticism for doing too little with regard to helping with the resettlement process.

USCIS records show that currently, the U.S. has granted asylum to a total of 1,078 Syrians. This number pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands that European countries like Germany have pledged to take in and adds legitimacy to the notion that the U.S. asylum process isn’t only overwhelmed, but—bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape—also broken.

Individuals who wish to seek asylum in the U.S. are often quickly overwhelmed and discouraged by the complicated and lengthy process. An attorney who handles immigration matters can assist in filing an Application for Asylum and for Withholding Removal and provide strong legal advocacy.

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The economics of U.S. immigration policies

There’s no doubt that the United States’ immigration policies are complicated and controversial. Increasingly, the issue has also become highly political with the majority of Republicans favoring anti-immigration policies and Democrats, less restrictive immigration policies.

While it’s easy to become distracted by all of the political posturing and rhetoric, when discussing U.S. immigration, it’s important to examine the issue from an economic standpoint. There were an estimated “11.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.” Increasingly, these immigrants are women and children who are fleeing the drug-related violence that is ravaging much of Central America.

While some politicians favor the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, the repercussions and costs associated with these types of actions are significant. Both conservative and liberal political think tanks estimate that the costs of deporting the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants would total between $104 and $304 billion. Additionally, the U.S. would also lose out on the estimated $11.84 billion in annual tax contributions made by undocumented immigrants.

Currently, annually the U.S. spends approximately $5 billion each year to arrest, detain and deport an average of 403,563 undocumented immigrants. In contrast, the Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that a comprehensive reform of existing immigration policies would “reduce federal deficits by $1.2 trillion,” and “spur economic growth by 4.8 percent,” by the year 2035.

When examined, anti-immigration policies including mass deportation ultimately only serve to harm the U.S. economy. Despite this compelling evidence, the issue of U.S. immigration is likely to continue to be a divisive issue in the presidential elections and for many more years to come.

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Why the rights of U.S.-born children are being ignored

Under the United States Constitution, regardless of a parent’s immigration status, children who are born in the U.S. are considered citizens and therefore entitled to all of the same rights and privileges afforded to other U.S. citizens. This declamation was born out of a need to protect the rights of individuals whose parents immigrated to the U.S. and chose to settle and start families here. Today, however, this Constitutional right is being challenged in a state that is no stranger to controversy when it comes to immigration issues.

State officials in Texas have begun denying “U.S. birth certificates to the children” whose parents are suspected of illegally entering the U.S. While Texas officials previously accepted the Mexican-government issued document known as a matricula consular card as proof of the identification of a child’s parents, recently state officials stopped accepting this document.

Without a birth certificate, the parents of these U.S.-born children are encountering difficulties when trying to access healthcare for a child or enroll a child in school. In response, the immigrant parents of 32 U.S.-born children filed a lawsuit against the state. However, despite the fact that Texas officials are blatantly disregarding the Constitutional rights of the plaintiffs, an appellate judge recently denied an emergency order to force officials to accept the Mexican-government-issued I.D. documents.

As the United States as a country and individual states like Texas attempt to deal with immigration challenges, the Constitutional rights of children who are born in the United States must be upheld.

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State Department error affects thousands of highly-skilled H-1B immigrants

As the United States’ immigration policy continues to be a hot-button political and social issue, the focus is often on those who come to the U.S., both legally and illegally, from poor and often violence-ravaged countries. There are, however, many other highly-educated and skilled immigrants who come to the U.S. to fill positions in specialized fields like technology, science and medicine.

These individuals are sponsored by a U.S. employer and are able to work and live in the U.S. via an H-1B visa. A significant percentage of H-1B visa holders have dreams of becoming green card holders, which would allow them to break ties with an employer and change jobs. However, because U.S. immigration policy states that “no country can have more than 7 percent,” of employment-based green cards, it can take years for H-1B visa holders from certain countries to obtain the coveted documents.

Early last month, “tens of thousands of highly skilled legal immigrants,” were informed by the U.S. State Department that their long wait for a green card was finally over. However, the vast majority of these same immigrants received notice that the decision to grant them green cards had been reversed. Caused by a reported miscalculation by the State Department regarding green card quotas, the news left thousands of H-1B visa holders confused, devastated and angry.

Annually, immigration officials are only allowed to issue 140,000 employment green cards. Somehow, an error was made and tens of thousands of H-1B visa holders were notified that they were among those who would finally receive a green card. Several immigrants who were affected by the egregious error have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. government, charging that the administration’s actions were “arbitrary and capricious” and that they have suffered monetarily as a result.

Individuals who are in the U.S. on H-1B visas may have many questions and concerns about the U.S. immigration process. From assisting with the green card process to defending against possible deportation, an attorney who handles immigration matters can provide advice, assistance and strong legal advocacy.

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Path to U.S. citizenship is often complicated and full of roadblocks

According to the Migration Policy Institute, roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population are “first or second-generation” immigrants. As countries to the south and across the Atlantic continue to be plagued by economic hardships, violence and political and religious conflicts; it’s likely that the number of people attempting to immigrate, both legally and illegally, to the U.S. will continue to increase.

While the issue and associated problems of illegal immigration are widely publicized, less so are the issues facing the millions of immigrants who attempt to navigate the U.S. immigration process legally to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

According to CNN, annually, an average of 7,000 people become naturalized U.S. citizens. For most, the process to legal U.S. citizenship is a long, complicated and frustrating one. Depending on an individual’s situation, there are a few different paths to U.S. citizenship. For example, in cases where one of a child’s parents is a U.S. citizen, the child is also considered a U.S. citizen regardless of where he or she was born. Additionally, even if a child’s parents are unauthorized immigrants, if born in the U.S., he or she is considered a U.S. citizen.

For an adult who wishes to become a U.S. citizen, the process typically requires the status of being a permanent resident. In order to be considered a permanent resident, an individual must have a valid green card and live in the U.S. for at least five years. Additionally, an individual must be at least age 18, have been physically in the U.S. “for at least 30 months out of the five years,” be of “good moral character” and be able to read, write and speak English.

However, even individuals who fulfill these requirements aren’t guaranteed U.S. citizenship. There may be many roadblocks along the way including green card problems, denied applications, and threats of deportation. For these reasons, an individual who has the goal of becoming a U.S. citizen is encouraged to seek the advice and help of an attorney who handles immigration matters.

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Helping individuals and families overcome immigration challenges

According to the Migration Policy Institute, an estimated 41.3 million immigrants were living in the United States. Historically, the U.S. has been the preferred destination for millions of foreign-born individuals and families who are seeking a better life. In fact, while the U.S. “represents less than five percent of the global population,” an estimated 20 percent of the world’s immigrants come to the U.S.

Perhaps more than ever, the U.S. is deeply divided over whether or how to accommodate the influx of foreign-born individuals. While, in recent years, the Administration has made attempts and some headway with regard to immigration policy reform, for many, the immigration process remains a long, convoluted and often futile process.

Whether an individual is in the U.S. illegally and facing deportation or is engaged to a U.S. citizen and is making plans to come to the U.S. on a fiancé visa, an attorney who handles immigration matters can assist. There are numerous forms, deadlines and requirements that must be properly filled out and met. In some cases, a simple error or misunderstanding can delay or derail an individual’s plans to immigrate to the U.S.

Individuals can contact our Law Office to obtain high-quality legal representation. We have helped individuals and families who are facing numerous types of immigration issues and problems. We are well-versed in all areas of immigration law and take a personal stance in every case and are committed to helping individuals successfully overcome immigration challenges.

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As drug sentencing guidelines change, concerns mount over the rights of foreign inmates

According to The Sentencing Project, an estimated 2.2 million people called a U.S. prison or jail home. This number is higher than incarceration rates in any other country and equates to a 500 percent increase within the last three decades. In an effort to reduce the U.S. incarceration rate, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to “redraw federal sentencing guidelines for some drug offenses.” In accordance with the new sentencing guidelines, thousands of nonviolent drug offenders who are serving out prison sentences are slated for early release.

Under the new sentencing guidelines, the release of the first wave of inmates has begun. Over the course of the next few weeks, a total of 6,112 individuals, many of whom were serving lengthy prison sentences for drug offenses, will be released from prisons across the U.S. Of those individuals scheduled to be released, an estimated 1,780 are not U.S. citizens.

Upon their release, these foreign nationals will immediately be handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement agents. While the administration insists that a transfer to ICE custody is “a routine occurrence,” there is growing concern among immigration rights advocates about the fates of these individuals and whether their legal rights to due process will be respected and upheld.

Of those foreign inmates scheduled for early release, deportation orders have already been issued and finalized for 763. The remaining foreign nationals will be handed over to the ICE officials and transferred to detention centers where members of the American Civil Liberties Union worry they will not be afforded the “opportunity to consult with an immigration attorney and contest their removal in court.”

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Why are asylum seekers being detained at immigration centers?

In the United States, citizens are fortunate to enjoy many freedoms and opportunities. These include freedom from persecution with regard to religion and freedom of choice with regard to personal views and political ideologies. Sadly, millions of people around the world don’t enjoy these same freedoms and spend their lives fearing persecution, violence and death.

Under U.S. immigration laws, foreign-born individuals who have suffered or fear persecution due to their religion, political views, race or nationality can seek to stay in the U.S. via the asylum process. While the asylum process is meant to help those who fear for their safety and very lives, recent strikes at several U.S. immigration detention centers indicate that, once in the U.S., many asylum seekers continue to face persecution.

Roughly 34,000 immigrants are currently being detained at U.S. immigration centers while they await asylum decisions. For these individuals, most of whom have already suffered great trauma back in their home countries, the conditions at the facilities as well as the fact that they are locked up and treated like criminals is almost too much to bear.

Recently, asylum seekers at several detention centers around the U.S., have staged protests and strikes to call attention to their plight and treatment. At an all-women’s detention center in Texas, as many as 500 women from countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras are reported to be on hunger strike. The women are seeking release from the facility as well as protesting their overall treatment.

At another Texas detention center, more than 50 asylum seekers went on a hunger strike that lasted roughly two weeks. The immigrants at this facility had already lost their asylum cases, but were never given copies of the official court order “which is needed to file an appeal.” While the detainees eventually received copies of their orders, most missed their deadlines to appeal.

Depending on one’s circumstances, the asylum process can be challenging. It’s wise, therefore to hire an immigration attorney who can ensure that all necessary documents are submitted on time and that administrative procedures are followed. Additionally, an attorney will advocate on one’s behalf and fight to win a positive asylum ruling.

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Know your rights: tips to avoid possible removal and deportation actions

There have been recent raids conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the government’s continued attempts to deport individuals from violence-ravaged Central American countries who are seeking asylum in the U.S. While some people may previously believe that only hardened criminals or those who enter the U.S. illegally have to worry about being deported, ICE’s recent actions prove otherwise as the targets were primarily women and children.

In truth, any individual who was not born in the U.S. or who has not gone through the process to legally become a U.S. citizen can face removal and deportation. It’s important, therefore, to understand what types of actions may violate U.S. immigration laws and the terms of your current immigration status and put you at risk of being deported.

For example, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, but not a U.S. citizen yourself; you may face immigration issues if you subsequently divorce your U.S. spouse. Additionally, individuals who are in the U.S. on an employee-sponsored work visa may face problems if they quit or change jobs, allow a visa to lapse or fail to update or renew other required documentation. Other activities that may constitute a violation of your immigration status include seemingly minor traffic violations and misdemeanor crimes.

To avoid immigration problems and possible removal proceedings and deportation actions; individuals who have questions or concerns about their immigration status and U.S. immigration laws should consult an attorney. An attorney can answer questions, provide advice and assist in ensuring an individual is compliant with immigration laws. Additionally, in cases where an individual is facing possible deportation, an attorney can fight on one’s behalf in court.

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U.S. Supreme Court might take on immigration executive action

The legality of an executive action taken may soon be under scrutiny by the U.S. Supreme Court, which was set to meet today to determine whether to hear the case. The executive action called for the protection of over 4 million immigrants from deportation. The appeal involves an executive order passed after Congress was unable to approve bipartisan legislation dealing with the matter.

The executive action was specially aimed at immigrants without criminal records whose children are American citizens. The order would allow such individuals to work in the United States and receive certain federal benefits, though states would not be required to provide any benefits.

Republican lawmakers disapproved of the president’s efforts to bypass Congress in passing the measure, and the order ended up being blocked by lower courts based on the argument that the president went beyond the scope of his constitutional powers. The decisions have been criticized on the grounds that it effectively allows states to prevent the federal government from enforcing immigration laws. The question, though, is whether the executive action was mere enforcement of immigration laws or a rewriting of the same.

Should the executive order eventually win approval, it will afford relief to many families. Under current immigration law, family-based immigration allows U.S. citizens or legal residents to obtain legal resident status for family members. Immediate family members are not the only persons who can benefit from family-based immigration. Those who are interested in looking more into how their family might benefit from this aspect of immigration law should contact an experienced attorney to have their case evaluated.

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Women and children among those detained in recent ICE raids

Regarding rumored impending raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to find undocumented Central American immigrates – this past weekend, ICE raids commenced in three states and ended with 121 people being taken into custody where they are awaiting deportation back to their violence-ravaged home countries.

The most troubling aspect of these raids is that the majority of those individuals who were rounded up and detained are women and children whose desperate claims for asylum in the U.S. were denied. This most recent round of ICE raids has struck fear among immigrants across the U.S. and specifically among Central American immigrants who entered the country illegally or whose claims for protection and asylum were denied or are pending.

As these terrified families await deportation, troubling questions and concerns have been raised about their legal rights to due process and the fact that they are not being allowed access to an attorney. Instead, family members and those directly impacted relay reports of harsh treatment at the hands of ICE officials, threats and being coerced into signing documents that clear the way for deportation.

In response, immigrant legal advocates across the country are advising immigrants to become educated about U.S. immigration laws and their corresponding rights. For example, an individual should not open his or her door until and unless an ICE agent is able to produce an order that is signed by a judge. Additionally, he or she should remain silent and request the opportunity to contact an attorney.

Individuals who have questions or concerns about ICE raids and the asylum, detention or deportation process are advised to contact an immigration attorney.

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Central American immigrants prepare for rumored ICE raids

The administration has been vocal about plans to reform U.S. immigration policy. However, absent the support of Republican members of Congress, they have been unable to pass any sweeping immigration reform. However, invoked executive power can make certain changes to existing immigration laws.

These measures include focusing on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border and taking action to require undocumented immigrants to pay U.S. taxes. Additionally, that deportation efforts will focus on “felons, not families,” and specifically those individuals with criminal records or links to gangs or terrorism. However, If recent rumors of the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to “round up and deport families deemed illegally present in the U.S.” are true, it appears as those the administration’s promise to not target families has been broken.

Thousands of men, women and children fleeing the violence in Central America have poured over the U.S.- Mexican border. In many cases, these families and individuals have sought asylum in the U.S. and are allowed to stay with relatives until their cases are decided. Sadly, and often for unknown reasons, the asylum claims of many are denied and they face deportation.

Recently, there have been reports of impending widespread raids on these families by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. For these families, many of whom likely lack any legal advocate and have not taken action to appeal a denial for asylum, returning to their home countries is akin to a death sentence.

Individuals who are planning to apply for asylum in the U.S. or who have had an asylum claim denied are advised to contact an immigration attorney. The U.S. immigration system is notoriously complex and many individuals who attempt to gain protection under the asylum program are not aware of their rights.

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H-1B visa controversy and requirements

Immigration is bound to be a major and divisive issue in the upcoming presidential election. While much of the media’s attention is paid to the issue of illegal immigration and how to handle the millions of undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the U.S., concerns have also been raised about those individuals who come to work in the U.S. on H-1B visas.

While opponents of this employment visa program argue that it only serves to take jobs away from Americans, proponents contend the program is necessary to ensure that U.S. companies remain competitive. Additionally, those who support the program also assert that U.S. companies are struggling to find enough qualified workers and that the visas are provided only to highly educated and skilled professionals in their respective fields.

In order to obtain an H-1B visa, an individual must be sponsored by a U.S. employer and be able to unequivocally demonstrate that an employer has the ability to “hire, pay, fire, supervise” and otherwise control one’s employment. H-1B visas are intended for individuals who possess at least a bachelor’s degree and are considered to be highly specialized in their respective fields.

Annually, only 65,000 H-1B visas are issued and the first 20,000 petitioners who possess a master’s degree or higher are exempt from this cap amount. Due to the cap on the number of H-1B visas that are issued, employers and employees who wish to participate would be wise to ensure that they submit all of the necessary paperwork and documentation in a timely manner.

An attorney who handles employment immigration matters can answer questions and assist in the H-1B visa application process. Additionally, for employees who are already in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, an attorney can assist in sorting out any issues related to a change in status or employment.

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Recent deportation case raises concerns about DACA protections

In 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program went into effect. The program, which was championed by the administration, allows undocumented individuals who came to the U.S. before they turned age 16 to obtain permission to stay and work in the U.S. for a two-year renewable time frame. In addition to coming to the U.S. prior to turning age 16, DACA applicants must meet a series of other requirements related to their age and current removal or deportation status.

The recent deportation case of a 32-year-old mother of three, who was protected under the DACA program, has raised many red flags among other DACA program participants and U.S. immigration lawyers. According to the Huffington Post, the 32-year-old mother went through the process of obtaining what she believed was documentation that would allow her to travel to her native Mexico to visit family and then return to the U.S.

The re-entry permit, which is known as advance parole, allows undocumented individuals with DACA status to return to the U.S. for humanitarian and/or other sanctioned reasons. However, upon arriving at the U.S. airport, the mother was denied re-entry and deported back to Mexico. She was accompanied by two of her three children whom she was traveling with, both of whom are U.S. citizens.

According to the woman’s attorney, the mother was deported. However, “the deportation order had not disqualified her from receiving her DACA authorization.” Additionally, she was able to obtain an advance parole permit and therefore had every reason to believe that she would be allowed to return to the U.S.

While U.S. immigration officials refused to commit specifically on the woman’s case, a spokesperson stated that “applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the U.S.” The woman’s attorney stated that, while her client is being allowed to return to the U.S., she will likely face deportation and be forced to go through the process to “redetermine her DACA status.”

This woman’s story illustrates the numerous challenges that undocumented immigrants face under the contested DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs. Individuals who have questions or concerns about these programs and their specific status and rights would be wise to contact an immigration attorney.

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Immigration 4/26/21 – gtg

Immigrant STEM students may need legal help to get a green card

In the United States, the industries of science and technology don’t have enough workers who are skilled in what are known as the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math. But there are many immigrants who study these subjects at American universities. For those who are concerned about the American economy and are sympathetic to the plight of immigrants seeking a green card, these facts present a problem that could be solved with meaningful immigration policy.

However, last month Congress did not pass a bill that would have given more permanent residency visas to immigrants who are getting their doctorate or master’s degrees in the United States. Some critics have said the failure to pass the bill was intentional and politically motivated.

Here is another interesting fact: of all Americans who have science or engineering degrees, over 20 percent were born in another country. As for engineering and computer science, the numbers are even higher: more than a third of those who have computer science or engineering degrees are immigrants. Still, America has a huge shortage of workers in these fields.

So far, 140,000 permanent residency visas are given each year to scientists and educators with “sustained national or international acclaim and recognition.” That number represents only 13 percent of all the permanent residency visas given to immigrants last year.

Regardless of whether you have a STEM background, immigrants in New York who are seeking a work-related visa face some challenges that are best handled with the help of an advocate with experience in immigration law. Successfully filing a petition for permanent residency can be complex and time-consuming, and consulting with an immigration law attorney can help expedite the process.

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Immigrant activist avoids detainment after a traffic stop

A simple traffic stop. That’s all it can take to be detained on an immigration violation. Many people across the country live in fear of being detained and possibly deported after a simple traffic stop because their immigration status is undocumented or they are living in the Unites States without proper documentation. Even activists are not immune to potential detainment.

An immigrant was stopped by police in another state last week, and taken to a jail where he was questioned about his immigration status by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Although he admits living in the country without proper documentation, ICE decided not to detain him and has not pursued immigration charges. According to a news report in the New York Times about the incident, ICE makes decisions on detaining people based on their perceived threat to public safety, as well as past immigration-related incidents.

While the immigrant was not deemed to be a threat, some people who also have no past violations may have a more difficult time fighting detainment by immigration officials. Even though this prominent activist was released, he still faces charges of driving without a license.

Others who may be pulled over for minor violations might be detained and face deportation. Immigration rights groups contend that although some people are not detained, many others with no previous criminal violations and no resources to obtain a documented immigration status could face deportation from a traffic violation.

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States adjust to let young immigrants pay in-state tuition

Education is important for U.S. citizens and immigrants alike. In some states, young people who were brought to the U.S. when they were young face special difficulties in paying for their education. One major barrier for undocumented immigrants has been the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. When you have in-state status, you can pay a lower tuition rate, but not all states give in-state status to young immigrants.

New York passed a law allowing state residency status for undocumented immigrants. Since the administration’s decision to allow most young immigrants to avoid deportation, other states are now taking steps to clarify their own immigration policies regarding in-state residency.

Massachusetts recently clarified its position. Now the estimated 15,000 to 17,000 young immigrants living in Massachusetts can take advantage of the in-state tuition discount. To illustrate how helpful that discount can be, The New York Times compared in-state and out-of-state tuition at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

There, state residents can pay tuition and fees amounting to $13,230, while out-of-state residents have to pay $26,645.

While some states like New York and Massachusetts are clarifying their immigration policies to help young, undocumented immigrants, other states are taking the opposite approach.

South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Colorado, Arizona and Georgia have all made it a point to bar undocumented immigrants from qualifying for an in-state tuition discount. Alabama passed a law that prohibits young immigrants from even enrolling at state colleges.

It’s been reported that since Mitt Romney had promised to repeal the administration’s deferment policy, many immigrants were waiting until after the presidential election to come forward. Now, however, young immigrants would do well to take advantage of their right to work and claim in-state residency.

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Advocates for Immigrants

Despite an unfortunately common perception in the United States, immigration charges are heard in administrative court, not a criminal court. Still, immigrant detainees throughout the country are treated like criminals.

Recently, to call attention to the inhumane treatment of immigrant detainees, a campaign called “Expose and Close” released a number of reports. These reports claim that immigrants facing deportation charges receive substandard medical treatment and are not provided with the resources they need to work on their cases.

The reports also point out that many of the jails and prisons that house immigrant detainees are located in remote areas. That means detained immigrants have a difficult time contacting lawyers and family members — the very people who can help detainees achieve citizenship, change their status, get asylum or fight deportation.

After publishing its findings, the “Expose and Close” campaign called for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to close 10 of its detention facilities, one of which is the Hudson County Jail in New Jersey. In one of these jails, a detained immigrant died because he didn’t receive the medical treatment he needed. His family was later awarded a settlement.

Another case involved a young man whose mother brought him to the U.S. on a visa. He was 8 years old at the time and was seeking asylum. When he ran into a technical issue with his immigration status, he was thrown in jail for 19 months. This kept him away from his 3-year-old son and wife, who is a U.S. citizen. All the while, he had to work on his immigration case from behind bars.

Finally, the young man was given asylum, but he missed over two years of his son’s life.

Immigrants need to know that they are not alone in their desire to become U.S. citizens. Immigration law attorneys are in the business of helping individuals and families fight deportation charges and achieve a change in immigration status.

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Harsh local policing major cause of higher deportation numbers

In the last four years, the United States has deported a record number of undocumented immigrants. But in different communities throughout the country, these deportations are higher or lower in number. Interestingly, a recent study indicates that having a larger immigrant population does not appear to be the reason certain communities deport more people.

On the contrary, factors such as local politics and police practices seem to be the major causes of higher deportation numbers in some parts of the United States. In fact, police who were surveyed in communities with higher immigrant populations enforce deportation laws on fewer occasions.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Public Administration Research, surveyed police chiefs from 237 medium to large-sized cities across the nation. According to the findings, in communities where there was a Hispanic police chief, deportation laws were not enforced as often.

The research also indicated that places where most voters are Republican, and where police chiefs answer to the city council and the mayor instead of a manager, immigration-related laws were more strictly enforced.

Perhaps most significantly, the study found that “cities with high shares of immigrants in the population tend to experience less aggressive enforcement.”

In about half of the cities addressed in the research, there had been no city policy regarding the enforcement of immigration laws. That means those police departments were either coming up with their own guidelines or letting officers on the streets make the decisions.

With such widespread disparity in deportation enforcement, immigrants will need a strong deportation defense. If you would like to learn more about defending against deportation, please stop by our office. Our firm helps immigrants who have been detained or who are facing deportation.

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Citizenship and green cards: What does the future hold?

On what can be a rocky path to citizenship or a green card, many immigrants in the United States find creative and sometimes illegal ways to gain employment. From a legal perspective, this is not advisable, but the need to provide for one’s family while striving for a better future is something most Americans would identify with. People from nations with governments that fail to provide for their citizens often find that immigration to the U.S. is the best possible option for happiness and prosperity.

Reforming U.S. immigration law is set to be one of the top priorities. The issues involved are complex and numerous, as industries ranging from agriculture to high technology will likely make their lobbies felt. The states and the federal government will also bring their specific concerns to the table, and immigrants would do well to remain alert to any changes to the law.

Immigrants, too, documented or not, are speaking up to let officials know that changes need to be made. The administration initiated the deferred action program for young immigrants, but meanwhile, deportation numbers have risen significantly. Also, Immigration and Customs Enforcement stepped up audits of employers who may have hired undocumented immigrants.

In fact, ICE audited more companies recently than in any year before. During an audit, ICE looks at employer I-9 forms, which indicate whether a worker is authorized to work in the U.S. Employers are required to make sure the documents provided by the worker look real. But if ICE finds out that a Social Security number doesn’t match up with the provided name, the employer could be fined.

Immigrants who find themselves caught up in an I-9 dispute may want to consult with an immigration attorney.

To learn more about immigration law and how it relates to citizenship, permanent residency, families and employment, please visit our office. Our firm helps people in a variety of ways regarding immigration law.

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Green cards and the EB-5 program

A green card is a highly coveted document that can allow non-citizens to live and work in the United States permanently. As a result, many people hoping to live in the US would love to get their hands on one.

However, there is only a limited supply of green cards available each year, approximately 50,000 for qualified immigration applicants. With millions of people from all around the world hoping to win one in the lottery, demand is obviously very high.

However, wealthy people have an advantage that others do not. They can speed up the typically years’ long wait if they are willing to pay a price into a special 22-year-old federal program called EB-5. The investment required can be at minimum anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, depending on the area of investment.

Under the EB-5 program, foreign investors can obtain U.S. residency by investing in a new or growing company. This would seem like a win-win situation, both for foreign investors and for businesses seeking capital in this down economy. In fact, the number of foreign investors applying for the EB-5 program has quadrupled in the previous three years.

In order to qualify, the investment must create or preserve at least 10 full-time jobs within two years of the investment. If this is the outcome, then after the two years, the investor is eligible to apply for a green card, which has a very high success rate. In the meantime, once the investment is made and the government has approved the project, then the investor is eligible for temporary residency for themselves and their family. If the investment fails to meet the job creation requirement in the two-year period, then they will not obtain green cards.

Consultants and brokers work to match foreign investors with promising investments in U.S. companies that will meet the requirements of the EB-5 program, while at the same time offer the hopes of breaking even, or maybe even making a profit.

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The administration pushes for comprehensive immigration reform

Undocumented immigrants throughout the United States have their eyes on lawmakers as they try to agree on much-needed immigration reform. Democrats and Republicans alike have been searching for a way to reform immigration policy.

But the parties don’t agree on how to make changes. The New York Times reports that the White House is pushing Congress to accept a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws. The administration says its comprehensive bill needs to be passed quickly in order to give the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants an easier path to citizenship.

But Republicans want a different approach. They want a series of bills, rather than comprehensive legislation. One bill would address highly skilled workers; another would address young immigrants, and another would address migrant farm workers. Apparently, breaking the legislation into pieces would be more readily accepted by members of the Republican party who are reluctant about making the path to citizenship easier.

Some people in the country have complained that immigration reform would constitute amnesty for so-called “illegal immigrants,” but the White House disagrees. It isn’t simply amnesty.

In fact, the plan would require some undocumented immigrants to pay back taxes and fines, as well as address other legal issues in order to achieve legal status. The proposal would also initiate a guest-worker program for immigrants with low incomes; create new visas to eliminate the backlog of applications; and let immigrants with certain in-demand skills remain in the country.

Regardless of the particular plan of action adopted by legislators, undocumented immigrants throughout the country will need to remain aware of their legal options for achieving a change of immigration status.

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Family-based immigration reform

In a recent display of executive power, the administration issued a new rule making it easier for families to remain together while an immigrant family member applies for permanent residence.

In the past, many undocumented immigrants have been reluctant to apply for permanent residency because it meant they would have to leave the country to do so. But starting on March 4, if an undocumented immigrant can show that being away from his or her U.S.-citizen family members would constitute an “extreme hardship,” the application process can start within the U.S.

Applicants will still have to pick up their visas in their native countries, but not having to leave the U.S. until that time will be a great relief for many immigrants. The new measure is designed to reduce the amount of time families have to spend apart during the application process.

Too many immigration cases in past years have ended when a relative of a U.S. citizen was killed in another country while awaiting a decision on immigration status.

About one million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. could make use of the new rule.

On March 4, a “hardship waiver” could also be given to undocumented immigrants who have overstayed their visas. Before the new law, it was necessary for those who overstayed their visas to leave the country to apply for permanent residency.

“The change will have a significant impact on American families by greatly reducing the time family members are separated from those they rely upon,” said the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Many questions arise when it comes to family-based immigration. Family members who are seeking an adjustment of status or a green card would do well to consult with an immigration attorney who can clarify exactly what options are available.

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Kids of detained immigrants take legal action to stop deportation

Family members of detained immigrants are often shocked that their loved one, who isn’t a violent or otherwise dangerous person, has to sit in a detention center while his or her immigration case moves forward. Families are split up, even when children in the family are U.S. citizens but their parents are not.

Consider the saddening detention story of one family. The 18-year-old daughter, who is a student at a local community college, has had to essentially stop her life while she and her brother work on freeing their parents from immigration detention.

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement appeared at the family’s home one morning and detained the parents, who were initially taken to Federal Plaza. Matters became more complicated, however, when the father was moved to a County Jail in another state, while the mother was taken to a County Correctional Center. For several days, the couple’s children didn’t even know where authorities had taken their parents.

Meanwhile, the kids are unsure if they can scrape together money to pay rent.

ICE’s definition of a deportable immigrant is broad. In this case, the father, who is a bus maintenance worker, was convicted twice of DUI more than 10 years ago. The mother, who works at a local packaging factory, has no convictions. The parents were also ordered to be deported about seven years ago, but they didn’t appear for a hearing.

The immigration bill now proposed in the Senate would make immigrants who have been convicted of drunken driving three or more times eligible for deportation. The bill would also make immigrants ineligible for a legal change of status if they have three misdemeanor convictions.

As for this particular family’s struggle, the daughter and brother have taken emergency legal action in an attempt to stop the deportation of their parents. Other families who are going through this kind of ordeal should be aware of their legal options for keeping their loved ones near.

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Seeking asylum: A difficult battle

The United States guarantees asylum to individuals who are in the country and can prove they have suffered persecution or have a legitimate fear that they will if they go back to their country of origin. This is one very viable path to citizenship in the country. Also, the country does not limit the number of people who can seek asylum. Nevertheless, immigrants seeking citizenship always face hurdles in their chances for a new life.

To obtain asylum privileges, candidates must make a case. This is usually completed through interviews with immigration officials. If they make an unsuccessful case, immigrants must return to their home country. However, it is important to know that the process is very difficult. Approximately 86,053 applicants sought asylum in the U.S. in one year alone; however, only 29 percent were victorious.

There are two ways to make a pitch for asylum: affirmative and defensive. Affirmative cases are initiated by applicants who are legally in the country at the moment. A defensive case is when someone is in the country illegally, and the filer is attempting to prevent deportation. Defensive applicants must present physical evidence, provide witnesses and submit proof of the conditions in their country of origin. Ultimately, they must include information to demonstrate that they were persecuted at home or would be if they returned.

The case for asylum is not easy. For this reason, it is best to retain a qualified immigration attorney in developing a case. Again, the burden of proof is very difficult. One mistake could lead to automatic deportation, which could send victims back into poor living conditions. To learn more about immigration options, contact an experienced lawyer in your area.

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Irish immigrants hope for work visas in an immigration bill

The recent unveiling of the Senate bill for comprehensive immigration reform has people hoping that real change may be on the way, but immigrants also have a healthy degree of skepticism about whether the proposal will actually be signed into law.

The five boroughs are home to immigrants from nations across the globe. People from Ireland, for instance, have historically played a major role in the city’s construction industry. Now Irish and Latin American immigrants are hoping together that the Senate bill makes headway, in large part because the bill would provide thousands of temporary work visas for laborers in the construction industry.

Irish immigrants have been arriving in the United States for more than 200 years, and now the Irish community offers a strong support network for those who come here and decide to stay. The Bronx’s Gaelic Park is an iconic structure for Irish people in New York City, and one footballer at the park estimated that roughly 99 percent of the players were in the country without legal documentation.

That man is like many Irish immigrants who come to the U.S.: he found work on construction sites and hopes to climb his way up and make a good living. He says that playing Gaelic football is a way to network and find jobs.

An Irish construction company owner expressed dismay at how difficult it is for new immigrants to achieve legal permanent residency and citizenship. He said that when he came to the U.S. in the 1980s, it was easier to establish oneself. He hopes the Senate bill passes into law and that immigrants can come “out of the shadows.”

Still, those hopes are tempered by the fact that immigration reform bills have been proposed in the past and failed. For now, they will just have to wait, perhaps take some civic or legal action, and see what lawmakers decide.

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Citizenship application fee a big obstacle for many immigrants

Recent research shows that, when immigrants consider applying for citizenship, price matters. When you add the application fee to the cost of getting fingerprints, the total comes to $680. And the research suggests that the price is a serious deterrent to a lot of would-be citizens.

There are immigrants who are among the 8.5 million people eligible for citizenship. These are green card holders, but the high price of the application stands in many people’s way.

In fact, research conducted by the Center for the Study of Immigration Integration indicates that citizenship applications have dropped significantly. That was likely due to the increase in the application fee.

A news article quotes a 78-year-old woman who was born in the Dominican Republic. She is a retired seamstress who now lives in East New York. She says she can’t afford to pay to renew her green card, much less the steep application fee. “I want to be a citizen,” she said, “because it’s a beautiful thing to vote. And you can be calm in this country. There’s no other country like this one.”

According to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center, about 93 percent of immigrants of Latino heritage expressed the desire to apply for citizenship, but 18 percent of those surveyed said that the application fee was their main obstacle.

Right now the path to citizenship is not an easy one, but there is real hope throughout the country that meaningful immigration reform is on the way. There is also legal help available for immigrants who want to ensure the best chance that their citizenship applications will be accepted.

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News outlets to stop using offensive immigration terms

A long-overdue change is happening in the way mainstream U.S. media refers to immigrants who are in the country without legal documentation. We’ve written before about the stigmatizing, offensive connotations associated with the term “illegal immigrant.” After all, not having official immigration documents is not a criminal matter; it’s a civil one.

Now, after months of criticism, the Associated Press has announced that it will cease using the offensive term, likely replacing it with something more accurate, such as “living in the country without legal permission.” Other offensive terms such as “illegal aliens” or “illegals” had already been dropped from the AP style guide.

While some news sources, such as the Huffington Post, had already stopped using “illegal immigrant” in their reporting, one major news organization still does: The New York Times. It was reported, however, that the staff at the Times is currently discussing a change and that any standardized alteration would be announced in the near future.

These positive steps in the right direction signal a wider change in the national political climate. Most Americans support an easier path to citizenship, and lawmakers appear to be working more intently on meaningful immigration reform than they have in years.

For immigrants who are waiting or working for permanent residency, these developments can’t unfold quickly enough. People throughout New York are advocating for a better immigration system, one that doesn’t tear apart families and leave immigrants waiting for years and years for judgments.

To ensure that their cases are handled carefully and efficiently, immigrants may want to explore their legal options by consulting with a citizenship attorney.

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Asian American groups urge you to file for any family visas now

Under the current version of the immigration reform proposal making its way through Congress, U.S. citizens and green card holders may no longer be able to sponsor those relatives U.S. immigration law categorizes as “lower preference,” such as siblings and married adult children, for lawful permanent residency. While the bill is unlikely to be passed this session, limitations on family immigration are likely to be included or at least used as a bargaining chip, in the final bill.

According to the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Asians are more reliant on family immigration than most other groups. In fact, nearly half of all immigrants seeking family visas are from Asia. Even now, immigration opportunities are limited for “lower preference” family members. An application backlog has stretched the waiting time for siblings and married children of citizens to get green cards to as long as two decades, in certain cases.

With that in mind, a number of Asian American advocacy groups are urging people to act now if they plan to sponsor relatives for family immigration — or the opportunity to do so may disappear.

“We’re saying file now if you’re thinking about it,” says the head of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. “Then you’ll be in line if a bill passes and diminishes the ability to file.”

While family immigration is of particular concern to Asians, a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants is also a high priority in immigration reform. Of the estimated 11 million unauthorized migrants in the U.S., more than a million are thought to be from China, Vietnam, Korea or the Philippines.

Asians are less enthusiastic about the current reform bill than other groups, if we accept immigration lawyer and former California state assemblyman Mike Eng as an exemplar. He expressed outrage at the reform effort having been focused primarily on employment-based immigration for high-skilled workers who promise immediate economic benefits to the U.S. Particularly for the Asian American community, these priorities come as a bit of a shock.

“This is the most far-reaching, invasive and detrimental proposal for immigration reform on the Asian American community in at least the last four to six decades,” he told reporters.

Even if you’re not from an Asian background, the advocacy groups’ advice is sound. If you’re considering sponsoring a family member for a green card — especially if that family member is categorized as “lower preference” — apply as soon as possible to preserve your best chance of success.

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U.S. citizens’ siblings face a 12-year wait for immigrant visas

When people talk about reforming our immigration system, they often discuss only the issues surrounding undocumented immigrants. In some cases, they may bring up the difficulty U.S. employers have bringing in needed workers on H1-B visas or keeping them when those visas expire. Perhaps because its economic impact is less obvious, family-based immigration gets less attention in the debate, but our family immigration system is also out of date — and it often seems to thwart the goal of bringing families together.

One New York man just wrote into the New York Daily News “Citizenship NOW!” blog about how to get an immigrant visa and ultimately a green card for the sister of a U.S. citizen. The woman is a divorcee from China whose teenage daughter is coming to the U.S. to attend a private school. The woman’s sister is a U.S. citizen who is willing to sponsor her for lawful permanent residency so she can be with her daughter long term.

Unfortunately, the answer was somewhat disheartening. Even if the woman has no other bar from getting a green card, she will have to wait around 12 years before she is eligible for a green card through sponsorship by her sister. That’s because the U.S. currently only allows 65,000 immigrant visas annually for siblings of U.S. citizens seeking permanent residency.

That does not mean she has no way to come to the U.S. to be with her teenage daughter while she attends high school. She should be able to get a B-2 tourist visa for up to six months and then apply for extensions as necessary. However, she would not be allowed to work. She could apply for an EB-5 investor visa if she has $500,000 to invest in a U.S. business. Or, she might qualify for an immigrant visa on her own merit if she has extraordinary ability as a professional, researcher, or an activity that would substantially benefit the U.S. national interest.

In other words, there are a number of options for obtaining an immigrant visa that can lead to a green card. That said, shouldn’t her family ties be enough?

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Confused by the changes to permanent resident fee-payment rules?

Some changes were recently made to the procedures at the U.S. Department of State for paying the fees required for family-based immigrants seeking lawful permanent residence in the U.S., or “green cards.” Depending on your situation, there may be two fees.

Every immigrant applying for permanent residency must pay the U.S. Immigrant Visa fee to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you’re applying for a green card and are already in the U.S., you will also need to pay a separate fee to the Department of State’s National Visa Center to process your I-864 Affidavit of Support.

The reason this can be confusing is the requirements for who has to pay these fees and when. Either the immigrant or the petitioner (also called the sponsor) can pay the processing fee for the I-864 affidavit, although it is more commonly paid by the petitioner. It can be paid by a transfer from a checking account, a certified check or a money order. The fee is currently set at $88 for those applying for permanent residency from within the U.S.

Once you’ve filed the I-864 affidavit and the National Visa Center is ready to process it, the center will send an invoice for the fee to your petitioner, along with payment instructions.

Next, is the U.S. Immigrant Visa Fee paid to the USCIS. This is required for processing and producing your green card, currently $165. The rules for payment are different for this fee.

Only the immigrant can legally pay this fee, although one person can pay for all accompanying family members.
It is to be paid online, and only by a credit card, a debit card, or transfer from a checking account — not a money order or certified check.
The immigrant has up to a year to pay the fee.
If you don’t pay the fee within a year, it won’t technically affect your status as a lawful permanent resident, but the USCIS will not issue you a green card until you pay. Therefore, the agency recommends you pay this fee after you receive your visa packet but before you enter the U.S. if you’re applying from abroad.

You should also know that fee waivers are available in certain circumstances. Check with an immigration lawyer or the USCIS for more information.

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US diversity visa lottery not affected by government shutdown

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program often called the DV lottery or the “green card lottery,” is up and running at the Department of State. The reason the lottery isn’t affected by the federal government shutdown is that many immigration activities of the U.S. government are funded through fees from applicants — although there is no fee for the diversity lottery. So, while some parts of the State Department are subject to furloughs, the diversity lottery, or DV-2015, is moving forward as usual.

The annual lottery allows 50,000 eligible people from qualified countries to obtain lawful permanent residency in the U.S. Don’t be confused by the terminology — a “Permanent Residency Immigrant Visa” is another term for a green card. Qualified applicants must apply online at the State Department’s Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery website. Then, a computer will randomly draw winning applicants’ names.

One important thing to know is that winning the green card lottery does not automatically mean you will get a green card. More than 50,000 people are chosen because some of the winners turn out not to be qualified, and others decide not to pursue permanent residency after all. If you do win the visa lottery, you will still go through a final interview before you receive a green card.

In order to qualify for the lottery, you must meet two basic requirements. First, you must be a native of a qualifying country, which means one with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. There are some situations in which you could be considered a native of your parent or spouse’s homeland, and some other rules that could apply. You can learn the specifics in the materials provided on the application website.

The second requirement concerns education and work experience. To qualify, you must either have completed the equivalent of high school or have at least two years of experience working at a job that requires at least two years of training. Again, more information about specifics is available from the Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery website.

The green card lottery is only one option for obtaining lawful permanent residency in the U.S.

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Green-card holders are included in the Affordable Care Act

If you’re already a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. or want to become one, you should know that you’re covered by the Affordable Care Act, which provides access to health insurance through public exchanges and, in many cases, offers government subsidies to buy it. Although the federal government shutdown seems to be an effort to stop the ACA, the fact is that enrollment for insurance offered through the ACA has already begun, and coverage begins on Jan. 1.

Immigrants become eligible for coverage — and any available subsidies — through the ACA as soon as they become lawful permanent residents (green-card holders). A key part of the ACA is to make health insurance affordable for everyone, so the federal government is offering financial assistance for those with lower incomes.

The subsidies vary by income but may qualify for help if your household income is 400 percent of the federal poverty rate or less. That means that a single person would typically qualify for subsidies if he or she makes up to $45,960, while a family of four could make up to $95,200 and qualify. If you make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty rate, you may qualify for Medicaid instead, if you’ve been a green card holder for five years.

According to statistics cited by the New York Daily News, the average plan through the ACA is expected to cost 53 percent less than the same plan, purchased on the individual market, cost before the new law was passed.

Green card holders should also be aware that the penalty provision in the Affordable Care Act also applies to permanent residents. The ACA requires you to have health insurance or pay a penalty. The penalty is $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is higher, but the penalties go up each year.

You don’t have to buy the required health insurance through the ACA exchange — if you have Medicaid, health insurance through your job, or private, comprehensive insurance you like, you won’t owe any penalty.

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Wait times for green cards for immediate family at record highs

Both young people and immigrant advocacy groups alike cheered when the launch of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program was announced. For those unfamiliar with this program, it essentially enables those young people who satisfy certain conditions to live and work in the United States for two years, subject to renewal, and then perhaps be eligible for work authorization.

Thus far, the DACA program has enjoyed great success as over 521,000 young people had received deferrals by early February, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services processing over 2,000 applications a day.

However, this great success has not come without a cost, as many citizens or permanent residents have seen the wait times for securing a permanent resident visa — or green card — for their immediate family members (spouses, children, parents, etc.) triple.

According to sources, USCIS was given only two months to make the necessary arrangements for the launch of the DACA program having to devote considerable manpower and spread already limited resources to cover the deluge of applications.

While these efforts proved successful, the area of green card applications suddenly saw major delays in processing times, with some families now being separated for over a year and the application backlog growing to over 500,000.

“U.S. citizens petitioning for green cards for immediate relatives are a high, if not the highest, priority in the way Congress set up the immigration system,” said a spokesperson with the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “This is a problem that needs to be fixed quickly.”

Family members who are citizens or permanent residents are able to sponsor their immediate family members for a green card, a process that has been recognized as especially efficient since there are no annual limits on the number of green cards issued.

In general, the family member submits a petition to USCIS, which will grant its initial approval. From there, the visa petition passes through both the State Department and foreign consulates. While this may seem like a rather lengthy process, it has historically taken five months or less.

The USCIS has indicated that it is working hard to reduce the wait times for the processing of green cards back down to five months, but that this likely won’t occur immediately.

In the meantime, this news is likely of little consolation to families that have been apart for over a year, having to put their plans for school, housing, and life on hold.

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Report finds federal government is losing more deportation cases

The Transactional Records Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, whose stated purpose is to gather “comprehensive information about staffing, spending, and enforcement activities of the federal government,” recently released a very eye-opening report discussing how immigrants are faring in the fight against deportation.

Somewhat surprisingly, the TRAC report reveals that almost half of all immigrants facing deportation over the course of the last year have emerged victorious in their legal battles to stay in the U.S.

Breaking the numbers down, the TRAC report found:

Immigration judges have heard 42,816 deportation cases since the start of fiscal year back in October and since that time have ruled in favor of immigrants in nearly 50 percent of cases.
Immigrants have seen higher success rates in immigration courts located in California, Oregon, and New York.
Attorneys with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who represent the federal government in the immigration courts, won roughly 52 percent of their cases.

ICE attorneys have been losing more deportation cases with each passing year since 2009. Curiously, experts are somewhat baffled as to the reasons for this trend given that immigration laws here in the U.S. have not undergone any substantial changes over the last few years. However, some are theorizing that the trend can perhaps be attributed to a concerted effort by the administration to change its approach to immigration law enforcement.

For instance, the administration has issued a series of policy orders over the last few years directing ICE to exercise greater discretion in deportation cases, such that less of an effort is made to deport those immigrants who have been here in the U.S. for many years, and who pose no threat to public safety or national security.

“ICE’s enforcement strategies and policies are designed to prioritize its resources on public safety, national security, and border security threats,” said a spokesperson for the agency. “ICE continues to focus on sensible, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens and those apprehended at the border while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States.”

While these TRAC report figures are certainly encouraging, many experts are warning that it’s still far too early to draw any real conclusions. In the meantime, here’s hoping the trend of more people successfully fighting deportation in the immigration courts continues for the foreseeable future.

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Mayor announces new incentive for securing municipal ID cards

Unlike many other locations in the U.S., New York City is a year-round tourist destination. In other words, the allure of the world-renowned performing arts centers, concert halls, zoos, botanical gardens, and, of course, museums is so great that many people are willing to brave less than ideal weather conditions to see all that the city has to offer.

Interestingly, the Mayor announced a new program yesterday that will provide the city’s undocumented immigrants with the chance to see these same cultural landmarks free of charge provided they enroll in the new municipal ID program.

Created by legislation signed by the mayor back in July, the municipal ID program will be open to all residents of the city’s five boroughs able to provide proof of identity (foreign birth certificate, driver’s license, etc) and satisfy certain residency requirements.

The ID cards, available free of charge during the first year of the program, will feature both a picture and list a person’s vital information, such as their name, address, and date of birth (along with an expiration date).

The thought is that these municipal IDs will be of great assistance to the city’s rather sizeable undocumented immigrant population, who should theoretically encounter less difficulty performing the tasks that many people otherwise take for granted with the IDs, including signing leases, opening a bank account and accessing city services.

As mentioned earlier, the mayor, working in conjunction with the Cultural Institutions Group, has devised a program promising that anyone who secures a municipal ID will get a one-year pass — equivalent to a standard family or individual membership — to 33 of New York City’s top landmarks.

This one-year pass, which promises free admission and discounts, includes everything from the Bronx Zoo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the New York City Ballet and Carnegie Hall.

“The municipal ID is a powerful tool to bring more New Yorkers out of the shadows and into the mainstream.” “It is now also a key that opens the door for hundreds of thousands of more New Yorkers to our city’s premier assets in culture, science and entertainment.”

It will indeed be interesting to see how many undocumented immigrants here in New York secure the ID cards.

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Supreme Court to decide on basis for denying family visas

If you were born in the United States, you may not understand how difficult it is to get citizenship in our country. It’s a long process filled with applications, the possible need for sponsorship, and a long list of federal laws that may be incredibly difficult to understand without proper legal help. And in the end, there is no guarantee that an application for citizenship will be approved in the end.

As some know, when a visa petition is denied by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office, the denial letter usually cites a reason why and tells the petitioner how they may appeal. But what happens if the reason is too vague and offers little explanation for why the application was denied? What if this lack of information is standing in your way of moving forward with an immigration application?

One case exemplifies these questions perfectly and is partially the reason why the U.S. Supreme Court is set to look into the issue behind these questions. Depending on how the higher court decides, the case could force the government to provide a better explanation for why a visa application has been denied, especially in instances where the grounds for denial were because of “terrorism-related reasons.”

On top of highlighting the complexity of immigration laws in our country, the issue before the Supreme Court further illustrates the necessity of getting the right help when dealing with complicated legal issues. Obtaining a lawyer can make sure that you are following the immigration process to the letter of the law and that the agencies in charge of immigration are not violating your rights as well.

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The Form I-130 and financial sponsorship

In order for a citizen-sponsor to help their loved one secure a green card, they must not only provide evidence demonstrating that the documented familial relationship exists, but also provide evidence that they have sufficient assets/income to support them upon their arrival here in the U.S.

Once the Form I-130 petition has been filed and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services determines that the relative is eligible to immigrate, the citizen-sponsor will then be required to file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. This document is essentially an agreement to provide financial sponsorship for the relative upon their arrival.

In the event the citizen-sponsor does not meet the minimum qualifications for financial sponsorship, it will be necessary for another qualifying individual to make this commitment before the relative can immigrate.

The waiting period

It’s important to remember that filing Form I-130 only serves to establish the familial relationship between the citizen-sponsor and the relative and does not mean that they can immediately move to the U.S.

Indeed, USCIS indicates that relatives living outside the U.S. should remain in their native country until they are given the green light for a green card. An exception to this is that the spouses, unmarried children under 21 and parents of citizen-sponsors who originally entered the U.S. legally can apply to adjust their status to permanent resident at the same time the Form I-130 is filed.

Form I-130 and processing times

According to USCIS, it is impossible to provide an exact timeframe for the processing of Form I-130 given the number of variables involved. However, the agency does post updated processing times on its website.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about this process or any other family immigration matters.

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Just how hard is it to secure refugee or asylee status for a relative?

When a person is granted refugee or asylee status here in the U.S., it understandably comes as a great relief given that they are typically looking to escape persecution or otherwise dangerous conditions in their home nation.

In light of this reality, it’s understandable how people in these situations would want to see this same type of relief extended to family members who may be facing similar persecution or danger.

In today’s post, we’ll examine the steps a person can take to help their relatives secure refugee or asylee status here in the U.S.

How does a person even go about helping their relatives secure refugee or asylee status here in the U.S.?

In general, a person granted refugee or asylee status in the U.S. can help their relative secure the same status by filing the Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition otherwise known as Form I-730.

Are there any limitations on filing Form I-730?

Yes. An I-730 petition can only be filed within two years of being granted refugee or asylee status in the U.S.

In the event it has been longer than two years, officials with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services advise those looking to help a relative secure refugee or asylee status to consider speaking with a legal professional to explore other options.

Can you file Form I-730 on behalf of any relative?

Unfortunately, the Form I-730 may only be filed on behalf of 1) spouses or 2) unmarried children who were less than 21 years of age at the time the petitioner was granted refugee or asylee status in the U.S.

We will continue this discussion in a future post …

If you have questions about refugee or asylum-related matters, consider speaking with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and your options.

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What happens after a federal judge refuses to lift an immigration injunction?

A federal judge in Texas issued an injunction spoiling plans to start rolling out programs designed to realize the objectives spelled out in the administration’s historic executive order that would prevent the deportation of as many as five million undocumented immigrants.

The injunction was sought by the Attorneys General of 26 states who successfully argued that the administration had exceeded its authority such that the executive order was unconstitutional.

For their part, the administration filed a motion requesting that the injunction be lifted while an appeal was pursued, arguing that among other things that the 26 states lacked legal standing.

In recent developments, the federal judge refused to lift the injunction in a ruling handed down last Tuesday.

What did the ruling say?

In his ruling, the judge indicated that the administration had indeed exceeded his constitutional authority. Furthermore, he held that his actions in the executive order were violative of established administrative procedures and therefore could not be allowed to move forward during the pendency of the litigation.

Simply put, he refused to lift the injunction on the grounds that doing so would result in irreparable harm.

It is worth noting that he also called out Justice Department attorneys for misrepresenting the facts concerning whether any part of the executive order had already been implemented.

What happens next?

The Justice Department has filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit requesting that it lift the injunction and allow the immigration programs to roll out. Oral arguments are scheduled for later this week.

Any indication as to how the appeals court might decide the issue?

Legal experts are indicating that the appeals court might actually lift the injunction in light of a decision it made last week concerning a challenge filed by state officials and immigration agents concerning the executive order creating the Dream Act.

Here, the court found the arguments by state officials that allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. resulted in considerable expense, and the arguments by immigration agents that they were legally unable to detain undocumented immigrants unpersuasively. Specifically, they found that these plaintiffs suffered no harm because of the executive order and therefore lacked the legal standing to challenge it.

Legal experts say that this is significant given that the arguments heretofore made by the 26 AGs in the present matter are very similar to those made by the states and immigration agents.

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Immigration 4/29/21 – gtg

Exceptions to the naturalization test for elderly individuals

The naturalization test is the last step toward becoming a citizen of the United States. As many people know, however, the test is anything but easy. While diligent preparation is enough for some people to pass, others — including the elderly — have limitations that make it near impossible for them to even take the test. Fortunately, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offers exceptions and accommodations.

It is no secret that learning a new language at an old age is very difficult. When an elderly individual also lives with a medical disability, the English portion of the naturalization test is near impossible. For this reason, the first exemption applies to elderly individuals who do not speak English but have lived in the U.S. continuously for a substantial amount of time.

There are two rules regarding exemption from the English test, but not the civics test. The first states that if you have been a U.S. permanent resident for 20 years and you are at least 50 years old when you apply for citizenship, you will not have to take the English exam. The second says that if you have been a permanent resident for at least 15 years and are 55 or older, you are exempt from the English test.

Although people who are exempt from the English test under these rules must still take the civics exam, there are some accommodations allowed if language is the main barrier. You may take the civics exam in your native language as long as you bring an interpreter who is fluent in your language and English to assist with the interview portion.

Elderly individuals who also live with certain medical disabilities or mental impairments may be exempt from both the English and civics tests. To seek exemptions from both, you must file certain documentation that includes statements from a doctor explaining your diagnosis.

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Even if you think that you or your loved one is eligible for The path to U.S. citizenship can be quite complex

There are plenty of people who come to the U.S. seeking citizenship. Considering the process of citizenship can be complex, the celebrations when these requirements are met — and someone officially becomes a U.S. citizen — can be quite emotional, in a good way.

At our Law Office, we understand the complexities of the law surrounding citizenship and can help explain the different requirements. These requirements typically include living in the U.S. for a certain amount of time, being able to read, write and speak English, and having some knowledge of the government and history of the United States.

It should be noted though, the requirements do not stop there. In addition, it must be deemed that someone has a good moral character, is favorable to the U.S. and has some type of connection, or bond, to the U.S. Constitution.

For those interested in obtaining citizenship, all of these requirements can no doubt feel overwhelming. Understandably, there may also be questions on how to prove an attachment to the Constitution or one may wonder how much needs to actually be known about U.S. history in order to become a citizen.

At our Law Office, we can help answer the questions someone may have pertaining to immigration matters. We know that no two cases are the same. This is why we encourage those interested in obtaining U.S. citizenship to talk with our immigration law attorney. Exemption or accommodation, it is often beneficial to work closely with an experienced immigration attorney. The processes for seeking an exception can be complex, and it is important to handle it correctly when your citizenship is on the line.

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Why some green card holders are not pursuing citizenship

Becoming a legal U.S. citizen is something that people all over the world strive for. Many people spend years or even decades waiting for a visa or trying to complete the requirements necessary to even be eligible for citizenship. The process can be a long and hard one for many immigrants.

But why, then, are thousands of people who are eligible to apply for naturalization putting it off? Recent estimates put the number of people who choose not to naturalize, even though they have green cards, at about 40 percent. This may be a surprising statistic, especially to those who want nothing more than to become a naturalized citizen of the U.S. So why are so many people choosing not to become citizens?

There are many factors that sources say may play a role in a person’s decision against naturalization. Some people have such a strong national identity with their country of origin that becoming a citizen in another country makes them feel as though they are giving up a piece of themselves. Others are not allowed to have dual citizenship in the U.S. and other countries.

But there are a number of factors in a person’s decisions that have more to do with the citizenship and naturalization process in this country than anything else. For starters, there is a $680 fee just to apply. This may be too much money for some people, while others would rather use their money elsewhere. People also may fundamentally disagree with immigration policies or they may simply lack the desire to follow through with the confusing and overwhelming process, so they decide to just avoid it.

However, even though they are lawful permanent residents, green card holders who do not naturalize will face some challenges. They cannot vote or leave the country for extended periods of time. They are still at risk of being deported and they cannot access certain types of government assistance.

Even though the citizenship process in the United States can be complex and intimidating for people, it is something that many people do in order to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen. And with the help of an immigration attorney, it may be easier for people to successfully pursue and apply for citizenship.

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Seeking asylum: A difficult battle

The United States guarantees asylum to individuals who are in the country and can prove they have suffered persecution or have a legitimate fear that they will if they go back to their country of origin. This is one very viable path to citizenship in the country. Also, the country does not limit the number of people who can seek asylum. Nevertheless, immigrants seeking citizenship always face hurdles in their chances for a new life.

To obtain asylum privileges, candidates must make a case. This is usually completed through interviews with immigration officials. If they make an unsuccessful case, immigrants must return to their home country. However, it is important to know that the process is very difficult. Approximately 86,053 applicants sought asylum in the U.S. in one particular year, however, only 29 percent were victorious.

There are two ways to make a pitch for asylum: affirmative and defensive. Affirmative cases are initiated by applicants who are legally in the country at the moment. A defensive case is when someone is in the country illegally, and the filer is attempting to prevent deportation. Defensive applicants must present physical evidence, provide witnesses and submit proof of the conditions in their country of origin. Ultimately, they must include information to demonstrate that they were persecuted at home or would be if they returned.

The case for asylum is not easy. For this reason, it is best to retain a qualified immigration attorney in developing a case. Again, the burden of proof is very difficult. One mistake could lead to automatic deportation, which could send victims back into poor living conditions. To learn more about immigration options, contact an experienced lawyer in your area.

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H-1B visa controversy and requirements

Immigration is bound to be a major and divisive issue in a presidential election. While much of the media’s attention is paid to the issue of illegal immigration and how to handle the millions of undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the U.S., concerns have also been raised about those individuals who come to work in the U.S. on H-1B visas.

While opponents of this employment visa program argue that it only serves to take jobs away from Americans, proponents contend the program is necessary to ensure that U.S. companies remain competitive. Additionally, those who support the program also assert that U.S. companies are struggling to find enough qualified workers and that the visas are provided only to highly educated and skilled professionals in their respective fields.

In order to obtain an H-1B visa, an individual must be sponsored by a U.S. employer and be able to unequivocally demonstrate that an employer has the ability to “hire, pay, fire, supervise” and otherwise control one’s employment. H-1B visas are intended for individuals who possess at least a bachelor’s degree and are considered to be highly specialized in their respective fields.

Annually, only 65,000 H-1B visas are issued and the first 20,000 petitioners who possess a master’s degree or higher are exempt from this cap amount. Due to the cap on the number of H-1B visas that are issued, employers and employees who wish to participate would be wise to ensure that they submit all of the necessary paperwork and documentation in a timely manner.

An attorney who handles employment immigration matters can answer questions and assist in the H-1B visa application process. Additionally, for employees who are already in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, an attorney can assist in sorting out any issues related to a change in status or employment.

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The challenges of obtaining a non-immigration visa

In order to visit the United States, citizens of other countries must obtain a visa. In cases where an individual plans to travel to the U.S. as a tourist or visitor, he or she must apply and be awarded what’s know as a B-2 visa. However, the process of applying for even a non-immigrant visa can be laborious and requires that an individual complete the online DS-160 application.

Documents that must be provided with a visa application include copies of a valid passport, detailed itinerary of one’s planned travels to the U.S. as well as of any past U.S. travels and a current resume. Additionally, in some cases, B-2 visa applicants ages 14 to 79 may be required to complete an in-person interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their native country.

In cases where an individual subsequently learns that his or her visa application is denied, it’s important to understand why as well as the next steps one should take to appeal a visa denial.

As visa application denial should be accompanied by a document outlining the specific reason(s) for the denial. There are many reasons why a visa application may be denied including that the information provided was incomplete or insufficient and a prior criminal conviction. An individual who is denied a visa can choose to apply for a waiver of ineligibility or reapply.

At times, individuals who are experiencing difficulty obtaining a non-immigrant or immigrant visa may benefit from the advice and assistance of a U.S. immigration attorney. An attorney will work to understand an individual’s specific reasons for wanting to travel to the U.S. as well as why he or she has been denied a visa. Based on this information, an immigration attorney can assist with the process of reapplying for a visa and help improve an individual’s chances of securing a visa.

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Helping individuals and families overcome immigration challenges

According to the Migration Policy Institute, as of 2013, an estimated 41.3 million immigrants were living in the United States. Historically, the U.S. has been the preferred destination for millions of foreign-born individuals and families who are seeking a better life. In fact, while the U.S. “represents less than five percent of the global population,” an estimated 20 percent of the world’s immigrants come to the U.S.

Perhaps more than ever, the U.S. is deeply divided over whether or how to accommodate the influx of foreign-born individuals. While, in recent years, the administration has made attempts and some headway with regard to immigration policy reform, for many, the immigration process remains a long, convoluted and often futile process.

Whether an individual is in the U.S. illegally and facing deportation or is engaged to a U.S. citizen and is making plans to come to the U.S. on a fiancé visa, an attorney who handles immigration matters can assist. There are numerous forms, deadlines and requirements that must be properly filled out and met. In some cases, a simple error or misunderstanding can delay or derail an individual’s plans to immigrate to the U.S.

Individuals can contact our Law Office to obtain high-quality legal representation. We have helped individuals and families who are facing numerous types of immigration issues and problems. We are well-versed in all areas of immigration law and take a personal stance in every case and are committed to helping individuals successfully overcome immigration challenges.

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The economics of U.S. immigration policies

There’s no doubt that the United States’ immigration policies are complicated and controversial. Increasingly, the issue has also become highly political with the majority of Republicans favoring anti-immigration policies and Democrats, less restrictive immigration policies.

While it’s easy to become distracted by all of the political posturing and rhetoric, when discussing U.S. immigration, it’s important to examine the issue from an economic standpoint. There were an estimated “11.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.” Increasingly, these immigrants are women and children who are fleeing the drug-related violence that is ravaging much of Central America.

While some politicians favor the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, the repercussions and costs associated with these types of actions are significant. Both conservative and liberal political think tanks estimate that the costs of deporting the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants would total between $104 and $304 billion. Additionally, the U.S. would also lose out on the estimated $11.84 billion in annual tax contributions made by undocumented immigrants.

Currently, annually the U.S. spends approximately $5 billion each year to arrest, detain and deport an average of 403,563 undocumented immigrants. In contrast, the Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that a comprehensive reform of existing immigration policies would “reduce federal deficits by $1.2 trillion,” and “spur economic growth by 4.8 percent,” by the year 2035.

When examined, anti-immigration policies including mass deportation ultimately only serve to harm the U.S. economy. Despite this compelling evidence, the issue of U.S. immigration is likely to continue to be a divisive issue in presidential elections for many more years to come.

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After asylum has been granted

The process of petitioning for asylum here in the U.S. can be a very legally complex one. It can also be a very emotional one, given how much can be at stake for the person seeking asylum. Thus, when a petitioner for asylum has their petition granted, they may feel a massive amount of relief.

An important thing to note though is that being granted asylum might not represent the end of the immigration-related legal matters for an asylum seeker. Often, such individuals will have additional immigration issues to address after the granting of asylum.

For one, such individuals may have family members who wish to also have granted asylum in America. Thus, they may have legal matters related to petitioning for asylum for such family members.

Also, an individual may, after being granted asylum in the U.S., wish to become a permanent resident of the country. There is a legal process by which individuals granted asylum can apply for such an adjustment of status, provided sufficient time has passed since the granting of asylum.

Post-asylum-grant immigration issues, like the ones discussed above, generally have many rules and requirements connected to them and have numerous complicated aspects. Our firm can help individuals who have been granted asylum in the U.S. with navigating the processes related to immigration matters that have arisen for them following the granting of asylum. We understand how important these legal matters can be and strive to provide our clients with compassionate, strong, and knowledgeable legal support to help them address such matters.

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You don’t need to panic if your petition is denied

There’s no question that it can be utterly devastating to be on the receiving end of an otherwise unfavorable decision handed down by either an immigration judge or an official with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Indeed, imagine learning that your attempt to secure U.S. citizenship via the naturalization process has been denied or that your bid to secure a nonimmigrant visa has been denied after months of anxious waiting.

As discouraging as all of this can be, it’s imperative to understand that this may not be the end of the road, as you may have viable legal options in these situations.

For instance, depending on the circumstances, you may be able to file a motion to have your case reopened and the denial reviewed, or even file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Our firm understands how difficult this uncertainty over immigration matters can be for people and their families. As such, we always conduct a timely yet comprehensive review designed to determine whether an appeal or motion to reopen is appropriate in a given case and, if so, take the necessary measures.

Our founding attorney has considerable experience with all manner of immigration law issues and has successfully reopened immigration cases many times. He is prepared to help with any and all immigration appeals.

It is important to note, however, that any appeal must be undertaken within 30 days of the immigration judge’s decision, meaning time is truly of the essence.

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What business travelers need to know about B-1 visas

Advancements in communication technology have served to transform the face of international business. Indeed, a live video teleconference can now be held between parties separated by an entire ocean with just a few clicks, while email and live chat facilitate regular, instantaneous communication for multinational corporations.

Despite the relative ease with which international parties can now communicate, business travel nevertheless remains an absolute necessity. In recognition of this fact, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has long offered those looking to enter the country temporarily for business purposes the chance to secure what is known as a B-1 visa.

Those seeking a B-1 visa to enter the U.S. must first be able to demonstrate that their trip is for a legitimate business purpose.

While a complete breakdown of all the activities that constitute legitimate business purposes for B-1 visas is clearly beyond the scope of a single blog post, here are some of the more commonly accepted reasons for temporary business travel to the U.S.

Consultation with associates
Settling of an estate
Contract negotiations
Training
Conventions, conferences, trade shows, business events, etc.
Investment
It should be noted that it won’t be enough for B-1 visa applicants to simply identify one of these business purposes. Rather, they will have to meet certain criteria.

To illustrate, any B-1 visa applicant looking to enter the U.S. for training must be able to demonstrate that they will not receive any sort of payment or reimbursement from a U.S.-based entity outside of expense allowance/reimbursement connected with their stay and that the training is not designed as a mechanism for employment.

We’ll continue to explore this topic, taking a closer look at the remaining eligibility requirements for B-1 visas and other pertinent information, including the period of stay provided to business travelers.

In the meantime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have any questions about securing a B-1 visa or non-immigrant visa.

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Why the U.S. asylum process must be overhauled

A recent Buzzfeed article entitled, “The U.S. Asylum System is Completely Overwhelmed,” highlights the many problems facing what critics charge is an outdated and woefully inadequate part of the U.S. immigration system. In recent years, individuals fleeing the gang and drug violence that has ravaged many Central American countries and Mexico have flooded across U.S. borders. In an effort to stay in the U.S. and avoid deportation back to what for many may be certain death, the number of U.S. asylum cases has grown exponentially.

In January of 2012, the number of asylum cases was just 12,500. As of June, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported that some 95,000 asylum cases were pending. Despite the significant increase in the number of persecuted and desperate individuals seeking to stay in the U.S., the number of asylum cases being processed and decided has not kept pace. Consequently, many asylum seekers are caught in limbo and those who are already in the U.S. are not allowed to legally work or collect any type of federal benefits.

With violent wars and conflicts being waged throughout the Middle East and North Africa, millions of displaced people are fleeing to Europe. As European countries struggle to take in people fleeing from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya; the U.S. has come under criticism for doing too little with regard to helping with the resettlement process.

USCIS records show that currently, the U.S. has granted asylum to a total of 1,078 Syrians. This number pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands that European countries like Germany have pledged to take in and adds legitimacy to the notion that the U.S. asylum process isn’t only overwhelmed, but—bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape—also broken.

Individuals who wish to seek asylum in the U.S. are often quickly overwhelmed and discouraged by the complicated and lengthy process. An attorney who handles immigration matters can assist in filing an Application for Asylum and for Withholding Removal and provide strong legal advocacy.

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The path to U.S. citizenship is often complicated and full of roadblocks

According to the Migration Policy Institute, roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population are “first or second-generation” immigrants. As countries to the south and across the Atlantic continue to be plagued by economic hardships, violence, and political and religious conflicts; it’s likely that the number of people attempting to immigrate, both legally and illegally, to the U.S. will continue to increase.

While the issue and associated problems of illegal immigration are widely publicized, less so are the issues facing the millions of immigrants who attempt to navigate the U.S. immigration process legally to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

According to CNN, annually, an average of 7,000 people become naturalized U.S. citizens. For most, the process to legal U.S. citizenship is a long, complicated and frustrating one. Depending on an individual’s situation, there are a few different paths to U.S. citizenship. For example, in cases where one of a child’s parents is a U.S. citizen, the child is also considered a U.S. citizen regardless of where he or she was born. Additionally, even if a child’s parents are unauthorized immigrants, if born in the U.S., he or she is considered a U.S. citizen.

For an adult who wishes to become a U.S. citizen, the process typically requires the status of being a permanent resident. In order to be considered a permanent resident, an individual must have a valid green card and live in the U.S. for at least five years. Additionally, an individual must be at least age 18, have been physically in the U.S. “for at least 30 months out of the five years,” be of “good moral character” and be able to read, write and speak English.

However, even individuals who fulfill these requirements aren’t guaranteed U.S. citizenship. There may be many roadblocks along the way including green card problems, denied applications and threats of deportation. For these reasons, an individual who has the goal of becoming a U.S. citizen is encouraged to seek the advice and help of an attorney who handles immigration matters.

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A closer look at the process of securing a Green Card

It can be a dream come true when the federal government grants a person authorization to both work and live here in the U.S. on a permanent basis, a reality evidenced by the issuing of a permanent resident card, or, as it is more commonly known, a Green Card.

As exciting as the prospect of someday holding a Green Card can be, however, it’s important to understand that the process of getting there is by no means easy thanks in large part to a rather complex set of eligibility requirements mandated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In today’s post, the first in an ongoing series, we’ll begin filling in some of the blanks as they relate to these eligibility requirements for permanent residence.

An overview

At the outset, anyone looking to secure a Green Card should know that there are four eligibility requirements that must be satisfied, including:

Eligibility under an immigrant category set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act, including family, employment, refugee/asylum and other special categories
Filing and approval of a qualifying immigrant petition
Availability of a visa
Admissibility to the U.S.
Immigrant category eligibility: Family

Those seeking to secure a Green Card may be sponsored by a relative who has secured either citizenship or permanent residency here in the U.S.

In fact, those who qualify as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens — including spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents — will not be required to wait for a visa, as Congress has placed no limit on the number of these visas issued in a given year, and can file their application for a Green Card immediately.

As for those family members who don’t qualify as immediate relatives, a relative who has secured either citizenship or permanent residency here in the U.S. can still sponsor them. However, these relatives will have to wait for a visa to first become available before they can file their Green Card application.

We’ll continue exploring Green Card eligibility requirements in our next post, including the visa preferences assigned to non-immediate family members.

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Confused by the changes to permanent resident fee-payment rules?

Some changes were recently made to the procedures at the U.S. Department of State for paying the fees required for family-based immigrants seeking lawful permanent residence in the U.S., or “green cards.” Depending on your situation, there may be two fees.

Every immigrant applying for permanent residency must pay the U.S. Immigrant Visa fee to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you’re applying for a green card and are already in the U.S., you will also need to pay a separate fee to the Department of State’s National Visa Center to process your I-864 Affidavit of Support.

The reason this can be confusing is the requirements for who has to pay these fees and when. Either the immigrant or the petitioner (also called the sponsor) can pay the processing fee for the I-864 affidavit, although it is more commonly paid by the petitioner. It can be paid by a transfer from a checking account, a certified check or a money order. The fee is currently set at $88 for those applying for permanent residency from within the U.S.

Once you’ve filed the I-864 affidavit and the National Visa Center is ready to process it, the center will send an invoice for the fee to your petitioner, along with payment instructions.

Next, is the U.S. Immigrant Visa Fee paid to the USCIS. This is required for processing and producing your green card, currently $165. The rules for payment are different for this fee.

Only the immigrant can legally pay this fee, although one person can pay for all accompanying family members.
It is to be paid online, and only by a credit card, a debit card, or transfer from a checking account — not a money order or certified check.
The immigrant has up to a year to pay the fee.
If you don’t pay the fee within a year, it won’t technically affect your status as a lawful permanent resident, but the USCIS will not issue you a green card until you pay. Therefore, the agency recommends you pay this fee after you receive your visa packet but before you enter the U.S. if you’re applying from abroad.

You should also know that fee waivers are available in certain circumstances. Check with an immigration lawyer or the USCIS for more information.

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How to remove the conditions on your green card after marriage

You know that you married your spouse because you loved him or her because you couldn’t imagine living life without that person.

Sadly, the U.S. immigration authorities are not so romantic. They fear that too many people will decide to get married simply to gain green cards in America. For this reason, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) only grants conditional green cards to those whose permanent residency status is based on a marriage less than two years old.

The good news is that you can apply to have the “conditional” part removed. The bad news is that if you don’t apply for this, USCIS will begin removal (deportation) proceedings against you.

You can generally apply to have the conditions removed if you got married in good faith and one of the following is true:

Two years have passed and you are still married.
Your spouse passed away.
You got divorced or had the marriage annulled.
You or your child was battered or abused by your spouse.
If your marriage ended in divorce or if you are a victim of abuse, you must also prove that being removed from the country would mean “extreme hardship” for you.

If you believe that you qualify to have the conditions removed on your residency status, you must apply together with your husband or wife. If filing a joint petition is impossible (due to divorce or abuse, for instance), you can request a waiver.

As with all immigration law issues throughout the U.S., it is wise to consult a lawyer experienced in these matters. He or she can provide the detailed legal guidance you need to remain in the country legally.

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Part 10 of the Application for Naturalization: Check yes or no?

There is any number of offenses that would bar a permanent resident from becoming a U.S. citizen. Checking yes to any of the questions in Part 10 of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services form N-400 Application for Naturalization would certainly raise some eyebrows if you didn’t have a very good written explanation to accompany your application.

Part 10 is a list of 40 additional questions that seek to get to the core of your moral character and figure out what type of you people you hang out with. The questions include sections addressing your voting record, tax returns, mental health and capacity, your association with groups like the Communist Party, any terrorist organizations, and the Nazi’s, your arrest record or criminal charges of any kind, your past alcohol use, sexual and gambling habits, and any prior military service.

A couple of things that may be a barrier to you successfully achieving citizenship unless and until you correct them could include not filing taxes, not paying child or spousal support, and not registering for selective service. In each instance, you can correct any payments or tax filings that are in arrears and they will be forgiven. Men can and must register for the draft at any time between the ages of 18 and 26.

However, you do not need to be able to prove that you are self-sufficient to be a U.S. citizen. Permanent residents receiving public assistance or welfare cannot be excluded from achieving naturalization. In fact, if you are receiving assistance, you may qualify to have the $680 filing fee waived.

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Students ask governor to endorse Dream Act

Students and immigration advocates rallied today in support of what is being called the Dream Act. Federal legislation called The Dream Act would give permanent resident status to undocumented students and military service members brought illegally to the U.S. by their parents. However, the federal bill is currently stalled in Congress so many states have created their own. Many would like to see there governor endorse it.

Thirteen states allow unauthorized immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Only three states – Texas, New Mexico and California allow them government tuition aid. In addition to allowing students to go to school, today’s rally attendants would like to see all states assist with educational funding as well. The Dream Fund legislation would ensure that all students, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, have access to public and private tuition assistance.

Proponents of the legislation say there are more than 4 million immigrants in New York so the proposed bill just makes economic sense. Touted as an investment in intellectual capital, we know that people with a bachelor’s degree earn more on average than those with a high school diploma. This legislation would give young people a chance to make it at least into the middle class.

The Dream Act would allow children, who were brought here by their parents, a boost onto a path of legal immigrant status, education and productive citizenship.

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Immigration law precedent set with block of day labor rule

Residents may be interested in a recent judgment that is setting immigration law precedence and tone across the country.

Whittling away at a 2010 immigration enforcement law in Arizona, a federal judge ruled that the First Amendment rights of people seeking or offering day-labor services were more important than enforcing traffic safety. Apparently, when police noticed drivers stopping to pick up workers seeking manual labor for the day, they felt it created a traffic problem. Safety concerns, distractions to drivers, damage to property, and trespassing were also cited as causes for the day labor provision in the law. While drivers were blocking traffic in the street waiting for the workers to enter their vehicle, officers were questioning the workers about their immigration status.

The judge noted that crackdowns on undocumented immigrants have nothing to do with traffic safety. Therefore, the judge said officers should defer to existing traffic laws that prevent motorists and pedestrians from endangering others. Not, she said, an immigration law with a clearly stated objective of reducing the numbers of illegal residents by enforcing new state and federal policies.

In 2010, the same judge blocked other portions of the law that would require police officers to question the immigration status of people they suspect are in the state illegally. The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear the governor’s appeal of some of the judge’s decisions.

Solicitation laws and ordinances in other states and jurisdictions have also been thrown out by other judges on grounds that they restrict free speech.

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Undocumented workers do not affect the U.S. unemployment rate, wages

Employers may be interested in knowing that the use of undocumented workers does not have a noticeable impact on the nationwide unemployment rate, according to a new study. While the argument that getting rid of undocumented workers would solve all of our nation’s unemployment woes, that simply is not the case. Nor does the hiring of undocumented workers affect the wage levels of citizens in the same position.

According to research conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the earning potential of citizens at firms that employ undocumented workers only has a variable impact of $56 or less per year. In fact, the study also found that companies that utilize alien workers, particularly in retail, hospitality and leisure industries, allow their citizens to earn more money because the employees are able to specialize in specific areas of their industry.

The Department of Homeland Security says there approximately 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in our workforce. This study suggests that the unemployment rates would still remain the same, even if we got rid of all the undocumented workers. While some various state anti-immigration laws are written with the expectation that it would be easier for job-seekers to find work if there were fewer undocumented immigrants, the unemployment rates and wage levels would not change.

Immigration law will continue to be a hot-button issue throughout presidential elections, as new proposed laws authorize police to request proof of citizenship from anyone detained and Mitt Romney has proposed the idea of self-deportation for illegal immigrants.

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ICE arrests thousands in a six-day nationwide operation

At the beginning of this month, officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security, and other state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies arrested nearly 3,200 immigrants. More than 1,900 officers in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and three U.S. territories collaborated during the six-day operation to detain and remove convicted criminal aliens.

In one area, 127 immigration fugitives and violators were arrested. One of those arrested was a 46-year-old man who was convicted of manslaughter in 1985 and had been at large ever since.

According to ICE, 50 percent of those arrested had multiple criminal convictions, 149 were convicted sex offenders and another 50 were gang members. Many of those arrested were immigration fugitives who had been ordered to leave the country but never did. In addition, 559 of those arrested had re-entered the U.S. after deportation.

More than 200 of those arrested were presented for prosecution in the court system on a variety of charges, including re-entry which is a felony and carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail.

This was the third national “Cross Check” operation conducted for the removal of individuals who have been determined to be a threat to public safety including criminal aliens, repeat immigration law violators, recent border entrants, fugitives with a final order of removal, and those who pose a threat to national security. Federal authorities have deported a record 400,000 immigrants in the last year alone.

In the wake of Congress being unable to pass an immigration reform bill, some states have drafted their own immigration laws. The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case later this month in which the Department of Justice is challenging a state law because the DOJ claims that immigration is strictly a federal matter.

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Lawsuit seeks family immigration rights for married gay couples

A lawsuit was filed in federal court by immigration advocates on behalf of five gay married couples. All five include an American and their immigrant spouses from Spain, Japan, South Africa, Venezuela and England. The suit claims that current federal law prevents them from sponsoring their foreign-born spouse for a green card.

Though all five couples were legally married in states that recognize same-sex marriages, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, does not. Without the federal government recognizing gay and lesbian couples as legally married, they are unable to utilize their married status for immigration purposes as heterosexual couples do. According to the suit, the plaintiffs, in this case, meet all the qualifications for immediate family immigration benefits, except they are lesbian or gay. If they were straight, the federal government would automatically recognize the spouse as an immediate relative. The lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and officials with the Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In 2010, a challenge to DOMA filed also denied gay married couples other benefits granted to hetero-married couples including filing joint tax returns. The states that recognize same-sex marriage include Washington, Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, New York, Connecticut and the District of Columbia.

Under normal circumstances, immigrants who marry a U.S. citizen can apply for a green card or permanent residency immediately. Heterosexual couples can also qualify for other benefits like fiancé visas and work authorization. The waiting period for a green card after marrying a U.S. citizen is usually six months to two years.

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Mayor wants the US to grant green cards to students

One Mayor thinks the rest of the country can benefit from recruiting immigrant students. Immigrants have contributed vastly here where some boroughs would be ghost towns if it weren’t for the arrival of new residents who made them vital again. The Mayor feels that cities can thrive once again if the U.S. government would overhaul immigration policies for permanent residents.

Start with bringing students from around the world, he says, and then keep them here. Especially in today’s digital age where we consistently need an expanding number of workers in science and technology fields. It is estimated that in the near future, American companies are going to need 2.8 million high-tech staffers and our colleges and universities will only graduate a projected half million of them.

The U.S. grants a mere 7 percent of green cards based on our employment requirements, whereas Canada provides 25 percent and Australia gives out 42 percent, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. Yet, our foreign students dominate the tech and science programs, but we don’t keep them here. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency’s crackdown on undocumented workers has inflicted economic damage and will continue to do so, the mayor says.

The mayor says we should import and educate both low and high-tech students to fill the need of our workforce. Without doing so, he says we will never be able to continue growing the financial health of the country.

Currently, once students complete their initial schooling, they can apply to a graduate program, or transfer to a different program at the same school or another school. They can participate in optional practical training which allows them to work in the U.S. after their program end date. Students can also change their visa classification.

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Expansion of shared fingerprint program meets protests

Immigrants and activists rallied last Monday to protest the federal “Secure Communities Program.” The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement national program include the sharing of information – including fingerprints – between state and local police and federal immigration officials.

The ICE sees the initiative as a tool for finding and deporting illegal aliens that commit crimes. Opponents to the new immigration law program believe the program is akin to racial profiling and will result in the deportation of people who only commit minor crimes. In addition, they believe the initiative may actually result in less secure communities because of a strained relationship between immigrants and police.

In fact, one immigrant who has been in this country illegally for 20 years says she is now afraid to call the police and believes the new program will result in more domestic violence. Another opponent predicts it will lead to the deportation of productive immigrants and cost the state millions of dollars.

Here’s how it works: local police routinely take your fingerprints if you’re booked into jail. They send the prints to the FBI for a criminal record check. The FBI then sends them to the Homeland Security Department to cross-reference the prints with immigration files. ICE then determines how to pursue the matter from there.

Currently implemented in various jurisdictions in 48 states, the Secure Communities program will be in place nationwide by the end of the year. Officials say they made changes o the program as a result of various state concerns. As a result, ICE created a public advocate position and civil rights training for police.

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New strategy significantly decreases the number of migrants

A new strategy for the U.S. Border Patrol included doubling agents and identifying repeat crossers. The result? Apprehensions made on the Mexican border last year were down 80 percent. It was the slowest year since 1971.

The newest approach to dealing with illegal immigration uses more detailed, targeted approaches to identify migrants who continually attempt to cross into the states. By identifying repeat offenders and figuring out why they keep attempting to cross, authorities can then figure out what kind of a threat they are from a national security standpoint.

The new approach also includes harsher penalties. No longer is the border patrol just turning people around and sending them home. More serious consequences are being imposed on crossers depending on where they fall into seven categories. They call it a “Consequence Delivery System” and label migrants as first-time offenders all the way up to criminals. According to the 32-page document that took two years to develop, the border patrol may still give children and those who are very ill a free pass by sending them back to Mexico at the closest crossing without being fingerprinted.

Punishments vary from state to state, but the new strategy does not include expanding physical barriers like fences. It also includes making the identification of corrupt border patrol agents a top priority.

As a result of the last major border patrol strategy, the nation spent $1 billion on a network of radars, ground sensors and cameras along the border. Resources were focused on Texas and California borders, thus forcing migrants into the deserts and mountains of Arizona.

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The nonjudgmental immigrant language adopted by SCOTUS

In the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on an immigration case, the judges purposefully omitted the words “illegal immigrants” and “illegal aliens,” and opted for a more humanistic language approach to our immigration law. The court used words like “removable alien” and “undocumented worker” and “foreign national” instead.

The argument implies that using the term “illegal” insinuates that the person as a whole is illegal, not just their actions. In fact, even migrant workers in the U.S. are not considered criminals. Yes, they are subject to deportation, but only through administrative procedures, not criminal proceedings, where judges have the ability to grant some foreign nationals the right to stay in the country.

The term “illegal immigrant” was actually introduced just before World War II to describe Jews who fled the Nazis and entered other countries without authorization. Therefore, it stands to reason that a New York Times editorial writer argued that the word “illegal” is a code word for ethnic and/or racial hatred.

Because the term “illegal immigrant” conjures up visions of people sneaking over, under, or across a fence into the country, many associate the term with a negative connotation. Yet, we have at least 38,000 undocumented soldiers in the U.S. armed forces. In fact, the first U.S. soldier to die in the Iraq War was undocumented and granted citizenship posthumously.

In its latest immigration policy ruling, the Supreme Court declared that it is not a crime for non-citizens to remain in this county and find unauthorized employment. Removal of an undocumented worker is a civil matter, not a criminal one. Therefore, using unbiased language that does not promote continued stereotyping, hatred, or bigotry to describe this large population may be the way to go. Labels and language determine and define one’s attitudes and thoughts.

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Should illegal immigrants be allowed to practice the law?

While federal law prohibits employers from hiring illegal workers, there is no law prohibiting employers from hiring contractors without asking for proof of citizenship. Therefore, a Law graduate has opened a lobbying agency to help so-called Dreamers – children brought into this country illegally – find their path toward citizenship.

They are called Dreamers because of the success of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, laws. But the DREAM Act was not passed federally, so some states have passed their own versions. Here’s where it gets tricky and the state bar associations are seeking guidance.

State Supreme Courts in California and Florida are weighing whether or not two illegal immigrants who passed their state bar exams should be admitted to the bar and allowed to practice law. While both men passed their perspective bar exams, they are still technically illegal aliens. Both state bar associations have asked their highest courts to weigh in on the decision.

One gentleman who was unable to provide proof of citizenship when he showed up to take the bar exam initially received a waiver from his state bar. The other was already sworn in at his courthouse as a lawyer, but officials are reexamining his status after repeated media inquiries.

Many say that the odds don’t look good for these two. However, the U.S. House of Representatives recently proposed “Startup Act 2.0,” which would make it easier for immigrant students of U.S. colleges that graduate with a STEM degree (science, technology, engineering and math) to stay in the country after completing school.

Certainly, anyone who completes law school would fall under that category.

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Portions of DREAM Act enacted with executive order

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, has garnered a lot of attention and raised many hopes this year. The federal legislation would give permanent resident status to undocumented students and military service members brought illegally to the U.S. by their parents. Because Congress has been unable to pass the bill at the federal level, many states have attempted to adopt their own versions.

Nonetheless, the administration announced an executive order last month whereby, the United States will stop actively deporting young undocumented residents. In essence, the U.S. Immigration Law was changed by executive order. Some say the President essentially and unilaterally enacted portions of the Dream Act, bypassing Congress. There are approximately 11 million undocumented migrants, and this order will apply to about 800,000 of them.

What, exactly, does it mean?

If you were brought to this country under the age of 16 and you are now under the age of 30, have lived in this country at least five years, are currently in school or have at least a high school diploma, honorably discharged from the military, and have no criminal history, you can gain citizenship to the U.S.

The ideas behind the DREAM Act are not new. The bipartisan bill has been introduced every year in Congress during the past decade. The legislation passed in the House of Representatives in 2011, but not the Senate.

Immigration advocacy groups are warning young immigrants to beware of fraudulent organizations targeting youngsters affected by the DRAM Act offering to help with citizen “applications.”

In addition, the country’s top universities sent a letter to the president just last week seeking new laws that would make it easier for international graduates to stay in America after graduation and create new jobs.

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