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.


Even if you think that you or your loved one is eligible. 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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
Conventions, conferences, trade shows, business events, etc.
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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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