OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES EFFORTS TO COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
September 25, 2012
In March 2012, President Obama directed his Cabinet to redouble the Administration’s efforts to eliminate human trafficking, which afflicts more than 20 million people around the world, including in communities here at home. Today, building on the strong record of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and its member agencies, the President is announcing several initiatives:
- Executive Order Strengthening Protections in Federal Contracts: (See news post below)
- Tools and Training to Identify and Assist Trafficking Victims: The Administration is providing human trafficking training and guidance to federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and immigration judges; to commercial transportation officials; to state and local law enforcement partners; and to state workforce agencies and educators. Through this training, these professionals will be better equipped to detect trafficking wherever it exists, and to help ensure that victims are always treated as victims and not criminals.
- Increased Resources for Victims of Human Trafficking: The Administration is announcing initiatives to expand services and legal assistance to victims of trafficking, and will partner with Humanity United, with support from the Goldman Sachs Foundation, to launch $6 million in Partnership for Freedom Innovation Awards to challenge local communities to develop collaborative and comprehensive solutions to help trafficking victims. The Administration also will work to streamline current procedures for the existing T-visa process, which allows victims to remain in the United States and aid the prosecution of their traffickers. In addition, the President is announcing his intent to establish a new Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which will be awarded annually to incentivize and recognize exceptional contributions in the field.
- Comprehensive Plan for Future Action: The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking in Persons will develop the first-ever federal strategic action plan to strengthen services for trafficking victims. In a related effort, the interagency Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center (HSTC) will develop its first-ever domestic human trafficking assessment to track trends within the United States, enabling both law enforcement and service providers to deploy resources more effectively. These efforts will be assisted by the intelligence community, which is increasing its focus on human trafficking internationally, and working more closely with the HSTC here at home.
EXECUTIVE ORDER STRENGTHENING PROTECTIONS AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS IN FEDERAL CONTRACTS
September 25, 2012
Building on the Obama Administration’s existing efforts to end human trafficking, today the President
signed an Executive Order to strengthen protections against trafficking in persons in federal contracting.
The new Executive Order strengthens the efficacy of the U.S. Government’s zero-tolerance policy on trafficking in persons by directing the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council, working with the appropriate agencies, to amend federal contracting regulations to:
- Prohibit contractors and subcontractors from engaging in specific trafficking-related activities.
- Apply new, tailored compliance measures for larger contracts performed abroad.
The Executive Order also:
- Establishes a process to identify industries and sectors that have a history of human trafficking, to enhance compliance on domestic contracts.
- Augments training and heightens agencies’ ability to detect and address trafficking violations.
Read more here
MORE GREEN CARDS TO BE TRANSFERRED TO THE EB CATEGORY
There will be a critical vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on a high-skill immigration
reform bill tomorrow, September 21st or Friday the 22nd.
The bill, H.R. 6429, will transfer 55,000 green cards from the Diversity Visa Program to the EB visa program, making them available to international students who earn Masters or PhDs in STEM fields from American universities. The bill will allow international students to move quickly from their student visas to a green card without, in most cases, having to use an H-1B.
By encouraging the best graduates from our universities to become Americans and by reducing the use of H-1B visas, H.R. 6429 will help create American jobs and improve our economy's competitiveness while at the same time protecting American jobs and wages.
IEEE members who support high-skill visa reform should contact their members of Congress TODAY by visiting www.ieeeusa.org/policy/lac. Even a few letters from concerned constituents will have a huge impact on tomorrow's vote.
USCIS Accepting Deferred Action (DREAM ACT) Applications on August 15th
15, 2012, USCIS will be accepting applications for "Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals," commonly known as "DACA." There are a few things to know about this process:
- There is NO WAY to expedite or "special access for a fee" to "speed up" the processing time. Anyone claiming to have a way to get a quick decision is not being truthful or is misinformed.
- USCIS' decision is discretionary. This means that USCIS has the final authority to issue a decision. There is no appeal of the process. For this reason, it is HIGHLY ADVISABLE to retain a knowledgeable attorney.
- The applications are kept private from ICE and Border Patrol. Therefore, if your application is denied, you WILL NOT be put into removal proceedings UNLESS you fall under the criteria for a "Notice to Appear" found here.
- Affidavits without additional information is INSUFFICIENT. Other evidence of physical presence and residency are required.
- There are NO fee waivers, but there are fee exemptions. However, if you file for
a fee exemption, a separate process must be completed before submitting an application for Deferred Action.
Fee exemptions delay the DACA process. Information on fee exemptions can be found here.
- The total filing fee is $465.00 and covers the DACA application and work authorization application.
- The work authorization is good for 2 years, after which time it can be renewed for a fee.
- "Brief travel outside the U.S." does not bar you from receiving Deferred Action. If you ever traveled abroad since entering the U.S., it is advisable to hire an experienced attorney so he or she can show that the travel was "brief." IF YOU TRAVEL AFTER JUNE 15, 2012, YOU WILL BE INELIGIBLE FOR DACA (unless you obtain a travel document in advance).
- DACA applies to anyone who has a voluntary departure order from a Judge, are in removal, or have a final order of removal from a Judge.
- ANYONE WITH ANY CRIMINAL BACKGROUND SHOULD HIRE AN ATTORNEY TO FILE THE APPLICATION.
PLEASE NOTE THAT LEGAL FEES FOR FILING DACA APPLICATIONS VARIES GREATLY.
To see if you qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, check here.
For more information on the filing process for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, check here.
New USCIS Policy for OPT Application Deadlines
As reported by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, some USCIS Service Centers are reviewing F-1 Optional Practical Training applications more carefully. When filing an OPT application, there are several deadlines to consider. The I-765 must be filed 90 days prior to the end of the student’s program end-date. After the DCO enters a recommendation of OPT into the student’s SEVIS record, the students has 30 days to file the I-765 with USCIS. The I-20 submitted with the I-765 must have been endorsed by the DSO in the 30 days prior to the filing.
USCIS policy up to this point has been to send a Request for Evidence requiring a new I-20 every time the OPT application was received more than 30 days after the DSO’s recommendation on SEVIS. Now, USCIS is more strongly enforcing the 30 day limit and denying applications submitted after that point. OPT applications should thus be filed in a timely fashion in order to avoid denial.
If a student is unable to file the I-765 and I-20 within 30 days of the OPT recommendation in SEVIS, the DSO should cancel the original recommendation in SEVIS and enter a new one, triggering a new 30-day period. Issuing a new I-20 without cancelling the original recommendation is no longer acceptable.
New Study Reveals the Demand for H-1B Immigrant Workers in U.S. Metropolitan Areas
In its latest report, “The Search for Skills: Demand for H-1B Immigrant Workers in U.S. Metropolitan Areas,” the Brookings Institute urges the government to develop an “independent standing commission on labor and immigration removed from politics that can adjust the cap for H-1B visa applicants based on local employer skills needs and regional economic indicators.” The Institute’s findings indicate that over two-thirds of all requests for H-1B visas are for STEM jobs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), which are the hardest positions to fill by employers. Additionally, the distribution of H-1B visa requests is disproportionate throughout the country’s metropolitan areas.
Read the whole report here.
Read CNN's coverage of the report here.
Deferred Action Process for Young People Who Are Low Enforcement Priorities
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) alerts eligible individuals NOT to submit a deferred action request under the Deferred Action Process for Young People memorandum issued by Secretary Napolitano on June 15. If you submit now, your application will be rejected. The Secretary’s directive gives USCIS 60 days to create a process to accept these requests and we are unable to accept requests at this time. Please continue to check USCIS’ website for updates: http://www.uscis.gov
Supreme Court upholds most of Affordable Care Act
On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld President Obama's health care overhaul, citing Congress' power to levy taxes as the authority to mandate that Americans obtain health insurance or face penalties. Chief Justice Roberts, writing the majority opinion, stated, “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax."
See the Court's opinion here.
Obama Supports Supreme Court's Ruling on Arizona v. United States
"I am pleased that the Supreme Court has struck down key provisions of Arizona's immigration law. What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform. A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem."
Read the full comment here.
DHS to Offer Deferred Action to Eligible DREAMers
DHS will formally announce this morning that it will offer deferred action to DREAMers.
Under the “deferred action” policy, students in the U.S. who are already in deportation proceedings or those who qualify for the DREAM Act and have yet to come forward to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, will not be deported and will be allowed to work in the United States. An estimated 1 million young people could benefit from the deferral. To be eligible, the student must:
- Be 15-30 years old, and have entered before age 16
- Have been present in the U.S. for 5 years as of June 15, 2012
- Have maintained continuous residence
- Have not been convicted of one serious crime or multiple minor crimes
- Be currently in school, graduated or have a GED, or is an honorably discharged veteran.
Business leaders and legislators note negative effects of state immigration laws
Recent state immigration laws across the country, starting with Arizona’s SB 1070, are proving to have adverse economic effects. Viewed initially by some as a measure for boosting local economies, the laws have had the opposite effect, leading to losses of potentially billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs for their states. Such economic losses have not gone unnoticed, as business and political leaders have raised concerns over the possible adverse effects of the immigration laws. The legislation has spurred studies across the country that have helped states avoid passing Arizona like immigration reform.
Please read more here.
Maryland Court of Appeals keeps Dream Act on ballot
On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, the highest state court in Maryland decided to allow the Dream Act to remain on the ballot for the upcoming elections. The Dream Act was orginally passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2011, but opposition rose quickly and gained enough signatures to force a voter referendum. Casa de Maryland and others sued to block the referendum. The Dream Act would allow some illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates if they meet certain requirements such as graduating from a Maryland high school and proving their parents pay income taxes. The Court of Appeals offered no explanation for its one sentence ruling, but said an opinion would be forthcoming.
You can view information and arguments for and against the Dream Act here.
You can view a report of the Court's decision here.
US Visa troubles for Indian IT firms on the rise
A recent CLSA Speaker Series addressed the issue of difficulties before Indian IT firms. Rejection rates for Indian IT firms have been on the rise for the last 18 months. Along with the increased rejection rates is also an increase in requests for evidence (RFEs). Because of these issues, Indian IT firms have been forced to reconsider their onsite staffing strategy.
Guest speaker Angelo Paparelli offered three causes of the recent difficulties faced by Indian IT firms. First, there is a perception in Congress and the media that this is an area full of unaddressed fraud and abuse. Second, we are in an extended economic recession. During a recession, Americans demand a reduction in the number of foreign workers allowed, whereas during a period of a strong economy, immigration concerns become more lax. Third, there is a fear that Americans are being terminated and training their own replacements.
The CLSA discussion goes on to address many more of the issues and concerns surrounding Indian IT firms and immigration. The series also includes statistics about Indian IT firms and associated H-1B and L-1 Visas.
You can view the entire discussion here.
Prosecutorial Discretion: A Statistical Analysis
"In August 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would review more than 300,000 pending removal proceedings to identify low-priority cases meriting favorable exercises of prosecutorial discretion. The initiative was officially launched in November 2011 and is expected to continue for much of 2012. To date, DHS has released statistics on three occasions measuring the progress of the initiative."
Read the entire report here.
2012 Maryland General Assembly Bill Summary
SB 618: NOTARIES PUBLIC - REVISIONS
Prohibition on certain individuals from being appointed notaries public. Establishing requirements for out-of-state individuals appointed as notaries and specifying functions that must be exercised in the course of notary’s employment.
Status: Pending in the Senate
SB 352: NATIONAL HUMAN TRAFFICKING RESOURCE CENTER HOTLINE INFORMATION – SIGN POSTING REQUIREMENTS
Privately-owned bus stations or truck stops must have specific signs providing information about the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. An agency that notices a violation of the regulation would be required to provide notice to the business owner.
Status: Passed in Senate, Pending in House
HB 1229: NOTARIES PUBLIC – REVISIONS
Prohibition on certain individuals from being appointed notaries public. Establishing requirements for out-of-state individuals appointed as notaries and specifying functions that must be exercised in the course of notary’s employment
Status: Pending in the House
HB 1135: PUBLIC SAFETY – HANDGUN PERMITS – QUALIFICATIONS
The Secretary of State Police may not issue a handgun permit to a person deemed to be prohibited from possessing a firearm, is an illegal alien, has been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. armed forced, has a pending charge for a felony or misdemeanor subject to a sentence of imprisonment of one year, or has not completed a firearms safety training course (unless there is a ground for exemption).
Status: Pending in the House
HB 684: LOTTERY PAYOUTS – REQUIREMENTS OF PROOF OF LAWFUL PRESENCE
Requiring the State Lottery Agency to verify lawful presence in the U.S. of winning ticket holder the before paying out cash prizes of more than $5,000.
Status: Bill Withdrawn
HB 607: NATIONAL HUMAN TRAFFICKING RESOURCE CENTER HOTLINE INFORMATION – SIGN POSTING REQUIREMENTS
Privately-owned bus stations or truck stops must have specific signs providing information about the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. An agency that notices a violation of the regulation would be required to provide notice to the business owner.
Status: Pending in Senate
HB 551: CRIMINAL PROCEDURE – ALIEN DEFENDANTS – NULLITY OF BAIL BONDS
If a defendant who has posted a bail bond is taken into custody and deported by a specific federal government agency due to the defendant’s immigration status, the bail bond is null and void, after which it will be returned to surety and the surety will have no liability with respect to the bond.
Status: Passed in House, Pending in Senate
HB 473: MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS – ELECTIONS – VOTER QUALIFICATIONS
An individual who is not a citizen of the United States from voting in any municipal corporation, notwithstanding the provisions of the charter of the corporation. The Act also makes any provision in any charter of a municipal corporation allowing non-citizen individuals to vote in its elections null and void.
Status: Reassigned to Ways and Means, Pending in the House
HB 467: PROHIBITION ON RECEIVING STATE AND PUBLIC SAFETY FUNDS – NONPARTICIPATION IN FEDERAL SECURE COMMUNITIES PROGRAM
State prohibited from providing public safety funds to any county, municipality, or other local jurisdiction that does not participate in the DHS Secure Communities Program.
Status: Bill Withdrawn in the House
HB 388: PUBLIC BENEFITS – REQUIREMENT OF PROOF OF LAWFUL PRESENCE
Adults must provide identification and specific proof of lawful presence in the United States when claiming public benefits from State and political subdivisions.
Status: Bill in the House, Unfavorable report by Appropriations Committee
New USCIS Procedure for Applicants Outside U.S. for Filing Form I-601 and Form I-212
USCIS has implemented a new process for waiver applicants outside of the United States for filing Form I-601 Applications and associated Form I-212 Applications. Historically, applicants located outside the U.S. have submitted such forms to USCIS through a United States Embassy or Consulate. Starting June 4, 2012, applicants located outside the U.S. will be required to submit their applications with a USCIS Lockbox for adjudication by the Nebraska Service Center.
USCIS has recognized certain exceptions to this new rule. For the first six months after this new policy goes into effect, waiver applicants located in Mexico will be able to file their I-601 Application with the USCIS Lockbox or with the USCIS Ciudad Juarez Field Office. Additionally, applicants residing in Cuba may continue to file their I-601 Application with the Havana Field Office or elect to file with the USCIS Lockbox. Finally, USCIS outlined a non exhaustive list of compelling and exceptional circumstances that might require immediate filing of waiver applications at the nearest USCIS Field Office. Among those reasons enumerated are: medical emergencies, threats to personal safety, close to aging out, and adoption of a child.
The Field Office Director will have the discretion of deciding whether or not compelling and exceptional circumstances are present that warrant an expedited adjudication of the waiver applications. If the Field Office Director decides that an application does not merit immediate adjudication, the applicant will be notified in writing and required to submit the application with the USCIS Lockbox.
Contact information for filing of Form I-601 and Form I-212 can be found here.
Lockbox Filing Tips can be found here.
Violence Against Women Act Under Attack!
AILA Action Alert:
Since 1994, Congress has worked together to protect victims of
violence by initially passing and then continually reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA. In part, VAWA was created because Congress recognized that abusers were
using the immigration status of their victims as a weapon. As the New York Times has pointed out, "even in the ultrapolarized atmosphere of Capitol hill, it should be possible to secure broad
bipartisan agreement on reauthorizing [VAWA]," a law that protects victims of domestic violence, sex crimes, other serious crimes, and trafficking.
This week, a version of VAWA (H.R. 4970, Rep. Adams, R-FL) that will actually do harm to victims will be on the House floor. H.R. 4970 is likely to come up on Wednesday, so we have a small window of opportunity. H.R. 4970 will place victims of domestic violence in danger, deter victims of crime from cooperating with law enforcement, and hold victims of abuse to a higher standard than other applicants for immigration benefits. In short, H.R. 4970 denies victims protection and even helps perpetrate the very abuse from which they are seeking to escape. Instead of H.R 4970, the House should pass the Senate's bi-partisan version of VAWA (S. 1925) which protects victims of violence, including especially vulnerable populations like immigrants.
Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin gives up U.S. citizenship
Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin has given up his U.S. citizenship, a move that will reduce his taxes when Facebook goes public in the coming weeks.
Saverin, who was born in Brazil and moved to the U.S. in 1992 and has been a U.S. citizen since 1998, has decided to become a resident of Singapore. He is said to own around 5 percent of the company, which has a valuation of between $77 billion and $96 billion according to paperwork filed ahead of its initial public offering.
In a statement, Saverin’s spokesman Tom Goodman said that the switch was done, in part, for business reasons.
“Eduardo recently found it to be more practical to become a resident of Singapore since he plans to live there for an indefinite period of time,” said Saverin’s spokesman Tom Goodman. “He has invested in Asian, U.S. and European companies. He also plans to invest in Brazilian and global companies that have strong interests in entering the Asian markets. Accordingly, it made the most sense for him to use Singapore as a home base.”
Business reasons aside, it will certainly benefit Saverin to be a non-U.S. citizen once the company he helped to found hits the public market.
“It definitely is going to reduce his tax burdens,” said Edward Kleinbard, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law who specializes in tax law.
Saverin won’t be able to duck all of his taxes, Kleinbard said, but he will be able to avoid paying some charges he would have picked up if he had stayed a U.S. citizen.
He said that Saverin will have to pay taxes on the value of the company before he switched his citizenship, while company was still private. Saverin could argue that the value was lower before it was publicly traded.
Kleinbard said that there aren’t that many expatriations — likely fewer than 2,00o per year — but most are cases where immigrants (or those with dual-citizenship) return to their home in another country. There are also cases where U.S. citizens who have married foreign nationals will expatriate to live in their spouses’ home countries.
“There a only a handful of cases with very high net-worth individuals,” he said. “Those are very exceptional cases.”
Green Card Holders Need to Naturalize to Vote and Help Immigration Reform!
Immigrant-rights groups are knocking on doors, making phone calls, and tweeting to encourage the more than 8 million green-card holders eligible to become citizens to naturalize and vote on Nov. 6.
“Imagine the kind of voice and attention Latinos and immigrants can bring to the issues facing the nation if a greater number of immigrants took that step of becoming a citizen and becoming a voter,” said Clarissa Martinez of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic-advocacy group. Legal immigrants can vote only if they take the steps to become a citizen--what’s called the naturalization process.
The failure of more immigrants to do so is one reason why Hispanics are growing much faster as a share of the population than as a share of the electorate; although census figures show that Hispanics provided more than 50 percent of the nation’s total population growth from 2000 to 2010, their share of the vote rose only from 7 percent to 9 percent in the presidential elections from 2000 to 2008.
In 2010, more than 8 million people were eligible to become citizens, according to the Homeland Security Department. But only 619,913 of them--less than 1 percent of those
eligible--completed the process.
A significant increase in those numbers could change the political landscape, notes Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.
In Arizona alone, for instance, approximately 170,000 green-card holders are eligible for citizenship, according to the Office of Immigration Statistics. If those people naturalized and registered to vote, they would represent almost 4 percent of the eligible voter population in a state that has been roiled by controversy over its tough immigration law--and which President Obama is hoping to contest in this fall's election.
At least two groups are working to increase the number of potential citizens who naturalize and then register to vote. To vote by November, potential citizens must begin the process by the end of April.
About the same time, Become a Citizen Now launched a separate citizenship drive, targeting eligible green-card holders in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington state, and Wisconsin.
Earlier this month, Reform Immigration for America announced a social-media campaign that encouraged immigrants to naturalize and oppose laws like Arizona’s, which the group says promotes racial profiling.
The Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that opposes illegal immigration and supports reducing the number of legal immigrants allowed to enter the country each year, doesn’t oppose the groups’ efforts to help people naturalize.
Doris Meissner, then the commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, said that the rising number of new citizens in the mid-'90s was the result of the 1986 law that gave 3 million illegal immigrants legal status and of changes within INS to handle the workload.
The political stakes in the naturalization drives again could be substantial. In 2008, exit polls showed Obama carrying two-thirds of Hispanic voters. Recent polls generally show him running at least that well with them again this year after a primary campaign during which Romney veered sharply to the right on immigration issues, pledging to pursue a policy that encouraged illegal immigrants to “self-deport.” But Republicans lately have escalated their efforts to woo Hispanics by emphasizing their continuing economic struggles during the slow recovery from the Great Recession.
Immigration is an emotional issue that drives immigrant voters--particularly Latinos--to the left, said Juan Miranda, a 39-year-old from central Mexico who became a citizen in 2008.
Similar naturalization drives, though, have generated intense political controversy in the past. During the 1996 presidential elections, some Republicans protested what they said was a rush by the Clinton administration to naturalize more voters - voters, the Republicans worried, who would support Democrats.
Doris Meissner, then the commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, said that the increased numbers of new citizens in the mid-90s was the result of the 1986 law that gave about three million illegal immigrants legal status and changes within the INS to handle the workload.
The political stakes in the naturalization drives again could be substantial. In 2008, exit polls showed Obama carrying two-thirds of Hispanic voters. Recent polls generally show him running at least that well with them again this year after a primary campaign during which Romney veered sharply to the right on immigration issues, pledging to pursue a policy that encouraged illegal immigrants to “self-deport.”
But Republicans lately have escalated their efforts to woo Hispanics by emphasizing their continuing economic struggles during the slow recovery from the Great Recession. Immigration is an emotional issue that currently drives immigrant voters - particularly Latinos - to the left, said Juan Miranda, a 39-year-old from central Mexico who became a citizen in 2008.
Changes to Naturalization Oath Ceremonies
USCIS - Washington Field Office (WAS) (located on Prosperity Avenue in Fairfax, VA) has several large Oath Ceremonies scheduled in the coming months of May and June with an 800 person swearing in ceremony scheduled for Wednesday April 25, 2012 at George Mason University.
Today they welcomed 15 Immigration Services Officers who will be at WAS on a 90 day detail to address their workload and help WAS return to their national processing times. While these officers are here, there are several officers (7) for whom work stations have been set up in the traditional ceremony room. For the next 90 days therefore the ceremony room is not available for same-day ceremonies.
WAS will continue to schedule several large ceremonies at off-site venues and does intend to commence using the 1st floor ceremony room for some naturalization ceremonies (which also means that INFOPASS appointments will only be scheduled in the morning on those dates). At a minimum, WAS still plans to conduct same-day ceremonies for those who are back in the office for a re-exam or and RFE by appointment if at all possible so the applicants don’t have to come back a third time.
WAS has also notified AILA that it has commenced the scheduling of Saturday interviews (N400s only) which will be conducted through the summer months, depending on their naturalization queue. If anyone needs to reschedule an appointment, they should follow the regular reschedule procedures(i.e. send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dept. of Homeland Security's Decision to Amend Immigration Waiver (Extreme Hardship) Process
The Department of Homeland Security proposes to change its processes to enable spouses and children of U.S. citizens physically present in the United States to apply within the U.S. for the waiver they need to become U.S. permanent residents. The current procedure requires the spouse or child to leave the United States, file the waiver application in the home country, and wait for processing while separated from their U.S. citizen loved ones.
The proposal would permit immediate family of U.S. citizens to apply for a provisional waiver of unlawful presence while remaining in the U.S., thereby minimizing the time they would be separated from their families during the process. To obtain the waiver, applicants would still need to meet the strict letter of the law which requires them to prove that family separation will cause their American citizen spouse or parent extreme hardship.
If the waiver is granted, the foreign national must leave the U.S. and apply for and receive an immigrant visa abroad before returning to the U.S. The change will give countless American families a chance to stay together safely and legally.
"Today's proposed change, permitting the waiver request to be decided stateside, is a positive step for keeping families together. It would result in a significant change in process for many individuals and, if implemented, will literally save lives. People have been kidnapped and murdered waiting for waivers in Juarez, Mexico, and other countries," said Eleanor Pelta, President of AILA. "It's a move that will be less destructive to families and bring about a fairer and more streamlined waiver process.
"Unfortunately USCIS's proposed rule would exclude many people who are stuck in the same situation, and would provide for procedures that may undercut the very efficiencies that a revised process would provide. That doesn't make any sense," continued Pelta. "The proposed rule only applies to a limited group of applicants, namely the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who can show extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen spouse or parent. This leaves out broad categories of close family members who also have to wait abroad for their waiver, including the spouses and children of people who have green cards and the adult children of U.S. citizens. It also needlessly keeps review of the agency's decisions and other pieces of the process outside the U.S., thus undercutting some of the very reasons for the process change in some cases." In February, AILA, joined by over 40 other organizations, offered several recommendations to improve the provisional waiver plan. AILA will submit formal comments during the 60-day comment period.
RESIDENTS TARGETED IN 2007 NEW HAVEN IMMIGRATION RAID REACH LANDMARK SETTLEMENT WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
11 Plaintiffs to Receive $350,000 and Choice of Immigration Relief or Termination of Deportation Proceedings
New Haven, Conn. – Eleven New Haven residents whose homes were illegally raided by immigration agents almost five years ago have reached an unprecedented settlement of their civil rights lawsuit against top U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, local agents, and the United States. The plaintiffs and their counsel will announce the settlement at a press conference on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 10:30 AM at the Wilson Branch Library in New Haven, Connecticut.
The eleven men alleged that in the early morning hours of June 6, 2007, approximately 20 ICE agents together with other federal, state, and local officers spread out across the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Fair Haven, invaded homes without warrants or consent, and illegally seized and arrested the men. Agents drew their weapons, pushed through the doors of residents’ homes, banged on bedroom doors, forced several men out of bed, and frightened young children present in some of the homes.
The raids came just two days after the Board of Aldermen had approved Mayor DeStefano’s proposal for an Elm City Resident Card program to offer identification cards to all New Haven residents without regard to immigration status. The plaintiffs alleged that the raids were carried out in retaliation for the City’s municipal identification program and other integrationist measures, and that they were targeted solely on the basis of their Latino appearance.
To settle the claims in Diaz-Bernal et al. v. Myers et al., No. 3:09-cv-1734-SRU (D. Conn. filed Oct. 28, 2009), the federal government will pay $350,000 and has offered plaintiffs the choice of either immigration relief known as deferred action or termination of pending deportation proceedings. The agreement appears to be the largest monetary settlement ever paid by the United States in a suit over residential immigration raids, and the first to include both compensation and immigration relief.
“I remember everything that happened to me that morning as if it were yesterday,” Edinson Yangua-Calva, one of the plaintiffs, stated. “There are things I haven’t been able to get over, it is something that stays with you forever,” he explained.
“This settlement means a lot to me,” stated Cristobal Serrano-Mendez, another plaintiff. “Five years of pressure on the government has led to this agreement, and I think that the government knows it did something wrong.”
Amilcar Soto Velasquez, another plaintiff, sees the settlement as an opportunity to tell other victims of raids and abuse that they should not become disillusioned. “They should keep fighting,” he stated.
The eleven Plaintiffs, Eduardo Diaz-Bernal, Florente Baranda-Barreto, Edilberto Cedeño-Trujillo, Washington Colala-Peñarreta, Julio Sergio Paredes-Mendez, Cristobal Serrano-Mendez, Jose Solano-Yangua, Silvino Trujillo-Mirafuentes, Gerardo Trujillo-Morellano, Amilcar Soto Velasquez and Edinson Yangua-Calva, were represented by law students and attorneys at the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut, and pro bono counsel from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP of New York.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure has reversed its decision to end grants to Planned Parenthood (02/03/2012)
The renowned breast-cancer charity had been deluged with negative emails and Facebook postings since news broke Tuesday that it was halting most of the grants -- they totaled $680,000 last year -- that Planned Parenthood affiliates used for breast exams.
For more information visit WTOP.com or tune to 103.5 FM.
Virginia Drivers Wrongly Charged Under Virginia Law- (12/26/2011)
RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia motorists are being ticketed and convicted of a violation that is not a crime under state law: driving without proof of insurance.
According to Virginia Lawyers Weekly ( http://bit.ly/w0OeIG), court records show that drivers in several localities have been hit with hefty fines and court costs for failing to produce an insurance card during a traffic stop.
State law requires motorists to either carry liability insurance or pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Anyone who fails to do so, or who lies to the DMV about having insurance, can be convicted of a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine _ but the statute says nothing about driving without proof of insurance, several lawyers confirmed.
Some Virginia police officers, however, cite that statute in charging drivers with failure to have proof of insurance.
Court records show local police have written tickets for "no proof of insurance" in Colonial Heights and Prince William, Sussex and Dinwiddie counties. One driver was fined $100 plus $10 in court costs after being found guilty in Sussex County in May.
Attorneys who reviewed the statute agreed it does not criminalize failure to have an insurance card in your car. Read more here.
January 2012 Visa Bulletin - Priority Date for EB-2 Candidates for India and China is January 2009!
The priority date for EB-2 (Advanced Degree) candidates from India and China is January 2009. This means that if you have an approved I-140 in the EB-2 Advanced Degree category, in less than 3 years, you may be eligible to file your green card application. For the January 2012 visa bulletin, click here.
Prosecutorial Discretion Pilot Program in Baltimore Pushes Back Immigration Court Hearings
According to AILA, on December 4, 2011, the ICE Office of Chief Counsel in Baltimore will launch a Prosecutorial Discretion Pilot Program (PD) to review the almost 5,000 non-detained cases currently on its docket and determine which ones should be administratively closed with the acquiescence of the respondent. The pilot program is scheduled to last until January 13, 2012 at which time the office will review the data collected and the results and share them with ICE Headquarters.
This information will then be used to inform ongoing nationwide implementation of the review process as per instructions from Peter S. Vincent, ICE Principal Legal Advisor, in his November 17, 2011 memorandum. ICE Baltimore has begun preparations for the review and shared the following information with AILA in order to facilitate the process for ICE, AILA members, their clients and pro se respondents.
The effect of the pilot program is that all hearing dates for non-detained clients in removal proceedings in Immigration Court in Baltimore, Maryland will be rescheduled. If you have a hearing date before an Immigration Judge in Baltimore, Maryland, you should call the EOIR hotline (1-800-898-7180) to verify the date of your next hearing.
Skilled Workers from India and China Can Get Green Cards "First Come First Serve" Basis
WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, November 29, 2011, the House voted to end per-country caps on worker-based immigration visas, a move that should benefit skilled Indian and Chinese residents seeking to stay in the United States and the high-tech companies who hire them.
Read entire article here.
Padilla v. Kentucky - Applies to Convictions Entered After April 1, 1997.
In an impressively well-reasoned decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, held that Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010), applies retroactively to convictions entered after April 1, 1997. Denisyuk v. State, No. 45, slip op. (Md. Oct. 25, 2011) (Bell, Harrell, Barbera, Greene, JJ.).
This case involved a noncitizen who pleaded guilty to second degree assault on November 2, 2006. He did not appeal. Instead, over a year after he was convicted he filed a post-conviction relief (PCR) petition seeking to vacate the conviction and requesting a new trial on the bases that “(1) the plea was rendered involuntary by the omission of advice concerning the potential immigration consequences of the plea; and (2) the failure of defense counsel to advise him of those potential consequences of his conviction constituted ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment.”
Though he initially won (at the post-conviction court) on the Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel argument, that court “ruled against Petitioner on his claim that the guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary.” On the state’s appeal to the state intermediate court, that court dismissed the PCR petition entirely two days before Padilla was issued.
USCIS Issues Guidance on Referring Cases to Immigration Court
This Policy Memorandum (PM) establishes new USCIS guidelines for referring cases and issuing Notices to Appear (NTAs) in a manner that promotes the sound use of the resources of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to enhance national security, public safety, and the integrity of the immigration system. This PM supersedes Policy Memorandum No. 110, Disposition of Cases Involving Removable Aliens, dated July 11, 2006.
Download from our Media page.
TPS Extensions for Honduras and Nicaragua
DHS Secretary Napolitano Testifies on E-Verify
On Wednesday, October 26, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano testified about Department oversight before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. Napolitano’s testimony included a discussion E-Verify’s role in DHS’ smart and effective approach to worksite enforcement.
Starting October 30: Change in Filing Location for Forms N-300, N-336, N-600 and N-600K
Beginning Oct. 30, 2011, applicants are advised to file the following forms at a USCIS Lockbox instead of their local USCIS field or district office:
- N-300, Application to File Declaration of Intention
- N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA)
- N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship
- N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322
For more information, please visit USCIS' website.
Encouraging Entrepreneurs and High Skilled Workers to Bolster the U.S. Economy and Spur Job Growth
USCIS announced its new “Entrepreneurs in Residence” initiative. This innovative program will utilize industry expertise to strengthen USCIS policies and practices surrounding immigrant investors, entrepreneurs and workers with specialized skills, knowledge, or abilities. “Entrepreneurs in Residence” builds upon a series of previous efforts announced in August by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas to promote startup enterprises and spur job creation.
For more information on this initiative please see the attached News Release.
USCIS Redesigns Employment Authorization Document and Certificate of Citizenship
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas today announced the launch of an enhanced Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a redesigned Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-560) with new features to strengthen security and deter fraud.
Read the News Update.
Temporary Protected Status Extended for Sudan Re-registration Opens November 3, 2011
WASHINGTON— Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano extended the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Sudan for 18 months. She also designated the new Republic of South Sudan for TPS for 18 months. Both the extension and the new designation are effective Nov. 3, 2011, and will continue through May 2, 2013.
Please read entire update here
USCIS News Update - Relief Provided to Thousands of Victims of Crimes
WASHINGTON - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), marking a significant milestone in its efforts to provide relief to victims of crimes, has for the second straight year approved 10,000 petitions for U nonimmigrant status, also referred to as the U-visa.
On an annual basis, 10,000 U-visas are set aside for victims of crime who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement authorities investigate or prosecute crime.
USCIS Publishes CNMI Transitional Worker Final Rule
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a final rule in today’s Federal Register that establishes a Transitional Worker (CW) classification for workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The CW classification allows employers in the CNMI to hire nonimmigrant workers who are otherwise ineligible to work.
Preparing for the Naturalization Test: USCIS Citizenship Resource Center
At USCIS, we know that the decision to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most meaningful decisions in an individual’s life. USCIS has a lot to offer for those wishing to become citizens. Learn more here.
Certain Fees May Not Be Collected From H-2A and H-2B Workers
As the traditional harvest season approaches, USCIS reminds petitioners that certain fees may not be collected from H-2A and H-2B workers, according to 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(h)(5)(xi)(A) and § 214.2(h)(6)(i)(B).
USCIS realizes that delays in adjudicating these petitions may affect employers’ ability to place workers in time-sensitive jobs. To avoid delays, USCIS urges petitioners to submit sufficient information regarding their recruitment efforts and the nature of fees collected from H-2A and H-2B workers.
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