ACLU warns ‘immigrants and people of color,’ against travel in Florida

Excerpts from Washington Examiner April 8, 2019 by  Susan Ferrechio 

The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a travel advisory for “immigrants and people of color to use extreme caution” in Florida because of a pending immigration bill the state legislature is considering that would ban so-called sanctuary cities.

The Florida Legislature has advanced legislation that would require local law enforcement to work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in detaining undocumented immigrants.

Both of Florida’s legislative chambers are expected to consider the measure in the coming weeks. “We and partners have issued a travel advisory urging immigrants and people of color to use extreme caution when traveling in Florida,” the ACLU tweeted. “The state is on the verge of passing a draconian anti-immigrant bill which will endanger our communities.”

Florida’s undocumented immigrant population is estimated to be greater than 700,000.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has urged law enforcement officials in cities and counties to cooperate with immigration officials.

For more information on undocumented immigrant, 

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Copyright © 2019, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

What is Marriage Fraud?

Any non-citizen of the U.S. who enters a marriage to a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident for the sole or primary purpose of obtaining permanent residence (a green card) is deemed to have engaged in marriage fraud and is subject to various immigration law consequences.  Marriage fraud is included in the grounds of deportability at Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) § 237(a)(1)(G), or 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(G). To be deemed to have engaged in “marriage fraud,” the person must enter into a marriage for the sole or primary purpose of evading U.S. immigration law.  Also, once you have fraud or misrepresentation on your record, you are inadmissible under I.N.A. § 212(a)(6)(C)(i), which means to be barred from eligibility from virtually any sort of U.S. visa or green card.

U.S. immigration law requires scrutiny of new marriages. Under the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986 (“IMFA”), an applicant whose marriage is less than 24 months old when he or she receives approval for a green card will receive only “conditional,” not permanent residence. This status expires after another two years. Within the 90 days before that two-year expiration date, the immigrant must apply to have the condition removed (on USCIS Form I-751) to become a full-fledged lawful permanent resident.

Since marriage fraud in the U.S. is prevalent, petitioners and beneficiaries have the burden to prove their marriage is a bona-fide good-faith marriage based on love and not for an immigration benefit.  When trying to overcome a marriage fraud assumption by an officer, applicants should remember that three types of evidence may be gathered by the officer to ascertain whether it is a real marriage.

There will be an in-person interview with the immigration officer, beneficiary and petitioner.  There are two types of evidences presented at the interview: (1) oral testimony by the petitioner and beneficiary, and (2) documentary evidence.  When oral testimony is taken from the petitioner and beneficiary, the officer may separate the two during questioning or may interview them in the same room.  If applicants have an attorney, the attorney shall be present during questioning by the officer.  Documentary evidence are bills, statements, insurances, leases, etc. that prove the petitioner and beneficiary are living together and commingling finances.  The third type of evidence the officer may examine is “bed checks” or on-site investigations an officer conducts at the home of the petitioner and beneficiary.

Lastly, an officer may cite fraud indicators or red flags such as cultural differences between the petitioner and beneficiary, language barriers, significant age difference, prior marriages when immigration benefits were obtained, etc. Marriage fraud is a serious allegation with lifetime consequences, do not the risk denial, deportation proceedings and future inadmissibility.  Seek legal representation from an attorney who can prepare you for the interview, attend your interview and has experience dealing with possible marriage fraud allegations – contact Immigration Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram for your FREE consultation.

For more information on marriage fraud, 

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Copyright © 2019, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

Immigration Court system “on the brink of collapse.”

American Bar Association (ABA) calls on Congress to make sweeping changes in order to fix the immigration court system “on the brink of collapse.” – currently face backlogs of over 855,000 cases. In 2018, former Attorney General Sessions stripped judges of their ability to administratively close cases, restricted asylum for victims of domestic violence, and limited judges’ ability to dismiss cases.

ABA’s solution to this problem would be make the immigration court an “Article I” court, similar to federal tax court or bankruptcy courts. Under this new system, the Attorney General would have no authority to directly overrule judges or set precedent, and judges could not be disciplined for failing to meet case completion quotas. The lack of independence in the immigration court system is so dire that the ABA is making an unprecedented call for the government to suspend the hiring of all new immigration judges until the immigration court have been made more independent.

For more information on Immigration Court, 

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Copyright © 2019, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

TPS Extended to 01/02/2020 for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador

USCIS published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the automatic extension of #TemporaryProtectedStatus (TPS) documentation for beneficiaries under the TPS designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador until January 2, 2020, in order to ensure continued compliance with the preliminary injunction in #RamosvNielsen, which required the government to maintain #TPS for #immigrants from these countries.

Temporary protected status (also called “TPS“) is a temporary status given to eligible nationals of designated countries who are present in the United States. The status, afforded to nationals from some countries affected by armed conflict or natural disaster, allows persons to live and work in the United States for limited times. Currently, persons from ten countries-Haiti, ElSalvador, Syria, Nepal, Honduras, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Nicaragua; and South Sudan—have temporary protected status. About 320,000 people have TPS as of 2017, the majority from El Salvador (195,000), Honduras (57,000), and Haiti (46,000).

For more information on TPS extended, 

text | whatsapp | call 407-292-7730 or email gail@gaillaw.com

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Copyright © 2019, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

End to Self-Scheduled InfoPass Appointment – Scheduling Only with Pre-Authorization

The new Information Services Modernization Program is replacing the current self-scheduled InfoPass appointment system that allows anyone to make an appointment on-line or at their local USCIS office to speak to an immigration officer regarding their pending case, get immigration resources or get answers to immigration questions. The new program is suppose to improves the timeliness of information and emergency services. Additionally, the new program should improve information efficiency for all classes of immigration applicants.

Effective March 4, 2019, the new Information Services Modernization Program will be rolled out to the Tampa and Orlando Field Offices. This means that in order to get information in-person, you first have to call 1-800-375-5283 and after speaking to an agent then you may or may not meet the guidelines to get “pre-authorized” for an appointment at your local immigration office to speak to an officer in-person.

Based on internal surveys, USCIS found that many users of the InfoPass self-scheduled appointment program could have saved time by calling the USCIS Contact Center or checking the USCIS website. In the long term, the new modernization efforts will help applicants save time by limiting the hassle of scheduling an in-person appointment. USCIS additionally hopes that by limiting in-person appointments, the service can better allocate resources and staff towards processing and adjudicating applications. For those who require in-person assistance, USCIS states that applicants will still maintain the right to schedule an appointment, and can receive assistance to do so through the new modernized information service program.

The new Information Services Modernization Program is basically replacing in-person customer support with over the phone assistance that involves long hold times on the phone and generic scripted answers to applicants. Instead of customer support modernization, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is going back to an antiquated system of navigating telephone prompts before speaking to a live person who has no background on immigration law and reads from a computer screen telling you your “case is pending” or “go to our website for more information”.

For more information on InfoPass or Information Services Modernization Program,

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Copyright © 2019, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

Why is U.S. Embassy requesting a Waiver I-601 and/or I-212?

You attended your interview at the U.S. Embassy for your immigrant visa (or green card) to the United States.  All the proper documents have been submitted and you completed your medical exam, police clearance, affidavit of support.  You are very excited yet nervous.  At the end of the interview, the officer gives you a paper that states you have been found “inadmissible” or ineligible for the immigrant visa and you may file a waiver.  Confusion sets in and then you seek legal advice from Immigration Attorney Gail S. Seeram.  As seen in the attached photo – we get approvals for our clients Waiver I-601.

First, we need to determine which ground of inadmissibility is being used against the applicant to deny issuance of the immigrant visa (green card).  Individuals who are inadmissible are not permitted by law to enter or remain in the United States. The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act sets forth grounds for inadmissibility. The general categories of inadmissibility include health, criminal activity, national security, public charge, lack of labor certification (if required), fraud and misrepresentation, prior removals, unlawful presence in the United States, and several miscellaneous categories (listed in detail at end of article).

Second, we file an Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (Form I-601) with supporting documents to prove “extreme hardship” to the U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident relatives.

Third and most frustration step the in the process – WAITING.  It can take up to one year for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to decide or adjudicate an application for a waiver I-601.  If the waiver application is approved then the consular officer is informed and another appointment will be set at the U.S. Embassy for immigrant visa issuance.  if the waiver application is denied, then you may consider an appeal or a motion to reopen or reconsider the decision (Form I-290B).  Note, the entire waiver application process is more than filing Form I-601.  There must be sufficient documentary evidence to prove the legal requirement of extreme hardship.

The phrase “extreme hardship” is not defined in the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.  Ultimately, “extreme hardship” must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis after a review of all the circumstances in the case. Most common factors considered are (1) the age of the alien, both at the time of entry to the United States and at the time of application for suspension of deportation; (2) the age, number, and immigration status of the alien’s children an d their ability to speak the native language and adjust to life in another country; (3) the health condition of the alien or the alien’s child, spouse, or parent and the availability of any required medical treatment in the country to which the alien would be returned; (4) the alien’s ability to obtain employment in the country to which the alien would be returned; (5) the length of residence in the United States; (6) the existence of other family members who will be legally residing in the United States; ( 7) the financial impact of the alien’s departure; (8) the impact of a disruption of educational opportunities; (9) the psychological impact of the alien’s deportation or removal; (10) the current political and economic conditions in the country to which the alien would be returned; (11) family and other ties to the country to which the alien would be returned; (12) contributions to and ties to a community in the United States, including the degree of integration into society; (13) immigration history, inclu ding authorized residence in the United States; and (14) the availability of other means of adjusting to permanent resident status. 

Grounds of Inadmissibility:

1. Inadmissibility Due to Health concerns covers a range of situations. In general, they

include those who have a communicable disease of public health significance, those seeking immigrant status who has failed to receive necessary vaccinations against vaccine-preventable diseases, those who have or have had a physical or mental disorder with associated harmful behavior or harmful behavior that is likely to reoccur. Harmful behavior is behavior that poses, or has posed a threat to person or property, and those who are drug abusers or addicts. 

2. Inadmissibility due to criminal reasons include crimes involving “moral turpitude,” 

violation of any controlled substance law, multiple criminal convictions, drug trafficking, prostitution, commercialized vice, commission of a serious crime in the United States where a person has asserted immunity from prosecution, violations of Religious Freedom, human trafficking, money laundering. 

3. Inadmissibility due to national security reasons include any person who a Department of State consular officer, DHS immigration officer, or DOJ immigration judge, knows or has reasonable ground to believe that the non-citizen seeks to enter the United States to engage in espionage or sabotage, to attempt to overthrow the U.S. government, has reasonable ground to believe that the non-citizen has participated in any terrorist activities or has any association with terrorist organizations, has reasonable ground to believe that the person presents a threat to foreign policy or has membership in any totalitarian party or has participated in Nazi persecutions or genocide is inadmissible. 

4. Public Charge pertains to a person being inadmissible if he or she is likely to be primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.

5. Inadmissibility due to lack of labor certification: This ground makes certain aliens who seek to enter permanently (as immigrants) into the United States and to work inadmissible unless the Secretary of Labor certifies that employment of the person will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed; and there are not enough U.S. workers willing, qualified, and able to do the same work. 

6. Inadmissibility due to fraud or misrepresentation relates to any person who sought admission to the United States, a visa or other immigration travel or entry document, or any immigration benefit by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact is inadmissible. 

7. Inadmissibility due to prior removals or unlawful presence will bar any person from returning to the United States because they have been in the United States for a period in excess of 180 days, during a single stay, and then departed the United States. Also, individuals who are barred from returning to the United States because they had either been removed (or excluded or deported) from the United States or departed the United States on their own volition while a final order of removal was outstanding. Individuals who were unlawfully in the United States for a total of one year (whether accrued during a single stay or multiple stays) AND then, illegally (without being inspected and admitted or inspected and paroled) reentered the United States. 

8. Miscellaneous grounds of inadmissibility include persons who entered the country illegally (without being inspected and admitted or paroled), persons who failed to attend immigration and/or removal hearings, smugglers, student visa abusers, former U.S. citizens who renounced citizenship to avoid taxation, practicing polygamists, unlawful voters, and international child abductors and relatives of such abductors.

For more information on Waiver I-601, 

text | whatsapp | call 407-292-7730 or email gail@gaillaw.com

FREE phone & in-office consultation – FREE Live Chat www.GailLaw.com

Copyright © 2018, Law Offices of Gail S. Seeram. All Rights Reserved.

2018 Anti-Immigration Politics and Rhetoric under Trump – Family Separation, Asylum Ban, Wall

Courtesy of , Axios.com

In 2018, we saw a wave of anti-immigration policies, rules and proclamations intended to obstruct U.S. immigration.

Driving the news: The House and Senate failed to reach a compromise on immigration legislation, leaving the Trump administration to use everything within its executive power to address the issue. Many of those efforts were blocked (at least temporarily) by the courts.

AT THE BORDER:

The Justice Department and Homeland Security announced a “zero-tolerance” policy in May that resulted in the traumatic separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents at the border. In the face of global backlash, Trump signed an executive order calling for an end to family separation. But it took government agencies weeks of chaos to reunite migrant families.

Through the executive branch:

IN THE COURTS:

The Supreme Court upheld Trump’s travel banbut blocked his asylum ban for migrants who cross the border illegally. The court did not take up the DACA case —protecting thousands of immigrants who came to the U.S. as children until at least next year.

Federal judges blocked (at least temporarily) administration efforts to end:

ON THE GLOBAL STAGE:

The U.S. was one of a small number of nations to vote against the UN Compact for Migration and Compact for Refugees.

  • A wave of anti-immigration politics and rhetoric continued to sweep Europe, mirroring some of Trump’s 2016 platform.
  • Most recently, the U.S. cut a deal with a Mexico to keep migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. on Mexican soil until their applications are processed. The U.S. pledged billions of dollars in aid to Central American nations and southern Mexico.

Asylum Denials and Decisions Jump in 2018

Fiscal year 2018 broke records for the number of decisions (42,224) by immigration judges granting or denying asylum. Denials grew faster than grants, pushing denial rates up as well. The 42,224 decisions represented a 40 percent jump from decisions during FY 2017, and an 89 percent increase over the number of asylum decisions of two years ago.

In past year, 65% of cases received asylum denials.  This is the sixth year in a row that denial rates have risen. Six years ago the denial rate was just 42.0 percent. See Figure 1. (For year-by- year figures, see Appendix Table 1 at the end of this report.)

Figure 1. Immigration Court Asylum Decisions
FY 2001 – FY 2018
(Click for larger image)

What Do Immigration Court Asylum Grant and Denial Rates Really Mean?

Immigration judges’ decisions on asylum applications are not necessarily the same as the outcome of each case. A asylum denial does not automatically result in a deportation order. The individual could have qualified for some other form of relief, or was otherwise found by the immigration judge to not be deportable and was accordingly allowed to remain in the country.

Currently the government does not publish or provide public access to data that would allow complete tracking of the final outcome from all asylum cases. This occurs in part because multiple agencies are involved, often with separate tracking systems. Only a partial portrait is therefore available from Immigration Court data.

The situation is particularly confusing for unaccompanied children from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and other countries that do not directly border this country. While the Immigration Court generally has jurisdiction over their cases, their actual applications for asylum are typically submitted directly to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If asylum officers at USCIS determine they are entitled to asylum, the Immigration Court will use the USCIS decision as a basis for closing the child’s case. However, the decision to allow them to remain in the country will not be recorded as a grant of asylum in the court’s records. This is because court records only separately track asylum decisions made by immigration judges.

Table 1 compares case outcome in FY 2018 for the top four nationalities seeking asylum, and compares these with asylum grant and denial rates.

Table 1. Asylum Grant and Denial Rates and
Overall Immigration Court Case Outcomes in FY 2018
Asylum Decision Grant/DenyAll Asylum ApplicationsAll Immigration Court Cases
NumberGrantedNumberOutcome:
Can Remain in U.S.
NumberOutcome:
Can Remain in U.S.
All Nationalities42,22435.0%64,97439.2%215,56933.2%
El Salvador8,23223.5%12,07331.1%28,66537.6%
Honduras6,24021.2%8,74523.9%30,24227.2%
Guatemala6,05218.8%9,21424.9%37,57126.2%
Mexico5,37914.5%10,89633.5%65,79224.7%

Note that for El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala the proportion allowed to remain in the country is higher than the asylum grant rate. As a result, the proportion of those allowed to remain in the country is somewhat higher than the simple grant and denial rate suggests.

Of course, not all individuals from these three countries apply for asylum in Immigration Court. The last two columns in Table 1 include the outcome for all Immigration Court cases. The proportion of those allowed to stay from these three countries is somewhat higher even than on those submitting asylum applications to the court.   This partially reflects the inclusion of favorable outcomes for many unaccompanied children’s cases who submit their application to USCIS rather than directly to the Immigration Court.

Judge-by-Judge Differences in Asylum Decisions

The outcome for asylum seekers continued to depend on the identity of the immigration judge (more…)

#GovernmentShutdown #TrumpShutdown effect on Immigration Services

In light of President Trump’s refusal to sign a bill to prevent a #GovernmentShutdown that does not include border wall funding, a partial government shutdown is currently in effect. Approximately 25 percent of government functions are shut down. Immigration-related agencies that are impacted by the shutdown include the Department of Homeland Security and its immigration-related components (CBP, ICE, USCIS, CIS Ombudsman), the Department of Justice (EOIR), and the Department of State. See below for information as to how these agencies operated during prior shutdown periods. We will update this page with additional information from the agencies as it becomes available.

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services: USCIS announced that a lapse in annual appropriated funding does not affect USCIS’s fee-funded activities. USCIS offices will remain open, and all individuals should attend interviews and appointments as scheduled. USCIS will continue to accept petitions and applications.  Please attend your biometrics appointments, citizenship interviews and visa appointments.

EOIR Immigration Court: Detained cases and court hearings will proceed as scheduled.  Non-detained docket cases will be reset for a later date after funding resumes. Immigration courts will issue an updated notice of hearing to respondents or, if applicable, respondents’ representatives of record for each reset hearing.

U.S. Custom & Border Protection: The www.cbp.gov website will not be updated during the government shutdown.  Transactions submitted via this website might not be processed and we will not be able to respond to inquiries until after appropriations are enacted.  Inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered “essential.” Ports of entry will be open; however, processing of applications filed at the border may be impacted.

Immigration and Custom Enforcement: ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue, and ICE attorneys will typically focus on the detained docket during a shutdown. The ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices are unaffected since SEVP is funded by fees.

Department of Labor (DOL) will not be impacted by a government shutdown. (more…)