Articles Posted in Appeals

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Following a dramatic turn of events, on Friday, February 3, 2017, a federal judge from the Western District of Washington, issued a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) halting enforcement of the President’s Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” nationwide. The temporary restraining order was issued in response to an emergency motion filed by the state of Washington and Minnesota. The states collectively filed the motion seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the controversial executive order which bans the entry of immigrant and non-immigrant foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) for a 90-day period, suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for a 120-day period, and terminates the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.

In his ruling, Judge Robart stated that after hearing arguments, the States adequately demonstrated that they have suffered immediate and irreparable harm because of the signing and implementation of the order, and that granting a TRO would be in the public interest. In addition he stated “the Executive Order adversely affects the States’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations, and freedom to travel. These harms extend to the States. . . are significant and ongoing.” A three-judge panel from the Ninth Court Court of Appeals is expected to issue a final ruling on the Executive Order tomorrow.

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At the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick we work closely with clients to address their specialized immigration needs, making their success our number one priority. Many of our clients have experienced immigration issues that could have easily been eliminated with the help of an experienced immigration attorney. Such was the case when our client, we will call him Ernesto, visited our San Diego office to discuss his naturalization case that had gone from bad to worse.

Ernesto had gained permanent residence through marriage to his U.S. Citizen spouse and was ready to apply for naturalization, having remained married to his spouse for at least 3 years before filing his application. Ernesto’s first problem was that he had relied on the assistance of a foreign attorney to prepare and file his application—an attorney who was not licensed to practice law in the United States and was not well versed in immigration law. The attorney had filed his naturalization application without carefully assessing his situation and pin pointing any potential issues he might experience. As a result of his foreign attorney’s incompetence, Ernesto’s application for naturalization was denied and his appeal—also filed by the foreign attorney– was also denied, leaving Ernesto in a very difficult position.

In the Notice of Intent to Deny Ernesto had received USCIS explained the reasons why he had been denied. The main issue was that USCIS was not convinced that he entered his marriage “in good” faith. Furthermore, USCIS argued that Ernesto had failed to present documented evidence proving that he had lived in marital union with his spouse for the 3 years preceding his examination. Due to the fact that USCIS had doubts about the legitimacy of the marital union, they conducted a home inspection at a time that Ernesto was not at his home. During the inspection, the field officers searched the bedroom he shared with his wife and discovered that his clothing was not present. Upon further examination, we found that the officers that conducted the home inspection failed to check the other bedrooms in the home and did not see that his clothing was located in an adjacent bedroom, and not in the room that he shared with his spouse. Ernesto had perfectly legitimate reasons for why he had not been at the home at the time of the inspection, and why his clothing was located in a different room of the house. Ernesto was a businessman and was typically out of town on business trips. On the particular day that the home inspection was conducted, he was out of town on a day business trip. Ernesto had also been traveling to the East Coast frequently for 4-5 months to pursue potential business investments and proposals, leaving his wife behind. Ernesto had been toying with the idea of starting a business on the East Coast, but was not certain if the plans would come to fruition, for that reason his wife had stayed behind across the country while he weighed his options. As a businessman, Ernesto maintained a non-traditional schedule that required him to work long hours, in addition to being apart from his wife. Due to the differences between his schedule and his wife’s schedule he decided to move his clothing to another bedroom so that he would not disturb his wife while he was preparing for his jam packed business schedule. In the end Ernesto’s business plans in the East Coast fell through and he returned to the state of California where he lived with his wife.

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Last week our very own managing attorney Jacob Sapochnick, Esq., and associate attorney Yingfei Zhou, Esq. had the pleasure of attending the 2016 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Conference on Immigration Law in Las Vegas, Nevada. Together, they bring you the most up to date information on the new N-400 online filing system and new N-400 form, the new customer service tool EMMA—a computer-generated virtual assistant, information regarding delays in adjudication of H-1B extension/transfer applications and Employment Authorization applications, filing tips for H-1B extensions, updates on EB-1C Multinational Executive/Manager green cards, Employment Authorization eligibility for spouses of E-2 and L-1 visa holders, and updates on Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) Decisions.

New Naturalization Form and N-400 Online Filing System

  1. USCIS recently published a new N-400 form on 04/13/2016. Applicants may use the previous 09/13/2013 version until 08/09/2016. Any naturalization applications received on or after 08/10/2016 containing the old form with revision date 09/13/2013 will be rejected and returned to the sender.
  1. USCIS is currently testing a new N-400 online filing system. This system will be available to applicants without legal representation and will eventually become available to applicants represented by an immigration attorney.

New Customer Service Tools EMMA

  1. USCIS is introducing a new customer service tool called EMMA – a computer-generated virtual assistant who can answer your questions and even take you to the right spot on the USCIS website. EMMA is USCIS’ version of ‘Siri’ and is designed to help you navigate the USCIS website. EMMA is available in the Spanish language. So far, EMMA has managed to answer 80% of questions asked.

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Today the Supreme Court of the United States dealt a strong blow to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration issuing a single one-line decision on the ruling “the judgment of the lower court is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Nearly two years ago, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration after the Republican controlled House of Representatives refused to tackle the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. As part of his executive actions on immigration, President Obama announced the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and introduced a new program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, (DAPA) designed to shield nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Following these initiatives, USCIS announced that applications for expanded DACA and the new DAPA program would begin to be accepted on February 18, 2015.

The DACA program would have expanded the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to people of any current age who entered the United States before the age of 16 and lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010, and extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years. The new DAPA program would have granted parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents the opportunity to request deferred action and employment authorization for a three year period, on the condition that they have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010 and pass required background checks.

On February 16, 2015 just two days before the programs were scheduled to go into effect, Texas along with 25 other states, filed a temporary court injunction ultimately suspending both programs from going into effect. This action prompted the Obama administration to intervene. For months, the federal government and the State of Texas battled one another in federal court. The court ultimately determined that Texas and at least 25 other status had sufficient ‘standing’ to challenge these programs. In response, the federal government filed an emergency motion to stay, however the motion was eventually denied by the court. This led the government to file a writ of certiorari before the Supreme Court. The fate of Obama’s executive actions grew all the more uncertain with the sudden death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13th.  President Obama made desperate attempts to fill the vacated seat by nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Efforts to fill the seat were unsuccessful as Republicans vowed to keep Garland from sitting on the bench. Thus, Scalia’s death left behind an eight-person bench, and with no one to fill his seat, the growing possibility of a deadlock within the Supreme Court.

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The Supreme Court justices are currently in deliberations, to decide the fate of Barack Obama’s expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) announced November 2014, as part of the President’s executive actions on immigration. At issue is whether or not the Court will hear arguments for and against lifting the temporary court injunction, which prevented the expanded DACA program and the new DAPA program from moving forward as initially anticipated.

The extended DACA and DAPA provisions were scheduled to go into effect on February 18, 2015, but were quickly blocked by a temporary injunction filed by Texas and 26 other states, just three days before applications for extended DACA and DAPA would have been accepted by USCIS. What has resulted has been a near two-year legal battle between the federal government and the states in question.

Timeline of legal action between the federal government and plaintiffs:

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Following a recent surge in apprehensions of undocumented immigrants at the Southwest border, the Department of Homeland Security announced that, beginning January 1st Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) engaged in a concerted nationwide crackdown, taking adults and some children into custody, who have evaded their orders for removal. In a recent press release, the Secretary of DHS, Jeh Johnson indicated that the crackdown occurred as a result of President Obama’s November 2014 executive action on immigration, which put in place new priorities for removal, including the removal of convicted criminals, individuals posing a threat to national security, individuals apprehended at the border or who were found to have entered the United States unlawfully after January 1, 2014. In November 2014 President Obama had implemented these new priorities in an effort to secure the border. In the press release, Jeh Johnson added, “as I have said repeatedly, our borders are not open to illegal migration; if you come here illegally, we will send you back consistent with our laws and values…individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children will be removed.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Central American migrants were removed and repatriated at an increasing rate since the summer of 2014. During this time, there was a surge in the number of families and unaccompanied children from Central America attempting to cross the southern border illegally. In response to this surge, DHS collaborated with the Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadorian governments to decrease these numbers. According to Jeh Johnson the collaborative efforts were temporarily successfully. In 2015 the number of apprehensions by the U.S. Border Patrol decreased dramatically to 331, 333. Fiscal year 2015 experienced the lowest amount of apprehensions on the southern border since 1972. Recently, an increased rate of apprehensions resurfaced. This sudden spike resulted in the January 1st crackdown prompting ICE to action. As part of the crackdown, dozens of female agents and medical personnel were deployed to assist with the apprehension and removal process. According to DHS, in cases involving medical urgency or other reasons, ICE exercised prosecutorial discretion. As stated by DHS, enforcement operations will continue as needed in collaboration with state and local law enforcement.

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Yesterday night, in a 2-1 vote the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to uphold the lower court’s decision in Texas v. United States blocking President Obama’s extended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs from going into effect.

The expanded DACA and new DAPA provisions were announced November of last year as part of Obama’s executive actions on immigration giving eligible undocumented individuals a legal status in the United States. The expanded DACA program would have made millions of law abiding undocumented aliens (with no criminal history) eligible for employment authorization and social security benefits. To qualify, expanded DACA applicants would need to provide documented evidence proving their continuous physical presence in the United States from January 1, 2010 onward. In exchange, the United States government would recognize these individuals as law abiding residents and safeguard them against deportation. The move was significant since it would mean that undocumented individuals would no longer need to live on the fringes of society. By granting these individuals an immigration classification, insurance companies would become accessible to them for the first time ever.

Similarly, Obama’s DAPA program would have extended eligibility of deferred action to parents of US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents born or or before November 20, 2014 the date of the DAPA program’s announcement. As part of the application process, DAPA applicants would be required to undergo extensive background checks and prove continuous residence since January 1, 2010 among other provisions. Click here for more information on DAPA.

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It is our pleasure to bring you the latest in immigration news including recent USCIS announcements, workload updates, tips, and important reminders to avoid delays in application processing or rejections. For more information please contact our office.

Comment Period for Proposed USCIS Form Revisions:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have proposed changes to the following USCIS forms. DHS and USCIS invite the general public, organizations, and federal agencies to submit comments on the proposed revisions by the deadlines outlined below:

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In this blog we are answering 5 of your frequently asked questions in detail. Please remember that every case and every story is different and unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance while you embark on your immigration journey. For any further questions call our office for a free legal consultation. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office.

Q: I would like to understand if my case has any possibility of success. I am a Mexican citizen, my mother is a US Citizen. Years back she began the immigration process for me, but lost a notification due to a change of address. The whole process stopped. We both talked and would like to reinstate the process, can you please assist?

A: Thank you for your question. Did you save a copy of the case file that was mailed to CIS? It is important for an attorney to first evaluate your application to make sure you sent all necessary documentation along with your application. You will also need to provide copies of your receipt notices with your corresponding receipt numbers. It may be that you may have received a request for additional evidence. If you failed to change your address with CIS or if you failed to respond to CIS within the required timeframe you will need to reinstate your application. Our office has experience reinstating applications with CIS however the process can be time consuming. In some cases it is better to re-file to save time. If you have criminal history, have been deported, or detained these factors will have a profound impact on the success of your application. To determine the best strategy for you please contact our office.

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By Yingfei Zhou, Esq.

Today, June 09, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that children who waited for years with their parents to obtain immigrant visas still have to go to the back of the line when they turn 21.

BACKGROUND: The case, Mayorkas v Cuellar de Osorio, began as two separate suits, one joining many individual plaintiffs, and the other certified as class action.  One of the respondents involved in this case is a Salvadoran family-sponsored immigrant who was in line for a visa along with her 13-year-old son.  But after years of waiting, her son turned 21 and government officials said he no longer qualified as an eligible child.  The aged-out son was then placed at the back of the line, resulting in a wait of several more years.

Under current Immigration law, citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States may petition for certain family members – spouses, siblings, and children of various ages – to obtain immigrant visas (also known as “family-sponsored immigration”).  The sponsored individual is known as the immigrant petition’s principal beneficiary, and the principal beneficiary’s unmarried child under the age of 21 also qualifies as a derivative beneficiary in the same petition.  Specifically, a person may qualify family preference categories are:

F1: the unmarried, adult (21 or over) sons and daughters of U.S. citizen;

F2A: the spouses and unmarried, minor (under 21) children of LPRs;

F2B: the unmarried, adult (21 or over) sons and daughters of LPRs;

F3: the married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens;

F4: the brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens

ISSUE: The question brought to the U.S. Supreme Court is whether the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) applies to all alien children in all categories who counted as child beneficiaries when a sponsoring petition was filed, but turned 21 by the time they reach the front of the visa queue, or only to those in specific categories.

For a family preference beneficiary, immigrant petition approval results not in getting a visa then and there, but only in getting the beneficiary a place in line.  The immigrant may then stand in line for years just waiting for an immigrant visa to be available.  The mass situation of aged-out child beneficiaries triggered the CSPA.

In the past, because approving families for permanent residents can take years due to the limited number of visas available each year, aged-out children in all family preference categories used to retain their priority dates and have their ages frozen on the priority date, by asserting the CSPA, 116 Stat. 927.  That is to say, if an alien was young (under 21) when a U.S. citizen sponsored his/her entry, then his/her age was frozen and he/she remains young (under 21) throughout the immigration process.  The Act was signed by President Bush in 2002 and became effective in the same year. It has helped thousands of immigrant children to avoid negative immigration consequences from occurring when they turns 21 years of age before the USCIS or the State Department processes their permanent residence petition.

DECISION: In a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld government’s opinion that, instead of applying to all family preference categories, the CSPA should only provide relief to those aged-out aliens who qualified or could have qualified as principal beneficiaries of a visa petition, rather than only as derivative beneficiaries piggy-backing on a parent.

Now, if a parent applies for a visa for their family, but one of their children turns 21 before they reach the priority dates when the visas become available, that “aged out” child will probably have to start his or her wait all over again as an adult. 

SO, HOW DOES IT WORK NOW?

To illustrate, here we give you an example:

For example: A U.S. citizen files a F4 preference (brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens) petition for her alien brother and his derivatives (wife and child).  The brother has a child who is under 21 at the time the immigrant petition is filed with the USCIS. At the time when the visa becomes available, the child is over 21 years of age.

Before: The aged-out child may assert CSPA and still qualify for F4 preference category.

Now: The brother and his wife still eligible for green card under F4 preference category.  However, the once-but-no-longer-minor alien child no longer qualifies as a F4 derivative minor, even by asserting the pertinent part of CSPA.  Instead, the child would now qualify under the family-based, second preference (F2B) category and may have to wait for several more years, depending on the F2B preference priority dates.

Below please find the most recent chart of priority dates as of June, 2014:

Family-Sponsored All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA-mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
F1 22MAR07 22MAR07 22MAR07 15DEC93 01JUN02
F2A 01MAY12 01MAY12 01MAY12 15MAR11 01MAY12
F2B 01APR07 01APR07 01APR07 01AUG93 15JUL03
F3 01OCT03 01OCT03 01OCT03 22JUL93 08MAR93
F4 15DEC01 15DEC01 15DEC01 08DEC96 15NOV90

The decision has triggered massive discussions and a group of lawmakers passed the CSPA has submitted opposing arguments against the government’s opinion on this issue. We will keep following and informing you of any updates. If you need a discussion on your situation or have any questions regarding the new rules, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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