Articles Posted in Criminal Offenses

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we are breaking down Biden’s new immigration reform proposal which was recently introduced before Congress. The new proposal, also known as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, is groundbreaking because it creates an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States on or before January 1, 2021.

While this piece of legislation is still just a bill, it is opening the door for further dialogue from members of Congress and provides a unique window into what a final bill on immigration reform might look like.


How exactly does one “earn” their citizenship with this bill?


Undocumented immigrants who came to the United States on or before January 1, 2021, who can prove that they do not have a criminal record, and are not otherwise ineligible, would be eligible to secure something called “lawful prospective immigrant status” or “LPI” under this new bill.

Essentially, “LPI” would be a provisional temporary type of status that would allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States lawfully for a six-year period of time. This provisional status would act as a “gateway” to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for permanent residence and citizenship in the future.

Under the bill, eligible applicants would be granted “LPI” status for a 6-year period, and within that period of provisional status, immigrants would then be eligible to apply for permanent residence after 5 years. After 3 years of being in green card status, such immigrants would then be eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship.

All applicants would be required to pass background checks and pay taxes under the law.


Would LPI immigrants be able to travel in and out of the country?


Yes. LPI immigrants would be eligible to receive employment authorization and advance parole that would allow them to work and travel in and out of the country.

Additionally, LPI immigrants would be protected from deportation while their applications for LPI would be pending with immigration.


Are there special provisions for DACA recipients, TPS eligible immigrants, and farm workers?


Yes. Under the bill, those with DACA, individuals eligible for TPS, and farm workers with a demonstrated work history would be exempted from the “LPI” provisional status and would be permitted to apply for permanent residence directly without having to wait 5 years to apply for permanent residence, through an expedited “fast track” type of processing.

All others, however, would need to first obtain LPI status and then after 5 years apply for a green card.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off today’s post with very exciting news. Yesterday, February 18, 2021, President Biden unveiled new legislation that will create an 8-year earned path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States who were brought to this country as children.

While the bill faces an uphill battle in Congress, it is the start of the administration’s efforts to create new momentum to push parties on both sides of the aisle to fix our broken immigration system once and for all.


What does the new bill propose?


The new piece of legislation is based on the President’s immigration priorities as outlined during his first day in office.

While President Biden has been in office for less than one month, he is already moving forward with his most ambitious effort yet – introducing viable immigration proposals before Congress, that will counteract the past four years of harmful policies passed by his predecessor.

In a nutshell, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, as it is known, seeks to create (1) an eight-year pathway to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants (2) a shorter process to legal status for agriculture workers and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and (3) establishes an enforcement plan that includes deploying technology to patrol the Southern border.

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Last week, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its policy manual to clarify acts that may prevent a naturalization applicant from meeting the good moral character requirement.

A successful naturalization applicant must show that they have been, and continue to be a person of good moral character during the statutory period prior to filing the application for naturalization and up until taking the Oath of Allegiance. The statutory period is generally give years for permanent residents of the United States, three years for applicants married to U.S. citizens, and one year for certain applicants applying on the basis of qualifying U.S. military service.

Two or more DUI Convictions

Firstly, the policy manual clarifies that two or more DUI convictions during the statutory period could affect an applicant’s good moral character determination (Matter of Castillo-Perez). However, applicants with two or more DUI convictions may be able to overcome this presumption by presenting evidence that they had good moral character even during the period within which they committed the DUI offenses.

DUI refers to all state and federal impaired-driving offenses, including driving while intoxicated, operating under the influence, and other offenses that make it unlawful for an individual to operate a motor vehicle while impaired.

Post-Sentencing Orders

Secondly, the policy manual clarifies the definition of “term of imprisonment or a sentence” to mean, an alien’s original criminal sentence, without regard to post-sentencing changes. Post-sentencing orders that change a criminal alien’s original sentence are only relevant for immigration purposes if they are based on a procedural or substantive defect in the underlying criminal proceeding.

Furthermore, the policy guidance provides the following as examples of unlawful acts recognized by case law as barring good mood character (this list is not exhaustive):

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Several months ago, we reported that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) amended its policy regarding the issuance of Notice to Appear (NTA) documents in removal proceedings.

During the month of June, USCIS released a policy memorandum indicating the agency’s intent to revise NTA policy to better align with the President’s Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” NTAs are documents that are issued to alien’s subject to removal from the United States. Issuance of an NTA initiates the process of removing an individual from the United States.

Specifically, the Executive Order 13768 called on DHS to “prioritize the removal of aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4) … who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal.”

In addition, the Executive Order called for the removal of individuals who:

  • (a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
  • (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
  • (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

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Beginning next year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will launch a task force located in Los Angeles, designed to identify, detect, and prosecute individuals who have fraudulently gained United States Citizenship, for example by entering into a ‘sham’ marriage to obtain permanent residence, or engaging in other fraudulent activity, such as using a false identity to apply for permanent residence and/or naturalization.

USCIS has already begun to process of hiring lawyers and immigration officers who will review cases of individuals who have been deported, who the agency believes may potentially use a false identity to obtain permanent residence and/or citizenship. Such cases will be referred to the Department of Justice, who will then initiate the removal of individuals who have committed immigration fraud.

Of the denaturalization task force, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna told reporters, “We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place. What we’re looking at, when you boil it all down, is potentially a few thousand cases.”

The denaturalization task force will be funded by immigration application filing fees. The denaturalization task force will be primarily focused on targeting individuals who have used false identities to obtain immigration benefits.

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DHS Statement on Family Reunification

The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a statement outlining the administration’s four-point plan to reunite minor children separated from their parents at the border. Beginning July 10, 2018, HHS and DHS will coordinate the reunification of children under 5 years of age currently in the custody of HHS, with parents who are in DHS custody.

#1 Verification of Parental Relationship

The administration will first ensure that a parental relationship with the child has been verified before reunifying the child with his or her parent. In addition, the parent must undergo a background check to ensure that reunification will not compromise the safety and welfare of the child. If a parent is found unsuitable for reunification purposes, in the course of a background check, the child will not be reunified with the parent. Parents who are in the custody of the U.S. Marshall or in a state or county jail for other offenses may not be reunified with their child.

#2 Transportation of Parents to ICE custody

Parents separated from their children will be transported to ICE custody where they will be reunited with their parents. Beginning July 10, 2018, DHS will coordinate physical reunification of minor children under 5 years of age with parents transported to ICE custody, provided the parent has been cleared for parentage and poses no danger to the child.

#3 Preparation of Children under Five Years of Age for Transportation

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) will coordinate transportation of minor children under the age of five for reunification purposes. Children will be transported under supervision and their possessions will be brought with them to ICE custody.

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In this post, we bring our readers important information regarding revisions to the Notice to Appear “NTA” policy guidelines. On June 28, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new policy guidance outlining the Department’s priorities for enforcement and removal of undocumented immigrants from the United States.

Form I-862 also known as a Notice to Appear is a document that is given to an individual to initiate removal proceedings. The Notice to Appear instructs the individual of a date and time to appear in immigration court for removal proceedings.

To better align with the President’s Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” USCIS has revised its NTA policy expanding the class of individuals who may be referred to ICE and issued a Notice to Appear. Under the revised policy, USCIS may now refer cases “with articulated suspicions of fraud to ICE prior to adjudication,” of cases filed with USCIS. The revised policy does not apply to recipients and requestors of Deferred Action (DACA) when (1) processing an initial or renewal DACA request or DACA-related benefit request; or (2) processing a DACA recipient for possible termination of DACA. For this class of individuals the 2011 NTA guidelines will apply.

The President’s Executive Order 13768 specifically calls on DHS to “prioritize the removal of aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4) … who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal.”

In addition, the Executive Order prioritizes the removal of individuals who:

  • (a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
  • (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
  • (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

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In this post, we share with our readers the top five things you need to know before filing for citizenship.

  1. You must be a lawful permanent resident of the United States for a required period of time to apply for citizenship

In order to apply for citizenship, you must be a lawful permanent resident of the United States for a specified period of time. The period of time you must wait before filing for citizenship depends on how you acquired your permanent residence.

If you acquired your permanent residence based on marriage to a United States Citizen spouse, and you are still married to that individual, you may apply for citizenship once you have reached a 3-year period of continuous residence as a legal permanent resident.

If you are no longer married to the U.S. Citizen spouse through which you gained your permanent residence, or if you did not gain your permanent residence based on marriage, you may apply for citizenship once you have reached a required 5-year period of continuous residence as a legal permanent resident.

  1. You must demonstrate that you have been physically present in the United States and maintained continuous residence for a required period of time in order to file for citizenship

Physical Presence

In order to apply for citizenship, you must demonstrate that you have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months in the 5 years preceding your citizenship application.

Continuous Residence

In addition, you must demonstrate that you have maintained continuous residence in the United States for a 3- or 5-year period depending on how you obtained your permanent residence. This means that you must not have taken any trips outside of the United States that lasted more than 6 months out of the year in the 5 years preceding your citizenship application. Trips outside of the United States include trips taken to Mexico.

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Federal Judge John Bates of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia has spoken to protect Dreamers from deportation, where Congress has remained silent. In a Tuesday ruling, Judge Bates called the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to rescind the DACA program “arbitrary and capricious,” and with no sufficient basis to justify rescission of the program, ordered DHS to accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.

As part of his opinion Judge Bates vacated the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA, for a period of 90 days, giving the Department of Homeland Security an opportunity to explain its decision to rescind the DACA program. If the government fails to adequately explain the grounds for finding the DACA program to be unlawful, DHS must accept and process new and renewal DACA applications. DHS has responded to the ruling in a statement where it vowed to “continue to vigorously defend” its decision to rescind the DACA program and looks “forward to vindicating its position in further litigation.”

This ruling is the third in recent months against the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the DACA program.  Earlier this year, Federal Judges in Brooklyn and San Francisco issued similar rulings to keep the DACA program in place, however the Bates ruling is the first ordering the government to accept new DACA applications.

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The latest string of immigration raids have come very close to home. Last week, federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took part in a five-day immigration sweep throughout San Diego County with the goal of apprehending and removing criminal immigrants at large.

During the sweep 53 undocumented immigrants were arrested including immigrants who were not criminals but had final deportation orders issued by the Immigration Court. 10 of the 53 arrested had been previously deported. These individuals were said to have re-entered the United States after previous deportations or had been found in violation of federal immigration laws. According to USCIS, those detained were of Mexican and Guatemalan nationality and were picked up in Santee, Vista, Encinitas, Chula Vista, Escondido, Oceanside, San Diego, and Imperial Beach.

Gregory Archambeault, the field office director of the San Diego Office for Enforcement and Removal Operations defended the actions adding that these types of operations, “reflect the vital work ERO officers do every day to uphold public safety and protect the integrity of our immigration laws and border controls.”

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