Articles Posted in Fraudulent Schemes

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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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27512994306_54f949109a_zDuring November 2015, a couple came to our office seeking legal assistance, after having filed the adjustment of status application on their own, and attending their initial green card interview without legal representation. The couple visited our office seeking legal representation for their second interview before USCIS, also known as the ‘STOKES’ interview. At the conclusion of their initial interview, the couple were given a request for evidence by the immigration officer.  The Request for Evidence asked the couple to prove that the Beneficiary entered the marriage in good faith, and not for the purposes of evading the immigration laws of the United States. The couple responded to the Request for Evidence, providing documents in support of their bona fide marriage, to establish that they did indeed enter the marriage in good faith. In their response, the couple provided 21 items of evidence including photographs together, lease agreements as proof of cohabitation, and other bona fides such as joint utility bills and affidavits from the Petitioner’s parents, attesting to the couple’s bona fide marriage.

Despite producing such evidence, the immigration officer found the documents provided as evidence of cohabitation and marital union unconvincing. Additionally, the immigration officer found that the testimony given during the initial interview was unconvincing. Due to this, the immigration officer scheduled the couple for a second interview to discuss their relationship in more detail. The couple came to our office seeking guidance and representation at this second interview. The second interview is commonly referred to as the ‘STOKES’ interview. At the time of the second interview or ‘STOKES’ interview, the couple is questioned separately by an immigration officer regarding the details surrounding their marriage and relationship. A ‘STOKES’ interview is typically scheduled when an immigration officer suspects that the marriage is a ‘sham marriage’ entered for the purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit. During the ‘STOKES’ interview the immigration officer probes the couple on the intimate details of their relationship. The ‘STOKES’ interview is very taxing on both the Petitioner and Beneficiary. Some ‘STOKES’ interviews have lasted anywhere form 8-10 hours depending on the complexity of the case. Due to this, it is strongly recommended for an attorney to be present with the couple during a ‘STOKES’ interview.

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The state of Colorado is set to pass a new bill known as HB16-1391 that will prosecute non-attorneys posing as licensed immigration attorneys or legal representatives in matters relating to immigration. Colorado Senator Dan Pabon, first introduced the bipartisan bill, HB 16-1391 the Immigration Consultants Deceptive Trade Practice, before the Colorado Senate earlier this year. The focus of HB16-1391 is to crackdown on “notarios” targeting the Hispanic community, who are not licensed to practice law in the United States. The word “notario” in some Latin American countries refers to a person that is either highly trained to conduct legal matters or is an attorney. The word notary in the United States takes on a different meaning. A notary public in the United States is not an attorney and cannot conduct legal matters. They cannot provide legal advice nor represent individuals before court. Instead, a notary public can attest or certify writings to make them authentic. Notary publics are typically involved in the certification of affidavits, depositions, and other negotiable documents. In the United States they witness the making of documents and sign in order to attest that documents are authentic. The Hispanic community is often misled by these “notarios” who advertise themselves as authorized legal representatives and/or attorneys for compensation. Despite the fact that these “notarios” are not authorized to offer legal consultations, they often do causing irreparable damage to the people they serve. They often give false hope to people in the United States unlawfully and mislead them into applying for an immigration benefit they are not eligible to receive, prompting their removal from the United States. The bill, Immigration Consultants Deceptive Trade Practice, will prohibit non-attorneys from conducting consultations, receiving compensation, and providing legal services to individuals related to immigration.

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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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District Court Denies Request for Temporary Restraining Order to Halt Syrian Re-Settlement Program in Texas

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First Family of Syrian Refugees Arrives in Canada

In their December suit, Texas Health and Human Services Commission V. United States, et, al., the state of Texas alleged that the United States government and the International Rescue Committee unlawfully attempted to re-settle six Syrian refugees in the city of Dallas without prior  consultation and collaboration. According to Texas, the federal government failed to consult with the state regarding re-settlement of these refugees, and prevented them from receiving vital information relating to security risks posed by Syrian refugees prior to their re-settlement. Texas also claimed that the International Rescue Committee similarly failed to collaborate and consult with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in advance prior to the re-settlement of these refugees. To protect itself, the state of Texas asked for an injunction and a temporary restraining order to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees until security checks could confirm that these Syrian refugees do not pose a threat to the state of Texas.

On December 9, 2015 the U.S. district court denied the temporary restraining order, adding that the state of Texas failed to provide compelling evidence to suggest that Syrian refugees pose a substantial threat of irreparable injury to its citizens. Presiding district court Judge David C. Godbey added that, “the [Texas] commission has failed to show by competent evidence that any terrorists actually infiltrated the refugee program, much less that these particular refugees are terrorists’ intent on causing harm.” Although the lawsuit still stands and will likely not receive a final ruling until early next year, the district court set an important precedent in its denial of the temporary restraining order. Judge Godbey further maintained that it is not within the purview of the district court to assess what risk, if any, Syrian refugees pose to any particular state. Such risk can only be assessed by the federal government. On this issue Godbey stated that, “the Court has no institutional competency in assessing the risk posed by refugees. That is precisely the sort of question that is, as a general matter, committed to the discretion of the executive branch of the federal government, not to a district court.” The rest of the lawsuit remains in litigation.

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Tashfeen Malik, a Pakistani citizen, and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, a naturalized United States Citizen, are known globally as the couple behind the San Bernardino shootings, which took the lives of 14 people and left 21 injured. Twenty-eight-year-old Syed Farook was identified as an environmental health services inspector employed by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. He was attending a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center where he worked. Reports confirm that a dispute occurred between Syed and an attendee of the party causing Syed to leave the party. He later returned with his wife Tashfeen dressed in tactical gear carrying assault weapons and semi-automatic pistols. Days after the attack, it became known that the assault was inspired but not directed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the terrorist group which claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks that occurred in Paris just last month. Through a radio message disbursed online, ISIL confirmed that the duo were indeed supporters of the group praising them for their efforts, but stopping short of taking credit for the attack. The FBI has since confirmed that the couple had been ‘radicalized’ for some time before the actual attack took place, though it is not clear how the couple became radicalized, how they rehearsed the attack, and whether the couple maintained ties to any other terrorist organizations. It is known that Syed and his wife Tashfeen had visited gun ranges in the Los Angeles area for target practice just days before the December 2nd assault at the Inland Regional Center, a social services facility located in San Bernardino, California where Syed was employed.

Investigations have revealed that Syed and Tashfeen met one another on a Muslim dating site a couple of years ago. The relationship flourished, and eventually Tashfeen Malik obtained and entered the United States legally on a K-1 fiancé visa. Last year, Tashfeen became a United States lawful permanent resident through her marriage to Syed, a naturalized citizen. In response to the recent terror attacks around the world and the Syrian refugee crisis, President Obama delivered a rare address to the nation from the Oval Office yesterday evening declaring the San Bernardino massacre an “act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people.”

In his address, President Obama outlined his administration’s four-tier strategy to defeat ISIL and discussed necessary measures that must be taken by Congress to bring about legislation that will protect our country from extremism and combat the war on terror. Such measures include the following:

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What are the most challenging questions for couples at a STOKES/Fraud Interview?

By Attorney Marie Puertollano, Esq.

What happens when a US Citizen Spouse and the intending immigrant spouse fail an interview pending an application for permanent residence?

Normally couples who have failed to provide sufficient documentation to an immigration officer, for the purpose of establishing their bona fide marriage—in other words that the marriage between both parties was entered in good faith and NOT to obtain an immigration benefit—may receive an appointment for a second interview also known as the STOKES or fraud interview. In some cases however a couple may be scheduled for a STOKES or fraud interview the very first time around. There are multiple reasons a couple may be scheduled for a STOKES/fraud interview. Couples should note that the burden of proof always rests on the couple. So what happens at this fraud interview? During the STOKES/fraud interview the couple is separated in different rooms and interrogated by an immigration officer. The officer will first interrogate one of the parties in a separate room. Then, the officer will question the other party asking the same exact questions.

Fraud interviews are lengthy and very complex. Officers ask very detailed questions that are challenging even for couples who have been together for many years. Our attorneys have successfully represented couples at hundreds of fraud interviews. Here are the most challenging questions that almost all couples are unprepared to answer despite having been together for many years. It is important that if a question is unclear or if the context of the question is unclear that the party ask the immigration officer for clarification.

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What is President Obama’s Executive Action?

It is not a path to permanent residency. It is not a permanent solution. It is not an option for felons, undocumented individuals with criminal histories, inadmissibility issues, and recent border crossers. In fact, recent border crossers will be made a priority for deportation under the order. The order also makes border security a number one priority, increasing the chances of apprehension for recent border crossers. If you commit fraud by knowingly misrepresenting or failing to disclose the facts, you may be subject to prosecution or removal from the United States. Always be truthful and careful when presenting information and documentation to USCIS. Eligible immigrants must demonstrate that they have resided in the United States continuously for a period of at least five years. Only immigrants who have been living in the United States for at least five years are allowed to reap the benefits under the executive action. The order grants eligible individuals a temporary status allowing applicants to remain in the United States legally without fear of deportation.

Eligible individuals must be either:

  • A parent of a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident as of the date of the President’s announcement of November 20, 2014, have been residing in the United States continuously for at least five years (beginning on January 01, 2010), must not be an enforcement priority, and not have inadmissibility issues

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  • Individuals who arrived in the United States before turning 16 years old and who can prove that they have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years (beginning on January 01, 2010) regardless of their age today. Applicants must not be an enforcement priority and not have inadmissibility issues.

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Jose came into our office yesterday.  He had been here before.  About a year ago he came in to have a consultation with us and it seems we didn’t have the “right” answers that he wanted to hear.  This led to Jose searching for what he really wanted to hear.

For the past year, Jose has visited several immigration attorneys to confirm the information we had already given him.  The answer was always the same; except one day he found one attorney who gave him hope.  Unfortunately, the attorney took his hope, his money, and didn’t do anything to help.

We hear this story often and there isn’t a week that goes by where we don’t see a person who has entrusted their life and their savings to an inexperienced attorney, or worst yet, to an unscrupulous attorney or immigration consultant.  There are times that we have to give people the bad news – that there is nothing that can be done to help them.  The person is usually devastated and in their desperation will state “I’ll find a better attorney and he will be able to help me.”  The truth is, if you search for the answer you want to hear, you will always find someone who are willing to help you; that is they are willing help you be separated from your money – leaving you hopeless.

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President Obama’s executive order is looming on the horizon, as part of an alleged 10 point plan the president plans to announce as early as Friday, November 21. According to a draft proposal released by a U.S. government agency, the plan may suspend removal proceedings for millions of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, as well as parents of U.S. Citizen children residing in the United States illegally, and parents of green card holders, by allowing them to benefit from a reprieve that will expand deferred action for these individuals. Among its 10 initiatives, firstly, the plan proposes to bolster border security, secondly, to improve pay for immigration officers, thirdly, to provide a 50% discount to the first 10,000 applicants whose income levels are below 200% of the poverty level in order to encourage participation, fourthly, to establish a program designed to stimulate the tech industry which could potentially offer millions of immigrants and their dependents a path to citizenship, and lastly, to prioritize removal proceedings on the basis of the severity of an immigrant’s criminal history, calling an end to the program known as ‘Secure Communities.’ This 10 point plan makes anyone who entered the United States before turning 16 and before the date of January 01, 2010, eligible for naturalization. Such a plan would thereby suspend deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The proposal has not yet been announced, we would like to inform our audience to please be wary of fraudulent schemes. At this time ONLY preliminary information has been released.

Please continue to follow our blog for further updates, for more information please contact our office.  It is our goal to provide you with the most up to date immigration reform developments.