Articles Posted in Undocumented Immigrants

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Last week, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a series of immigration enforcement operations nationwide, otherwise known as “raids” to crack down on illegal immigration. The operations took place over a five-day period in the metropolitan cities of Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City, and resulted in the arrest of more than 680 individuals. According to the Department of Homeland Security, these raids were targeted at convicted criminals unlawfully present in the United States, persons who are a threat to our public safety, including gang members, and “individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws” by illegally re-entering the country after having been removed, including fugitives who could not be found after having been ordered removed by federal immigration judges. Additionally, DHS reported that of those who were arrested, approximately 75 percent were criminal aliens, convicted of crimes including “homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.”

Communities across the United States went into uproar, after reports began pouring in that hundreds of non-threatening individuals including mothers and children were being taken into custody and removed from the United States during these operations. One of the first such individuals to be arrested was Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a Mexican mother of two U.S. Citizen children, who was detained by ICE at a routine check point in Phoenix, after having lived 20 years in that state. Garcia de Rayos had come to the United States illegally as a child. She was arrested during a 2008 raid on her Arizona workplace on suspicion that the business was hiring undocumented immigrants using fraudulent IDs. Garcia de Rayos was taken into custody six months later, when investigators discovered discrepancies in her employment documents. She pled guilty in 2009 to criminal impersonation and was sentenced to 2 year’s probation. Despite these offenses, Guadalupe was considered to be a “low priority” of enforcement and was required to check in with immigration officials.

After news broke of her arrest, the Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging Mexican nationals to contact the Mexican consulate for immigration assistance, information relating to their immigration rights, and protections offered to them by the Center for Information and Assistance to Mexicans (CIAM). According to the Foreign Ministry, Mexican consulates in the United States have allocated additional resources to protect the rights of Mexican nationals. The Foreign Ministry added that they anticipate these immigration raids will increase in severity and are likely to violate the due process of rights of Mexican nationals.

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President Donald Trump is expected to hand down a controversial Executive Order on immigration within the coming days to protect the nation from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals. Although the Trump administration has not made a formal announcement regarding the proposed order yet, a leaked, unsigned copy of the President’s order has been making the rounds. We do not know whether the President has made any modifications to the order since its leak, and we do not know when exactly the order will be issued. One thing is clear, an executive order on immigration is imminent. It is rumored that the executive order will include a temporary ban on refugees, the suspension of issuance of visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries, which are rumored to include Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, collectively referred to as “countries of particular concern,” as well as the end of Syrian refugee processing, and the visa interview waiver program.

The passage of such an executive order although extremely controversial and unpopular, would be within the President’s executive power, if his administration determines that limiting refugee admissions temporarily and restricting the issuance of visas to persons from specific countries is of significant public interest to the United States to combat the war on terror. The administration would need to balance our country’s need to secure its borders against terrorism with the need to resolve the global humanitarian crisis we face today. Donald Trump has already passed a series of executive orders on border security and immigration enforcement authorizing the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, withholding federal grant money for sanctuary cities, hiring 5,000 Border Patrol agents, reinstating local and state immigration enforcement partnerships, and ending the “catch-and-release” policy for undocumented immigrants.

The leaked copy of the executive order “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” gives two policy reasons for enacting the executive order. First, the purpose of the order is to protect American citizens from foreign nationals who intend to enter the United States to commit acts of terrorism. Second, the order serves to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to enter the United States to “exploit” the country’s immigration laws for malevolent purposes. The order highlights that following the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, hundreds of foreign nationals have successfully entered the United States on an asylum, visitor, student, or employment visa, and have been subsequently convicted or implicated in terrorism related crimes. The order goes on to blame the State Department’s consular officials for their failure to scrutinize the visa applications of the foreign nationals who went on to commit the September 11 attacks, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans.

The main provisions of the leaked order “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” are as follows:

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With the onset of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, rumors have swirled about whether the newly elected President will terminate the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented persons who came to the United States as children, otherwise known as “Dreamers.” The DACA program was made possible by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, with the passage of an executive order signed into law in 2012. Although Trump has openly stated that he plans to dismantle the DACA program within his first 100 days in office, in the days following his election, he backtracked his stance on the issue in an interview for TIME magazine, and instead promised that in its place, Dreamers would receive temporary “protection” from the federal government which would allow them to remain in the United States lawfully without fear of deportation. Although Trump did not fully elaborate on the details of such governmental immunity, his remarks gave Dreamers hope that the DACA program might not end after all, or at the very least that similar temporary relief might be put in its place.

Aside from Trump’s political motivations, several senators have introduced bipartisan legislation in the form of the BRIDGE Act (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow our Economy). The BRIDGE Act was introduced in early December, before the inauguration of Donald Trump, and is designed to protect Dreamers from deportation by allowing them to obtain “provisional protected presence” for a three-year period similar to the “deferred status” given to Dreamers under the DACA program. If passed the BRIDGE Act will also allow Dreamers to keep their temporary employment authorization (EAD) benefits. It must be noted that at this time the BRIDGE Act is still only a bill. The BRIDGE Act has not yet been signed into law, and no other bill has yet been passed protecting Dreamers from deportation.

Many of our clients and readers are stuck in this “legal” limbo and are unsure of what the future of DACA may hold. The good news is that because the DACA program has not yet been dismantled, DACA recipients are still protected from deportation by the “deferred status” they have received from USCIS. If you have received deferred status which has not yet expired, it is recommended that you obtain a stamp in your foreign passport from the Department of Homeland Security that indicates that you have been “paroled” into the United States based on your grant of DACA or “deferred status.” A person who has been granted deferred status may seek temporary admission to the United States as a parolee. A parolee is an alien who is inadmissible to the United States, but may be allowed to enter the United States for humanitarian reasons or when the alien’s entry is determined to be for significant public benefit. The grant of “deferred” action allows a person who does not otherwise meet the technical requirements for a visa or is inadmissible to the United States, permission to enter the United States on “parole” for a temporary period of time. Dreamers may obtain a stamp in their passport as evidence of this temporary status or “parole” by appearing before a customs official at a port of entry (such as an international airport) with evidence of their approved DACA status and employment authorization card. Upon inspection, the stamp will indicate to immigration officials that you have entered the country legally and that you have been granted parole based on your DACA. Although parole will not grant Dreamers formal admission to the United States, it will grant an alien “temporary” status to remain in the country lawfully. The stamp, for now, will allow Dreamers to breathe a sigh of relief since it serves as proof of the alien’s “legal” admission to the United States. Dreamers who marry U.S. Citizens in the future may use their “parole” stamp and I-94 arrival/departure record as evidence of their legal admission to the United States to apply for permanent residency.

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Today, January 12, 2017 the President announced that the Department of Homeland Security will be ending the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy in a statement about Cuban Immigration Policy. Previously, Cuban nationals were allowed to apply for permanent residency within one year of reaching American soil without the need to enter the United States with a visa. After decades of making an exception for Cuban nationals, the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy will be no more. From this point forward, Cuban nationals will be required (like all other foreign nationals) to obtain a visa in order to be lawfully admitted to the United States. Effective January 12, 2017, Cuban nationals caught attempting to enter the United States without proper documentation, who do not otherwise qualify for humanitarian relief, will be subject to removal, in accordance with the immigration laws of the United States. This change in policy comes as an effort to “normalize” U.S./Cuban relations and to make the immigration policies of the United States more consistent. As you may know, diplomatic relations between U.S. and Cuba were severed in 1961, and were only re-opened until recently. For their part the Cuban government has reached an agreement with the United States to accept Cuban nationals ordered removed from the United States.

In addition, the new policy states that effective immediately the Department of Homeland Security will terminate the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program under the rationale that this program no longer serves the interests of the United States and the Cuban people. The parole program was viewed as controversial from the very beginning because it provided preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel. Cuban medical personnel and others will be eligible to apply for asylum at United States embassies and consulates worldwide, as has been customary for all other foreign nationals.

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The Department of Homeland Security has released its end of the year statistics for fiscal year 2016 reflecting immigration enforcement priorities for convicted criminals, threats to public safety, border and national security. The report found that during fiscal year 2016, 530,250 individuals were apprehended nationwide, and a total of 450,954 individuals were removed and returned to their countries of origin. For their part, the U.S. Border Patrol reported a total of 415,816 apprehensions nationwide, an increase in 78,699 persons, when compared to fiscal year 2015. For their part, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 114,434 individuals during fiscal year 2016, a decrease in 10,777 persons, when compared to fiscal year 2015. During fiscal year 2016, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations identified 274,821 inadmissible individuals at ports of entry nationwide, an increase in 21,312 persons, when compared to fiscal year 2015. Lastly, ICE reported that during fiscal year 2016 they removed or returned 240,255 individuals, an increase in 4,842 individuals when compared to fiscal year 2015.

The report highlighted that the Department of Homeland Security has successfully honored the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement priorities announced in November 2014, which prioritize the deportation of national security threats, individuals attempting to enter the United States unlawfully, and convicted criminals. As evidence of this, the report states that during fiscal year 2016, ninety-eight percent of initial enforcement actions involved individuals which fell into one of three enforcement priority categories. The report indicates that ninety-one percent of apprehensions fell within the top priority for individuals who either presented a national security threat, attempted to enter the United States unlawfully, or were convicted of a crime (including gang members).

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For years you have 8276375308_d5f2721898_zput your trust in our office for all of your immigration needs and for that we thank you. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to serve you and your families. Throughout the years, we have helped thousands of immigrants from all over the world attain their American dream. Learning about their lives and their struggles has

always been an important part of our practice. Although many challenges lie ahead for immigration, we are confident that important changes will come about in the new year. Do not despair and know that our office will be with you every step of the way. We wish you and your families the happiest of holiday seasons.

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On Friday December 9, 2016, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, introduced the “Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy” BRIDGE act before Congress to protect Dreamers from deportation, and allow them to keep the temporary employment authorization (EAD) they currently possess. This legislation was introduced to provide temporary relief to the young, undocumented, immigrant population that was issued Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or “deferred status” by President Barack Obama in 2012. Amid mounting pressure to protect the existing DACA program, as well as feelings of fear and uncertainty surrounding the future of the program, several Democratic and Republican Senators have come together to save the program from the Trump administration including Senators Dianne Feinstein, Lisa Murkowski, and Jeff Flake. As you may remember, DACA was first introduced by President Obama in 2012 to provide undocumented immigrants who came to the United States at a young age, the opportunity to apply for employment authorization, and be protected from deportation. DACA is not a form of amnesty, and does not provide a path to permanent residency or citizenship. DACA recipients, commonly referred to as “Dreamers” in the media, are undocumented persons who came to the U.S. as young children, and are pursuing the American Dream through higher education or military service in the United States.

Last week, just before Congress went into recess before the winter holiday, Senator Graham along with other Senators introduced the “Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy” (BRIDGE) act which will give current DACA holders “provisional protected presence” for a three year period, as well as undocumented persons who are eligible for the program, but who have not yet applied.  Although this act is not a revelation, given that this “provisional protected presence” sounds a lot like “deferred status” which DACA has already conferred upon DACA recipients, the legislation does promise to protect this population of undocumented immigrants from deportation, and allow them to continue living, working, and studying in the United States without the need to fear deportation. The criteria will also be the same as the eligibility criteria for the DACA program. At the very least this piece of legislation if passed, will protect current DACA holders from losing the temporary employment authorization they already possess, and will shield young undocumented people who would otherwise be eligible for the program, from deportation under the Trump administration.

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On the heels of being named “Person of the Year” by TIME magazine, a new interview with President-elect Donald J. Trump reveals new information regarding the former business tycoon’s stance on illegal immigration. As we have previously reported, throughout his campaign the President-elect Donald Trump vowed to crackdown on illegal immigration, claiming that he would deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States unlawfully during. Among other things, Trump also campaigned on the platform that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program once and for all; a program which to this date has shielded hundreds of thousands of young undocumented persons from deportation, and provided them with temporary work authorization. The lives of these young undocumented immigrants have in large part been shaped by the passage of DACA, and the false sense of security it brought them. Today, their lives are in a very fragile state, with the uncertain future of what may happen to this program under a Trump administration, and the looming possibility of their removal from the United States, given that USCIS now possesses vital information regarding their identities and whereabouts. Ever since his election, Trump has desperately attempted to unite the nation. His administration has endeavored to pick up the broken pieces that were left behind by his polarizing campaign rhetoric. In recent months, we have seen Trump dramatically soften his stance on immigration in what may be described as futile efforts to unify the country.

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One of the most common questions we often receive during in person and telephonic consultations is whether an aggravated felony may decrease a person’s chances to legalize their status in the United States. The harsh reality is that the immigration options for noncitizen aliens convicted of an “aggravated felony” are severely limited, and in most situations, the immigration laws of the United States subject these individuals to the harshest deportation consequences. Even if you have been lawfully admitted to the United States or are currently a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) you may be subject to deportation if you commit an aggravated felony. In other words, so long as you are a noncitizen alien, you may be at risk of deportation if you are or have been convicted of what is considered an “aggravated felony” in the United States or any other country. What’s more, aggravated felons lose many of the privileges that are designed to provide relief to individuals from deportation, and in some cases these individuals may be prevented from re-entering the United States permanently, following removal from the United States. The immigration laws of the United States, passed by Congress, contain numerous provisions that are designed to keep criminals outside of the United States, and in turn prevent criminals from being allowed to remain in the United States. While Congress has recognized that there are few exceptions to the rule that should be made in cases where there is a compelling argument to be made in favor of allowing a person found guilty of an aggravated felony to remain in the United States, having taken into consideration the fact that an immigrant’s removal may result in extreme hardship for U.S. Citizens. Unfortunately, these exceptions are very few and far in between, and deportation is the most probable outcome. When it comes to crimes of moral turpitude and crimes that fall under the category of “aggravated felonies” the U.S. immigration system is very unforgiving.

What is an aggravated felony?

An aggravated felony is a term that describes a particular category of offenses that carry with them harsh immigration consequences as punishment for noncitizen aliens who have been convicted of these types of crimes. Noncitizens who have been convicted of an aggravated felony lose the opportunity to apply for most common forms of relief available to law abiding noncitizens, that would have shielded them from deportation. Noncitizens who have been convicted of an aggravated felony for example are ineligible to apply for asylum and may not be readmitted to the United States in the future. An “aggravated felony” is an offense that Congress has labeled as such, and does not actually require the crime to be considered “aggravated” or a “felony” to qualify to be an “aggravated felony.” In other words, the term must not be taken literally. Many crimes that are labeled “aggravated felonies” are nonviolent in nature and constitute minor offenses, nonetheless these crimes fall under the Congressional categorization of an “aggravated felony.”

The myth of what constitutes an “aggravated felony”

For purposes of immigration law, an offense does not need to be considered “aggravated” or a “felony” in the place where the crime was committed to be considered an “aggravated felony” under the Congressional definition of “aggravated felony.” There are numerous non-violent and trivial misdemeanors that are considered aggravated felonies per the immigration laws of the United States. At its inception, the term referred to crimes that were of a violent and non-trivial nature including such crimes as murder, federal drug trafficking, and illicit trafficking of firearms. Today, Congress has expanded the types of crimes that fall under the category of “aggravated felonies” to include non-violent crimes such as simple battery, theft, the filing of a false tax return, and failure to appear in court when summoned. To view the complete list of aggravated felonies under the Immigration and Nationality Act please click here. Other offenses that fall under this category include sexual abuse of a minor, although some states do not classify these crimes as misdemeanors or criminalize such behavior for example in cases of consensual intercourse between an adult and a minor. In most situations, a finding of any of these offenses will result in the loss of most immigration benefits, and in cases where the noncitizen is already a legal permanent resident or is in lawful status, the noncitizen will be subject to deportation.

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On June 23, 2016 the United States Supreme Court made headlines when it affirmed a federal court’s decision in United States v. Texas, preventing the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. An eight-person bench delivered a single one-line decision on the ruling stating, “the judgment of the lower court is affirmed by an equally divided court.” This controversial decision ultimately resulted in the halt of the expansion of the DACA and DAPA programs, leaving these programs in legal limbo. The DACA and DAPA programs were first introduced by President Barack Obama two years ago, as part of a series of executive actions on immigration. With the passage of these programs, the Obama administration hoped that the Republican controlled House of Representatives would be persuaded to discuss the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. This effort proved fruitless. Republican Congressmen and women not only refused to pass comprehensive immigration reform, they politicized the issue of immigration altogether, blocking the President’s Supreme Court nomination following the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, in order to prevent the Supreme Court from becoming liberal. Together, these programs would have shielded nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation by giving them “deferred status,” and would have provided applicants with a temporary three-year employment authorization card. Although these measures proved short of an amnesty, they were made in response to Congress’s refusal to pass meaningful immigration reform for the undocumented population living in the United States.

The expansion of the DACA program would have increased the population eligible to apply for employment authorization to people of any current age, who had entered the United States before the age of 16, and who could demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010. Similarly, the DAPA program would have shielded millions of parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents from deportation if they could demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010, and pass the required background checks.

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