Articles Posted in Waivers

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New developments have recently unfolded since the passage of Texas’ controversial SB4 law—a law that bans sanctuary cities in the state of Texas, and requires local jurisdictions and law enforcements officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities to apprehend undocumented immigrants in the state of Texas.

The controversial bill has suffered its first blowback. The border town of El Cenizo has sued the state arguing that the ban is unconstitutional. The Mayor of El Cenizo, Raul Reyes, told reporters that the bill “hinders the relationship between police departments and the community,” and “decreases criminal activity reports which opens up the door to more domestic violence and more sexual assaults against immigrants.” The city of El Cenizo has been joined in their lawsuit against the state by Maverick county, El Paso county, and the League of United Latin American Citizens. The small town of El Cenizo, Texas first came to national attention when the Spanish language was declared the city’s official language.

The Texas Attorney General envisioned a pushback from “sanctuary cities.” At about the same time that the governor of Texas signed SB4 into law, the attorney general sought to protect the state against future challenges to the law, by filing a lawsuit against known “sanctuary cities” in the state of Texas that have limited the federal government’s power to detain undocumented immigrants by refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The lawsuit was filed on May 7, 2017 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. The state of Texas filed the lawsuit so that they could have a single court ruling upholding the constitutionality of SB4 that would invalidate any lawsuits filed against the state.

Among the cities which have been identified as “sanctuary cities” that have been noncompliant with the federal government’s demands are: Travis County, the city of Austin, and other local officials including Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who has limited cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

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On May 7, 2017 Governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed the controversial “Texas Senate Bill 4” into law which will take effect on September 1st. Among its major provisions, the bill outlaws the establishment of “sanctuary cities” which serve as safe havens for undocumented immigrants, requires local law enforcement officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities by holding undocumented immigrants subject to deportation, and permits local law enforcement officials to question individuals regarding their immigration status in the United States. In September, the bill will be enforced by officers throughout the state of Texas including by police officers on college campuses. The bill, however, will not apply to officers contracted by religious groups, schools, government mental health care facilities, and hospitals.

More specifically SB4:

  • Blocks local entities from passing laws and/or adopting policies that prevent local law enforcement officials from inquiring about a person’s immigration status
  • The law makes it a crime for sheriffs, constables, police chiefs, and local leaders to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities (Class A misdemeanor)
  • Imposes sanctions on law enforcement officials and local jurisdictions that do not comply with the law
  • Cities who fail to comply with the law may face fines of up to $25,000 per day, and the police chiefs, sheriffs, or mayors of noncompliant jurisdictions may be charged criminally and/or removed from office
  • Allows police officers to question anyone they believe to be residing in the United States unlawfully about their immigration status, including at routine traffic stops

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On Monday, March 6, 2017 President Donald Trump rolled out a newly revised version of the executive order “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” following the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refusal to reinstate the controversial order that was originally released on January 27, 2017.  The January 27th order had called for a blank travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim majority countries, temporarily barring them from gaining admission into the United States for a period of 90 days, irrespective of their legal status in the United States. These seven Muslim majority countries were deemed “countries of particular concern” by the Trump administration based upon the Department of State’s reports designating these countries as countries presenting heightened security risks to the United States. In addition, in the original order, Donald Trump had called for a temporary 120-day suspension of the U.S. Refugee program preventing refugees from entering the United States, and finally the order suspended the Syrian refugee program indefinitely. These controversial measures threw the country into chaos as thousands of demonstrators flooded airports across the country to show their solidarity for the citizens of the seven Muslim majority countries affected by the order. The order was especially controversial because it affected all non-immigrants including immigrants with valid United States visas, as well as permanent residents. Although these measures were overruled by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February, the Trump administration has shown that it will not be discouraged by their actions.

In his new executive order, Donald Trump has scaled back the language used in the first executive order removing provisions that indefinitely banned Syrian refugees from seeking admission to the United States, and language which prioritized the admission of religious minorities persecuted in the Middle East. US officials will no longer prioritize religious minorities when considering applications for refugee admission. The new order calls for a travel ban blocking citizens from six Muslim majority countries including Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from applying for and obtaining visas for a period of 90 days. The order leaves in place a temporary travel ban blocking the admission of refugees into the United States for a period of 120 days to allow more stringent vetting procedures to be put in place. The executive order removes Iraq from the list of Muslim majority countries, whose citizens will no longer be prevented from seeking admission to the United States.

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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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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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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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For persons who have entered the United States illegally or who have accrued unlawful presence after having overstayed their visa, the possibility of obtaining lawful permanent residence (a green card) is very limited. In the United States there are generally two ways to adjust status to permanent residence. With few exceptions, a green card may generally be obtained through employment-based sponsorship, or family sponsorship based on a qualifying family relationship, such as a U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident relative. Unlawful presence is a very serious immigration offense that is subject to punishment depending on the amount of time a person has accrued unlawful presence in the United States.

Undocumented immigrants who accrue unlawful presence in the United States, and subsequently leave the country, and attempt to re-enter the United States lawfully, may be subject to either a 3- or 10-year bar, based on the amount of time they have accrued unlawful presence in the United States. Specifically, under the Immigration and Nationality Action Section §212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I) a person who has accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence in the United States, is subject to a 3-year bar automatically triggered once the person departs the United States. The bar would thereby prevent a person from being re-admitted into the United States, depending on the amount of time they were previously unlawfully present in the country. Similarly, under the Immigration and Nationality Act §212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II), a person who has accrued one year or more of unlawful presence in the United States, is subject to a 10-year bar preventing a person from being re-admitted to the United States, once they have departed from the United States.

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Here at the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick we like to celebrate our client’s successes. From our staff members to our attorneys, we are with you every step of the way on your immigration journey. Every client has a story, and it is these stories that inspire us to deliver the best service every day to achieve optimum results for our clients.

Several months ago a client visited our office after she received a denial for an N-400 application for naturalization that she had filed on her own early last year. Our client was an elderly woman seeking a waiver of the English language and Civics requirement of the N-400 application for naturalization on the basis of her disability. The issue in this case was that our client had various medical diagnoses that greatly impaired her cognitive abilities and by extension her capacity to learn. Due to these conditions, our client would not be able to successfully pass the English language and Civics component of the N-400.

In order to seek a waiver of the English language and Civics requirement, on the basis of physical or mental disability, Form N-648 must be properly completed by a licensed medical professional, who can attest to the applicant’s physical or mental disabilities. After consulting with the client and reviewing the paperwork that had been previously submitted to USCIS, we discovered that the Form N-648 was unsatisfactorily completed. The medical professional that had completed this form on our client’s behalf did not adequately explain the origin, nature, and extent of our client’s disability. The medical professional did not provide any documentation to support the explanation of our client’s medical condition, including such evidence as medically acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnoses to bolster the report. Most importantly, the medical professional failed to explain how the origin, nature, and extent of our client’s medical condition was so severe that they rendered her unable to learn or demonstrate English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. history and government.

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Q: What qualifies as a bar of “Unlawful Presence?”

A: If you have accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence in the United States, you are subject to a 3-year bar preventing you from being re-admitted to the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Action Section §212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I). The bar is triggered once you have departed the United States.

If you have accrued one year or more of unlawful presence in the United States, you are subject to a 10-year bar preventing you from being re-admitted to the United States under §212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II).

If upon your entry to the United States, you were not inspected, admitted, or paroled by a U.S. Customs Official, then you are ineligible to adjust your status to lawful permanent resident (LPR) within the United States, even if you have an approved visa petition. This means that in order to legalize your status, you are required to depart the United States and apply for an immigrant visa at a United States embassy or consulate abroad. Your departure from the United States will then trigger a 3- or 10-year bar to readmission, preventing you from returning to the United States, depending on the amount of “unlawful presence” you accrued prior to your departure.

There are ways to waive these 3- and 10-year bars to readmission only if you can demonstrate that your refusal of admission to the United States would cause an “extreme hardship” to your U.S. Citizen immediate relative or Legal Permanent Resident spouse or parent.

Q: Can I apply for the provisional waiver if I was previously deported, removed, or excluded from the United States?

If you received a final order of removal, deportation, or exclusion you may apply for a provisional waiver of unlawful presence, however you must first apply for the I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal, and the application must be conditionally approved.

If ICE or CBP has reinstated a prior removal order under 8 CFR §241.8, before filing of the provisional waiver application or while the application is in process, you are no longer eligible to receive a provisional waiver of unlawful presence. A provisional waiver approval would be automatically revoked if the applicant is found inadmissible under INA §212(a)(9)(C) for unlawful return to the United States after prior removal or prior unlawful presence.

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The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a new final rule that will expand the class of individuals who are eligible to apply for a ‘provisional’ waiver of certain grounds of inadmissibility (Form I-601A) based on their accrual of unlawful presence in the United States.

The provisional unlawful presence waiver allows certain individuals, unlawfully present in the United States, to request a provisional waiver before departing the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visas.

Previously, only immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens were eligible for this waiver. The provisional waiver is beneficial because it does not require the applicant to wait until the consular interview, to apply for a waiver, as in the case of the I-601 waiver. Provisional waivers also substantially reduce the time of separation between the applicant and his or her U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR) relatives.

The rule was published in order to improve efficiency and reduce the amount of time that a U.S. Citizen/LPR spouse or parent is separated from his or her relatives while the relative completes the immigrant visa process. According to the 2013 rule, parents, spouses and children of U.S. Citizens were eligible to apply for provisional waivers of the 3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars before departing the United States for their immigrant visa interviews. The new rule expands upon the 2013 rule extending that benefit to family members of LPRs.

Who benefits?

The rule will expand the provisional waiver process to certain individuals who are family members of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who meet the statutory requirements to be eligible for an immigrant visa. The rule will expand eligibility to all individuals statutorily eligible for the waiver. In order to qualify, applicants must be able to establish that their U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse or parent would experience an “extreme hardship” if the applicant was not allowed to remain in the United States. The final rule will take effect on August 29, 2016.

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