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© Copyright 2016 Law Office of Mary K. Neal, LLC. This website is attorney advertising material. General information on this website should not be relied on as legal advice for any specific issue. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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USCIS announced recently that they have reached the quota for "U-visas" for this year.  This means 10,000 visas have been granted to victims of serious crimes such as murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, and involuntary servitude who are helping law enforcement bring criminals to justice.

In these times when many states are seeking to further restrict and criminalize the daily lives of undocumented immigrants, it is important to recognize that undocumented immigrants are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.  Some immigrants are specifically targeted as an easily exploited workforce subjected to slavery or peonage.  Others fall victim to domestic abuse or street violence, afraid to report crimes or seek safety for fear of exposing themselves to deportation. The U-visa grants special status to certain crime victims so that they can come forward and participate in investigations ans prosecutions of dangerous criminals. 

While this is in fact a form of relief for the v...
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Yesterday I joined hundreds of volunteers and thousands of immigrant youth and families at Navy Pier in Chicago for the first "DREAM Relief day" hosted by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) along with other immigrant groups, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and many others. As anyone who has followed the new coverage in the Chicago area knows, this was *massive*.  While the good folks at ICIRR had planned for several thousand people, they had not expected the more than 10,000 who arrived, including many who camped out on the pier the night before.

As someone who has done some event planning and volunteer management on a much smaller scale, I was very impressed that ICIRR, NIJC, and others were able to put this together in such a short time period.  The entire "DACA*" program was only announced two months ago, and the forms were released less than a day before the event.  Organizations typically spe...
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On August 15th, 2012 USCIS will begin accepting "Requests for Consideration of Deferred Action" under what they are now calling "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" program.  On that day, I will be volunteering with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights at their "DREAM Relief Day" at Navy Pier.  We sure hope the forms are released on time!

For those who want more individualized attention, my office will be holding extended evening hours between 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm for the last two weeks of August.  Please fill out this appointment form to request an appointment.

Last week, Alejandro Mayorkas, the Director of USCIS clarified qualification criteria and procedures on a conference call.  USCIS has created a special webpage about the program at www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals.  Criteria for requesting deferred action under this program are that a person is:

1. Not 31 yet on June 15th, 2012
2. Came here before 16th bithday
3. Has been in continual residence since June 15 ...
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Sponsor an immigrant relative to come to the U.S., and you are undertaking much more than just some extra paperwork.  By signing the I-864 "Affidavit of Support" you are contracting to keep that person from ever becoming a "public charge."  Specifically, you have a duty to guarantee the immigrant support at 125% of poverty or else the immigrant can sue you for support--as can any government agency that provided benefits to the immigrant.  This duty ends only once the immigrant becomes a citizen, leaves the country permanently, is credited with 40 quarters of employment, or dies. 

Litigation about this duty has been sparse, even though the I-864 has been used by many thousands of immigrant families since 1996.  However, a recent holding by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals may spur more immigrants to sue for support. 

In Liu v. Mund, the Seventh Circuit held that the immigrant has no duty to mitigate damages.  In this case, Liu, a Chinese immigrant sued her ex-husband in federal c...
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Last week I wrote about the various proposals before Congress to give legal status to many of the young immigrants who were brought here as children and are living here without legal status. Then big news broke on that very topic Friday, as President Obama announced a plan to grant
'deferred action"   to many of these young people. This announcement raises the question of just what is "deferred action," and how does this compare to actual legal permanent residency.

"Deferred action" is not a new concept, though it has not previously been granted to this group of immigrants.  For more than a decade, USCIS has been granting "deferred action" to low-risk immigrants who are already in the country but who do not currently qualify for a visa.  For example, immigrant spouses of legal permanent residents (green card holders) can petition on their own for a visa if the green card holding spouse is abusive and will not sponsor the abused spouse.  These self-petitioning spouses are often grante...
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Last week the Immigration Policy Center published a comparison of the provisions of various bills before Congress that would grant some sort of legal status to some subset of the millions of young people living in the United States without legal status.  The DREAM Act, the ARMS Act, and the STARS Act promise some path to legal permanent residency for young people who entered the country as children.  The DREAM Act is more of a favorite of democrats and liberally offers the possibility to apply for a green card after completing 2 years of college or two years of military service.  ARMS and STARS are Republican proposals that deal with military service and college achievement separately, and contain stricter provisions and longer requirements for service or study.

What strikes me about all of these proposals is how they condition the right to remain in your adopted homeland on educational and career decisions. All of these laws only really apply to people between ages 18 and 30 or 35. ...
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