subscribe to RSS feeds

Blog

© 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.
Category:
Immigration

by

Yesterday, November 20, 2014 was a huge day in the immigration arena, a festive Thanksgiving buffet of options for a range of potential immigrants.  First, President Obama without much fanfare designated Temporary Protected Status for up to 18 months for nationals of the nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia which are struggling with an epidemic of Ebola.  Then in a highly publicized, televised event, the president announced that he is once again taking executive action which will lift the threat of deportation from a large class of people currently living in the U.S. without legal status.  This new action is similar in kind to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program of 2012, which I have written about before.

The exact parameters of who will be eligible for deferred action or prosecutorial discretion under the new programs have not been announced, but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has posted a basic overview of expected programs on its website.  High...

read full article >>

by

With President Obama set to announce another executive action on immigration this week, the newly-elected Republican majority in Congress is threatening countermeasures to thwart whatever program the president wants.  Last week there was loud talk about forcing yet another government shutdown if the president takes any action on immigration. Cooler heads among the Republican base have counseled against this. 


I have to say I was bemused and amused by the "government shutdown" threat.  Setting aside the enormous problems that a shutdown causes across all areas of civic and economic life, the threatmakers must have very little understanding of how our immigration system is actually run.  As I detailed during last year's government shutdown, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service-- which is the agency responsible for processing DACA applications and probably any new executive programs--goes right on working when the government is shutdown.  It's funded by filing fees, not taxes. ...

read full article >>

by

As media reports show fighting in Slovyansk, Donestsk, and even Odessa, Ukrainian citizens in the United States fear for their friends and family, and for their own safety should they need to return.  Many are anxiously hoping that the United States government will declare Temporary Protected Status for their nation.  Unfortunately, while the civil unrest in Ukraine has grown, the U.S. government position regarding the Status of Ukrainians in our country has not changed since my blog post of last month**Updated February 17, 2015, still no TPS for Ukraine**

Even though there is no TPS designation yet for Ukraine, some attorneys (and most certainly some non-attorneys) are offering TPS-related service to Ukrainians in anticipation of a future designation.  Below is my response to an inquiry about such services today:

Temporary Protected Status is available only for citizens of the few countries for which the U.S. government has designated.  As of today (May 7th) the govern...
read full article >>

by

Visas for Entrepreneurs?

From Robert Morris to Levi Strauss to Sergey Brin, immigrants have built the businesses which built our nation from colonial times to the current day.  The immigrant shopkeeper and restaurant owner are stock characters in American movies, literature, and TV.  Here in Chicago, more than 27% of all businesses are owned by immigrants, according to statistics from the American Immigration Council, with immigrants going into business at a higher rate than those of us born in the U.S.

Given the history, prevalence, and cultural influence of immigrant entrepreneurs, most people assume that any person with a strong work ethic, a bright idea, and some money to start things off could come to the U.S. and start a business. The Obama administration has also been promoting the idea of entrepreneur immigration, through an "entrepreneur in residence" program which brought in business leaders to advise immigration bureaucrats on policies and practices to support entrepreneurs...
read full article >>

Categories: Business Immigration

by

With the Russian takeover of Crimea and political turmoil throughout Ukraine, many people are asking whether the United States will grant asylum or protected status to those affected by the conflict.  

Unfortunately for Ukrainian or Russian nationals who fear returning to the region, there is not any organized program to provide protected status in the United States at the time of this update (Updated October 1, 2014).  As yet, our government has not declared Temporary Protected Status for Ukraine, nor has the United Nations High Commission on Refugees begun operations in the region.

Asylum is one option for Ukrainians or Russians in the United States who fear persecution at home.  However, people should be careful not to fall prey to immigration consultants who promise easy results or who claim that "everyone" from the area will get asylum. As I have written before when conflict erupted in Syria, asylum is a very personal form of relief. Each person much make his or her own case as t...
read full article >>

by

With the intractable disagreements about the Affordable Care Act stalling any productive budget action by Congress, the Federal Government is likely to shut down at midnight tonight. What will this mean for the many thousands of immigrants, potential immigrants, foreign workers, and businesses waiting for government action on visas applications, petitions, and other immigration matters?

To a large extent, it depends on what agency is responsible for the matter,    (see sidebar "Who's in Charge?") and whether the matter is considered 'essential."  If this shutdown follows past protocol, here is what we can expect for different matters:

Visa Applications before U.S. Consulates Abroad (Department of State)

All visa processing will likely shut down except for diplomatic visas and life-or-death matters.  Unless you are waiting for Humanitarian Parole for urgent medical treatment, you will probably need to reschedule any visas interviews that fall on days the government is shut down.  Phone ...
read full article >>

by

With harsh new laws persecuting sexual minorities threatening the Winter Olympics and thus making headlines even on ESPN, petitions demanding that the U.S. grant asylum to LGBT Russians are circulating on the internet.  The good news for any lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender Russian living in the United States is that you may already be eligible for asylum.  For asylum claims, sexual identity or sexual orientation is considered a "social group," so a person who is persecuted based on sexual identity or orientation may make a claim for asylum.

The first recognition of sexual minorites as a protected class came in 1986, when a Cuban "Marielito" was granted withholding of removal by an immigration judge who determined that he must not be deported back to Cuba because he was certain to face imprisonment and mistreatment as a registered homosexual. The case was appealed, and the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the judge's decision, in Matter of Toboso-Alfonso in 1990. (Decision a...
read full article >>

by

The August Visa Bulletin lists the family-preference category of F2A as "current" for all countries.  What this means is that the spouses and children of Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) can receive immigrant visas as soon as their applications are approved.  This is truly a rare event. In recent years, there has more typically been a backlog of two or three years for these visas.  There is no telling just how long this lucky situation will last. If many application are received, the category may "retrogress" again.  For this brief moment, however, a green card holder who marries his hometown sweetheart or has a child overseas need only wait a few short months to be reunited in the United States, rather than years.

The funny thing is, this is how many people who do not need to deal with our immigration system imagine that it always works.  There is a sort of myth that once a person gets a green card, he can just bring the whole clan with him.  The reality is that optio...
read full article >>

by

As the full Senate is debating a comprehensive bill reforming federal immigration laws, across the street today the House Committee on the Judiciary was busy with a bill, the SAFE Act, which would have states enforce our immigration laws while the federal government foots the bill.  

As I have written earlier, under current laws and regulations, state and local law enforcement are encouraged to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement through the "Secure Communities" program, but not all police forces choose to do so.  As California Attorney General Kamal Harris stated in an informational bulletin on Secure Communities: "Under principles of federalism, neither Congress nor the federal executive branch can require state officials to carry out federal programs at their own expense."

The SAFE act would deny Homeland Security funding to any state or municipality which does not adequately cooperate with ICE, and also deny such funding to any jurisdiction with a "statute, policy, ...
read full article >>

by

Our current immigrations laws are full of harsh provisions which grant no leeway for mercy, and INA Sec. 236(c) (8 U.S.C. Sec. 1226(C)) may be the harshest of all. This provision requires that any alien whom the Department of Homeland Security is trying to deport must be imprisoned for the entire length of the proceedings with no bond, if the alien has a previous conviction for any listed crimes, including simple possession of marijuana or drugs.  As I have written previously,  the Immigration Reform Bill currently under consideration in the Senate would bring some sanity to this detention provision by allowing alternatives to imprisonment such as probation-like monitoring and by giving immigration judges the discretion to issue bond to aliens who do not pose a threat to public safety.

However, in the other wing of the Capitol, the House Appropriations Committee is trying to increase imprisonments.  Buried within budget for the Department of Homeland Security is a provision which inc...
read full article >>

by

As the Senate Judiciary Committee works over the new immigration bill this week, we have seen the familiar tug-of-war between factions demanding enforcement and accountability for rule-breakers, and those who would rather wipe the slate clean and give transgressors a chance to stay.  I support rule-of-law, but laws are human creations, which we write, amend and even ignore or forget as suits our circumstances.  When considering whether to adopt, amend, or reject a law, we must ensure that the law does not create greater harm than it seeks to prevent.

We must ask ourselves which would cause greater harm to society: breaking the law, or enforcing it?  For much of our current immigration code, the harm caused by enforcement is far greater than the harm caused by the breech.  Below is one family's story, representative of thousands more.


read full article >>

by

This week the "gang of eight" senators introduced the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.  At 844 pages, the bill proposes more changes than can be addressed in a blog post.  I think the bill in its current form takes some good steps, but needlessly makes an already complicated system even more complicated. Here is a quick rundown of the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The Good:

One of the best changes that is proposed is finally allowing a waiver for false claims to U.S. Citizenship.  As I have written previously, this is one of the harshest provisions of immigration laws today.  A person who EVER claimed to be a U.S. Citizen is permanently inadmissible forever and ever with almost no exceptions allowed.  If BSEOIMA (Great Acronym!) becomes law, at least a person with a false claim will have a chance to ask the government to waive the false claim if he can show that keeping him out of the country would cause extreme hardship to himself or his family...
read full article >>

by

The immigration laws are truly "writ in water."  Our Constitution makes only the barest mention of immigration, Article I gives Congress the power "To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization" and "to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations."  In essence, our Constitution says that who can enter our country and who can become a citizen is entirely up to Congress.

How Congress has chosen to regulate has varied from letting in everyone with no restrictions (1776-1875), to excluding certain nationalities altogether and setting quotas on others (1882-1965), to promulgating a litany of misdeeds which will bar any person from entering for many years or forever (1996-present).

Now, with politicians and pundits both left and right calling for change to a system that is ill-serving thelabor needs of our employers, separating children from their parents, and leaving far too many productive would-be citizens with no path to legal residence, Congress seems poised to re-write the immigration co...

read full article >>

by

The decision of whom to allow into our country and on what terms is a matter of national sovereignty, and our Constitution gives the federal government the power to "establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization," Art. I Sec.8, cl. 4. Thus immigration laws and regulations are set at the federal level by Congress and by the President, not by individual states, cities, or towns.  The Supreme Court just affirmed this in June in the case of Arizona v. United States.

However, the fact that states and cities can't regulate immigration does not mean that they all treat immigrants the same.  Federal law provides that state and local law enforcement can "cooperate with the Attorney General in the identification, apprehension, detention or removal of aliens not lawfully present."  8 U.S.C. Sec. 1357(g)(10)(B).  State and local governments go to great lengths to show themselves to be either the most or the least "cooperative" in the enforcement of immigration laws.  Federal law also bars most imm...
read full article >>

by

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...
read full article >>

by

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...
read full article >>

by

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 ...
read full article >>

by

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...
read full article >>

by

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...
read full article >>

by

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. ...
read full article >>

by

Imagine that you have been living in the United States for many years as a legal permanent resident.  You have always paid your taxes, always been careful to keep your immigration documents up-to-date.  You work hard, support your family, and have never committed any crime, never been involved with any nefarious organizations.  Finally, you decide it is time to apply for citizenship.  You sign up for a citizenship workshop, and conscientiously bring all your documents with you. 

You are sure that everything is in order, and then an attorney at the workshop tells you that you not only should not apply for citizenship, you may actually be deportable.  How can that be? You have led a model life!  Now you are in danger of being sent out of your adopted country forever?

This is the reality for many immigrants who find out they may have made a false claim to U.S. citizenship.  The immigrant may have received a voter registration card in the mail, or reported for jury duty after receiving a...
read full article >>

by

The United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) just published many new study aids for immigrants who want to prepare for the citizenship exam. I thought I'd blog on a happy note today and highlight the benefits of citizenship.

Many immigrants live for years or decades as legal permanent residents (LPR).  LPRs or "green card" holders are able to live and work in the U.S. virtually without restriction, and are eligible for many benefits.  From day to day, life for an LPR may seem no different from the life of a citizen.  However, besides personal benefits, citizenship can make a big difference to family and community, and it is also the only truly "permanent" status available.

If you are eligible to become a citizen, here are some of the benefits you would realize:



1. Freedom to travel and even live overseas without the worry of falling out of status:  As an LPR, if you spend too much time outside the United States, the government may determine that you have abandoned your re...
read full article >>

by

The case of Mexican father Felipe Montes and his American citizen children highlights the bind faced by immigrant families in custody proceedings.  Parents wanting to keep their families intact are forced to take different or even contradictory stances in immigration court and in state proceedings.

Briefly, here is Montes' story based on news reports (read Fox News or NPR ):

Mr. Montes lived and worked in North Carolina for many years, even though he never had a valid visa  or legal status in the United States.  He married a U.S. Citizen and was by all accounts a good father to his three American-born sons. Unable to get a North Carolina driver's license because he had no Social Security number, he was cited by the local police multiple times for driving without a license and related offenses.   Eventually, these driving violations put Montes on the radar of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Montes was detained and sent back to Mexico.  Ill and unable to work, Montes' wife c...
read full article >>

by

Today, March 29, 2012 Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, declared temporary protected status (TPS) for Syrian nationals present in the United States.  Syrians can register for this status from now until September 25th, of this year (2012).  The protected status will last until September 25th of the following year, 2013.

I just attended a teleconference hosted by USCIS on this topic, and thought this would be excellent topic for my first blog entry on this site.  So here's a primer on TPS, and some specifics about the Syria designation.  This is simplified and not meant as advice on any specific person's situation.  There are many nuances to immigration categories that are beyond the scope of this blog.

What is TPS?  How is this different from Asylum?


Foreign nationals who are granted TPS are allowed to live and work in the U.S. without fear of removal (deportation) other than on criminal grounds, and can travel outside the U.S. with special permission (advanced parole).

T...
read full article >>

 

Blog Articles

Blog Archives