Question and Answers

Month: April 2010

Will The Last Person To Leave Please Turn Out The Lights? : Immigration Law Answers Blog

The Acting Director for USCIS has resigned, close on the heels of the resignation of the head of ICE. The Administrative Appeals Office is also without a leader. Who’s running the show up in Washington these days? Anyone want to apply for a job that will probably end on January 20, 2009? Here is the official statement from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertof:

For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary

Contact: 202-282-8010

Today is Jock Scharfen’s last day as Acting Director for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Jock has demonstrated remarkable dedication to this department during his tenure as Acting Director and as Deputy Director, and has helped guide the agency’s transformation into a 21st century service-driven organization. 

Jock has made lasting contributions to homeland security, including processing a record number of naturalization petitions, effectively eliminating the FBI name check backlog, and welcoming thousands of Iraqi refugees that supported the U.S. overseas.

I am grateful for Jock’s service to our nation during his tenure at the department as well as his distinguished 25-year career as a U.S. Marine. On behalf of the department, I thank him for his many contributions to improving the services we provide legal immigrants and in naturalizing thousands of new U.S. citizens.

Mexicans In U.S. Return Home For Holidays With Less : Immigration Law Answers Blog

 The Associated Press reports that nearly 1 million Mexican migrants living in the U.S. are expected to head home for the holidays, but relatively few are returning loaded down with gifts and cash this year. This could have a profound effect on the upcoming immigration debate, but of course this situation will reverse when the U.S. economy improves. Here are excerpts from the story:

Many are simply moving back after losing their jobs in the U.S. economic crisis, a disappointing turn for an annual journey that has become a cherished tradition in towns and villages across Mexico.

Wearing an Old Navy sweat shirt, Enrique Gonzalez, 38, said all he was bringing back to Saucillo in northern Chihuahua state was his deported uncle’s furniture.

“There are no gifts, thanks to the recession,” said the Phoenix, Arizona, hotel employee as he waited for a permit for his truck and trailer at a Mexican Customs office in Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

Mexican Immigration Commissioner Cecilia Romero expects the usual number of Mexicans to return between Thanksgiving and Christmas, despite a spike in drug violence along the border, but says “some who are coming back are deciding to stay in Mexico for awhile.”

Greater border security, the U.S. crackdown on its undocumented population and the economic downturn have discouraged would-be migrants from heading north, legally and illegally. The Mexican government says emigration has dropped 42 percent over the last two years.

Many Mexicans already in the U.S. also are giving up on the American dream. Even before the economic crisis, in first-quarter 2008, Hispanic unemployment was at 6.5 percent, well above the 4.7 percent rate for all non-Hispanics. Another key indicator is that money migrants send home — Mexico’s second-largest source of foreign income — has fallen this year for the first time since record-keeping began 12 years ago.

Interim Final Rule: Non-Immigrants With “T” & “U” Visas Can Now Adjust Their Status To Lawful Permanent Residents : Immigration Law Answers Blog

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new interim rule today allowing certain visas holders in “T” and “U” classification to adjust their status to lawful permanent residents. The rule also provides for adjustment of status for family members of a principle T or U visa holder.

Certain foreign nationals who are victims of a severe form of human trafficking are eligible for “T” visas. In order for individuals in “T” visa status to adjust their status to lawful permanent residence, the individual must have three years of continuous presence in the U.S. or a continuous period during an investigation or prosecution of the acts of trafficking.

The “U” visa classification is for victims of certain crimes who are willing to assist government officials in the investigation of the criminal activity. “U” visa holders must be physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of at least three years since the date of admission to apply for lawful permanent residence. Evidence of continuous physical presence can be provided by college transcripts, employment records, utility bills or other supporting evidence during the requisite three year period.

Individuals with both “T” and “U” visas, must be in valid status at the time they seek to adjust their status. There is a 5,000 annual cap for “T” visa holders, and no numerical cap on adjustment of status for “U” non-immigrants.

The rule becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Please stay tuned for the latest developments.

Homeland Security Pick Napolitano Expected To Reassert Federal Authority On Immigration : Immigration Law Answers Blog

“The governor understands that immigration is a federal responsibility, and she has made that pretty clear by asking for federal help,” said James W. Ziglar, senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and a former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Of the border fence, Ms. Napolitano famously said: “You show me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.”

Ms. Napolitano has supported the concept of a “virtual fence,” or using surveillance and technology to monitor smugglers.

Her nomination was applauded by business groups who think she’ll support efforts to expand guest-worker programs.

As governor, Ms. Napolitano pushed for so-called comprehensive immigration reform. She has supported a temporary worker program and called for a national employer-verification system.

Editorial – A Cool Head On Immigration : Immigration Law Answers Blog

The New York Times has a good editorial about the selection of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for homeland security secretary. The Times is in favor of Napolitano, and so am I. I think she’s a good, moderate voice in the immigration debate. I hope she can find a middle ground between the enforcement-only crowd and the open-the-borders crowd. Here are excerpts from the editorial:

It would be a relief to see the job go to someone with a solid understanding of immigration and all its complexities and political traps. As governor of a border state, Ms. Napolitano knows the landscape intimately. She has a cool head and a proven willingness to pursue policies that conform to reality, rather than the other way around. For years, the country has stumbled in a state of immigration panic, using harsh tactics to create the illusion of control while rejecting comprehensive strategies that would attack the problem at its roots.

Getting comprehensive reform passed may be a difficult slog for the new administration. But it can move quickly to repair what has gone awry with the enforcement-only regime, starting with reining in state and local crackdowns. Ms. Napolitano would do the country a huge favor by taking a withering look at a fellow Arizonan, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has used the federal 287(g) program, which delegates immigration enforcement to the local police, to terrorize immigrants in Phoenix.

Ms. Napolitano is famously skeptical of the border fence, the Bush administration’s 700-mile, multibillion-dollar desert speed bump. The fence was never going to be the zip-lock seal its defenders clamored for, and is hardly worth the expense or environmental damage it has caused. Ms. Napolitano is well aware that the way to get tough at the border is to bring the visa supply in line with reality and give the Border Patrol the resources to catch drug smugglers and other bad people.

The federal crackdown on illegal hiring is a similar mishmash of hastily erected rules, including much-criticized systems of checking workers’ names against error-plagued databases. Ms. Napolitano would do well to ensure a slow, judicious rollout of electronic workplace enforcement, to avoid mistakes that could ruin the lives and livelihoods of thousands of legitimate employees.

The immigration detention system, which has been scarred by horrifying accounts of neglect and mistreatment, is in dire need of reform to ensure humane standards of medical care. And perhaps most important, the new administration should abolish the disastrous campaign of raids that have sundered families and spread terror through immigrant communities while making no meaningful difference in the undocumented population.

Pentagon To Recruit Aliens On Visas : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Posted on December 5, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Bulletin from Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Struggling to find enough doctors, nurses and linguists for the war effort, the Pentagon will temporarily try to recruit foreigners who have been living in the states on student and work visas as well as on refugee and political asylum status.

Officials say Defense Secretary Robert Gates is authorizing the armed forces to recruit certain legal aliens whose critical medical and language skills are “vital to the national interest.”

In doing so, he is using for the first time a law passed three years ago.

The military previously has already been taking recruits who have green cards. But the new move allows the services to start a one-year pilot program to find up to 1,000 aliens who have lived in the states legally for at least two years on certain types of temporary visas.

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Opponents Call New Driver's License Rules For Foreign Nationals 'Institutionalized Racism' : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Under the new requirements, which were approved by Texas’ Public Safety Commission and went into effect Oct. 1, foreign nationals are forced to provide documentation of their immigration status before getting a license and each time they renew.

The licenses and identification cards, which are now vertical instead of horizontal for immigrants, are stamped with the words “temporary visitor” and list the date the person’s legal residency expires.

Supporters say the new guidelines — which ban the Department of Public Safety from issuing or renewing licenses for any immigrant who is here illegally, or who has permission to stay in the country fewer than six months — are necessary to protect the country from terrorist acts. The Sept. 11 attacks were carried out by hijackers who had valid driver’s licenses despite having expired visas.

“I strongly support the recent DPS rule changes that ensure public safety and national security, and am confident the vast majority of Texans feel the same way,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. “…Those who criticize these new rules fail to acknowledge the realities of the world in which we live, where we must know who is in our state and nation, whether or not they mean us harm.”

But opponents say that the changes constitute “institutionalized racism” and that the “temporary visitor” language on the card could affect immigrants’ chances at renting housing or securing a loan.

And they say the Public Safety Commission overstepped its authority by passing something akin to immigration policy. Several lawmakers are planning their own legislation to try to counter the new guidelines.

DPS officials deny that the new rules have caused trouble. U.S. citizens don’t have to provide any additional evidence; birth certificates and other information already on file with the state is sufficient. Nor have online and mail-in renewals been disrupted for citizens.

And they say it’s certainly not a profiling tool. People who are living in the country illegally and try to get a driver’s license are simply being turned away – not arrested.

The rules are an effort to get Texas in compliance with the federal REAL ID act, which requires states to ensure driver’s licenses are issued only to people who are lawfully in the country by late 2009. Changing the appearance of the licenses is not a federal requirement, and U.S. homeland security officials say they have no records on how many states have done that.

Latest Development In Farmers Branch Illegal-Immigrant Ban Efforts : Immigration Law Answers Blog

In what is becoming a financial disaster for the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch, a judge has now ordered collection of more electronic documents from the city. As everyone probably knows, Farmers Branch has been trying for quite a while to enact city ordinances banning illegal immigrants from living there. Each attempt has been met with lawsuits, always resulting in more legal fees for the city and much wasted productivity.

This is more evidence that the federal government needs to step up and take responsibility for immigration law enforcement and reform. We can’t continue to have cities and states waste valuable resources trying to do the work of the federal government. Here are excerpts from a Dallas Morning News story about the latest Farmers Branch immigration news:

State District Judge Bruce Priddy ruled that a third party would be hired to collect the city documents because initial efforts had not been satisfactory. He also ruled that the city would have to pay all the costs, at least initially.

Attorneys for the plaintiff said the ruling was a sanction against the city for failing to comply with a court order to turn over all documents related to the city’s ordinances. A lawyer for the city said Farmers Branch had prevailed in its efforts to keep some documents privileged. “This ruling goes to the heart of the matter,” said William A. Brewer III, who represents a Farmers Branch resident suing the city. “The city continues to frustrate the public’s right to know. … The lawsuit complains that the city is doing business not in public, when it drafts and deliberates and debates city business.”

Resident Guillermo Ramos has alleged that the city violated the Open Meetings Act in deliberating and acting on the various anti-illegal immigrant ordinances it has passed since 2006.

This week’s action is the latest development in the city’s efforts to ban rental housing for illegal immigrants.

Farmers Branch initially passed an ordinance in November 2006 requiring apartment managers to obtain documents showing that tenants are U.S. citizens or legal residents. The city subsequently repealed that ordinance, then approved a similar one that was also put up for a citywide vote.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, but it was challenged in court. In August, a federal judge ruled against the ordinance. While that case was working its way through the courts, the Farmers Branch City Council adopted another ordinance, but its implementation has been halted pending the outcome of a lawsuit.

The latest ordinance requires people renting a home or apartment to declare their citizenship or that they are in the country lawfully and to obtain a city rental occupancy license. Information from noncitizens would be verified through a federal database.

In Farmers Branch, Hispanics Now Top Demographic Group : Immigration Law Answers Blog

There is an interesting twist to the continuing sage of the Farmers Branch, Texas efforts to restrict housing in that city to legal residents, and to exclude illegal immigrants. The latest census data show that Hispanics are now the largest demographic group in Farmers Branch, edging out whites. This was the subject of a story in the Dallas Morning News, and here are excerpts:

New census data shows the complexion of Farmers Branch is changing dramatically, giving activists fresh ammunition for their legal efforts and adding fuel to the debates over representation and illegal immigration in the city.

The estimates, released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau, reveal that Hispanics have eclipsed whites to become the city’s largest demographic group. Residents overall are skewing older, and the median household income has declined.

On the city’s biggest issue – its ongoing efforts to drive illegal immigrants from the city – the information is far less conclusive.

The figures, part of the American Community Survey, represent a composite of surveys taken from 2005 to 2007. It provides the first look at Farmers Branch socioeconomically and demographically since the 2000 Census. A Dallas Morning News analysis of the statistics showed:

•Hispanics accounted for 46.7 percent of the city’s population, while whites made up 46.1 percent. In 2000, whites accounted for 55.8 percent, compared with 37.2 percent for Hispanics.

•The number of residents who speak Spanish at home increased, while the number who speak only English decreased.

•Home values have risen, but the majority of homes are valued at $150,000 or less.

Experts caution against drawing too many conclusions from the data, because some of the figures are built upon estimates with a significant margin of error. But they agree that the information draws a compelling picture of change.

Council member Tim Scott, who reviewed the census figures, said the statistics show a city in desperate need of renewal.

Residents who lived in their homes for decades have moved out, leaving aging houses that draw new residents with lower income and education levels, Mr. Scott said.

“That’s just not sustainable as a city going forward, which is why we need some wholesale revitalization,” he said.

Besides the voting rights lawsuit, Farmers Branch has been tied up in litigation over efforts to ban most illegal immigrants from renting apartments and homes.

Extended or Not? : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Posted on December 23, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

U Visas: extended until February 1, 2010.   U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) extended the filing deadline for temporary benefits of the U Non-immigrant Interim Relief Program. The temporary benefits program was set to expire December 31, 2009 but has been recently extended until February 1, 2010.   H-1C Visas: expired December 21, 2009   USCIS accepted H-1C non-immigrant temporary workers petitions expired December 21, 2009. The H-1C classification authorized up to 500 nurses annually to work in eligible health care facilities. Although the visa classification expired, nurses currently in H-1C status will not be affected.  

For new updates or changes, please visit the USCIS Web site.

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