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Monthly Archives: November 2017

Temporary Protected Status Ended for Haitian Citizens

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke recently announced that tens of thousands of Haitians living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status have until July 22, 2019, to return to Haiti.

The Haitian citizens were given protected status to live and work in the United States after Haiti’s infrastructure was heavily damaged in a 2010 earthquake. Since then, the status of those protected and their ability to safely return to their country was evaluated periodically and the status extended. After the most recent review, the Department of Homeland Security announced its decision to end the protected status for the Haitian citizens, who must now return to Haiti by the July 22, 2019, deadline or face deportation.

Temporary Protected Status may be granted to citizens of a foreign country who are already in the United States and cannot return to their countries due to temporary conditions that make it unsafe to return, or because their government cannot handle their return. The status is granted by the Secretary of Homeland Security. Even undocumented immigrants in the country illegally when a Temporary Protected Status is designated for their countries are protected.

Haitian citizens are not the only group that is protected under the Temporary Protected Status. In addition to Haiti, there are other large groups from nine other countries that are allowed to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation. Citizens of El-Salvador living the United States under Temporary Protected Status are reported to represent the largest group of people living in the United States under this status, and will be next to hear if their status will be extended.

As the name suggests, the program is supposed to offer temporary relief for humanitarian reasons. The situations for which Temporary Protected Status may be approved for citizens of a foreign country include:

  • Ongoing armed conflict,
  • An environmental disaster, or an epidemic, and
  • Other extraordinary and temporary conditions

Depending on the country in question however, these situations may not be temporary, and may impact the ability of the foreign government’s’ ability to receive its citizens for a long time. This is part of the criticism against the program, that it is not temporary, and is used as a back door to allow immigrants to settle in the country.

Because most people who are granted the chance to live and work in the United States under this program have children and otherwise settle into their lives here, going back to their countries of origin is not an easy task. For those with children who were born in the United States and are therefore citizens, the decision to take their children back or leave them in the United States will be a very difficult one to make. The parents will either have to find others who are willing to take care of their children, or stay beyond the deadline and face deportation. People who are facing this choice should explore their options in terms of adjusting their status in order to stay in the United States legally.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

For more information on how an experienced immigration attorney can assist you in reviewing your options to change your status and stay in the United States, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

How the Issue of Competence Affects an Immigration Proceeding

In criminal proceedings in which a person is charged with a crime, the prosecution cannot go on if a person is found to be incompetent or suffering from a mental illness. This is usually done in order to protect the defendant and ensure that the person is afforded constitutional due process rights. In immigration proceedings, a person’s incompetence due to a mental illness or condition can affect a person’s removal or deportation, but not in the same way as in a criminal trial.

In a deportation hearing, the person to be deported is presumed to be competent for purposes of the proceedings. However, if there is an indication that the person is not competent, for example because the person shows signs of mental illness, then the immigration judge has to make a determination of the person’s competency before the proceedings can go on.

A person who is able to communicate with his or her attorney and rationally understand the deportation proceeding is generally deemed to be competent, and the immigration proceedings can proceed without a legal challenge.

Once the judge makes a determination that a person who is facing deportation is not competent, the deportation proceedings do not stop as a criminal case would if the judge found a defendant incompetent to stand trial. The immigration judge is supposed to ensure that certain safeguards are in place, and then the removal proceedings can go on.

Some of the safeguards include ensuring that the person facing deportation is assisted by another person in presenting his or her case, not accepting admissions or other incriminating confessions from the person, and closing the hearing to the public. These safeguards do not truly address the issue of the person’s incompetence, and are therefore inadequate to offer real protections for a person suffering from mental illness and facing deportation.

Immigration judges make determinations of whether or not someone is incompetent by reviewing the evidence provided by the person facing deportation, as well as by the government. Neither the government nor the person facing deportation has a formal burden to provide the evidence upon which the judge relies. The judge also reviews all the evidence under a standard of proof that is lower than that required in a criminal case. This means that the person facing deportation cannot rely on the fact that the government has not produced evidence of competency to prove incompetency.

A person can prove that he or she has a mental illness that makes that person incompetent for purposes of the proceeding by calling witnesses to testify on his or her behalf, or by introducing medical records and evaluation reports that support the claims. If there is a long history of treatment and an indication that the treatment should be ongoing, it is likely that the immigration judge may find the person incompetent for purposes of the immigration proceeding.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Having an attorney during an immigration proceeding is extremely important, especially for someone who cannot truly represent himself or herself due to mental illness. For more information on how a person’s mental illness can affect him or her during deportation proceedings, you should contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

Effect of Expunging or Sealing a Criminal Record on Immigration

A criminal conviction can have a negative effect on a person’s application for immigration to the United States. Certain convictions immediately disqualify a person from migrating to the United States or changing status in order to stay in the country.

In most states, including California, there are certain procedures a person can follow to have a criminal record sealed or expunged, which wipes away some of the person’s criminal record. Even in situations where the person’s conviction has to be revealed to an employer, the employer is not allowed to discriminate on the basis of the criminal record. While this is a helpful process in terms of getting a job, it is not applicable for immigration purposes.

Even when a California arrest or conviction is removed from a person’s history, it still has to be reported as part of an immigration-related application. When applying for any visa, permanent residency, or citizenship, a person is required to disclose all criminal convictions both in the United States and abroad. This includes convictions that have been sealed or expunged either in California or in another state or country. When applying for permanent residency or citizenship, the applicant has to reveal even more, and reveal arrests in his or her history.

Revealing a conviction for some misdemeanors, for example driving under the influence of alcohol, does not necessarily mean that a person will be denied entry into the country if holding a nonimmigrant visa. However, if a person has multiple convictions, this could definitely affect the person’s ability to enter the country.

Providing false or incomplete information in order to immigrate to the United States could lead to the revocation of a visa, lawful permanent residency, and in extreme situations, the revocation of citizenship if the citizenship was obtained through naturalization. A person who provided false information on an immigration application may also be prosecuted criminally.

Expungement may also create a problem for an applicant who has to provide certified copies of a conviction or disposition of an arrest. Immigration officials require applicants to provide this information as part of providing evidence to prove good moral character. Expungement removes most records from central databases, and so it can make it difficult to get this information.

Not all convictions can be sealed, dismissed, or expunged, and these procedures generally only apply to some misdemeanor convictions. Sealing or expunging a criminal history in California does not take care of arrests or convictions from other states. If a person has multiple convictions in several states, he or she has to pursue sealing and expungement in all those states following the laws in those states. No matter where the expungement takes place, it still has to be reported to immigration officials as outlined above.  

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

If you have been convicted of crimes in the United States or in another country and are thinking about applying for permanent residency or U.S. citizenship, you need to contact an experienced immigration attorney to discuss how the convictions could affect your application. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

Family Based Immigration

The United States immigration system allows immigrants who have gained legal permanent residence or who are naturalized to become United Citizens to sponsor certain relatives to join them in the United States. The goal of this is to allow family reunification. This immigration system is sometimes referred to as “chain migration,” although the term is used derisively by some.

This system is disfavored because it is assumed that permitting family members to immigrate to the United States for no other reason than family ties puts a drain on government services and poses a danger to national security. While there are people who immigrate to the United States through this method who go on to commit crimes or claim government benefits, there are a great many others who go on to lead productive lives and never get into trouble with the law or pose a danger to society.

There is no guaranteed right to immigration through a relative, even if the relative is a United States citizen. There is a right for the citizen to sponsor an application; however, the person to be sponsored still has to go through a vetting process. If the person fails the vetting, the person’s application for permanent residence or a visa can be denied. In addition to the security checks that potential immigrants must undergo, the vetting process includes an assessment of the applicant and the sponsor’s finances, and the application can be denied on the basis of insufficient funds.

Additionally, depending on the familial relationship, it can take years or decades for the family member to be allowed to immigrate to the United States. It is faster for direct family members such as children and spouses to get the chance to immigrate, but it takes a much longer time for parents’ and siblings’ applications to be processed. Distant relatives are not eligible to be sponsored in this manner.

As we have written before, there is a proposal to change the current system to one that will be merit based. A merit based system is seen by critics of the current system as more beneficial to the United Stated because only potential immigrants with certain skills would be given preference when it came to applying to immigrate to the United States.

Allowing immigrants to come into the country to be reunited with their loved ones has been of benefit to the United States economy and society. The current system may need some changes or amendments. However, completely getting rid of the ability of lawful permanent residents and citizens to sponsor their family members would be a negative blow to both immigrant families and the communities in which they live.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

The so-called chain-based immigration system may be changed in one way or another, so if you are a U.S. resident and would like more information on how you can sponsor an application for a parent or a sibling or another eligible relative, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.