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The United States Attorney General is Reviewing Administrative Closure of Immigration Cases

In the past, immigration judges could place an immigration case on administrative closure depending on the facts of the case, which effectively gave the person facing removal proceedings a reprieve from the risk of deportation. The person who received the reprieve through administrative closure could stay in the country for as long as the case was in administrative closure, and would not be deported or otherwise detained during that time. While immigration judges can still order cases administratively closed, it is unlikely that they will do so now that the process is under review.

Other than allowing the person to stay in the country longer, administrative closure, as practiced in the past, did not confer any legal status to a person who was illegally in the country. However, if a person had prior work authorization or other benefits, these benefits would be continued as the person was allowed to stay longer than he or she may have if the case had gone forward and been decided on its merits. A judge could grant administrative closure in a case even when the government or the immigrant facing deportation opposed the move.

Administrative closure was used as part of the immigration priorities approach taken by the former administration, and if a person was not an immigration priority, there was more of a chance that the person’s case would be administratively closed. Generally, a person whose case had been administratively closed could expect the case to remain closed unless he or she engaged in any conduct that flagged him or her as a threat or dangerous. In that case, the case could be reopened and the person could be deported.

The Department of Justice has announced that it will review the practice of administrative closure, and its effect on the slow movement of immigration cases currently before judges. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is currently reviewing a case in which an undocumented immigrant’s case was administratively closed. The Attorney General will review the case to decide whether or not immigration judges have the authority to administratively close immigration cases, and provide guidance about how the process will be handled going forward.

Depending on the decision from the Attorney General, hundreds of thousands of cases that are currently on administrative closure may be reopened for adjudication. This could mean a great number of deportations will be carried out after the cases are decided. The end of administrative closure will also mean an addition to the backlog of immigration cases, which is already estimated at 650,000 cases.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

If your case was administratively closed, the end of the practice of administrative closures could mean that your case is will be reopened and you will once again face removal proceedings. This may not happen for some time, but you should be prepared for the possibility of having to present your case to avoid deportation. For more information on how an experienced immigration attorney can assist you, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

The 90-Day Rule and a Presumption of Misrepresentation

When a person travels to the United States on a non-immigrant visa, he or she makes certain representations to the immigration officials regarding an intent to immigrate to the United States and settle there permanently. Essentially, by applying for a non-immigrant visa, a person is telling immigration officials that he or she intends to stay in the United States on a temporary basis, and has no intention to live or work in the country beyond the period of his or her non-immigrant visa. If the visa does not authorize employment in the country, then the person is also expressing an intent to refrain from working.

After a person is granted entry into the United States on a non-immigrant visa, his circumstances may change in a way that requires the person to adjust their status to an immigrant. This could be because the person gets a job offer or gets married and qualifies for different visas or for permanent residency. The adjustment of status usually comes with a lot of scrutiny depending on how long a person was in the country on the non-immigrant visa before seeking to adjust his or her status.

Previously, if a person on a non-immigrant visa sought to adjust his or her status within 30 days of arriving in the United States, there was an automatic presumption that the person had made misrepresentations to immigrations officials concerning his intent to immigrate to the United States. In 2017, a change was implemented extending the 30 day rule to a 90 day rule. This presumption is also applicable when a person works without authorization or engages in other conduct that violates the terms of his or her non-immigrant visa within the first 90 days of arrival on a non-immigrant visa.

The presumption does not mean that the immigrant is automatically found to have misrepresented his or her intent. If this presumption of misrepresentation applies, the immigrant still has an opportunity to present evidence that rebuts the presumption of misrepresentation. The person can present information showing that at the time of making the application, it was his or her true intent not to permanently immigrate to the United States. This may involve presenting documentation and testimony or affidavits, and it may be better to seek the assistance of an immigration attorney in order to prepare this evidence.

There are serious consequences for a person who is accused of having willfully misrepresented the intention not to permanently immigrate to the United States when applying for a visa. In addition to being deported, the person may be banned from the United States, either for a period of time or permanently. It could also affect the person’s changes of applying for other immigration benefits, including United States citizenship at a later date.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

If you are alleged to have intentionally or willfully misrepresented your immigration intent while seeking a non-immigrant visa, and want to challenge the 90-day presumption, you need to contact an experienced immigration attorney. For more information on how an experienced immigration attorney can assist you, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

Changes to the Way Renewals of Nonimmigrant Work Visas are Handled

Employers who have hired nonimmigrant workers usually acts as sponsors for visas for the workers they employ. Not every employer wants to go through the process of hiring a foreign worker, and many employers prefer to employ foreign workers only if they already have work authorization independent of their employment. Applying for a visa for a nonimmigrant worker can be an expensive process for the employer, and can cause work disruptions when the time comes to renew the visa. Under new guidelines from the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS), the process may get more expensive and time consuming for both the employer and the worker.

Before the changes announced in October, when a nonimmigrant worker needed a visa extension, the application for an extension was not reviewed with the same level of scrutiny as an initial application when there were no changed circumstances with the worker and his employment. However, under current guidelines, the adjudicator reviewing an application for an extension has the discretion to review the application as though it is a new application.

This means that the applicant has the burden of proving all the facts that make him eligible for a work visa, even though nothing has changed since the initial application. The additional requirements are expected to add time and expense to the extension process, which in turn is likely to discourage employers from hiring foreign workers. Visa renewals for foreign workers are usually up for renewal every three years; although in some cases visas may need to be renewed in one to two years. Under the new guidelines, employers and workers may need to go through the grueling renewal process annually or every three years.

This change follows other updates to policies increasing scrutiny on employers who hire workers, especially on the H-1B visa program. The H-1B visa program was originally supposed to allow employers to hire highly skilled foreign workers in fields where there was a shortage of American workers. The H-1B visa process has been criticized as awarding visas to non-qualified workers, and has been targeted for major revision and possible elimination by the current administration. There could be other changes coming to the H-1B visa program and other programs authorizing foreign workers to work in the country. One such change would eliminate a rule allowing spouse of H-1B visa recipients to work in the country under a H-4 dependent visa.

There are legitimate issues with how some employers hire nonimmigrant workers. However, the guidelines implemented by USCIS will probably cause difficulty for legitimate candidates in addition to those who are being hired fraudulently.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

If you are currently working in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, you need to review your status and the options you have to continue working legally in the United States. You should consult your own immigration attorney to explore your options if you are nearing the expirations of your visa. For more information, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California for a consultation.

Proposed Law to Make Employer Verification of an Employee’s Work Status Mandatory

Businesses operating and hiring employees in the U.S. are required to ensure that they are hiring employees who can work legally in the country. In order to help businesses ensure that the employees they hire are legally allowed to work in the country, the government encourages employers to use the E-verify program. The verification of an employee’s employment status through the government’s E-verify program has been voluntary to employers, except for certain employers who work on federal contracts, and employers in states that have laws requiring the use of E-verify.

Under a proposed law, the Legal Workforce Act, employers could be required to use a system modelled after the E-Verify program. The law would require the use of this program to be mandatory for all employers, and would be implemented in stages across the country. The law would preempt state law on this issue, and states would be required to comply with the law, or if they choose, they could enact stricter laws on employment verification.

The bill would require that employees who are not currently verified under the E-verify program to be reverified, which will require the employee to verify that he can work legally in the U.S., and for employers to certify that they verified an employee’s status.  

If the bill is passed and signed into law, employers who use the system to verify their employees’ status will have a defense to allegations of improperly hiring employees who cannot work legally in the country. Therefore, if the system made an error and verified an employee who was not actually legally allowed to work in the country, the employer would not be liable for federal fines.

Employers with 10,000 or more employees would be required to use the new system within six months of the Legal Workforce Act becoming law, employers with 500 to 9,999 employees would have 12 months, employers with 20 to 499 employees would have 18 months, and employers with one to 19 employees would be required to comply with the law within 24 months. There will be different compliance dates for employers hiring agricultural workers.

There are also provisions in the law that seek to stop people from using other people’s social security numbers when applying for positions. These provisions are supposed to limit identity theft.

There have been proposals to make E-verify mandatory in the past, for example, the 2013 Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act proposed to make E-verify mandatory, but it did not make it to law. This time, there is a greater push for these changes, and the bill may have a better chance of becoming law.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

If you are an immigrant or foreign worker who needs to determine if you are working legally in the U.S., or who needs to adjust your status in order to work legally in the U.S., you need to speak to an experienced immigration attorney about your status. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California for a consultation.

How do I Prepare for an USCIS Interview?

With the recent changes to the application forms and procedures for people seeking lawful permanent residency in the United States, it is important for all applicants to prepare for their interviews with the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) officials. Generally, anyone applying for a green card is required to attend an in-person interview as part of the application process. This interview is usually that last step before the application is granted or denied.

Where a person attends the interview depends on wherehe or she is at the time of the application. If an applicant is outside the United States, the interview is conducted at a U.S. consulate. If the applicant is in the country and is seeking an adjustment of status to lawful permanent residency, the applicant is usually interviewed at a USCIS center or regional office. Whatever the setting, remember to dress well and be on time for your interview.

Review Your Application

For all applicants, it is crucial to review your application and any documents you submitted before attending the application. If you do not review the application, you may be caught up in a question about a minor detail in your records and look like you are lying because you do not know the answer or because you provide a different answer.

Tell the Truth

Another important thing to remember is to tell the truth. Lying about an aspect of your background or personal information, either in the application or in the interview could be grounds to revoke any benefits you receive as a result of the lie, including your green card. If you are worried about how negative information in your background may affect you, you should always consult an immigration attorney before filling out the forms to discuss how you should answer the questions.

Interviews of Married Couples

If your application is based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, the interview may feel more like an interrogation at times. The questions asked to married couples may be personal and could range from small minor details about everyday life living together, details on how the couple met, to the couple’s long term goals. In addition, it is not uncommon for the spouses to be interviewed separately, and the spouses tested to see if their answers will match up. If the marriage is bona fide, and not solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits, the couple will generally be comfortable answering questions without studying the answers. However, details may be difficult to remember, therefore the couple may benefit from going over certain details of their relationship that they may have forgotten.

Consult an Attorney Before the Interview

If possible, you should schedule some time to prepare for the interview with your immigration attorney. This preparation could help you anticipate the tone of the interview and the kind of questions to expect.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

If you are in the process or applying for an adjustment of status to legal permanent resident status, you should consult an experienced attorney to assist with the process. The application forms have changed and become more complicated, and providing the wrong information could lead to your application being denied. For more information on how we can help you, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

Purchasing a Home as an Undocumented Immigrant

Part of the American dream used to be buying a home and being able to raise a family in that home for many years. For some immigrants, even undocumented ones, this is still a dream and an important goal to attain. However, for undocumented immigrants, this dream may come with some difficulties, but it is still attainable.

It is not illegal for a person who is undocumented in the United States to purchase a car or even a home. The most significant difficulty in making these purchases arises in terms of securing money to make the purchase. Most people buying homes within the United States do so by securing financing through a mortgage. This requires providing the mortgage lender certain personal information that shows an ability to repay a loan in order to be approved for the mortgage.

If a person is undocumented, he may not necessarily have the employment history and credit history to be approved for a mortgage. However, there are some lenders who do different forms of background checks in order to allow a person without a social security number to secure a mortgage. Some immigrants are able to show employment history using tax returns. Undocumented immigrants regularly pay taxes using an Individual Tax Identification Number, and this creates the kind of income history that may be acceptable to some lenders.

If an American citizen or permanent resident is married to an undocumented immigrant, the American citizen’s ability to purchase the home may be limited, as well. Some mortgage lenders require a married couple seeking financing to cosign the loan paperwork. Even if the American citizen is somehow able to purchase the home without including the spouse co-signing, the failure to co-sign keeps the American citizen from relying on the undocumented spouse’s income to secure the financing for the purchase of a home.

There is a difference between an immigrant spouse in the process of applying for lawful permanent residence or asylum, and one who may have difficulty in status despite being married to an American citizen. There are different considerations for each of these categories of immigrants, and there would be different considerations for each one.

An undocumented immigrant always has an option of making a cash purchase of a home. While this may be possible in areas of the country where homes are lower priced, it may be difficult or impossible in most areas of California where the cost of living is high. Making cash purchases for a home that is highly priced can also raise questions about the potential home buyer’s income sources, and infer that the income came from illegal sources.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

Home ownership and other strong ties to a community can sometimes be used as evidence against deporting an undocumented immigrant. If you are facing deportation proceedings, you need an experienced immigration attorney to help present your case to stay in the country. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California for a consultation.

Injunction on Withholding Federal Grants From Sanctuary Cities

Sanctuary cities across the United States scored a small victory earlier this week when the city of Chicago was able to secure a nationwide injunction stopping the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions from withholding public safety grants from certain cities in the U.S. The Attorney General had previously vowed to withhold public safety grants from cities that refused to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement in deporting undocumented immigrants. This was in keeping with an earlier promise by the Trump Administration to strip away public service grant money from sanctuary cities.

Having local police help to deport undocumented immigrants would speed up immigration efforts by the federal government. This is because federal authorities would get notified sooner if an undocumented person was arrested for a criminal offense, and then detained. Federal authorities could also require local police office to hold the immigrant in order for federal authorities to come and pick him or her up for deportation.

Sanctuary cities’ refusal to cooperate with the federal government on deporting undocumented immigrants stems from the argument that providing such assistance would affect the trust the immigrant community has in the police. In granting the injunction, the court recognized that this community trust is a valid concern that cannot be easily regained if the cities were forced to comply with the federal government.

The judge made the injunction a nationwide injunction even though it was the city of Chicago filing the lawsuit because these issues affect cities throughout the country. Therefore, the injunction on withholding funds from Chicago would apply to cities in California, as well.

The nationwide injunction does not mean that the battle is over. The injunction only stops the Attorney General from withholding funds while a lawsuit is pending to determine whether the Attorney General does have the authority to take such action. Whenever that decision is made, the injunction may be lifted or become permanent. If the injunction is lifted, some cities may choose to comply with the requirement to coordinate and assist federal immigration officials in deporting people in order to get the grants.

Right now, this decision does not change anything in terms of the federal government’s ability to enforce federal immigration law by deporting undocumented immigrants. Therefore, if the federal government is able to track an undocumented immigrant without relying on the assistance of local police, the federal officers will arrest the person and begin deportation proceedings. There are expected to be several immigration related laws enacted during the Trump Administration’s tenure. How these laws may affect immigrants in the long term is yet to be determined.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

If you are an undocumented immigrant seeking to legalize your presence in the U.S., you should speak to an experienced immigration attorney to learn about your options. If you have been in the United States for some time, or if you are married to a U.S. citizen, you may have options to legalize your status. For more information on how you can fight deportation, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California and schedule a consultation.

California Law Protecting Victims and Witnesses of Crimes

We have previously discussed the worrying presence of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers at courthouses for the purpose of identifying and arresting people who are in the country unlawfully. Earlier this year, the chief justice of the California Supreme Court wrote a letter to federal officials asking them to reconsider the tactic in light of the effect it was having on victims and witness who were too scared of deportation to help with criminal investigations.

Because of concerns such as these, and the issues surrounding sanctuary city status, California lawmakers passed a law that is aimed at protecting victims and witnesses. Under this law, that is currently awaiting the governor’s signature, police officers in California will not arrest a victim or a witness based solely on an actual or suspected immigration violation.

There is an exception under this new California law for the arrest of a victim or witness if there is a warrant for arrest presented to the police officers. A warrant will be honored even when it is issued by a federal court as part of a federal investigation or case. There may be a warrant issued for the arrest of a person who is a victim or a witness based on their immigration status, or based on the person’s involvement in another criminal case.

Currently under California law, the only victims and witnesses who are protected from arrest and deportation are victims and witnesses of hate crimes. This new law would expand this protection to victims or witnesses of all crimes.

Undocumented immigrants should also remember that depending on a person’s involvement and participation in a federal criminal investigation, he or she may be eligible for a visa that would help him or her stay in the country legally and assist with the investigation.

Federal officials have stated that a person’s status as a victim or a witness alone is not enough to stop the person from getting deported. The law the California legislature has approved will not stop a person’s deportation, it simply slows down the process. California law will not make changes to federal immigration law, and so a person can still be picked up in courthouses by federal agents whether the person is a victim, witness, or a person charged with a crime. The California law would simply block local police officers from taking action to assist with the deportation of victims and witnesses.

If the governor signs the law and does not veto it, it is expected to take effect in January of 2018. There are additional proposed laws aimed at assisting undocumented immigrants, such as a law that would make California a sanctuary state. The success of these laws would be greatly beneficial to many undocumented immigrants who live peacefully in California without committing criminal offenses.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

For more information on the protection from deportation available to victims and witnesses of crimes, or for legal assistance with your immigration issues, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California for a consultation.

Proposed Legislation to Move to a Merit Based Immigration System

In a move to change the way the immigration system currently works in the United States, there is a proposed legislation that would move immigration towards a more merit or skill based immigration system. If this law were to pass, it would drastically change the way some family members are able to immigrate to the United States.

Under the current immigration system, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can apply for his or her family members to immigrate to the U.S. and live as permanent residents with a path to citizenship. U.S. citizens can sponsor certain family members that lawful permanent residents cannot. Under the current system, immediate and extended family members can immigrate to the U.S. as long as a qualifying family member who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsors their applications.

Under the proposed legislation, immigration based on family ties would be sharply restricted, with only spouses and minor children being allowed to immigrate through an application based on their relationship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. This would mean that a U.S. resident’s parents, adult children, and siblings would be restricted to immigration through a merit based system.

A merit based system would focus on an immigrant’s ability to work in the U.S. and in skilled positions. Similar merit based systems are used in other countries, such as Canada and Australia; however, it is not clear how closely the proposed system will resemble the systems used in those countries.

One issue of major concern is the proposal to give English speakers preference in the merits based system. This could affect a lot of immigrants who may have otherwise been able to immigrate to the U.S., especially if this policy is used to restrict applicants who do not speak English fluently. A merit based system would also look at a person’s education and job experience and rank him or her based on that, giving preference to more educated professionals than people with less education or job experience.

The law would also eliminate the diversity visa lottery program and reduce the number of refugees the U.S. accepts annually.

The proposed law has already met criticism, including concerns that it could dramatically affect the country’s economy. The law would cut down immigration numbers by half, and because immigrants contribute significantly to the economy, there will definitely be an economic impact to the law’s passage.

The proposed legislation is in its early stages and is not yet the law. If you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident seeking to sponsor your parents or siblings for residency in the U.S., you can still do that under the current law. Unfortunately, applications for these groups of relatives may take a long time to be processed, and especially in the case of sibling applications, could take years to finalize.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

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.

Seeking Asylum in the United States

Human rights groups recently filed a lawsuit against the federal government alleging that guards and officials at entry points along the U.S. – Mexico border are turning away asylum seekers using misinformation and even threats. This discouragement of asylum seekers has been alleged to have happened before the asylum seeker is even processed, and before a determination is made as to the validity of a person’s asylum claim.

The kind of discouragement of asylum claims that has been claimed in the lawsuit could act to discourage people from seeking asylum in the U.S. because they are afraid and unsure of what the law says about the processing of asylum cases.

A person may seek asylum in the U.S. if the person can show that he or she has a legitimate fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. A person seeking asylum has to be physically present in the country or at a point of entry in order to make an application for asylum. If the person is already in the country, he or she has to make the asylum application within a year of arriving in the country, unless he or she can show an exception to this deadline applies.

When a person makes a claim for asylum at the border, he or she may go through an initial screening to determine the credibility of the asylum claim. This can lead to a full hearing later on.

In some cases, a person may claim asylum for the first time once the person is placed in removal proceedings. This is called a defensive claim for asylum, and can be used if the person is in removal proceedings for the following reasons:

  • The removal proceeding is initiated by an asylum officer (who has made a finding that the asylum seeker has a credible fear of persecution in a preliminary screening);
  • Immigration violations; or,
  • Trying to enter the U.S. without proper documents.

In a removal proceeding, the asylum seeker will have to argue his or her case and present evidence that supports the claim for asylum. The asylum seeker is allowed to have an attorney, and because the government is also represent by an attorney in these proceedings, it is best for the asylum seeker to have an attorney present.

While awaiting the final word on an asylum case, the asylum seeker may be held in a detention center. However, if the asylum seeker has family members or other contacts in the U.S. who can provide for him or her financially, he or she may be conditionally released pending the resolution of the asylum claim. In order for a person to be released, he or she has to make an application for release.

Contact an Immigration Attorney

If you are in the U.S. and have yet to file an application for asylum, you need to act fast or miss the deadline for doing so. Failing to file within the appropriate time can interfere with your ability to file for protection even if you have a good claim. For more information on how an experienced immigration attorney can assist you, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.