Category Archives: Immigration

Resisting the #MuslimBan

Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on Friday, purporting to suspend the U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days, with certain exceptions; suspend the admission of Syrian refugees for an undefined period; and suspend entry of lawful permanent residents, refugees, and non-immigrants, such as visitors and students, from certain Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Somalia) for at least 90 days.

Since then, thousands of protestors, upon hearing about the detention of travelers to the United States, have taken to occupying airports, while lawyers are working overtime to get legal help for people detained at airports. Below, I share some travel tips for people, and families of those from designated countries.

1. If detained at a CA airport under Executive Order, call local ACLU hotline:

SFO 415-621-2488
LAX 213-977-5245
SAN 619-398-4485

2. A federal district judge in New York has stayed the Executive Order. The stay is temporary but effective immediately and nationwide, and is an order to CBP to not remove people under the Executive Order (and should also extend to those who are trying to enter the U.S.). If your non-citizen family or friends are traveling from countries that have been designated on the list (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen), tell them to print out a copy of the stay order and carry it on them: http://documents.latimes.com/deportations-stay-trump/.

If non-citizens continue to be harassed, detained, interrogated, tell them to make copious notes and get names and details of how long they waited, what happened, who they spoke to and precisely what was said. Keep demanding access to counsel and not sign anything.

Lawyers for other families who are detained can use the pleadings filed in the New York case so they do not need to reinvent the wheel.

Additional orders issued by judges:

3. Anyone who holds a passport from a designated country is considered as being “from” the designated country. This includes dual citizens who hold passports from a designated country, as well as a non-designated country.

4. For lawful permanent residents, DHS is admitting people on a case by case basis, following additional and invasive screenings. Any green card holders from designated countries should make sure not to sign the I-407/ Record of abandonment of lawful permanent residence. CBP officers often coerce and deceive people into doing this as a condition of release from detention. If detained for extended periods, people should similarly, take notes, take names, ask for their lawyer, ask to speak to the Congressional representative, and demand to see an immigration judge.

5. People from designated countries, even dual nationals, should try to not travel abroad at this time, unless one absolutely must. Reports indicate that people abroad are not being allowed to board airplanes (even with visas) and even visa interviews for citizens of these countries have been canceled (with the exception of those who hold diplomatic visas).

6. Contact your Congressperson:

If you know who your representative is but you are unable to contact them using their contact form, the Clerk of the House maintains addresses and phone numbers of all House members and Committees, or you may call (202)225-3121 for the U.S. House switchboard operator.

7. For those persecuted in their home countries or fear of persecution in countries CBP would return them to, individuals should speak to their lawyers to discuss claims to asylum and demand a credible fear interview at ports of entry.

8. There are some rumors that USCIS will stop processing applications for naturalization, work permits, travel permits, green card renewals, and other immigration benefits for people from these designated countries. We are waiting for an official announcement. This is very clearly outside the scope of Presidential authority and the executive order, and will lead to many more lawsuits.

9. Media:

NY Times.  If you have been impacted by this Executive Order, willing to share your story with the media and public, the New York Times is asking for those stories to be shared with them via email to immigration@nytimes.com.

There are many other outlets looking for stories of people who have been impacted.

10. For everyone else, see you at the airports!

#NoBanNoWall#MuslimBan

All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.

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A MESSAGE TO TRUMP: WE’RE NOT GOING BACK IN THE SHADOWS

In These Times reached out to me shortly after the election for a thought piece on how Donald Trump’s election will impact immigrant rights organizing. The piece was a cover article for the magazine’s December 2016 issue, and can be found online now:

A MESSAGE TO TRUMP: WE’RE NOT GOING BACK IN THE SHADOWS 

Enjoy.

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Post-Election FAQs on Immigration

Please find resources for undocumented students and undocumented immigrants here as to what the election of Donald Trump may mean for them. While mostly Berkeley-specific, they are relevant to most individuals.

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What To Do When Your DACA Renewal Is Delayed

DACA delay

First, lets try to make sure your renewal is not delayed. Apply at least 6 months in advance and use the mailer that you received with your last work permit for the renewal for a more speedy turn-around.

However, if you do everything right, and your renewal is still delayed, here is what you can do:

1. Check your case status online at USCIS – You will need to enter the receipt number for either your DACA application or your employment authorization application.

2. Initiate a service request at USCIS – Call USCIS National Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 and request to use the Service Request Management Tool (SRMT) to request expedited processing of your case and ask for an interim EAD, if your DACA renewal application was filed 120 days in advance. In most cases, you have to ask to speak to a supervisor. In any case, write down any number they provide you.

Be prepared to provide your name, alien number, and receipt numbers to the customer service center. In some limited cases, applicants who have had their initial DACA denied, can also use this tool as an appeal to inform USCIS that the denial based on an administrative error.

3. Elevate your case status: After making the initial service request, contact the USCIS Headquarters Office of Service Center Operations by email at: SCOPSSCATA@dhs.gov. You should receive a response within 10 days.

4. Seek assistance from the USCIS Ombudsman – Open a case assistance request with the USCIS Ombudsman by filing DHS-7001. Make sure to state any reason why you need your DACA to be renewed ASAP such as employment opportunity or travel abroad or financial detriment.

Once you have completed and submitted the online form, you should be issued an Ombudsman-specific case number. Then you can contact, by email, one of these Ombudsman staff people, and request them to look into your case:

Rena.cutlip-mason@hq.dhs.gov

Margaret.gleason@hq.dhs.gov

Messay.berhanu@hq.dhs.gov

5. Contact your Congressional Representative: If the matter continues to be unresolved and there is a lapse in your work authorization, contact your individual Congressional representative for assistance. You can find your representative here.

6. Contact the Service Center that is processing your case:

  • California Service Center: csc-ncsc-followup@dhs.gov
  • Vermont Service Center: vsc.ncscfollowup@dhs.gov
  • Nebraska Service Center: NSCFollowup.NCSC@uscis.dhs.gov
  • Texas Service Center: tsc.ncscfollowup@dhs.gov

If you do not receive a response within 21 days of emailing the service center, you may email the USCIS Headquarters Office of Service Center Operations at SCOPSSCATA@dhs.gov

I see delayed renewals quite a bit these days so while I am not certain that the steps above will work in all cases, it is worth a try and better than waiting around for a response.

As a final note, applicants renewing their DACA should make sure to file 180-150 days before the expiry date listed on their Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Applicants who anticipate traveling abroad while their DACA renewal is due should always file earlier than the 150 mark. Filing less than 120 days in advance may lead to delays in lapses of work authorization, and accruing of unlawful presence.

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Why Don’t Mexicans Just Come Here Legally?

I receive this question a lot from non-Mexican readers of this blog, and sometimes even clients who are wrestling with the legal immigration process. 

After all, immigrating should be a matter of filing out some paperwork and waiting your turn.

But what if that wait lasts a lifetime? What if you had to wait a lifetime to see your own parent, son or daughter?

The U.S. immigration system gives immediate relative status to only three relatives–spouses, parents and children under 21 of U.S. citizens. The other family members–children over 21, siblings, married children–have to wait their turn in an infamous preference system that is embodied in the chart below and moves at a snail pace:

57020-full

Currently, there are four preference categories and only 480,000 family visas can be allocated to these categories per year. As you can see above, many of these categories are backlogged–the demand for visas exceeds the supply, especially for certain countries such as Mexico, China, India and the Philippines, so the State Department publishes a chart each month (Visa Bulletin) informing people that they can apply for a green card but only if they had been sponsored before the date corresponding to their category.

Even with a relative petitioning for them, many people are simply unable to immigrate legally to the United States due to long backlogs.

For example, there are only approximately 26,266 visas available each year in the F2B category for the unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents (23% of the maximum 114,200 visas allocated to the F2 category per INA 201(a)(2)).

The visa prorating provisions of Section 202(e) apply to allocations for a foreign state or dependent area when visa demand exceeds the per-country limits. As such, each country is allowed a maximum of 7 percent of the total number of visas available in the F2B category (26,266 x .07 = 1,838).

The total number of pending F2B applicants worldwide as of November 1, 2014 was 498,277, according to the Annual Immigrant Visa Waiting List Report.

The number of F2B visas available to Mexico is 1,838. The number of pending F2B applicants from Mexico is 189,123, which is 38% of the waiting list per the State Department statistics. The length of time it will take to clear up the current backlog for Mexico in this category is approximately 103 years (189,123 ÷ 1,841).

In other words, a lawful permanent resident from Mexico who files a petition today in the F2B category for their unmarried son or daughter can expect it to become current in 2118!

However, if the lawful permanent resident from Mexico becomes a U.S. citizen, the time could be shortened.

The total number of visas available in the F1 category is 23,400. The total number of pending F1 applicants worldwide as of November 1, 2014 was 314,527, according to the Annual Immigrant Visa Waiting List Report available at http://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Statistics/Immigrant-Statistics/WaitingListItem.pdf.

Due to backlogs, the per country cap of 7 percent caps the number of F1 visas available to Mexico per year in this category to 1,638 (23,400 x .07). The number of pending F1 applicants from Mexico is 103,957. The length of time it will take to clear up the current backlog for Mexico in this category is approximately 63 years (103,957 ÷ 1,638).

Therefore, if a lawful permanent resident from Mexico becomes a U.S. citizen and then petitions for her/his unmarried son or daughter, they can expect the petition to become current 2078.

There is no viable way for many people from Mexico to immigrate legally to the U.S. in this lifetime. The legal system does not work for them. It is a sham. And while it is true that many people do come here to find work, many stay because of their family relations. A son or daughter, should not have to wait a lifetime to see her or his own parent.

What would you do if you faced a life-time away from your family?

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Transitions

Sather Gate

This summer I received a wonderful and surprising opportunity to move back to the East Bay, California. And unsurprisingly, I took it.

I will be working at the University of California, Berkeley Law School’s community clinic, the East Bay Community Law Center as an attorney and clinical instructor, where I will head up the historic and unprecedented Undocumented Student Program. At the clinic, I will provide free legal services to hundreds of undocumented students at UC Berkeley, their family members and the East Bay community at large. I will also supervise students at the clinic, through their experiential learning program.

I love the East Bay, and Berkeley is my favourite city in the United States. I can trace my political leanings back to UC Berkeley’s unprecedented BAUD program back in 2001 when I was in high school, so I am ecstatic to be back where it all began, helping members of my community.

Thank you to everyone, especially my wife and mom, who helped me get to this point in my life.

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The Shameless Exploitation of A Tragedy In San Francisco

 

Crossposted from Medium

Photo Credit: NDLON

Photo Credit: NDLON

The tragic death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco, allegedly at the hands of an undocumented immigrant, has conservatives gleefully trying to vilify all immigrants as criminals, and liberal politicians scrambling for cover by trying to roll back hard-fought local sanctuary city protections that keep immigrant families together.

The mainstream media is leaving virtually no stone unturned in trying to turn Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the alleged shooter, into the new Willie Horton even while all facts suggest that the fatal shooting was unintentional, and that sanctuary city policies have little to do with why Juan Lopez was still living in the United States even after being deported five times.

ICE could have deported Juan Carlos while he was in federal custody without any sort of removal proceedings; instead the agency turned him over to San Francisco to senselessly prosecute a 20 year old drug offense.

No one seems to be talking about the fact that the zealous desire to prosecute individuals for decades old low-level drug offenses seems to have played a large part in how the alleged shooter was transferred from federal ICE custody to officials in San Francisco.

News reports indicate that Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez had been deported previously five times. That made it easy to reinstate a previous order of removal and deport him from the United States after he had served his last sentence, and as everyone knows, ICE deports mothers, fathers and children quite easily even when they have a right to stay in the United States. However, instead of removing him to Mexico after 46 months in federal custody, the Bureau of Prisons reportedly turned him over to San Francisco to prosecute him for a 1995 low-level drug offense.

At a time when most jurisdictions are increasingly moving away from prosecuting low-level drug offenses, and even the federal government has indicated a desire to bury the war on drugs, it is mind-boggling that Juan was handed over to San Francisco for a 1995 outstanding charge for marijuana. It comes as no surprise that a local court dismissed the outstanding charge against Sanchez, and he was released from custody.

The shooting seems to lack premeditation.

Juan Lopez does not have a record of violent behavior. At worst, his extensive list of felonies for low-level drug offenses means he seemed to have a problem with drug addiction and abuse. Juan Lopez professes to have found a gun, registered to a federal agent, and accidentally shooting at the victim in this case, probably while he was under the influence. There is absolutely no record of violent crimes, let alone gun-related crimes, in his record. So there is no reason to doubt what he has confessed thus far — that the fatal shooting was an accident.

Why are politicians so bent on using this tragedy as a way to punish all San Franciscans by blowing it out of proportion? It’s easier to vilify and lay blame for a tragedy than find compassion and closure to move forward. If the best case against sanctuary cities and no detainer policies is that people can accidentally find guns on public park benches and fire them just as easily, perhaps those decrying such policies should focus their efforts elsewhere.

Which leads me to my next point: Why is it so easy to find and shoot a gun?

While records are still hazy, we know for a fact that the gun used in the shooting did not belong to Juan Lopez. It is registered to a federal agent with the Bureau of Land Management. How did Juan Lopez manage to get his hands on the gun belonging to a federal agent, and pull the trigger?

If was an accident like he claims, anyone, legally here or not, could have committed it, and it is wholly irrelevant that San Francisco has a sanctuary city policy. Instead of asking why Juan Lopez is still in the country, perhaps we should be asking why it is so easy to own, and fire a gun?

Handing Juan Carlos to ICE without a warrant would have exposed San Francisco to civil liabilities

A federal government request to detain an individual is not a judicial warrant, and carries no mandatory legal authority. Federal judges have actually found such ICE detainers to be unconstitutional. San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has stated that he would have given Juan Carlos back to ICE if it had issued a warrant to detain him. The jurisdiction would be liable if it honored a faxed request or phone call to detain Sanchez for longer than necessary, rather than judicial warrant to hold him, so San Francisco was legally obligated to release him.

Given that Juan Carlos had no record of violent crime convictions, his subsequent release and implication in a fatal shooting was hardly foreseeable.

This policy of abiding by the spirit and letter of the law, has little to do with the fact that San Francisco is a sanctuary city where immigrant families can live safely. Many jurisdictions, conservative or liberal, are increasingly afraid to abide by ICE detainers, because it would subject them to lawsuits.

Quite often, when wrongly accused and likened to criminals in the mainstream media, our knee-jerk reaction is to show study after study that says immigrants commit less crimes than our U.S. born counterparts.

Now let me be clear that the numbers do seem to suggest that the number of immigrants and crime rates are inversely related. But this analysis throws incarcerated black men under the bus, rather than question the myriad of ways in which black and brown people are turned into criminals. The share of non-citizens who make up defendants in the federal criminal system has grown disproportionately in the past decade.

Many of the convictions levied against Juan Lopez were for low level drug offenses and illegal re-entry. Criminal convictions for re-entrying the country without authorization to be with our family members, or making a false claim to citizenship in order to provide a home for our children or loitering on public street corners in order to find a job, is turning immigrants into criminals faster than we can proclaim that not all immigrants are not criminals. Moreover, citizenship status is now the most salient factor in determining sentencing outcomes in criminal court. We may not be behind bars at the rates that black men are incarcerated, but we do get punished more harshly than our U.S.-born counterparts by virtue of our immigration status.

Perhaps advocacy efforts and resources should go towards reversing these troubling trends, and questioning how immigration enforcement continues to mine a questionable criminal justice system for people to deport, rather than making anti-black proclamations decrying immigrant criminality, and blowing a tragedy out of proportion in order to score cheap political points.

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