Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
I haven’t blogged in a while. The Trump Administration is keeping me busy. Sometimes I wonder why I chose this life, and then I have to remind myself that sometimes we don’t choose our destiny. Sometimes, we just have to figure out that we are where we are because it was meant to be.
I’ve put out some (hopefully) helpful FAQs with regards to the DACA repeal. Please share them widely.
For those who are in a position to give, I am also fundraising to help pay for the DACA renewal fees of community members who cannot come up with $495 at the drop of a hat, to file their renewals.
Donations are tax-deductible! Under “I want my donation to be dedicated” please put “DACA” or “Immigration”
If you’re the media, or have questions about other immigration matters, I may not get back to you for several weeks. Additionally, I will be out of the country between September 23 and October 15th. I appreciate your patience during these trying times.
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:
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: email@example.com
- Vermont Service Center: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Nebraska Service Center: NSCFollowup.NCSC@uscis.dhs.gov
- Texas Service Center: email@example.com
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.
You just received a green card, or advance parole, and want to travel internationally?
First of all, congratulations are in order!
If this is your first time traveling abroad in a while, here are some things you should do or bring before your trip.
1. Obtain a money belt that straps to your body to store your cash, passport and valuables.
2. Carry travel insurance if your regular health insurance doesn’t cover you while abroad. Travel insurance is also useful if your baggage is lost or delayed, and provides reimbursement on prepaid reservations if your trip is canceled, interrupted or delayed.
3. Make a copy of your passport, and leave it in the safety of your attorney or a friend.
4. Register with your country’s embassy. If there is a problem in the country while you are traveling abroad, this would make it easier for the embassy to contact you, and get you out of harm’s way.
5. Do not forget to renew your prescriptions, and take some over the counter medications with you. For example, I do not travel abroad without my allergy medication, regular pain killers, and antibiotics.
6. Call your bank provider and place travel alerts on your credit and debit cards. You do not want the bank to think there is fraud on your account while you are traveling abroad, and then lock your account as a precautionary measure.
7. Carry several types of currency: local cash, traveller’s cheques, some U.S. dollars to convert if you spot a deal, credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees abroad, debit cards to withdraw money from an ATM without fees or have the fees reimbursed such as Charles Schwab. Also, you can get cash advance from your Discover Card while traveling.
8. Check the country’s entrance/exit fees. Some countries require travelers to pay in order to enter or leave the country. These fees are not included in the price of your airline ticket, and can range from $25 to $200.
9. Buy some local currency before you head out: You can also ask your local U.S. bank for some foreign currency, but note that they do not usually give you the best conversion rates. Research the best conversion rate for the country you are visiting, and convert your currency there.
10. Get a phone or data plan that works internationally. You do not want to be stuck with those hefty AT&T or Verizon bills. If you want to be incommunicado, look into shutting off your data roaming, and use Viber abroad in case you do need to reach your family or your attorney.
11. Do not forget a power strip and plug adapter. You will need these while traveling, and in many countries, your electronics would need an international friendly adapter to work.
16. Use an app such as Tripit to organize your travel. I travel frequently and Tripit is my to-go app for storing my flight information, and itinerary. It also helps your friends and family figure out where you are on any given day (if you invite them to view your travel plans).
12. If you plan to travel a lot, you may want to invest in Global Entry to avoid long lines at airports and have TSA precheck privilege. Better yet, some credit cards provide a reimbursement for this fee, so you may want to look into this.
13. Visiting a foreign country may be as easy as going to Canada and flashing your green card. But some countries, such as Australia, may require you to obtain a visa, even though you have a green card or advance parole. Check the visa requirements of the countries you plan to visit ahead of time, so you can get all your ducks in a row.
14. Layovers: Layovers offer a great way to see several countries on one trip, but need to be planned accordingly. If you have long layovers in countries other than your final destination, you should find out whether you can get a transit pass or require a visa to explore those countries.
The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Prerna Lal, and the user.
I went to bed last night mentally doing a checklist of everyone I know who qualifies and does not qualify under the President’s immigration action. As a community advocate and formerly undocumented immigrant, the word that most aptly describes last night is “bitter-sweet.”
While the announcement is not enough, we do need to celebrate our victories, and what change this temporary reprieve will bring to so many members of the community. However, I am also frankly terrified for those that it would not help, and what would happen in the absence of permanent changes.
I am making a quick reference checklist here for myself, family members and friends, similar to the one I made for the Senate immigration bill two years ago as a community advocate. These are simply my initial mental impressions of the various memos released by the DHS yesterday and available here. They are in no particular order:
- Expansion of DACA – The DHS will remove the upper level age cap on DACA so people who were above the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 will not miss out. The date of entry was moved to January 1, 2010 from June 15, 2007, which means thousands more people who are newer arrivals would benefit. DACA will also be made into a temporary reprieve of 3 years, and the changes rolled out in 3 months.
- The New DAPA program – The DHS is tasked with creating a separate deferred action program for parents of U.S. citizen sons/daughters or LPR sons/daughters born before November 21, 2014. Parents must have resided in the U.S. since at least January 1, 2010, physically present in the U.S. on the day of announcement and have no lawful status, passed background checks, and are otherwise not ineligible (i.e. not an enforcement priority according to the new Johnson memo).
- The provisional stateside waiver (I-601A) will be extended to all family members eligible, which will now include adult sons and daughters, and spouses of LPRs. The provisional waiver is for the 3/10 year bar for unlawful entry, and requires an individual to prove “extreme hardship” to their U.S. citizen family member if they are deported. Usually, individuals who are trying to adjust their status in the U.S. but entered the country unlawfully, need to travel abroad to their home country for approval of a waiver. In 2012, the Administration started accepting “extreme hardship” waivers without requiring immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to leave and wait outside. Now this benefit is also available to the children and spouses of lawful permanent residents. This provision will require rule-making, so it will take some time to roll this out. The DHS will also engage in rule-making to expand the “extreme hardship” definition.
- Naturalization – Lawful permanent residents who are naturalizing can now pay via credit card and may qualify for fee waivers.
- Expansion of parole-in-place to immediate relatives of those U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who “seek to enlist” in the US Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard, or the Reserve of any of the five Armed Services). This benefit means that not only would the family members of those who seek to enlist not be subject deported–they may also be eligible to adjust their status in the future.
- Clarification of travel on advance parole by DHS so that people on DAP, DACA can travel abroad, and return to adjust their status in the U.S.
- Department of Labor (DOL) reforms: DOL will start issuing U visa certifications in three key areas: extortion, forced labor, and fraud in foreign labor contracting, and certify applications for trafficking victims seeking T visas. According to DOL, “These efforts will significantly help qualifying victims of these crimes receive immigration relief from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and access the range of victim services that they need to recover and rebuild their lives.”
- Reforms to the employment-based immigration system such as extension of OPT for STEM graduates, defining “specialized knowledge” for L-1B intracompany transferees, increasing H-1B portability by having USCIS define “same or similar” jobs, expanding the use of the “national interest waiver” and starting a new parole program to bring talented entrepreneurs to the U.S.
- Elimination of Secure Communities with a new program that targets immigrant communities: DHS is replacing the current “Secure Communities” program with a new “Priority Enforcement Program” to remove individuals convicted of criminal offenses. While it could be a marked improvement that moves us from a pre-conviction to post-conviction model and uses notification instead of detainers, unfortunately, this continues the entanglement of local law enforcement with immigration enforcement.
- Exclusions for parents of DACA recipients, undocumented workers and farm workers without families, and LGBT individuals less likely to have family members in the U.S. – While these exclusions are not categorical, and some parents of DACA recipients who also have U.S. citizen/LPR children would continue to benefit, the President’s immigration action does not specifically benefit those who do not have immediate family ties to the U.S. but are nonetheless, members of our community. It is also unclear at this point whether parents with final orders or re-entries after deportation would be eligible for the program. At this point it appears that they would be eligible since they are not priorities under the new memo.
- Visa backlogs – The announcement punts on the question of family visa backlogs that affect so many of us. However, there will be Presidential Memorandum to create an interagency group to look at “visa modernization” which has 120 days to prepare recommendations for further action.
- Limited expansion of DACA: It is great to see an expansion of DACA and elimination of the age-cap. It would have been nice to see public benefits such as ACA (healthcare) given to DACA recipients, as well as increasing the age of entry to 18 from 16 years.
- Employment-based immigration: DHS expects to finalize regulation on H4 visa holders soon but the rule will not be expanded to all H4 visa holders
- New enforcement priorities that continue to target immigrant communities: The President is rescinding past memos such as the Morton Memo, and issuing a new one, effective January 5, 2015. The new priorities are troubling and continue to criminalize immigrant and border communities, pitting good immigrants against bad immigrants, and separating families. I have listed the priorities below, and some initial thoughts on each:
Priority 1: Non-citizens convicted of aggravated felonies, suspected terrorists, convicted gang members, people apprehended at the border while unlawfully entering the U.S., will be a priority for removal unless they qualify for asylum or another immigration benefit.
Most troubling here is the use of language such as “suspected terrorists” without built in civil rights protections that discourage racial profiling. Additionally, people apprehended at the border will now be a top priority, even though many are coming to reunite with family. The prioritization of people with gang-related membership (without conviction) is very troubling, as law enforcement targets specific racial/ethnic groups as gang-affiliated.
Priority 2: Non-citizens convicted of three or more misdemeanor offenses, non-citizens convicted of significant misdemeanors (including DUI), non-citizens apprehended who entered after January 1, 2014; non-citizens who are perceived to abuse the visa waiver program should be a priority of removal unless they qualify for asylum or another immigration benefit.
Significant misdemeanors – a new legal fiction created by DACA – is here to stay, even though it has no legal foundation. The prioritization of people with a DUI, and their exclusion from DACA, is incredibly troubling, as is the prioritization of people who overstay their visas under the visa waiver program. Many of these people are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and have much to contribute to the U.S.
Priority 3: Non-citizens issued final orders of removal after January 1, 2014 should generally be a priority for removal unless they qualify for asylum, or another immigration benefit.
Immigrants who dared to come to the U.S. in 2014 will now be subject to draconian enforcement.
- Increased border enforcement – DHS plans to fund an additional 20,000 CBP agents, and continue to trend towards further border militarization of the Southern border we share with Mexico.
- Ramped up interior enforcement through existing programs such as the Criminal Alien Removal (CARI) Program, which profiles Latinos for detention and deportation, and ICE raids, which will continue under these new announcements, despite right-wing talking points.
- Due process concerns: Expedited deportations and Operation Streamline will continue.
- No reforms to the existing detention system: Family detention will continue as the DHS opens a brand new center in Dilley, Texas, and arriving asylum seekers at the border will continue to be detained.
Finally, I just want to say that this is a deeply personal issue for me. I want to send some love and light to everyone who has worked hard for this announcement and emotionally drained from yesterday, and left out or have family members who are left out. I had a cab-driver yesterday, who unexpectedly started telling me about his son, and trying to figure out how to bring him here, just as I was getting out of the cab. I wish I had the time and opportunity to help him, and I hope he reunites with his son soon. We all deserve justice; we all deserve to be able to reunite with our families; and we most certainly deserve to be able to go home to safety–wherever that is.
If anyone has further thoughts, questions and concerns, feel free to comment or contact me.
For more than a year now, I have worked with the grassroots movement trying to secure broad administrative relief from President Obama on immigration. I co-authored the Not1More Blue Ribbon Commission Recommendations to the President in the Spring. Just a few months ago, we were quite unpopular amongst advocates in the Beltway, who were asking the President to delay issuing administrative relief on immigration, but since the midterm elections, we are all the rage, and invited to cocktail parties everywhere. The Democrats may have lost the Senate due to the delay, but now that the President has signaled his desire to take executive action on immigration, the Democratic base seems fired up and ready for change.
It is certainly a pivot in the right direction. My experience as an undocumented immigrant has prepared me well for this moment since something similar happened when we won Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). “Dreamers”—the beneficiaries of DACA—became the “cool kids” that everyone tried to hang with, while we tried hard to grapple with how it divided our community into deserving and undeserving immigrants. My experience as an LGBT individual is also quite similar. Straight people, for lack of a better term, want to celebrate with us at our parties now, and act like they are cool with us, which makes for rather awkward conversations. I have learned to take people at face value, revel in my accomplishments, and forget about them the moment the happy hour is over. Because we have much more important work to do.
Nothing has been announced yet, so if you are confused about all the noise on executive action, you need to consult the chart here. The delay is cause for protests, not parties as the President continues to deport more people than ever before. Moreover, family detentions continue, as the Obama Administration builds a brand new facility in Dilley, Texas to imprison mothers and children escaping persecution in their home countries.
If any announcement does come, remember to thank NDLON’s Not One More Deportation movement. Without NotOneMore, we would have a dead immigration bill with no momentum for change and frankly, no prospects for executive action. Remember to thank the undocumented workers, parents, and youth who stopped buses, infiltrated detention centers, put their bodies on the line to ask for this change, and endured many attacks from pro-reform advocates. Unlike what Julia Preston writes in the New York Times, it is not big money which has brought us here, but big, courageous hearts of those who have been directly impacted by our devastating immigration laws. This is an undeniable fact, and perhaps it would not make it into the history books, but you had better not forget it.
It’s also important to remember that whatever the President announces will mean thousands left out and left to fend for themselves. Many of them are among the ones who organized for this change in the first place. They are our friends, loved ones, and members of our community. We have to help those who qualify but we must also fill the gap for those who did not make it, and work to ensure that they are represented as well.
Those who opposed administrative action at any time should start redeeming themselves by doing applications for relief at no cost to applicants, and contribute some application fees while they are at it. But don’t hold your breath. You’ll notice that they are the first ones taking credit and trying to make money from this.
Got legal questions for me or need help? Hit me up here.