What Obama’s Immigration Action Means for Indian Americans

My article in India Currents on how the immigration actions announced in November 2014 by the President impacts Indian Americans is finally available here. While some of the most pivotal programs such as expanded DACA and DAPA are currently on hold due to the Texas v. U.S. lawsuit, the Administration is moving ahead with the other proposed changes, through the issuance of more guidance. Feedback on the article is much-appreciated!


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The 15-Year Prison Sentence Is Over

The statute of limitations on being undocumented is over. As of August 1, 2014, I am a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

The actual process was easy, but that is probably because I’m an attorney. Last December, we had a 7 minute interview to prove that we had a bona-fide marriage. After that, I requested that DHS move to terminate proceedings, which they did quite gladly. I finally applied directly with the USCIS for a green card in mid-April. On August 1, 2014, we had the actual green-card interview, which lasted 10 minutes before the Immigration Officer changed my status in the system.

People have asked me how it feels. It actually doesn’t feel any different. I don’t have any sudden outpouring love for this place. Maybe once I’m out of this country, I’ll realize how good I have it, and feel like coming back.

Or not.

Adios.


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Obama Issues A Gag Order On “Stop the Deportation” Campaigns

The Obama Administration is reportedly calling on Congressional members to stop making calls on behalf of stopping the deportations of certain immigrants from the country. It’s a gag order as a response to increasing pressure from several immigrant advocacy groups calling on Obama to stop the deportations, be it for undocumented students, parents of U.S. citizens or same-sex bi-national couples.

Han Nichols reporting for Bloomberg News:

Several members of Congress who were scheduled to attend a March 31 news conference on the issue said administration officials contacted them to voice concern about their participation. Until U.S. immigration law is overhauled, the lawmakers say, Obama should use his executive power to protect families facing deportation or separation because at least one parent is an illegal immigrant.

“The staffers that are attached to us, the liaisons, they transmitted some concern,” said Representative Mike Honda of California, a former chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, referring to the White House legislative affairs office. “They would have loved us not to have gone to the press conference.”

Representative Mike Honda has been a leader for immigration reform and an outspoken voice in Congress. Openly pointing out the hypocrisy of the Obama Administration on this matter is another step forward in the right direction.

The administration argues that it doesn’t have the legal authority to exempt certain immigrant categories from the law.

“With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case,” Obama said at a March 28 town hall sponsored by the Univision television network. “There are laws on the books that Congress has passed.”

Now, if only mainstream media did its research, they could report that President Obama is not being totally forthcoming about his executive powers.

The Department of Homeland Security granted deferred action to the surviving spouses of U.S. citizens in 2009.

Attorney Angelo Paparelli notes that Obama has also used the executive remedy of “parole in place” on a blanket basis to help foreign citizens of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Deferring deportations to Haiti and providing deferred enforced departure to citizens of Japan are also some examples of an executive agency using prosecutorial discretion.

There is no reason that USCIS cannot use approved I-797s to grant conditional residency to certain immigrants residing in the United States. It actually makes no sense to deport a family member of a U.S. citizen or legal resident who will soon be eligible for a green card through adjustment of status.

Change takes courage. And Obama doesn’t seem to have any on immigration. So much for the son of a Kenyan immigrant.

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On Dog Bites and Bombs

BEIJING, CHINA-OCTOBER 23: The new operating s...

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Recommended reading for the week: This Dog Bites

Several years ago, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) dropped a bomb on my family. My mother was declared legal because her mother is a U.S. citizen, my father was declared legal because his older daughter is a U.S. citizen and I was declared an unauthorized alien, because … I was over 21. Ever since then, we are a family separated by arbitrary borders and categories in the law. I’ve always and I will always consider that an act of terrorism. But I’ve always felt too angry to feel any fear.

I cannot respond in kind. I don’t have the will or power to separate their families. I don’t think that is the right answer or the correct response. We don’t need violence or threats to coerce the government into doing the right thing. We just need to make sure that the system becomes more and more dysfunctional till it totally breaks down.

The immigration system is running on a Windows 1986 model. Instead of buying a completely new system, USCIS keeps adding upgrades. But you know what happens to an old computer that runs on upgrades. It becomes incredibly slow. Some of the programs on it no longer work. Files go missing and become corrupted. And one day, it just stops working.

As an advocate for yourself and your family, your job is two-fold. One, you have to always stay two steps ahead of the system to ensure that they leave you alone. And two, you have to make the system much much slower and break down at an accelerated pace.

Jam fax-lines. Fill up voicemail boxes. Send them thousands of emails per day. Increase their workload exponentially by filing petitions. If they deny your claim and right to stay with your loved ones, sue them in court. Fight every removal proceeding with asylum and cancellation claims and clog the courts till the judges throw out your case. File for a stay of removal. Get Congressional members involved. Send them and their staffers emails, faxes, phone calls. Rally outside their offices till they agree to introduce private bill after private bill and finally get tired to the point that they have to sign onto some sort of pro-immigrant legislation. Still getting deported? Get the media out to the airport and make a press statement. Make the system work for you. Don’t just watch them rip your family apart without a fight.

Make sure you leave a bite, one that leaves a permanent mark.

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Clarying USCIS On Gay Green Cards

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

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Last week, USCIS told us that they would hold green card petitions filed by same-sex married couples in abeyance. This week, they are telling the press something else. The last thing the agency wants is to spread the perception that they are not following the law of the land regarding DOMA. So now they are going back on their word and resuming deportations.

Amidst, all the confusion regarding the official position of USCIS on issuing green cards to foreign partners of same-sex couples, I stick by what I said originally: inundate them with thousands of marriage-based petitions from same-sex couples. I’d love to see them adjudicate all the petitions and pursue removal proceedings. As a community, it’s time to turn up the heat on the agency and Congressional members.

I’ll say two additional things:

  • USCIS never said it would issue green cards. No one has ever said that the new guidance would give them green cards. This will not benefit those that live abroad and those couples who are not legally married. The end.
  • But if you are tired of being undocumented and came to this country legally, this is your golden chance to get work authorization and all relevant documents besides a green card. It really makes a difference. You can drive legally, work legally, take out loans — what more do you need? If you came here illegally, you are just out of luck.

No organization will completely endorse this position. Because lets face it, we are all lawyers and lawyers never give absolute answers due to professional ethics and a desire to err on the side of caution. But social change is not made using caution. Or lawyers.

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