Thursday, July 30, 2009

Two new residents!

In danger of losing their lawful permanent residence, the lovely mother and daughter here trusted me to prepare and submit their petition to remove conditions.

Today we met with one of the great ISOs at Tampa, and he easily approved the case, finding that my client's marriage to her US citizen former husband was a real and bona fide relationship.

Congratulations my friends! Felicidades mi amigas!

See you in 2011 for citizenship.....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The trouble with Bond and poorly drafted NTAs

The NTAs (Notices to Appear) they draft in Tampa here are usually not so good, and the failure of the office to draft good NTAs can cause real world problems. Take my recent client, who was convicted of assault and battery and sentenced to probation (no jail time). ICE arrested him and the NTA charged him as an aggravated felon because they said his crime of violence was punished by a sentence of more than one year in jail.

The wrong charge on the NTA affected my client greatly as he was held in KROME with dangerous criminal aliens -- murderers, rapists, drug dealers -- rather than with the aliens he should have been held with.

The wrong charge did not hurt my client for too long, and I got him qualified for bond Friday morning, with the assistance of the wise ACC Michael Mansfield. The aggravated felony charge (which normally forbids bond) was ignored by Mr. Mansfield and a reasonable bond was set. I had the bond paperwork in my hand at 8:15 a.m. My client should get out that day from KROME easily right? Right?

Not so easy. Although the IJ ordered bond at 8:15 a.m., the Deportation Officer in Miami in charge of my client's case did not have the paperwork for the bond until close to 2 p.m. My client's father, who was at Tampa CIS waiting to provide the bond, had to just sit and wait from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. until they finally let him post bond. I have to acknowledge the great work by Tampa ICE making sure that my client got released the same day from KROME, as generally bond provided that late does not ensure a same day release.

My client was free at 8:45 p.m. His father was there waiting to pick him up. Now we will go to Orlando to return my client to his lawful permanent resident status.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I-751 nonsense

People who receive permanent residence based on a new marriage receive a green card good for two years. Within 90 days of the end of the two year period, the couple must file a form I-751, a petition to remove the conditions upon residence.

It is a fairly simple thing to file if the couple is still together. You file proof that the marriage continues, and CIS will either grant the permanent green card or call you in for an interview.

It is a fairly simple thing to file if the couple is divorced. The alien needs to file proof that the marriage was real, and CIS will most likely call the alien in for an interview.

BEWARE -- if you divorce within two years of gaining your lawful permanent residency, CIS may presume that your marriage was fake, and the burden will be entirely on you to show that it was real. If you divorce more than two years after you got your residency, it is presumed that your marriage is real, and the burden is on the government to show that it was false if they want to take your green card away.

The problem with I-751s has always been that CIS does not know what to do when you file as a married person and then divorce prior to your I-751 interview. Tampa CIS's view has been recently that your joint I-751 must be denied before you can then file a new I-751 on your own. Now a memo from CIS HQ (Neufeld, Acting Assoc. Director) shows that a joint petition may be changed to a waiver petition by request of the alien. This commonsense view is long overdue, and actually returns CIS to the policy INS had from 1999 - 2002 (or thereabouts).

This change change change would be comical if it did not affect so many people's lives. I have had clients who filed three separate I-751s before CIS would give them a decision on their marriage. I also know too many who never knew their joint petition was denied because the notice denying the petition and the notice sending them to Immigration Court was sent to the marital address (where they no longer lived). They learned about the denial when ICE came to arrest them (because THEN CIS knew where they lived).

Can we not have a form that allows married couples and unmarried aliens to petition for removal of conditions, that does not have all these loopholes and "gotcha's"? It should be enough to keep the green card if an alien, married or unmarried, can prove that the marriage was real.

The new memo helps some, but we really need a new form.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Know your attorney

With so many tools at your disposal, it is hard to understand why some people do not knw whether or not their attorney is a good guy or not.

How to check your attorney's (we will call him "Bobby Lawyer") reputation:

1. Google "Bobby Lawyer complaints"
2. Check the state bar website. This will tell you (in Florida) only if he is a member of the bar--and if he has any disciplinary history it will show here -- here it is
3. go to and find your lawyer -- this is a website that allows lawyers and clients to post their thoughts on practicing attorneys. You cannot pay to have a better rating, nor can you influence the site by advertising.
4. Talk to your friends, family and others you know, and see if anyone knows about this lawyer.
5. Ask many questions of your lawyer when you meet him. If he is insecure in the least about his knowledge of the subject you are discussing, he will be upset that you dare to question him.

By following these simple steps, you can most likely find out if hiring the lawyer you are considering is a good or bad idea. Good luck!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Legal slavery -- thanks to Congress

If one would like to have a slave in the US, Congress has graciously allowed US citizens to apply for their fiancees using the K-1 visa! When an alien enters on this visa, they must marry their US citizen spouse within 90 days, and then they can only get their permanent residence through adjustment of status through that person -- and not through anyone else.

That means, to those of you with evil inclinations, that you may bring your fiancee here, marry her, and then keep her in bondage by refusing to apply for her green card. Your fiancee will have to keep you happy, and hope that in the future you will apply for her -- or she can go home.

There are a few means clever attorneys may use to get around the K-1 entry restriction, but why does it exist in the first place? A spouse who comes over to join her US citizen husband may divorce him on shortly after arrival in the US and keep her green card or get a different green card from another spouse.

Surely the K-1 entrant can be judged as may be the spouse, and we may look to their behavior after they entered the US to determine whether or not they intended to meet and marry their betrothed. There is no need for this ridiculous rule for only fiancees.

In my career as an immigration attorney, I have seen the K-1 visa misused a great deal, and it has been my pleasure to save some nice aliens from their US citizen spouses, despite the K-1 restriction. But if there is no great reason for the restriction, why does it still exist?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The new law

People always ask me what the new law will be, whether it will affect them, and how they will apply for it. All I can say is "I have no idea."

There are many competing bills in Congress. Here are the new bills dealing with immigration introduced in June 2009.

from AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 09070666 (posted Jul. 6, 2009)

People Resolved to Obtain an Understanding of Democracy Act, or PROUD Act (H.R. 2681)Introduced by Rep. Baca (D-CA) on 06/03/09Summary: To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for naturalization for certain high school graduates.

Employee Verification Amendment Act of 2009 (H.R. 2679)Introduced by Rep. Giffords (D-AZ) on 06/03/09Summary: To extend certain immigration programs, and for other purposes.

Reuniting Families Act (H.R. 2709)Introduced by Rep. Honda (D-CA) on 06/04/09Summary: To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to promote family unity, and for other purposes.

Criminal Alien Accountability Act (H.R. 2837)Introduced by Rep. Issa (R-CA) on 06/11/09Summary: To amend section 276 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to impose mandatory sentencing ranges with respect to aliens who reenter the United States after having been removed, and for other purposes.

Orphans, Widows, and Widowers Protection Act (S. 1247)Introduced by Rep. Menendez (D-NJ) on 06/11/09Summary: A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to promote family unity, and for other purposes.

H.R. 2954Introduced by Rep. Quigley (D-IL) on 06/18/09Summary: To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to extend the authority of the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive certain requirements under the visa waiver program for an additional 2 years.

Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act of 2009 (S.1337)Introduced by Rep. Akaka (D-HI) on 06/24/09 Summary: A bill to exempt children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas.

Note: Each week hundreds of bills are introduced into the House and Senate, and the likelihood of any particular bill moving is usually very small. The bills posted on this page represent all immigration-related legislation introduced this week, not legislation AILA believes is important or likely to succeed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Other Immigration Attorneys

I have but one criteria when it comes to what I think of other immigration attorneys, and that is that they must care about their clients, and what happens to them. I can forgive mistakes, and I know that everyone, even me, was new once, but I will not forgive those who represent their clients poorly because they do not care.

Example: When my clients go to their final hearing in deportation proceedings, they have met with me and my associate attorney three to six times to prepare for the hearing. They have a written list of what questions I will ask, and they know my estimation of what the government attorney and the Immigration Judge will be most interested in that day. They know what will happen, where they will sit when they are answering quesitons, and they know how to dress and how to sit to look their best.

I know for a fact that some aliens with attorneys do not know that their final hearing is their final hearing until the Immigration Judge tells them when they are standing before him. They have not prepared for the hearing, and they did not know they would be asked questions.

Who do you think has a better chance of getting the relief from deportation that they seek?

For my adjustment of status clients, we have a pre-meeting in my office where we collect and copy bona fide marriage evidence, and review the file and prepare for the interview. We discuss questions that may be asked, and I tell my clients exactly what will happen when at their interview.

That is why most of my clients have a pleasant time at CIS, and why they most often leave with the stamp in their passport showing they are now lawful permanent residents, like the wife of the couple here:

More satisfied clients! Damn -- I love my job.