DACA – It’s time to have a talk about Life Under the Trump Administration.

by W. John Yahya Vandenberg

With the election of Donald J. Trump, it is a good time to find out if you or your family member is eligible for something better than Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”).  There are three reasons we should talk.

First, it’s a good idea to find out if you qualify for something new.  For some if you it has been years since we had our initial consultation; perhaps something about you or your trumprelationships has changed.  Also, no one knows exactly what President Trump will do about undocumented immigrants after he is sworn in as President on January 20, 2017.

However, he has told us what changes he wants to make.  President-elect Trump has said he will end Obama’s “Executive Actions” — and DACA is an Executive Action.  But no one knows when, or even if, he’ll do it.  So we are still filing DACA renewals as early as we can.  There doesn’t seem to be much downside.  If your DACA is ending in 6-9 months, TELL ME.  We should give it a shot. If you didn’t file already, we should discuss and see if it is the right choice for you.

Second, it seems inevitable that President Trump will make life harder on the immigrant community once he becomes President.  It would cost billions of dollars to deport all undocumented immigrants, so many don’t foresee mass deportations as a viable option.  But there is a sense that his administration might just try to make it so hard to live life normally that some would decide to leave on their own.  So, for instance, his

Secretary of State Kris Kobach voter fraud
Kris Kobach, Trump Transition Team Member, Potential U.S. Attorney General

Administration, in the words of transition team member Kris Kobach, could crack down on employers of undocumented immigrants, or he could make unlawful employment a serious offense.  Can’t legally work, can’t drive – this would be enough pressure to convince some undocumented immigrants to leave on their own.  Ending DACA, or just letting the program die out by not allowing renewals after he is President, might also accomplish this. So we try should try to find an alternative before he officially becomes President.

 

Third, now is the time to plan, not panic.  DACA’s are already doing so many things right – you don’t have a criminal record, you graduated from high school (or are studying to do so) or college, and you’ve probably got at least one job keeping you busy.  photo-of-dreamers-graduating

If Trump is smart, he’ll figure out a way to keep you here, legally. He has already stated that his first priorities are deporting criminal undocumented immigrants and building a wall.  THEN, Trump has stated, he will decide what to do about the “terrific people” who are in the U.S. without status (he actually said you DREAMERs and DACAs are terrific!).  A number of commentators feel like real Comprehensive Immigration Reform is on the horizon, though it’s probably going to make things tougher for most, rather than easier.  In order to be harsh on some groups (most likely persons with a criminal record), Congress could try to soften and sell it by helping some immigrant groups.  DACA’s and DREAMER’s are probably a group who could finally win big.

Problem is: when?  And what if he doesn’t?  We don’t know when anything will happen.  But we know that if President Trump leaves the system we have in place for the time being, many of you could be able to maintain your current status, or get something better.

So I want to hear from YOU.  To get the conversation started, here are 27 questions:

  1. Have you gotten married?  Even if your spouse has DACA, or even if they don’t have legal status, perhaps they have a way to stay in the United States that would also give you status.
  2. Are you now married to a U.S. Citizen or U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card holder”)?
  3. Does a parent, spouse, or child expect to become a US citizen or get a green card soon?
  4.  Do you have a U.S. citizen child?
  5. Do you have a spouse, parent, or child who has severe mental, medical, or emotional disability?
  6. Have you or a family member (parent, spouse, child) been a victim of crime in the United States, and cooperated with the police in any way?
  7. Have you ever in the United States had to call the police for help?
  8. Have you ever been forced to work exceptionally long hours without a break and/or 7 days a week without a break and you were not free to stop, quit, or leave?
  9. Have you ever been forced, coerced, or tricked into having sex or doing sex industry work like stripping or working as an escort?
  10. Did any relative or employer ever file a petition for you, your mother, or your father before April 30, 2001?
  11. Do you have spouse, parent, or child who is in the U.S. Military (including the Reserves), or who is an honorably-discharged veteran of the U.S. Military?
  12. Do you have a spouse, parent, or child who intends to enlist in the U.S. Military, or would do so in order to help you legalize your status?
  13. Has anyone in your family (like a parent, spouse/partner, or child) ever hit, pushed, choked, or otherwise physically or mentally harmed, threatened, insulted, controlled, or otherwise abused you, your parent, or your child?
  14. Before you came to the US, were you, your family, or members of a group you belong to (including LGBTQ) targeted by a government, people, or gangs trying to hurt, scare or recruit you?
  15. Are you afraid to return to your native country because the government, people, or gangs might target you because of your race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or because you belong to a certain group, including your family, clan, or because you are LGBTQ?
  16. If you are under 21, do you live away from your parent or parents, or would you choose to, because they have abused, abandoned, neglected, or similarly mistreated you?
  17. Do you have an employer who is willing to sponsor you for a work visa or a green card?
  18. When you came to the United States, did you come using a visa?
  19. When you came to the United States, did you come using fake papers, or the papers of a family member?
  20. When you came to the United States, were you “waived in” without having to show any papers?
  21. If you came to the U.S. and were not admitted by Customs, and were never caught by Immigration, do you have a reason to return to your country using Humanitarian Parole to visit sick/elderly relatives or participate in an educational or business opportunity?
  22. Were you or your parents born in El Salvador or Guatemala, and did you or your parents enter the US before September 19990?
  23. Was your spouse born in El Salvador or Guatemala and entered the US before September 1990?
  24. Were either of your parents US citizens when you were born?
  25. Were any of your grandparents US citizens when your parents were born?
  26. Have you been here at least 10 years, and were not caught at the border coming in?
  27. Do you have a field of research or a skill in which you are one of the best?

 

If you answer “Yes” or “Maybe,” then we should talk, because you may have an opportunity to obtain lawful status.  If you are already a client of Hogan & Vandenberg, call my office, there is no additional fee to figure out if we can make your situation better.  If you are not already a client, contact the office and schedule a consultation.

Even if none of the above apply to you, be sure to “like” our firm on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/hvlawgroup/  ) so you can get regular updates about immigration law. And if you have a friend or family member who needs our assistance, please have them contact us.

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3 Year DACA Work Card? You gotta give it back….

by W. John Vandenberg

Because of the quirks of USCIS administration, some DACA recipients received a 3 year work card because of President Obama’s Executive Action announcement.  However, it seems that that gift just got a massive recall.

frustrated man

USCIS is sending letters to everyone who got the three year card.  Here is a sample 3 year daca return letter.   You must return your 3 year work card by July 17, 2015.*    You must also return the approval notices.  The reason for the recall is the lawsuit filed to stop President Obama’s Executive Action in Texas.

I guess the good news is that USCIS is happy to give you a normal two year card.

But try to stay positive, folks.  Perhaps some of you have been in deportation proceedings.  Remember that government attorney, who fought to get you deported?  Well, government attorneys are now fighting in that Texas courtroom for your right to stay and get a three year DACA work card after all.  And if you’re a parent of U.S. citizen children, they are fighting for the Deferred Action for Parents of American Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (“DAPA“) program.  And a lot of other great ideas from President Obama’s Executive Action.  I personally am happy that my colleagues across the aisle are fighting for immigrants — it’s a nice change, and I genuinely wish them success. At least in this case!

* However, if your EAD card was issued on or before February 16, 2015, then you can keep it in your pocket. Judge Hanen only issued the Injunction on that date.  Be sure to check!

Executive Action: Good for Everyone

This morning, the Philadelphia Inquirer had a great article about the Executive Action announced by President.  It is important to remember that this Executive Action is good for everyone.

Think of the benefits to all, both immigrant and native born, including:

– Deferred Action adults will have work cards.  This means they can get Social Security Cards, and pay into the Social Security fund that helps many elderly Americans pay their rent and put food on the table.  Social Security already was receiving $13 billion a year from undocumented workers; this new Executive Action will be a significant boost.

– Deferred Action adults are going to be paying taxes.  Think about the numbers: if the Administration is right, there are going to be more than 4+ million new taxpayers; that sure could fix a lot of bridges, and give the Head Start and other programs a much-needed boost.

– Road safety.  So, once these Deferred Action adults obtain Social Security Cards and Employment Authorization Cards, in most states they will be eligible for Drivers Licenses.  We have already had some discussion on this with the original DACA program; most states allow them to obtain drivers licenses.  That is a good thing!  Because legal drivers can get insurance.  Makes me feel safer already.

– It helps ICE catch the bad guys, and leave the good guys alone.  We all know that law enforcement officers have discretion.  Ever got a warning instead of a ticket?  Police officers decide every day who to arrest, and who to let walk free.  The new Executive Order clarifies that ICE is supposed to focus on the terrorists, the criminals, and the recent border crossers.  And not the immigrants who are hard-working and law-abiding.  The background checks required by the Deferred Action program will also allow ICE to ensure that immigrants here are good folks.  It ensures that our communities are safer in every way.

– Money and investment.  We all benefit when entrepreneurs and high-tech industries make the United States their home. This new Executive Action is going to make it easier for investors to come here and invest, and build their technology in the USA.  This keeps our country competitive on the world market.

Every one of these benefits is important to Americans, whether new, native, or en route.  We can bicker about the politics both pro and con.  But at the end of the day, we believe this Executive Action is a net plus for the United States!

Obama’s Executive Action: What Does the Future Hold?

Wow! What a night! In case you missed it, you can read the President’s announcement here Transcript of President Obama Speech on November 20, 2014.

What does it mean for all of the immigrants in the United States? Certainly, we and a lot of other attorneys and immigrants — and also the USCIS — is trying to determine that exactly. The bad news is that we don’t know everything just yet. And the good news is that we don’t know everything yet. I’ll speak more about that later.

But in the meantime, this is what we have:

– Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”): there is now no age cap; as long as the person came to the USA before they turned 16, and before January 1, 2010, they are eligible. So if you came as a child in 1993, like journalist and immigrant activist Jose Antonio Vargas, then you are eligible for DACA (I am sure his attorneys are preparing to terminate his removal proceedings about now!).  This should expand the program. And speaking of expanding the program, if your application is now pending or you haven’t filed yet, it will be approved for 3 years, not two.  Very good news for a lot of young people who definitely deserve it.

– There are a lot of immigrants who come into my office who have U.S. citizen children, and I tell them I can’t help them under the law. But last night changed my answer! So, for immigrants who have been in the United States since January 1, 2010, and have U.S. citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident children, they get Deferred Action now, too.

– More immigrants are going to be eligible for the I-601A Provisional Waivers. Just Wednesday I spoke with a young DACA recipient whose mother isn’t a citizen but has a greencard. This young man may very well be able to get status now through his mother. And until he does, he is living, working, and traveling here, thanks to DACA.

– It looks like good news for immigrant investors. It appears that USCIS will make new rules for Entrepreneurs coming to the United States to invest. This includes entrepreneurs who have managed to obtain investment in the United States, or can demonstrate their technology is going to be a job-creator.

– The fees for the N-400 Application for Naturalization are probably going to go down, and greencard holders will be able to pay with a credit card. This is a win, to get greencard holders on the road to citizenship.

So, this is what we have so far, but it seems that every hour we are receiving something new from the Department of Homeland Security, helping understand just how far this Executive Action reaches. But I wanted to end this post with some encouragement, as well as caution.

The caution is that, with the exception of DACA recipients, NONE of the above changes have occurred yet. That means there is no place to apply. No form to fill out. And NOBODY should be paying for any services until it’s understand how this is going to work. Please everyone, protect yourselves and your loved ones from fraud. Don’t take advice from a non-attorney, and frankly I don’t think it’s a good idea to take immigration advice from anyone other than the best immigration attorney you can find.

The good news is that even though a lot of immigrants are not covered by this Executive Action directly, they are covered indirectly. And by that I mean that the President has now ordered ICE to focus on the terrorists, the criminals, and the recent border crossers. If you or your immigrant loved one isn’t a terrorist, a criminal, or a recent border crosser, you have little to fear as far as getting detained by ICE. That is good news, because it means that everyday, hardworking people are not going to get detained and deported; it’s also good news because the criminals and terrorists will get deported. Sounds like a win-win for all.

Finally, above I mentioned that we don’t know everything yet about this new Executive Action, and we believe that is a good thing. Because the more gray areas there are, the more we can advocate for our clients. Remember that back in 1986, Congress passed a new immigration law that gave millions of undocumented immigrants a chance to remain in the United States; unfortunately, that law didn’t cover the family members of the immigrants. So in 1990, George H.W. Bush used Executive Action to include family members in that law. So no matter what we have at this time, remember that it can always get better as we work out the details.

Stay tuned for more!

Annual conference Highlights and Notes – Wednesday, Day 1

By W. John Vandenberg

Hello, Readers!  This week, Hogan and Vandenberg is at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) Annual Conference in Boston.  We’ll be blogging about the updates we learn while here.

Day 1 was Wednesday.  Since I’m on the AILA Philadelphia Executive Committee, we receive leadership training that includes legislative updates.

So, here’s the bad news.  Not a lot of optimism about Comprehensive Immigration Reform (“CIR”) (see my subsequent post).  Indeed, the number of recent posts from AILA regarding immigration reform have become fewer and farther between.  Not a good sign.  While in soccer and politics, anything is possible (what happened with Spain?!?!?!), it seems we’re not going to have big news for 2014.

But here’s something that may help YOU to change that.  You can become even more active, and AILA will give you the tools.  Even though you have to be an immigration attorney in good standing to join AILA, anyone can access their Congressional advocacy page.  It has a ton of useful information, including Immigration Politics.  It also has very useful information about each Representative and Senator, including their voting history on immigration bills and even personal history about her or him, which you can use for research and to find out ways you can get to know them better, such as reaching out to alumni or members of the same denomination.  Want to keep up on votes?  Want to learn more about bills that have made it out of committee?  Go here and put in your zip code — then you’ll learn more!

Wednesday was also a good day because I got a chance to give a presentation on Temporary Protected Status, which of course got into adjustment based on Matter of Arrabally.  Different USCIS District Offices are adjudicating these in different manners.  But regardless, it is clear that DACA and TPS recipients are benefitting greatly from advance parole as a way to visit their families and loved ones.  And, upon return, seek Adjustment of Status.

Looking forward, there is a lot of speculation that President Obama could go ahead and make some immigration reform if Congress won’t address it.  One way he could fix it and give relief to millions of families would be to issue Parole in Place (“PIP”) to undocumented immigrants.  This would allow thousands more to gain status through Adjustment, and would give them enough legal status to prevent deportation.  Unfortunately, so far, no word on whether this potential fix will become a reality.

Stay tuned for more updates!

John

 

 

Some good news — citizenship has staying power!

This just came in from the LA Times.  Really positive to see that there is real, hardheaded progress towards comprehensive immigration reform.  About a month ago, AILA had our monthly chapter meeting in Philadelphia.  Sen. Bob Casey came to give a short talk on what he was seeing on Capitol Hill, and after him a former Congressional Staffer, Richard Phillips gave us some advice on working with our representatives.  In his mind, the sequester was going nowhere and there would not be an agreement (he was right!), gun control was going nowhere (more and more looks like he’ll be right), but Comprehensive Immigration Reform was likely to actually happen.  The more stories I see like this, the more optimistic I feel: Senators Agree on Path to Legal Status for Illegal Immigrants.