DACA is Dying: What You Need to Know

By W. John Vandenberg

It hurts to write this title.  But we also need to be honest about where we are now.  Because DACA is dying.

In case you missed it, on September 5, Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions 08-daca-dreamer-w710-h473announced the “winding down” of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”).  There are a lot of sources of information directly from the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service.  Here is a summary of what you need to know about the announcement NOW:

  1. No new initial (first ever) DACA applications will be accepted after September 5, 2017.  If you didn’t already mail out your initial DACA application so that it arrived on September 5 – no DACA for you.  That said, maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world.  At least you didn’t give Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) your home address — there has been some concern that ICE could use this information to find and deport DACA’s after the program ends.
  2. DACA expiring before March 5, 2018?  You have until October 5 to renew.  Don’t wait til the last minute!!!  If you’re short on cash for the filing fee, the Mexican Consulate can assist you if you are a Mexican Citizen.  Other non-profits may help.  Or maybe even your employer.  Ask!  Because you got less than 30 days to get this done.  If you’re in the Philadelphia Area, the Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition, HIAS, and the Nationalities Service Center are all scrambling to help DACA’s who need help and even money for the filing fee.  This is a deadline.  Got it?
  3. If your DACA expires after March 5, 2018, then you’ve got what you’ve got.  Which may be 6 months or longer.  Make good use of it!  And pray for a legislative fix, or at least an extension.
  4. If you lose your Employment Authorization Document (“EAD,” or Work Card), don’t panic!  You can get a new one.  Though you won’t get a new expiration date.
  5. No new Advance Paroles will be issued.  If your application is pending, it will be administratively closed and you’ll get your money back.
  6. Do you currently have Advance Parole?  Good for you!  It’s still valid for the period of time given.  Recent reports of post-September 5, 2017 DACA Advance Parole entries have been fine.
  7. When your DACA/EAD card expires: that’s the end of your Deferred Action.  If and ICE officer arrests you, they can detain you.  Even with DACA, if ICE arrests you – especially for criminal matters – they can ask USCIS to cancel your DACA.  And they will.  So PLEASE do not get into trouble!

OK, info and warnings over.  What next?  Lawyer up. Now.  For three really good reasons.

keep calm and lawyer up graphicFirst, an experienced and trustworthy immigration lawyer might be able to figure out a way to get you something better than DACA. Maybe you or a DACA you know has been a victim of crime, or trafficking.  Or maybe they qualify for Amnesty through a parent or family member.  If you just filled out DACA forms, you don’t know.  Because DACA appears to be coming to an end, now is the time.  To get an idea, answer our 27 questions.  Then call us to see how we can help.

Second, it’s time to lawyer up because you may need a good immigration lawyer sooner than you think.  To help you or a family member or friend who gets placed into deportation proceedings. To file a Stay of Removal.  To try to bond you out if you are detained and eligible for a bond. Or just to help you make sense out of all the info you’re getting from Googling it (yea, I know you are). And you might just note that Google actually hires immigration lawyers for their Immigration Specialist positions – it doesn’t Google for immigration answers.  They’re smart people.

And third, lawyer up because we can be really helpful.  I reached out to everyone I represent to answer questions personally.  All the good immigration attorneys I know did the same thing. DACA is special, and DACA’s are special people.  You have a lot of allies cheering for you – don’t forget that.  I want to make sure none of my DACA clients quit schotumblr_o13hq5RjSe1qaedvuo7_r2_250ol (don’t do it), that they realize they have options out there (everyone does, some more, some less), and reminding them that if Immigration Law has one maxim, it’s this: be here. As long as you are in the United States, you have options.  And everyone DACA has been here for at least 10 years, so they know what it takes to make sure they are here when we get a DREAMER bill, or DACA gets extended, or something good happens to the person (like a loving marriage to US citizen, which can lead to a greencard), or something bad happens (like being a victim of a violent crime , which can give you a chance for a U visa that can lead to a greencard).

So, make the most of the time you have, DACA’s.  Stay out of trouble, of course.  And lawyer up!  Hogan & Vandenberg is here to help you.  Our office number is (610) 664-6271 if you’re in Philadelphia, and (302) 225-2734 in Wilmington, Delaware.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Hogan & Vandenberg or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

 

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New Rules for Life Under the Trump Administration

by W. John Yahya Vandenberg

So, as you know, President Trump is rapidly issuing Executive Orders. Some of these orders are having major impacts on immigrants and other persons who are not (yet) U.S. citizens.

In light of these developments, we have the following recommendations for persons who are not U.S. citizens:

1. If you are undocumented, then you should be sure that at least two trusted individuals know your name, date of birth, country of origin, “A number” (if you have one), and have the contact information for our office.

2. If you are a U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident (greencard holder), student, visitor, or in other lawful status, carry a copy of your green card, I-94 card, or other proof of legal status with you.

3. If you are here on a student, visitor, exchange, or temporary worker status, CONSULT WITH ME before traveling out of the U.S.  I am NOT telling you to violate or overstay your status.  I’m saying that your legal status today may not be the same as it was on January 25, 2017.  There have, as I’m sure you know, been some changes.

4. If you are from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, or Somalia, it is highly likely you will not be able to return if you leave the U.S. It doesn’t matter if you have a greencard or a refugee travel documents – do not leave the United States.  If you need to go, CONSULT WITH ME.  Otherwise, no one can say with certainly when — or if — you will be allowed back in.

5. If you have DACA, CONSULT WITH ME before traveling on an Advance Parole. There is a chance that in the next week or so there will be no more Advance Parole for DACA’s.  And you could get stuck outside the US without a chance to come back.

6. If you have a pending I-589 asylum application, I-360 application (VAWA/victim of abuse or Widow/Widower petition, or Religious Worker) or I-485 adjustment of status application, carry a copy of the receipt with you AND give a copy to a trusted person.  And do NOT leave the United States if you are from one of the seven countries.

7. If you have a valid social security card, driver’s license, and/or work permit, carry that with you and give a copy to a trusted person.

8. If you are not currently in status (meaning that you do not have a valid non-immigrant or immigrant visa) for any reason, and have been in the U.S. for more than two years, GET PROOF TOGETHER NOW PROVING YOUR PRESENCE. Proof could be bank statements, phone bills, rent receipts, your signature on your children’s report cards, or other documents. Carry a copy of these documents with you (or keep them in your car), and give a copy a trusted person. Do NOT carry with you any document that says where you were born. This is because it is possible that the new Trump Executive Order could mean that undocumented persons who have been in the U.S. for less than two years could be subjected to “Expedited Removal” without the right to see an Immigration Judge and fight your deportation in Immigration Court.  If they can’t prove where you were born, then we may be able to get the deportation thrown out of court.

9. If you are afraid of being persecuted in your home country and have not yet filed for asylum, CONSULT WITH ME as soon as possible to analyze your asylum case.

10. If you have children: first, THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO GO TO SCHOOL.  Do not pull your children from school because they don’t have any status in the United States.  The Supreme Court states they have the right to their education, no matter their status.  And generally, ICE stays away as a policy matter from churches and schools.

Second, your children  should always have the name and contact information of a trusted person, and the trusted person should have your information. To be clear, I do NOT believe that ICE will go to schools. But if you get picked up by ICE while the kids are at school, they are going to need a safe place to go after school.  They may need to call your friend to get there.

11. If you do not have a license, consider carefully whether you really need to drive or not. Right now, Philadelphia seems safe. The counties – Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware… I am not so sure. Trump’s Executive Order appears to give police officers to ask about immigration status. You could be taken in and turned over to ICE.

12. If you are in a car which is stopped, only the driver has to present a license. Any passenger should only give his/her name and not answer any other questions. Ask if you are free to leave; if so, leave calmly.

13. If you are stopped by police on the street, you have to give them your name and where you live. Ask if you are free to leave. If not, consider yourself under arrest.

14. If you are arrested, repeat clearly that you want to remain silent and you want a lawyer. Do not answer ANY questions other than your name and your address. Call me, or someone you trust, and tell them to call me.

15. If someone comes to your door saying “Police, open up” DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR. Ask the officials if they have a WARRANT, to pass it under the door. Take a photo of the warrant and send it to me or other trusted person. If the warrant is not signed by a JUDGE or MAGISTRATE and does not have your name and address on it, you do not have to open the door. Don’t answer any questions.

These are difficult times we are entering.  If it makes you feel any better, it’s not the first time a government has scapegoated immigrants.  We’re here for you, and will fight for your rights.

The Day After Trump, For Immigrants

by W. John Yahya Vandenberg

November 9, 2016

Trump’s election is likely going to change a lot of things, especially for immigrants, and most certainly for undocumented immigrants. So let’s walk through what happens now and the following days.

First, not much will change until Trump actually is sworn in in January. So there is some time to figure out who should be concerned, and why.

Second, there are some immigrants who have less time than others to take steps to work on their status. I’m especially thinking about DACA recipients. DACA’s – you guys rock. You are working, you are studying, you are making your communities better places. If you are near or close to 180 days til expiration, NOW is the time to file to extend your DACA. If there is more than 6 months, I think it would be worthwhile to file to extend no later than the end of December. This is about getting as much time as possible.

For persons eligible for DACA who didn’t yet make an initial application, you have a choice to make.  If you apply now for the first time, you are giving Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) your address and contact information.  If they want to detain you, they could.  At the same time, if you are granted DACA – well, a Social Security Card is a very handy thing to have, even if it’s only for two years.  So any new DACA’s should carefully consider the potential risks and benefits.

Third, there are some immigrants who don’t have much to worry about. If you have status article-2147783-133851e5000005dc-611_468x302in the United States – I’m thinking immigrants with work visas, or greencards, or you are petitioning for a relative who is overseas – you should be OK.

Finally, there are some immigrants who have a reason to worry. I’m thinking about immigrants who are undocumented. There is a good chance that after Inauguration Day on January 20, 2017, we’ll go back to the days when ICE could arrest anyone who is undocumented, detain them if they want to, and seek to deport them. It is also quite likely that those persons whose cases are Administratively Closed will see their cases reopened.

To those immigrants without status, our lawyers have been here before, and we know what to do: fight for you in the courts. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we saw this: immigrants targeted for detention and removal proceedings. Those who fought often won. Those who gave up, lost, and were either deported or left.

To those immigrants without status, we want you to know that America has been here before. Tonight I am reminded of my law school, the Villanova University School of Law. It is located in Villanova, Pennsylvania, which is a suburb of Philadelphia.

Not many people know that Villanova University is in Villanova because in 1844, “Nativists,” persons who hated immigrants, burned down the St. Augustine Church in South Philadelphia. The Nativists did so because of a rumor that Catholics – then mainly Irish and Italian immigrants – were going to take the Bible out of Philadelphia public schools. The Augustinian Fathers literally were burned out of Philadelphia.

 

325px-riots1844staugestine

Lithograph of the old St. Augustine Church burning in 1844.

But you should also know that times change for the better. The Augustinian fathers founded Villanova University from that terrible incident, and the University served, and still serves, the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those Irish & Italian Catholics who lost their church. The Augustinian fathers sued the city of Philadelphia, and they won compensation for the loss of their church. And they rebuilt St. Augustine’s, which still stands today at 243 N. Lawrence Street in Philadelphia.st-augustines-church

The children of those Italian and Irish immigrants got jobs that counted. They served as police, as members of the military, and members of the media. They organized themselves politically and they learned how to make their votes count. Now is the time to work, not to falter or become disheartened.

The sun will rise at 6:40am this morning. I’ll be in the office all day. If you’re worried, know that we’re here for you, and we’ll fight for your rights.  We might even sue.

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!

Syrian Asylum Statistics – Who Knew? And What Now?

By W. John Yahya Vandenberg

USCIS has published the most recent asylum statistics, and you can see the Syrian asylum statistics as of May 2015 (thank you, AILA, for publishing this!).  There are some surprises, and we hope this will assist Syrians make the best immigration decisions while they are here.

Good news first…

What do you find in the statistics?  Well, I’m shocked that between 2011 and March 31, 2015, only 4,176 Syrians had applied for asylum!  I thought there would be many more, considering the murderous civil war that has now been raging since Spring 2011. A man at a site recently hit by what activists said was a Scud missile in Aleppo’s Ard al-Hamra neighborhood, February 23, 2013. REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman

But I’m also pleasantly surprised to see the approval rates — 83% so far in 2015, and 81% in 2014.  That’s significant, and a real positive sign for those Syrians seeking safety in the United States.  So long as they tell the truth, and their asylum case meets statutory requirements, it is quite likely they will be approved.

But what does it take to get an asylum case approved?  This is as good a place as any to say what asylum is, and what it isn’t.  Syrians must be aware that just because your country is dangerous and war-torn, USCIS doesn’t care.  Really.  They don’t.  There are a lot of countries in conflict; in fact, as of August 2014, there were only 11 countries in the entire world where there wasn’t conflict.

And don’t believe advice that you’ll qualify for “humanitarian asylum.”  Humanitarian asylum does not mean you get asylum because you are from a war-torn, dangerous country.  It only applies to people who experienced so much terrible personal persecution in the past that it would still be inhumane to send you back even though country conditions are better .  Check out Matter of Chen and Matter of L-S- and read them for yourself.  That’s the law on humanitarian asylum.  Just because a relative was randomly killed by a sniper or an explosion, or there is fighting in your hometown, or your country is in the middle of a terrible civil war, that’s generally not enough.

On the other hand, a person may qualify for asylum if they fear returning to their home country based on a qualifying ground, such as political opinion, religion, or other designated categories.  If you are afraid to return to your country and think you might qualify for asylum, schedule a  consultation with the best, most experienced, and honest immigration attorney you can find.  He or she will analyze your history, fear, family, and other factors, and tell you what they think about your asylum claim.  With this advice, you can decide whether or not you might qualify for asylum, and your chances of success.

Despite the high approval rate, the numbers tell a sadder story –there still remain 2,170 Syrian cases pending and awaiting a decision.  That’s a lot of Syrians — more than half of all applicants since 2011! — without an answer on their applications.  Syrians are wondering why there is such a delay.  And when people wonder, they either ask people who don’t know the answers, or they make up their own reasons out of their past experiences or internet research.

Why the delay?  Is it me?

To my knowledge, there is no conspiracy against Syrian asylum seekers, or any special reason for delaying Syrian cases .  USCIS has confirmed that they are randomly selecting a small number of asylum applications and scheduling them for interviews within 42 days.  But the vast majority are on hold for a year or two.  This causes understandable frustration among the Syrian community (and trust me, every other community as well).  One guy files for application, gets his asylum interview in a month.  Another guy files his, and more than a year later he has no interview.  Is there something wrong with him or his background?  Is it because the other guy has a good lawyer?  No.  It’s just raw numbers.  The Syrian community needs to look at the big picture — they are not alone. In fact, Syrians are only a small percentage of all the asylum cases filed and pending.

USCIS has published its statistics for asylum, most recently from February 2015.  In its “Asylum Office Workload” document, as of February 2015, there were 78,821 asylum applications still pending — meaning no decision had been made, whether because the interview had not yet been scheduled, or because USCIS was still deciding whether to grant asylum or not.  Compare this with July 2014, when there were 55,324 applications still pending.  The number of pending applications is going up, not down, even though USCIS is hiring new officers and bringing in former asylum officers to process this huge surge of cases.

The reason for the backlog is the record number of mothers and children seeking refuge from Mexico and Central and South America.  USCIS, understandably, is using its resources to administer credible fear interviews to the families coming across the border in such huge numbers; if the mother/child meet the credible fear standard, they are eligible to pursue asylum status and remain in the United States.  So long as these refuge seekers keep coming to the border, USCIS is going to continue to see the number of pending asylum cases go up, and wait times are going to get longer and longer for those who have already applied.

Any options?

So, what should Syrians do?  It is of critical importance that Syrians apply for and maintain Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) if they are eligible to do so.  (NOTE: the deadline for new Syrian TPS applications is JULY 6, 2015 – so apply now if you qualify and have not already!)

You can think of TPS as “green card lite.”  TPS gives you the ability to legally work in the USA and travel.  They can study, they can drive, they have many of the rights of green card holders because of TPS.  Essentially, TPS ensures you remain in the USA for a long, long time. A basic touchstone of immigration law is that you take what you can get, when you can get it.  The deal can always get better later, with a new law, a new relationship, a new job, or becoming a victim of crime or spousal abuse — anything.  So long as you are in the United States, you’ll likely be eligible for something new and better, so long as you maintain TPS or some other lawful status.

Some Syrians are skeptical about TPS, and worry that it could end at any time.  I don’t agree with that; Hondurans have had TPS renewed every year since 1999 — that is 17 years and counting!  During these 17 years, many Hondurans have obtained a green card through work, or marriage, or even their children.  Immigration, I always say, is a marathon, not a sprint.

Also, Syrians should keep in mind that the Syrian civil war is likely to drag on for a long time.  It will never be the same country they left, even if the war ended today.  Any doubts?   Ask the Bosnians.

If you are a Syrian and considering whether or not to apply for TPS, my advice is APPLY.  You can always leave it behind, but please take advantage of it now.  As Syrian passports start to expire (with few avenues to extend or renew), it is getting harder, not easier, to come to the United States. And the United States is still a place where Syrians can not only survive, but thrive.  Dubai may be glitzier, but remember that protections for non-nationals are slim, and can be rescinded at any time, for any reason.  In the United States, your civil rights are more protected than in most countries of the world, and with TPS, so long as you work hard and don’t break the law, your stay is assured for years to come.

Can’t we speed up this process?!?!?!

We are often asked by Syrians if we can speed up the asylum process.  Perhaps, but it is on a case-by-case basis, and you should consider carefully whether to do something to try to get a resolution of your case, or not.

Some Syrians ask about filing a Mandamus lawsuit to get their asylum applications heard.  A “Mandamus” is a petition to a District Court Judge requesting that the USCIS adjudicate an application.  The Judge cannot force USCIS to grant your asylum; she can only order them to make a decision on your case.  Some District Courts routinely grant them.  We are hearing accounts of the lawsuit being filed and the interview being granted shortly after.  Other courts are quite hesitant.  It depends on the District Court.  For example, if the government tells the District Court Judge that they have “security concerns” about the asylum applicant, the Judge may not issue the mandamus, allowing the government more time to determine if the person is a threat or not.  Alternatively, the Asylum Office could agree to make a decision, then deny the asylum if the person maintains lawful status, or “refer” the case to the Immigration Judge for removal proceedings if they aren’t.  It’s a personal decision whether or not to pursue this course of action.  And it is generally expensive.  You should also be prepared for an outcome you may not like.

Sometimes, a Congressperson can assist.  You can find the contact information for your Senators and Representatives on-line.  They can inquire through the USCIS Congressional Liaison to learn where your case is.  But in my experience, there is little they can do to speed up the process in most cases.

As in most things law-related, there are exceptions .  For example, we were successful in requesting the Asylum office to expedite an asylum decision for a man whose wife and children remained in Syria, where they were obviously in danger.  This is because asylee’s family members can apply to bring their wife and children to the United States.  Another time, a Senator’s office was helpful in obtaining an asylum interview for a young Syrian who would be denied a college scholarship and financial aid if he didn’t have asylum.  These are cases that had an emotional reason for everyone to get involved, including an asylum officer.  They all wanted to help in these cases.  Other times, where there wasn’t an emotional incentive, we were unsuccessful in expediting the case.

To be fair, the Asylum Office has a strong argument to delay interviewing most asylum cases.  In the case of Syrians, most of have TPS, which means they are here legally, working and traveling.  The Asylum Office understandably feels they should first interview the children and mothers sitting in detention centers without any possibility of being released.  Recently, Associate Attorney Katelyn Hufe represented a child client at the USCIS Newark Asylum Office (which is actually located in Lyndhurst, by the way).  She said that almost everyone in the waiting room was a child!  That is genuinely sad.  And the story behind the statistics is that the Asylum system is flooded.  That is the reason Syrians are not getting scheduled for asylum interviews.  It is not because the Asylum Office or the Department of Homeland Security is against Syrians.  It’s just the crushing weight of 80,000 asylum applications, and only 350 asylum officers in the entire United States to adjudicate them.

In the end, Syrians should apply for all the benefits that they qualify for.  TPS is ideal, and asylum can be a long-term plan. If you fall in love with a US citizen or greencard holder, that’s great, too.  If you are a victim of crime, be sure to cooperate with the police, no matter what your status is, so you may qualify for a U visa.  If your US citizen or green card spouse abuses you — it doesn’t matter if you are male or female — you may qualify for VAWA.  Our advice is for Syrians to consult with a good, honest, experienced immigration attorney — not a translator, not an accountant, not a family friend — to best determine what your options are.  There is no substitute for asking a good immigration attorney for advice; good immigration attorneys not only have years of experience and access to information not generally available to the public, but they also have the benefit of living through the progress of many immigration cases.  If you have questions about your options in asylum, TPS, or even obtaining lawful U.S. Permanent Residence through a green card, contact our office and set a consultation.  We’ll do our best to give you all your options, so that you can make the best decision for you.  If you are in a different part of the United States, we’ll do our best to find you a good local attorney.

Thanks to Nadeen Aljijakli, author of “Syrians Under Fire: Seeking Asylum in America” for her assistance in writing this article! 

Stateside Waivers: A Year of Improvements

By Katelyn M. Hufe, Esq.

Last year’s AILA Conference in San Francisco came just 3 months after USCIS launched the provisional waiver program.  Now, USCIS has had over a year to work out kinks in the program.  The result: a 62% application approval rate, increasing clarity in standards and procedures, and the reopening, review and approval of several wrongfully denied applications.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the program, the March 2013 provisional waiver program aims at reducing hardship on families who are separated from their loved one during the waiver process.  Thousands of people unlawfully present in the U.S. require a waiver in order to get their green card through their spouse, child, or parent.

Before, those people had to return to their home country for many months in order to complete the process.  With the new (or year old!) program, people can apply and wait for a decision while here in the United States, and, if approved, return to their home country for a very brief period to obtain their immigrant visa.  Financially and emotionally, this program has been a life raft for families hanging on in a sea of harsh and unstable immigration processing.

Fast forward to June 20, 2014 at the AILA Annual Conference in Boston, and where are we? Well, 62% of applications are being approved, and USCIS has been requesting additional evidence in 31% of cases.  The government has a backlog of 12,695 cases.  USCIS has an impossible goal of completing cases in 90 days (which earned a crowd chuckle), but, more realistically, does try to make decisions within 6 months (although, as many of us know from experience, this often drags out to 8 months to a year).

Finally, we had 2 important takeaways from the conference panel:

1) While USCIS was routinely and inappropriately denying applications where an applicant had minor criminal issues (including, as I learned, traffic tickets!), this problem seems to have been remedied.  USCIS has provided new training and guidance to employees and even reopened many of these denied applications to grant waivers in those cases, and;

2) Through the hard work of AILA, we now have access to USCIS power points, procedures, and checklists that tell us EXACTLY what USCIS is looking for in these application packets.  This information tells us precisely what information and documentation we need from our clients and helps us to do everything we can to get applications approved.

In short, it’s been a good year for the provisional waiver program.  Things are running more smoothly, and AILA lawyers are more equipped than ever to file winning applications.  Let’s hope for a year of even more improvements by the time the AILA 2015 Annual Conference in National Harbor, MD rolls around!

And, as always, feel free to reach out to us with any questions or to learn more about the waiver program.

 

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