Missing Tara O’Connor, a Great Immigration Lawyer

by W. John Vandenberg

I miss Tara O’Connor.

We lost a great Immigration Lawyer this year. Tara was one of my first role models as an attorney. I met her when I was a law student, clerking at the Law Office of David E. Piver. Tara was an incredible Immigration Lawyer. Diligent, knowledgeable, and creative, she never hesitated to answer my questions about business immigration. She had an incredible sense of humor, and was an amazing writer. You were a lion in your fight against cancer, Tara, and you are dearly missed.

If you are a friend of Tara’s, or would like to say “thank you” for her help in obtaining immigration status, you can do so by making a donation for the care and education of her two sons. Send a check, payable to the Tara S. O’Connor Donation Account, to:
National Bank By Mail
(Chase)
PO Box 36520
Louisville, KY 40233-6520

Post-script, February 10, 2015

Updates from the Family

An update on the Pennsylvania Service–

DETAILS: Tara’s Memorial & Gathering April 25

10:30am–Memorial Mass at St. Patrick’s in Malvern.
Immediately following, the family will be traveling for a private interment of Tara’s ashes. We will meet everyone at the gathering between 1 and 1:30.

The gathering will be at The Lamb Tavern (AKA The Porch Restaurant at the Lamb) in Springfield. They are prepared to receive our guests immediately following the memorial service, even though the family will be arriving later.

We are so looking forward to our family and friends, and feeling Tara with us on her 43rd birthday.

An update on the “Tara S. O’Connor Donation Account”–
Thank you to all who have contributed to this fund. The financial support is truly making a difference, as Morgan looks to continue to raise his boys in their home in Flagstaff. I had indicated previously that we hoped to get an electronic transfer up-and-running for this account, but unfortunately, the bank is not making it easy–or reasonable!–to do so. So, please use the address below to mail your donations.
Tara S. O’Connor Donation Account
Mail these checks to:
National Bank By Mail
(Chase)
PO Box 36520
Louisville, KY 40233-6520

Philadelphia and New Jersey USCIS Office CLOSED on January 27, 2015

The USCIS District Offices and Application Support Centers in Philadelphia, Mt. Laurel, and Newark will be CLOSED on Tuesday, January 27, 2015.

Everyone needs a snow day, now and again 🙂

HIV+? Wait here, please….

by W. John Vandenberg

We all know that HIV is no longer a ground of inadmissibility, meaning it can’t block you from getting a visa to the United States. But this year, in March of 2014, the CDC decided that persons with HIV must get a special TB test. And this particular test takes 6-8 weeks for results! The first step is to have a “sputum test” administered on 3 consecutive business days to get the process started. CDC.  Then they are going to wait 60 days to see if the cultures are positive.

We understand the reason for testing — TB is a serious disease.  And we understand that persons who are HIV+ may show a false negative.  But aren’t the x-rays determinative of an active TB infection?  And there is no reason that an HIV+ person can’t take the same TB test as everyone else.

So, for those who are expecting a loved one to process overseas who is HIV+, don’t worry — they’ll get home.  But just make sure you don’t purchase any tickets or flowers for the airport until they actually get here — two months later than just about everyone else…

العمل التنفيذي للرئيس أوباما: مالذي يحمله المستقبل؟

كتابة: جون يحيى فاندِنبِرغ

ترجمة: دعاء صباغ

يالهذهِ الليلة! في حالة أنك لم تتمكن من الاطلاع على الخبر الجديد، بإمكانك قراءة تصريح الرئيس على الرابط التالي:

http://m.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/20/remarks-president-address-nation-immigration

مالذي يعنيه هذا القرار بالنسبة لجميع المهاجرين في الولايات المتحدة؟ بدون شك، نحن وغيرنا من المحامين والمهاجرين، بالإضافة إلى دائرة الهجرة والجنسية بالولايات المتحدة، نحاول تحديد ذلك تماماً. الخبر السيّء هنا هو أننا جميعا لا نعرف تفاصيل هذا القرار حتى الآن. والخبر الجيد هو أننا جميعاً لا نعرف التفاصيل عن القرار حتى الآن أيضاً. سوف أتحدث عن هذا لاحقاً.

أما بالنسبة للوقت الحالي، فهذا ما نعرفه حتى اللحظة:

  

العمل المؤجل للوافدين في مرحلة الطفولة (أو مثل ما يسمى بالإنجليزية اختصاراً: داكا): ليس هناك عمر محدد لتقديم الطلب: فطالما أن مجيء الشخص للولايات المتحدة كان قبل عمر السادسة عشر، وقبل تاريخ ١\١\٢٠١٠، فإن الشخص مؤهل تحت هذا القانون. إذاً، إذا كنت قد قدمت إلى الولايات المتحدة في عام ١٩٩٣، كالصحفي والمهاجر خوسيه أنطونيو فارغاس، فأنت مؤهل للداكا (أنا متأكد أن محاميه الآن يستعدون لإنهاء إجراءات ترحيله!). هذا بالتأكيد سوف يوسع نطاق البرنامج. وبمناسبة الحديث عن توسيع نطاق البرنامج، إذا كان طلب تقديمك في حالة الانتظار أو أنك لم تقم بالتقديم حتى الآن، فسوف يوافَق على طلب تقديمك لمدة ثلاث سنوات، ولكن ليس الآن. هذه أخبار جيدة لكثير من الشباب والشابات الذين يستحقون ذلك حتماً.

ـ هناك الكثير من المهاجرين الذين يقدمون طلبات معاملة الداكا إلى مكتبي ولهم أبناء يحملون الجنسية الأمريكية، ردّي لهم كان بأني لا أستطيع مساعدتهم تحت القانون. ولكن الليلة الماضية غيرت إجابتي! إذاً، بالنسبة للمهاجرين الذين قدِموا إلى الولايات المتحدة منذ الأول من شهر بناير للعام ٢٠١٠، ولديهم أبناء يحملون الجنسية الأمريكية أو البطاقة الخضراء (الجرين كارد)، فهم الآن يدخلون تحت قانون العمل المؤجل للوافدين في مرحلة الطفولة أيضاً.

ـ مهاجرون أكثر سوف يكونون مؤهلين للتقديم على طلب الإعفاءات المؤقتة. يوم الأربعاء الماضي قمت بالحديث مع شاب حاصل على الداكا ووالدته ليست مواطنة أمريكية ولكنها تحمل الجرين كارد. هناك احتمالية كبيرة لهذا الشاب في أن يحصل على حالة قانونية من خلال والدته. ومن الآن حتى حصوله على ذلك، هو يعيش ويعمل ويسافر، والفضل هنا يعود لقانون داكا.

ـ يبدو أنه هناك أخبار جيدة للمهاجرين المخترعين: يبدو أن دائرة الهجرة الأمريكية سوف تقوم بإصدار قوانين جديدة بخصوص أصحاب الأعمال القادمين للولايات المتحدة للاستثمار. هذا يشمل أصحاب الأعمال الذين تمكنوا من الحصول على فرص للاستثمار في الولايات المتحدة، أوالذين يستطيعون إثبات أن التقنية التي يحملونها سوف تخلق وظائف في الولايات المتحدة.

ـ من المحتمل أن تنخفض الرسوم التي يتطلبها طلب التقديم للحصول على الجنسية، وسوف يتمكن حاملي الجرين كارد من الدفع بواسطة بطاقات الإئتمان. هذا انتصار سيضع حملة الجرين كارد على الطريق للحصول على الجنسية.

إذاً، هذا مالدينا حتى الآن، ولكن يبدو أننا سوف نستقبل شيئاً جديداً كل ساعة من دائرة الأمن الداخلي الأمريكية للمساعدة على فهم المدى الذي سوف يصل إليه هذا العمل التنفيذي الجديد. ولكني أريد إنهاء هذا المقال ببعض التحفيز والتشجيع، بالإضافة إلى الحث على أخذ الحَيطة والحذر.

باستثناء المستفيدين من الداكا، لا شيء من التغييرات المذكورة أعلاه قد حدثت بعد. هذا يعني أنه ليس هناك مكان لتقديم وثائق الطلب. وليس هناك أنموذج لتعبئته. ولا أحد ينبغي عليه دفع مبالغ لأي خدمات حتى معرفة وفهم كيفية تطبيق هذا العمل التنفيذي تماماً. الرجاء من الجميع، احموا أنفسكم وأحبائكم من الاحتيال. لا تأخذوا نصائح من أشخاص غير محامين، وبصراحة، أنا لا أعتقد أنها فكرة جيدة أن تأخذ نصائح خاصةً بقوانين الهجرة من أي أحد باستثناء أفضل محامي الهجرة الذين يمكنك العثور عليهم.

الأخبار الجيدة هو أنه بالرغم من أن الكثير من المهاجرين لاينطبق عليهم هذا العمل التنفيذي، فهو ينطبق عليهم بشكل غير مباشر. وبهذا أقصد أن الرئيس قد أمر دائرة الهجرة والجمارك الأمريكية بالتركيز على الإرهابيين والمجرمين وعابري الحدود بشكل غير قانوني مؤخراً. إذا كنت أنت أو من يهمك أمره من المهاجرين الذين ليسوا إرهابيين أو مجرمين أو عابري حدود بشكل غير قانوني مؤخراً، فاحتمالية الاعتقال من قبل دائرة الهجرة والجمارك الأمريكية ضئيلة جداً. هذه أخبار جيدة، لأنها تعني أنه كل يوم من يعمل بجد لن يعتقل أو يرحّل؛ هذه أيضاً أخبار جيدة لأن المجرمين والإرهابيين سوف يرحّلون من البلاد. هذا يعتبر نصرا لجميع الأطراف.

أخيراً، ذكرت سابقاً أننا لا نعلم كل شيء بعد عن هذا العمل التنفيذي الجديد، ونحن على يقين بأن عدم علمنا بكل شي عن هذا العمل شيء جيد لأنه كلما كانت لدينا المساحة في الدفاع قانونياً عن زبائننا، كلما سنحت لنا كمحامين فرصة الدفاع عن زبائننا ومساعدتهم بشكل أفضل. ويجدر بالتذكير أنه في العام ١٩٨٦، قام الكونغرس الأمريكي بتمرير قانون هجرةٍ جديدٍ أعطى الملايين من المهاجرين الغير موثّقين فرصة البقاء في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية؛ لسوء الحظ، هذا القانون لم يشمل أفراد عائلة المهاجرين. ولكن في العام ١٩٩٠، استخدم جورج بوش الأب عملاً تنفيذياً لضم أفراد العائلة تحت ذلك القانون. أذاً، بغض النظر عما لدينا من معلومات حتى اللحظة، تذكّروا أنه دائماً ما ستئول الأمور إلى الأفضل مع معرفة التفاصيل.

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!

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.