Friday, January 28, 2011

Immigration Rights | Community Involvement

I am happy to say that I believe that many immigration lawyers around Western Washington help each other. Many of us feel like we are part of a community. This is wonderful news, because no individual succeeds completely alone. Success demands a team or community.

I strive to be an excellent immigration lawyer. One way to develop one’s abilities is to play an active role in the community.

The major immigration lawyer association is AILA. I am a member of AILA, and I serve on the Executive Committee as the New Member Division Chair. We discuss issues important to immigrants and immigration lawyers. We provide workshops to educate lawyers, support groups that promote equal access to law and social justice, and provide other services.

I also work on the ground. I have been on several Citizenship Day events, which provide legal services for immigrants who wish to become American citizens. I have participated in legal clinics to advise members of the community. I have also organized educational workshops for newer attorneys in immigration law.

One major issue important to me is the access to justice question. I also provided direct representation on a pro bono basis for people with no means to pay. I won all four cases: two removal defense and two asylum cases. These clients would otherwise not have access to a lawyer, and very likely would have lost without a lawyer.

I want a lawyer for real people, one who reaches out into the community. I believe an excellent lawyer meets people, follows news and events, and understands the greater social and political issues that affect the community.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Immigration Rights | Cancellation of Removal for Non-LPRs

The Daily Record reported that federal immigration agents raided a group of 50-80 Ellensburg, WA residents, all Hispanic.

I also read from inside sources that the raid happened in a church, and the methods were heavy-handed. A low-flying helicopter was involved, as well as collaboration with ICE, local law enforcement and a standard fugitive ops team. There were also reports that raids happened in trailer parks.

Children suffer the most. If a child is born in the US, but her parents are from a foreign country and are subject to removal, then it is uncertain if the parents are able to stay in the US. Contact a lawyer familiar with immigration law if you are in these circumstances!

One possible form of relief to keep the family together is cancellation of removal for non-LPRs. To qualify, the parent must have a US citizen or lawful permanent resident child, have resided continuously in the US for at least 10 years, have good moral character, and have not been convicted of any crimes described in deportability and inadmissibility provisions. Finally, the parent must show that if they are removed from the US, exceptional and extremely unusual hardship would result for their child, spouse, or parent. 

Immigration law is broadly designed to keep families together. But, at the same time, the law also breaks up parents and children in traumatic ways. Enforcement may come suddenly, as what happened in Ellensburg.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Immigration Rights | Unlawful Presence

When I am practicing immigration law, people often ask, “What if someone stays in the US unlawfully?” There are exceptions, but it normally depends on the amount of time a foreign national is "unlawfully present."

If Don Miguel, from Honduras, enters the US without proper inspection or documentation, it’s easy to calculate unlawful presence. It starts when he sets foot onto US soil.

If Genius Gabriella, a foreign national from Israel, gets a temporary visa to go to school in the US, then she will only accumulate unlawful presence after the I-94 date expires (the I-94 is the official US Arrival-Departure record).

So, after Gabriella finishes school in the US, unless there are unusual circumstances Gabriella must get a new visa, like a work visa, or go back to Israel. Or, she accumulates unlawful presence.

If the unlawful presence is 180 to 365 days of unlawful presence before she decides to take a flight from the US back to Israel, then she receives a “3-year bar” under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(1). This means that Gabriella won’t be able to visit her American friends in the US for 3 years.

If Gabriella accumulated 1 year or more of unlawful presence before taking the flight back to Israel, then the consequences are more severe. She suffers a “10-year bar” under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v).

Whenever a person is unlawfully present, there may be grounds for removal, when the government forces you to leave the US. Because people who overstay are barred from re-entering the US, the laws convince many foreign nationals to stay in the US! If person must leave the US and cannot return for long periods of years, then the person may risk removal, rather than voluntarily departing and waiting in the foreign country.

Certainly seek a lawyer's help if you had unlawful presence. Sometimes your record can be cleared. Specifically, there is a waiver available of the 3 and 10-year bars in INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v). Or, there is other relief available that you will highly likely need help pursuing.

That's the law in a nutshell: the 3 or 10-year applies to someone who stays int he US without permission.