August 2009 Archives

August 28, 2009

DHS to Continue Border Inspection of Electronic Devices

eye.jpgOn 18 August 2009, the Obama Administration issued new directives about the inspection, search, and even seizure of electronic media belonging to travelers passing through border checkpoints. This set of policies and practices has concerned immigration lawyers, constitutional attorneys, and other civil rights advocates, including the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino in Los Angeles.

All electronic media devices are susceptible to search: computers, hard drives, thumb-nail drives, mp3 players, iPods, mobile phones, CDs, DVDs, Blackberrys, etc.

This practice of inspecting, detaining, and even copying travelers' electronic media -- without a warrant or even suspicion -- began before the Bush Administration's so-called "war on terrorism." Given the amount personal information that people keep on their digital devices, attorneys and constitutional advocates have worried that such searches and seizures can be potentially more intrusive than having a border guard riffling through one's luggage.

In some cases, victims of these searches have suspected that the border guards had cracked password-protected files and were copying and keeping information from these devices, which were detained for periods of time ranging from minutes to weeks.
data disks.jpg
The new directives continue the Bush Administration practices, with some (in this author's view, small) degree of oversight:

- Supervisors must be present during the search,
- Border guards may still keep your electronic media device, but only if there is "probable cause" that it is connected to some illegal activity,
- If there is no reason to hold the information, it must be destroyed within 7 days,
- The traveler may ask to be in the room when the search takes place,
- Border guards are expected to consult Homeland Security attorneys if they wish to view voyagers' medical, legal, or medical records, or journalists' work, and
- there is a 30-day limit for the detention of media and devices.

If you would like to read the directive for yourself, it can be found here. --jcf

August 27, 2009

Fong & Aquino Salutes Senator Edward Kennedy

The Los Angeles immigration Fong & Aquino would like to acknowledge the passing on 25 August 2009 of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, US Senator for the State of Massachusetts.

Not merely the scion of a famous family, Senator Kennedy was a champion on issues close to the hearts of many immigrants: immigration reform, education, union representation, and health care. Deeply aware of his own background and immigrant roots, Senator Kennedy helped craft the Diversity Visa, the so-called "green card lottery," that has permitted so many people from different nations to immigrate to the USA when no other avenue was available to them.

His voice will be missed. --jcf

August 24, 2009

Immigration Reform Set for 2010

Because the debates about Health Care Reform are taking so much of the Congress' energy, the Obama Administration believes that Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) will not be considered by the Congress until the beginning of 2010. Fong & Aquino has many clients in Los Angeles, CA and throughout the nation who would benefit from the passage of CIR. In a recent article, President Obama restated his commitment to humane immigration law reform.

Two of the most anticipated provisions of CIR would be the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) and the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).

The DREAM Act would allow the normalization of the immigration status of certain undocument students who were brought prior to age 16 to the United States by their parents or guardians. These students have lived and been educated in the USA, and it would be fundamentally unfair to deny them immigration status, when they did not come to the USA through their own decision, and when the USA is often the only country these students have ever really known.

UAFA would correct a long-standing inequity under immigration law and would permit US Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents to petition for and bring their permanent partners to the USA on the same footing and subject to the same conditions as traditional married couples.

Although CIR will not be debated in Congress until the beginning of 2010, we are still urging Americans to be ready to write both of their Senators and their Congressional Representative in support of CIR. Further, we are also asking Americans also to write their state governors and full city councils, encouraging them to contact Washington to urge passage of CIR.

For more information about CIR, also see the Fong and Chun blogs of
29 June 2009
26 June 2009

August 19, 2009

H-1B Quota Newest Update August 14, 2009

H-1B quota update...what's going on with the H-1B cap? Just updated today, the USCIS now reports that as of August 14, 2009, about 45,000 cap-subject cases have been received. So that's about 100 more than what USCIS reported a week ago.

Based on what USCIS has reported in the last 4 months, this seems to be a pattern. Up by 100, down by 100. Whatever the reason, H-1B season remains open! At some point, cases already counted in the queue can also be denied, so that might keep the quota open longer.

As for the advanced degree cap, commonly called the "advanced degree quota," USCIS tells us in their most recent H-1B quota update that they have collected approximately 20,000 applications. However, the USCIS reports that they will still continue to accept master's (advanced) degree cases until the quota has been filled.

Something that I counsel clients about is that there are also cap-exempt cases that can be filed. However, the only quota-exempt cases that are accepted are those filed by employers that are bona fide non-profit organizations, which have a documentable relationship with US colleges or universities. Granted this is a small exception, many clients have found this to be useful when working around the quota. Plus, filing fees are cheaper! --ecf

August 18, 2009

Religious Workers Should File Adjustments by August 31, 2009

As a direct result of the Ruiz-Diaz religious worker litigation, the USCIS announced this week that religious workers should file their I-485 applications for adjustment of status by the end of this month.

The USCIS issued this statement to remind religious workers to file for adjustment of status if they have pending or approved I-360s. The reason for this comes from the fact that the employment-based fourth preference category will become unavailable beginning September 1, 2009. The USCIS will only accept adjustment of status applications from those ministers or non-minister religious workers if they have a pending or approved I-360.

Filing an adjustment of status application will toll or protect the worker from accruing unlawful presence. Religious workers or religious organizations that have questions regarding this should call Fong & Aquino as soon as possible to ensure that they protect their workers and/or their organization from employer sanctions or other immigration penalties. --ecf

August 11, 2009

H-1B Quota Update on the Numbers - Quota Still Open - Reprise

Breaking news. Just posted today are the H-1B quota numbers. It is the same as my previous posts. Cap count is approximately 44,900. Roughly two weeks ago, USCIS reported the cap count was approximately 44,900. So no difference in the quota count to report.

USCIS is still accepting regular H-1B cap cases. USCIS is still accepting US Master's degree H-1B cases, also known as advanced degree cap cases. Nothing much new here. But check back in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we'll continue to post other topics of immigration interest and intrigue! ---ecf