January 14, 2014

Immigration Law in 2014

Immigration Law in 2014What changes can we expect to see in immigration law in 2014?

New laws affecting immigrants have already gone into effect as of January 1, 2014.

Previously, under the “Secure Communities” program, many immigrants were placed on an “ICE hold” even for low-level offenses.  Under the California Trust Act, state and local jails will only hold immigrants for ICE if they have committed serious or violent crimes.  Hopefully, this will result in fewer immigrants being placed into removal proceedings.

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December 17, 2013

Same Sex Marriages and Immigration

alicia-maria-02-1

New laws benefitting same sex couples can assist in immigration cases.

Looking back on 2013, in my humble opinion, the biggest change in immigration law occurred on June 26, 2013. On that day, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Windsor v. United States that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. Although the case was about estate taxes, the Supreme Court’s decision opened the door for same sex couples to obtain the same immigration benefits as every other married couple.

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December 10, 2013

Immigration of Military Family Members

Immigration Parole in Place Military FamiliesWhat does the recent USCIS “Parole in Place” memo mean for family members of military service people?

I am a military brat.  My father served in the U.S. Navy for 22 years.  While he was in the service, I moved around a lot, I got to fly on some cool military cargo planes through the magic of “Space A”, and I always lived near an ocean.  (I used to wonder why I always seemed to feel a compelling need to move every few years and why I needed to live near water.  Now it all is starting to make sense.)

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November 26, 2013

Expressing Gratitude

Romben Aquino at the Filipino Migrant Center

Appreciation and Giving Back

Community service has always been an important part of my life. For me, as someone who has been blessed with many favorable opportunities, it is a way to give back to those who may not have been as fortunate. I can probably trace it back to my parents, who were always seemingly involved in some sort of organization, be it the PTA, the Freemasons, or the Association of Mangatarem Overseas Residents. The bayanihan spirit was something that was espoused by my fellow UCLA Samahangers.

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November 19, 2013

Will There Be Immigration Reform In 2013?

Immigration Reform in 2013

Will there be immigration reform in 2013?

Every now and then, when a judge is writing a decision, that judge will add a footnote about a question that is NOT being considered by the court. It’s a way of signaling that a particular legal issue remains an open question. Or maybe it’s a way of telling the lawyers “hey, you guys should litigate this issue next! I want to write a decision on it!” Anyway, I digress. Earlier this year, I asked the question: Will there be a new immigration law this year?

I noted that the answer would depend on the House of Representatives.

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November 18, 2013

Same-Sex Marriage: 100 cases later

The tidal wave of the first same-sex marriage (SSM) cases has passed, and I'd like to share some very brief observations. The Immigration Law Office of J Craig Fong, with offices Hollywood and Palm Springs, fielded over 150 inquiries about SSM and has undertaken representation for some 100 cases this year. Some things I've noticed:

* Officers are as interested in how the couple met in the case of same-sex couples, as they are for opposite-sex couples. They have even asked the name of the WEBSITE where some couples have met.

* Some officers are puzzled about why some family members might not know about the marriage.

* A significant age difference between the spouses remains a concern for some officers.

There have only been two instances of possible bias. In one case, the officer kept referring to one wife as "she" and the other wife as "husband." We kept correcting the officer. His excuse was, "I'm sorry; this is new to us." To be fair, he did not seem particularly hostile or homophobic, but the error was very irritating. And the case was approved on the spot.

The second case took place in Orange County, California. The officer said that for same-sex marriages, he was "concerned about a Chuck and Larry situation," apparently referring to a 2007 Adam Sandler comedy in which two apparently straight men get married. The movie was full of stereotypes of gay men. I pointed out to the officer that his comment indicated he was assuming that the case was fraudulent. In the end, although additional documentation unrelated to the bona fides of the marriage was required, the case was approved with no fuss.

There are no broad, sweeping generalizations to be made at this point, Most of US Citizenship and Immigration Services here in California are to be commended for doing such a professional job to date.

If you have questions about a family petition or a spouse petition, feel free to contact the office. --jcf

November 15, 2013

USCIS Asked to Designate TPS for Philippines -- under consideration

monster-typhoon-philippines-haiyan_73273_600x450.jpg

The Immigration Law Offices of J Craig Fong has many, many clients from the Philippines, both at the Los Angeles office and the Palm Springs office. Last week, the Philippine Islands suffered catastrophic damage from the winds and rain of Typhoon Haiyan. The nation is only now beginning to get assistance to its stricken citizens, and the world is responding as well.

While the Philippines struggle to cope with the after-effects of one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land, the United States can help in many ways, in addition to the aid that is already underway. One way we can help is to limit the strain on Philippine resources by designating the Philippines for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) under §244(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This would allow Filipinos currently on temporary stay in the USA to remain here until the situation in their home country stabilizes. Please write to your Representative and Senators, and urge them to designate TPS protection for the Philippines.

Remember: TPS has not yet been approved for the Philippines. There is no program or benefit to apply for at this time. Please do not call the immigration office to ask, because there is no TPS yet for Philippines.

Consultations are available in both the Los Angeles and Palm Springs offices. Call for an appointment: 323.769.8187. --jcf

November 12, 2013

The Easiest Way To Save Your Children From Deportation

Save children from deportation

How automatic citizenship can keep children from being deported

Over the years, I have met with families whose sons or daughters have been placed into removal proceedings. During the course of our meetings, I will learn that Junior (or Junior-ette) came to the United States as a lawful permanent resident at a young age. Then Junior committed a crime that triggers the government’s deportation machinery. Then I will ask the parents: did one of you become a naturalized U.S. citizen before his 18th birthday?

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November 5, 2013

What Ever Happened To The INS?

The Immigration and Naturalization Service is history.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service is long gone.

In its wake lie a slew of acronyms that can leave your head spinning.

Recently, I met with some clients who wanted to know if their prior applications for immigration benefits would cause any harm to a new application. They showed me a copy of their old documents and across the top of many pages were the words “Immigration and Naturalization Service.”

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October 29, 2013

Will There Be A New Immigration Law In 2013?

With the federal government shutdown now in the rearview mirror, the question now becomes: Is there going to be a new immigration law this year?

New Immigration Law

Here’s some of what I learned as a political science major: The two parts of Congress — the House of Representatives and the Senate — have to pass the same bill. If the House and Senate pass two different versions of a similar bill, then the bill goes to a conference where the differences get hammered out and then both parts of Congress have to vote again.

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October 22, 2013

Green Card Holder With A Prior Conviction Asks "Can I Leave The Country?"

I’m a green card holder with a prior conviction. Am I able to leave and come back to the United States?Green Card Holder International Travel With Conviction

What you should know about traveling internationally if you’ve had a prior conviction.

Over the years, I have encountered this scenario multiple times: “I have a green card. A long time ago, I had some trouble with the law and I pled no contest to [some crime]. It’s been so long ago that I forgot about it. I have left the country and re-entered using my green card at least twenty times. But just last week, as I was coming back from my vacation, they told me at the airport that they want to start court proceedings to take away my green card based upon that old conviction.”

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October 10, 2013

Immigration and the Government Shutdown 2013

How does the government shutdown affect immigrants, the courts and our border?

United States Government Shutdown 2013

Although the federal government has been shutdown, the effects upon my immigration clients have been varied.

U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the primary agency that handles petitions and applications related to immigration. For most filings, USCIS charges a filing fee. According to USCIS spokesperson Christopher Bentley, USCIS can continue to operate during the shutdown because these fees cover 95% of their budget. I have filed applications and received the processing receipts. Interviews for naturalization and adjustment of status applications are going forward.

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June 27, 2013

Green Cards for Same-Sex Couples -- Yes, We Can!

Rainbow yes.pngOn Tuesday, 26 June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the constitutionally discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). A US citizen or Legal Permanent Resident may now submit an immigration petition for a same-sex spouse.  This is historic news and a true change in the way immigration law will be applied to the community of immigrants. The telephone has not stopped ringing at either the Palm Springs office or the Los Angeles.

Even as we consider moving forward for the paperwork to unite our families, some things to keep in mind.

Among the key requirements is MARRIAGE. Civil unions, domestic partnerships, civil registrations, PACS, and other forms of "marriage lite" are NOT recognized. Only marriage: plain, old-fashioned, garden-variety marriage. The list of jurisdictions where same-sex marriages are currently permitted includes New York, Washington state, Massachusetts, and nine other jurisdictions plus the District of Columbia; and Argentina, France, Canada, South Afrika, and a significant number of other nations. A good list can be found here.

Here in California, Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as the stay is lifted on the lower court order. This should happen within about 30 days.

For immigration purposes, the marriage must be legal where it was celebrated. As long it is as it is legal where it was performed, it can be used for legal permanent resident ("green card") purposes. Processing time is currently about four to six months, from the time of the application until the interview in Los Angeles or Riverside California. For those interviewing outside the United States, at US embassies and consulates, the process will take approximately 8 months, start to finish.  Fiancé(e) cases are a bit more complex and will take an additional few weeks.

Not surprisingly, all of the other immigration law issues, such as criminal records, financial sponsorships, prior deportations, unlawful status, and so on, still apply to same-sex couples, so it would be wise to set up a time to chat as soon as possible with an experiences immigration attorney.

After 30 years of counseling and advising couples from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities, it is thrilling to be able to counsel our community through this momentous change and opportunity in the law.

This has been a long time coming. If you or anyone you know might benefit from the court ruling, please do not hesitate to contact the office. Meetings can be arranged at either the Los Angeles office or the office in Palm Springs.

Los Angeles Office:
6255 W Sunset Blvd, Ste 915
Los Angeles, CA 90028-7410

Palm Springs Office
777 E Tahquitz Canyon, Ste 328
Palm Springs, CA 92262

The contact phone is the same for both offices. Please feel free to give us a call (323.769.8187) to set up an appointment as soon as possible. Best and warmest regards!

April 18, 2013

New Zealand Legislature Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Kiwi-300x300.jpgAs an immigrant advocate for gay and lesbian couples, I regularly receive calls at my Los Angeles and Palm Springs offices about whether same-sex marriage is available in x, y, or z country of the world. The legislature of New Zealand yesterday approved same-sex marriage. The measure must be given royal assent by the Queen's representative, the Governor-General. This assent is typically automatic, a formality.

The number of countries which now or are on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage is growing week by week. Pretty soon, it will cease to be news for me to post on this blog. However, please keep in mind that the United States' Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) STILL denies recognition of same-sex marriages for any US government benefits.

It is NOT YET the time to file a green card application (immigrant visa application) for your same-sex spouse.

If you have questions about US immigration and a nontraditional family or a same-sex couple, please do not hesitate to contact me. --jcf

April 16, 2013

Tell me! Tell me! Tell me!

dogs-hearing-by-Muffet.jpgYes, yes, yes. Some information about the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform was released today.

As an immigration lawyer with over 30 years of experience, my phones here in Los Angeles and in the Palm Springs office have been ringing off the hook. I already have over 100 emails from France and the UK. The message is always the same, "J Craig Fong, is there anything for me in the new immigration law?" Everyone wants to know the recently-released details for the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). Enough! Assez! ¡Basta!

FIRST: I am studying and thinking about the proposal now.

SECOND: There are NOT many details in the limited release of information. It is more of a set of goals and principles.

THIRD: The actual legislative language is NOT yet available, so I can't give you answers to specific issues.

FOURTH: I will send up a blog when I have a better idea of each set of provisions, but not right now, because I do not want to mislead anyone if I incorrectly analyse something which is so new and vague.

MOST IMPORTANT for you and for your friends: DO NOT RUSH OFF TO "REGISTER" WITH A NOTARIO!! Keep your money safe. At this time, there is NOTHING to register for. There is NO new program. There are NO immigration benefits available, because this is just a proposal. No one even knows whether this will pass through the Congress. Be patient. Let the details become clearer. Wait for President Obama to sign it into law. For now, just wait.

More later. --jcf