Articles Posted in General

fingers crossed.jpegPresident Obama’s executive order to provide relief to undocumented immigrants opens up a new opportunity for many who had no options. However, whenever the immigration laws change, it also creates a chance for unlicensed notaries public, unscrupulous “immigration advisors,” and others who see an opportunity to cheat hard-working people. In my offices in Pasadena and Palm Springs, I hear stories all the time about how a notary charged a fortune and did nothing. Even more disturbing, people in the C oachella Valley seeking visa and immigration service and assistance have told me of persons who have provided harmful, incorrect information.

In many of these cases, the agency or advisor may be “accredited” by the Board of Immigration Appeals, but in fact, the consultant’s lack of knowledge about immigration law is staggering. Several clients have come to me with cases that have been MADE WORSE.

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Fong & Aquino 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 ยง244(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.

rainbow rings.jpgIn my 30 years as an immigration lawyer in the gay and lesbian community, the question I am asked most is, “why can’t I bring my foreign partner to the USA? Straight people can get married and bring their spouses! We should have the same rights!” This question has resonated here in my offices in Los Angeles and in Palm Springs. I have been asked the question when I practiced in San Francisco and Chicago. I even get asked the question in Paris and London. The over-simplified answer is the word “marriage.”

Under the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the US gives US citizens a “benefit,” allowing the spouse of a US citizen to apply for a legal permanent resident card (LPR — otherwise called “the green card”). Until recently, same-sex marriage (SSM) was quite rare, so the US could hide behind the idea that LPR is only extended to someone married to a US citizen.

Then some enlightened countries began letting same-sex couples get married, and the US was faced with a dilemma: do we apply the law equally and allow these same-sex couples the same rights as other Americans, or do we try to stop them. The result was the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Nation of Imm.jpgFor over 10 years, immigrants and their families have come to Fong & Aquino and asked me about any possible changes to the immigration law that will help them. I hear, from clients in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and many other places that they need some change in the immigration law to allow them to stay in this country and pursue their dreams, work productively, be free from persecution, and most importantly, to be united with their families.

For the first time since 1990, a major change in the immigration law may be coming.

You probably already know that the US Congress has been deadlocked for over 4 years, with the members (mostly) of one political party refusing to cooperate with the White House. As a result, a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill has never been seriously discussed. With the results of the recent re-election of President Barack Obama, and (many) members of the Republican party realizing that it is in their best interest to help immigrants, CIR may be on its way. What will it do?

Changes Ahead2.jpgAfter practicing law together for almost one decade, Eileen Chun-Fruto and I have evolved into different forms of law practice. I will continue to practice immigration and nationality law, handle consultations, and do my blog here at my offices in Los Angeles and in Palm Springs. The firm name is now, “Fong & Aquino.” You can reach me, as before, at Tel: +1.323.769.8187 — this is the same phone number you have used in the past. My new e-mail address is: j@jfonglaw.com . My webpage is now: http://www.jfonglaw.com .

My practice will continue to focus on families, waivers, small business investors, intra-company transferees, and investor visas. Also, as I have been for all 30 years of my law work, I remain very devoted to counseling, advocating for, and working with non-traditional families.

Eileen Chun-Fruto now practices immigration law with a law firm in downtown Los Angeles. She can be reached at echun@fongandchun.com.

IRS.pngThe immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino in Los Angeles and in Palm Springs have been hearing that US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officers — the border guards at the airports and other ports of entry (POE) — have been asking arriving US citizens and residents about taxes owed to the IRS and the US Government.

CBP maintains a database called Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS). This lookout system is used for the screening of travelers at border inspection points and maintains data on people when some kind of enforcement action has been taken against or about that traveler. For example, if an traveler is sent to secondary screening, if a warrant for arrest has been issued, if there is a lookout posted for that traveler, or “where law enforcement or intelligence agencies have identified information or contexts that relate to a person.”

Apparently, TECS is now being used to identify taxpayers with unpaid tax assessments who are traveling to the USA. If you live outside the USA or spend a great deal of time outside the USA, and if the IRS has been unable to contact the you, and if you are subject to a filed Notice of Federal Tax Lien, you may be pulled aside at the airport or POE by CBP.

Starting April 13, 2012, visa processing fees will increase. The fees for most nonimmigrant visa applications and Border Crossing Cards will increase but we will see a decrease in all immigrant visa processing fees.

  • Petition-based visas: H, L, O, P, Q, R will increase from $150 to $190
  • Visitor, student, exchange visitor and journalist visas: B, F-1, J-1, M-1, I visas will increase from $140 to $160

Question Mark.jpgThe 2012 Republican presidential candidates have done nothing to speak clearly about immigration law and reform. Instead of speaking in clear, grown-up terms about immigration policy, they are using volatile language, demonizing immigrants. This does not advance any discussion; it is just pandering and solves nothing. This cheap talk from the Republican field is causing concern, dismay, and even panic for some of the clients of Fong & Aquino, in our offices in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and elsewhere.

In a recent article in the New York Times, candidate Mitt Romney has reportedly abandoned his usually anti-immigrant rhetoric. Why? Because he’s campaigning in Florida, where over 22% of the population is of Hispanic origin! So, what is his true position? And can he be relied on to stick to it?

Candidate Newt Gingrich is not much better, because although Gingrich has rightfully observed that the USA cannot simply deport all undocumented immigrants, he has proposed few concrete solutions.

Twitter.jpgFor 2012, the attorneys at the law offices of Fong & Aquino, have decided to make use of Twitter to notify interested followers of immigration news. Whether you are in the fast-lane of Los Angeles business or the laid-back Desert life in Palm Springs, rapid access to news in this field is important.

Getting “breaking news” on the complex, fast-moving issues surrounding immigration is vital, whether you are a family member who wants to sponsor a relative, an employer who hires immigrants, a spouse being sponsored by an American, an investor wanting an E-2 visa to open a business in the USA, an O-1 extraordinary ability actor who is seeking a big break in the Industry, or any other visa hopeful.

To be sure, immigration laws and regulations do not always change daily, so we will not be Tweeting daily. However, whenever there is an interesting development, we will raise the issue on on Twitter, as well as point you to blogs or articles for more information.

graduation.jpgOn 9 October 2011, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed the California Dream Act. This bill permits undocumented immigrants to attend California public university and community colleges, providing them access to state financial aid. Only three states in the USA permit undocumented immigrants to qualify for state financial aid for college: California, New Mexico, and Texas.

To qualify, students must graduate from a California high school, after having attended school in California for a minimum of three years. The student must also sign a declaration that they are in the process of adjusting or legalizing his/her immigration situation. It is not yet known what exactly students will be attesting to when they say they are “in the process” of legalizing.

Immigrants should be very clear: the California DREAM Act is for undocumented immigrant students wishing to go to university in this state. The California DREAM Act does NOT provide legal immigration status, does NOT make the student immune from removal or deportation, does NOT permit the student to work in the absence of an Employment Authorization Document from the US immigration authorities, and does NOT permit the student to travel out of the USA and to return.