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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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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The tidal wave of the first same-sex marriage (SSM) cases has passed, and I’d like to share some very brief observations. Fong & Aquino, 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.


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 §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.

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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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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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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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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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 (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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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.