product-image-727052017_1200x1200-300x300Lawyers are not psychic. It’s pretty hard to predict what the Trump Administration will do to change immigration law.  Any changes in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for 2020 must first be passed by both houses of the Congress and signed by the President.  The Trump Administration will find it difficult to make changes in the actual INA, because it is unlikely the House of Representatives will approve them.  

However, immigration lawyers can guess that there may be some changes in policy coming for US immigration law in 2020.  Trump will continue to promote policies that attempt to restrict immigration to the United States.  Further, he will implement rules to infringe on the rights of immigrants and to deny asylum seekers the right to seek refuge in this country.  Trump is even trying to make it more difficult for attorneys to do their jobs as advocates for immigrants.  

We remain concerned whether the courts will continue to strike down the most outrageous and unlawful practices and whether current nationwide injunctions protecting basic rights of immigrants will stay in place.  The courts have been a protective barrier from the worst, most inhumane, and illegal policies of this Administration.  Two important issues to watch are:

Today, we are going to talk about a new comedy on NBC called “Sunnyside”!  It stars Kal Penn (the tall guy from the Harold and Kumar movies) as Garrett Modi, a down-on-his-luck former city council member who is booted out of office.  Somehow, he is hired by a motley crew of immigrants to be their “citizenship test tutor.”

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Before we go any further, I know that some of you might be wondering about my qualifications to critique a show about immigrants in Sunnyside, Queens.  Well, I have watched “Coming to America” at least twenty times and 90% of that movie happens in Queens.  (Fun factoid:  Not only is Queens the largest of the five boroughs, it is also the most ethnically diverse.)  Also, when I first moved to New York City, I lived in Woodside, which is two stops away on the illustrious 7 line from Sunnyside.  (I lived near the 61st Street stop, which is an express station.  When I first moved in, I thought “This is great!  I will be in Manhattan in ten minutes!”  Then, during my first week of work, I learned that the express train was very full by the time it reached Woodside.  Which then forced me to discover the benefits of the local.  Like how my commute to work would take an extra 30 minutes.) 

ABOUT THAT CITIZENSHIP TEST

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designates certain foreign countries for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in extreme cases of war, natural disasters, and epidemics.  A country can be TPS designated for any type of disaster that could potentially prevent its citizens from returning, but the decision to assign TPS is cVenezuela-300x200ompletely at the discretion of the U.S. government. TPS allows certain citizens who are currently in the United States to stay because their countries have been deemed unsafe for return.  It does not, however, grant permanent legal residency in the United States. Under TPS, people can temporarily remain, live, and work in the United States until DHS ends the designated period.

Recently, using “fast track” congressional procedures, Congress considered but ultimately voted against extending TPS to Venezuelans, with the bill facing significant Republican opposition. Venezuela has been entrenched in an economic and humanitarian crisis that has since worsened under its current president, Nicolas Maduro. Many Venezuelans see Maduro’s rule as illegitimate because of an allegedly rigged election in May 2018 and have taken to the streets in protest.  Leading the opposition is politician Juan Guaido, who claims he is the rightful president of Venezuela.  The Trump administration has condemned Maduro and his socialist government and formally recognized Guaido as the only legitimate Venezuelan ruler, but the House Republican’s refusal to grant TPS tells a different story.  Republicans voiced concerns that if granted TPS, Venezuelans would be allowed to stay in the United States for years while relying solely on welfare programs (although there is no evidence to support this).  Condemning Maduro’s rule while refusing to grant Venezuelans TPS in the United States shows the Trump administration’s hypocritical stance towards Venezuela and ultimately reveals a persistent anti-immigrant sentiment.

TPS initially emerged in response to the ongoing civil war in El Salvador during the 1990’s (a war that pitted the communist guerrilla insurgents against the U.S. backed Salvadoran government).  El Salvador has been designated since 2001 because of various natural disasters, and Salvadorans now constitute the largest number of TPS beneficiaries living in the United States.  TPS recipients have been in the United States for over 10 years, an issue that Republicans fear will happen to Venezuelans granted TPS.

baby-archie-300x200It’s a boy!  HRH Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, the newborn son of Prince Harry Duke of Sussex and US-citizen HRH Lady Meghan Markle Duchess of Sussex, was born in the early morning of 6 May 2019.  (No, Master Archie is not (yet) a Prince; that style must be conferred on him by The Queen.)

In case anyone was wondering, the young Prince is a dual US-UK citizen.  He has UK citizenship from his UK father.  By §301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, US citizenship is transmitted to him automatically because he is the child, born in wedlock, between a US citizen (Lady Meghan) and a foreigner (Prince Harry).  The Lady Meghan may or may not be a UK citizen at this time, but that does not matter.  For purposes of transmission of citizenship, at the time of Master Archie’s birth, all that counts is that she is a native-born US citizenship who has lived most of her life in the USA.

Master Archie will have a US passport — issued by the US Embassy in London.  He will not need a green card or a visa to enter the USA.

kumar-and-weed-300x166I was having lunch with a former client who had flown in and out of LAX the other day.  We were celebrating that after a long journey involving his moving from California to Washington, the government had granted his application for lawful permanent residence.  Knowing that California had legalized the recreational use of marijuana, he mentioned that he was surprised that he didn’t see any “amnesty boxes” at the airport.

As of November 2018, 10 states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and 33 states allow the use of medical marijuana.  However, federal immigration law has not changed:  marijuana is still a “controlled substance.”  And the consequences can be severe.

Canadians who have admitted to taking a puff in the past or who are involved in the cannabis industry can be turned away at the border and possibly banned from future travel into the United States.  CBP officers have stated:  “Anytime somebody plans on entering the United States to involve themselves in the distribution, proliferation, possession of any form of marijuana, that could lead to them being found inadmissible.”  

IMG-2235-e1542224158367-225x300In my third year of law school, I had a small bit part in a talent show skit that parodied the lyrics of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”  The gist of the skit was that Professor Lucy Williams’s Federal Courts course was the most difficult class on the schedule.  So brutally rigorous that it reduced the 2L and 3L students into feeling “like a first year.”

Why this trip into Romben’s law school past?  Although the course had a textbook, the not-so-secret-supplemental-hornbook-that-you-had-to-read-if-you-wanted-any-chance-of-passing was “Federal Jurisdiction” written by one Professor Erwin Chemerinsky . . . who is now Dean Chemerinsky at UC Berkeley School of Law.

Dean Chemerinsky recently wrote an op-ed praising now-former Attorney General Jefferson Sessions’ upholding the rule of law by recusing himself from the Mueller investigation and allowing it to continue. 

fashion-person-woman-hand-300x200Starting October 1, 2017, USCIS has indicated that it would be start requiring in-person interviews for individuals seeking lawful permanent resident status who have been petitioned by their employers.  According to a USCIS spokesperson, there will be additional visa categories that will also require interviews in order to “further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and security risks to the United States.”

In the view of one attorney, “The immigration service [previously] realized that most of the time it was a colossal waste of everyone’s time.”  As a result, USCIS had agreed to waive many of these interviews.  Such waivers will no longer be granted.

Based upon an anecdotal, informal survey of Fong & Aquino clients, a marriage-based “green card” case in the Los Angeles area can be expected to be completed within 6-8 months of filing. Tasking the same number of USCIS interviewing officers to now conduct additional interviews on top of the existing caseload is a sure recipe for longer adjudications.

waiting-300x207Clients at Fong & Aquino offices at both our Pasadena and Palm Springs offices have been asking whether the Trump administration has done anything to change the Priority Date system that creates the sometimes very long wait times before visas can be processed — for immediate relatives, C-visa holders, or priority system immigrants.  The short answer is “the Trump administration has made no changes so far.”

So: if you petition your relatives, how long will you have to wait before your relatives come to the USA?

Strangely enough, this is one of the MOST DIFFICULT things to ask an immigration lawyer.  The movement of dates for the Visa Bulletin is vastly and famously difficult to predict. That is because (a) the number of visas available, (b) the number of visa permitted to each country of the world,  (c) the number of visas taken up by each petition, and (d) the time of year make guessing a very dicey business.

Many people call the Coachella Valley immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino LLP in a panic because their green cards are about to expire and they are concerned that the card’s expiration will subject them to deportation by the Trump administration.

A common misconception is that when a green card expires, that person’s protections as a lawful permanent resident also expire. The benefits of having a green card (such as being able to return to the United States after brief periods of international travel, and having current proof of the ability to work) may terminate when a card expires. However, one does not simply lose the status of being a lawful permanent resident when the card expires.

For those who would like to obtain a new green card, fret not! The process is rather easy and can be done online here.   Shortly after the application is filed, USCIS will issue a biometrics appointment and you will need to appear in order to have your fingerprints taken.

Just recently, at the immigration panel sponsored by the Philippine American Bar Association and the Southwest19983783_10156399026806040_2359524460906285725_o-300x300ern Law School Asian Pacific American Law Student Association.

YOU:  Audience member listening with rapt attention to the four excellent speakers gathered for the event.

ME:  The speaker who had the unfortunate task of informing everyone that under President Trump’s new enforcement directives, just about every non-US-citizen inside the United States faces the risk of being deemed a “risk to public safety or national security” at the sole discretion of an immigration enforcement officer.