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.

On July 11, 2017, two members of Congress — Brad Wenstrup and Trent Franks — introduced a private bill to grant lawful permanent resident status to Charlie Gard and his parents.   The purpose is to allow the family to pursue experimental treatments at a hospital in New York City for Charlie, who has a rare genetic condition which currently has no cure.  For those of you following this situation, this is the latest on Friday from CNN.

In the United States Congress, a private bill provides benefits to specific individuals, usually after “all administrative or legal remedies are exhausted.”  In order to become law, such a bill must be passed in identical form by BOTH the House of Representatives and the Senate and then signed by the President.  Given the difficulties of getting anything passed in Congress, this entire process may take months — months that Baby Charlie simply may not have.

Obtaining LPR status for Baby Charlie and his family is not the only option.  In fact, there is a faster way!  The U.S. government may grant humanitarian parole to individuals who have “urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons for the beneficiary to be in the United States.”  Surely, obtaining cutting-edge medical treatment inside the United States should qualify as an “urgent humanitarian” benefit.  And if expediency is an issue, it should not be difficult to coordinate high-level Executive branch officials at the Department of Homeland Security and at the Department of State to fast-track the parole request and facilitate the visa that would allow Baby Charlie’s family travel to the United States.

This week, the United States Supreme Court issued decisions in not one, but two (!!) immigration cases for the immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino LLP claire-anderson-60670-300x200to chat about.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Maslenjak case.  During oral arguments, the justices seemed extremely skeptical regarding the government’s position that ANY misrepresentation could lead to an individual being stripped of citizenship.  The justices — in a 9-0 smackdown — decided that the lie “must have somehow contributed to the obtaining of citizenship.”  The justices acknowledged that sometimes folks tell minor falsehoods out of “embarrassment, fear, or a desire for privacy.”  The Supreme Court left it to the lower courts to craft rules regarding the effects of lies in the naturalization process, but opined that adopting the government’s rule would give “prosecutors nearly limitless leverage — and afford newly naturalized Americans precious little security.”

In Lee v. United States, the Supreme Court overturned a conviction for an individual facing deportation.  Jae Lee, who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, was told by his criminal defense attorney that accepting a plea deal would not jeopardize his lawful permanent resident status.  Lee discovered that his attorney was “dead wrong” when the government immediately began removal proceedings.  This does not mean that Lee is in the clear: he will need to either negotiate a new plea deal, or go to trial.

This week, the Trump Administration summed up its policy on undocumented immigrants inside the United States as follows:  “We are coming after you!”  The immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino LLP have a response:  “What do we say to the four horsemen of deportation?  Not today.”

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At a Congressional hearing, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said “If you’re in this country illegally and you committed a crime by entering this country, you should be uncomfortable.  . . . You should look over your shoulder, and you need to be worried.”

As further evidence that the Administration seeks to make life more difficult for undocumented immigrants — even those who have lived in the country for many years and have children who are United States citizens, the Administration formally terminated the program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (or DAPA).  Although the program had been on hold due to a lawsuit, the Secretary of Homeland Security has rescinded the memorandum and will no longer seek its implementation.

StockSnap_VGRTZ3SVU1-183x300Not too long ago, the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino opined that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be seeking to arrest more people due to immigration violations.

Folks, this is no longer a remote possibility.  It is happening and with increasing frequency.  As noted in the article:

At the current rate, arrests under Trump are set to outpace the peak number made under Obama, according to the New York Times’ analysis published last week.

The immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino LLP have handled many applications for naturalization for our clients in the Los Angeles area as well as the Coachella Valley area.

I have always chuckled about Question # 22:  “Have you EVER committed, assisted in committing, or attempted to commit, a crime or offense for which you were not NOT arrested?”  Chewing gum in court?  Jaywalking in New York City?  As it turns out, this is not a trivial matter.

Just how far the government would be willing to go to take away someone’s citizenship if it later discovered that an individual had fibbed is a question that went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.   During recent oral arguments in Maslenjak v. United States, this exchange occurred between the government’s lawyer and the Chief Justice:

Within his first 100 days in office, President Trump has signed more executive orders than his three most recent predecessors.  For immigrants, the executive order that should cause the highest level of concern was signed on January 25, 2017 and titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”

alessio-lin-167186-300x200Under the previous administration, immigration enforcement was guided by the “Priority Enforcement Program” (PEP), which focused limited resources toward the apprehension and deportation of individuals with convictions involving violence or drugs, individuals who were a security threat, and individuals who had recently entered the United States.  The PEP allowed some discretion towards individuals who had lived in the United States for a long period of time, had extensive family ties, and who did not pose a threat to the community.

The PEP has since been rescinded.  Trump has delineated a new set of enforcement standards.  If one still has doubts about the administration’s plans to make life more difficult for immigrants, all one would need to do is take a look at the whiteboard behind Trump’s advisor Steve Bannon.   An expansive reading of the executive order suggests that all persons who have no legal status inside the United States are subject to deportation.  The executive order targets any individual who might “otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security” (even if not specifically mentioned in the executive order) to be detained by immigration officers.