Articles Posted in Filing Applications & Petitions

The people that make up the United States have been compared to a melting pot, a salad bowl, and a quilt.  Whichever analogy you prefer, the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino have always believed that immigrants are a vital part of this society.  Immigrants may be found at all levels of the socio-economic ladder and within each of the fifty states.

We believe that immigrants should fully participate as part of the voting electorate and the body politic.  Immigrants can bring their wide breadth of experiences to bear while serving on juries of their peers.  And immigrants who have lived in this country for many years should participate in determining the direction of the country through the ballot box.  And as these privileges are only available to United States citizens, the first step to making this happen is to encourage the naturalization of as many eligible immigrants as possible.IMG_4761-300x225

The lawyers at Fong & Aquino have historically provided free services in this endeavor.  We have volunteered at immigration clinics.  We have partnered with local organizations to provide seminars on naturalization.  We want to do our part to encourage as many immigrants to naturalize and become full members of the American community.  From here on out, we pledge that for straightforward applications, our legal fees to prepare the application and to have an attorney attend the interview in the Los Angeles metropolitan area will  be significantly reduced.  (While we can also assist many folks who are farther away, we will need to assess costs for travel and accommodations.)

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.

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.

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.

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:

 

Photograph of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security logo.

The law office of Fong & Aquino has noticed that many Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals are taking a very long time.  Cases in Pasadena, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs are taking over six months.  We have had no official explanation for this delay.  US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is also very slow to schedule the Biometrics appointment.

If your DACA Employment Authorization Document (EAD) needs to be renewed, please contact your attorney to begin the DACA renewal process as soon as possible.  –jcf

Business tricks

Business tricks

Over many years of practicing immigration and nationality law, the attorneys at Fong & Aquino have met all kinds of immigration officers and border guards.  These are unique individuals who receive government training to get at and spot what they believe to be the truth.  They are trained to use certain techniques in their interrogations.  Clients at both our Pasadena and Palm Springs offices have asked us about some of these tactics. Even tourist visa and C-visa holders have been interrogated this way.

Make an accusation.  I have often heard clients say that the border guard just barked out, “we know you’re lying!”  They know no such thing.  Border guards love to use this one.  First of all, it insults you, because they are calling you a liar.  Second, it makes you angry, and if you are angry, your judgment is often compromised.  If you are telling the truth — and of course, you should never lie to any government official — then control your anger, look the officer straight in the eye, and say, “I am sorry you feel that way officer, but I am telling you the truth.”  Don’t let them trap you into saying that you are lying.

nextArrow.pngAfter the historic 2013 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in US v. Windsor (570 US ___ ), many same-sex couples got married. This enabled a US citizen to petition successfully for a foreign spouse and for that spouse to get Legal Permanent Resident status, the so-called “green card.” Our offices in Hollywood, Pasadena, and Palm Springs has handled many, many of these cases, all successfully.

To ensure that green cards are not obtained through false marriages, the Immigration Marriage Fraud Act (IMFA) requires a couple to file Form I-751 Petition to Remove Condition on Residence if the couple was married for less than two years on the day the green card was granted.

green-card_frontonly-300x189.jpgIf you received your green card within the last two years based on marriage to a US citizen or green card holder, and if you wish check to see whether you are required to file the I-751, look at your green card. Under “Category,” if you see CR or CR-1 or CR-6 — if the two letters are CR, then you must file the I-751 before your green card expires. If you see CR-1 or CR-6 and your green card has already expired, seek legal assistance immediately.

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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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Obama PrezOrder.jpegWith President Obama’s announcement of executive action on immigration issues, the phone has been ringing constantly at both the Pasadena and Palm Springs offices. Fong & Aquino has fielded over 50 telephone inquiries this morning alone.

Although the President announced the executive action yesterday, immigration lawyers are still studying the EXACT requirements and details of the presidential order. It is a very complex, wide-ranging set of orders. I will be posting more information in the coming days.

This is a hopeful development, but it is new. DO NOT try to travel outside the USA at this time. CHECK WITH AN ATTORNEY before filing any papers with the immigration authorities. Remember that many unlicensed paralegals will try to encourage you to sign up with them: PLEASE BE CAREFUL. If you have any questions about your eligibility, or if you’re interested in applying for a benefit under the executive order, please contact a competent immigration attorney.

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