Articles Posted in Removal and Inadmissibility

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.

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.

Alt Route Waver.jpgOver many years, Fong & Aquino has counseled many immigrants who have come to the USA without passport or visa, or who have come legally but overstayed. In many of these case, it has not been possible to process the paperwork for an immigrant visa (the green card) without first having the immigrant depart the USA to go back to the US Embassy in the home country for an interview. In some cases, this means that the immigrant must file an I-601 Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility at the US Embassy and wait months for a decision. And if the I-601 is denied, the immigrant cannot be reunited with family in the USA for 3 or 10 years!

For this reason, many green-card eligible applicants are afraid to leave the USA for their interview; they are afraid that if their I-601 waiver is denied, they will not be able to return to their families for 10 years. The risk of NOT being granted the waiver is too great, so they have avoided legalizing altogether.

Until now.

In early January 2013, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a new procedure. This new procedure — called the I-601A Provisional Waiver — still requires the immigrant-applicant to apply for the waiver, to seek a pardon for coming to the USA without papers, or for overstaying. However, this request for a waiver can now be filed before departure from the USA and before going to the interview at the American Embassy. In this way, the immigrant-applicant will know provisionally whether they will be able to return quickly after their Embassy interview or not — before leaving the USA.
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papers.jpgAt our offices in Los Angeles and in Palm Springs, the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino have been receiving hundreds of phone calls about the President’s recently-announced initiative to provide Deferred Action to certain undocumented young people, providing them with work permits (Employment Authorization Documents – EAD).

On 15 June 2012, President Obama announced that he was directing US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to provide EADs to undocumented young people who meet certain qualifications. A successful applicant must show that s/he:

* arrived in the USA before age 16;

Thumbnail image for rainbow_flag.gifThe immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino — with clients from the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs, to Southern California and Los Angeles, and throughout the world — have been closely watching the implementation of the prosecutorial discretion policy as it affects gay men, lesbians, and persons in nontraditional family relationships.

As readers of this blog may recall, in the latter half of 2011, the Obama administration instructed its enforcers of the immigration laws (also known as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch of the Department of Homeland Security) to consider exercising its discretion to dismiss “low priority” deportation and removal cases. The “Morton Memo” indicated that the following criteria may be viewed as positive factors:

Circumstances of arrival – especially if the person came to the US as a child Pursuit of education – if they have graduated from high school in the United States and/or are pursuing higher education U.S. Military service Ties to the U.S., including family relationships Pregnant or nursing women Age, especially for minors and the elderly If the person is a primary caretaker of another person with a severe illness or disability Persons who are likely to be granted temporary or permanent status because they are an asylum seeker, victim of domestic violence, human trafficking, or other crime

Matches.jpgThe recent Los Angeles arson situation brings to mind many people who have consulted the attorneys at Fong & Aquino in our Los Angeles and Palm Springs offices. They have a valid visa or legal permanent residence (green card), and they have been convicted of a crime. Sometimes it is a serious crime; sometimes it is something minor. In some of these cases, the conviction has virtually unfixable immigration consequences.

In 1990, Congress created the concept of “aggravated felonies,” crimes that are considered so bad that an alien might not even qualify for the typical defenses to deportation (removal), such as asylum, cancellation of removal, or withholding of removal. In other words, the Congress has simply decided that someone who has committed an “aggravated felony” should just be deported (removed) regardless of the defenses s/he might try to use.

The name “aggrevated felony” is misleading. “Aggravated felony” includes such obviously serious crimes as murder, rape, or arson; we can all agree that these crimes are quite serious. However, “aggravated felony” can also include some less- obviously terrible crimes, such as attempted possession of stolen property, attempted robbery, petty theft, trespass, unauthorized use of a vehicle. Even if a crime was charged as a misdemeanor in the legal system, it can still be considered an “aggravated felony” for immigration purposes.

Green apple standing out.jpgToday the world mourns Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was the creator and visionary at Apple, Inc. but he is remembered as one of the world’s greatest business leaders, ranking up there with the likes of Ford and Rockefeller. Steve Jobs was credited for bringing technology and it’s benefits to the every day lives of every day people. The attorneys at Fong & Aquino want to thank Steve Jobs for changing how we think about technology, for inspiring us to think creatively in what we do as immigration attorneys.

Fong & Aquino is proud to run our office on Apple technology. We love our Apple computers, iPhones and iPads. But more importantly, the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino have also embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and determination which is best exemplified by Steve Job’s own words:

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

Thumbprint.jpgLos Angeles-based immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino have received a recent string of consultations from the Palm Springs and Inland Empire area involving the immigration consequences of drug convictions.

One individual is a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) who was convicted in 2000 for possession of drug paraphernalia. The conviction did not come to the government’s attention until the gentleman returned from a vacation abroad and he re-entered the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has placed him into removal proceedings, charging that he had been convicted of a controlled substance offense.

Another man recently walked in with a Notice to Appear in which the DHS alleged that he entered the United States in 1965. “That’s wonderful!”, I thought, “I’ve got one of the few people in America that is eligible for registry.” My excitement waned when I discovered that the man had a conviction for possession of drugs in the 1980s.

Bridge Cables.jpgImmigration lawyers at Los Angeles’ Fong & Aquino have learned that, in view of the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the related devastation, clean-up, possible radiation concerns, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has temporarily suspended removal of Japanese citizens who may have been ordered deported.

It is expected that ICE will be deporting Japanese nationals again, as soon as conditions in Japan stabilize. Should you have questions about this, or any other immigration or nationality law concern, please do not hesitate to contact us. –jcf