As an immigration attorney, I try to provide clients with a basic, yet insightful, understanding of various aspects of a complex immigration system. It’s not always easy, but I often find analogies to something commonplace can be helpful. One analogy I’ve found to work well to explain the green card process beyond describing its mere sequence of form filings likens the process to a visit to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.
In my practice area of business immigration law, green card processes are mostly employment-based and involve the successive filing of a labor certification application, immigrant petition, and adjustment of status application (with the first not always required and the latter two sometimes eligible for concurrent filing). So I’ll refer to these types of filings in describing the analogy here. But variations of the analogy may be equally applicable to other types of green card processes, such as those in which the aspiring permanent resident will apply for an immigrant visa overseas rather than adjustment of status within the United States, as well as those based on family relationships and those available to asylees and refugees.
The trappings of a visit to the DMV, no matter the state, may be familiar to you: the issuance of a waiting number determining your place in a queue, followed by a long wait for your number to be called at one of several counters to file required paperwork, followed yet again by a lengthy wait for your paperwork to be processed, and eventually – hopefully – approved without issue. The counter at which you’ll be called, and the length of the corresponding queue (or maybe in some fortunate instances, the absence of one altogether), often depends on specific factors, such as the type of service you’re seeking.
Just as you’re issued a waiting number upon entry into a DMV office, aspiring permanent residents are issued a priority date when the first major filing in their green card process (either the labor certification application or immigrant petition) is submitted. The priority date is the date this first filing is submitted and determines, once the immigrant petition is approved, the aspiring permanent resident’s place in any existing queue to apply for adjustment of status.
Similar to how you wait at the DMV for your number to be called to file your paperwork at the appropriate counter, aspiring permanent residents face varying wait times for their priority date to be “called” at a designated “counter” to apply for adjustment of status. The “counter” in the green card process at which aspiring permanent residents must apply for adjustment of status is based on a combination of two main factors: their immigrant classification (which, when speaking with clients, I refer to as their “green card category”) and their country of chargeability (which I refer to as their country of birth). Aside from some significant exceptions outside of the employment-based green card process, the law limits the supply of green cards available each fiscal year. Because the law allocates this limited supply based on a combination of both immigrant classification and country of chargeability, queues form at “counters” where the demand for green cards exceeds the available supply. And the more severely demand exceeds supply, the longer the queue will be. This analogy helps to show why EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in India and China are often confronted with waits lasting many years for their priority date to be “called” at their designated counters, while EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in most other countries often face no such queue. In technical terms, the existence of a queue at a given “counter” means the availability of green cards associated with that counter’s classification and chargeability combination is “retrogressed.” If there’s no queue, green card availability at that counter is “current.”
A visit to the DMV often entails a wait of several hours sitting and keeping watch of your designated counter at it serves the visitors who arrived before you until your own number is finally called. Likewise, many aspiring permanent residents monitor the often plodding, month-to-month movement of “cut-off dates” in the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ monthly Visa Bulletins for the designated “counter” at which they must apply for adjustment of status. The Visa Bulletin for a given month contains various charts showing whether a queue for filing an adjustment of status application exists for any classification and chargeability combination, and if so, how long the queue is. Combinations for which there is no queue are assigned a “C” notation, indicating that green card availability is current and that the adjustment of status application can thus be filed at any time that month, including in concurrence with an immigrant petition if it has not already been approved, and assuming any prerequisite labor certification has been granted. Combinations for which there is a queue, and for which green card availability is thus retrogressed, are denoted by a “cut-off date,” with older dates reflecting longer queues. Aspiring permanent residents seeking to adjust status at a “counter” at which green card availability is retrogressed can track their place in the queue by comparing their priority date with the applicable cut-off date each month. Priority dates that fall before the applicable cut-off date in a given month are those that have been “called,” indicating that much like counters at which green card availability is current, an adjustment of status application can be filed at any time that month, including in concurrence with an immigrant petition if it has not already been approved, and assuming again that any prerequisite labor certification has been granted.
Like processing of paperwork filed at a counter at the DMV, processing of an adjustment of status application may take a long time. But eventually – hopefully – the application is approved without issue. And unlike a visit to the DMV, having qualified counsel during the green card process can make all the difference in one’s chance of success.
 For example, “immediate relatives” (spouses and children of US citizens, and parents of US citizens if the citizen is at least 21 years old) are exempt from annual numerical limits on green card availability. INA 201(b)(2)(A)(i).
 Aspiring permanent residents for whom the queue for applying for adjustment of status involves a wait of several years, such as EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in India and China, commonly change jobs or employers in the course of their wait. Such a change can require a restart of the green card process since employment-based green card processes are generally job and employer specific. But to allow aspiring permanents residents who change jobs or employers to keep their place in queue, the law permits them to retain their priority date under certain conditions if they are the beneficiary of a previously approved EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant petition, and likewise become the beneficiary of an approved EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant petition based on their new job or employer. 8 CFR 204.5(e).
 US Citizenship and Immigration Service also publishes monthly updates indicating whether to use the Visa Bulletin’s Dates for Filing charts or its Final Action Dates charts, to determine whether an adjustment of status application may be filed.
A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit Tuesday overturned a ban prohibiting US immigration authorities from arresting undocumented immigrants at courthouses in Massachusetts.
In 2018, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) formalized a policy of attempting to arrest undocumented immigrants when they appeared at state courthouses for judicial proceedings. Two Massachusetts district attorneys, the public defender’s office and a non-profit immigrant advocacy organization filed a lawsuit against ICE and asked for a preliminary injunction against the practice. They claimed that ICE was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and lacked authority to make civil arrests at courts. The district court agreed, and granted an injunction last year.
At issue is a claim that the INA implicitly incorporates a common law privilege that protects those attending court from being subject to civil arrest. While nothing in the text of the INA prohibits these types of courthouse arrests, the plaintiffs argued that the law must be read in light of the nonderogation canon, a method of statutory construction that holds that courts must assume Congress is aware of long-standing common law principles and, absent express language to the contrary, intends to keep them.
Judge Bruce Selya wrote Tuesday that “the nonderogation canon does not give courts carte blanche to read a grab bag of common law rules into federal statutes simply to effectuate what those courts may perceive as good policy.” The circuit court held that the nonderogation canon applies if the facts of the common law rule and the statute in question are sufficiently analogous. The common law prohibited civil arrests at court by private litigants, while here the arrests are being carried out by a government agency. The panel vacated the preliminary injunction and remanded the matter back to the district court.
Rachael Rollins, district attorney for Suffolk County and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement that “this fight is far from over” and that the plaintiffs “are absolutely on the right side of justice here.”
The Trump Administration is seeking to expand biometric data collection for those seeking U.S. citizenship. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed the administration’s plan through the publication of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on September 1.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently requires biometric data such as fingerprints, photographs and signatures from anyone over the age of 14 who applies for certain immigration benefits like a green card or work permit. This rule change would require many other visa-holders to provide biometrics as well. It would also expand the type of data collected to include DNA, eye scans, voice prints and photographs for facial recognition. The government would be allowed to request such biometrics at any point up until the individual is granted citizenship.
The notice is a move towards “modernizing” the biometrics collection process. By proposing a standard for the collection, DHS eliminates any ambiguity while improving the screening and vetting process by moving away from the dependence on paper documentation. Additionally, such tools will improve accuracy and efficiency as eye scans and facial recognition are fast, accurate ways to confirm the identity of an applicant that don’t require physical contact.
By collecting such data, the Department also greatly improves security, guarding the process, and to a greater extent, the American people, from identity theft and fraud. The proposed rule would allow DHS to collect genetic data from immigrants entering via chain migration when they are unable to provide “sufficient documentary evidence” to support the claimed relationship.
DNA would be collected from the applicant and the sponsor in order to establish family units. This would be especially helpful in cases where an illegal alien is apprehended and they claim to be related to a child that is with them. Through the proof of genetic evidence, DHS can ensure a “bona fide genetic relationship” between the adult and child, thus safeguarding the child from potential harm if the claimed relationship is fraudulent.
Biometrics would also prove to be extremely beneficial in screening out known criminals from entering. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) notes the misspelling or inaccurate reporting of names is an ongoing issue. The 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks had “over 300 spellings of their names.” Similarly, the name of the Boston Marathon bomber was spelled differently on a flight manifest – information that would have provided the FBI with important leads regarding his ties to terrorism. Biometric information can be checked against international databases when biographic information is faulty. You can change your name, or the spelling of your name, but changing biometric information is not so easily accomplished.
Finally, a modernized and efficient biometrics system would aid the DHS and USCIS in accurately tracking the entry and exit of visa holders and travelers. Entry and exit biometrics are required by law under 8 U.S. Code § 1365b, however, Congress has not taken the necessary steps to actually implement and enforce this measure.
It is estimated that half of the illegal immigrant population is a result of visa overstays. And while visa overstays are reported annually, the DHS admits to an inability to be able to calculate the totals accurately due to insufficient technology. Biographic information alone, such as passport numbers or names, are not sufficient ways to confirm identity and biological relationship.
The U.S. has several procedures to gather biometrics upon entry, and in FY 2019, new exit tests enabled continued progress toward the biometric and biographic verification of travelers. However, with such high numbers of immigration and tourism, the U.S. struggles to maintain order and prevent visa overstays. A system which integrates biometric and biographic data would improve Customs and Border Patrol’s ability to accurately capture and report immigration data.
This wooing is carried out with cynicism and fueled by the political ambitions of all concerned. Republicans and Democrats alike seem to rediscover us every four years, then forget about us until the next election. It’s such an open and flagrant display of opportunism that some people have called it the Christopher Columbus syndrome.
Historically, Latinos are more likely to vote for Democrats than for Republicans. According to a survey published by Latino Decisions in August, 66 percent of those registered to vote lean toward Joe Biden this year, compared to 24 percent who favor President Trump. If Mr. Trump can’t attract more Latino voters, he is likely to lose the election.
Given the growing number of Latino voters, the courting process has also become more sophisticated. Years ago, a candidate need only toss out a few words in Spanish — Ronald Reagan said little more than “Muchas gracias” in his speech proclaiming National Hispanic Heritage Week, just weeks before the 1984 election — but today specific promises are required, like the one made by Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign to introduce comprehensive immigration reform in Congress — a promise he did not keep.
But regardless of who wins on Nov. 3, Latinos will shape the future.
In 2020, the ritual is in full effect. President Trump boasted about the record low unemployment rates among Latinos before the pandemic. And a naturalization ceremony at the White House was featured during the Republican National Convention, showcasing Mr. Trump’s alleged commitment to America’s newcomers.
This stands in sharp contrast with his administration’s actions: constant attacks on immigrants; separating more than 5,000 children from their parents at the Mexican border, even detaining some in cages; and trying to end protections for the 700,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients.
More recently Mr. Trump has taken to calling immigrants murderers and rapists again. No wonder one of those newly sworn-in Americans who attended the White House ceremony, Robert Ramírez, originally from Bolivia, wasn’t willing to say he would vote for Mr. Trump. “I will vote,” he told Univision, “but my vote is private.”
Democrats are also good at making promises, and lots of them. Their nominee has pledged something millions of Latino immigrants have been waiting decades for. “This is my promise to you,” Mr. Biden posted on Twitter. “On Day 1, I’ll send a bill to Congress that creates a clear road map to citizenship for Dreamers and 11 million undocumented people who are already strengthening our nation. It’s long overdue.”
Yet when Mr. Biden was serving as vice president, the Obama administration not only failed to offer comprehensive immigration reform, it deported over three million undocumented citizens. Mr. Biden’s promise is fundamental to making right that mistake and winning back the trust of the Latino community. Even so, those who think Democrats take Latino votes for granted remain wary, which could hurt turnout for Mr. Biden.
This year, a projected 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote, making them the largest racial or ethnic minority ever to participate in a presidential election. And for the first time, Latinos will outnumber Black voters, according to the Pew Research Center.
The power of Latino voters is evident in states such as Florida and Arizona. Had the Latino turnout been higher in those states in 2016, Mr. Trump might not be president. But over half of all Latinos eligible to vote didn’t do so, and consequently history was written in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Despite the racist insults he hurled at Mexican immigrants during his last campaign (“They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They’re rapists.”) Mr. Trump won 28 percent of the Latino vote. Though not even close to the 66 percent that voted for Hillary Clinton, it was enough to win him the election. Clearly, even insults couldn’t convince that small slice of the Latino electorate that Mr. Trump, who promised economic opportunity, a wall and a crackdown on dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela, was unfit for office.
I myself have surfed the great Latino wave. When I arrived in the United States in the early 1980s, fewer than 15 million Latinos lived in this country; now we number more than 60 million. And in less than three decades we will be at 100 million, according to estimates.
These numbers mean no candidate will be able to achieve power in the United States without Latino support. Karl Rove, chief adviser to President George W. Bush, understood this perfectly. In 2004, Mr. Bush won 44 percent of the Latino vote, more than any other Republican presidential candidate ever. It was the first time Republicans tried to divide the Latino vote and prove the phrase attributed to Ronald Reagan: “Latinos are Republican. They just don’t know it yet.”
But instead of continuing their efforts to court Latino voters, Republicans turned their backs. As a candidate in 2016, Mr. Trump announced he would build his wall at the border, and that Mexico would pay for it. This is not how to win the hearts of Latinos.
The Latino vote is increasingly powerful, diverse and sophisticated. And in exchange for that vote, which can make or break a president, the Latino community expects concrete benefits. A few words in Spanish and a few empty promises are no longer enough.
At the end of the day, more than expecting Democrats and Republicans to pay attention to the major issues that concern Hispanics — jobs, education for their children, health insurance, immigration — it’s about having more political representation so that no one has to speak for us. We are more than 18 percent of the population and yet there are only four Latino senators.
The reality in United States politics today is that we have the power to open or close the doors to the White House. When it comes to Latino voters, this is the new meaning of that old campaign ritual.
Jorge Ramos (@jorgeramosnews) is an anchor for the Univision network, a contributing opinion writer and the author of, most recently, “Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.”
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A Black former U.S. diplomat recently shared her experience of months of racial profiling by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials while she was stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. She was tasked with enforcing U.S. immigration law, but nevertheless found herself racially profiled and discriminated against by U.S. immigration authorities.
The problem became so severe that she now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and had to quit her job. Unfortunately, this is just one example of immigration officials’ long history of racism at the border.
CBP Racially Profiles a U.S. Diplomat
In 2018, Tianna Spears was a new diplomat stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. She frequently crossed the border into El Paso, Texas, as thousands of other U.S. citizens do every day. However, she soon found that she was treated differently than others by CBP officers at the border.
Spears estimates that CBP officers required her to go through “secondary inspection” approximately two out of every three times that she crossed. This outcome should have been extremely rare given her diplomatic passport and SENTRI card allowing for expedited clearance. Her non-Black colleagues never had similar experiences.
Spears repeatedly raised the issue to CBP and her consulate supervisors, but the situation only worsened. She reports that CBP officers sometimes did not believe she was a diplomat and accused her of stealing her car. Their questioning was aggressive and threatening.
The mental health effects of the harassment eventually forced her to leave her job and return to the United States.
CBP Has a Long History of Racism
There is a long and documented history of immigration officials engaging in racial profiling and harassment at ports of entry.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Mexican citizens crossing into El Paso had to undergo a delousing process. CBP officials stripped them, shaved their heads, and forced them to take a bath in gasoline. This discriminatory process was based on a stereotype that Mexicans were dirty and diseased.
Much more recently, the Office of the Inspector General found that CBP improperly retaliated against one of their officers that reported misconduct he observed within the agency. The officer stated that CBP was disproportionately targeting Black drivers for further inspection at the ports of entry between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Canada.
But CBP’s history of racial profiling is not limited to people crossing the border. The agency also has the power to stop and question people within 100 miles of borders or coastlines. Approximately two-thirds of Americans live within this area, which is sometimes called the Constitution-free zone.
Border Patrol Targets People Who “Look Mexican”
CBP’s activities within the border zone are performed by one of its component agencies, the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol has targeted border residents appearing to be of Mexican descent for almost 100 years. Throughout that time, people going about their daily lives near the border have been racially profiled, stopped, and interrogated—regardless of U.S. citizenship or immigration status.
In 1975, the Supreme Court ruled that “Mexican appearance” could not be the sole reason a roving Border Patrol officer stopped someone. It could, however, be a “relevant factor” in deciding whether to do so.
The Border Patrol runs permanent and temporary checkpoints on roads leading away from the border. A 2015 American Civil Liberties Union report Guilty Until Proven Innocent revealed that CBP officers working at checkpoints racially profiled and even interfered with the medical care of border residents.
Residents of Arivaca, Arizona conducted observations of the checkpoint at the entrance to their community. Latino-occupied vehicles were more than 26 times more likely to be required to show identification while passing through the checkpoint.
In 2014, the Department of Justice modified its guidance on officers discriminating based on race or ethnicity. Previous loopholes gave law enforcement permission to discriminate. However, other loopholes remain, including some for CBP activities at or near the border.
Stories like that of U.S. diplomat Spears serve as examples of the historical and institutional racism within CBP and the U.S. immigration system more broadly. We need increased transparency and oversight to force cultural changes within CBP. These significant changes are necessary to prevent further injustices and ensure the Constitution applies equally to all people.
If you feel our asylum laws have been gutted, that our nation’s protections for those fleeing persecution and violence have been systematically dismantled, and that the administration is using the façade of health concerns during a pandemic to make it worse, you are not alone.
You are not alone in your dread of the next case certified to the Attorney General, the next BIA published decision, the next proposed rule, the next executive order, the next policy change…and the ensuing scramble to understand how it impacts your clients who have been waiting in the backlog for months or years. You are not alone in feeling like you just can’t keep up with it all.
You are not alone in the justified outrage at how children and families have been treated by the administration. You are not alone in feeling ashamed by the way this country now treats those seeking protection at our borders.
You are not alone in feeling like every immigration court hearing is like pushing back against an ocean of injustice; there is no due process, no fundamental fairness for asylum seekers anymore.
You are not alone in sometimes, perhaps even often, feeling hopeless.
But, you are not alone. There are thousands of others working on these issues, fighting for what’s right. We are a regiment of seasoned asylum practitioners who know the ins and outs of this complex area of law and how to practice it effectively. We are the newcomers to asylum law who may feel uncertain but who know deep in our souls that fighting these battles is what we are called to do. We are the lawyers who take on pro bono asylum cases even when that requires preparing witnesses for their testimony while simultaneously entertaining our toddlers because our offices are now our dining room tables.
We are in this together, and that is what makes me feel inspired and determined, rather than hopeless.
Serving as chair of the upcoming AILA Virtual Asylum Conference and planning the program is one way that I’ve been reminded that we’re not alone, that we are part of a community of talented, passionate attorneys still fighting to keep asylum alive. Join me as we lay out the sweeping policy changes to the U.S. asylum system and the ever higher hurdles for asylum seekers and their advocates that the administration has implemented. Join me as we work through where litigation and advocacy efforts to combat the administration’s changes stand. Join me in fighting for asylum seekers in this country (and supporting each other in those efforts!). I promise you that you will leave this virtual conference with a solid understanding of where things stand and what that means for your clients, as well as expert guidance on new strategies to employ at the border and in the immigration courts as we continue to fight for asylum seekers and the soul of our nation.
I know this is a tough fight to keep up. I know you feel tired. But we can lift each other up, help each other succeed, and save our clients’ lives.
“The machete of memory cuts swiftly or slowly,” Roberto Lovato writes at the beginning of his groundbreaking memoir, “Unforgetting.” It “makes us hack at ourselves,” it “chops up our families” and it “severs any understanding that epic history is a stitching together of intimate histories.”
Fittingly, at the tender heart of this book is a treadle sewing machine used by his grandmother, Mamá Tey, to support the family in El Salvador and, later, San Francisco. At the dark heart of this book is a family secret fiercely kept by his father, having to do with the genocidal aftermath of an uprising in El Salvador in 1932. This massacre, called La Matanza (the slaughter), so traumatized the “tiny country of titanic sorrows” that today, according to Lovato, it is unknown to most Salvadorans, repressed during five decades of military dictatorship. A second uprising, beginning in 1980, led to 12 years of civil war between the Salvadoran military, supported by the United States, and the armed forces of the opposition. The war displaced more than one million Salvadorans, with half taking refuge in the United States. After the war, social and economic reforms promised during peace negotiations were abandoned, and until 2016 amnesty laws protected the perpetrators of war crimes, the majority committed by the military. Civilians, and combatants from both sides of the conflict, struggled to survive in a deteriorating postwar environment.
In the United States, young Salvadoran war refugees defended themselves from urban street gangs by forming gangs themselves, and when the government expeditiously deported them, gang life became a U.S. export, seeding criminal enterprises such as narco-trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and money laundering. In the absence of serious economic development and domestic security, Salvadoran parents despaired of keeping their children fed and safe, and sent them north, until whole families were fleeing on foot to the U.S. border. These families are often referred to as “migrants,” but in truth, they are the most recent refugees of the war and its aftermath, victims of a conflict that could not have been prosecuted without the support of the United States, the country that is now refusing to grant the vast majority of them asylum.
“Where most see the refugee crisis as ‘new,’” Lovato writes, “I see the longue durée of history and memory. Where many see the story beginning at the border, I see the time-space continuum of violence, migration and forgetting. … Where others see mine as a Central American story, I see it as a story about the United States.”
“Unforgetting” is a story of two countries, inextricably bound, and Lovato is uniquely positioned to tell it. As a U.S.-born son of immigrants, he grew up knowing the culture of gang life in the streets of San Francisco, spent his holidays visiting family in El Salvador, was briefly a born-again Christian, worked for nongovernmental organizations in both countries, joined the opposition as an urban commando late in the civil war and later witnessed, as a journalist working for The Boston Globe, the exhumation of mass graves. In one of his memoir’s most chilling chapters, he takes us into a forensics lab in San Salvador where “all the country’s documented and undocumented dead come to be analyzed and counted before being returned to their loved ones — or buried in anonymous graves.” We meet Saul Quijada, a forensic anthropologist skilled in “making the bones speak” — “from rural and urban areas where killings in El Salvador force migration,” he says, “to the deaths that take place during the migration through Mexico to the United States.” He shows Lovato one of the older skeletons from the massacre at El Mozote, early in the war: “We’re rebuilding the cranium piece by piece because it was in pieces, chopped up with a machete. The pieces were like a jigsaw puzzle.”
The jigsaw puzzle is one of the governing tropes of Lovato’s episodic narrative; his task is to piece together not only his fragmented identity, but the mosaic of testimony from the host of characters he assembles, all the while standing in the rubble of war’s aftermath. His grandmother tells him: “We’re all pieces of broken glass, stained with blood and struggling to put ourselves back together.” Lovato’s quest is “to do the personal forensic work of recovering the fragments of my childhood and adolescent memories, especially the ones that are often more painful to conjure.” These have largely to do with his violent, charismatic father, whose smuggling business, alcoholism, womanizing and secrecy bequeathed to the author a measure of “nihilistic rage” that animates his search to uncover his father’s secret regarding the massacre in 1932. The revelation of this secret guides Lovato in contemplating deeper questions about the personal and political silences that perpetuate violence; about prolonged mourning and the enduring effects of intergenerational trauma; about the collective inability to look down into the abyss of our history; and about “what turns salvageable kids … into stone-cold killers.”
In a particularly timely passage, he ties the militarization of policing in the United States to counterinsurgency tactics deployed, thanks to U.S. aid and training, by El Salvador during the civil war. The American military strategists who advised the Salvadoran government during that war later recommended using the same tactics in the “war on gangs” in Los Angeles, with “cops wearing puffed-up, RoboCop gear now worn by police everywhere.” Today, Lovato writes, “while the media popularizes the terrors of gang war, it ignores the fact that counterinsurgency policing is a multibillion-dollar industry for the arms dealers and military contractors that provide the tanks, semiautomatic weapons, and other equipment now supplied to local police forces throughout the United States.”
It is a complex puzzle indeed, and Lovato is among the first Salvadoran-American writers to assemble it, shuttling back and forth in time, between countries and languages, to retrieve the pieces for a kaleidoscopic montage that is at once a family saga, a coming-of-age story and a meditation on the vicissitudes of history, community and, most of all for him, identity.
If there is a defining moment in the narrative, it might be his visit to Corral de Piedra in 1990, just after a rocket attack by the Salvadoran military in which a number of children had been killed. “Looking at the crosses placed near the bombed-out adobe wall, thinking about the children — living as well as dead,” Lovato recognizes that his fight is not just against the government of El Salvador. “My new fight was also against the government that … put El Salvador on the path to becoming one of the longest-standing military dictatorships in the Americas,” he writes, “my own government, the one that had issued my passport.” Years later, one of his university students in California will say: “I remember the war and, yeah, I remember seeing dead bodies and things that cause terror, Lovato, but I also remember eating jocotes, always having lots of family around and playing escondelero in the cool shade at the foot of the volcán ’til late. I remember a lot more than ‘terror.’ And who paid for that terror? This country. That’s who.”
In a time of national reckoning, such truths must be faced if we are to be serious about who we are and what we have done. Lovato’s memoir confronts historical amnesia and “the myth of American innocence shared by conservatives and liberals alike.” The picture he assembles is a mural of our complicity in systemic violence and inhumanity, and the resilience of the people who endured it.
A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas
By Roberto Lovato
We would like to wish our readers a very great start of the week. In this blog post, we will be covering recent and exciting developments in immigration law.
K-1 Visa Applicants
We have great news for K-1 fiancé visa applicants. Today, August 31, 2020, the Department of State issued an important announcement for K visa applicants. Effective August 28, 2020, the Department of State has given Consular sections the authority to grant K visa cases “high priority.” This directive applies to Consulates and Embassies worldwide and gives Consular posts the discretion to prioritize the scheduling of K visa interviews, as country conditions allow during the Coronavirus pandemic.
DOS has encouraged applicants to check the website of their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for updates on what services that post is currently able to offer.
Revalidating the I-129F Petition
DOS has also stated that while the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) is valid for a period of four months, consular officials have the authority to revalidate the I-129F petition in four-month increments.
In addition, the announcement states that for most cases impacted by the suspension of routine visa services or COVID-19 travel restrictions, it will not be necessary to file a new I-129F petition.
Interview Waiver Eligibility for Certain Non-Immigrant Visa Applicants
The Department of State announced on August 25, 2020, that Consular officials at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad can temporarily waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification.
Previously, interview waiver eligibility was limited to applicants whose nonimmigrant visa expired within 12 months. The new announcement temporarily extends the expiration period to 24 months.
Those who wish to apply for an interview waiver should review the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or Consulate for detailed information on what services are currently available, as well as eligibility information and instructions on applying for a visa without an interview.
Applicants may also wish to email the Embassy or Consulate directly making reference to the DOS announcement.
Cancels Planned Furloughs – What that means for you
We are pleased to report to our readers that USCIS has cancelled its planned furlough of 70% of its workforce, however applicants should expect continued delays including an increase in backlogs and wait times across the board. The furlough cancellations will not improve the long wait times applicants are currently experiencing, and there is no guarantee that USCIS will be able to avoid future furloughs.
At the moment USCIS expects to be able to maintain operations through the end of fiscal year but continues to need government funding to sustain the agency through fiscal year 2021.
As it stands, applicants will continue to experience increased wait times for pending case inquiries with the USCIS Contact Center (service requests), long case processing times, and increased adjudication of adjustment of status and naturalization applications. Naturalization oath ceremonies however will continue to be scheduled on a regular basis.
For more information about these furlough cancellations please click here.
We hope this information was helpful and share helpful links where you can find more information about these new developments.
- Important Notice for K Visa Applicants Affected by COVID-19
- Expansion of Interview Waiver Eligibility Non-Immigrant Visas
- USCIS Averts Planned Furlough of Nearly 70% of Workforce
- Youtube Video
Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text or call 619-569-1768.
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In line with other xenophobic actions too numerous to keep tabs on,President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum dated July 21, 2020 entitled “Memorandum on Excluding Illegal Aliens From the Apportionment Base Following the 2020 Census.” From the title itself, it is readily obvious that the Trump administration does not intend to count undocumented or unauthorized immigrations in the 2020 census, which it pejoratively refers to as illegal aliens. Who is legal or illegal defies an easy definition. US immigration law is so paradoxical that even if one has been ordered removed, this individual may still be authorized to remain in the US and obtain work authorization.
Not only is this executive order unlawful and completely unconstitutional, but it boggles the mind regarding how the administration will ever be able to determine who is authorized or not in the US in order to be counted in the 2020 census.
It is vitally important to count population numbers to divide up seats in Congress among the states. Excluding undocumented immigrants will result in less seats in Congress for Democratic states. If unauthorized immigrants are left out of the apportionment count, according to the Pew Research Center, California, Florida and Texas are each likely to end up with one less House seat, while Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio are each likely to hold onto a seat they would have otherwise lost after the 2020 Census. Since the first Census of the United States in 1790, counts that include both citizens and noncitizens have been used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives, with states gaining or losing based on population change over the previous decade.
Lawsuits have been filed – here, here and here, justifiably challenging the exclusion of unauthorized immigrants from the census counts on constitutional and other grounds. The Presidential Memorandum follows the Supreme Court’s decision in New York v. Department of Commerce , 588 U.S. ___ (2019) that held that the Trump’s administration’s prior reasoning to include the citizenship question in the Census was “contrived” and thus arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act (see Can the Arbitrary and Capricious Standard under the Administrative Procedure Act Save DACA). Hopefully, the courts will also smack down this Presidential Memorandum for its blatant disregard of the Constitution’s mandate under the Fourteenth Amendment to count all residents in a state.
Section 2 of the Presidential Memorandum excludes “aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status under the Immigration and Nationality Act.” But this too is broad and vague. One who is in the US in temporary B-2 visitor status for three months is in a lawful immigration status. On the other hand, a person who has resided in the US for a decade and whose status expired a long time ago could be authorized to remain in the US upon filing an I-485 application to adjust status to permanent residence by virtue of a recent marriage to a US citizen. The Presidential Memorandum provides the following false rationale for excluding undocumented immigrants:
Excluding these illegal aliens from the apportionment base is more consonant with the principles of representative democracy underpinning our system of Government. Affording congressional representation, and therefore formal political influence, to States on account of the presence within their borders of aliens who have not followed the steps to secure a lawful immigration status under our laws undermines those principles. Many of these aliens entered the country illegally in the first place. Increasing congressional representation based on the presence of aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status would also create perverse incentives encouraging violations of Federal law. States adopting policies that encourage illegal aliens to enter this country and that hobble Federal efforts to enforce the immigration laws passed by the Congress should not be rewarded with greater representation in the House of Representatives. Current estimates suggest that one State is home to more than 2.2 million illegal aliens, constituting more than 6 percent of the State’s entire population. Including these illegal aliens in the population of the State for the purpose of apportionment could result in the allocation of two or three more congressional seats than would otherwise be allocated.
However, the rationale still does not explain whether one who entered without inspection, but is now authorized to remain in the US through the filing of an I-360 petition under the Violence against Women Act and a concurrent I-485 application will be included or not in the census. It does not appear that whoever drafted this document really had any idea about how “legal” or “illegal” is considered under the INA.
“Lawful immigration status” is specifically defined in the implementing regulations at 8 CFR 245.1(d)(1) rather than in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) itself, for purposes of determining who is eligible to adjust status under INA 245(c)(2). It provides for the following categories of persons who are in “lawful immigration status”:
(i) In lawful permanent resident status;
(ii) An alien admitted to the United States in nonimmigrant status as defined in section 101(a)(15) of the Act, whose initial period of admission has not expired or whose nonimmigrant status has been extended in accordance with part 214 of this chapter;
(iii) In refugee status under section 207 of the Act, such status not having been revoked;
(iv) In asylee status under section 208 of the Act, such status not having been revoked;
(v) In parole status which has not expired, been revoked or terminated; or
(vi) Eligible for the benefits of Public Law 101-238 (the Immigration Nursing Relief Act of 1989) and files an application for adjustment of status on or before October 17, 1991.
It is unlikely, however, that this is what the drafters of the Presidential Memorandum within the Trump administration had in mind in deciding who is in lawful status and who isn’t. As already explained, there is a large universe of persons who are authorized to remain in the United States but who do not fall into any of the above categories pursuant to 8 CFR 245.1(d)(1). Perhaps, one is giving the Trump administration too much credit about thinking through this definition and the drafters just assumed, albeit erroneously, that there are discrete classes of those in lawful status and those who are not. Immigration law is far more nuanced. One may not have been granted asylum, and thus qualify as an asylee under 8 CFR 245.1(d)(1)(iii), but an applicant for asylum is nevertheless authorized to remain in the US and can also obtain employment authorization after 365 days of filing the application. Similarly, one who files an I-485 application to adjust status is authorized to remain in the US even if the underlying nonimmigrant status has expired.
Any attempt to define who is unauthorized in order to exclude them in something as crucially vital as the decennial census count will get it wrong. Even Chief Justice Roberts got it wrong in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, 563 U.S. 582 (2011), when he wrote for the majority that an individual who “had been ordered removed” would establish that individual’s lack of authorization to work. In that case, the Supreme Court upheld an Arizona state law suspending business licenses if businesses hired people without work authorization. David Isaacson in his blog, If Even the Chief Justice Can Misunderstand Immigration Law, How Can We Expect States to Enforce It Properly? Removal Orders and Work Authorization, cites many other instances when a person with a removal order is still entitled to work authorization. For example, an asylum applicant who has been ordered removed but has filed a petition for review in circuit court can nevertheless apply for work authorization and is authorized to reside in the US during the pendency of the appeal. 8 C.F.R. § 274a.12(c)(18) also contemplates the issuance of work authorization to one who has been ordered removed if the person cannot be removed or where it is impractical to remove him or her. A DACA recipient who may have been the subject of a removal order at some point is now authorized to reside in the US without fear of removal.
The sheer inability to define who is a so called “illegal alien” further opens up the Presidential Memorandum to challenge in the courts. Persons whom the government may arbitrarily decide are unauthorized may be left out of the count even if they have been in the US for years, paid taxes and been authorized to reside and work under the law. These persons have also been denied their basic humanity by not being treated as persons. This executive action will also deter noncitizens from completing the census as most – unless they are lawful permanent residents -will not know whether they are documented or not. Four decades ago, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that an undocumented individual living in the United States “is surely ‘a person’ in any ordinary sense of that term,” “[w]hatever his status under the immigration laws.” Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 210 (1982). It is axiomatic that undocumented individuals are human beings and President Trump cannot change this. Given the sheer impossibility of determining who is and who is not legal, President Trump must be compelled by a court to count all persons for the census regardless of their immigration status. This is also mandated by the Constitution.
Arizona has long been a testing ground for anti-immigrant laws and talk, but the state has seen a political shift. Analysts suggests that demographic changes, including a growing number of transplants from more liberal states and Latino voters, are responsible for the shift. This is partially true, but the origins of Arizona’s evolution into a pivotal battleground state can be attributed to a longer history and a broader cast of characters.
The extremism of the state’s Republican leaders has alienated voters, and given rise to coalitions of Democrats, Independents and even Republicans, who have come together to work toward a lasting political transformation of the desert Southwest. Their efforts have come to bear. In 2011 voters recalled the architect of the nation’s toughest immigration laws, in 2016 they ousted a controversial sheriff, and in 2018, they sent a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in 30 years. Joe Biden is currently polling ahead of Donald Trump.
Arizona’s anti-immigrant surge predates Joe Arpaio, but his election as the sheriff of Maricopa County in 1993 was a galvanizing moment for the activism that is now helping turn the state. In the 1990s, Mr. Arpaio built Tent City, an outdoor Arizona jail that he once described as a “concentration camp.” Under his watch, Maricopa County entered into an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allowed the local police to enforce federal immigration laws.
Immigrant rights activists led the charge against Russell Pearce, the state senator who sponsored Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, and Jan Brewer, then governor, who signed the bill into law in 2010. Known as the “show me your papers” law, it required the police to verify the immigration status of any detained or arrested person they suspected of being in the state illegally. Its passage was a flash point in the battle over immigration, giving birth to a new generation of young immigrants that organized protests, boycotts, and mounted legal challenges.
That same year, Ms. Brewer also signed a “constitutional carry” firearm law, which grants anyone over the age of 21 the right to carry a hidden, loaded firearm without a license. The shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords just months after the law was signed politicized the issue of gun violence in the state. The debate over guns is especially important in Arizona because shootings by police officers have risen steadily, and the Phoenix Police Department has been called “the deadliest force in the country.”
Like activists elsewhere, Arizonans have protested killings by the police in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. They’ve decried the killings of Dion Johnson in Phoenix, or Carlos Ingram Lopez in Tucson. But residents of Phoenix and Tucson — the seats of Maricopa and Pima Counties, home to three-quarters of the state’s population — have long protested and organized against police violence.
The pandemic and renewed civil unrest have accelerated the sense of urgency, but Democrats have been organizing not just for the moment, but also for the future.
The turning point when Arizona could become blue has been looming over the horizon for some time. President Trump won by only 3.5 percent of the vote in 2016. The 2018 midterm Senate election — when the Democratic candidate, Kyrsten Sinema, defeated the Republican incumbent, Martha McSally — was an important moment in Arizona’s evolution. In the House, Democrats picked up four seats, and today Republicans have only a one-seat advantage.
But even if Arizona has trended toward the Democrats for a while, 2020 “is our time,” said Alex Steele, an organizer with Arizona Ready, a movement working to defeat Mr. Trump in November. Indeed, what’s remarkable is how organizations have formed over the past decade to advocate for the rights of immigrants, workers, teachers, people of color facing police violence and Native Americans.
During a virtual conference hosted by Arizona Ready, earlier this summer, the focus was on the effort to defeat Republicans at the state and national levels. The fact that Mr. Biden and the Senate candidate Mark Kelly part company with progressive organizations on important issues won’t prevent progressives from supporting them. There are just too many “overlapping crises” that will “activate people on the left,” according to Emily Kirkland, the executive director of Progress Arizona.
Without a doubt, Republicans will be mobilized, too. Polls have found that Mr. Trump’s supporters in Arizona are more enthusiastic. Mr. Biden’s support among Latinos, especially Latino youth, has decreased over the past few months. The Covid-19 outbreak has led to a precipitous decline in voter registration in Arizona, and Republican leaders are fighting to make absentee voting more difficult. In a larger sense, it won’t be easy to flip a state that has been reliably conservative for so long.
If Arizona does flip, Democrats would break the hold that Republicans have had on the state since the mid-20th century. A Democratic victory in Arizona may not signal the rise of progressivism that many on the left hope for — and which these times of manifest injustice and inequality seem to demand — but wins there would signal the beginning of an end to the ugliness of the past decade and more. It would be a dramatic reversal of fortunes for a party and a president who’ve long viewed Arizona as a stronghold. In 2016, Arizona’s Republican leaders made Trump the embodiment of all they’d worked for, and it may spell their demise.
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