Asylum Granted

This week I had the honor of representing a client in the Immigration Court in Detroit.  My client had entered the United States in the early 1990s.  Although she is from a country that has a history of persecuting persons like herself, she did not apply for asylum.  She ended up with a removal order from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).  When I met the client in 2012, we decided to ask the BIA to reopen her case so that she could apply for asylum.  The BIA agreed to reopen the case, and sent the case to Detroit for a new hearing.

According to U.S. immigration law, in order to be granted asylum, a person must apply within 1 year of entering the United States, unless the person can demonstrate either extraordinary circumstances (which my client did not have), or changed circumstances (which we argued that my client did have).

At the hearing, at first, the attorney representing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicated to me that he did not think that my client should get asylum, because we had not met any of the exceptions to the one-year filing deadline.  I stated that I thought that my client was eligible for asylum because the conditions in her country had worsened in recent years, including from 2012 up through to today.  Moreover, I had presented documents indicating that several of my client’s siblings had recently obtained refugee status.  Several had recently entered the United States as refugees, and others were in the process of obtaining refugee status and later will settle as refugees in the United States.

The thing that really changed the prosecutor’s mind, though, was a Sixth Circuit case called Mandebvu v. Holder that I brought to his attention.  In Mandebvu, the petitioners applied for asylum many years after they had entered the United States.  The Sixth Circuit overturned the decisions of an Immigration Judge and the BIA and concluded that the petitioners in that case had met the requirement of showing changed circumstances.  The Court reasoned that the petitioners could qualify for the “changed circumstances” exception to the one-year filing deadline by showing additional evidence of the type of persecution that they had already suffered, or that they would be likely to suffer upon return to their country.

Mandebvu was directly relevant to my client’s case.  Although my client could have applied for asylum prior to 2012, when we submitted her asylum application, we showed that conditions in my client’s country have deteriorated in recent years, and we also showed that several of my client’s relatives left the country as refugees in recent years.  Under Mandebvu, that is sufficient to show “changed circumstances.”  After reading the case, the prosecutor agreed with us, and we explained the situation to the Immigration Judge, who then granted asylum to my client.

My client is now an asylee, and in one year she will be eligible to apply for permanent resident (green card) status.  Later, she will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.  It’s great that my client has status in the United States now, after decades of uncertainty.

Welcoming Syrians

“You’re safe at home now.”  These are the words of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to a group of Syrian refugees arriving in Canada.

I would like to present a few facts about the Syrian refugee crisis, with a goal of providing a bit of perspective.

Canada has agreed to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February 2016.  Canada has a total population of approximately 35 million people.

The United States has committed to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the course of 2016.  The United States has a total population of approximately 319 million people.

Taking a look at these numbers, we see that Canada has committed to accept about 1 Syrian refugee for every 1,400 persons in Canada.  Meanwhile, the United States has committed to accept about 1 Syrian refugee for every 31,900 persons in the United States.

As a proportion of total population, Canada has agreed to accept almost 23 times more Syrian refugees than the United States has committed to accept.

Refugees to the United States undergo an intense level of screening before they are permitted to enter the United States.  In fact, they undergo a higher level of screening than any other persons who are permitted to enter the United States.

Steven Katz, a U.S. war veteran who served from 2003 to 2009, including two tours of ground combat duty in Iraq, pointed out that in a recent poll, a majority of Americans support U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq to combat ISIS (also known as ISIL), but don’t share the same enthusiasm for accepting Syrian refugees.  Mr. Katz summed it up nicely:  “We’re willing to bomb, but not provide refuge to those trying to escape from the bombing. What does that say about our national character?”

I am distressed that so many of my fellow citizens appear to be closing their hearts to persons who so desperately need our help.  We are a nation of immigrants.  We can and should open our hearts and do more.

Dear Donald Trump

We don’t approve of your playground bullying.  We need you to take your toys and go home now.  After a licensed mental health professional has authorized your release, then you will be allowed to come out and play again, so long as you promise to play nicely.

Sincerely,

A Solid Majority of the American People

Removing Conditions on Permanent Resident Status

If you became a permanent resident based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and if you obtained your permanent resident status before your second wedding anniversary, then your status is “conditional permanent resident.”  Your green card is valid for 2 years.  You will need to file a petition to remove those conditions, to make the transition from “conditional permanent resident” to “permanent resident.”  This process is referred to as “removing the conditions” on your permanent resident status.

If you remain married to, and living with, the person who filed the petition for your 2-year green card, then you and your spouse should file the petition to remove conditions during the 90-day window of time leading up to the expiration of your 2-year green card.

If you are no longer married, or if your spouse is not willing to sign the petition, you may file the petition without your spouse’s signature.  There are several reasons for filing the petition without your spouse’s signature:

(1) Your spouse is deceased.

(2) You and your spouse have divorced.

(3) During your marriage, your spouse abused you, battered you, or subjected you to extreme cruelty.

(4) The termination of your permanent resident status would result in an extreme hardship.

If you are filing the petition without your spouse’s signature, then the time deadlines that are generally applicable to a joint filing do not apply to you. If your spouse is not signing the petition, then you could file earlier or later than the normal 90-day window of time.

After you file the petition, you will receive a receipt from USCIS on heavy paper, tinted green.  This receipt will state that your permanent resident status is automatically extended for a period of one year.

The petition to remove conditions on permanent resident status often involves complex legal and factual issues.  In order to have the best chance of success, and to avoid unnecessary delays in the process, I suggest that you work with an experienced immigration attorney on this process.

I have successfully handled many of these petitions.  I would be happy to work with you on your case.

DAPA: Supreme Court gives opponents only 8 additional days

A small bit of good news:  The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Obama Administration’s suggestion that the opponents of DAPA get only 8 additional days to submit their response to the Administration’s request that the Supreme Court take the case.  The opponents had asked for 30 days.

The small extension means that the opponents’ response is due to the Supreme Court by December 29, 2015.  That makes it more likely that, if the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, they might hear it and issue a decision by June 2016.

DAPA Case Update

As I stated in a previous post, on November 20, the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court to review the 5th Circuit’s decision to allow the injunction against DAPA to stay in place.

On November 23, the attorney representing the opponents of DAPA asked for a 30-day extension to reply to the Obama Administration’s request.  If the Supreme Court grants the extension, then the opponents’ reply would be due on January 20, 2016.  That might be too late for the Supreme Court to decide the case by June 2016.

On November 24, the Obama Administration presented an opposition to the request for a 30-day extension, suggesting an 8-day extension instead.  If the Supreme Court granted an extension of 8 days, it would make more likely the possibility that the Supreme Court would address the case and issue a decision by June 2016.

The Obama Administration also stated that if the Supreme Court grants the 30-day extension, then the Obama Administration will seek to have the case handled on an expedited basis, which would mean requesting a rare May oral argument, so that the Supreme Court could still issue a decision by June 2016.  Usually the Supreme Court completes oral arguments in April, and then prepares and issues all remaining decisions in May and June.

Stay tuned for the Supreme Court’s response to these requests.

Obama asks Supreme Court to review DAPA decision

On November 20, 2015, exactly one year after President Obama announced the DAPA program, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a request to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to review the 5th Circuit’s decision to allow the continued blockage of the program.

In the request to the Supreme Court, the Administration makes 3 challenges to the lawsuit. First, the Administration asks whether the states that brought the lawsuit against DAPA even have a legal right to file such a claim, referred to as “standing.” Second, they ask if the DAPA program violates any law. Third, the Administration asks whether DAPA must first go through a long and cumbersome procedure of comments from the public before the program can begin. The Administration argues that the answer to all 3 of these questions is “No.”

With hopes that the Supreme Court will agree to hear this case during the current term, which ends in June 2016, the Administration states that this case deserves immediate review, in light of the great importance of DAPA to “millions of families with longstanding and close connections to this country.”

Regarding the issue of standing, states and individuals generally lack standing to challenge the choices that a presidential administration makes about how to enforce the laws of the United States. One of the requirements for a state to obtain standing is to show that the state will suffer if DAPA is implemented. The 5th Circuit, in blocking DAPA, concluded that the state of Texas had standing to sue because Texas has made the decision to subsidize the costs of issuing driver licenses to persons who would obtain DAPA. The 5th Circuit conceded that Texas could simply charge a higher fee for the driver licenses so that Texas would not need to subsidize the driver licenses at all. Yet the 5th Circuit concluded that DAPA imposed “pressure” on Texas to change its laws.

We will be watching this case closely. It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court takes this case for the current term, or if the Court defers the case to the following term.

A plea for sanity and compassion

These are some of the words engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

From American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–1887), written in 1883.

France presented the Statue of Liberty as a gift to the United States in 1886.  It has been regarded as a symbol of this country’s welcoming approach towards immigrants and refugees.

In the wake of the horrific acts of terrorism in Paris earlier this month, and the possibility that some of the perpetrators were Syrian or spent time in Syria, some politicians are calling for a reduction or an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.

I believe that such a response would be a mistake.

In our history, we have had periods of hostility towards immigrants and refugees.  Many different groups have felt the sting of anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States, including Chinese, Irish, Mexicans, Africans, African-Americans, Germans, Italians, and many other groups.  During the Second World War, our government put law-abiding persons of Japanese ancestry (including about 80,000 American-born U.S. citizens) into internment camps.  Although it seems that xenophobia – fear of foreigners – is a part of being human, it is an irrational fear.

By rejecting refugees, we are caving in to the terrorists’ desires.  We become afraid of everyone and everything.  But we can do better than to revert to our xenophobic instincts.

With the exception of Native Americans, we are all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants.  We are part of a wonderful diversity of persons from around the world who are proud to live and work in the United States, and to call America “home.”

The United States conducts an extensive and thorough security screening of all potential refugees.  In fact, refugees are subject to more intense scrutiny than any other persons who enter the United States.  By continuing our proud tradition of welcoming refugees, including Syrian refugees fleeing war and persecution, we build upon our strong foundation as a nation of immigrants, and as a place where persons have an opportunity to live in peace and to contribute to our great diversity.

DAPA – The Race to the Supreme Court

After the 5th Circuit’s delayed decision, issued November 9, 2015, continuing to block DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Permanent Residents), the Obama Administration announced that it will seek Supreme Court review of the decision.  There are at least two important questions at this point:  (1) Will the Supreme Court agree to hear the case?  and (2) If the Supreme Court takes the case, will the Court issue a decision in 2016, or in 2017?

First, in order for the Supreme Court to hear the case, at least 4 out of the 9 justices need to vote in favor of taking the case.  Because of the importance of this case, and because of the legal questions involved, I believe that at least 4 of the 9 justices will agree to hear the case.  I think that the justices most likely to vote in favor of hearing the case are Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.  I also think there is a good possibility that Justice Kennedy will vote in favor of hearing.

Second, the timing of the process is critical, especially in light of the fact that President Obama will be leaving office on January 20, 2017.  

The Supreme Court’s term begins in October and runs through June.

Once the Obama Administration files the petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case, then the attorney representing the opponents of DAPA will have 30 days to respond.  They may ask for a 30-day extension of time for their response, and the Supreme Court generally grants such extensions.  After the Supreme Court receives the response, then the justices decide whether to take the case.

Generally, if the Supreme Court makes the decision to hear a case before January 15, then they usually set the case for the current term.  But if they make their decision to hear the case after January 15, then they usually set the case for the following term.

If the Obama Administration submits their petition to the Supreme Court by today, November 13, 2015, then the attorneys representing the opponents would need to respond by December 13.  Assuming that they would seek the 30-day extension, then their response would be due January 13, 2016.  If the Obama Administration submits their petition after today, then it appears that the DAPA opponents would likely be submitting their response after January 15, 2016.  That might result in the case being scheduled for the term that begins October 2016 and goes through June 2017, after President Obama will have already left office.

Obama appeals DAPA ruling to the Supreme Court

Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling that continues to block President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA).  Today, the Obama Administration announced that it will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could issue a decision by June 2016.

President Obama announced the DAPA program on November 20, 2014, almost one year ago.  The program has been tied up in litigation and has never been implemented.  The program is meant to provide temporary help to undocumented persons who have lived in the United States since January 1, 2010, and who, on November 20, 2014, had a son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, and who meets certain other eligibility criteria.  For those who are granted DAPA, they would receive an Employment Authorization Document valid for two years, and relief from the prospect of deportation unless they are convicted of crimes.

Yesterday’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, was decided by a three-judge panel.  Two judges – Jerry E. Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod – voted to continue to block DAPA, issuing a 70-page decision, while Judge Carolyn Dineen King disagreed, writing a dissent of 54 pages.  Judge King concluded her dissent by writing, “I have a firm and definite conviction that a mistake has been made. That mistake has been exacerbated by the extended delay that has occurred in deciding this ‘expedited’ appeal. There is no justification for that delay.”

I will be closely monitoring the case, and will provide updates as they are available.