On June 15, 2012, the Obama Administration announced a deferred action process for young aliens considered low enforcement priorities. This is effectively an expansion of prior efforts by the Obama Administration to focus on public safety, border security, and the integrity of the immigration system. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has concentrated its limited resources on the removal of aliens that pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety, including aliens who have been convicted of crimes, with particular emphasis on violent criminals, felons, and repeat offenders. At the same time, DHS has determined it will exercise prosecutorial discretion when dealing with low priority cases such as aliens who were brought into the United States as children and who have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, or multiple misdemeanor offenses.
Cancellation of removal is a form of relief available to certain permanent residents and non-permanent residents in removal proceedings before the Immigration Judge. A non-permanent resident may seek cancellation of removal if the alien has been in the United States continuously for at least ten (10) years, is a person of good moral character, and can establish that his or her removal would result in “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to the alien’s United States citizen or legal permanent resident spouse, parent, or child. A “child” is defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as “an unmarried person under twenty-one years of age.” INA §101(b)(1). In the Matter of Valentin Isidro-Zamorano, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recently addressed how to handle an application of cancellation of removal where the son or daughter met the definition of a “child” when the application was filed with the Immigration Court, but subsequently turned twenty-one (21) before the Immigration Judge was able to adjudicate the application on the merits, which resulted in the alien no longer having a qualifying relative under section 240A(b)(1)(D) of the INA. See Matter of Valentin Isidro-Zamorano, 25 I&N Dec. 829 (BIA 2012).
I often run into this question asked by my clients: Can an individual who has overstayed his original visa in the USA or otherwise been present illegally in the USA for many years, travel abroad and return to pursue adjustment of status application, which had been pending with USCIS on the day of the travel? For years, the answer I would give had been a resounding NO! Well, it may no longer be necessarily so. Historically, DHS’s position on this issue has been that such individual would be ineligible for admission to the USA, including adjustment of status, on the grounds of the inadmissibility bars set forth in INA 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II). Consequently, many of such individuals would inevitably end up in removal proceedings before an immigration judge, having been charged with the inadmissibility.
Criminal convictions can have serious consequences for aliens. When a non-citizen is arrested for any criminal violation, it is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney especially before accepting a plea bargain. The goal in criminal proceedings is often to minimize the punishment. However, in the immigration context, the initial focus is typically on the language of the criminal statute the alien has been convicted of violating. The immigration courts have adopted two approaches for determining whether an offense prohibited by the criminal statute the alien is convicted of violating comes within a specific ground of removability.
Tunisia: The Spring Has Passed, But Is It Summer Yet?
It was in December of 2010 in Tunisia where a popular uprising has ousted a long despised dictatorship, and shortly an avalanche of protests has spread across the Arab world, eventually expelling the once seemingly omnipotent tyrannies in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. This unprecedented chain of long-awaited change across the region was aptly titled ‘The Arab Spring’, and it continues to reverberate violently in many other nations, including Syria, Bahrain, Algeria and Morocco. Many in the West were initially quite hopeful and enthusiastic about what seemed to be a sudden eruption of popular and pro-democracy resistance to the ruthless tyrants of the Arab world; many, however, remained cautious in their predictions and expectations, arguing that the new victorious forces supported by the populace could not necessarily be that open to modernization and promotion of human rights and freedoms after all.
This month, ILGA-Europe (The International Lesbian and Gay Association) released its updated Rainbow Map, which grades the countries of the European continent according to their treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual persons (LGBT). Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine, received the lowest scores in this comprehensive assessment of the LGBT rights and freedoms in Europe. Or, perhaps, these nations scored the highest in their disrespect and utter disregard for their LGBT citizens’ safety and peace.
The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) recently addressed the term “culturally unique” and its significance in the adjudication of petitions for performing artists and entertainers (P-3 Non-Immigrant Visa). The Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) allows for an alien artist or entertainer, who performs individually or as part of a group, to receive a non-immigrant visa if he or she seeks to enter the United States temporarily to perform, teach, or coach a program that is culturally unique. INA §101(a)(15)(P)(iii)(I)-(II). The Federal Regulations define “culturally unique” as “a style of artistic expression, methodology, or medium which is unique to a particular country, nation, society, class, ethnicity, religion, tribe, or other group of persons.” 8 C.F.R.§214.2(p)(3).
The Bureau of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services announced Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Designated for the Syrian Arab Republic. This allows eligible Syrian nationals (and persons without nationality who last habitually resided in Syria) in the United States to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This means that Syrians will not be removed from the United States, and may request employment authorization.
To tell you the truth, I do not remember reading ANY good news from Belarus since December of 2010 when Aliaksandr Lukashenka has re-elected himself for yet another term in the office. These two developments, however, seem particularly troubling for the Belarusian citizens who attempt to escape the ruthless dictatorship imposed upon them.
According to Masha Gessen, a renowned journalist and author of the new biography of Vladimir Putin titled “The Man Without a Face: An Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin”, about 15% of the current Russian prison population is comprised of the small and middle-size business owners who were thrown to jail by the corrupt authorities who either had direct interest in their enterprises or were refused the bribes they have coerced from the entrepreneurs for their assistance.