* Dramatization
* Dramatization
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prison-553836_640Billy Asemani, an immigrant currently serving a thirty-year sentence in the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, filed a mandamus petition for a hearing to review the denial of his request for naturalization by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). He was allowed to file the petition in forma pauperis (IFP) but the court subsequently decided he couldn’t proceed with it because of the “three strikes rule” set out under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). PLRA bars certain prisoners from proceeding IFP if three similar claims or suits put forward by them have already been dismissed on specified grounds. Asemani agreed that he had three strikes but argued that he should still be able to proceed IFP because of the imminent danger he faced from his fellow inmates. He had previously suffered “two back-to-back acts of assaults” while in prison, and required protection in segregated housing, where he had been for nearly a year before filing his petition. He also claimed that even in protective custody he faced a “constant threat of violence because of the maximum security nature” of the inmates he is serving with.

PLRA was enacted by Congress in 1995 in response to the concern that prisoners were “flooding the courts with meritless claims”. In 2011 it was ruled that any prisoner could file any post-conviction claim they wanted if they agreed to pay a filing fee or filed through representative counsel. Unfortunately for Asemani, because of the three strikes rule, he was required to pay the filing fee in full, not instalments, as set down in section 1915(b) of the PLRA:

“In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.”

Because Asemani had already brought three previous civil actions, this meant he was required to pay the filing fee in full and wouldn’t do so. So the court has denied his request to proceed IFP but given him the choice of paying the fee in full so he can proceed with his appeal, or dismissing the appeal and not collecting any filing fee.

If you would like more information on PLRA or appealing the courts on naturalization claims, please contact Lyttle Law Firm via the website or by calling 215-512-5225.

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america-517927_640Wisam Yousif is an immigrant from Iraq who in 2007 applied for withholding of removal and asylum in the United States.

Withholding of removal is granted as relief from likely persecution in the applicant’s home country due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership with a particular social group. Yousif is a Chaldean Christian, and the Immigration Judge conceded in 2011 that conditions in Iraq were so turbulent at that point that withholding of removal should be granted. However, Yousif was not given asylum, because the IJ asserted that he had misrepresented himself in his application – Yousif claimed he had experienced past incidents of persecutions but there was no evidence to support these claims.

Yousif appealed this decision because he believed that his misrepresentations didn’t matter; withholding of removal and asylum go hand in hand and he was eligible for both based on his status as a Chaldean Christian alone. He also asserted that burden of proof is usually harder to obtain with withholding of removal than it is for asylum.

So, because the IJ didn’t determine whether or not he would have been eligible for asylum based solely on his religion, nor did they determine whether his claims of past persecution were material at the time of adjudication, Yousif’s petition has now been granted, and the previous decision vacated.

It’s important to note the small distinctions between asylum and withholding of removal, even though they are usually applied for together and often in conjunction with a third form of relief called “Protection Under Convention Against Torture”, which is protection in the United States under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Asylum is the “easiest” to get, because withholding of removal and protection under CAT require proof that it is more likely than not that you will face persecution in your home country, i.e. you must show clear probability with accompanying evidence (like country reports) that there would be danger for you if you returned home.

However, despite the added difficulty and more limited benefits, CAT and withholding are mandatory, meaning that if you qualify, you will be granted it, there is no debate.

If you are granted withholding of removal, you will no longer be removed to your country of origin (though you can be removed to a third country that has been deemed safe if there is reason for it), but unfortunately it does not make you automatically eligible for green card status, and you must maintain valid employment-authorization documents. If you or someone you know would like more information about withholding of removal, protection under CAT, or feel like you are eligible to apply for asylum, please get in touch with Daniela Lyttle at Lyttle Law Firm, either via the website or by calling 215-512-5225.

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court-510750_640In an immigration dispute between the United States and Leopoldo Figueroa-Alvarez, the migrant from Mexico has pleaded guilty to re-entering the country illegally after being deported. Under US Code: Title 8 (Aliens and Nationality), immigrants who are removed from the US and then re-enter without authorization are subject to fines or up to 2 years imprisonment.

Figueroa-Alvarez also admitted to a pre-removal “aggravated burglary” conviction, and the judges decided his sentencing guidelines warranted 46-57 months in prison because it was determined that he committed a felony – which Title 8 defines as “any Federal, state, or local offense punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year”.

They reached this decision by referencing several previous cases of felony conviction prior to removal, notably United States vs Vasquez-Gutierrez, where the defendant was charged with an aggravated felony prior to removal (similarly to Figueroa-Alvarez it was bumped up from “aggravated misdemeanour” because the judges thought the crime – assault with the intent to commit sexual abuse causing no bodily injury, warranted the higher punishment).

In 2013 it was estimated that 31.3% of all federal criminal cases in the justice system were immigration related, and of that 31.3%, 83.3% were illegal re-entry cases. Unfortunately, after conviction for such crimes, it is very hard for immigrants to remain in the United States, which can create a lot of hardship for their families who may still be in the country. Usually at the end of incarceration, the immigrants are forced to return to their home countries with no help from the US to reintegrate.

However, while this is a bleak prospect, there has been discontent from immigration activists concerning the lack of help with reintegration for ex-offenders. There is a strong belief that instituting programs like the US have to equip ex-offenders with psychological preparation and skills for re-integration should be extended to those forced into deportation, because their removal from the country affects their potentially US-born families. Successful re-integration means lowering the potential for re-offending, which is much higher among those who have not gone through a preparation program, and if the migrants who have returned home can re-integrate there then it’s possible for them to send money and support to their families who may still be in the US. Deporting migrants home and expecting them to fend for themselves is not a feasible or sustainable solution.

If you’re looking for representation in a re-entry dispute, or if you need any help regarding the immigration laws of the United States, you shouldn’t hesitate to get in touch with Daniela Lyttle either through the Lyttle Law Firm website or by calling 512-215-5225.

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prison-fence-218456_640The Justice Department has settled on an agreement with Oregon’s second largest city, Eugene, after an investigation into the possible violation of anti-discrimination laws under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The investigation revealed that the city was responsible for improperly restricting law enforcement positions to US citizens. Under the INA, it is prohibited to exclude non-US citizens from consideration in such positions unless required to by law, executive order, or government contract. They should be Equal Opportunity Employers, i.e. non-discriminatory towards people of any gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, marital status or veteran status.

However, the investigation uncovered that police officers were asking applicants about their citizenship status with the intent of excluding them if they were not a US citizen at the time of hire, and have now been ordered to pay a civil penalty, be subject to monitoring by the Justice Department for three years, and must also train employees about the INA’s anti-discrimination policies.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who is head of the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department, said she commended the way the city of Eugene cooperated with the Department and addressed the situation so quickly. She also said that “The Civil Rights Division is committed to ensuring that individuals who are authorized to work in the United States do not face unlawful discriminatory barriers.” The OSC (The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, part of the Civil Rights Division) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination laws, and will act if employers engage in any of the following:

  • Hiring or firing any employee based on their national origin or citizenship status, e.g. refusing to hire someone because of a foreign accent or appearance.
  • Giving preference to applicants who hold a certain citizenship or visa status, unless mandated by law or government contract. It is unlawful for an employer to choose US citizens or temporary visa holders over any other worker.
  • “Document abuse”, i.e. asking applicants for more evidence of citizenship status than is required by law. Form I-9 gives a list of all acceptable documentation to ask for when hiring workers.
  • And as with the case in Eugene, employers may not retaliate against workers who assert their rights under the anti-discrimination laws, or they are subject to civil penalties, changing their internal policies, and being monitored by the DoJ.

Anyone who believes they or someone they know has been subject to discrimination in the workplace based on their country of origin or immigration status should be sure to get in touch with Daniela Lyttle at Lyttle Law Firm. You can get in contact via the website or by calling 512-215-5225.

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construction-worker-569149_640Some developments involving the Deffered Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy carries considerable consequences for groups of immigrants residing in the United States. A recall involving the three year DACA work authorization permits has been disseminated. Immigrants who received the three year DACA work authorization permits on February 16, 2015 need to verify their status or risk having their DACA authorizations and related employment authorizations terminated. If you or anyone you know has received a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services involving the recall of the DACA permits or your Employment Authorization Document it is urgent that you comply with the instructions immediately.

The DACA immigration policy received extensive changes after President Obama’s actions on 2014. President Obama’s decision expanded the reach of the policy to include illegal immigrants who entered the United States before 2010. The President also changed the DACA’s requirements by eliminating the need for applicants to be younger than 31 years old and lengthened the renewable deferral period by two years. The purpose of the DACA program is to allow undocumented immigrants to receive work permits that would allow them access to expanded employment opportunities and avoid deportation. The issued two-year work permits are renewable but do not give the eligible candidates a guaranteed path to citizenship or legal permanent resident status.

The recall of the DACA permits issued by President Obama’s administration comes hot on the heels of an injunction issued by a federal judge. Obama’s attempts to implement extensive immigration reform have not gained widespread support. Political representatives who oppose the President’s initiatives were instrumental in passing the injunction. The recall involving DACA permits issued after the February 16, 2015 court order was passed does not affect every DACA recipient. Only some individuals who received a card after February 16 are affected. If you received notice regarding the recall from USCIS, you need to return your card to your local USCIS office before July 31, 2015.

Immigrants who are concerned with the recall of the DACA work authorization permits have a few options at their disposal to verify whether they are affected by the development or otherwise. The USCIS website has an online tool that DACA work authorization permit recipients can use to verify whether they need to return their permits or not. Fact sheets in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese are also available on the USCIS web page. If you need legal assistance with issues involving the recall of DACA work permits or any other immigration related concern, contact Daniella Lyttle at Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC by calling calling 512-215-5225 or by visiting our website.

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travel-823299_640In the United States, the debate on extensive immigration law reform has been a constant thread of conversation that runs through a variety of sectors. With the Presidential race shifting into high gear, political representatives have been quick to capitalize on the concerns that grip a considerable segment of the American public. Martin O’Malley, a presidential candidate for the Democratic party, expressed his views on the question of immigration reform and the impact of immigrants on the economic landscape of the United States. O’Malley was prominently featured at the recent annual conference of the National Council of La Raza. Using his family’s history and experiences as immigrants as a springboard, O’malley addressed the Latino public and detailed his views on what the country needs to do to move towards progress as far as the topic of immigration is concerned.

O’malley’s grandfather hails from Ireland and arrived in the United States without a lot of advantages. O’Malley’s prominent position in U.S. politics leaves him in a unique position given his personal link to immigration related issues. O’malley’s political history when it comes to immigration related issues tends to favor immigrants. One of O’malley’s biggest contributions to the immigration crusade involves the DREAM act during his tenure as governor in Maryland.

When O’malley was governor of Maryland, he signed the DREAM act into law when the federal government was dragging its feet. The decision gave thousands of undocumented immigrants access to educational benefits. The DREAM act is a legislative proposal that is geared towards granting conditional residency status to immigrants who are able to meet specific qualifications. Some of the requirements stipulated in the DREAM act include a continuous period of residency within the United States for at least 5 years, a tangible demonstration of good moral character, an absence of a criminal record, and proof that an immigrant entered the country before the age of 16.

The Presidential hopeful plans to go into detail about his plans for immigration reform during a roundtable discussion in New York. O’malley is adamant about the fact that the successful integration of immigrants into the greater American economical fabric is the key towards expanding the country’s progress. The former Maryland governor also expressed his empathetic views on the debt struggles of Puerto Rico and the mass deportations happening between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. If you or anyone you know has any concerns involving the shifting landscape of immigration concerns, contact Daniella Lyttle at Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC by calling calling 512-215-5225 or by visiting our website.

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pride-828056_1280Immigration has historically been tough for many, but definitely no less than for LGBT migrants and their loved ones. The recent legislature passed down by the Supreme Court – ruling that discrimination against same sex marriage is unconstitutional – has meant that gay couples across the United States are now able to get married in any state they want (previously, only 37 states recognized same sex marriages). But what does this mean for K-1 fiancé visa petitions?

At this time, to obtain a fiancé visa, the application has to be sent in by the US citizen a migrant intends to marry, and they have to be able to present the following evidence:

  1. The couple have to have met in person within the last two years
  2. They must get married within 90 days of the immigrating party’s arrival in the United States – and only after that can the application for change of status be filed and an immigrant visa be processed
  3. The relationship has to be shown to be genuine – affidavits from family and friends may be required, as well as recent photos and receipts/letters between the couple
  4. The US citizen must earn enough to declare an Affidavit of Support showing that their intended spouse will not become a public charge. This is on an exponential scale relevant to the number of dependents involved with the application.

Same sex marriage petitions have actually been legal in states that recognize gay marriage since 2013, after the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was repealed by the Supreme Court; declaring that defining marriage as only “a union between a man and a woman” was unconstitutional. Soon after this decision, it was announced that both green card petitions for alien spouses and K-1 visa petitions would be recognized, and since then numerous petitions for same sex couples have been filed across the country.

Of course, the legalizing of gay marriage US-wide has – naturally – not been met with unanimous praise. Several states have been openly dismissive of the ruling despite it being illegal to not comply with it, and continue to assert they will not recognize any marriages that are petitioned or processed.

It also opens up a question; do these new marriage freedoms create a human capital flight problem? With the option to marry in any state, will there be a loss of talented workers in other countries as they choose to move abroad and find work in the US? Some say yes, despite there being evidence that even when people do migrate to the US – gay or straight – they still send money and other things back to their home countries to help out those family members and friends left behind. As well as that, there’s nothing to say they will stay permanently in the United States after they do get married.

Regardless, off the back of this new legislature same sex marriage visa petitions are expected to increase annually. If you’re interested in filing and wish to speak to an immigration attorney about it, or if you have any questions regarding K-1 fiancé visas, please call 512-215-5225.

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walk-842535_640Executive orders passed down from President Obama will prevent an estimated 9.6 million undocumented immigrants from being deported, officials say.

Migrants to the United States live in constant fear of their status being discovered, so this decision has come as a beacon of hope to many people and families across the country.

The official amnesty, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), was first proposed back in November, and at the time it raised protest amongst anti-deportation advocates because it only provides safety to immigrants who have spent at least 5 years in the country, and have at least one American-born child in their care. Those immigrants who have foreign-born children, new arrivals, LGBT immigrants and any with criminal records are not eligible for protection. Steven A Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, said after the announcement that the five-year minimum requirement was “arbitrary” and that it was hard to see how discrimination between a migrant who had been in the country with children for five years and someone without children who had been here nine could be possible.

However, Obama also issued orders for enforcement agents to not bother deporting any immigrants who didn’t meet the top priority levels for deportation. That is: convicted felons. This decision has reportedly caused a significant drop in deportation numbers for the 2015 fiscal year, with a shocking 117,181 migrants being deported in comparison to last year’s 157,365 in the same period – a difference of around three-quarters.

This drop has been directly credited to Obama’s enforcement priorities, and has raised questions about the legality of his amnesty proposal.

The amnesty itself, though, has not yet becomes official because almost immediately it was subject to a court battle that is predicted to be lengthy – perhaps even stretching into the last weeks of Obama’s term as President. Texas officials were joined in December by 25 other states in suing the administration against launching the program, and they recently went back to court again at the beginning of July for further debates.

So while the court proceedings continue to keep the amnesty from becoming a reality and leave many migrants with no option but to wait – these falling deportation numbers do provide hope to those who have previously felt their status was endangered. President Obama is committed to the cause, so much like his Dreamers campaign back in 2012 there is hope that it will be implemented successfully. Immigrants fill a lot of important roles in the US workforce, and the people with families face a lot of undue hardship if forced to separate, so the amnesty is an important step in preventing it.

If you or someone you know has any further questions about whether the amnesty or these enforcement priorities will affect you, or if you have any questions about immigration in general, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with an immigration attorney at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas. You can get in touch via the website or by calling 512-215-5225.

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gavelImmigrants who are facing removal proceedings could attempt to dodge deportation by invoking certain rights. One way for removal proceedings to be held in abeyance would be for a petitioner to invoke the Violence Against Women Act. Under the Violence Against Women Act, battered immigrants could petition for legal status without having to rely on their abusive U.S. spouse or relative to sponsor their Adjustment of Status applications. In spite of the label, the Violence Against Women Act is not exclusively limited to women. Men who have abusive spouses could also petition for legal resident status under the Violence Against Women Act.

One case involving a Nigerian citizen sees the Violence Against Women Act come into play during removal proceedings. Eugene Joseph entered the United States in 1991 and was placed under removal proceedings after he was convicted of theft in Illinois and committing bank fraud. During the proceedings, Joseph did admit to his undocumented status but sought to adjust it into a permanent legal resident status by stating that he was married to a U.S. citizen. During the legal proceedings, Joseph also asked for a waiver of inadmissibility in an attempt to address consequences that came as a result of his criminal activities. Joseph stated that deportation would cause his family to experience “extreme hardship.”

During the hearing, Joseph’s wife came forward and testified on his behalf. Joseph’s wife stated that his deportation would take a financial and emotional toll on their marriage as well as causing an undue amount of suffering to their asthmatic sons. The immigration judge that presided over Joseph’s case concluded that the suffering that would be brought about by his deportation would not be considered excessive when compared against the cases of children whose parents were to be deported from U.S. territory. The Board of Immigration appeals agreed with the immigration judge and upheld the decision.

Joseph went on to file 8 motions to reopen his case. Of the 8 motions, three of them cited the Violence Against Women Act. Joseph’s 8th petition was predicated on the Violence Against Women Act. During the instances when the Violence Against Women Act was invoked, Joseph alleged that his wife had been emotionally and physically abusive. He also claimed that his removal would cause hardship to fall on his children. Immigration authorities denied his petitions because of his failure to present evidence that would corroborate his claims of being a battered spouse. The authorities also stated that he failed to submit evidence that would demonstrate how his removal would cause unusual hardship to his children.

Cases related to immigration require the aid of a competent lawyer. Daniella Lyttle at the Lyttle Law Firm can help you with your legal challenges. Call Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC at 512-215-5225 or visit our website for more information.

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courtroom-144091_640Undocumented immigrants residing in the United States face difficult prospects if they are unable to adjust their status into that of a permanent legal resident. Some immigrants resort to attain permanent legal status by filing an I-30 visa petition. An I-30 visa petition or a petition for alien relative allows a United States citizen to establish their relationship with specific alien relatives who intend to immigrate to the U.S. One possible way that an immigrant can file an I-30 visa petition is to marry a U.S. resident. However, this move does not guarantee a smooth path to obtaining a permanent legal resident status.

One of the issues that immigration authorities can bring up to block an I-30 visa petition is marriage fraud. The case of Joel Njoroge Manguriu illustrates this perfectly. Manguriu is a native of Kenya who entered the United States on a student visa. Manguriu went over the allowed length of time that an immigrant can stay in the United States under a student visa. Eventually, he decided to marry a U.S. citizen in an attempt to adjust his status. Manguriu’s wife, Manuelita Lopez, filed an I-30 visa petition on his behalf. After the I-30 visa petition was filed, Manguriu applied for an adjustment of his immigrant status.

Immigration authorities reviewed Manguriu’s application. Manguriu’s request was denied on the grounds of marriage fraud. Manguriu’s case took a turn for the worst when the Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings against him. Manguriu sought to evade the proceedings by filing a petition through the Violence Against Women Act. Manguriu claimed that his spouse was abusive. The immigration judge presiding over his case decided to halt the removal proceedings and his VAWA petition was approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. After the USCIS approved Manguriu’s VAWA petition, he asked the immigration judge to adjust his immigrant status to that of a permanent legal resident of the U.S.

While the immigration judge did find that Manguriu was eligible for an adjustment of status because of the approved VAWA petition, she still dismissed his request. The immigration judge cited marriage fraud, false testimony given by Manguriu during the removal proceedings, and a failure to pay income taxes as reasons to justify her decision. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the decision of the immigration judge and a petition for judicial review followed. Securing permanent legal resident status requires the expertise of a lawyer. Contact Daniella Lyttle at the Lytlle Law Firm by calling 512-215-5225 or visit our website for more information.