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Faced with growing frustration over the management of immigration laws and enforcement at the federal level, individual states have begun a very controversial process of passing their own immigration laws at the state level.   Immigration has always been considered an issue to solely be addressed at the federal level, but this rash of newly enacted state laws has brought this discussion to the political arena across the United States.  In this article, we will take a closer look at the states that have already passed their own immigration laws.

Arizona is the first to act with SB 1070

It’s no secret that Arizona, with its border to Mexico, has a vested interest in the status of immigration laws and enforcement.  Arizona also faces a well documented problem of illegal immigrants living in the state, with estimates of as many as 500,000 currently residing there (a 10 fold increase since 1990).  As such, it should be no surprise that Arizona was the first state to pass its own immigration law.  The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (Arizona SB 1070) was passed into law in Arizona in 2010 and signed by the governor. By most accounts, the act was the strictest and broadest anti-immigration measure passed in America in recent history.

The Arizona immigration enforcement law has several key provisions:

  • It makes it a state misdemeanor crime for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying documentation established legal residency
  • It requires that state law enforcement officers attempt to determine an individual’s immigration status during a lawful stop, detention, or arrest when there is reason to believe that the individual is an illegal alien
  • It establishes greater restrictions on those transporting, sheltering, or hiring illegal aliens
  • It bars state or local officials from restricting enforcement of federal immigration laws

While the law had support in Arizona and throughout the United States, critics contend that the law encourages and permits racial profiling.  Legal challenges, including one by the United States Department of Justice followed based.

Alabama follows suit

Alabama passed its version of the Arizona law in 2011.  Some of the features of the Alabama law that are similar to Arizona include the provisions regarding business licensing and E-verify, which both were upheld in Arizona.

While a Federal judge has refused to block some provisions of the Alabama law, representatives of family and children’s advocacy groups claim the law is an attack on immigrant children and families.  Just this past week (October 7, 2011) the Obama Administration has officially asked an appeals court to halt the Alabama immigration law, saying it could have dire diplomatic consequences abroad, as it invites discrimination and forces illegal immigrants into neighboring states.

Georgia & South Carolina come next

Georgia and South Carolina have also passed their own immigration laws in 2011.  However, a Federal judge has already stepped in with the Georgia controversy to block some key provisions of the law. However, most of the law has still gone into effect, pending further legal challenges.

More Changes to Come

There is no doubt that, given this trend, more lawsuits and legal battles are soon to come regarding the issue of states passing immigration enforcement laws.  Some immigration experts believe that these local, state laws actually exacerbate immigration enforcement problems by confusing the legal issues surrounding undocumented aliens within one state.  On the other hand, state officials claim they have no choice but pass their own laws as a result of the Federal government’s failure to address the country’s growing immigration controversies.

For more information about immigration laws as they are enforced in Maryland, contact The Law Firm of Annapolis. We provide immigration law services in the Annapolis & Baltimore, Maryland area, including E-verify compliance and concerns

The H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs set the guidelines for those individuals seeking non-immigrant, or temporary worker status in the United States. The H-2A program grants U.S. employers permission to bring foreign workers into the United States to work in temporary agricultural jobs. The H-2B program serves the same purpose, but for temporary non-agricultural jobs. To facilitate these programs the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services department only allows nationals from countries approved by the Secretary of Homeland Security to participate in these programs. In 2011, a new list of countries approved for these programs for the following year was announced.

Approved Countries

As of January 18, 2011, the following list of countries was approved, and nationals from these countries are allowed to participate in the program:

Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Nauru, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Vanuatu.

Of these countries, the following were designated for the first time this year:  Barbados, Estonia, Fiji, Hungary, Kiribati, Latvia, Macedonia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State excluded Indonesia from this list, rescinding their prior approval for participation in the program.

Special Approval

If a person currently holds a valid H-2A or H-2B visa, this new list does not affect their status. Individuals from countries not on the approved lists may be admitted under the visa programs, but only if the Secretary of Homeland Security determines that it is in the best interest of the United States.

The Law Firm of Annapolis provides immigration law services in the Annapolis & Baltimore, Maryland area.  If you have questions about the H-2A or H-2B program, or any other visa or immigration related questions, please contact us today and one of our immigration attorneys will be happy to discuss what options you may have to apply for a visa.

On March 10, 2010, USCIS granted Chilean nationals present in the United States temporary nonimmigrant status based on the catestphoic earthquake that occurred in Chile.  This allows visitors on visas to legally extend their stay for 6 months.   These benefits also include the possibility to get work authorization and expedited processing of applications for immediate relatives of United States citizens and LPRs (I-130s).

If you are a Chilean National currently in the United States and are unable or unwilling to return home because of the earthquake, please contact our office and we would be happy to discuss your available immigration options.

Every two years, USCIS conducts fee reviews to determine if they are adequately recovering the costs expended to successfully operate.  Most of their budget is derived from collecting fees that accompany petitions and applications from individuals seeking immigration benefits.  USCIS fee revenues have reportedly been lower than projected, so they are proposing fee adjustments to hopefully successfully recover costs of operations.  The other apparent option is to cut staff, which would lengthen already long application processing times.

While most increases are minimal (and they even propose three decreases), there are a few which are more extreme then others; most notably is the increased fee from $545 to $755 for an I-694, a notice of Appeal of Decision.

They have also proposed to new fees for a Civil Surgeon Designation, an I-924 Application for Regional Center under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, and a general fee for an Immigrant Visa.

Keeping up with application requirements can be a tricky process, and minor flaws in an application can have dire consequences.  Our office can help ensure your application process goes as smoothly as possible.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have, and we would be happy to assist you.

Applications to USCIS usually require fees to be included in order to be processed.  However, in certain circumstances, USCIS may allow for fees to be waived.

In order to get a fee waiver for a TPS application, USCIS has provided guidance on what should be included in the written statement requesting the waiver.

The key points that should be included in the written statement are:

  • A statement indicating that “under penalty of perjury, the foregoing statements are true and correct.”
  • specific reasons why you are unable to pay the fee
  • a list of all of your assets, including property owned
  • your monthly income for at least 3 months prior to submission of the form
  • your monthly bills and other required expenditures
  • a list of dependents in the United States, including street addresses and relationship to you, and any income that they earn or receive
  • information about any public benefits you receive, such as Medicaid, welfare, or house assistance
  • any other information relating to humanitarian considerations, such as age, disability, homelessness

For more information, please click here.

Many immigrants in the United States on Temporary Protective Status may have problems proving their legal status, and thus ability to work, because of expired EAD card.  Typically, when an immigrant has been granted TPS and an accompanying EAD card, the EAD card will indicate that the expiration date is the same as when time period of the designated country has expired.  However, often times, the United States will grant extensions for TPS status, thus allowing immigrant to continue to stay in the country past the date listed on their EAD card.  Employers however, will require proof of legal status and ability to work when filling about a Form I-9.

For the purposes of an I-9, USCIS has issued a report staying that employers must accept expired EAD cards after DHS has announced an auto-extension of TPS.  So long as the card reasonably appears to be genuine and seems to match the person presenting it, it should be deemed acceptable.  However, this will only apply to cards that have been expired due to auto-extension; any non-auto-extension will still require the immigrant to re-register with DHS for TPS status, or else work authorization will expire as well.

For more information about documentation requirements, click here.

For more information about TPS in general, click here.

In 2009, there was a substantial increase in United States citizens living abroad renouncing their United States citizenship.  It is speculated that this increase is due to frustrations dealing with taxes and banking problems, especially those relating to taxes for citizens who work abroad.  Many fall within the category of workers who will have to pay double taxes, both to the United States and to the country where they are working and living.  There also have been problems maintaining bank accounts in the United States when one has a foreign address.  This is because of heightened regulatory requirements that came into fruition after 9/11 and the passing of the Patriot Act.  In light of these burdens, the alternative option of relinquishing citizen is actually typically an easy choice, considering how simple the process is; it simply involves appearing before a U.S. consular or diplomatic official in a foreign country and signing a renunciation oath.

Despite the public opposition by the president and other politicians to the Arizona legislation allowing officers to arrest anyone who fails to provide proof of legal status, Maryland Delegate Pat McDonough has proposed a similar bill in Maryland.   However, Maryland Governor O’Malley is not behind this legislation, and Maryland lawmakers have actually, in the past, been supportive immigrants through their large contributions to the non-profit organization CASA de Maryland, which is dedicated to helping illegal immigrants, both legal and illegal, ensure that their rights are protected.

Every day, minors are brought over the border to the United States illegally by their parents, who hope to provide their children with better lives than they would be able to in their home countries.  Many of these children successfully make it across, settle down, and for years go undetected.  In the meantime, they go to public schools, learn English, become accustomed to American life and culture, and end up having the same dreams and hopes as any child born in the United States.  This includes the dream of getting a college education.

Any many illegal immigrants do just that.  They work hard, apply, and get accepted to universities across the nation.  However, all the hard work and big dreams could be quickly taken away, for something as minor as a traffic violation.  This is because DHS has a program known as 287(g) that allows local sheriffs to handle federal immigration law enforcement, part of the strict immigration legislation intending to prevent the presence of illegal immigrants in the country.

In order to help minors who have been in the country for years, have gone to school, and have not had any problems with the law, proposed legislation known as the Dream Act is intended to provide illegal students with a path to becoming legal.  Officially called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act has met much opposition, however, by those who see illegal immigrants as a burden on society, especially minors whom have benefited from the American public education system.  But, those in supportive of it say it is only right to allow minors, whom often times had no part in the decision making process to enter the country illegally, should not later be punished when they have done everything they can after getting to the country to be worthy citizens and contribute to the country they call home.

Aliens with extraordinary talents or abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletic field can seek entrance into the United States through an O-1 nonimmigrant visa.  Extraordinary ability must be demonstrated by proof that the applicant has sustained national or international acclaim, which can be proven by submitting evidence such as prizes or awards that have been received, acclaimed published materials, or extremely high salary earnings based on employment contracts.  O-1B visas are designated for those involved in the motion picture or television industry, while O-1A visas are designated for all others.  Once a visa is approved, it allows for three years of residence in the United States, as well as family members or staff to accompany the alien.  However, the alien must continue to work in the said field that they have excelled in, or else the purpose of the visa will no longer be satisfied, and the alien must return home.

For more information, click here.