While the topic of immigration has been largely viewed as an issue reserved for the federal government, there are cities across the United States finding their own approach to dealing with immigration issues related to an increasing number of undocumented residents.
Instead of isolating and discriminating against these communities, cities such as New Haven, Connecticut and San Francisco, California are taking a new approach towards them with the implementation of a municipal ID program.
Municipal IDs 101
These programs allow a municipality, such as a city, to issue identification cards to residents, regardless of their United States citizenship status. The programs differ from city to city, but most require that the person provide a form of identification, such as a passport, and a document that will prove that he or she has been residing in the city for at least fifteen or thirty days. This documentation can be provided in the form a bill, pay stub, or any other document that would prove residency.
The identification cards are inexpensive and must be renewed periodically.
Pros and Cons of the ID card system
These municipal ID cards have proven to be a functional tool to allow undocumented individuals to more openly integrate into the community and contribute to the economy. The identification cards create opportunities for immigrants to open bank accounts, find housing, and use city programs such as hospitals and libraries.
Trouble and skepticism have risen around the cards because some people are worried about the safety of the immigrants using them. Anti-immigration groups have requested the names of all of the immigrants who have requested a municipal identification card, so that they can turn those names over to the federal immigration authorities, perhaps for deportation.
To date, the participating cities have refused to turn over this information to protect the immigrants’ rights to privacy and safety. Some cities, however, such as Dayton, Ohio, have created variations of their own municipal ID program and are requiring immigrant status checks to be performed on those who are suspected of serious crimes.
Opponents of the program argue that the existence of these programs is a violation of federal law as it creates a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, and, furthermore, that the municipal identification program invites increased criminal activity to the areas in which it is practiced. The cities which have municipal identification cards maintain that the cards do not grant the immigrant legal residency or citizenship; and that the cards merely give immigrants a document that makes it easier for them to live and work in the community. They further suggest that the program does not compromise or interfere with the federal process for naturalization .
Additionally, the Mayor of New Haven, CT, John DeStefano Jr., announced in December that he hopes to ask state legislators to allow undocumented aliens to be granted the right to vote. Actions such as those by DeStafano fuel disputes in public debate about whether these municipal ID card systems will eventually lead to immigration changes on a larger scale.
10 Jun 2010
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.
18 May 2010
DHS granted an extension for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans, allowing them to maintain legal status through January 5, 2012. Hondurans were originally granted TPS status in 1999, following a devastating Hurricane in 1998, which left thousands dead and millions homeless. At the time, the Honduran President Flores claimed it destroyed fifty years of progress to the country, because of massive damage to the infrastructure, including the transportation and communication networks. This year, DHS reviewed the current conditions of the country and determined that Honduras is still not able to adequately handle the return of its nationals.
What does this mean for Hondurans who are currently in the United States? All Hondurans who currently have the benefit of TPS in the United States will have this benefit expire on July 6, 2010 and thus they must re-register with DHS in order to extend their status. Re-registration requires filing an I-821 and an I-765. This includes complying with the biometrics service fee and EAD application fee. Once this has been complied with, TPS status will be good through January 5, 2012. However, failure to comply before July 6, 2010 will result is a withdrawal of TPS. This could result in being subjected to removal from the United States, and thus must be addressed in a timely fashion.
On February 25, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit determined that a woman’s repeated returns to her home country was not enough, in and of itself, to bar her claim for asylum. Petitioner Nan Marie Kone grew up in Cote d’Ivori (the Ivory Coast) in a community that practiced female genital mutilation (FGM). Since being subjected to the ritual as a young girl, she has had to cope with both the physical and mental harm she suffered.
Ms. Kone first came to the United States in 2002, and between the years began traveling back and forth between her home country and then United States. During many of her times she returned to her home country, she suffered maltreatment, whether being arrested for her political believes or having family members murdered for their religious beliefs. Following tumultuous events, she would seek refuge in the United States, but never gave up the hope that eventually the political and ethnic strife in her home country would be resolved. Eventually, this hope dissipated, and she sought out asylum in the United States in 2005.
This petition was denied, based primarily on the evidence of her repeated returns to the Ivory Coast. Asylum is based on the premise that a safe-haven will be given to those who face persecution in their home countries. A finding of past persecution creates a rebuttable presumption that fear of future persecution is well-founded. Evidence of FGM is generally held to be fundamental evidence of past persecution. This places the burden on the government to show that by a preponderance of the evidence, the reasons for this fear no longer exist, because of changed circumstances. In Ms. Kone’s case, the government argued that the evidence of her frequent visits back to her home country were enough to meet the burden of proof to show a change of circumstances. Though the trial court agreed with this argument, the appellate court for the Second Circuit disagreed. They instead held that while it may be relevant evidence, such evidence alone is not enough to meet the preponderance of the evidence standard. Based on this finding, the court remanded the case for a new trial to reevaluate the circumstances surrounding Ms. Kone’s case in light of this new rule.
This holding, that the simple fact of safe return on a particular occasion does not negate the potential of future harm, can help provide precedence for many immigrants who are torn between facing heinous treatment in their home country and living a better life in the United States, at the cost of abandoning their family, friends, and previous lives. By allowing more leeway for those who don’t up and leave their lives in one final move, this helps many of those in the worst situations have a greater chance of having hope of a better life once they have made their final decisions.
12 Mar 2010
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The Law Firm of Annapolis was founded in 1999 by Marysabel Rodriguez-Nanney.
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Following the devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010, the Unites States issued a 18-month designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti. This allows Haitians who were in the United States at the time of the earthquake to stay in the country legally and obtain work authorization while they are unable to return home. This applies to the 100,000-200,000 estimated Haitians who are currently in the United States. However, Haitians are not automatically granted this status, and must apply for TPS within 6 months of the January 12, 2010 designation, or else their application for TPS and work authorization will be denied. If they do not have any other means of obtaining legal status, they will be subject to removability. According to USCIS, as of February 12th, only 12,000 Haitians has applied for TPS.
It is estimated that over 500,000 Haitians are internally displaced, meaning that they were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, but their homes have been destroyed or are inaccessible, and thus have no place to call home. Approximately 50,000 of these Haitians have been approved to reunite with family in the United States, but still much await a visa before they can actually enter the country.
Though there are legal ways for Haitians to enter the United States, because of the dire situation in their home country, many are fleeing for the Dominican Republic and the United States, regardless of whether they have received advance permission. The United States Coast Guard is left with the unfortunate task of stopping boats of people from Haiti, and then are left with the problem of where to take them. The United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has made an international appeal to governments to suspend all involuntary returns and grant interim protection to these desperate people, but many countries have been unwilling to announce an official policy to accept displaced Haitians.