Checklist for Noncitizen Protestors and Their Attorneys

June 30, 2020 § Leave a comment

As protests and mass demonstrations emerge throughout the world in response to injustice and racist acts against Black people in the United States, many Noncitizens in America find themselves in a dilemma: join the protests and jeopardize legal status, or stay silent and safeguard legal status and oneself from deportation. Of course, Noncitizens living in the U.S. have every right to speak out against injustice. However, it is important to recognize that Noncitizens face additional risks when participating in protests and demonstrations. The purpose of this checklist is to provide immigration attorneys and their Noncitizen client’s a list of issues to address should said-client wish to partake in protest.

  1. Conduct Research in Your Jurisdiction 
    1. Inquire into potential issues regarding identification laws. Find out whether the particular jurisdiction has stop-and-identify laws or if the client is required to carry identification. It is recommended that clients carry some form of local, state, or student ID while avoiding documents that reveal immigration status. 
    2. Look into the jurisdiction’s processing of a criminal case. Understanding how a typical criminal case is processed in the jurisdiction is important for the client and attorney to prepare should the client come into contact with law enforcement. 
    3. Determine what law enforcement agencies may be present and how they interact with protestors. Some of these agencies include ICE, FBI, CBP, and U.S. Marshals. ICE and CBP have been deployed in many places to assist law enforcement in the current Black Lives Matter protests.
    4. Determine the extent of communication and collaboration between state and local police and ICE. Determine whether the police department has agreements with ICE, or if it generally prohibits assistance to ICE.
    5. Research the immigrant consequences of local offenses. Common offenses may trigger additional immigration consequences such as bars from relief, mandatory detention or deportation, delays in relief, or may prevent establishing the good moral character requirement.
    6. Identify support networks in the jurisdiction for Noncitizen protestors. These include bail funds and immediate legal support hotlines.
  2. Advise Your Client
    1. Be aware of the client’s circumstances. A lawful permanent resident has a different risk than someone who has no authorized status or is in removal proceedings.
    2. Provide information to the client regarding their rights. Everyone, including Noncitizens, has a right to remain silent. Noncitizens should refrain from disclosing their immigration status, but should not falsely claim U.S. citizenship or provide false information.
    3. Be cautious with digital privacy. Cell phones may be confiscated by police and can be used for incriminating evidence. If bringing a cell phone, the client should turn off fingerprint or Face-ID features, add a secure password, and turn off location tracking.
    4. Noncitizen protestors should have contact information with them. This includes their attorney, emergency contacts, and any support networks.

Black Lives Matter and Immigration: Unity in a Time of Despair

June 14, 2020 § 1 Comment

6/14/2020 by Casey White, Legal Assistant

In what seems like a revisitation to the Jim Crow Era, our country once again finds itself amidst a time of rampant racism, division, and hate. These particular diseases have permeated our country since its founding—long before COVID-19. However, the current growing number of Black people falling to police brutality, the current global pandemic, and the current administration’s goals of stoking the flames of racism and division have all magnified these systemic issues and have left the country in a volatile state.

Unfortunately, just like their Black brothers and sisters, immigrants are increasingly experiencing the effects of racism and oppression in this country. It is important to recognize that though Black people and immigrants face separate and incomparable issues within their communities, immigrant oppression and Black oppression are often intersectional. We must not forget that much of the U.S. immigrant population is Black or African American. 

In addition to the recent killings of several Black Americans by police force, both the Black community and the immigrant community have been devastated by COVID-19. Both communities have seen disproportionate numbers of people contracting COVID-19. In fact, COVID-19 has ravaged immigrant detainment centers all across the nation. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has taken a firm grip on immigration—using the virus to halt immigration indefinitely; enforce draconian immigration policy; and drive home the racist narrative that immigrants are “animals,” “bring disease” into this country, and are a threat to our economy.

Another resurfacing narrative that is being used to pin the Black population directly against the immigrant population is that immigrants contribute to job loss in the United States and take jobs away from Black people. There is no consensus of evidence proving that immigration is the direct reason for job loss among the Black community. We must not lose focus: the issues among the Black community come from many different systems in the U.S. that are inherently racist—immigrants are not the problem, nor should they be the focus. Racism and poverty are complex issues that are caused and influenced by multiple factors, and no one thing such as curbing immigration can solve these problems overnight.

Fueling racist and divisive narratives and pinning minorities against one another is dangerous and will lead to further conflicts and social unrest in our country. Judging people by the color of their skin or where they come from must be a thing of the past. If our country truly wants to move forward and address its injustices, it must do so in a welcoming and united front. 

Our nation is a melting pot of diverse peoples—that is what makes it so great. Our long journey towards a more perfect union continues. The good news: it appears as though we have reached a pivotal moment in which the people of this country are breaking the silence and saying ‘enough is enough.’ Americans are ready to be vocal and stand up for love, unity, and justice—and in the end, love, unity, and justice always prevail.

Everything You Need to Know about President Trump’s Temporary Halt on Immigration in Response to COVID-19

May 18, 2020 § Leave a comment


On April 20, 2020, President Trump declared he would be suspending immigration into the United States to prioritize American workers in the current, weak economic climate brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 22, 2020, President Trump officially issued a limited presidential proclamation temporarily suspending entry of immigrants into the U.S. for 60 days, effective April 23, 2020. The proclamation suspends the issuance of immigrant visas (‘green cards’) to individuals outside the U.S. and to individuals who do not already have a green card or other official travel document authorizing their entry. There are several exemptions to this proclamation (more detail below). The 60-day suspension will terminate on June 30, 2020; however, within 50 days, the U.S. Government will decide whether to extend or shorten the suspension.

Who is affected by the suspension?

The 60-day suspension applies to those who are outside the U.S., do not have a valid immigrant visa, or do not have an official travel document other than a visa. This means that individuals with immigrant visas that expired prior to the April 22 ban will also be denied entry into the U.S.

Who is exempt from the suspension?

Several people will still be authorized entry into the U.S. and will not be affected by the temporary immigration suspension. The discretionary authority to determine whether an immigrant is eligible for an exemption has been delegated to consular officers, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of the Department of State. Please note that although the spouse and children of U.S. Citizens are exempt, parents of U.S. Citizens are not exempt. 

The following peoples are exempt from the proclamation:

  • Lawful permanent residents (LPR);
  • Healthcare professionals seeking to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19 (the spouse and children of healthcare professionals are exempt as well);
  • EB-5 immigrant investors;
  • Children (under the age of 21) of a U.S. Citizen, the spouse of a U.S. Citizen, or a prospective adoptee of a U.S. Citizen (IR-4 or IH-4);
  • Those who would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives;
  • Members of the U.S. Armed forces (as well as their spouse and children);
  • Special Immigrant Visas as an Afghan or Iraqi translator/interpreter or U.S. Government Employee (SI or SQ classification);
  • Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest (as determined by consular officers, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Department of State);
  • Persons in possession of an advance parole document, a transportation letter, or a boarding foil that was valid on the effective date, April 23, 2020, or is issued on any date thereafter

Appeal Process

Currently, there is no appeal mechanism for individuals who have been denied access into the U.S. and feel as though they meet one or more of the aforementioned exemptions.

Courses of Action Not Affected by the Proclamation

The following courses of action may still take place during the suspension:

  • The issuing of nonimmigrant visas (NIVs), including those for work, leisure, or travel, will continue to take place. However, the U.S. government will reconsider NIV measures after 30 days of the proclamation
  • Individuals can still apply for asylum or refugee status consistent with U.S. law and Conventions
  • The proclamation should not preclude filing and adjudication of an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative or I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers
  • The proclamation imposes no limitation on qualified resident aliens seeking U.S. citizenship to file Form N-400, Applications for Naturalization. However, USCIS Field Offices are currently closed and are not conducting naturalization interviews until at least June 4, 2020

I-551 ADIT Stamps for Permanent Residents

May 18, 2020 § Leave a comment

Updated information on how lawful permanent residents (LPR) can obtain I-551 (ADIT) stamps for continued work authorization or international traveling amidst COVID-19 and USCIS Field Office closures:

-The USCIS Contact Center (1-800-375-5283) continues to schedule local office appointments for those seeking an ADIT stamp “where there is an emergent need.” What constitutes “emergent need” has yet to be defined.

-The caller should clearly explain why the request is being made (e.g., employment authorization, emergency international travel, etc.). Clients should be prepared to document why the stamp is needed to both the USCIS Contact Center representative and the local USCIS officer.

The USCIS and its local field offices aim to reopen on June 3, 2020.

Click here for more information from one of our recent blog posts on how to navigate the USCIS call system:

Guidelines for Participants of the Visa Waiver Program During COVID-19

April 28, 2020 § Leave a comment

If you are a citizen of these following countries and you are in the US as a visitor for personal or work reasons that last less than 90 days (for citizens of Canada and Bermuda, the duration can be up to six months), you are very likely in the US via the Visa Wavier Program (VWP):

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Bermuda

As the name of the program suggests, foreign citizens of the countries participating in VWP can enter the US without a US visitor (B-1/B-2) visa. While this program provides a lot of convenience for citizens of these countries, it also creates problems during the COVID-19 pandemic when flights and other means of international transportation become unavailable. While individuals participating in VWP do not need a visa, they are also generally not allowed to change immigration status or request an extension during their stay in the US. Under normal circumstances, these individuals must depart the US if their 90-day (or 6-month for Canadians and Bermudians) period end. Under the special circumstances of COVID-19, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that individuals with VWP can request Satisfactory Departure, which will allow them to stay in the US for another 30 days if their departures are interrupted due to COVID-19. Here are some step by step guidelines on making a request:

  1. The SD (satisfactory departure) requestor should contact the USCIS Contact Center indicating that they wish to request SD. The phone number for the USCIS Contact Center is 800-375-5283.
  2. The USCIS Contact Center representative will ask limited questions to determine if the requestor appears eligible (e.g. admitted visa waiver, applying timely).
  3. The USCIS Contact Center representative will then instruct the requestor to send an e-mail to them with “SD” in the subject line and to include an image of their passport biographic page(s), reason for requesting SD, and any additional contact information. The email should include the following:
    • Date and place most recently entered the United States on a visa waiver;
    • Reason for requesting Satisfactory Departure;
    • Contact information;
    • An image (attachment) of the biographic page(s) of their passport.
    • The USCIS Contact Center will then forward that e-mail to the USCIS Field Office located nearest to the requestor.
  4. A designated “SD officer” at the USCIS Field Office will review the documentation and then process the request and notify the applicant of the decision by creating a Service Request Management Tool (SRMT) number and emailing the applicant.
  5. Satisfactory departure requests may be made at any CBP POE or DI site, regardless of the individual’s initial port of arrival.
  6. For VWP entrants currently granted a period of satisfactory departure but remain unable to depart the United States due to complications brought on by COVID-19, CBP, in its discretion, may offer an additional satisfactory departure period of 30 days in order to avoid the entrants from accruing unlawful presence.

Perhaps due to the current USCIS field office closures during COVID-19, the USCIS call center’s customer wait time is rather brief. Therefore, if you entered the US with VWP and your planned departure is interrupted by COVID-19, consider contacting USCIS as soon as possible.

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