What happens to my immigration case during the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

On April 1, 2020, USCIS announced that they are extending their temporary closure date until May 3, 2020. USCIS is the immigration office that reviews applications of those seeking their U.S legal permanent residence card (also known as a “green card”) or U.S citizenship. Typically, they hold in person interviews and exams with the applicant in order to determine if they will obtain their U.S legal permanent residence card or U.S citizenship.

Due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, USCIS announced on March 18, 2020 that they cancelled all interviews and visits to the USCIS immigration offices to protect everyone’s health and safety. Previously, they had announced that they would temporarily close until April 1, 2020 but since then they have extended their date to May 3, 2020.

You may ask yourself, “well what does that mean for my immigrantion case?” “Is it on pause or on hold during the pandemic of the Coronavirus?” To answer this question, no, your case is not put on hold during the pandemic of the Coronavirus. Immigration officers are still working and continue to review your application. Therefore, you may still continue working with your attorney to submit your application and if you don’t have an attorney and would like to begin an immigration case, please don’t hesitate and contact one of our Franco Law Group attorneys at 213.200.1505.

USCIS Resources

Using the following links you are able to:

Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) aka “Immigration Court”

On March 13, 2020 the Executive Office for Immigration Review in Los Angeles (also known as the “Immigration Court”) announced that they would be postponing all Master hearings as a result of the breakout of the Coronavirus. A master hearing is a preliminary hearing where you present your immigration case before an immigration judge.

Later on March 18, 2020 the Executive Office for Immigration Review also postponed all non-detained hearings. Therefore, the only hearings that are still scheduled are for those that are detained and are presenting a case before an immigration judge in order to fight for the right to stay in the United States.

Now, if you have a case that you are fighting before the Immigration Court you may wonder if your case is put on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the answer is no. Your case is still active and still being reviewed. Therefore, you should continue working with your attorney to meet any deadlines you may have to submit documents and continue working to move your case forward. If you don’t have an attorney we have an experienced team of attorneys that can help. You may contact us by commenting below or calling our office at 213.200.1505.

As of now, the Executive Office for Immigration Review is not set to open until May 1, 2020. Therefore, any hearings after May 1, 2020 are still scheduled until further notice.

Any filings due during a court closure should be filed by March 30, 2020. Filing deadlines after March 30, 2020 remain in effect subject to the discretion of the immigration judge. There is no requirement that documents be filed in person. For all courts, parties are encouraged to file by mail or by ECAS where available (EOIR).

Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP)

If you are an asylum seeker in Mexico and you have a case pending under the MPP program, please know that currently all hearings presently scheduled through April 22 will be rescheduled. Any individual with an MPP hearing date through April 22 should present themselves at their designated port of entry on their previously scheduled date to receive a tear sheet and hearing notice containing their new hearing dates. The Board of Immigration Appeals are still reviewing immigration cases.

The Impact of the Coronavirus on Immigration

Coronavirus Impact

The Coronavirus has brought a lot of uncertainty and panic to our communities. Living in the unknown can truly be stressful and scary. For example, not knowing if you have been exposed to COVID19, not knowing when all this will get better, not knowing if tomorrow you will be told that there is no work, not knowing how you will pay your bills, and not knowing how you will feed your family. We have witnessed our communities go into extreme panic over supplies by stocking up because it is uncertain how long this pandemic will last. Walking into stores and seeing empty shelves has definitely been a scary sight. The Coronavirus is affecting many people financially (businesses closing or people losing their jobs) and emotionally. Our health care providers are putting their health at risk in order to treat individuals sick with the Coronavirus and all while Immigration Officers (ICE) continue to terrorize the immigrant community.

ICE Agents Detaining Individuals in the City of Bell Garden, CA

Recently the Los Angeles Times reported that ICE agents targeted residents from the City of Bell Gardens, CA to complete their deportation orders. These agents are completely ignoring the restrictions by the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, to prevent and contain the spread of the Coronavirus. The ICE agents stated that they are taking precautions and have the resources to protect themselves from the virus but that won’t stop them from “protecting the public by getting these criminal aliens off the street and out of our communities,” said David Marin, the director of Enforcement and Removal Operations for ICE in L.A (LA Times). It is utterly disturbing how ICE agents continue to torment, terrorize and prey on individuals at a very vulnerable time for our communities. ICE agents are literally monitoring when a person leaves their home to figure out a good time to catch them out of their homes. Many people are worried and scared about getting infected, having a roof over their heads, and feeding their families. The last thing they think about when they are running out of their homes to buy food or go to work is getting detained by ICE.

On Monday, it was announced that the US Consulate in Ciudad Juárez and all US embassies in Mexico will be closed as of March 18, 2020.  Immigration offices in Los Angeles are also closing but ICE agents have lost their sense of humanity and continue to torment the immigrant community during this most vulnerable time. The City of Bell Gardens has reached out to Congresswoman Lucille-Roybal to advocate and demand that ICE agents stop their deportation orders given the vulnerable state the community is facing.

Know your Rights

Please remember that you still have your 5th Amendment rights under the United States Constitution, which are the following:

  1. The right to remain silent
  2. The right to an attorney

If an agent arrives to your home please remember:

  1. Do Not Open the Door
  2. Remain silent, you do not need to answer any questions
  3. Do Not sign any documentation

Please know that no one can enter your home without a warrant signed by a Superior Court Judge.

SWAT Agents being deployed to Sanctuary Cities to Serve Deportation Orders

It is insane and absurd the measures this administration is taking to continue terrorizing the immigrant community. According to the New York Times, “Among the agents being deployed to sanctuary cities are members of the elite tactical unit known as BORTAC, which acts essentially as the SWAT team of the Border Patrol. With additional gear such as stun grenades and enhanced Special Forces-type training, including sniper certification, the officers typically conduct high-risk operations targeting individuals who are known to be violent, many of them with extensive criminal records.” Is this really necessary? Does this administration really see immigrants as a danger to this country?

 

Even former commissioner of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and former chief of police in Seattle, Gil Kerlikoswke, labeled this attempt as “a significant mistake”, and continued to state, “If you were a police chief and you were going to make an apprehension for a relatively minor offense, you don’t send the SWAT team, they’re trained for much more hazardous missions than this” (New York Times).

 

It is unbelievable to witness the persecution of immigrants when all they want is the best for their families and achieve the “American Dream.” During this terrible climate, one can’t help but to think of the Holocaust, where Jews were persecuted with severe brutality.

 

If you are living in a sanctuary city such as: Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, N.J. please remain calm and do not let the news scare you.

 

Please remember that you still have your 5th Amendment rights under the Unites States Constitution, which are the following:

  1. The right to remain silent
  2. The right to an attorney

 

If an agent arrives to your home please remember:

  1. Do Not Open the Door
  2. Remain silent, you do not need to answer any questions
  3. Do Not sign any documentation

 

Please know that no one can enter your home without a warrant signed by a Superior Court Judge.

 

 

To read the full story by The New York Times please visit: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/14/us/Border-Patrol-ICE-Sanctuary-Cities.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimes

 

ICE Agent Shoots Innocent Man During Deportation Order

It is outrageous to see what ICE agents can get away with. Today an ICE agent shot an innocent 26 year old by the name of Eric Cruz who saw his neighbor being tackled to the ground. The ICE agent did not identify himself so Mr. Cruz went to his neighbor’s rescue where he was confronted by the agent and later shot in the face. This incident could have easily been prevented if the officer had identified himself.

ICE agents typically dress in casual attire without anything that identifies them as an ICE agent. Therefore, to most they look like normal people. In this incident that could have been the case where Eric Cruz thought his neighbor was being attacked by a normal everyday person.

To read or watch the full story by ABC News please visit: https://abc7.com/ice-agent-shoots-undocumented-man-in-face-brother-in-hand-in brooklyn/5908029/?ex_cid=TA_KABC_FB&utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A+Trending+Content&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR3hWuCFQGu8YBPjC4v7Sy7b91gGmHHAJiWIUlsLcsTLMOyStIGvtj0Fils

New Immigration Court in Van Nuys

On Monday, December 9, 2019, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) also knows as the Immigration Court opened another location in the city of Van Nuys. According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), “the Van Nuys immigration court will serve cases from Kern, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties, and parts of the Los Angeles County.” It is very important to check the location of your next immigration court hearing to find out if your hearing has been moved to Van Nuys. We do not want anyone to be affected by missing their immigration court hearing due to this change. To check the location of your next immigration court hearing please call the Automated EOIR System at 1-800-898-7180.

Yesterday, December 12, 2019 we had the opportunity to visit the immigration courthouse. As of now, there are 6 courtrooms at the new Van Nuys immigration court. The following courtrooms are assigned to the following judges: courtroom #3 is assigned to The Honorable Tara Naselow-Nahas, courtroom #5 is assigned to The Honorable David Burke and courtroom #6 is assigned to The Honorable Carlos Maury.

Please find below the information for the Van Nuys Immigration Court:

LOCATION: 6230 Van Nuys Blvd. 3rd Floor, Suite 300
Van Nuys, CA 91401
HOURS OF OPERATION: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday
TELEPHONE: 818-904-5200

If you have an immigration hearing coming up in Van Nuys please seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney now!

To read AILA’s official notice please visit: https://www.aila.org/infonet/eoir-to-open-new-immigration-court-in-los-angeles

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)

If you are a DACA recipient, please seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney now. Do not wait until the Supreme Court makes a decision on DACA’s fate.

If you’re among the 700,000 young adults uncertain about their future with DACA, call us today!

On Tuesday, November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court held oral arguments. We are expected to hear the ultimate DACA decision as late as June of 2020 or as early as January of 2020. Please continue your support by participating in events, and by writing to your congress members. We will continue our relentless fight to protect and defend the rights of our immigrant community!

One Year Under President Trump and Expectations for 2018

NEWSLETTER – January 2018

 

Written By Attorney Sergio A. Perez of the Franco Law Group, APLC.

 

One Year Under President Trump and Expectations for 2018.

                                        

The year 2018 is now upon us and, as expected, the first year of Donald J. Trump’s presidency brought several changes that have been detrimental to immigrants.  The first of these changes were the implementation of executive orders and policies that eliminated enforcement priorities and prosecutorial discretion.  Under President Obama, immigration authorities were directed to prioritize their enforcement and prosecutorial efforts, with immigrants deemed to be threats to public safety and national security being the highest priorities.  However, under President Trump, any person in the U.S. without authorization is an enforcement priority and is subject to detention and possible removal.  President Trump also implemented the so-called Muslim travel bans which have been partially blocked and partially upheld by the federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.  Additionally, on September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced the elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which gave temporary lawful status to certain immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, commonly called “Dreamers”.  (The elimination of DACA is currently being litigated in the courts.)  The Trump administration also took aim at Temporary Protected Status, or TPS.  This is a designation which gives temporary protection from removal to eligible immigrants from certain countries who cannot be repatriated due to ongoing armed conflicts, environmental disaster or other extraordinary and temporary conditions that exist in their countries of origin.  In September of 2017, the Trump administration announced that the TPS designation for Sudan would be removed.  Then, in November of 2017, the administration announced the removal of the TPS designations for Nicaragua and Haiti.  Consequently, approximately 1,000 Sudanese, 2,500 Nicaraguans and 59,000 Haitians will be subject to removal if they do not obtain another form of legal status or leave the U.S. when their TPS ends – November 2, 2018 for Sudanese, January 5, 2019 for Nicaraguans and July 22, 2019 for Haitians.

 

Just days into the new year, on January 8, 2018, the Trump administration continued to undo protections for immigrants by announcing the removal of the TPS designation for El Salvador.  Now, approximately 200,000 Salvadorans with TPS have until September 9, 2019 to obtain another form of legal status, leave the U.S. or be subject to removal.

 

Past statements from President Trump and his administration give us an idea of what other changes immigrants and their advocates can expect in 2018.  First, the Trump administration has stated that it is considering removing the TPS designation for Honduras.  If this happens, approximately 57,000 Hondurans who currently have TPS will be faced with the same circumstances as their Sudanese, Nicaraguan, Haitian and Salvadoran counterparts.  Additionally, on January 4, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated that he will review a practice called administrative closure.  This is a practice used by immigration judges to administratively close cases to allow immigrants in removal proceedings time to pursue immigration benefits outside of the immigration court.  If Attorney General Sessions orders the end of this practice, 350,000 immigration court cases which are currently administratively closed could be reopened.

 

The Trump administration has also been critical of the diversity visa lottery and what it calls “chain migration”.  The diversity visa lottery gives visas to persons from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S.  “Chain migration” refers to family based petitions by which U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can petition for eligible spouses, children, parents and siblings.  Indeed, the Trump administration has stated that it wants to eliminate or severely limit these immigration benefits with the goal of cutting yearly lawful immigration to the U.S. by half.  However, unlike the changes mentioned above, President Trump cannot unilaterally end or limit the diversity visa lottery or family based petitions as this would require changes in the law.  For this, Congress would have to act first.  The Trump administration and Congress are currently engaged in immigration reform discussions.  However, the outcome of these discussions remains uncertain as they have been overshadowed by President Trump’s widely reported and vulgar comments of January 11, 2018 regarding Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.

 

Immigrants who have been affected by the Trump administration’s changes, or who might be affected by the administration’s expected changes, are encouraged to speak with a qualified immigration attorney to discuss their legal options.  The attorneys of the Franco Law Group, APLC are available to discuss your case.  Please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at (213) 200-1505.

Do Not Delay In Applying For Immigration Benefits

NEWSLETTER – December 2017

 

Written By Attorney Sergio A. Perez of the Franco Law Group, APLC.

 

Do Not Delay In Applying For Immigration Benefits.

                                        

Immigrants who are fortunate enough to be eligible for immigration relief should not delay in applying for those benefits.  Indeed, a delay could result in an immigrant no longer having a particular benefit available due to changes in personal circumstances, eligibility requirements or in the elimination of a particular immigration benefit entirely.  The reasons that immigrants delay vary from person to person.  However, the most common reasons observed by the attorneys of the Franco Law Group, APLC are the costs of application fees, the need to take care of other personal matters first, and simple indecision or a lack of motivation.  However, as recently happened with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, a benefit can become more difficult to obtain or be eliminated altogether through changes in laws and government policies.

 

One case involving a prospective client of our firm, whom we will call Alex, illustrates this point.  Alex is a young undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who was eligible to apply for DACA.  Alex was determined to apply for this benefit but decided that he first needed to focus on other personal matters.  Alex was then in a car accident.  Although Alex was uninjured, his car needed costly repairs that further delayed Alex’s plan to apply for DACA.  Unfortunately, in September the administration of President Donald J. Trump announced the cancellation of DACA.  Further, only new applications filed by September 5, 2017 would be accepted and processed.  Alex did not apply for DACA by that date and his future in this country is now uncertain due to his undocumented status.

 

In another case, a woman whom we will call Jenny approached our firm to discuss her immigration case.  Jenny is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.  Twenty years ago, Jenny’s U.S. citizen sister offered to file a petition on her behalf.  At the time, the wait time for a U.S. citizen sibling petition to be processed for a beneficiary from Mexico was approximately 10 years.  Jenny decided that she did not want to wait that long and declined her sister’s offer.  Now, 20 years later, Jenny wanted to see if there was anything she could do.  Jenny regretted not accepting her sister’s offer as her petition would have been current 10 years ago.  Also, the processing wait time for her sibling petition category is now approximately 20 years.  Thus, Jenny would have to wait that long for her petition to be processed if her sister were to file an application on her behalf now.  Despite that, Jenny should proceed in having her sister file the petition because there could be changes that could affect her case.  For example, a change in the law or policies could possibly make the wait time shorter.  Also, if Jenny’s sister dies before a petition is filed, Jenny will no longer be eligible for that immigration benefit.

 

It is not only undocumented immigrants who should take action.  Lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, should also act if they are eligible to apply for citizenship.  Lawful permanent residents remain subject to the immigration laws of the United States.  As such, they may be subject to removal from the country for certain violations of the law.   However, statistics show that many green card holders who are eligible for citizenship, particularly those from Mexico, simply do not apply.  Indeed, the Pew Research Center reported this year that lawful permanent residents from Mexico are the least likely to apply for citizenship, with only 42% of those eligible applying for and obtaining citizenship between 2005 and 2015.  Among the most common reasons given for this by Mexican green card holders were a lack of initiative or time.  Needless to say, such indecision and lack of interest could be costly for a lawful permanent resident if she one day makes a mistake that results in her being placed in removal proceedings.

 

Immigrants are encouraged to speak with a qualified immigration attorney to determine if they are eligible for a particular immigration benefit, and to discuss the application requirements.  The attorneys of the Franco Law Group, APLC are available to discuss your case.  Please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at (213) 200-1505.

The U Visa – A Path to Residency for Some Crime Victims and Their Families

NEWSLETTER – November 2017

 

Written By Attorney Sergio A. Perez of the Franco Law Group, APLC.

 

The U Visa – A Path to Residency for Some Crime Victims and Their Families.

                                        

For many undocumented immigrants in the U.S., living in the shadows entails living with a fear of the police due to the possibility that a law enforcement officer may refer an immigrant to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.  Indeed, fear of law enforcement authorities all too often results in immigrants being victimized by criminals who go unpunished because their crimes are not reported.

 

In 2000 the U.S. Congress determined that an incentive should be created to encourage immigrants to report crimes to the police without fear.  In that year, Congress enacted the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act which created a path to legalization called the U Visa for immigrant victims of certain crimes.  To qualify for a U Visa, an immigrant must first prove that she was the victim of one of the qualifying crimes enumerated in the law.  This is typically accomplished by presenting the report that was created by the police department or district attorney’s office that investigated or prosecuted the crime.  Second, the immigrant must prove that she suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been the victim of the crime perpetrated against her.  Third, the immigrant must have information concerning the criminal activity that took place.  Fourth, the immigrant must have been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.  This step requires that the immigrant obtain a certification directly from the law enforcement agency or district attorney’s office that investigated or prosecuted the crime which certifies the immigrant’s cooperation.  Fifth, the criminal activity must have occurred in the U.S. or violated U.S. laws.  Additionally, a U Visa applicant must prove that she is a person of good moral character.  Indeed, an applicant who has been convicted of a crime will likely have to also apply for what is called a waiver as part of her U Visa application.

 

In addition to being able to apply for her own legalization, a U Visa applicant can include certain family members in her application as derivative beneficiaries.  Specifically, U Visa applicants who are 21 years of age or older can include their spouses and children in their applications.  Applicants who are under 21 years of age can include their spouses, children, parents and unmarried siblings under the age of 18.  An immigrant who is granted a U Visa as a principal applicant or derivative beneficiary will receive lawful status and work authorization for a period of four years.  However, after three years of continuous physical presence in the U.S. as a U Visa recipient, the immigrant will be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence, or a green card.

 

The most common qualifying U Visa crimes encountered by the attorneys of the Franco Law Group, APLC are domestic violence, felonious assault and sexual assault.  However, there are 28 enumerated qualifying crimes in all, as well as the related crimes of attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of the 28 listed crimes.  As such, an immigrant who has been the victim of any crime should consult with a qualified immigration attorney to determine if that crime makes the immigrant eligible for the U Visa.  Additionally, the U Visa application requirements do not impose a deadline based on how long ago a crime occurred.  Indeed, victims of qualifying crimes that occurred and were reported before the creation of the U Visa in 2000 can also apply for the visa.  Additionally, an immigrant who has been the victim of a recent crime that was not reported to the police should consult with a qualified immigration attorney to determine if the crime can be reported to law enforcement and how to go about doing so.

 

The Franco Law Group, APLC is happy to invite the public to our Immigration Forum being held tomorrow, Saturday, November 4, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at which the main topic of discussion will be the U Visa.  The event will take place at the Maywood Center for Enriched Studies located at 5800 King Ave., Maywood, California 90270.  If you would like to attend, please RSVP by contacting the event coordinator, Ms. Cynthia Alcaraz, at (323) 303-3824 or Alcaraz@FrancoLawGroup.com.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Department of Homeland Security To Collect Social Media Data of All Immigrants

NEWSLETTER – October 2017

 

Written By Attorney Sergio A. Perez of the Franco Law Group, APLC.

 

Department of Homeland Security To Collect Social Media Data of All Immigrants.

                                        

The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) recently announced that, commencing October 18, 2017, it will begin updating its immigrant files by collecting social media data on all immigrants, and that the data collected will become part of an immigrant’s alien file, or A-file.  An A-file is the official government record of an immigrant who has had any interaction with the U.S. government as a result of being detained by immigration officials or by applying for an immigration benefit.  The new rule states that the data that will be collected includes “social media handles and aliases, associated identifiable information and search results”.  However, the rule is so broadly worded that it appears to apply to any person with a government A-file, including green card holders and naturalized U.S. citizens.  Understandably, privacy advocates are concerned that the rule is overly and unnecessarily intrusive, and DHS will likely face litigation as a result.

 

With such a broadly worded and unclear rule, many immigrants and their advocates want to know what kinds of social media activity they should and should not engage in.  Unfortunately, until DHS or the courts clarify or narrow the rule, there is currently no clear answer.  However, previous cases involving immigrants and social media can provide some guidance.  For example, social media posts that indicate that a person may be a threat to public safety or national security are clear red flags for DHS.  Indeed, on February 3, 2016, Emadeldin El-Sayed, a 23-year old Egyptian citizen who was in the U.S. on a student visa took to Facebook to express his opposition to then candidate Donald J. Trump’s plan to ban all Muslims from entering the country.  Unfortunately for Mr. El-Sayed, his post included the statements that he “wouldn’t mind serving a life sentence for killing this guy” and that he would be “doing the world a favor”.  A person who read the post reported Mr. El-Sayed to the FBI and he was arrested by immigration authorities, eventually agreeing to voluntarily depart the U.S. rather than be removed.

 

Most people’s social media posts are not so clearly red flags for the government and range from legitimate political opinions to harmless statements about what a person had for dinner.  However, our experience as immigration attorneys informs us that some seemingly harmless social media posts may be problematic.  For example, immigrants should be aware that any social media posts that contradict statements made in connection with an application for an immigration benefit in Immigration Court or with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may lead to a finding that an immigrant lacks credibility and has provided false statements to the government.

 

Ironically, undocumented immigrants who have never been detained by immigration authorities and who have never applied for an immigration benefit have the least to worry about with regard to the new rule.  The reason for this is that such a person likely never had an A-file created for the government to update.  Nevertheless, undocumented immigrants should be mindful of their precarious status in the U.S. and, thus, should also be mindful of any social media activity that could bring that status to the attention of immigration officials.

 

The attorneys of the Franco Law Group, APLC are available to discuss immigrants’ concerns regarding the new DHS rule, and their immigration concerns generally.  Please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys at (213) 200-1505.