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Immigration News
October 9, 2014

USCIS Service Center Operations (SCOPS) has advised that the processing times for renewal I-821D applications is 90 days at all four service centers. USCIS also noted that it encourages individuals to submit DACA renewal applications between 150 and 120 days in advance of the expiration date of the current EAD, and that if the renewal application is filed at least 120 days in advance and there is a delay, the service center may provide employment authorization for a short period of time until the renewal is adjudicated.

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October 4, 2014

National Immigrant Justice Center reported that at the behest of the Solicitor General, the U.S. Supreme Court today granted certiorari in Din v. Kerry to decide whether immigrant families separated by U.S. government officials have any right to know the basis for their forced separation.The government claims “complete discretion” over whether to allow “alien spouses (and other family members) of U.S. citizens … admission to the United States,” and sought Supreme Court review to avoid needing even to give a basic explanation for why it is excluding the spouse of a U.S. citizen from entry to the United States.“Saying that Mrs. Din can move to another country to be with her husband harkens back to the shameful time in U.S. history when the government said that even if a state bars interracial marriage, a mixed-race couple can go get married in another state,” said Chuck Roth, director of litigation at Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC). “If the government is going to separate a U.S. citizen from her husband, it should at least have to give a reason.”According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statistical yearbook, more than 200,000 noncitizens immigrate every year through a marriage to a U.S. citizen. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that over 1.5 million couples residing in the United States are native-born U.S. citizens married to noncitizens; another 4.4 million couples are naturalized citizens and noncitizens. U.S. citizens may file visa petitions for their spouses. However, the approval of a spouse’s visa petition does not automatically confer the right to enter the United States. A visa must still be issued.NIJC client Amber Ramirez of Kankakee, Illinois, and her children have been separated from her spouse Victor since October 2011, when he traveled to Juarez, Mexico, for an interview at the U.S. consulate to obtain lawful entry to the United States. A consular officer denied the visa, finding “reason to believe” that he might engage in illegal activity after entering the United States. No further explanation was given; but the consulate seemed focused on his tattoos. Victor has never been in a gang, and is not listed in Illinois’ gang database. Amber worked with the local police to explain that Victor’s tattoos did not match any known gang tattoos. The couple explained each of his tattoos, including the tattoo of the name of their daughter. The consulate refused to reconsider or to explain its reasoning, even though over 40% of American households include a member with tattoos. The family remains separated based solely on the word of an anonymous bureaucrat. This would be unreviewable under the government’s argument in Din.“We are dismayed that the Obama administration is so determined to shield itself from accountability for decision making that separates U.S. citizens from their families, that it is taking this case to our nation’s highest court,” said NIJC Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “At a time when so many families are suffering under our broken immigration system, this is not where the president’s attention should be.”

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September 29, 2014

USCIS announced it will automatically extend Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for Liberian nationals covered under Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). Current DED Liberia EADs that have an expiration date of Sept. 30, 2014, will now be valid through March 30, 2015.

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September 18, 2014

The Board of Immigration Appeals held that an alien admitted to the U.S. at a port of entry (POE) as a conditional permanent resident pursuant to INA §216(a) is an alien “lawfully admitted for permanent residence” who is barred from an INA §212(h) waiver if he was subsequently convicted of an aggravated felony.

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September 3, 2014

The American Immigration Council reported that U.S. law professors sent a letter to the White House stating that President Obama has wide legal authority to make needed changes to immigration enforcement policy. The president is considering how to use his authority to mitigate the damage caused by our dysfunctional immigration system and protect certain individuals from deportation.

The letter was written by Stephen H. Legomsky, John S. Lehmann University Professor at Washington University School of Law and former U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Chief Counsel; Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor at UCLA School of Law; and Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar at Penn State Law. It was signed by professors from 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

“As part of the administration’s legal team that ironed out the details of DACA, I can personally attest that we took pains to make sure the program meticulously satisfied every conceivable legal requirement,” said Legomsky. “In this letter, 136 law professors who specialize in immigration reach the same conclusion and explain why similar programs would be equally lawful.” (DACA is the acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program the president initiated in June 2012.)

In their letter, the law professors point out that “The administration has the legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for managing resources and protecting individuals residing in and contributing to the United States in meaningful ways.” The letter goes on to explain that presidents from both parties have used prosecutorial discretion to prevent specific, and often large, groups of immigrants from being deported.

“Our letter confirms that the administration has specific legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for protecting an individual or group from deportation,” said Wadhia. “This legal authority served as foundation for prosecutorial discretion policy across several administrations. Historically, this policy has been premised on the twin policy goals of managing limited resources and shielding people with compelling situations from removal.”

This is the second major letter about prosecutorial discretion that law professors have sent to President Obama. The first letter, sent in 2012, outlined the legal argument for expanded administrative relief, which later became the blueprint for the president’s DACA program. That program allows qualifying noncitizens who came to the United States as children to apply for relief from deportation and work authorization.

“This letter reflects a clear, broad, and informed consensus on two key points,” said Motomura. “First, the president has the legal authority, exercising his discretion as the nation’s top immigration prosecutor, to establish enforcement priorities. Second, the president’s lawful discretion includes the authority to set up an orderly system, modeled on DACA, for granting temporary relief from deportation.”


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September 2, 2014

The US Department of Labor announced that as of August 25, 2014, PERM system passwords will need to be changed every 90 days and must meet certain security criteria to be valid

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August 8, 2014

The American Immigration Council reported that positive changes are happening at the local level throughout the country. A growing number of cities, counties, and metropolitan areas get that welcoming immigrants for better and more comprehensive integration is good for their communities. Just within the past week, for example, the Ohio cities of Cincinnati and Springfield officially decided to become more immigrant-friendly. Along with Dayton and the state capital Columbus, several cities in Central and Southwest Ohio now share a common message: “immigrants are welcome here.”

Last week, Cincinnati’s Mayor John Cranley officially kicked off a 78-membertask force on immigration with the goal to make Cincinnati the most immigrant-friendly city in the country. “This is a country of immigrants, and this is a place where immigration is rewarded and thanked,” Cranley said. “We’re all going to be richer and better by being a friendly city for immigrants.” And Thomas Fernandez, co-chair of Cincinnati’s new immigration task force, said the move will be good for business, but added, “That’s not our motivation. Our principle motivation is it is our obligation; our obligation to pay it forward, create the same opportunities others have created for us.” He also noted that “if we make it easy and inviting as much as possible, I think we’ll be able to compete against larger cities that already have programs in place.” With a view toward comprehensive immigrant integration, Cincinnati’s task force will focus on five key areas: economic development, community resources, education and talent retention, international relationships, and rights and safety.

Springfield, which is in House Speaker John Boehner’s congressional district, also officially became more welcoming toward immigrants last week, through the efforts of Welcome Springfield. Specifically, Springfield’s city manager and city commission unanimously approved a resolution declaring the City of Springfield as a place “welcoming of immigrants and immigrant-owned businesses.” “We have these folks in our community and they need to be included and considered part of the community,” Mayor Warren Copeland said. As the Springfield News-Sun observed, the resolution “calls for the city to adopt policies that promote inclusion and integration of immigrants in the community.”

Municipalities charting a goal to become an immigrant-friendly city aren’t exactly new. Other cities, like Chicago, Baltimore, and St. Louis, are also aiming for similar goals. And within the past year, other cities, like Charlotte and Atlanta, have launched similar task forces and working groups composed of a diverse cross-section of the community to learn about and recommend best practices and policies for their cities to become more welcoming and immigrant-friendly. Shelly Bromberg, professor at Miami University, said the actions of Cincinnati and similar cities serve as examples of places “saying we want to see a positive resolution on all sides and we want a positive reaction versus a negative one. Maybe this is a strategy that will produce a more productive conversation.” And as Cranley stated, “I just think it shows cities are on the forefront of long-term economic growth in the country.”

Leaders at the city and metropolitan level play a critical role in cultivating an inclusive environment for all community members, including immigrants and newcomers, and encouraging immigration policies that contribute to community cohesion and economic growth rather than undermine it. Ultimately, the proactive actions many cities are taking to comprehensively grow the human and social capital—without which economic growth would not be possible—in their own communities stands in stark contrast to the lack of action in Washington to upgrade our 20th century immigration system for the 21st century. A growing number of cities and metropolitan areas are doing what they know will strengthen their regions, and are doing what they can to better integrate newcomers into their communities within the current immigration system.


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July 28, 2014

The American Immigration Council reported that more than half of the unaccompanied Central American children who are in U.S. custody after crossing the U.S. border could be found eligible for relief by a U.S. immigration judge, according to an assessment by Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).  This assessment is particularly timely, as several members of Congress have proposed legislative changes that would effectively speed up deportations of the Central American children by changing reducing the opportunities for screening and immigration court review.

RAICES has provided “Know Your Rights” presentations and legal screenings for the roughly 1,200 unaccompanied children who are in custody of Health and Human Services officials at Lackland Air Force Base. Jonathan Ryan, RAICES’ executive director, writes in letters to President Obama and congressional leaders that in their review of 925 immigrants children’s intake screenings, 63 percent could qualify for forms of relief like asylum, “U visas” for victims of serious crimes, and “T” visas for trafficking victims.

As Ryan explains, the initial screening of unaccompanied children is essential. He said RAICES spends 45 minutes to one hour individually meeting with the children after a presentation about their legal rights, and they often have to do follow-up interviews. “It is often the only opportunity these children will have to articulate their claims, talk with an attorney, and to access the protections that our laws provide,” Ryan writes. “Without this screening, the 63 percent of children who likely qualify for relief might never have been identified.”

Border Patrol agents are the first people children often see after they are apprehended for crossing the border, but many are hesitant to report abuse or tell their full stories in the initial screening by border officials, according to The New York Times. Andrea, a Honduran who was living in Mexico when she twice tried to cross the border, told the Times that she did not tell uniformed agents about having been forced into prostitution by her relatives with ties to cartels. “I was just trying to protect myself, and I was not saying anything to no one,” she said. Twice she agreed to leave voluntarily and was returned to Mexico.

And Kevyn Merida, who fled Guatemala in 2009 after Mexican drug traffickers tried to recruit him to be a courier, said he did not tell the Border Patrol officer who caught him about his history:

“You can’t talk to them,” [Merida] said last week. “They are just trying to throw you back again.”

But after a week in a health department detention shelter in Harlingen, he said, he watched a presentation about his legal rights and later met a lawyer from Mr. Ryan’s organization. “I felt comfortable talking to them,” he said. “I changed my mind and decided to tell the truth.”

Because of the vulnerability of the unaccompanied children, Ryan of RAICES urged lawmakers to resist any measures that would truncate the screening and adjudications for the children and asked them to “ensure that every child receives adequate due process and the required humanitarian protection.”


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July 24, 2014

DOL posted an alert on iCERT that as of 7/18/14, new password requirements for enhanced security were implemented. Within the next 90 calendar days, all iCERT users will be required to create new passwords that meet the new password requirements

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July 22, 2014

The American Immigration Council reported that as the number of unaccompanied children arriving at the United States border has increased, some lawmakers have argued that children frequently disappear into the woodwork, and propose mandatory detention as a solution. Some say as many as 90 percent fail to attend their immigration court hearings. Yet government data recently published by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) may indicate the opposite. Not only do a majority of children attend their immigration proceedings, according to TRAC, but 90 percent or more attend when represented by lawyers.

TRAC’s data, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, examines 101,850 immigration court proceedings begun while a child was under 18, from Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 through June 2014. TRAC then reports the number of “in absentia” designations by courts in those cases. “In absentia”—Latin for “in absence”—is a term for a judicial hearing held without the individual present. Any delay in appearing at any immigration hearing may lead to a court removing someone in absentia, according to the Immigration Court Practice Manual and under federal regulations.

TRAC’s data, for the first time regarding cases begun while a child was under 18, allows comparison of the number of “in absentia” designations to cases overall. (EOIR previously reported “in absentia” numbers, but without breaking out children’s cases). TRAC’s data indicates that:

  • Children have been designated in absentia only 18.4 percent of the time. Thus, in 82.6 percent of cases, the child has either appeared in court or insufficient evidence exists for removal or relief, so far.
  • Similar rates exist for children released to U.S. family. In 79.5 percent of cases in which a child was released or never detained, and in a parent or guardian’s custody, the child has not been designated in absentia.
  • Although many recent cases are still pending, even in closed cases, children were designated in absentia only 31.2 percent of the time. 68.8 percent of children appeared in court.

Moreover, TRAC’s data indicates that children represented by lawyers rarely are designated in absentia:

  • 95.4 percent of children represented by lawyers have not been designated in absentia.
  • Similar rates exist even for children with US family. 95.1 percent of children represented by lawyers, and in a parent or guardian’s custody, have not been designated in absentia.
  • In closed cases, 93.5 percent of children represented by lawyers were not designated in absentia.

TRAC’s data, however, differs from verbal Senate testimony by immigration courts Director Juan Osuna on July 9 and July 10. Osuna, when asked by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Tester (D-MT) about failures to show, responded by stating a 46 percent in absentia rate for juveniles. This is higher than data reported by TRAC, although still much lower than claims of “90 percent” failure rates, as Politifact reported (before TRAC released its data).

These data discrepancies seriously call into question the rationale for detention of children, even on efficiency grounds. (As to human rights, the United Nations has stated that detention is never in a child’s best interest, for immigration violations alone). Previous reports by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General have found fault with immigration courts’ recordkeeping.

Yet several bills proposed this week contain mandatory detention provisions for children—such as Senator Jon Cornyn’s (R-TX) and Rep. Henry Cuellar’s (D-TX) HUMANE Act; Rep. Goodlatte’s and Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act; and Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) and Rep. Bill Cassidy’s (R-LA) bill. Before Congress passes bills requiring mandatory detention of children, at a minimum, data on failures to show must be better understood.

Moreover, the data calls into question lawmakers’ claims that children overwhelmingly fail to show for immigration proceedings. Substantiation of those claims has been fuzzy. For example, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said that he heard 90 percent of children fail to show from House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), whose Judiciary Committee staffer said the number was anecdotal evidence, from a local “Los Angeles County sheriff’s detective,” quoted by conservative website Newsmax.com.

Lastly, given TRAC’s data, if Congress wants to ensure children attend proceedings, perhaps Congress should consider appointing lawyers to children. Lawyers are more cost-effective, humane and fair than detention. The Council and others recently filed a national lawsuit to provide lawyers to children in immigration proceedings.


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