When we found out it was both Earth Day and National High Five Day this week, we didn't know what to do. How could we honor both the earth and high fives in one post? We didn't think it was possible. We would have to pick. And then the other would be left out, which isn't fair. There's no way that we could possibly combine the two, we thought. Oh, okay, maybe if Joseph gives high fives to trees. Yep, totally works. For more (and probably better) ideas on honoring Earth Day the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation has some wonderful recommendations, including volunteering for the Bronx River Cleanup and participating in the Tree Giveaway in Brooklyn. As for high fives, well you can give those for charity. Everyone wins!
Summertime is fast approaching and soon it will be time for, that’s right, vacation! Although many Americans will travel domestically this summer, some will set off for international destinations abroad or even to our northern neighbors in Canada or—despite the heat—head south to Mexico. For those traveling outside the US, it’s an excellent time now to check if your passport needs renewed, or to apply for your first one. Those applying for passports will see that there are actually two “passports” you can apply for: a US passport book and a US passport card. Wait, what’s a passport card? you may wonder. And what’s the difference between the two? And which one do I need? I have so many questions! It’s okay, let’s discuss.Read More
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), an agency within the Department of Justice (DOJ) that adjudicates immigration cases and oversees the country’s immigration court system, has announced its intention to halt the Vera Institute of Justice’s Legal Orientation Program (LOP) while it audits the program’s cost-effectiveness. Vera’s LOP program offers legal educational services to detained immigrants. During the audit, the Trump administration will also evaluate the Vera Institute’s information “help desk,” which provides tips to immigrants who are not detained but still facing deportation. This announcement comes as DOJ attempts to deal with the massive backlog of approximately 650,000 immigration court cases by 2020. Earlier this month, the DOJ announced case quotas for immigration judges.Read More
This week I was thrilled to attend the citizenship ceremony for my sister. While it's always thrilling to watch foreign nationals naturalize and become US citizens, especially when it’s my sister, this was a special ceremony at the New York Historical Society with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg administering the citizenship oath. Justice Ginsburg, who will mark her 25th year on the bench in August, addressed the 201 new citizens from fifty-nine countries speaking of her father's own immigration story, and said: “We are a nation made strong by people like you.” Acknowledging that the US is an imperfect union, she encouraged the new citizens to vote and foster unity. “We have made huge progress, but the work of perfection is scarcely done,” she said. Yusif Abubakari, born in Ghana, tells the New York Times. “She is supposed to be at home but she came because of me, because of us, and that made me feel so special today. May God bless her and give her more life and prosperity.” My sentiments exactly. Oh yes, and congratulations to my sister!
I will be the first to tell you that immigration law is complex and changing and requires vigilance and care in preparing applications, but there is no requirement that foreign nationals, their employers, or family members use a lawyer. It is also true that under the Trump administration, foreign nationals (and even immigration practitioners) have become more cautious and even hesitant about filing petitions given the increased scrutiny of their applications by immigration officials and consular officers; nevertheless, there are certain applications that should still be straightforward enough to file without legal assistance. Cases filed by individuals without legal representation are subject to the same review and adjudication process as others filed by attorneys. We’ve previously discussed why an experienced immigration attorney can be valuable and in some cases absolutely recommended, but in this post we’ll more closely examine the types of applications and petitions that foreign nationals in most situations can prepare and file on their own.Read More
HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” aired a comedic but insightful segment on the injustices and absurdities of US immigration courts. The segment covers various topics including the burdensome task that immigrants face of representing themselves in immigration court if they cannot afford a lawyer, the years-long case backlog, and what happens to asylum applicants who don't win their case. He takes especially sharp aim at the assertion that child immigrants can understand immigration law well enough to effectively represent themselves in court without a lawyer. To this end, he features clips from attorney Amy Maldonado's interviews of toddlers responding to basic biographical and immigration-related questions. To one inquiry about designating a country of removal, Lilah, who is about three or four years old, says: pizza!
US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that they have reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2019. They have also received a sufficient amount of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 limit for the master’s cap advanced degree exemption. While USCIS has not yet specified how many total H-1B cap cases have been received during this filing window, some experts are predicting overall lower numbers than in previous years.Read More
In response to the US government’s expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States and closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle, Russia has responded by announcing the expulsion of sixty American diplomats along with envoys from other countries as well as the closing of the American Consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. The crisis is the result of investigations into the March 4 poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Salisbury, England that showed Russia was likely responsible. The Consulate in St. Petersburg has been closed effective March 31, and the US Embassy in Russia notified Americans in the St. Petersburg consular district that they should contact the US Embassy in Moscow for all emergency assistance and routine services.Read More