Immigration Wins and Losses

by Joseph McKeown

Navigating US immigration law can be daunting, complex, and, at times, frustratingfor both attorneys and foreign nationals. Immigration law changes and bureaucratic delays and hurdles can seem insurmountable. There are good and bad days for immigration cases, and today we take a look at some recent wins and losses in the world of immigration law.

Dario Guerrero Meneses is a third-year Harvard student. He is also an undocumented immigrant who left the US without travel authorization (effectively "deporting" himself) to take his dying mother to Mexico for alternative medical treatment. He said: "'I don't think I'd be able to forgive myself for letting her basically continue the decline in her condition[.]'" His mother died in August, and after being unable to reenter the US from Mexico for months, he was granted permission to return home, where he will have to reapply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for "Dreamers."

Will immigration reform be passed? Everyone (including us) has been asking this question since the Senate passed their own comprehensive immigration reform bill, S. 744, back in June 2013. President Obama promised and then delayed executive action. But a newly-released draft solicitation by US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) possibly hints at good news. The USCIS "Request for Proposal" is seeking a vendor who can produce a minimum of four million blank cards per year for five years, and nine million in the early stage. These appear to be cards that would be used for Green Cards and employment authorization documentssuggesting possible major executive action regarding immigration reform. A USCIS official says the vendor proposal was sought "'in case the president makes the move we think he will,'" and that the agency has not yet committed to buying these materials.

The Obama administration announced "The Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program" that "would reduce the lengthy delays facing thousands of Haitians who have already been approved to join family members in the United States and become legal permanent residents." While this is not part of President Obama's executive action on immigration reform, he could potentially enact similar measures to deal with the lengthy wait times that many foreign nationals experience in waiting to join family members in the US.

The practice of immigration law has many challenges, but most attorneys (okay, pretty much all) will never need to bring their four-week-old infant child to immigration court. This, however, happened to attorney Stacy Ehrisman-Mickle when an immigration judge in Atlanta denied her request to delay a hearing that fell within her six-week maternity leave. With her husband working out of town and no family in the area, she had no choice but to bring her newborn child with her. The judge then "scolded her for inappropriate behavior and commented that her pediatrician must be appalled that she was exposing the baby to so many germs in court[.]" Ms. Ehrisman-Mickle filed a formal complaint against the judge that day.

Overstaying the visa waiver program is taken very seriously by immigration authorities. Ben Sangari, a British man with plans to invest $1.5 million in the Buffalo area, found this out when he was stopped for a speeding ticket and is now in an immigration detention facility in Batavia, New York. While in detention he married his fiancée, who is from Buffalo, but an ICE spokesman said: "'After conducting a comprehensive review of Mr. Sangari's case, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has chosen not to exercise prosecutorial discretion in this matter. Additionally, under the visa waiver program, Mr. Sangari is subject to mandatory detention and his case is not eligible for immigration court hearings." 

In West Africa, the death toll from Ebola exceeds four thousand and the region's inadequate healthcare infrastructure is desperately struggling to deal with the crisis. Meanwhile in the US, Ebola fear is leading to hysteria and racism against Africans as well as backlash against immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

To end on a more positive note, kindergarten students in Texas won a competition to name a recently-adopted Mustang horse, as part of a program by the Laredo Sector Border Patrol. The horse's name: Bravo.