Thank You to Our Summer Interns

Russell Immigration Law Firm would like to thank our Summer Interns for their hard work and the assistance they provided over the summer semester. 

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Samuel Lukens

Sam is starting his Senior year at Centre College this fall, majoring in Spanish and Politics. Upon graduation, Sam plans to attend Law School. While interning at Russell Immigration Law Firm, Sam demonstrated initiative and provided valuable assistance in preparing evidence packets for submission to USCIS, served as a translator, and assisted in filing several applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Sam also helped with text message reminders, closing cases, contacting clients to relay important messages and completed research for an asylum case.

The internship gave me valuable insight into immigration law and procedure, and the attorneys and paralegals guided me even further along my path to attending law school.
— Sam Lukens
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Diana Rudic

A child of immigrant parents from the former Yugoslavia, Diana is now a Junior at the University of Louisville, majoring in Economics, Political Science and Psychology, with a minor in French. During her period at Russell Immigration Law Firm, Diana assisted with multiple applications for Provisional Waivers of Unlawful Presence, thus helping many immigrants in their path to legalization. Diana also completed research for an asylum case for a young teenager from Central America.

Interning at RILF not only provided me with valuable insight on the complexities and ever-changing nature of immigration law, it also allowed me to look beyond the legal scope and delve into the personal side of law. The perspective I gained throughout my experience— from the stories I heard to the people I met— was both humbling and emboldening, serving as a reminder of the importance of compassion, empathy, and conversation.
— Diana Rudic

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals 2017 Announcement

On Sept. 5, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated the orderly phase out of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DHS will provide a limited, six-month window during which it will consider certain requests for DACA and applications for work authorization, under specific parameters. Read the memorandum from Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke for details. 

Next Steps for Phasing Out DACA

All DACA benefits are provided on a two-year basis, so individuals who currently have DACA will be allowed to retain both DACA and their work authorizations (EADs) until they expire.

USCIS will adjudicate, on an individual, case by case basis:

  • Properly filed pending DACA initial requests and associated applications for employment authorization documents (EADs) that have been accepted as of Sept. 5, 2017.
  • Properly filed pending DACA renewal requests and associated applications for EADs from current beneficiaries that have been accepted as of the date of this memorandum, and from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 that have been accepted as of Oct. 5, 2017.

Individuals who have not submitted an application by Sept. 5, for an initial request under DACA may no longer apply. USCIS will reject all applications for initial requests received after Sept. 5.

Resources

For more information, please read the:

SOURCE: www.uscis.gov/daca2017

IMPORTANT SUMMARY:

  1. If your current DACA status expires on or before March 5, 2018, you MUST file your renewal BEFORE October 5, 2017. Please contact an attorney immediately to begin processing your application.

  2. If you have a pending application for Advance Parole (AP) based on your DACA status, your AP application will be closed and your filing fees should be refunded. If you have an approved AP document, be sure to talk to an attorney BEFORE leaving the country to discuss the benefits and risks of doing so.

Please also see our previous blog post: What do I need to know if the DACA Program Ends? 

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW IF THE DACA PROGRAM ENDS?

There are some reports that President Trump may end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program soon. At this time, we do not know when or if the DACA program will be terminated or what the end of the program may look like. For example, will those with DACA continue to be protected from deportation and able to use their work permits until they expire? Or will DACA approvals and work permits be revoked? While the DACA program remains in effect at this time, see the following links for some things to keep in mind should the program end. ENGLISH / SPANISH

Source: www.ilrc.org

Protecting Yourself and Keeping Your Loved Ones Safe

Although Russell Immigration Law Firm hopes that you will never be in a situation where you or your family feels insecure and afraid, we recommend taking steps to prepare yourself for the possibility of detention, deportation, or other immigration problems. Knowing your rights and making an emergency plan are two such steps that will take away part of the fear and stress about the future. In addition to these suggestions, the lawyers at Russell Immigration are here to help you find your legal solutions and move through the immigration system.

Do You Know Your Rights?

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

The rights that a police officer announces to a person at the time of arrest are called the Miranda rights. When a person is questioned by a police officer, they can often feel frightened, intimidated, and/or nervous. When an officer reads you your Miranda rights, he or she is reminding you that, whether you are just questioned or taken into police custody, you are not powerless.

You have the right to remain silent, and you have the right to speak with your lawyer before you talk to the police. However, it is very important to be confident in your rights and stand up for them, because police and immigration officers often use strategies which make you feel like you have no options. Even if you clearly tell the police that you want to remain silent or speak with your lawyer, they may continue to ask you questions. You do NOT have to answer their questions. If you say, “I want to remain silent” or “I want to talk to my lawyer”, the police are required to stop questioning you. If they don’t stop, they are violating your rights, and you can later ask a judge to refuse to accept (“exclude”) any evidence they obtained this way. Even after you are arrested or detained, the judge is the only person who can order you to answer questions.

According to the US Constitution, you also have the right to be safe in your home against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” When police or immigration officers come to your home, you do NOT have to open the door or give them permission to come inside. In order to come into your house, an officer should show you a paper called a “search warrant” that is signed by a judge.

Finally, if you are not a US citizen, you also have the right to know how any criminal charges and convictions can affect your immigration status. This is extremely important if you are choosing whether to plead guilty to a crime in order to make a deal with the court (also known as a “plea bargain”). If your criminal lawyer does not know how accepting the prosecutor’s offer in a criminal case will affect your immigration status, then he or she MUST discuss this with an immigration attorney to in order to represent you correctly.

Rights in the Immigration System are NOT the Same as in the Criminal System

When the police tell you what your rights are, they are giving you a warning that anything you say after that point will be used against you in a CRIMINAL trial. However, at any time when you are speaking with police, especially immigration officers, any information that you give can be used in IMMIGRATION court or when applying for immigration benefits. It does not matter if they didn’t warn you. Therefore, it is VERY important that you KNOW your rights and that you USE them to protect yourself from negative immigration consequences. When you speak with police officers or any other government officials, DO NOT lie or give them fake documents, like a driver’s license or permanent resident card, because that information will be used against you later and may even cause you to receive additiojnal very serious criminal charges.

It can help to carry a “know-your-rights” card that you can give to the police as soon as they stop you. The card tells police that you want to remain silent and will not answer their questions until your lawyer is present.

The biggest difference between the immigration system and the criminal justice system is that, in the criminal system, you have the right to a free lawyer if you cannot afford to hire one yourself. While you have to right to be represented by an attorney in the immigration system, you DO NOT have the right to a free lawyer if you cannot afford to pay to hire one.  If you are detained by immigration, you still have the right to have a lawyer with you and the right to talk with an attorney before you sign any documents. If you can’t afford to hire one, there are many who are willing to provide some immigration representation “pro-bono” (at no cost to you). Russell Immigration Law Firm maintains a list of some of these attorneys. If you are detained by ICE and are not already working with one of the attorneys from our office, we may be able to connect you with a pro-bono attorney who can help you seek a bond (or a bond reduction).

Make an Emergency Plan

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In addition to knowing your rights, many negative consequences can be avoided through careful emergency planning. You should create a plan to protect your family and possessions (like your car or home). Preparing for the worst scenario can help you to feel more in control, less afraid of what might happen, and stronger in the face of pressure from an ICE officer.

  • Memorize phone numbers for anyone you may want to call if you are detained, because the police or ICE may not let you use your phone after you are arrested.
  • Keep all important papers together in one place and tell someone that you trust where to find them. Important documents will include: birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, immigration documents/paperwork, papers related to criminal matters, medical records, and instructions for medicine.
  • Have an emergency fund that can be used to pay bills and other expenses in your absence.
  • If you have children who are less than 18 years old, choose someone that you really trust to take care of them. Memorize that person’s phone number.  An attorney can help you prepare and sign a document called a “power of attorney” to give that person temporary legal power to make decisions for your children’s school and well-being in the event you are unable to care for them.
  • Don’t forget to make plans for a neighbor to care for your pets.
  • Choose someone who will be in charge of telling your employer that you will not be at work.

Reach Out to Community Organizations

With all of the news about President Trump’s agenda and recent reports of higher numbers of people being arrested and deported, you might feel worried about the risk of immigration problems for yourself and your family. You are not alone! Louisville has a great network of support for the immigrant, noncitizen, and refugee community, including organizations such as La Casita Center, Doors to Hope, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, and the Americana Community Center. Please also reach out to your neighbors, especially if they don’t seem to have a strong support network. Your help might make all the difference to someone!

In difficult times, we all should reach out to others for mutual assistance and support. Remember, “the people, united, will never be defeated.”

(General) Know Your Rights [ENGLISH/SPANISH]: This flyer has basic information about your rights when being investigated or detained by the police.

(Extended Version) Know Your Rights: This flyer includes helpful information about what to do if you or a loved one is detained by immigration. [ENGLISH/SPANISH])

Source: www.altotrump.com, www.ilrc.org

Will DACA be ended by the courts?

Readers may remember that Texas and 25 other states sued the federal government in 2015 to stop its implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA, programs announced by President Obama in 2014. The federal judge in Texas, where the case began, issued a nationwide injunction preventing the federal government from moving forward. The injunction was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which deadlocked 4-4 – allowing the injunction to remain in place.

Because the 2015 lawsuit only challenged the 2014 expansion of DACA, it did not affect the original 2012 DACA, and many have been able to obtain DACA or renew previous DACA grants under that program even while that lawsuit was going forward.

Unfortunately, leaders in some of those states want the original 2012 DACA ended as well, and believed President Trump would end the program when he took office. Since he has (so far) refused to do so, the Texas State Attorney General (AG) and nine other Republican State Attorney Generals are now threatening to add the original 2012 DACA program to the 2015 lawsuit if President Trump does not end the program by September 5, 2017.  President Trump has chosen to continue DACA up to this point, but it is impossible to say what he will do in the future. If he does not at least indicate by September 5th that he will end the DACA program, it is likely that the above-listed states will follow through on their threat soon thereafter.

If the AGs follow through on their threat, the fate of DACA may be sealed and it will likely eventually be ended by the courts.  That is because every court where the suit would proceed (US District Court in Texas, US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and U.S Supreme Court), is dominated by conservatives who would likely rule against the program the same way they ruled against the 2014 expansion.  Even pro-immigration legal scholars concur in this analysis.

This strategy was successful for the AGs when they fought against the DAPA and DACA expansion programs in 2015, and the courts that allowed the injunction to stand in that case are the same courts that would now hear the arguments against the original 2012 DACA.

When could DACA end?

That is hard to predict exactly. It is possible, even likely, that DACA filings could end soon after the suit is filed.  That is because it would be filed with the same US District Court judge who issued the first injunction, and it is highly likely that he would issue one for the original 2012 DACA program as well. That would prohibit the federal government from processing DACA applications while the case proceeds through the courts – a process likely to take at least several years.  However, if the judge does not issue a new injunction, the program could continue for many months, or a year or more, before the US Supreme Court finally decides against continuing DACA.

Should someone file a new DACA application, file to renew DACA, or file an application to travel abroad (an application for Advance Parole)?

 In each case the person should contact an experienced immigration attorney to advise on the pros and cons of filing each application based on the facts of their individual case and the status and progress of the court suit. 

In the case of filing an application for Advance Parole, the future benefit of traveling and reentering on Advance Parole is very significant, but only if the person originally entered the United States illegally.  That is because the person would now have a legal entry into the U.S. 

Why is this important? It is important because having entered the U.S. legally gives a person more options if that person later has a way to obtain permanent resident status. For example, if at some time in the future a person were to marry a U.S citizen, the legal reentry on Advance Parole could allow the person to apply for permanent resident status inside the U.S. instead of having to travel abroad to apply for an immigrant visa (also permanent resident status), which would very likely also require the person to ask for a waiver of inadmissibility. Applying for permanent residency without leaving the U.S. means the person would likely not need the waiver, which makes the process faster, less expensive, and less risky.  

Again, you should NOT move forward with filing any of the above applications until AFTER consulting with an experienced immigration attorney.

 

USCIS Releases Study App

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a new app called "USCIS: Civics Test Study Tools." The press release reads as follows: 

Our app, “USCIS: Civics Test Study Tools,” is now available on the iTunes and Google Play app stores. The app helps you prepare for the civics test during the naturalization interview. It also has a game to challenge your civics knowledge, reminder notifications, and review of past tests. You can also switch between English and Spanish.
Be sure you get our official app! Follow the links above or search for “USCIS" or "USCIS civics.” Then, check that USCIS is the developer.

Additional study materials for the English and Civics tests can be found for free at the USCIS website. You can also find a practice Civics test there.

INCREASE IN IMMIGRATION ARRESTS

As you probably already heard or noticed, there has been a significant increase in arrests of undocumented immigrants across the United States. In the three months between January 22nd and April 29th, 2017, those arrests increased by 40%, compared to the same time frame last year.

Although most of those arrested had criminal convictions, both ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly state that ICE will arrest any undocumented person, regardless of criminal history.

As such, it is critically important that you know your rights and know how to protect yourself.

Click on the “protect yourself” tag below or type in “protect” in the search box on the right to read articles which thoroughly describe how you can protect yourself.

See article published by ICE here.

Scam Alert: DHS OIG Hotline Telephone Number Used in Scam to Obtain Personal Information

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a fraud alert on April 19, 2017, to warn the public about a scam using the DHS OIG hotline telephone number. Scammers have identified themselves as “U.S. Immigration” employees and have altered their caller ID to seem like the call is coming from the DHS OIG hotline (1-800-323-8603). They then demand that the individual provide or verify personally identifiable information, often by telling individuals that they are victims of identity theft.

Read the DHS OIG fraud alert for more details.

If a Scammer Calls You

If you receive a call demanding personal information or payment, hang up immediately. If you want to verify whether a call is from USCIS, you may:

* Call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 to ask if you need to do anything about your case or immigration status,

* Make an InfoPass appointment at http://infopass.uscis.gov, or

* Use myUSCIS to find up-to-date information about your application.

Remember, USCIS officials will never threaten you or ask for payment over the phone or in an email. If we need payment, we will mail a letter on official stationery requesting payment. Do not give payment over the phone to anyone who claims to be a USCIS official. In general, we encourage you to protect your personal information and not to provide details about your immigration application in any public area.

How to Report a Call from a Scammer

If you receive a scam email or phone call, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at http://1.usa.gov/1suOHSS. If you are not sure if it is a scam, forward the suspicious email to the USCIS webmaster at uscis.webmaster@uscis.dhs.gov. USCIS will review the emails received and share with law enforcement agencies as appropriate. Visit the Avoid Scams Initiative at www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams for more information on common scams and other important tips.

SOURCE: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (uscis@public.govdelivery.com)

 

Louisville Bar Association Human Rights Section's 2nd Immigration Bootcamp

The Louisville Bar Association Human Rights Section's 2nd Immigration Bootcamp for attorneys, legal professionals, and community advocates will be held at La Casita Center on Friday, March 10th from 12:30-3:30. Ted Farrell and Rachel Carmona will provide an in-depth bond hearing training for detained individuals, so bring your laptops! We will also review sanctuary places, other legal avenues to help those affected by the Executive Orders, and updates since the last session. Lunch provided, and session will begin promptly at 1pm. 50 people max. Register with Mildred Menchu-Johnson at: ixmucane676@gmail.com or call (502) 693-5730. The address is 223 E. Magnolia Avenue, Louisville, KY 40208. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/389583791397252/

Expedited Removals To Begin Soon

This past Saturday evening, on February 18, 2017, the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly, issued a Memo to implement the new Executive Order on Border Enforcement that was signed on January 25, 2017.  One of the most shocking and harmful of the changes in the Memo was the announcement that Expedited Removals, previously issued only at airports, border points of entry, and against undocumented individuals who were caught within 100 miles of the border, will now be applied throughout the United States.  This is an unprecedented expansion of the law that will hopefully be challenged in federal courts.  This new Memo will potentially allow very fast deportations of millions of undocumented individuals from the United States.

Q&A ON EXPEDITED REMOVALS

What is an Expedited Removal Order?

An Expedited Removal Order is an order of deportation, with similar legal effect as an order of removal by an immigration judge.  But the Expedited Removal order is not issued by an immigration judge, it is issued by the immigration officer soon after arrest of the person.  More importantly, the arrested person has no right to speak to an attorney, no right to a bond or a bond hearing, and no right to a hearing before an immigration judge where you can apply for a benefit, such as Cancellation of Removal. All due process rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and in the Immigration and Nationality Act (i.e., right to a bond, right to obtain an attorney, right to a hearing before an immigration judge and to apply for a status, such as permanent residency) are denied.  After the order is given the person is removed from the U.S. as soon as possible. If the person is from a border country such as Mexico, the removal is quickly arranged.  If from another country such as in Central America, or Africa, the removal will take longer to arrange because it is by plane. 

What Is The Reason For Expanding Expedited Removal Order To The Interior of The US?

The Memo clearly explains the government’s reason for the expansion.  The Memo states that immigration courts are seriously backlogged with over 500,000 cases in immigration court.  And that many court cases take years to be heard by an immigration judge. Therefore, the government wants to deport people without allowing hearings in immigration courts, to avoid deportation, and remain in the US. The reason for the court backlog lies with Congress because for over 20 years they refused to properly increase funding to expand the immigration courts to handle the backlog of cases.  It is wrong to blame immigrants for the inaction of Congress.

Can Undocumented Individuals Do Anything to Stop An Expedited Removal Order From the US?

YES!  Nearly all undocumented individuals can stop an immigration officer from issuing an Expedited Removal order.  First, undocumented individuals must ALWAYS carry in their possession, proof of continuous physical presence in the U.S. for at least the past TWO years.  The two years of documentation must be updated every month to prove your continuous physical presence. You must have the documentation in your possession at all times, especially whenever you leave the house (even to go outside to empty the garbage, or go to work, church, or school).  It should ALWAYS be in your possession no matter where you go or what you are doing.  And besides updating your documentation every month, you should have an extra copy at home. This could allow a documented family member or friend to present proof of your continuous physical presence for the past two years to the immigration officer at the local ICE office.  Since this may not be allowed, the best way to avoid an Expedited Removal Order is to always carry the documentation with you. 

Also, international treaties, signed and recognized by our government, allow every foreign national to speak to someone at their own consulate after arrest in the U.S.  This is a right that must be recognized by all government officials when demanded by any foreign national.  Asserting this right can be helpful if you face an immigration officer who refuses to recognize your proof of two years of continuous physical presence in the U.S.  You can ask the consulate to intervene by helping you to get an attorney to argue against expedited removal and remain in the U.S.

Finally, if you are afraid to return to your home country, you should clearly and consistently state you are afraid to return, to every immigration officer you come in contact with.  Once you express a credible fear of persecution you will be allowed to have an interview by an asylum officer.  However, your fear to the officer must be done in a way that is recognized under our immigration laws.  For example, if you have a fear of harm by cartel or gang members in your community back home, your fear will not be considered important under our law. 

However, if your fear is also based on the targeting of family members back home by cartel or gang members, you may be part of a protected social group of family members and your claim may be successful.  Or if you are afraid to return home because you will be harmed by a violent ex-partner, spouse or former spouse in your home country, your claim will more likely be recognized because it is based on a protected social group of battered ex-spouses or partners.  You must also be specific in the type of harm you fear (physical attack, murder, etc.), and who will inflict the harm on you.  But this type of defense to an Expedited Removal order is more difficult to establish to an immigration officer.  It will always be best to present two years of documentation of continuous physical presence in the U.S. to avoid an Expedited Removal order, and only assert a fear of persecution if the fear is real and you have no other choice.

What Type Of Documents Should I Carry to Show My Continuous Physical Presence For the Past Two Years?

There are many types of documents or combinations of documents that can show continuous physical presence:  monthly bank statements, monthly car payments, monthly cell phone bills, monthly house payments or rent receipts.  Every monthly document must clearly have your name on the document.  Basically, any monthly bills and payments with your name on them should be acceptable.  If you do not have monthly receipts, other documents such as proof of doctors visits for yourself, or your children, showing you took your child to the appointments, or school activities such as parent teacher conferences you attended can prove physical presence. 

A letter from your church minister, pastor, priest or deacon, showing attendance at church gatherings can be very helpful.  But these letters must be on church stationary and signed and dated by the minister, pastor, priest or deacon. The letters must also specifically and clearly explain your participation in the church, and how often you attend or participate in the church activity.  This type of letter can be used for both parents, and even undocumented children, if all attend the church activities.  You can make copies and use a copy for each person.  If church letterhead is not available, the letter must be signed and dated by the pastor, etc., before a Notary Public.  A copy of a photo ID of the person writing the letter (driver’s license, for example) should be attached to the letter.   There may be other types of documents one can use to establish continuous physical presence.  Just make sure the documents are clear and readable, with your name and date on the document and make a readable, duplicate copy.

Will The Expansion of Expedited Removal Be Challenged in Court?

We think so.  This is a very unprecedented and massive expansion of Expedited Removal.  And it is clearly done to deny due process rights to millions of undocumented individuals, many, if not most, of whom are to eligible to avoid deportation and even successfully apply for and obtain permanent resident status.  So legal challenges will likely be made and possibly be successful to overcome this unprecedented and unlawful application of law. But even if these changes are successful, it could take months or longer to get a positive court decision.  So it is best to always carry proof of your continuous physical presence wherever you go.

Can Other Challenges Be Made to Stop the Expansion of Expedited Removal?

Yes.  Many immigrant communities and their allies are getting organized to stop this unprecedented and unlawful expansion of law from deporting hundreds of thousands of undocumented, thereby destroying immigrant families in our communities.  Many of these families contain U.S. citizen and permanent resident family members.   Such organizing include: presentations to immigrant communities about using documentation to stop issuance of Expedited Removal Orders; marches, rallies, strikes, and protests to stop the government deportations from destroying our immigrant communities and harming thousands of businesses that rely on immigrants to survive and succeed.  Some church communities, based on their strongly-held religious beliefs of providing safe refuge to those facing harm, are preparing to house immigrants who face imminent deportation.  Other communities are organizing alerts and planning ways to respond by protesting when raids are taking place.  We can and must oppose, in as many ways as legally possible, government efforts to deny due process rights that are guaranteed to every person in the U.S., even undocumented persons, who are equally protected by the U.S. Constitution, in addition to the rights and protections under the Immigration and Nationality Act.  As the great African American anti-slavery leader Frederick Douglas stated: “Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did and it never will.”

 ¡Sí Se Puede!

Ron Russell, Rachel Mendoza-Newton, Ted Farrell and Duffy Trager of the Russell Immigration Law Firm

WARNING: Immigration Scams

"Today New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued an urgent fraud alert, warning immigrant communities of potential scams in light of recent reports that fraudsters have been posing as Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents scams and demanding money in order to avoid deportation. The Attorney General’s office has received an increased number of reported scams along these lines following the ICE deportation raids that have taken place over the last few days." 

See the full message here.

Filing Taxes as an Immigrant - Frequently Asked Questions

Is it important to file my tax returns every year?

Yes! Filing taxes is very important in applying for certain types of immigration benefits from the USCIS or before the immigration court.  For example, filing yearly income tax returns is essential if you are a permanent resident and filing for naturalization.   Also, if you are undocumented and you will be applying for Cancellation of Removal in immigration court, nearly all immigration judges require filing taxes for the last 5-10 years before a final hearing.  Filing tax returns is beneficial and even a requirement for obtaining many important immigration benefits.

Does it matter who helps me file my taxes?

Yes!  You should only get a qualified and ethical tax preparer to assist you in filing your taxes.  Some tax preparers are not very knowledgeable in tax law, which changes every year.  Other tax preparers will encourage you to lie on your forms to get a larger tax rebate or to file for an income tax credit for which you may not be eligible.  Intentionally lying on your taxes is fraud, and it is illegal. This type of bad advice could seriously damage your immigration status and lead to a denial of immigration benefits or even a criminal charge of tax evasion or lying on your tax return.  Only use a reliable, honest, and knowledgeable tax preparer to assist in filing your tax return. 

Should I ever use a tax preparer to help in filing immigration forms?

No!  Some tax preparers advertise that they can help file immigration forms.  Do not fall for this scam!  Tax preparers are not immigration attorneys.  Immigration law is one of the most complicated areas of law, and it is constantly changing.  Only an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney (or a non-profit organization representative officially accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice) can properly determine whether you qualify for the benefit you are seeking, advise you of your immigration options, know the proper forms and evidence to submit, and represent you before an immigration agency or an immigration judge.  If you seek the legal advice of someone who is merely a tax preparer, you and your case could be seriously harmed by their lack of knowledge. 

What if I am a victim of an immigration scam?

You can report the scam to your state Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office (in Kentucky, 888-432-9257) or to the Federal Trade Commission through the FTC Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-382-4357.  You can make the report anonymously.  If you were threatened, intimidated, physically assaulted, or lied to so the scammer could steal your money, you should report it immediately to the police as those are serious crimes. Reporting these kinds of criminal behavior is the right thing to do, protects others in your community from also becoming victims, and might benefit you in the future with your immigration case.

 

Update: Travel Ban

On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order which, among other things, temporarily banned travel to the United States by all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

On February 3, 2017, Judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington, issued a nationwide restraining order temporarily blocking key portions of that Executive Order.  The president’s administration appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking that the restraining order be reversed.

On February 9, 2017, the 9th Circuit unanimously denied the president’s request and left the restraining order in place. This means that – for now – people from the listed countries can still travel freely to the United States.

President Trump has stated that his administration will appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. Keep checking our blog for updates.

EXECUTIVE ORDER: Travel Ban

On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order titled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” This order suspended the entry of persons from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Legal Permanent Residents from these countries should not be affected by this ban, but as the situation is still developing, there is a small risk of having problems upon entry into the United States.

Read the executive order here

PROTECT YOURSELF: New Executive Actions Signed By President Trump

Many immigrants are considerably nervous about the new Executive Orders signed by President Trump on January 25, 2017. We are still looking into all of the repercussions of these orders. As things become clearer, we will update our blog regularly to explain the implications of these orders. In the meantime, all undocumented immigrants should keep the following tips in mind: 

  1. DO NOT open your door to any immigration or police officer unless you or someone else in your home called them for assistance. This is your right under the 4th amendment of the United States Constitution. It doesn’t matter why they say they are there (for example, searching for a dangerous criminal) – it may be a lie designed to get you to open your door and allow them to enter. It doesn’t matter how much noise they make or whether they seem about to break windows. If they don’t have a judicial warrant signed by a judge, you are not required to open your door or allow them into your home. See below for links to samples of each. 
  2. If you are stopped by a police officer, DO NOT answer any questions about your immigration status, citizenship, or place of birth. This is your right under the 5th amendment to the United States Constitution. A police officer has no legitimate reason to ask for this information, and you should be suspicious if a police officer asks for it. If the officer insists, tell him/her that your attorney advised you not to answer any questions about those things, and if the officer needs to know more he or she can speak with your attorney. 
  3. If you have been in the United States for more than two years, gather evidence that shows that you have been in the United States for at least that long (for example, birth certificates of your children, correspondence you have received in the mail, tax returns, school records, car insurance, copies of bills, medical or prescription records etc.). Carry a copy of these documents with you at all times and make an additional copy for a trusted friend or relative with legal status (see blog post below, titled, “New Disastrous Immigration Policy May Be Implemented by the Trump Administration”).
  4. If you are detained by an immigration officer, present your evidence of being in the US for at least the past two years, if any, and assert your right to have your case decided on by an immigration judge. DO NOT agree to be removed from the United States.
  5. If you are detained by an immigration officer and you are AT ALL fearful of returning to your home country, say it frequently and vigorously to any immigration officer you speak to while in detention and INSIST that you want to apply for asylum.          
  • Our asylum laws only offer protection from persecution based on race, religion, national origin, political opinion or particular social group. Don’t assume that your fear is not based on one of these categories! 
  • Political opinions don’t need to be connected to any particular political party. For example, if you participated in protests against government corruption or incompetence, or against a particular government policy, you publicly expressed a political opinion. 
  • Personal opinions can often also qualify as political opinions. For example, if you and/or your family has openly opposed gangs in your neighborhood, that opposition to the gangs would also be a political opinion. 
  • A particular social group doesn’t have to be a formal group like a labor union or a club. It just has to be a group of people who are united by some characteristic that they cannot change or should not be asked to change because it is fundamental to who they are, and whom society views as a group. For example, homosexuals are a particular social group. Women who are unable to escape their abusive husbands can also be a particular social group. A nuclear family can also be a particular social group. If someone wants to kill you just because you are in the same family as someone they hate, your family is the social group. 

If you currently have a contract with one of our attorneys, and the attorney deems it necessary to make adjustments to your case based on these developments, we will contact you directly. 

If you do not have an immigration attorney, please contact an attorney to discuss your options. 

Keep checking our blog for updates on Executive Actions signed by President Trump pertaining to immigration matters. 

This is what a judicial warrant looks like.  

This is an Administrative warrant. It is NOT a judicial warrant.

New Disastrous Immigration Policy May Be Implemented by the Trump Administration

President-elect Trump is seeking advice on immigration policy and issues from Kris Kobach, an extreme right-wing, anti-immigration proponent.  Kris Kobach was the author of the infamous Arizona “show me your papers” law, major portions of which were later struck down by the US Supreme Court.  He also reportedly authored the even worse SB-6 bill that was rejected by the Kentucky legislature three years ago. 

During a recent CNN interview, Mr. Kobach discussed the current policy of “expedited removal.” This is a process by which people can be deported quickly and with no opportunity to see a judge or apply for relief. 

Under current DHS policy, expedited removal is limited to individuals who: 1) entered the us without inspection  (aka "EWI"s), 2) are encountered by DHS within 100 miles of the border, and 3) who entered within 14 days of apprehension. DHS policy includes the 14 day limitation, but that is not found in the statute - it's just a policy and can change at any time. The statute says it applies to anyone fitting the first two points above and who cannot demonstrate that they have resided in the US continuously for the past two years.  These individuals are only allowed an opportunity to defend themselves before a CBP officer, they are not given the opportunity to see an immigration judge, and they are not eligible to apply for any relief from deportation.  They are also very quickly deported from the US, usually on a bus to Mexico, or by plane to the individual’s home country. 

Kobach suggested expanding the current “expedited removal” process to include those encountered anywhere in the United States who cannot produce documents proving to the satisfaction of a CBP officer that they have resided in the US continuously for the past two years. This means if an undocumented individual comes into contact with an immigration enforcement officer (CBP or ICE) anywhere in the US and cannot provide documentation of their physical presence in the US for the past two years, they could face expedited removal.  As noted above this means the person would be detained with no possibility of release on bond, not allowed to have a hearing before an immigration judge, and ineligible to apply for any relief from deportation.  This eliminates the possibility of applying for Cancellation of Removal, which many undocumented individuals are eligible to apply for and which, if granted, equals permanent residence.

We do not know if this disastrous and extreme policy change will happen.  But this policy was openly discussed by Kris Kobach during the above mentioned CNN interview, so we must take it seriously.  After President-elect Trump is sworn in, we advise all individuals to always have in their possession proof of two years physical presence in the US, in case they are stopped by an immigration officer.  We also strongly encourage everyone to keep a second copy of the documentation at home for easy access by a family member or a friend (someone with legal immigration status) to present to an immigration officer, if necessary. 

However, if you are arrested without your documentation, you should demand to speak to your immigration attorney and to have him or her present with you at your expedited removal hearing before an immigration officer. 

Important Issue for DACA grantees: International Travel on Advance Parole

If you have been granted DACA, you may have thought about traveling outside the US to visit a sick relative or to study abroad.  To leave the US and return, you must be approved for Advance Parole, which is permission to return to the US. 

There is a very significant benefit to traveling abroad and reentering the US on Advance Parole.  Once a person enters on Advance Parole, creating a lawful entry, the person could apply for permanent residency in the U.S. The applicant MUST also have an Immediate Relative (US citizen spouse, parent, or child over 21) to file a petition.  Having a lawful entry into the U.S. would eliminate the need to travel home and obtain an immigrant visa. 

However, you must carefully consider whether the Advance Parole document would be impacted by any decision taken by President Trump to end the DACA program.   

Before travelling on Advance Parole, it is very important to discuss the matter with an immigration attorney.

REPOST: BEWARE OF SCAM PHONE CALLS

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has issued an alert warning immigrants of scam phone calls being made to USCIS customers. Customers report receiving phone calls from someone who claims to be calling from USCIS or ICE (Immigration & Customs  Enforcement). The caller ID on these calls match an actual USCIS or ICE number, which makes the call seem legitimate. However, the person making these calls usually threatens deportation or other serious consequences unless a payment is made either by making a money transfer, sending a money order or other form of payment.

If you receive one of these calls, DO NOT give any payment or personal information over the phone. Hang up and report the call to the Federal Trade Commission (click here to be redirected to their site). If you have additional concerns, you can call the USCIS Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or contact an attorney.

See the USCIS warning here

UPDATES ON DAPA: What's the status?

First, a general timeline:

Nov. 20, 2014 - President Obama announces executive actions establishing DAPA and expanded-DACA

Dec. 03, 2014 - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sues the Department of Justice (DOJ) in an attempt to stop DAPA (case name: Texas vs. United States)

Feb. 16, 2015 - Judge Hanen issues injunction against DAPA (halting DAPA applications while Texas vs. United States continues)

Feb. 23, 2015 - DOJ appeals the injunction decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and asks for an emergency stay of the injunction (Texas vs. United States continues with Judge Hanen)

May 26, 2015 - 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denies emergency stay, upholding the injunction

Jul. 13, 2015 - Arguments presented before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

Nov. 09, 2015 - 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issues a decision in favor of the State of Texas; injunction stands

Nov. 20, 2015 - DOJ appeals the decision of the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court

Dec. 01, 2015Supreme Court denies Texas’s request for 30 – day extension to respond to appeal (Good news for DAPA!)

So, where is DAPA now? 

For now, the principal case of Texas vs. United States is still in Judge Hanen's court in Texas. The Supreme Court has been asked to review only the injunction stopping DAPA, not the DAPA case itself.

Based on the Supreme Court’s decision of December 1, 2015 the estimated future timeline is as follows:

Dec. 29, 2015 – Deadline for Texas to respond to DOJ’s appeal

Jan. 15, 2016 – Supreme Court conference will consider the appeal; at this point, they will decide whether to accept the case or not. 

If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, then:

Feb/Mar 2016 – Briefings on the case

Apr. 2016 – Oral arguments

Jun. 2016 – Supreme Court decision will likely be issued

If the Supreme Court decides NOT to hear the case, then:

We must wait for Judge Hanen to issue a decision on the Texas vs. United States case, and perhaps, have DAPA work its way up the ladder to the Supreme Court again. 

Keep checking our blog for futher updates on DAPA. 

Coverage of Syrian Refugee Controversy

Russell Immigration Law Firm would like to show appreciation to Emily Maher and WLKY for their coverage of the controversy over Syrian refugees in the United States, and more specifically, the state of Kentucky. 

Our own Ted Farrell was interviewed about some governors' decisions to refuse acceptance of Syrian refugees in their states. Watch this interview here: 

http://www.wlky.com/news/lawyer-says-governors-cant-keep-syrian-refugees-out-of-their-state/36505334

Yaman Addas, a client we represented in obtaining asylum, speaks out about his difficult decision to leave his dreams and aspirations in his home country of Syria.