To read about what transpired between White House officials and interest group representatives at a recent meeting on the topic of comprehensive immigration reform, please visit www.portnerandshure.com.

A new report has found that providing undocumented aliens with a path to legal status is far more beneficial to the economy than a policy focused on heightened enforcement alone.  The findings of the report, set forth by the Cato Institute, are even more noteworthy when considering that the Institute has a well-known ideological lean to the right. 

The prevailing misconception set forth publicly by many talking heads is that providing undocumented aliens with a path to legal status would threaten the jobs of many low-skilled American laborers.  This study debunks that theory, instead asserting that the legalization of the undocumented currently in the U.S. would actually benefit the low-skilled American workforce.  "With increases in low-skilled immigration, the U.S. economy would expand, creating more jobs in higher-skilled areas.  Over time, some U.S. workers now in low-paying jobs would move up the occupational ladder." 

An added benefit of legalization would be an increase in the welfare of the American household.  The Cato Institute report concludes that "allowing low-skilled workers to enter the country legally would boost the welfare of U.S. households by 0.57 percent of the GNP."

Conversely, an increase in border enforcement would not have the presumed effect of creating more low-wage job opportunities for Americans.  Instead, the effect of heightened enforcement would result in making the undocumented aliens remaining in the U.S. a more valuable commodity.  "A principal effect is that it [enforcement] raises the wages of the illegal immigrants who remain in the United States, in effect transferring income from legal residents of the United States to illegal immigrants."

Similarly, the effect of increased enforcement on the American household would be a negative one.  "A policy that reduces the number of low-skilled immigrant workers by 28.6 percent compared to projected levels would reduce U.S. household welfare by 0.5 percent, or $80 billion."

What I find interesting about the Cato Institute's report is that it's release coincides with the Obama administration's recent shift toward increased enforcement over reform.  It seems that an immigration reform program that could substantially increase tax revenue by allowing the estimated 8.3 million undocumented workers a path to legal status would be attractive to the current administration.  Unfortunately, the policy decisions made by the administration thus far have done nothing but continue to enforce the broken immigration laws that have created this issue in the first place.  Hopefully, reports like the one released by the Cato Institute will continue to dispel the notions that immigration reform will harm the economy, and pave the way to reform of the immigration system. 

For answers to your immigration questions, please visit our website at www.portnerandshure.com.  

For information on recent changes in immigration policy by the Obama administration, please visit our website at www.portnerandshure.com.

An oddity in the immigration system exists in regards removing conditional residence while being in a failing marriage.  When an immigrant receives a green card through marriage and the marriage is less than two (2) years old, the immigrant receives what is known as conditional permanent residence.  Conditional residence is identical to lawful permanent residence in terms of the rights granted to the immigrant.  However, conditional residence expires in two (2) years, and a married couple must jointly file an I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions in the 90 day period prior to expiration in order for the immigrant to maintain permanent resident status. 

When the underlying marriage has remained intact, this process is fairly simple.  Complications arise when marital trouble prevents the immigrant from jointly filing the I-751 Petition with their spouse.  Immigration regulations allow an immigrant who has received a final order of divorce to seek a waiver of the joint filing requirement.  However, immigrants who are either separated or who are in ongoing divorce proceedings are not eligible for a waiver of the joint filing requirement. 

Earlier this year, USCIS issued a memo clarifying what options are available for conditional residents are in a failing marriage but have not received a final order of divorce.  If a Petition is filed that seeks a divorce waiver, but a final decree of divorce hasn't been made yet, USCIS has instructed its officers to issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) with a response period of 87 days.  The idea behind the 87 day response period is to allow the conditional resident time to finalize a divorce if divorce proceedings have already been initiated.  If a final order of divorce has not been obtained in this period, the conditional residence of the immigrant is terminated, and the case may be set for deportation proceedings.  Even during deportation proceedings, if the immigrant is able to finalize a divorce, the I-751 Petition will be adjudicated on it's merits. 

The other option available to conditional residents in divorce proceedings is simply to wait to file the I-751 Petition until a final order of divorce has been made.  USCIS will generally excuse late filing if it can be proven that divorce proceedings were ongoing at the time that conditional residence expired. 

If you are a conditional resident and are planning on filing an I-751 Petition, please contact our office for assistance.

For information on the new rule implemented by the Department of Homeland Security providing interim relief for widows of U.S. citizens married for less than two (2) years, please visit our website at www.portnerandshure.com

Determining whether or not the son or daughter of a green card holder will be considered a 'child' for immigration purposes under the CSPA can be confusing.  The CSPA allows the son or daughter of a U.S. citizen to be considered a 'child' if the individual was unmarried and under the age of 21 at the time the I-130 Petition was filed.  However, for the son or daughter of a green card holder, the applicable age is determined by subtracting the amount of time an I-130 Petition was pending from the current age of the son or daughter of the green card holder.

Since calculating the applicable age of the son or daughter of a green card holder can be somewhat complicated, I will use an example to explain.  Suppose that Person A's green card holding parent files an I-130 Petition on their behalf in December of 2002.  Person A is 19 years and 1 month old at the time of filing.  The I-130 Petition filed on behalf of Person A is approved in August of 2005.  However, Person A's priority date for when an I-485 green card application can be filed does not become current until June of 2007.  In June of 2007, Person A is 23 years and 8 months old.     

To determine whether or not Person A will still be considered a child for immigration purposes, the amount of time it took for an approval to be rendered must be subtracted by Person A's current age.  Here, Person A is 23 years and 8 months old, and the I-130 Petition filed on his behalf was pending for 2 years and 9 months (i.e. the time between the December 2002 filing and August 2005 approval).  Under this set of facts, Person A will be considered 20 years and 11 months old, and hence will be considered a child for immigration purposes if Person A has remained unmarried. 

However, if Person A were 19 years and 2 months old at the time of filing, Person A would be considered 21 years old under immigration laws, and hence not be considered a child.  Under this scenario, Person A would be shifted from the 2A family preference category to the 2B category, and would likely have to wait longer to file an I-485 green card application. 

If you have questions about the Child Status Protection Act, and are interested in obtaining a green card, please consult our website

 

 

The 2002 Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) has had a dramatic impact on how family-based immigration cases involving children are adjudicated.  For the purposes of immigration benefits, a 'child' is defined as an individual who is unmarried and under the age of 21.  Classification as a 'child' is often crucial to immigration applications, as when an applicant can't be classified as a child, they often have to wait a significantly longer period of time to get a green card than they would if they were classified as a child.   

Prior to 2002, a family-based green card application had to be granted before the applicant's 21st birthday in order for the applicant to be considered a 'child' under immigration laws.  In practice, applicants would frequently 'age-out,' meaning that they would file an I-130 petition as a child, and then lose this designation as they endured lengthy delays in the processing of their petitions by USCIS.  Loss of this designation would slide applicants who were considered a 'child' of a U.S. citizen from the immediate preference category into the first preference category, and children of green card holders from the 2A preference category into the 2B preference category.   

The passage of the CSPA in 2002 has essentially solved the aging-out issue.  As applied to U.S. citizen petitioners, the law now locks in the age of the applicant at the time of filing the I-130 petition, as opposed to the age at the time of adjudication of the green card application.  For example, if a petition was filed on behalf of the 20 year old son of a U.S. citizen, he would maintain his position as an immediate preference relative regardless of how long USCIS took during processing.  The process is a bit more complicated for children of green card holders, as the age at the time of filing isn't necessarily locked in. The age that determines the applicant's preference category is calculated by subtracting the number of days the application was pending from the age of the applicant on the date the priority date became current. 

Another benefit of the CSPA is that it allows applicants to upgrade their classification.  For example, if a green card holder files a petition on behalf of their child, and the petitioner becomes a U.S. citizen during processing, the applicant is upgraded from the 2A preference category to the immediate relative category. 

An important note about the CSPA is that it locks in only the age of the applicant, and not marital status.  If an applicant gets married at any time during the processing of a petition or application, they will automatically lose their designation as a child.

If you are interested in obtaining a green card through family relation, please visit our website.

Prior to the creation of the K visa, spouses of U.S. citizens who lived abroad were required to complete the lengthy process of obtaining permanent residence in their home country before entering the U.S.  In practice, immigration laws before the existence of the K visa essentially separated married or engaged couples for periods of 2 years or more.  Fortunately, the K visa was created and now couples don't have to wait out the entire green card process while separated from their loved ones.

There are two types of K visas: the K-1 visa for fiances of U.S. citizens, and the K-3 visa for spouses of U.S. citizens.  There are a few noteworthy differences in the processes for obtaining a K-1 or a K-3 visa.  First, the K-3 visa requires that the U.S. citizen spouse submit an I-130 petition in the U.S. before filing for the K-3 visa.  The K-1 visa doesn't require an I-130 petition to be submitted at any time.  Second, the duration of validity of the K-1 visa is only 90 days, as opposed to the K-3 visa which permits presence in the U.S. for a period of 2 years.  The K-1 visa also requires that a fiancee must marry their U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry into the U.S. 

The elements of proof for a successful K visa application are essentially the same, regardless of if a K-1 visa or a K-3 visa is being sought.  The three elements that any K visa application must satisfy are proof that the petitioner is a U.S. citizen, proof of marriage to the beneficiary (or proof of intent to marry if a K-1 application) and proof that the immigrant has met his/her significant lover at least once over the last 2 years.  K visa applicants should be sure to save evidence of a meeting when they visit their significant other, like photographs, plane tickets, receipts and other types of documentation.

If you are a U.S. citizen and are interested in starting the process to obtain a green card for your spouse, visit this website for more information.

As of June 1, 2009, drivers who cannot prove their lawful status in the United States will no longer be able to get a Maryland drivers license. Maryland had been one of just four states that granted driver's licenses to illegal immigrants (the others are Washington, New Mexico and Hawaii). It is no longer. Law makers made the change out of concern that the state would lose federal funding by not complying with the Federal Security Act, known as Real ID.

Law makers did reach a compromise which will benefit some illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants who already have a license may renew. The licenses will be marked "not acceptable for federal purposes", meaning they cannot be used to board airplanes. This compromise still leaves Maryland in the minority among states on this issue. Additionally, Maryland allows illegal immigrants with a tax id to apply for a "driving privilege card". This is not accepted federally.

This change will impact illegal immigrants charged criminally with driving without a license. Previously, many jurisdictions in Maryland were willing to dismiss the charge if a meeting was scheduled with MVA. Since no more meetings can be scheduled these cases will no longer end in a simple dismissal. An attorney should be consulted since jail time is now a consideration in these criminal cases.

Information on Release from Detention

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The detention process can often be the most confusing and troubling facet of our immigration system.  In many cases, aliens are taken into custody on immigration charges and have little knowledge of their rights or how they can secure their release from custody.  If you or a loved one find yourself in a situation where you are being detained on immigration charges, it is important to have a basic understanding of the immigration bond system.

DHS can detain an alien if they are a citizen of another country who does not have the right to be in the U.S.  Certain aliens are subject to mandatory detention and can't be released on bond.  Aliens in that group include those who were convicted of a removable offense and terrorism suspects among others.  Aliens that are eligible for release on bond are generally those who have overstayed visas, missed deadlines in filing applications or violated the terms of their visas.   

When an alien is taken into detention, it is required that he/she be given a document called a notice to appear (NTA) within 48 hours.  This document should provide the charges against the alien and the facts in support of those charges.  At some point soon after being taken into custody, a detention officer should be assigned to the alien.  The detention officer is an important person in this process, as he/she has the discretion to release the alien on their own recognizance without setting a bond amount.  Initially, there are two ways to secure the release of an alien.  The first way would be by persuading the dentention officer to release the alien, which would involve a demonstration that the alien is not a risk to society and that the alien is likely to appear at future hearings.  The second option would be to pay the initial bond amount, which also should be set some time shortly after detention.  The minimum amount that can be set is $1,500.   

If you are unable to secure the release of the alien through the detention officer, and unwilling to pay the initial bond amount, then a bond redetermination hearing can be requested.  The request, and documents in support of the request, should be sent to the immigration court with jurisdiction over the alien in detention.   At this hearing, evidence should be presented showing that the alien is not a threat to society, and is likely to appear at future immigration proceedings.  Examples of valuable types of evidence are letters from friends and relatives, proof that the alien has a history of appearing at prior immigration proceedings, demonstrations of community involvement and any documents that tend to show good character on the part of the alien. 

If you or a relative of yours has been detained and is eligible for release, please contact the law firm of Portner & Shure for more information.