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Carl Shusterman's Immigration Update

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  1. Tired of Waiting for the USCIS? Think Mandamus!

    What’s the most common complaint of people who have applied for immigration benefits? And for those who have been interviewed by the USCIS?

    Take a wild guess or simply click the video below and close your eyes!



    Back in the 60s, a British Rock Group called the Kinks had a major hit with a song that began:

    I’m so tired,
    Tired of waiting,
    Tired of waiting for you…

    In the 1970s when I worked as an Attorney for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), immigrants sometimes had to wait for what seemed like forever to get their appointments or to get a decision on their application even after an in-person appointments.

    Fast forward to 2018. These days, it takes even longer for you just to get an interview date and can sometimes take months or even years after your appointment to get a decision.

    Are You Tired of Waiting?

    You may be able to solve your problem by making an InfoPass appointment with the USCIS. If that doesn’t work, you may want to meet with someone from the staff of your Member of Congress’s office and have them write an inquiry letter to the USCIS. Sometimes, these strategies work, and sometimes they do not.

    But you’ll be happy to know that there is a strategy that almost always works, and we have been successfully using this strategy for over 30 years!

    Petition for a Writ of Mandamus

    If you have applied for asylum, a green card or US citizenship, and all you have got from the USCIS is a receipt and maybe a biometrics appointment, and you have waited way more than what the USCIS has stated on their website is the average waiting time, wait no more!

    The same applies if you have been interviewed and it is now months later, and you have yet to receive a decision.



    You can have an immigration lawyer file a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus in Federal Court to force the USCIS make a decision in your pending case.

    The Federal Judge can not tell the USCIS whether they should approve or deny your case but the Judge can order the USCIS to make a decision on your pending application and to do it quickly.

    In fact, it has been our experience over the past 30+ years that just filing a Mandamus action in Federal Court usually prompts the USCIS to grant our request way before the matter even comes before the Judge.

    Of course, we only bring Mandamus actions when our client has a good case and in almost all of the actions that we have filed, our clients have received a positive response from the USCIS.

    This year, we filed a Mandamus action in Sacramento and received a long delayed adjustment of status interview. Our client is now a lawful permanent resident. Earlier, we filed a Mandamus action in San Francisco which prompted the USCIS to our client’s asylum application.

    Of course, going to Federal Court is certainly not the least expensive way to solve your case, but if you are so tired, tired of waiting, Mandamus may be your best bet!

    Mandamus Resources

    Updated 04-09-2018 at 12:07 PM by CShusterman

  2. DACA is Ending – What You Should Do Now



    On September 5, the Trump Administration announced that DACA which has shielded over 800,000 young people who were brought to the US as children from deportation for the past 5 years was coming to an end.


    The USCIS will no longer accept new applications for DACA or for advance parole travel permits.

    However, for a brief period of time which ends on October 5, 2017, current DACA recipients whose DACA status expires prior to March 5, 2018 may apply to renew their status and EADs for another 2 years. If you fit into this category, be sure to apply for a DACA and EAD renewal immediately.


    Although USCIS will not accept new applications for advance parole from DACA recipients and will return all pending applications for advance parole, if you already have an advance parole through DACA that you have not used and you last entered the US without inspection, you may want to travel abroad and return to the US with your advance parole document. This may allow you to adjust your status in the US in the future. Please see DACA Renewals – Plus DACA To Green Card!.


    In addition, there are a variety of other immigration benefits that you may be eligible for. These are detailed in Screening Potential DACA Requestors for Other Forms of Relief published by the American Immigration Council.


    We link to the various government memos regarding the termination of the program from End of DACA Program – Frequently Asked Questions.


    Will Congress pass a bill to provide DREAMers with a path to US citizenship, or at least to protect them from deportation after March 5, 2018?


    That’s anyone’s guess.


    The DREAM Act was first introduced back in 2001, and has never been passed by Congress. Whether Congress will act to protect the DREAMers in 2017-18 remains to be seen.


    There are currently 4 bills in Congress to help the Dreamers. There has been much speculation as to whether the Democrats and President Trump can make a deal to help the Dreamers the way they did recently on the short term hike in the debt ceiling.


    Several states are suing the Administration over the DACA termination. So is the University of California.


    Religious leaders from many faiths have condemned President Trump's decision to phase out DACA. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has threatened to shut down the government if the House of Representatives fails to pass the DREAM Act.


    Some commentators had concluded that there is a racial basis for ending DACA and attempting to restrict immigration to the US.


    I watched Steve Bannon on "60 Minutes" last night. He stated that he was all in favor of ending DACA and that the answer to the problem is for the Dreamers to "self-deport". Outrageous!


    If you are also upset about how the 800,000 young DACA recipients are being treated, this is the time for you to act. Take a few minutes and let the White House and your Members of Congress know that it is important to you that they protect the Dreamers.


    With DACA ending, it is important that we Act Now For Dreamers.

    Updated 09-12-2017 at 12:33 PM by CShusterman

  3. USCIS Filing Fees to Increase Starting December 23

    Need a good reason to file your application for an immigration benefit sooner rather than later?


    The USCIS will significantly raise filing fees for over 3 dozen types of applications and petitions beginning on December 23, 2016, some by over 100%.


    While the steepest increases will be for EB-5 investors and regional centers, filing fees for commonly-used applications and petitions will also be raised.


    • US Citizenship


    Want to become a US citizen through naturalization? The price for filing an N-400 form (which used to be $15 when I was an INS Citizenship Attorney) is slated to rise from $595 to $640.


    However, there will be a new partial fee waiver for N-400s filed by qualified low-income individuals.


    Do you have foreign-born children who either acquired US citizenship through you at birth or derived citizenship as minors? I hope you are sitting down while you are reading this. The filing fees for forms N-600 and N-600K will almost double, from $600 to $1,170!


    Suggestion: Save your money and apply for a US passport instead.


    • Family-Based Immigration


    Applying for a green card for your spouse? Time to pool your money together.


    The filing fees for forms I-130, I-131, I-765 and I-485 are all rising: (1) by $115 for form I-130; (2) by $215 for form I-131; by $155 for form I-485 and by $30 for form I-765.


    However, if the I-131 and the I-765 are filed together with the I-485, you will be able to continue to pay only the I-485 fee.


    The filing fee for a form I-751 petition to remove conditions for a spouse of a US citizen will be increased to $595.


    The fee for filing a petition for a fiancée of a US citizen will rise from $340 to $535.


    • Employment-Based Immigration


    The filing fee for form I-129 which is used to petition a nonimmigrant worker will increase from $325 to $460 while the fee for an I-140 will rise from $580 to $700.


    • Fees That Will Stay The Same


    1. Biometric Services Fee
    2. Premium Processing
    3. Refugee Travel Documents
    4. Forms I-821 and I-821F


    • What You Should Do


    To the extent possible, make sure that your petitions and applications for immigration benefits are filed with the USCIS before December 23.


    Folks with low incomes will still be able to request fee waivers using form I-912.
  4. USCIS Introduces “Ask Emma”

    On December 2, 2015, the USCIS introduced the feature “Ask Emma”, a virtual assistant, on www.uscis.gov. Emma is named after Emma Lazarus, the woman who wrote the sonnet “The New Colossus” which appears on a bronze plaque at the base of the Statute of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor…”)


    The USCIS press release states as follows: “Although Emma can currently answer many questions our customers commonly ask, her knowledge base is still growing. As customers ask more questions, Emma gets smarter and can better assist future customers.


    You can access Emma on a desktop or laptop. Soon, she’ll be expanding to mobile devices, and her Spanish language capabilities will be arriving early next year.”


    However, unlike her older Sister Siri who was born in 2011 and who speaks over a dozen languages, Emma prefers to answer your questions in writing and in English, rather than by speaking to you.


    You can ask Emma questions by clicking the “Ask a Question” link in the upper right corner of www.uscis.gov, right next to the “Search Our Site” link and typing in your question(s).


    Carl and Emma’s First Conversation


    I first talked with Emma on December 3. Below is a transcript of our brief conversation. While Emma directed me to the same pages that USCIS’s internal Bing search engine did, I found her answers to my question a bit more precise. Please share your experiences with Emma with me.


    Emma: Hi, I’m Emma. I’m here to help you with your questions about this site. What would you like to ask me?


    Carl: Can my child immigrate with me under CSPA?


    Emma: The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) amended the Immigration Nationality Act (INA) by changing who qualifies as a child for purposes of immigrant. This permits certain beneficiaries to retain classification as a “child,” even if he or she has reached the age of 21.


    Before CSPA took effect on August 6, 2002, a beneficiary who turned 21 at any time prior to receiving permanent residence could not be considered a child for immigration purposes. This situation is described as “aging out.” Congress recognized that many beneficiaries were aging out because of large backlogs and long processing times for visa petitions. CSPA is designed to protect a beneficiary’s immigration classification as a child when he or she ages out due to excessive processing times.


    Please see the page I have opened for you for additional information on how to qualify under the act and for a list of the eligibility criteria or select the link below to review visa availability.View Page


     Visa Availability and Priority Dates


    Need to go back?


     Return To Previous Page


    Carl: He was 15 when my sister filed a visa petition for me. Now, my priority date is current, but he is 22 years old.


    Emma: The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets the number of immigrant visas that may be issued to individuals seeking permanent resident status (a green card) each year. Immigrant visas available to “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens are unlimited, so are always available. Immediate relatives include, parents of a U.S. citizen, spouses of a U.S. citizen and, unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen.


    Immigrant visa numbers for individuals in a “preference category” are limited, so are not always available. Because the demand is higher than the supply of visas for a given year for some categories, a visa queue (waiting list) forms. To distribute the visas among all preference categories, the Department of State gives out the visas by providing visa numbers according to the preference category and one’s priority date.


    See the page I've opened for you for more information.View Page


     Family Preference Categories Eligibility
    Need to go back?


     Return To Previous Page


    Updated 12-04-2015 at 02:24 PM by CShusterman

  5. Dilley - The Good, The Bad & the Ugly

    The LA4 – Attorney Cheryl Gertler, her translator Naz, me and Paralegal Elsa Garcia – volunteered at the Dilley Detention Center (aka South Texas Family Residential Center) during the first weekend of September.


    We did our best to help unaccompanied mothers and children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala prepare for their Credible Fear Interviews with the USCIS.


    We all agree that this was one of the most important, if heart-breaking, experiences of our lives.




    The Good


    1. We received great training and support from the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project – Thank you Isabel, Ian and Aseem. See our Dilley Photo Gallery.
    2. The approval rate for Credible Fear Interviews has risen to 87% resulting in more women and children being freed from Dilley.
    3. We were able to meet with 2 top immigration advisers to DHS Secretary Johnson to discuss our concerns.
    4. On our last evening in Dilley, DHS released the 5 longest-held detainee families and we were able to share a meal with them.


    The Bad


    1. Dilley is a detention camp, not a “residential center”. Full-body scans are required to enter the facility and all sorts of items are banned including cell phones and cameras.
    2. The vast majority of the facility is off-limits even to attorneys representing inmates.
    3. CCA imposes arbitrary rules. Example: An aunt who had driven to Dilley all the way from Houston was prohibited from visiting her niece because she arrived at the camp wearing open-toed shoes. Seriously!
    4. The children are constantly wheezing and coughing and the doctor routinely tells them to drink more water. A sign on the door warns visitors that they are in danger of catching the chicken pox if they enter the facility.




    The Ugly


    1. Though a Federal Judge has ruled that facility should be closed down, the government is fighting the decision tooth and nail.
    2. 1,800 women and children populate the facility and the number of inmates continues to grow.
    3. CBP officers frequently produce “affidavits” which are false and misleading. They mark false answers to questions asking why the women and children came to the US. They purport to take affidavits from 3 and 4-year-old children!
    4. During my week in Dilley, the Los Angeles Times ran an article about ICE going from home to home in Los Angeles to round up undocumented felons including child rapists who had been freely walking the streets of LA. Yet, they continue to lock up women and children who pose no danger to society. Great priorities!




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