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  1. OCAHO Finds State Employer Had Sovereign Immunity

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

    Attachment 1213

    In Ugochi v. North Dakota Dept. of Human Service, 12 OCAHO no. 1304 (July 2017), the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) dismissed Chiaha Ugochi’s complaint that she was discriminated because of her citizenship status and national origin, the employer retaliated against her and committed document abuse.

    The case began with Ugochi filing a charge against her employer, North Dakota State Hospital, alleging it discriminated against her. Immigrant and Employer Rights Section of the Department of Justice dismissed her case due to insufficient evidence of discrimination or retaliation and referred the national origin claim to the EEOC, who has jurisdiction on national origin claims involving employers with more than 14 employees.

    Thereafter, Ugochi filed a complaint with OCAHO alleging she was fired because her employer asked for excessive documentation in the I-9 and E-Verify process. The employer responded that it was entitled to sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment and had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for her termination - she failed a background check.

    In analyzing the employer’s defenses, OCAHO noted the employer in question is the North Dakota State Hospital, a state agency. Due to the employer being a state agency, one must review the 11th Amendment which states, “The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court “has consistently held that an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.” There are two exceptions to a state’s immunity from suit under the 11th Amendment. The first exception is where Congress has statutorily abrogated such immunity by “clear and unmistakable language.” The second exception exists when the state has expressly waived its immunity.

    OCAHO found sovereign immunity applied to the North Dakota State Hospital, a state agency; thus, it enjoyed immunity from these proceedings pursuant to the 11th Amendment. Neither exception to immunity is present in the instant matter. Accordingly, because Ugochi’s complaint is barred, the Motion to Dismiss was granted.

    On a personal note, last week the immigration bar lost a true advocate for immigrants, Yvette Sebelist, my law partner. May she rest in peace.

    Updated 08-22-2017 at 12:11 PM by BBuchanan

  2. OCAHO Finds State Employer Had Sovereign Immunity

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    In Ugochi v. North Dakota Dept. of Human Service, 12 OCAHO no. 1304 (July 2017), the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) dismissed Chiaha Ugochi’s complaint that she was discriminated because of her citizenship status and national origin, the employer retaliated against her and committed document abuse.

    The case began with Ugochi filing a charge against her employer, North Dakota State Hospital, alleging it discriminated against her. Immigrant and Employer Rights Section of the Department of Justice dismissed her case due to insufficient evidence of discrimination or retaliation and referred the national origin claim to the EEOC, who has jurisdiction on national origin claims involving employers with more than 14 employees.

    Thereafter, Ugochi filed a complaint with OCAHO alleging she was fired because her employer asked for excessive documentation in the I-9 and E-Verify process. The employer responded that it was entitled to sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment and had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for her termination - she failed a background check.

    In analyzing the employer’s defenses, OCAHO noted the employer in question is the North Dakota State Hospital, a state agency. Due to the employer being a state agency, one must review the 11th Amendment which states, “The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court “has consistently held that an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.” There are two exceptions to a state’s immunity from suit under the 11th Amendment. The first exception is where Congress has statutorily abrogated such immunity by “clear and unmistakable language.” The second exception exists when the state has expressly waived its immunity.

    OCAHO found sovereign immunity applied to the North Dakota State Hospital, a state agency; thus, it enjoyed immunity from these proceedings pursuant to the 11th Amendment. Neither exception to immunity is present in the instant matter. Accordingly, because Ugochi’s complaint is barred, the Motion to Dismiss was granted.

    On a personal note, last week the immigration bar lost a true advocate for immigrants, Yvette Sebelist, my law partner. May she rest in peace.
  3. OCAHO Finds No Jurisdiction Over Case

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) found it did not have jurisdiction concerning alleging allegations of national origin discrimination and retaliation against a U.S. Army captain. See Windsor v. Captain Landeen, 12 OCAHO no. 1294 (Dec. 2016).

    Washington Younggil Kim Jung Windsor (“Windsor”) sought employment as a recruiter at the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in New York. Windsor was not hired and alleged in a charge with the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) that it was because he is from South Korea. (At this time, Widsor was a lawful permanent resident. He later became a U. S. citizen).

    The OSC dismissed Windsor’s charge because it determined it did not have jurisdiction over the U.S. Army. However, the OSC told Windsor that he could pursue a complaint with OCAHO against the U.S. Army and Captain Landeen. Thereafter, Windsor filed a complaint before OCAHO alleging the same facts as he did in his charge with the OSC.

    OCAHO initially determined that despite the complaint being filed against Captain Landeen, it alleged acts of Captain Landeen in his official capacity with U.S. Army. Thus, it reviewed whether a complaint can be brought against the U.S. Army under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

    OCAHO found the U.S. Army was a part of the U.S. Department of Defense, a federal agency. Based upon that finding, it determined “absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit.” OCAHO found no such waiver existed under the INA. Thus, it followed OCAHO caselaw which has held “federal government agencies are not amenable to suit under 8 U.S.C. § 1324b” (cases alleging discrimination due to citizenship status, national origin, retaliation or document abuse). Based upon this analysis, OCAHO dismissed Windsor’s complaint.
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