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  1. Obama Administration Still Enforcing Defense of Marriage Act in Immigration Context

    by , 12-21-2011 at 05:47 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    United States Citizen Frances Herbert and her spouse, Japanese-born Takako Ueda, just learned that the Obama administration will not recognize their marriage for immigration purposes, which may result in Ueda's deportation from the country.


    The couple were legally married in Vermont on April 26, 2011.  The immigrant petition that Herbert filed on Ueda's behalf was just denied on December 1, 2011.  The denial was a direct result of the mandate of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

    The denial letter contained the following language: "The DOMA applies as a matter of federal law whether or not your marriage is recognized under state law." "Your spouse is not a person of the opposite sex. Therefore, under the DOMA, your petition must be denied."  The denial was issued despite U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's position that DOMA is unconstitutional.

    According to Immigration Equality, there are 36,000 American families that will be destroyed by deportation as a direct result of DOMA.
  2. District Judge Grants Class-Action Status to Mentally Incompetent Immigrant Detainees in Immigration Court

    by , 12-21-2011 at 05:08 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    The Washington Post reports that United States District Judge Dolly M. Glee has granted class-action status to mentally disabled immigrant detainees in California, Washington, and Arizona that do not have legal representation before the immigration court, and that have been deemed mentally incompetent to represent themselves.  The decision was rendered under seal in November, but became public this past Monday.  
    When the suit was filed on February 14, 2010, there were 55 mentally disabled detainees in custody.  It has been estimated that at any given time there are between 200 and 300 mentally disabled people held in immigration detention in California, Washington, and Arizona.  
    ACLU of Southern California deputy legal director Ahilan Arulanantham believes that the Court's decision "paves the way" for a mandate for appointed representation in immigration court proceedings for individuals deemed incompetent.  Current law affords individuals the right to representation before immigration courts, but at their own expense.
    Judge Glee sits on the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and was appointed to the bench by President Obama.
    Click here to read more of the Washington Post story.
  3. NFAP: Immigrants Behind Half of Venture Funded Start Ups

    by , 12-20-2011 at 09:44 AM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    In case you think that those who say our restrictive immigration policies hurt America's ability to compete and generate good jobs are just spouting off unsubstantiated arguments, here is proof that they're right. From the Wall Street Journal:

    Immigrants have started nearly half of America's 50 top venture-funded companies and are key members of management or product development teams in almost 75 percent of those companies.
    Those are the results of a new study by the National Foundation for American Policy, which cites the numbers in calling for changes to immigration policy to make it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the United States and begin building companies.
    Using the "Next Big Thing" list of Top 50 venture-funded companies published in March 2011 in The Wall Street Journal and compiled by research firm VentureSource, a unit of Journal owner News Corp., the research finds that 46 percent, or 23 out of 50, of the country's top venture-funded companies had at least one immigrant founder.
    The research also found that 37 of the top 50 companies, or 74 percent, had at least one immigrant helping the company grow and innovate by filling a key management or product development position. Chief technology officer, chief executive and vice president of engineering are the most common positions held by immigrants in the top 50 venture-backed companies.

    The NFAP report notes that legislation is needed to ensure we continue to attract these business superstars. Unfortunately, we have a dysfunctional Congress where most members probably agree that we need changes to attract entrepreneurs but are so cowed by a tiny minority of antis that they're afraid to make even modest changes, much less do anything bold.
  4. Telling Immigration Stories: It's Not Just about Code Sections

    by , 12-20-2011 at 07:10 AM (Angelo Paparelli on Dysfunctional Government)
    From the first prehistoric evenings sitting around campfires, humans have been telling stories. Heroic myths, fairy-tale fables, oral histories -- all have been seared into heart and memory through the power of narrative. Civil and criminal trials are merely stylized forms of storytelling.  Journalism's hook, theatre's Sturm und Drang, reality television's sour and sweet confections -- all are bottomed on stories.
    Although I've mentored dozens of able and bright immigration lawyers, some new, some not so, I continue to be amazed at how few appreciate the power of telling stories (double entendre intended).  Sadly, the unscrupulous -- the notarios, consultants and sleazebags with a law license -- know too well the power of storytelling -- but I'm talking about truthful, factual, accurate stories, not fabrications.
    Some stories tell themselves, like the saga of my pro bono client, Shyima Hall.  Born in Alexandria, Egypt as Shyima Hassan, one of 11 children in a poor family, she is sold by her mother at age 9, and smuggled into America a year later to work for a wealthy Egyptian couple in my town, Irvine, California, a 'burb often rated, ironically, one of the most crime-free cities in America. After three years of captivity, working night and day for the couple and their five children, sleeping in their unheated, unlighted garage, washing her clothes in a bucket, she is spotted by a suspicious neighbor who tips off the police. The couple is convicted and Shyima is taken to Orangewood orphanage, then adopted by a foster couple, and along the way befriended by a compassionate agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  
    Shyima obtains a green card as a Special Immigrant Juvenile.  After high school, she travels around the country with ICE to speak about the dangers of human trafficking and urge trafficked victims to be brave and come forward. She volunteers with the Public Law Center, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, and other anti-slavery groups such as the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. 
    Years later, serendipity leads me to Shyima (who is now a young adult).  It prompted me on a whim to pop into the office of an ICE communications officer to say hello at the close of a USCIS California Service Center Stakeholders Meeting. The officer tells me about Shyima and her goal to become an ICE officer, but also of this amazing woman's preliminary need to find pro bono counsel who'll help her become a naturalized American. Asked to find Shyima pro bono counsel, I volunteer myself and my firm. The media have followed Shyima's story, since she was first released from captivity, and again just last week in this Los Angeles Times piece and this AP article as well as the following video, shot on the day of her oath-taking and embrace of American citizenship.

    Not all immigration stories flow naturally with such a dramatic arc. Some are hidden and must be teased out and coaxed to appear. Immigration lawyers who can do this, in my view, "are worth their weight in gold," as another immigration-agency communications officer, Karen Kraushaar, once told theWashington Post (before she moved on to another federal job and later joined other women accusing Herman Cain of sexual misconduct  -- a totally different story in itself).
    In truth, Ms. Kraushaar was referring to Immigration law's complexity ("[It's] a mystery and a mastery of obfuscation"). While surely the ability to traverse code sections, regulations, policy interpretations and institutional history matters (as the Supreme Court unanimously demonstrated this week in the Judulangcase), that's not the whole story. 
    Telling immigration stories matter(s) just as much, sometimes more. Good immigration stories entice.  Unlike the physical imprisonment of Shyima's Irvine garage, they create emotional captivity. They have the power, as in Shyima's case, to melt the (too-often) frozen heart of ICE. Take for instance the 50 real-life biographies depicted so well, with vivid photos and eloquent word pictures, in a new book, Green Card Stories. These stories, however, did not tell themselves.  They required worth-their-weight-in-gold immigration lawyers (mostly members of theAlliance of Business Immigration Lawyers) to bring them to life.
    Immigration lawyers, paralegals, U.S. citizen spouses and families of the foreign born, employers of non-citizens, and would-be Green Card holders:  Read this book! It will inspire you to make your clients', families', employees' and your own Green Card stories a reality. These stories, like all well-told immigration biographies, humanize the demonized and prove that they are worthy of welcome. These dramatically revealed tales of truth and hardship, often extreme and exceptional, unmask the lies of the nativists and the naÔve, who make or believe the make-believe memes about immigration, legal and illegal. They help us "Define American."
    These immigration stories are not woven of mere gossamer words that violate immigration law [INA ß 274C(f)]; stories that break the law are "false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement[s] or material representation[s], or [have] no basis in law or fact, or otherwise fail . . . to state a fact which is material to the purpose for which it was submitted." Rather, the stories of which I speak are knitted with the strong, resilient threads of lawyerly due diligence and probing curiosity It also helps to have a liberal arts education and to embrace the inquisitive Socratic method. Contrary to the Gingrich who stole Christmas, it is not limited to one in 11 million and does not require 25 years of physical presence in this country.
    These recountings are best backed by documentary proof, powerful visual images and the sound of a ringing, truthfully spoken tale. As Rod Stewart (himself a naturalized American) might wail, EVERY IMMIGRANT TELLS A STORY!



    Green Card

    Green Card Stories




    pro bono

    Shyima Hall






  5. Letters of the Week: Dec 19 - Dec 23

    Please email your letters to or post them directly as "Comment" below.
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