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  1. Book Review: Bench Pressed by Immigration Judge Susan L. Yarbrough

    It's rare to hear from judges about how their jobs affect them. In an engaging new memoir, Bench Pressed, former Immigration Judge Susan L. Yarbrough discusses the human side of adjudicating asylum cases.

    Is it hubris or chutzpah (or both) to judge a Judge on the Day of Judgment?
    The book covers five cases decided by Judge Yarbrough--one for each of the five protected grounds (race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and particular social group). Reflecting the time period (1990's) and the location of her court (Texas), most of the cases involve Latin American applicants. The one exception is a Palestinian man who was used as a human shield by the Israeli army. The IJ gives some background on the country situation and then describes each person's case. Finally, she talks about how each case affected her.

    This book was a quick read, and--as a person who practices asylum law on a daily basis--I really enjoyed it. That said, it seems to me that the book is targeted more for people who are not so familiar with the asylum system. For someone like me, the stories of the applicants are probably the least interesting part of the book. I am more interested in the Judge's observations of "the system" and of her own reactions to the cases. The stories of the applicants are similar to what I hear from my clients all the time. But for people who do not live this stuff, I imagine that the stories may be the most interesting part of the book (and the stories are interesting).

    One surprise in the book was how strongly Judge Yarbrough was affected by these cases. She often described crying after a case, and it was obvious that the job was emotionally trying for her. In some ways, I think she is lucky to "feel" the cases so strongly, though of course it takes a toll. I clerked for an immigration court during the same time that Judge Yarbrough was active, and so I observed IJs in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and (mostly) Arlington, Virginia. I never got the sense that they were as emotionally affected as Judge Yarbrough, and so I think her reactions may be somewhat atypical. Nonetheless, her observations shed important light on the emotional damage these cases can do to the adjudicators (and others in the system).

    If there is a weakness to the book, it is that the Judge does not discuss any cases that she denied. I would have been curious to see how a judge reconciles her duty to the law with what she views as the morally correct outcome where those two concepts are in conflict. I recall a federal appeal I worked on where the applicant sought asylum based on fear of persecution by gang members in El Salvador. During the trial, the IJ agreed that he faced persecution and she told him, "I think you are in a terrible situation and I could not have more sympathy for you." Nevertheless, she denied his case because a protected ground was not "one central reason" for his persecution (I litigated the case in the Fourth Circuit where we lost). I was (and am) curious about how an IJ can square her feelings of sympathy towards an applicant--and her belief that she may be sending the applicant back to his death--with what she views as her duty to enforce the law.

    Overall, I thought Judge Yarbrough's book was a very worthwhile read. If you practice asylum law, you will enjoy reading about the system from the IJ's point of view. Also, if you are like me, you will find some schadenfreudian (if that is a word) pleasure from reading the Judge's descriptions of certain government and private attorneys (though she is too polite to name names). If you are not familiar with the asylum system, the book will provide an interesting and entertaining introduction to the people who come to our country for refuge and those who decide their cases.

    You can see more reviews of Bench Pressed and buy the book here.

    Originally posted on the Asylumist:
  2. OSC on Re-Verification of Conditional LPR; Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

    [FONT=arial]The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has recently been busy issuing many Technical Assistance letters. In this situation, an employer requested an opinion as to what to do when an employee, who is a conditional legal permanent resident (LPR), [COLOR=black][FONT=Arial]will not, in the employer's opinion, be able to file for an 1-751 waiver to remove the residency conditions by the expiration date on the employee's green card because the employee's divorce is not yet final. The employer had informed the employee that upon the green card's expiration, he will not be allowed to work until his I-751 waiver request has been filed and he has received his extended work authorization. [COLOR=black][FONT=Arial]
  3. Washington Post Blasts Goodlatte, House GOP, For Blocking CIR. By Roger Algase

    In a September 8 editorial, the Washington Post pulls no punches in laying the blame for blocking immigration reform squarely where it belongs: on House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and the House Republican caucus.

    About Goodlatte, the WP has the following to say:

    "As it happens, Mr. Goodlatte has a long record of opposing immigration reform, including legislation to extend a path to citizenship to undocumented youngsters who grew up in the United States after being brought into the country by their parents...

    Mr. Goodlatte's alternative to legalizing undocumented immigrants, most of whom have lived and worked in the country for more than a decade, is stepped up enforcement at the local level and making unlawful presence in the United States a federal crime."

    But Goodlatte's history of anti-immigrant extremism goes well beyond that, as shown in a November 11, 2012 article on the website by Charles Johnson: Likely House Judiciary Chairman Is an Anti-immigrant Extremist and Birther.

    Goodlatte's record on immigration includes support for a) in effect, nullifying the 14th amendment by abolishing birthright citizenship for US born children of unauthorized immigrants, b) making English the official national language, c) sealing the Mexican border), d) reporting unauthorized immigrants seeking hospital treatment to ICE for deportation, and, e) backing the Minutemen. He also has a 100 per cent positive rating from the anti-immigrant group FAIR.

    On the plus side, in 2000, Goodlatte voted to raise the number of skilled worker H-1B visas from 65,000 per year to 115,000 per year.

    Here's how not to have immigration reform: put an anti-immigrant hard liner like Goodlatte in charge of the most powerful House committee dealing with immigration. And that is exactly what the House Republican leadership has done.

    This was intended to set up CIR for failure in the House, even if there had been none of the other pretexts for letting it die, such as the debate over Syria, budget and debt ceiling issues, "crowded calendar", or whatever other excuses the media can come up with for refusing to look at the hostility toward Latino and other minority immigrants shown by most House Republicans squarely in the face.

    Updated 09-11-2013 at 03:24 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  4. Letters of the Week: Sep 9 - Sep 13

    Please email your letters to or post them directly as a comment below.

    by , 09-09-2013 at 09:24 AM (Chris Musillo on Nurse and Allied Health Immigration)
    by Chris Musillo

    Because Physical Therapists have been designated by the U.S. Department of Labor as a ‘Schedule A occupation’, they are exempt from the labor certification process (PERM) required for most employment based immigrant visas. Physical Therapy positions are eligible for EB-2 classification. The EB-2 category is the immigrant visa classification for positions requiring at least an advanced degree (Master’s degree or higher) or a Bachelor’s degree and five years of progressively responsible experience.

    Generally speaking there is no backlog for EB-2 visas for most countries (excluding India, Mexico, and China) and thus an immigrant visa can be obtained “immediately” as soon as the normal case processing is completed. In contrast, obtaining an immigrant visa for an individual filing in the EB-3 classification is currently a lengthy process which takes between four to seven years.

    The USCIS has struggled with processing Physical Therapist EB-2 petitions. At issue is not whether these positions require a Master’s Degree. At issue is whether the Beneficiaries hold the US equivalent of a Masters Degree. The problem stems from the fact that many Philippine colleges issue a diploma labeled “Bachelors” degree”. When US educational evaluators review the diploma, coursework, and credit hours, they equate this education background to a US Masters Degree. Educators such as FCCPT and 53 US state and territory licensing jurisdictions all universally find that these degrees are equal to a US Masters Degree. All of the private educational evaluators that we have worked with have also issued Masters equivalent opinions. The opinion appears to be universal.

    Well, almost universal. The USCIS often looks to AACRAO as its preferred educational evaluator. AACRAO’s EDGE evaluation system alone has determined that these Philippine degrees are not equal to a US Master’s Degree. Throughout the summer MU Law has filed several similar briefs explaining this issue to the USCIS’ Administrative Appeals Office. While we think we have the better argument, the decision-making rests in the AAO’s hands. We will let you know as soon as the AAO releases their decision.

    Read the Musillo Unkenholt Healthcare and Immigration Law Blog at or You can also visit us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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