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  1. AILA Launches Pro Bono Program to Help DREAMers

    by , 08-09-2011 at 11:59 AM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    And I'm proud that my law firm is one of the first to volunteer. From the American Immigration Lawyers Association:

    The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is pleased to announce the AILA DREAM Defenders (AD2) pro bono program, which will support young adults who would benefit from the DREAM Act if it were to pass Congress and be signed into law. AILA has committed to match qualifying young adults with immigration attorneys who will provide legal services free of charge. The DREAM Defenders program is a collaboration between AILA, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, the National Immigration Law Center, DREAM Activist, United We Dream, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, and Educators for Fair Consideration, and is the first national partnership of its kind.
    AILA will receive cases from its coalition partners, which will then be passed on to AILA member attorneys who will provide pro bono services as AD2 volunteers. "The legal assistance we can provide is essential," said AILA Immediate Past-President David Leopold. "Without an attorney beside them, DREAM Act candidates, who are educated and ready to contribute to our society, may find themselves in a tough situation. With AD2, we really are defending dreams; this is the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs that America needs to prosper."
    Many national organizations have been engaged in advocacy efforts to promote the DREAM Act and have also taken action to protect individual DREAMers from deportation. "This partnership of DREAM Defenders strengthens our advocacy campaigns," said Mohammad Abdollahi of DREAM Activist, an online action and resource network for DREAMers and their allies. "Never before have we been able to list legal representation among our cache of tools for DREAMers. AILA's participation makes the push for change more concrete. We can all help these promising young people together."
    AILA President Eleanor Pelta said of AD2 and the new DREAM Defenders partnership, "I'm very proud of this venture. For several years, AILA attorneys have worked with non profit organizations to assist DREAMers with pro bono legal representation. This partnership builds on their work by creating a formal referral process that DREAM advocacy organizations can use to match individual cases with AILA's AD2 attorneys."
  2. American Bar Association Urges Congress to Preserve Birthright Citizenship

    by , 08-09-2011 at 09:53 AM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    The American Bar Association, the organization representing hundreds of thousands of lawyers across the US, passed a resolution this morning urging Congress to pass on any measures to amend the Constitution or other federal laws regarding birthright citizenship. From the Associated Press:

    The American Bar Association passed a resolution Tuesday urging the U.S. Congress to reject any changes to the Constitution that would eliminate automatic citizenship for anyone born in the United States.
    About 400 members of the attorneys association, which is holding its annual meeting in Toronto, passed the resolution in a voice vote.
    Some Republican lawmakers have called for legislation to repeal birthright citizenship and have proposed a constitutional amendment.
    Outgoing American Bar Association President Stephen Zack said in an interview that racism is underlying the call to change the constitution. Zack, the first ABA president of Hispanic origin, said it was an important statement by the American Bar Association that the U.S. Constitution must be respected.
    "This is something that should be avoided at all costs," Zack said. "Certain issues are not really about what the words are about, but what the underlying concerns are about."

    The vote followed a public forum this week that was held at the annual meeting of the ABA in Toronto. I was happy to see my friend Margaret Stock was on the panel.
  3. Obama Administration Deports Same Sex Spouse

    by , 08-09-2011 at 09:42 AM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    So much for the White House determination that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The San Francisco Chronicle reports on a case with particularly compelling facts. The couple has been together for 19 years (legally married for the last six years) and the foreign national is the primary caregiver for his AIDS-afflicted partner. The White House's typical "our hands are tied" is simply infuriating especially since there are so many options available to DHS to avoid exactly what is being pursued (including last month's ICE memo). Really shameful!
  4. Bloggings: ‚ÄúNo Man is Beyond Redemption‚ÄĚ ‚Äď A new spin on Good Moral Character; By Danielle Beach-Oswald



    The discretionary and arbitrary nature of a finding of Good Moral Character in naturalization proceedings has been shown once again. Vernon Lawson, a decorated Vietnam veteran and Jamaican immigrant who spent 14 years in prison following the stabbing and killing of his wife, was granted US Citizenship in mid July following Federal Judge Denny Chin's decision that "No man is beyond redemption."
    Lawson spent 13 months on tour in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines. During that time he served as an antitank assault man. Upon his return to the United States, Lawson was honorably discharged and received numerous honors and awards for his time spent fighting the Vietcong. Unfortunately, like many veterans, he became a victim of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although he married in 1981, he and his wife eventually separated. After a failed attempt at reconciliation, Lawson stabbed his wife multiple times in the stomach. The night before, he engaged in heavy drinking and smoking marijuana laced with PCP.
    Judge Chin attributed Lawson's behavior upon returning to the United States to his PTSD and the little help he received in trying to treat it. Lawson's first degree manslaughter conviction did not stop him from turning his life around. While in prison, he went on to receive treatment for his PTSD, in addition to receiving his college degree. Upon being paroled from prison, Lawson worked as a substance abuse counselor in the Bronx and was an active volunteer in his community.
    His turn around in prison did not stop ICE officials from seeking removal proceedings in 2004. Judge Chin was highly critical of ICE in his decision and noted that the government's efforts were "mean-spirited."
    This isn't the first time that courts have struggled to determine the Good Moral Character requirement for veterans seeking naturalization. The Good Moral Character requirement for those seeking naturalization is reduced to one year for certain veterans. Although immigration authorities are to make the decision of Good Moral Character primarily based on the veterans behavior during that one year period, criminal conduct prior to the one year period can be considered. For Vernon Lawson, his manslaughter conviction was considered but because of his reformation of behavior, he was able to demonstrate Good Moral Character.
    The Good Moral Character requirements for naturalization for veterans remains overly complex. Recently in Moore v. James, the United States Eastern District Court of Virginia upheld USCIS's denial of naturalization for a Gulf War Veteran who was twice convicted of Possession with Marijuana with Intent to Distribute. Using a separate provision of code that veterans regularly use to seek naturalization, the Court noted that the provision in question "does not state that wartime veterans are excused from demonstrating good moral character."
    Given the confusion that already exists on whether or not an individual seeking naturalization possesses Good Moral Character, clearer standards must be developed for veterans. Because a veteran convicted of manslaughter in New York was found to possess Good Moral Character while another convicted of possession with intent to distribute marijuana in Virginia did not shows how arbitrary an adverse finding of Good Moral Character can be. After these lawful permanent residents have served bravely for the Armed Forces, the least that our government can do is clearly elaborate what they must do to gain the priceless gift of American citizenship.
    For more information on Good Moral Character, please see my article Good Moral Character - A Practitioner's Outline available from Immigration Briefings on August 15, 2011.
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  5. Obama administration denies immigration benefits to a married gay couple from San Francisco

    by , 08-09-2011 at 05:42 AM (Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal)
    The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that the Obama administration is enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act by denying immigration benefits to a same sex couple married seven years ago in Massachusetts. 

    Bradford Wells is the U.S. citizen spouse, and his husband, Anthony John Makk, is a citizen of Australia.  Mr. Wells filed a Form I-130 Immigration Petition for Alien Relative, which was denied by the administration on July 26. Mr. Wells has AIDS, and relies on his husband as his primary caregiver.
    The Chronicle has further reported that Mr. Makk has been ordered removed from the United States, and is required to depart by August 25.  I am not sure that this information is accurate, however, because it is unclear whether immigration court proceedings had already been instituted prior to the denial of the I-130.  If I am able to get more information to clarify this point I will post an update.
    So what does this tell us?  It has become abundantly clear that this President and his administration are in fact adhering to the mandate of the Defense of Marriage Act, despite the fact that they have said otherwise.
    More "Change" you can believe in.
    Click here to read the full report.
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