Free immigration clinic!

For those seeking help with an immigration case there will be a free clinic on May 13, 2017 at Mount Vernon Elementary School  See the attached flyer for more details!

 

 

USCIS: New policy for use of interpreters during interviews

A new policy for the use of interpreters during domestic interviews with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) went into effect yesterday.  At the start of this year, USCIS released a policy that established new guidelines for use of interpreters at interviews.  In the past, officers informally handled this; an interpreter would be asked to present her identification and take an oath.  She would promise that she was fluent in both languages and would acutely translate from the native langue to/from English.  Interpreters and the interviewee must sign a G-1256 form at the start of every interview and in addition, they must have the following qualifications:

  • Fluent in both languages;
  • Able to accurately interpret;
  • Without bias (must disclose if there is a relationship between the interviewee and the interpreter);
  • Must be older than 18 years of age (some exceptions); and
  • Cannot be the attorney or legal representative.

The officer has the discretion to move forward with the interview or request that it be reschedule if s/he feels that the interpreter is not performing the duties as required.  Here are some examples of why an interpreter may be disqualified:

  • The interpreter is clearly testifying for the interviewee and refuses to cease and interpret only what the interviewee states.
  • The interpreter is obviously coaching the interviewee.
  • The interpreter is embellishing or changing answers, or altering the questions and refuses to cease doing so when the officer requests.
  • The interpreter and the interviewee clearly appear to be consulting or collaborating on the responses to the officer’s questions and refuse to cease at the officer’s request.
  • The interpreter appears to be inhibiting the interviewee’s testimony.

 

For more information, please see the USCIS practice manual at https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/AFM/HTML/AFM/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-2449/0-0-0-2798.html.

Our experienced immigration attorney, Lesley Ellefson-Porras, has assisted countless immigrants with family reunification; citizenship, fiancé visas and unlawful presence waivers.  She is available to meet with you in her office in Alexandria, Virginia.  Since immigration is a federal matter, Ms. Ellefson-Porras can serve clients from anywhere in the United States.  Most of her clients reside in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.  Contact her today at 703-596-0235.

Attorney general: prosecute those entering illegally

Earlier this week Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed prosecutors across the country to make immigration cases a higher priority.  He further told them to look for ways to bring felony charges against illegal immigrants including against those who have crossed the border multiple times.   His three-page memo outlined the ways that the Department of Justice can expand its role in immigration enforcement.

Session suggested that prosecutors could charge individuals with crimes such as aggravated identity theft, harboring illegal aliens or even jail parents who cross the border with their children.  For Sessions, these measures will help deter future illegal border crossings and beef up enforcement.  While serving as a senator, Session was opposed to immigration reform and has made it clear during his time as attorney general that immigration enforcement is a huge priority.  The memo also suggests that Customs and Border patrol will no longer catch and release undocumented immigrants who are apprehended while crossing the border.

He announced the changes while in Nogales, Arizona while touring 70 miles of the U.S-Mexico border.  Sessions drew upon images of dangerous drug cartels and criminals crossing over the border to bring lawlessness to the United States.  He said that this would come to an end in the future.  That “this is a new era.  This is the Trump era.”

Critics were quick to respond to Session’s announcement; including prosecutors who argue that this is not the best use of their resources.  This is another scare tactic that the current administration is using to drum up fear.   It incorrectly links illegal immigrants to the criminal system when there is overwhelming amount of statistics that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native born Americans.

Our experienced immigration attorney, Lesley Ellefson-Porras, has assisted countless immigrants with family reunification; citizenship, fiancé visas and unlawful presence waivers.  She is available to meet with you in her office in Alexandria, Virginia.  Since immigration is a federal matter, Ms. Ellefson-Porras can serve clients from anywhere in the United States.  Most of her clients reside in Virginia, Maryland, and the of Columbia.  Contact her today at 703-596-0235.

Immigration raids: striking fear in the hearts of immigrant communities

Federal authorities launched sweeping raids in immigrant communities in several states later last week in an effort to locate individuals who are undocumented.  Raids took place in California, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, New York and here in Virginia.  How many individuals were detained is unknown, but it is the first of what will probably a trend in the future since President Trump promised to deport immigrants with criminal records.  A number that he puts at 2 to 3 million, while experts say that there are only 1.9 million “removable aliens” and of those only 690,000 are here illegally.

David Marin, an official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), said that the raids were routine “surge operations” aimed at “priority cases,” or people in this country illegally with criminal convictions.  According to Martin, ICE made 161 arrests and 151 of those individuals had criminal convictions.  Others had outstanding deportation orders, were in court proceedings or in the country illegally.  One source quoted by the Washington Post stated that big cities will be targeted for future raids because “they tend to have a lot of illegal immigrants.”

The raids are a reality for our community; there are many immigrant communities living in the DC metro area and throughout Virginia.  Many clients have asked me if they can call me if they get detained.  The answer is “yes,” of course.  We will do all that we can to fight to keep families together, but we encourage our clients to prepare for the worst situation.  You must consider if you were to be deported who would take care of your children?  If they are U.S. citizens, they can remain in the country but what adult can assume responsibility?   Do not wait until you are detained or worse, removed from the United States to make these decisions.  Contact our office if you would like to help in planning for an unforeseeable future.

Our experienced immigration attorney, Lesley Ellefson-Porras, has assisted countless immigrants with family reunification; citizenship, fiancé visas and unlawful presence waivers.  She is available to meet with you in her office in Alexandria, Virginia.  Since immigration is a federal matter, Ms. Ellefson-Porras can serve clients from anywhere in the United States.  Most of her clients reside in Virginia, Maryland, and the of Columbia.  Contact her today at 703-596-0235.

 

 

 

 

 

Help protect abused and neglected children: Tell your VA representatives “no” to SB1592

On January 24th, representative Richard H. Black introduced legislation that would prohibit the juvenile and domestic relations (“JDR”) courts from making determinations regarding the best interest of a child for purposes of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status unless that child is lawfully present in the United States.  The federal statute enables JDR judges to determine whether a child was abandoned, abused or neglected and whether or not it is in the best interest of that child to return to his/her home country.  The law does not differentiate between children who legally present, on a visitor or student visa, or those who are not legally present.  If the legislation passes it will have a devastating impact on many immigrant children.  Most of our SIJ kids fled horrible situations in their home countries and have no legal status in the United States.  Under the proposed legislation, these children living in Virginia would not be able to seek the protection afforded to them under the federal law.

The bill will most likely be on the Senate Courts docket tomorrow!  We need your support; either with phone calls or in person at the meeting tomorrow!  If you don’t know who your Senator is you can click here for more information: http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/index.php.  You can find the names of the committee members here: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?171+com+S3.  If you are a resident of Virginia we urge you to call; tell them you oppose the bill and to vote “no” to SB1592.

Executive Order: Build a Wall & Sanctuary Cities

Two days ago, President Trump signed an executive order directing federal resources to build a wall between the U.S- Mexican border.  During his campaign, he promised that he will get Mexico to build it, but now is proposing a 20% tariff on goods imported from Mexico.  In response, Mexican President Enrique Nieto cancelled his meeting with Mr. Trump which was scheduled for later this month.   Financial experts have warned that this tariff would do nothing but hurt the economy and the expense would be passed on to consumers.  Hours after Trump proposed the tariff, his team insisted that it was just an idea that they were considering on how to fund the multi-billion dollar project.  Days later and we are still waiting to hear where the money will come from to build the wall.

 

The President also signed an executive order that aims to destroy so-called “sanctuary cities;” cities that limit cooperation or involvement with federal immigration enforcement actions.  There is no federal law, however, that requires for local enforcement agencies to comply with federal requests.  Mayor Carlos Gimenez, of Miami-Dade County, announced earlier today that the city will “fully cooperate” with President Trump’s executive order.  While many Democratic mayors have come forward in support of immigrants; including Chicago, New York and Boston.  In fact, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said that he would “use City Hall itself to shelter and protect anyone who is targeted unjustly.”  Locally, Mayor Bower promised to protect all D.C. residents “no matter their immigration status.”

 

Our experienced immigration attorney, Lesley Ellefson-Porras, has assisted countless immigrants with family reunification; citizenship, fiancé visas and unlawful presence waivers.  We stand with all immigrants and fight to keep families together.  She is available to meet with you in her office in Alexandria, Virginia.  Since immigration is a federal matter, Ms. Ellefson-Porras can serve clients from anywhere in the United States.  Most of her clients reside in Virginia, Maryland, and the of Columbia.  Contact her today at 703-596-0235.

Deportation: Focus on Criminals

Mr. Trump has softened his rhetoric on immigration since he won the election earlier this month, although many still are afraid of what the future will bring.  Instead of deporting all 12 million undocumented immigrants he now says that the focus will be on criminal aliens.  Although this makes sense it is exactly what the Obama administration has been doing for years; earning Mr. Obama the nickname “deporter in chief.”  There are currently three million undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions Mr. Trump recently said during a “60 Minutes” interview; that number, however, is much higher than the Migration Policy Institute’s estimate of 820,000 undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions.

The striking difference between the two administrations will be how criminal is defined because it can apply to a wide range of crimes; traffic incidents, shoplifting, immigration and drug related crimes.  The Obama administration has focused its efforts on more serious crimes and individuals who pose a threat to the public safety or security of the United States.  Does Mr. Trump propose that anyone with a minor traffic violation be deported and potentially separated from loved ones?

Mr. Trump will also be dealing with two other major roadblocks to his deportation plans: local enforcement agencies and immigration court.  Many cities, referred to as “sanctuary cities” have already declared that they will not use local police departments as immigration enforcement.  In addition, the immigration court is so backlogged and without more federal funds, there will be no way to speed up hearing date.

Our experienced immigration attorney, Lesley Ellefson-Porras, has assisted countless immigrants with family reunification; citizenship, fiancé visas and unlawful presence waivers.  She is available to meet with you in her office in Alexandria, Virginia.  Since immigration is a federal matter, Ms. Ellefson-Porras can serve clients from anywhere in the United States.  Most of her clients reside in Virginia, Maryland, and the of Columbia.  Contact her today at 703-596-0235.

Trump’s first 100 days in office: no mention of immigration

Earlier today, Mr. Trump released a video outlining some of the actions that he plans to take during the first one hundred days in office.  His priority is to “put America first” and named several changes he will make; focusing mainly on steps he could take with executive actions that do not require Congressional approval.

Mr. Trump stated that he plans to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations (“TTP”), cut government regulations and cancel environmental restrictions.  What was missing from his statement, however, was any mention of immigration.  Mr. Trump took a hard stance on border security, undocumented individuals, and President Obama’s “illegal” DACA program during the campaign season.  He could eliminate DACA his first day office because executive action created it; yet no mention of the issue during his statement.  Does Mr. Trump intend to surprise us with how he will handle DACA?  Perhaps he will not eliminate the program after all; a program that was created to help individuals who were brought here as children.  That would be keeping with his message that he intends only to send “criminal immigrants” back home.   To watch the video simply follow the link below.

Our experienced immigration attorney, Lesley Ellefson-Porras, has assisted countless immigrations with family reunification; citizenship, fiancé visas and unlawful presence waivers.  She is available to meet with you in her office in Alexandria, Virginia.  Since immigration is a federal matter, Ms. Ellefson-Porras can serve clients from anywhere in the United States.  Most of her clients reside in Virginia, Maryland, and the of Columbia.  Contact her today at 703-596-0235.

 

The end of DACA?

One immediate change that President Elect Trump could make come next January is putting an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) that president Obama implemented on June 15, 2012.  Obama signed an executive action to create the program after Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Since DACA is not actually a law but a program, Trump could rescind DACA his first day of presidency; and in fact, Trump’s campaign website clearly states that he will end the program: “[i]mmediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties. All immigration laws will be enforced ….”[1]

What is unclear is whether the entire program will be terminated, if USCIS will stop accepting future applications, stop accepting DACA renewals or revoke it for current DACA holders.  While young immigrants are not who Mr. Trump is saying is a priority it would be an easy and fast change to keep his supporters happy.  USCIS has approved close to 750,000 DACA applications since June of this year and more than 525,000 DACA renewals since the agency began accepting DACA applications in 2012.  Most Americans support a pathway to legalization for these young adults that were brought to the United States as children; we are hopeful that the public outrage would push Trump away from eliminating the program.

Immigration advocates do not know what will happen to DACA in the future and so, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced attorney.  Each case will be different depending on the facts and individual circumstances.  The information given on DACA applications may be shared with enforcement agencies if the program is rescinded.  If you already have DACA but need to renew, the government already has your information and so, it may be worth the risk.  If you do not have DACA but are considering applying, you may want to think twice because you will be handing over your personal information to the government.

Our experienced immigration attorney, Lesley Ellefson-Porras, has assisted countless immigrations with family reunification; citizenship, fiancé visas and unlawful presence waivers.  She is available to meet with you in her office in Alexandria, Virginia.  Since immigration is a federal matter, Ms. Ellefson-Porras can serve clients from anywhere in the United States.  Most of her clients reside in Virginia, Maryland, and the ter of Columbia.  Contact her today at 703-596-0235.

[1][1] See www. https://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/immigration

President Trump & Immigration

In the early morning hours, the world was stunned to learn that Donald Trump had been elected to serve as the next president.  The weather in D.C. matched how many of us were feeling; disbelief and gloom that so many people in our country voted for a man who incites so much hatred.  For some it was a vote against the Washington “establishment;” President Obama and a female candidate who many wanted to see fail from the start. 

While I worry about what this will mean for my future as a woman or the children of my two young daughters, my thoughts went immediately to all my clients and the family members of my clients.   I have had the opportunity to help families reunite and protect children; however, there are so many people that I’ve been unable to help.  Mothers crying in my office because their children’s lives have been threatened by gang members and fear that if return to their home country, they will be killed by gangs. One such mother was told that she would find her son’s body parts in black bags.  Fathers that have been here for over fifteen years, working to support their families and paying taxes.  What will become of these individuals who need our protection?  Who deserve our compassion? 

The ugly campaign season is behind us and as Hillary Clinton said today, “that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strengthen our convictions, and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.”

This morning I have already received phone calls and emails from people concerned and terrified for their loved ones.  We don’t know what will happen when Donald Trump takes the oath of office in January 2017.  Now is the time for those who are undocumented to speak with an experienced immigration attorney to see if there is some way to fix their legal status.  It may be a more expensive or difficult way, but the alternative is more terrifying.

If you have been considering filing for naturalization, a family petition, or an unlawful presence waiver now is the time to get it filed.  Our experienced immigration attorney, Lesley Ellefson-Porras, has assisted countless immigrations with family reunification; citizenship, fiancé visas and unlawful presence waivers.  She is available to meet with you in her office in Alexandria, Virginia.  Since immigration is a federal matter, Ms. Ellefson-Porras can serve clients from anywhere in the United States.  Most of her clients reside in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.  Contact her today at 703-596-0235.