Last week, we covered the potential dangers of hiring immigration consultants to assist in your immigration case. What can you do if you’ve been the victim of a scam by an immigration consultant? California law provides powerful remedies for recovering money from immigration consultants. For example, in 2010, the City of Oakland procured a judgment for fifteen (15) million dollars in damages against an immigration consultant business and its proprietors (you can read about it here). The remedies available to private persons and victims are nearly the same remedies available to the government to enforce immigration consultant law.
Immigration consultants that violate the law can be subject to civil penalties up to $100,000 per offense, payable to their victims. In addition, any damages suffered, such as money paid to the consultant, or fees paid unnecessarily, are payable to the victim, and tripled in amount (these are called treble damages) in a judgment. Moreover, the actions of an immigration consultant may be so egregious, that a victim may be entitled to punitive damages.
Even if you get these damages, how do you collect? California law requires all registered immigration consultants to file a bond with the Secretary of State for $50,000. In July 2014, that bond requirement will increase to $100,000. Under the law, victims of violations by immigration consultants can collect directly from the bond, which is held in trust for this reason.
Our law firm represents victims in a lawsuit against immigration consultants on a contingency. Meaning we will take a percentage of the amount you win in a lawsuit, but only after the lawsuit has been settled or otherwise completed, and, you’ve prevailed. You will not have to pay anything out of pocket to get the lawsuit going. In addition, suing an immigration consultant will not affect your immigration status. Thus, if you’ve paid for services from an immigration consultant and have not received the immigration benefits expected, or even worse, if you’ve been put into removal, you should contact our office immediately. We can help you with recovering money and assist you with your immigration status.
The Defense Department said Monday (5/19/14) it is looking at expanding its application pool by letting some young illegal immigrants join the military, in what could be another tool for an Obama administration seeking unilateral steps to take on immigration reform.
Immigrant rights advocates are pleading with the Pentagon to declare “dreamers” to be vital to the national interest, which would allow them to enlist in the military under a special program that grants non-immigrants a quick pathway to citizenship in exchange for years of military service. Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness, said Monday that the Pentagon is in the middle of that review and hopes to complete it by the end of the summer, and is discussing the proposal with the Justice and Homeland Security departments. They are reviewing what “vital to the national interest” means.
As movement on a broad immigration bill has stalled on Capitol Hill, immigrant rights advocates and Democrats in Congress have called for President Obama to move unilaterally to deport fewer illegal immigrants. The president has asked his homeland security secretary to review policies, but Monday’s hearing signals that the Pentagon is also part of the effort.
Military enlistment is generally open only to citizens and legal permanent residents, or green card holders. The one exception is the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program, which allows the department to take other recruits whom the Pentagon deems crucial. These individuals usually have key medical or language skills, at this time Spanish is not deemed a critical language.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who orchestrated Monday’s hearing, urged the Defense Department to declare all young illegal immigrants who have taken advantage of Mr. Obama’s 2012 DACA known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival — to be eligible for the military accessions program. More than 500,000 so called dreamers what these young people call themselves after failed legislation known as the Dream Act have been granted deferred action status, and an estimated 65,000 illegal immigrants graduate from high schools in the U.S. every year.
Mr. Durbin said given potential recruiting challenges for the military, the Pentagon could open another pool of applicants if it let dreamers qualify for the national interest exception. Once they are enlisted in the military, they would have a speedy pathway to citizenship.
Last week, the Florida legislature passed two bills that are heading to Governor Rick Scott, who has stated that he will sign them. One grants in-state tuition to undocumented “Dreamers.” Another will allow Jose Godinez-Samperio, a DACA recipient and law school graduate, the ability to be a licensed attorney in the State. Jose was in Tallahassee in the gallery on the day the Florida House passed the bill. While California is gearing up to issue driver’s licenses to its illegal alien population, and already have state tuition laws enacted for undocumented students.
This is especially interesting because Governor Scott ran on a platform in 2010 that called for Arizona-type harsh laws to be enacted. Four years later, he is supporting significant pro-immigration legislation. Of course, it is election year so this movement maybe just politics but maybe some politicians are finally realizing that it is beneficial to both their political careers and to the immigrant community if such bills are passed.
Lets hope that the Congress and the Senate are paying attention to what is happening in Florida and in some other states like California and taking the states lead move forward on immigration reform.
By: Adrien Medvei, Esq.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on May 6, 2014 proposed three new rules aimed at attracting and retaining highly skilled workers from around the world.
The first proposed rule would amend existing regulations to allow H-4 dependent spouses of certain principal H-1B workers to request employment authorization, which they currently do not have. If implemented as described, the first rule would grant employment authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B holders while the H-1B worker moved through the process to become a lawful permanent resident sponsored by their employer. Practically H-4 spouses would become eligible for their own work authorization when the “green card” petition is approved by the DHS, even if there are no visa numbers available to go to the next phase.
The proposed rule summarized by the DHS is intended to encourage new investment and new businesses to come to the United States, and it will help the families of some H-1B holders who have been here for a significant period of time and find themselves stuck without being able to work and assimilate into our society. It is a broader proposal than earlier proposals indicated and it shows that DHS is listening to employers and employees with family needs. Regardless if enacted this rule would help a narrow group of people, while other H-1B spouses would not benefit at all.
The second proposed rule would update regulations to make the rules for workers in specialty occupation nonimmigrant classifications for professionals from Chile and Singapore (H-1B1) and Australia (E-3), as well as Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island (CNMI)-Only Transitional Workers (CW-1). H-1B1 and E-3 nonimmigrant visa holders consistent with those for other employer-sponsored nonimmigrant statuses.
The third proposed rule would expand the kinds of contributions outstanding professors and researchers can rely on in the green card process.
Recent years have seen a rise in immigration consulting services offered by non-lawyers. When the federal government decided to permit immigration consulting by non-lawyers, the goal was to provide an affordable and easy way for customers to get help filling out their immigration forms. Unfortunately, in recent years, these non-lawyer immigration consultants have been taking advantage of their customers, often times engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and most of the time charging far more than an attorney would charge for assistance with filling out forms.
Typically, immigration consultants will begin by convincing the customer that they do not need a lawyer. Immigration consultants are not lawyers and they do not understand the intricacies of immigration law. Many times, a person who seems like the perfect candidate for pure document preparation services actually may be barred from receiving immigration benefits. Filing for immigration benefits while being ineligible can lead to denial of benefits, and worse, deportation proceedings.
Immigration consultants will also claim that their services are less expensive than the services of an attorney. However, this is usually not the case. Immigration consultants often separate out forms that shouldn’t be separated, and then go about charging a low amount for the initial form, but then increase prices dramatically for each subsequent form that is required, trapping the customer. Moreover, often times immigration consultants will fill out the wrong forms, or prepare forms even if the person is ineligible, wasting your money.
Before consulting with a non-lawyer to prepare your immigration documentation, you should speak with an attorney. Many attorneys offer pure document preparation services without additional legal representation for competitive prices. The difference is that you have an attorney with knowledge of the intricacies of immigration law preparing your forms. If you’ve received services from an immigration consultant and were denied benefits, even though the immigration consultant guaranteed you were going to be approved, you should also talk to an attorney. State law provides a cause of action for treble damages against immigration consultants who commit fraud or otherwise violate the professional code governing immigration consultants, and, bringing a lawsuit against an immigration consultant will not affect your immigration status.
As we are closing out this year I cannot help to think about all hopes and wishes for immigration reform that did not happen in 2013. I know that as a society we are very blessed and I am truly thankful for that. However, even with all the good things we have I cannot help to think about those who are not so lucky and who were really hoping that 2013 and its promised immigration reform would bring a resolution to their problems, if nothing more than put them on a track where they could work towards legalizing themselves and would not have to worry about the threat of deportation every day.
I think the reverence of the holiday season makes me think about families who not only feared but actually lost family members to deportation, and also about people who were detained and deported because of minor traffic violations. Even those who walk the line and go through legal petitions have suffered in this past year because of long delays in visa numbers in both the family and employment based categories. I am also reflecting about individuals who were excited about the provisional waiver opportunity but then find that the denies their provisional waiver without a good reason.
It seems that all of us who have these thought will be getting ready for the immigration reform fight in 2014, and all sides promise to work with renewed effort, but we cannot forget that 2014 is an election year for many politicians and immigration reform will be on their mind because of that reason. The effects of a broken immigration system is tragic but it could be easily avoidable with comprehensive reform, and as the year closes I hope that we can all join to advocate for true reform in 2014, and so it is my wish and hope for 2014 that same time next year we will have the opportunity to celebrate all good that can come from comprehensive immigration reform.
The Obama administration using executive powers and after three years of deliberations issued a memorandum through Department of Homeland Security in an effort to help worried soldiers that their immigrant family members could be deported while they were deployed. The Obama administration issued a new policy on Friday (11/15/2013) that will allow immigrants in the United States illegally who are close relatives of active military troops and veterans to stay and move toward becoming permanent residents.
The administration applied the policy broadly, extending it to all active-duty members of the armed forces, to reservists including the National Guard, and to all veterans. Their spouses, children and parents will be eligible for a “parole in place,” a term that means they will be authorized to remain in the United States and many can proceed with applications for legal residency.
The shift comes as legislation to grant legal status to millions of illegal immigrants has stalled in Congress, with Republican leaders in the House saying that there is not enough time left in 2013 to debate and vote on the immigration bill that the Senate passed in June. The Obama administration states that the new rules for military families were based on existing statutes, and did not create any new legal status that would require action by Congress. According to the administration the new rules were created to clarify existing rules and in order to reduce the uncertainty for military families.
Immigrants who entered illegally generally have to leave the country to apply for their some other family tie. Unfortunately once those immigrants would leave to get their visa they would barred from returning for up to 10 years in some cases. Under the new policy, those immigrants who are in military families will not have to leave to complete their visa applications and would be eligible to apply for adjustment of status in the United States. This is a groundbreaking interpretation of the law for military family members and provides tremendous benefits including work permits. The parole in place, if adjustment is not possible, will have to be renewed annually.
There is no way of knowing how many immigrants will be affected by the new policy, but it could be tens of thousands according to the administration. Immigrant groups are quick to point out that the President has broad powers to help families and with immigration reform uncertain they urged the administration to enact similar relief to other immigrant family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.