Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Obama Turns up the Heat on Immigration Reform

March 25, 2013 - Using his bully pulpit, President Obama made remarks at a naturalization ceremony in the hope it would get stalled immigration reform talks back on track. The so-called "Gang of Eight" senators appeared to be making headway with their discussions on comprehensive immigration reform, only to have their talks stalled over a guest worker visa program and how to secure the Nation's border.

Obama noted that "immigration makes us stronger. It keeps us vibrant. It keeps us hungry. It keeps us prosperous. It is part of what makes this such a dynamic country."

The White House has threatened to introduce their own comprehensive immigration if Congress doesn't  present him with a bill in the near future. For the most part, other than flowery rhetoric, the President has deferred to the Senate and House to get a comprehensive immigration bill drafted and to his desk. But he's begun to turn up the heat on Congress in an effort to get them to draft a bill in a climate that is ripe for comprehensive immigration reform.

And has been mentioned before on this blog, "it takes two to tango" (well three if you include the President) - an immigration bill originating from the Senate is in no way assured of House passage, as many Representatives hail from districts that unequivocally oppose any sort of amnesty for the country's estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants.

Nevertheless, there has never been a better moment for the federal government to overhaul this Nation's oft-criticized immigration laws, as a majority of Americans support immigration reform and calls to fix the current system are heard from both sides of the aisle.

But until then, the Department of Homeland Security is enforcing current immigration laws, which in certain circumstances, can be very unforgiving and complex to understand. If you or a loved one needs to speak to lawyer about any immigration-related matter, please call 949-440-3240 or visit our website at www.kpimmigrationlaw.com.

To view the full article, visit http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-obama-stalled-immigration-talks-20130325,0,7503326.story

Until next week......

Sunday, March 17, 2013

End to Green Cards for Brothers and Sisters of US Citizens?

According to an Associate Press article published March 15, 2013, key senators working on comprehensive immigration reform have indicated they may limit green cards to certain family-sponsored immigration applicants. Currently, immediate relatives (spouses, parents, unmarried children under 21) of US citizens are eligible for immediate immigrant visas, meaning there's no wait times. A second large group of intending immigrants are, for instance, brothers and sisters of US citizens who are over 21 years old and spouses/minors/unmarried children over 21 of lawful permanent residents. These applicants face wait times ranging upwards of 24 years for certain immigrants.

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC, a key member of the bi-partisan Senate "Gang of Eight" has suggested that perhaps it's now time to revisit how green cards are allocated, saying "Green cards should be reserved for the nuclear family (immediate relatives as discussed above). Green cards are economic engines for the country." He further added "this is not a family court we're dealing with here. We're dealing about an economic need."

Not everyone shares Senator Graham's stance on overhauling the green card process though. Kevin Appleby, Director of Migration Policy at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops criticized the proposal  stating "What the senator's not taking into account is the social costs for not preserving families in the immigration system, which is not as tangible or measurable as an economic benefit, maybe, but immigrant families do strengthen our social fabric."

If certain immigrant visa (green card) preference categories are eliminated as part of the wider comprehensive immigration reform, it would have a monumental impact on immigration trends in the United States. The United States is unique among industrialized nations as it proportionately issues more famiy-sponsored green cards than it does for people seeking employment in the US.

If you are a US citizen and are considering sponsoring a brother or sister for a green card, it might be wise to start the process before changes are made to current immigration laws that may prevent future sponsorship of certain family members. If you would like to sponsor a family member for an immigrant visa, please call this office at 949-440-3240 or visit www.kpimmigrationlaw.com to see how an Orange County immigration attorney can assist you.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Deportation Protests Escalate

As the "Gang of Eight" US Senators continue to hammer out the blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform, locally in Southern California, protestors have stepped up efforts against deportations ahead of any proposed immigration bill. In light of the Obama Administration's record number of deportations (most by any president in one term), Inland Empire activists from San Bernardino and Riverside counties are alleging that Customs and Border Patrol agents are targeting undocumented immigrants, especially Latino workers, without proper evidence.

According to a March 12, 2013 article in the Press Enterprise, activists want an end to all deportations for undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes - a moratorium of sorts - while comprehensive immigration reform talks continue in the halls of Congress. They also want authorities to stop targeting "day laborers", a proposal that is met with mixed opinion.

On the flip side, one Congressman, Representative Duncan Hunter R-Alpine, has called for increased border security ahead of any comprehensive immigration reform. Public opinion falls somewhere in the middle of this debate between increased border security and halting deportation, according to Dan Schnur,  director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and a former Republican strategist.

The Obama Administration has repeatedly said it only targets those undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes, recent border crossers, and those who have violated US immigration laws in the past. However, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics invalidate those claims: only 19% of those deported in 2012 were convicted of the most serious crimes (murder, rape, drug trafficking, etc.), 12% were convicted of less serious felonies or multiple misdemeanors, and 41% were recent border crossers or had violated US immigration law in the past (re-entering the US after being deported). That leaves 28% remaning - those who do not fit into the aforementioned categories - deported for relatively minor violations and a rather large exception to the Administration's oft-stated policy on deportation.

Arguments rage on both sides in this heated debate over immigration. While this office attempts to take a neutral stance on this blog, we still nevertheless believe that those convicted of minor offenses, no offenses, and are not recent border crossers or repeat violators, should not strain an already burdened immigration removal system when there are "bigger fish to fry". Nor should people who are lawful permanent residents (have a "green card") and have resided here for lengthy periods of time, be torn apart from their families for relatively minor drug offenses (see e.g. INA Section 237(a)(2)(B)(i) "General Classes of Deportable Aliens: Offenses Related to Controlled Substances).

Deportation is a thorny issue, is emotional charged, and can have the possibility of tearing families apart. It would be relieving if existing US immigration laws regarding deportability are re-written as a part of comprehensive immigration reform - in a way that ensures fairness, compassion, accountability, and allows for some real and honest flexibility in certain cases - while also keeping our country safe and secure.

If you or a loved one are apprehended by ICE and placed into removal proceedings, it is essential that you consult with a qualified and experienced immigration attorney who can advise you of all possible forms of relief. We hope you consider calling this office at 949-440-3240, an attorney would be happy to speak to you. You can also visit www.kpimmigrationlaw.com to learn more about removal (deportation) and other areas of immigration law such as employment-sponsored immigration and family-sponsored immigration.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Immigration Reform and the Pathway to Citizenship: Reality or Political Posturing

Since the November 2012 national elections, calls have come in from both Democrats and Republicans both seeking to pass some version of comprehensive immigration reform. And more often than not, these proposals have all included a "pathway to citizenship". Pundits are taking it as a given that a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill will absolutely have to include a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million plus undocumented immigrants in the United States. But a new book authored by former governor Jeb Bush, a vocal advocate for immigration reform and potential GOP Presidential frontrunner in 2016, sheds new light onto whether a pathway to citizenship will be a prerequisite to a new comprehensive immigration reform bill.

In his book, "Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution", Gov. Bush reverses his stand on providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Instead, he argues for providing "legal residency" This is quite stunning since he previously championed a pathway to citizenship, but then did an about face in his book. Upon closer inspection though, it is not at all surprising that Gov. Bush takes this stance - in the weeks and months leading to the November elections, the GOP was veering hard to the right, with candidate Romney even suggesting a program of "self-deportation". Bush's book, penned during this time, went to the printers BEFORE the outcome of the Presidential elections and the abrupt shift in GOP thinking with respect to immigration. Only after the elections, did the American public hear that the Republicans were keen to work with the Democrats and the White House in crafting immigration reform. And most analysts believe this was a direct result of Hispanics voting in large numbers for the President. The GOP knows they cannot be a viable national party without the support of Hispanics; accordingly, leading GOP senators such as Marco Rubio and Lindsay Graham, are vying for this crucial voting bloc by advocating a softer stance on immigration reform, one that includes a pathway to citizenship.

Senate aside, there are mumblings that the GOP-led House will not sign on to a comprehensive immigration reform bill if it includes the pathway to citizenship. These Representatives argue that providing a pathway to citizenship, for those who technically have violated federal law, will only serve to encourage future waves of undocumented immigrants.

And in another twist, Jeb Bush has reversed himself again, saying on MSNBC's Morning Joe "if you can craft that in law, where you can have a pathway to citizenship where there isn't an incentive for people to come illegally, I'm for it."

It's hard not to feel sorry for Jeb Bush. He was caught by surprise by the GOP's sudden shift in immigration reform policy and his book reflects it. Whether this was a political miscalculation for Bush and a potential 2016 run remains to be seen, but this fact still remains: the House is led by the GOP with many Congressmen hailing from districts whose constituents vehemently oppose any sort of "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, let alone a path to citizenship. Perhaps Bush was trying to appeal to the far-right in his book - voters would play a crucial role in any Presidential run, while also stepping in line with the GOP establishment's position on immigration reform, one can only speculate.

So the saga continues, let's see what the Congress and President decide upon as the debates begin to heat up, and in the meantime, existing immigration laws continue to be enforced (and rather harshly at that). If you or a loved one need to speak to immigration attorney, especially concerning removal (deportation), please visit www.kpimmigrationlaw.com or call this office at 949-440-3240.