Published on:

Cuban-Flag-behind-man-with-Suitcase-1024x692President’s Obama’s January 12, 2017 announcement about Cuban immigration policy changed the landscape for Cuban nationals. Along with all the official changes announced on January 12, 2017 on this subject, there was another document that contains two very important, but often overlooked paragraphs. The United States and Cuba released a “Joint Statement of the United States and Cuba on Changes to Migration Relationship with Cuba.” This statement contained two very interesting paragraphs that will effect not only Cubans coming to the U.S. on or after January 12, 2017, but Cubans who may have been in the U.S. for decades and already have a final order of removal/deportation, or will receive one in the future. This first paragraph is number 5 and it talks about the infamous Cuban “Repat List” that ICE keeps locked up in a safe somewhere in South Florida:

  1. The Republic of Cuba shall accept that individuals included in the list of 2,746 to be returned in accordance with the Joint Communiqué of December 14, 1984, may be replaced by others and returned to Cuba, provided that they are Cuban nationals who departed for the United States of America via the Port of Mariel in 1980 and were found by the competent authorities of the United States to have tried to irregularly enter or remain in that country in violation of United States law. The Parties shall agree on the specific list of these individuals and the procedure for their return.

When I worked for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, I spoke to ICE officers who swore the list actually exists and it is kept in a safe in a location I will not disclose. When ICE had a final order Cuban national in custody who was a “Marielito,” they would check the list to see if the person could be deported or “repatriated,” to Cuba. Obviously, not every Cuban national who came to Florida in the Summer of 1980 is on that list, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of Cubans who left the Port of Mariel in 1980 who are currently in the U.S. with a final order of removal or deportation.

Published on:

Last week, President Obama issued the first major change in U.S. immigration policy towards Cubans in over 20 years. On January 12, 2017, President Obama announced that the 1995 immigration policy designed specifically for Cuban nationals, known as “Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot”, would be abolished immediately. That means that Cuban nationals arriving at air, sea and land ports would now be subject to expedited removal (they were not previously) and that the Cuban government has agreed to review Cuban nationals with final orders of removal on a case by case basis to determine if they would allow them to be deported to Cuba. In addition, Cubans who arrive in the U.S. without visas and without having been admitted or paroled will not receive special parole consideration. They will be considered for parole like any other foreign national. Parole is the primary way that Cubans become eligible to adjust status in the U.S. and get their green cards.

This is a major, major change to how the U.S. government treats Cuban nationals coming to, or attempting to come to the United States. No longer will they be welcomed into the air, sea and land ports, automatically given parole into the U.S., and a year and day later, be allowed to apply for adjustment of status under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

Just for background, the 1995 Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot Policy, enacted by President Clinton, restricted Cuban nationals, who would be paroled into the U.S. and allowed to apply for green cards, to those who actually made it to U.S. soil before immigration officers caught them. Previously, Cuban nationals caught on boats or rafts in the Florida Straits, on their way from Cuba to the U.S., were brought to the U.S. and paroled into the country, rather than being sent back to Cuba. Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot greatly limited the number of Cuban nationals who made it to the U.S.

Published on:

FOIA-1024x648
Yes, absolutely and without a doubt, if you have a pending immigration case, an old immigration case you want to reopen or you are not a U.S. citizen and want to know about your immigration history, you need a FOIA and you need it now. Information is power and FOIA is information. The federal government loves to use acronyms to describe everything, whether its DHS, ICE, USCIS, CBP, LPR or USC, if you can break a phrase down into letters, Uncle Sam will do it. FOIA is just another example of that and stands for “Freedom of Information Act.”   Knowing how to request one and having the right attorney review it could be the key to winning your immigration case or losing and getting deported.

When I worked for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), we had unlimited access to data and the files of everyone who had an A-file (Alien file). We had vast networks of systems that compiled data on individuals in the U.S. who were born overseas or people deported from the U.S. who were trying to come back. If you know where to look, you could find a tremendous amount of information that could help immigrants trying to avoid deportation. However, most of the time, the government immigration attorneys, officers and agents would keep the information to themselves and often use it against the immigrants.

One of the greatest resources that the federal government has, as it relates to immigration, is information. This is not information that is public record like in criminal cases. Federal government immigration information is protected by a variety of privacy laws and policies. This means, usually, only the person that is the subject of the record can request it, and the government can hold back some of the information for a variety of reasons.

Published on:

President-Elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017. Its a safe bet that he will get to work immediately on his agenda and campaign promises to undo as much of President Obama’s immigration executive actions as possible.

While Trump has made many promises regarding immigration, many will take an act of Congress to accomplish. These promises (the Wall, legal immigration reform, and others) will take time and will not happen immediately. Other promises will take another country agreeing to them to happen (making Cuba and other countries take back their deportees), therefore they may never happen and certainly won’t happen next January.

There are a few immigration actions that President Trump can, and probably will, take immediately after taking office. These are the actions that immigrants should be immediately aware of and on which they should take action as soon as possible to reduce the negative consequences against them and their families.

Published on:

In case you have not heard, in what can only be called one of the biggest upsets in U.S. presidential election history, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton this morning and is now the President-Elect of the United States. As an immigration attorney, many of my clients and prospective clients have been worried about this day for over a year. They have asked me, what happens to immigrants if Trump is elected president? Will I be deported, will they deny my application for citizenship or for a green card? Will I be detained, will they take away my immigration status?

While I mistakenly assured my clients for months that he was not going to win, as any good attorney would, I contemplated the impacts of each candidate’s victory on my current and future clients. In addition, I thought about the other immigration player post-election, that being a lame-duck President Obama, who, depending on who won the election, might take two completely different approaches to immigration in his last months in office.

So on to what would happen with a president Hillary Clinton? The 2014 Jeh Johnson Prosecutorial Discretion Memo would likely remain intact and might have even been expanded. DACA would stay in place and Hillary assured everyone she would try to push through expanded DACA and DAPA again. There would be no wall on the Southwest Border and the acceptance of refugees from the Middle East would continue, or even grow from current numbers. She also pledged to push through comprehensive immigration reform

Published on:

If you are a lawful permanent resident and you want to become a U.S. citizen, congratulations, you have made a wise decision. Becoming a U.S. citizen as soon as you are eligible is almost always the right choice for every lawful permanent resident. Becoming a citizen means no more renewing your green card, no more waiting in the longer line at Customs on the way back into the country and no more worrying about losing your status and getting deported.

Now that you have made the decision to apply for your citizenship, you must now determine if you are eligible. To apply for citizenship, you would use a form called an N-400 Application for Naturalization. The law on citizenship requires that an applicant meet the following criteria:

  • has been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years (three years if you obtained your green card through a U.S. citizen spouse and are still married);
Published on:

Congratulations! You recently got married and your new spouse is a U.S. citizen, but you are not. One of the first questions on your mind may be: how do I get my green card now that I am married to a citizen? The answer could be fairly simple—or quite complex. No matter what your situation, if you marry a U.S. citizen and want to adjust your status (become a lawful permanent resident) go see an experienced and trusted immigration attorney for a consultation. http://www.slgattorneysflorida.com/john-gihon.html

Many experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorneys may charge you a nominal fee for the consultation, but it is definitely worth it. Remember the old saying, “you get what you pay for,” well that is usually the case with free advice from attorneys. An attorney who charges you a consultation fee will likely spend more time preparing for and with you during the consultation. An attorney who gives you a free consultation may not want to spend anymore time with you or talking to you then they have too, remember, an attorney’s time and knowledge is their money.

Now back to how to try and get your green card now that you are married to a U.S. citizen. My guidance will start with the premise that you and your new spouse married for love and not solely for an immigration benefit—this is not a “how to engage in marriage fraud” piece. Still, be sure to document your new life together, or as we say in the field, gather evidence that you have “co-mingled” your lives. That means if you have not already open a joint bank account that you will put money into and use for marital expenses, do it now. Add each other to car insurance, life insurance, health, dental, vision insurance and retirement accounts. If you buy a house or apartment or condo, make sure both of your names are on the deed and mortgage. If you rent, make sure your existing lease is amended to add your spouse and any new lease has both of your names on it. Add your spouse to your credit cards or open new ones in both names. If you have utility, cable, and cell phone bills, add your spouse’s name. Every piece of paper, bill, or invoice that you can produce, post-marriage, that has both of your names and your marital address on it, will go a long way to convincing the immigration officers that your marriage is real and not solely for immigration purposes.

Published on:

If you are not a United States citizen and you registered to vote, you could face criminal charges, denial of immigration benefits and even deportation from the country. These possibilities get even worse if you actually voted in an election.

There are federal and state laws that prohibit people who are not eligible to vote (usually non-citizen immigrants) from registering to vote and voting. It is a federal crime for a non-citizen immigrant to vote in a federal election. If you are not a citizen, you can be prosecuted, sent to prison and deported for voting in a federal election, even if you did not know you were not allowed to vote.

The very act of registering to vote requires that a person certify that they are a United States citizen and eligible to vote. Anyone who registers to vote and is not a citizen, has likely made what is known as a false claim to citizenship. A false claim to citizenship can stick with a non-citizen forever and stop someone from getting a green card, getting citizenship and can even lead to detention an deportation from the United States.

Published on:

Many people come to the United States to visit friends and family, to work, go to school, or just as tourists. However, some people come to the United States fleeing persecution, abuse or torture in their home countries. Many unfortunate souls are forced to flee their homelands to save themselves and their families; they come to the United States for refuge. Many people flee their home countries and then apply for refugee status outside of the United States. This is what is going on with thousands of Syrian refugees right now. These victims of the Syrian civil war have been forced to flee Syria and have applied for refugee status to come to the United States (and other countries). These refugee applicants are vetted for honesty, have their backgrounds checked and if they meet the definition of “refugee” according to our immigration laws, they can be given safe passage to the United States and resettled here as refugees.

But what about people who are already in the United States as tourists, students or just here, and they are afraid to go home because they will be targeted for persecution? The bad news is, if you are already here in the United States, you cannot apply for refugee status. The good news is, you can apply for asylum, which is in essence, the same thing as applying as a refugee abroad. If your asylum application is granted, you will be given asylee status and allowed to stay in the United States. After one year, you can apply for your green card (lawful permanent residence).

How do I apply for asylum if I am here in the United States you ask? Its complicated, but there are a few important things to remember when you are here in the United States and are afraid to return to your home country and therefore thinking about applying for asylum. First, go see an experienced and trusted immigration attorney who handles asylum cases. Do not go see a notario or paralegal or that guy in your neighborhood who applied for asylum. There is no replacement for competent and correct legal advice when it comes to you and your family’s future and safety. Before and after you consult with an immigration attorney, here are a few other things to remember.

Published on:

This is a very common question we receive all the time, “How do I get my fiancé a visa to come to the United States?” Should my fiancé come over on a visitor visa and then we will get married? Should I file a fiancé visa for her to come over and then we get married? These are all very good questions, and the answers very much depend on the facts surrounding each case.

Lets start with a brief overview of United States visas available for domestic relationships. If a U.S. citizen is married to someone who is not a citizen, the U.S. citizen can file an I-130 Petition for their spouse, which if approved, will provide the spouse with a visa and an opportunity to apply for a green card immediately. If a lawful permanent resident is married to someone who is not a citizen or lawful permanent resident, the process is the same, but once the I-130 is approved, there will be a wait of potentially several years before the spouse can apply for their green card.

If you are a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and your fiancé lives in another country, sorry but you are out of luck. There is no visa available for the fiancé of a lawful permanent resident. You will either to apply to become a citizen and then file for a fiancé visa, or you will have to get married before you file the I-130 for your spouse.