Non-citizens convicted of certain crimes are deportable.  Certain deportable convictions are worse than others.  Aggravated felonies, as defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act, are the most serious types of criminal convictions that a non-citizen can obtain.  A non-citizen convicted of an aggravated felony will face almost certain deportation.  

Balance of State and Federal PowerThere are many aggravated felonies listed in the statute, but under §101(a)(43)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality ACT (“INA”), an aggravated felony includes murder, rape, and sexual abuse of a minor.  However, the INA doesn’t define “sexual abuse of a minor.” Does the term include offenses that are considered sexual abuse of a minor under federal law?  Under state law? Under both?  

Florida’s Statutory Rape Statute, codified in §800.04(4), criminalizes sexual activity with a minor who is between the ages of 12 years old and 16 years old. But the statute makes no reference to the perpetrator’s age.  It is also a strict liability crime when it comes to age and consent.  In other words, even if the perpetrator didn’t know the age of the minor and the minor consented to the sexual activity, the perpetrator would be guilty if he or she engaged in the sexual activity.  So, a 16 year old could be convicted under this statute of engaging in consensual sexual activity with another 16 year old.  Or a 13 year old could be convicted of engaging in consensual sexual activity with a 16 year old.  

The Orlando Immigration Court has finally moved to the new space in downtown Orlando! This move was years in the making and is a welcome expansion and modernization from the old building where the court has been for over a decade. The address for the new building is 500 N. Orange Avenue, Suite 1100, Orlando, Florida 32801. The new building is shared with the Social Security Administration and the SSA signage on the building is very prominent. But do not be fooled, the Orlando Immigration Court and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA-the ICE attorneys) are both located in the building.

Finding the Orlando Immigration Court and Parking

The entrance to the Orlando Immigration Court is on the southeast corner of the building on North Orange Avenue and the entrance doors have multiple DOJ (U.S. Department of Justice) Emblems on the doors so you know where to enter. The Immigration Court is administered by the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) which is part of the Department of Justice, just in case you are wondering why there are DOJ signs on the door. Parking is an issue. There is a small surface lot with an entrance off of Amelia Street just west of Orange Avenue. That lot has about 20 or so spaces and there is a fee to park there. I am told there are additional paid spaces in the parking garage attached to the building, but they may be hard to locate. Luckily, there are parking meters on both sides of Orange Avenue with a two-hour time limit that provides for additional parking in front of the court. The meters accept credit cards, but some are not working. There is a large vacant lot across from the court in between Orange Avenue and Magnolia Avenue and it is fenced but has multiple entrances. There is no fee to park in that lot (at least for now) and there is an exit from that lot onto Orange Avenue so that you can walk directly to the immigration court from the lot.

It happens way more often than you would think. A person applies for lawful permanent resident status (also known as a green card) and during the process they find out they are not eligible because there is an order of removal or deportation in their file. Sometimes, a person with an order of removal can obtain lawful permanent resident status because of an oversight by USCIS, but when the same person applies for U.S. citizenship, they are denied because of the old order of removal. Most of the time, the person has no idea they were in immigration court removal proceedings or that they had an order of removal. Many times, that order of removal was issued by an immigration judge because the person did not show up for court, usually because they had no idea they were scheduled to appear for court. In either scenario, there is a solution . . .a motion to reopen.

We are contacted all the time by people who had I-485 Applications to Adjust Status denied or closed because of an outstanding removal order. Sometimes the caller knows they had the order of removal already, but many times they had no idea. We also receive calls from people who have green cards for years and then applied for citizenship and were denied because USCIS sees an old order of removal in their file. The good news is, there is a solution.

We have been successful in numerous cases going back to reopen and terminate or dismissing the old immigration court cases. Once the old case is reopened, the order of removal is gone and if the case is terminated or dismissed, we refile for lawful permanent residence or citizenship and the path is now clear for success.

One of the most common calls we receive at our office sounds like this: I filed an application for asylum, adjustment of status or citizenship and it has been pending for a long time, what can I do? Long delays in processing times by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) are very common and very frustrating. Long delays in the adjudication of asylum applications, green card applications and citizenship applications leave individuals and families in limbo and cause a tremendous amount of stress. These processing delays also lead to increase costs for renewing work permits or green cards. These delays can also put vulnerable family members in other countries as risk of harm as asylum applicants in the U.S. wait for their interviews.

There are many reasons why USCIS delays cases, but there is usually only one effective solution – SUING USCIS IN FEDERAL COURT! Whether you call the lawsuit a Writ of Mandamus, or an Administrative Procedures Act unreasonable delay suit, these claims are designed to do the same thing, make the government do their job.judge-with-gavel-resize-rectangle2

Many clients submit online inquires to USCIS about their stalled I-485 Green Card Applications and this does not resolve the case. Many clients contact their member of congress or the USCIS Ombudsman and this often fails to resolve the matter. We have found the most effective way to force USCIS to do their job is to sue them in federal district court. Under the right circumstances and with the right fact pattern, suing the government is usually successful in achieving a decision on the case. Suing the government does not guarantee that your case will be approved, but it usually results in a decision, fairly quickly, when all other strategies have failed.

This blog topic has been one of our most popular blogs over the years. It was almost seven years ago that we published this blog and since then many people from across the country have called us for help on this issue. If you want to read the original blog, which is still very useful, click here: 2016 blog. This blog is intended to provide an update on what I have seen over the last seven years representing clients from numerous states who have registered to vote when they were not U.S. citizens.

People who are not U.S. citizens are not eligible to vote in federal elections (elections for President and members of Congress) and in many states, non-U.S. citizens cannot vote in state or local elections.

It is a federal crime to vote in a federal election if you are not eligible to vote, even if you did not know you were not eligible. It is also a reason to deport any non-citizen and a reason to deny someone U.S. citizenship.

On June 23, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited immigration opinion in the case of U.S. v. Texas. The justices agreed 8-1 that the states who filed the lawsuit against the federal government over what the states perceived as the non-enforcement of immigration laws could not sue the government in this case. The eight justices disagreed on exactly why the federal courts could not handle this case and give the states what they wanted, but all eight agreed that the lower courts were wrong in getting involved in this matter.

So, what was U.S. v. Texas about and how does this decision affect non-citizens in the United States? In 2021, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, issued a memo regarding what types of cases the federal immigration officers should focus their efforts on for detention and removal from the United States. By listing groups of non-citizens who immigration officers were to focus on, this automatically created a group of non-citizens who became “non-priorities.” Multiple states like Texas did not like the “Mayorkas Memo” and sued in federal court to stop the federal immigration officers from using this memo in making detention and removal decisions. The first two federal courts who heard the case agreed that states like Texas were harmed by immigration officers prioritizing certain non-citizens for removal and thereby potentially ignoring other non-citizens who were subject to detention and removal but were not priorities. The courts initially stopped the Department of Homeland Security from using the memo in immigration enforcement decisions.

The Mayorkas memo remained sidelined until the Supreme Court decided that NO court has jurisdiction to even hear this case, let alone strike down the Mayorkas Memo. The Supreme Court held that the federal courts were not the place for states to sue the federal government to force them to use their “prosecutorial discretion” to detain and deport every non-citizen they could. The Supreme Court listed multiple other ways that this perceived non-enforcement or prosecutorial discretion issue could be addressed, including through elections and in the Congressional oversight and funding context.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently announced that its special parole program for Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan nationals has become so popular that demand has far exceeded availability and DHS would start using a lottery system to choose who would receive parole.  This program, which began in early 2023, has allowed nationals of these countries to seek parole to lawfully enter the United States if they meet certain requirements.

Qualified beneficiaries who are outside the United States and lack U.S. entry documents may be considered, on a case-by-case basis, for advanced authorization to travel and a temporary period of parole for up to two years for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. To participate, eligible beneficiaries must:

  • Have a supporter in the United States;

Although no announcement has been forthcoming, the worst kept secret in the American political arena is the impending run of Florida Governor Ron Desantis for office the President of the United States.  As he ratchets up support to begin his battle with Donald Trump during the Republican primary, Governor Desantis has pushed through a bill in the Florida House and Florida Senate that looks a lot like federal congressional legislative action.

Balance of State and Federal Power
HB 1718/SB 1718, colloquially known as Florida’s immigration bill, or Florida’s anti-immigration bill (depending on who you ask), passed both houses of Florida’s government and is expected to become the law of the land in Florida on July 1, 2023. Supporters say it gives teeth to federal laws immigration laws that are being ignored by the current administration.  Detractors say it usurps federal authority, negatively impacts Florida communities, and will have a chilling effect on vulnerable people who need medical attention.  So what does the law actually say? 

Florida’s new immigration law isn’t really just one new law.  It is actually a conglomeration of laws adding and subtracting from different existing statutes all aimed at achieving the same goal: targeting individuals who are in the State of Florida who do not have any lawful immigration status.  

The Green Card interview occurs when an official with the U.S. government meets with the Green Card applicant to verify the information originally provided in the person’s application.bigstock-Us-Immigration-Application-And-459675797 This information includes whether the applicant is eligible to become a permanent U.S. resident and whether all the information provided on the application is valid.

The Green Card interview occurs 7 to 15 months after the Green Card application has been filed. The interview normally is held at a local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office or at the U.S. embassy or consulate closest to the address listed on the application.

The person conducting the interview will be either a USCIS immigration officer if your interview is occurring in the U.S. or a consular officer. The interviewer will have been specifically trained for your Green Card application type.

bigstock-Hurricane-Also-Called-Tornado-461662201Hurricane Ian affected the lives of Floridians in countless ways. Homes were destroyed and many people’s personal belongings were lost forever.  For individuals who are in the process of changing their immigration status, these losses have more than just sentimental value. The loss of certain personal items can have an adverse effect on their immigration case.

Loss of Government Documents

Some of these belongings lost due to the hurricane include important governmental documents needed to continue an immigration case. If you have lost any important government documents, many of these can be replaced. It is a matter of finding the proper agency or person to help you in replacing them.

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