Articles Posted in Policy

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We’ve had many Cuban clients who had a false sense of security when it came to their immigration status as a Cuban Adjustment Act Lawful Permanent Resident.  They think that if they are convicted of a deportable crime, they will not be deported.  Although historically this has been the case, times are changing and more and more people are and are going to be physically deported to Cuba.


Who can be deported?


If you were convicted of a deportable offense, even if that conviction was decades ago, you would be subject to being placed in removal proceedings at any point in the future.  In other words, there is no statute of limitations for deporting someone based on a criminal conviction.  If you were placed in removal proceedings and ordered removed, but weren’t physically deported to Cuba because of existing relations at the time, you also can be deported based on that prior order at any time in the future.  The only thing standing between you and physical deportation to Cuba is whether Cuba accepts you back and whether U.S. policy to physically deport Cubans becomes more widespread.  So, once relations between Cuba and the United States thaw and certainly if the Cuban government transitions to a democratic government.

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You filed an application or petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  You’re patiently waiting for a response.  But none comes. Months and months have passed and you have no idea what is going on with your case.  What can you do?

Unfortunately, USCIS has become more and more unfriendly to the very people it has been created to serve.  Recent changes in procedure have followed the current governmental trend to make it more difficult for people to lawfully immigrate into the United States.  USCIS has recently ended an email address that was available to immigration attorneys to obtain information on their client’s cases.  Infopass appointments have been curtailed.  And paralegals and other attorney personnel is no longer able to call the customer service line to obtain information on a client’s case.  In short, the government is giving the cold shoulder to immigrants, immigration attorneys and United States citizens with immigrant family members.

So what are your options?

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Is it better to imprison 9 innocent people and 1 guilty person or to free 9 guilty people and imprison 1 innocent person?


On December 11th, 2017, Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant who became a lawful permanent resident, strapped a pipe bomb to himself and attempted to conduct a terrorist attack in New York City.  Fortunately, the device detonated prematurely and he was the only person who sustained serious injury.  But many are calling for the cessation of constitutional rights in cases like Mr. Ullah’s.  Immigration attorneys and criminal defense attorneys understand the slippery slope of this argument and how dangerous it really would be to pick and choose who the constitution applies to and who it doesn’t apply to on U.S. soil.


What’s the big deal.  Why should “terrorists” be afforded constitutional rights like the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney?

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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.

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That’s right, you read that correctly, Republican presidential candidate, Donald J Trump may be the only presidential candidate with a strategy, a plan and a chance to pass comprehensive immigration reform. You all probably think I am crazy, or that when I say immigration reform, I mean giant electrified fences across the Rio Grande and mass detention and deportation centers in the Sonoran dessert. But you are wrong, I am talking about the comprehensive immigration reform that provides the across the board, legalize most of the 11 million who are here, deport some, background checks for all and secures the border. Yes, I think he is the only candidate who is already executing a strategy to make it happen.

Before you stop reading and think this is a endorsement for Trump, let me assure you, I have not yet voted in next week’s Florida primary, and I honestly have not made up my mind on who I will vote for. This is the first election I remember where I have no idea who I will vote for for president this far into the cycle. I still don’t have my candidate, but I follow politics very closely and I think I am finally starting to get Donald Trump.

I tell my son all the time, most of what every politician says you shouldn’t believe because most of what they say they don’t believe. They are just saying things or taking positions for some reason or another. I believe this old adage to be true: politics is the opposite of principle.

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Congress recently passed legislation that changes who is eligible to enter the United States through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). These changes are in reaction to the fears that terrorists and terrorist sympathizers will enter the United States exploiting the ease by which people can enter through the VWP.

The Visa Waiver Program was designed to allow citizens of certain countries to avoid the lengthy process by which most foreign nationals must apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. The normal process involves an application, a background check, an interview and sometimes more. Applications for short-term visitor or business visas are routinely denied. The Visa Waiver Program allows qualified citizens from 38 countries to avoid this process and with a quick online registration, obtain an electronic visa and admission into the United States for 90 days at a time.

This list of 38 countries changes often and usually only contains first-world countries that have low rates of people overstaying their visas, claiming asylum or otherwise abusing the visa process. Citizens from all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand and parts of East Asia enjoy the use of Visa Waiver admissions.

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Over the last few months I had the opportunity to work with some fantastic immigration attorneys across the Southeast United States on a collaborative project. Our goal was to find, review and summarize every immigration-related and useful District Court and Circuit Court Case from the Eleventh Circuit and put them together in a newsletter. This was an enjoyable and educational experience. We expect to send out this newsletter every quarter and it will contain published and unpublished District Court cases from Florida, Alabama and Georgia and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

This would not be possible without the hard work of our multi-state team composed of Marshall Cohen, Roberta Cooper, Bruce Buchanan and myself, John Gihon. Here are the summaries of the District Court Cases for Alabama, Georgia and Florida. If anyone reading this newsletter has any suggestions, please contact me at John@slgattorneys.com or our editor, Bruce Buchanan at bbuchanan@visalaw.com

District Court Decisions

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Over the last few months I had the opportunity to work with some fantastic immigration attorneys across the Southeast United States on a collaborative project. Our goal was to find, review and summarize every immigration-related and useful District Court and Circuit Court Case from the Eleventh Circuit and put them together in a newsletter. This was an enjoyable and educational experience. We expect to send out this newsletter every quarter and it will contain published and unpublished District Court cases from Florida, Alabama and Georgia and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

This would not be possible without the hard work of our multi-state team composed of Marshall Cohen, Roberta Cooper, Bruce Buchanan and myself, John Gihon. Here are the summaries of the 11th Circuit Cases. If anyone reading this newsletter has any suggestions, please contact me at John@slgattorneys.com or our editor, Bruce Buchanan at bbuchanan@visalaw.com

11th Circuit Cases:

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There is a bill currently pending before Florida Senate that seeks to increase the maximum punishment for certain crimes committed by “illegal immigrants.” You can read the text of Senate Bill 150 here:

http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2016/0150/BillText/__/HTML

Thankfully, there is no companion bill in the House. At first glance, many Floridians may think, “good, if someone is here illegally and commits a crime, they should face higher penalties.” But that gut reaction is wrong in this case, as the devil is always in the details. If you know anything about immigration law or have been following the protracted fights between the Obama administration and the federal courts over immigration, you know that the Federal Government and Federal Courts have a hard time interpreting and administering federal immigration laws themselves. What this bill proposes to do is to impose upon the Florida courts, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys the additional time, financial and legal burden of determining the immigration status of a person before, during and after they commit a crime. This is much easier said then done.

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Finding yourself in handcuffs and under arrest is a traumatic experience for everyone. Many thoughts run through your mind, where will they take me, will I be able to get out of jail, can I afford a criminal defense attorney? One thought that should also be at the forefront for everyone arrested who is not a U.S. citizen is, how will this arrest affect my immigration status and will I be deported?

For non-citizens who are arrested, hiring a criminal defense attorney is just the first step in protecting your rights. While criminal defense attorneys in both state and federal court are charged by the U.S. Constitution with providing accurate immigration advice to their clients, in reality, this often does not happen. Criminal defense attorneys are often unable to give accurate immigration advice because they do not practice immigration law and have no idea what the effects of a given criminal charge will be for a client.

This is true because the criminal aspects of immigration law, or crimmigration is a very nuisanced, complicated, ever-changing and inconsistent area of law that even the most experienced immigration attorneys are often fearful of practicing. If immigration attorneys don’t know the immigration consequences of criminal prosecutions, how can your criminal defense attorney be expected to know them?