ICE Raids in Full Force in East Boston and Surrounding Areas: Know Your Rights

1/4/2016 3:49PM

DHS started the year with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. Here is what you need to know about the raids and how to prepare for them: 

Who are the targets of these immigration raids?

  • Individuals and families who have recently entered the U.S. without immigration status
  • Individuals and families who have failed to assert asylum claims where they are available
  • Individuals and families who have received final deportation orders since January 1, 2014

These immigration raids are a coordinated effort by ICE to remove individuals who are currently in the United States with final orders of deportation but have not left the United States. Unfortunately, many of those affected will be individuals from Central America who have fled gang violence in countries like El Salvador and who have been denied their asylum claims.

what must you do to protect yourself?

  • If you have legalized your status in the U.S., carry that documentation with you at all times
  • If there is an avenue for relief available to you (asylum, family-based adjustment, etc.), you must begin working on seeking that relief immediately. Affirmative asylum claims (filing paperwork) are always a better alternative to defensive asylum claims (once in deportation proceedings)
  • Whatever you do, do not carry around false documents. Even if you are using false documents for employment purposes, do not carry them with you
  • Keep your attorney's information on you at all times
  • Do not carry documents (birth certificates, etc.) from your country of origin
  • If you have a driver's license or identification card, obtained legitimately in your name, carry that on you at all times
  • Prepare your family so that, in the event of a raid, no one gives any information to immigration officials without the presence of an attorney

What should you do if you are Detained during one of these raids? 

  • Do not allow the immigration officer into your home without a warrant
  • REMAIN SILENT
  • If there are children who will be unsupervised, tell the immigration officer that the children need to be transferred to someone's care while you are detained
  • Call your attorney
  • Do not sign any documents without your attorney being present
  • Do not give any statements, even about your country of origin and status in the U.S. without having your attorney present
  • Do not give a false name to immigration officials under any circumstances

USCIS Posts Regarding the Refugee Screening Process

12/1/2015 4:41PM

USCIS is looking to reassure the American public that the refugee screening process as it stands is quite rigorous. You can read more at their homepage

Why the Conversation We Are Having About Syrian Refugees is Wrong

Since the attacks in Paris on November 13, the news have been inundated with coverage about Syrian refugees and what will happen to them in the wake of these attacks. As of today, more than half of U.S. governors have publicly stated that their states will no longer accept Syrian refugees. Although this could make resettlement more difficult, what these governors propose to do is not something they can, in fact, do. Still, the conversation in mainstream media (liberal and conservative alike) has turned to whether the U.S. should continue to accept Syrian refugees, or whether the U.S. should stop the Visa Waiver Program. This conversation is nothing more than thinly veiled fear-mongering.

At the outset, the term asylum seeker has been used as a synonym for refugee on the media, and although the terms are somewhat similar, they are inherently different. As concerns the U.S., refugee status is a status one seeks while outside of the United States; Asylum seekers come to our border or our interior and ask to be recognized as such. Therefore, the vetting process for refugees takes place outside of the U.S. while the vetting process for asylum seekers takes place inside the U.S. Why is this relevant? Because for the majority of persons escaping the horrific conditions in Syria, seeking asylum is simply a foreclosed option. Flights out of Syria are simply not available and those fleeing are forced to escape by other means. Thus, the likelihood of someone from Syria being able to make it to the U.S. to ask for asylum is very slim.

What happens instead? Syrians looking to resettle outside of their country must flee by land to nearby countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. During a recent conversation with a potential client, I was told that the roads which lead out of Syria are rife with snipers making the journey out of Syria extremely dangerous.

For those who make it out, the conditions they face outside Syria are heartbreaking. Thus, they seek refugee resettlement to an area outside of the immediate area.

If the media and politicians in the U.S. are to be believed, that’s when they make it to the United States and Europe. Nothing could be further from the truth. In order to be resettled, a refugee must first be certified as a refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. That process and the resettlement process comprise the now-infamous “two year vetting process” that we have heard about endlessly on the news. What the news are not telling us, and what immigration practitioners are learning from our clients, is that family members in countries like Lebanon seeking an appointment to begin the certification process are being told the earliest appointment is at some point after 2020. Effectively, this lengthens the process to more than five years. To think that terrorists would wait in line for more than five years to carry out their threats rather than using some alternative means is nearsighted and playing directly into the fear-mongering and Islamophobia being perpetuated by media and political candidates.

As for the visa waiver program, eliminating that program could be economically detrimental. Travel from countries who have long been our allies would be thwarted as their citizens would be forced to go through a process to obtain a travel visa. That process, however, is highly unlikely to impose a significant barrier to the risks it purports to eliminate. Obtaining a tourist visa is relatively straightforward and requires proof of a few things: 1) financial ability to support oneself while within the U.S., 2) good moral character, and 3) no intent to stay within the United States after entry.

Unless we impose a higher level of scrutiny on tourist visa applicants, the process is unlikely to detect real threats as it currently exists. But a higher level of scrutiny means we would scrutinize more closely even those visitors who bring billions of dollars annually into the U.S. by way of tourism. Personally, I find Islamophobia an unworthy reason to impose this type of burden on an industry which generates that much revenue.

Lastly, what can we make of the argument that only Christian refugees should be allowed into the United States? What can we call this if nothing more than Islamophobia? To be clear, there is an argument to be made about whether the classification of Christian women from Syria as refugees should take priority over Muslims seeing as how they are the most persecuted group within the country. In fact, Australia has prioritized their refugee program that way (not without criticism from Muslim groups). But that’s not the conversation we are having. Perhaps what we should be doing is using this opportunity to talk more openly about how to unify our country and work toward a common goal rather than continuing to have arguments which continue to reveal our collective Xenophobia. 

Status of DACA/DAPA

In November, 2014, President Obama announced his plan to issue two executive orders: 1) would amplify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; 2) would create a similar avenue of relief for the undocumented parents of United States Citizens, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). Since then, immigration practitioners have received a multitude of questions and consultation requests from individuals who meet the criteria for these two programs. The volume of individuals seeking the protection of extended DACA and DAPA is unsurprising since estimates from the Executive Branch indicate that nearly 5 million immigrants would be affected by the executive action.

Unfortunately, the executive action was appealed in the federal courts. On Monday, November 9th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ended months of speculation over whether the executive action would be allowed to proceed when it ruled against the measure on the basis of increased costs to the individual states in implementing such a program. It is possible that the administration may appeal the 5th Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court of the United States.

All hope is not lost. In a leaked memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security, it appears as though President Obama may have anticipated this ruling and intended to bypass its effect. The way in which this is to be done remains to be seen, however, the memo seems to indicate a desire to issue Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) to certain groups of undocumented or lawfully present individuals. The three alternatives are: 1) issue EADs to individuals who are currently physically within the United States (the most comprehensive of the options), 2) only individuals lawfully present (excludes those who overstayed nonimmigrant visas), 3) only those who have lawful nonimmigrant status at the time of filing the application for EAD.

Unfortunately, this means that those nearly 5 million immigrants who had their hopes raised last November, must continue to wait in uncertainty while the President decides which course of action to pursue and/or the Supreme Court decides whether to hear the case and ultimately its outcome.