If you have been watching the news at all over the past couple of weeks you will have heard about the dramatic increase in the numbers of children and families fleeing the violence and poverty of Central American countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Some press reports estimate that 50-60 thousand children have turned themselves in to authorities at the southern US border seeking a way to stay here.
This is an upsetting circumstance to be sure -- but coming to the US border and applying for political asylum (refugee status) is really the only practical answer for the children and families who feel they are in danger in their home countries. Southwestern communities are rightfully concerned that -- if these children and families are allowed to remain in the USA -- they will bear the economic burden of housing, educating, and supporting these children until they get on their feet. The US government cannot allow that to happen; but that doesn't mean that all the children and families need to be summarily removed from the country and sent back to the place and the life that they were trying to get away from.
If you believe what some Conservative politicians and pundits are saying -- that we are a Nation of laws and that these children have to follow the law, then consider this. Turning yourself in at the border and applying for asylum is following the law. It is one of the procedures by which asylum is generally granted. Another is to apply abroad for refugee status and then wait to be admitted. That is what many would prefer to happen here; wouldn't that be great! But wait, let's take a look at what the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras has to say about that:
The Honduran Office does not accept refugee resettlement applications
directly. People interested in being considered for the U.S. Refugee
Program should contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR). UNHCR is located at Colonia Palmira, Avenida Republica de
Panama, Edificio Casa de las Naciones Unidas, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
For more information please go to the UNHCR webpage at http://www.unhcr.org or contact the United Nations in Tegucigalpa at (504) 2220-1100 or (504) 2231-0102."
So, no help there. How about the UNHCR website? Well, the office that oversees the Central American countries in question isn't actually in any of those countries -- but rather, it is in Panama. http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e492686&submit=GO#
You can see, from the snapshot chart on the website linked above, that there are about 8,600 people with refugee status or pending asylum claims with UNHCR. That sounds interesting, but when you check the Department of State Reports on Refugee Admissions from Latin America and the Caribbean guess what? Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are not even on the list. Refugees from the region come almost exclusively from Cuba, with a few from Colombia or Venezuela. http://www.state.gov/j/prm/releases/statistics/206319.htm
So nobody is apparently getting to safety by taking the "appropriate" procedures. Coming to the US/Mexico border is their only practical hope of escaping the violence in Central America.
Is it much of a hope though? The USA granted about 1,035 asylum claims to Hondurans from FY 2003 to 2012. Those were people already here, legally or otherwise who have been granted protection over the past ten years. At that rate, if only 20% of the children's claims are deemed sufficient to grant asylum -- those kids can look forward to getting status by the time they are 120 years old.
I understand that the United States can't take responsibility for every child in danger everywhere in the world. Allowing all of the children to remain in the USA with legal status would encourage more to make the very dangerous journey. However, the answer cannot be to simply send them all back on principle; or as some in Congress are now proposing -- to streamline the process to expedite proceedings. These children and families made a perilous journey and their claims should be heard. Many, perhaps even most, will be turned back -- but they deserve due process in the hearing of their cases. If we cheat them with some sort of cattle call court procedure, we will be debasing ourselves as much as them.
USCIS to Publish New Form to Allow
Individuals to Renew Their Deferred Action
Release Date: June 05, 2014
WASHINGTON—Secretary of Homeland
Security Jeh Johnson today announced the process for individuals to
renew enrollment in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
program. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has
submitted to the Federal Register an updated form to allow
individuals previously enrolled in DACA, to renew their deferral for
a period of two years. At
the direction of the Secretary,
effective immediately, USCIS will begin accepting renewal requests.
USCIS will also continue to accept requests for DACA from individuals
who have not previously sought to access the program. As of April
2014, more than 560,000 individuals have received DACA.
acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all
of us agree that a child who crossed our border illegally with a
parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an
adult choice to break our laws, and should be treated differently
than adult law-breakers,”
said Secretary Johnson.
“By the renewal
of DACA, we act in accord with our values and the code of this great
Nation. But, the larger task of comprehensive immigration reform
still lies ahead.”
The first DACA approvals will begin to expire in September 2014. To avoid a lapse in the period of deferral and employment authorization, individuals must file renewal requests before the expiration of their current period of DACA. USCIS encourages requestors to submit their renewal request approximately 120 days (four months) before their current period of deferred action expires.
DACA is a discretionary determination
to defer removal action against an individual. Individuals in DACA
will be able to remain in the United States and apply for employment
authorization for a period of two years. Individuals who have not
requested DACA previously, but meet the criteria established, may
also request deferral for the first time. It is important to note
that individuals who have not continuously resided in the United
States since June 15, 2007, are ineligible for DACA.
Individuals may request DACA renewal if
they continue to meet the initial criteria and these additional
Did not depart the United States
on or after Aug. 15, 2012, without advance parole;
Have continuously resided in the
United States since they submitted their most recent DACA request
that was approved; and
Have not been convicted of a
felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, and
do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public
The renewal process begins by filing
the new version of Form I-821D “Consideration of Deferred Action
for Childhood Arrivals,” Form I-765 “Application for Employment
Authorization,” and the I-765 Worksheet. There is a filing and
biometrics (fingerprints and photo) fee associated with Form I-765 totaling
$465. As with an initial request, USCIS will conduct a background
check when processing DACA renewals. USCIS will also host both
national and local DACA informational sessions.
Drew Law Office, pllc is happy to be a sponsor of this year's "We Are One" festival. This year's festival will include a combination of acts and vendors from both the Latino Festival (held annually by Latinos Unidos) and the African/ Caribbean Festival (put on by the Ujima Collective). Combining the two festivals provides an opportunity to experience a day of arts, cultures, and cuisines that you just will not find anywhere else in New England!
Come and see it for yourself at Veteran's Memorial Park in Manchester, NH. Starting just before noon and running until 8 pm on August 16, 2014. It will be muy bueno! or if you prefer, vrèman bon! And because it is happening in New Hampshire it will also be -- wicked good!
Here is a link to the opinion piece in the NH Bar News or you can continue reading below.
Amongst the many legislative measure considered every session by the New Hampshire General Court, there are always a couple that catch my eye as being of particular significance to my immigration law clients. This year is no exception. There are two bills likely to be laws by the time you read this that will affect the lives of my clients here in New Hampshire. The first of these, SB 394, modifies our marriage laws and is part policy and part technical corrections bill.
Most everyone now knows that New Hampshire recognizes same-sex marriages – but did you know a same-sex marriage solemnized in the state becomes null and void if the parties actually reside in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex couples? Senate Bill 394 ends this practice of self-defeating our own marriage laws. Upon enactment, such marriages will remain legal in New Hampshire (and federally), while other states can maintain their right not to recognize the validity of the bond. This bill is not directed towards immigrants, but this issue comes up quite often in the immigration context, as legal residence is often a direct result of a marital relationship. We have had clients in the recent past who wished to be married in New Hampshire but who had to be directed to our neighboring New England states to avoid the very problems SB 394 is designed to solve.
The second bill is also, at least ostensibly, not directed at the immigrant population. House Bill 1135 will, however, have an impact that falls hardest on the undocumented immigrant community and those in the process of legalizing their immigration status. This bill changes the current law regarding operating a motor vehicle without a valid New Hampshire driver’s license. As it stands today, driving without a valid license is a violation of law for which a person must appear in court and, if convicted, pay a fine. Only if a person is convicted twice within a calendar year will he or she be found guilty of a misdemeanor and face possible jail time.
Under HB 1135, that changes, for some. I have heard the law is a response to the tragic deaths of two cyclists in Hampton (and serious injury to others) last year caused by an unlicensed driver. While I support the Legislature’s desire to try to prevent such occurrences, I think this bill missed the mark. I don’t know whether HB 1135 would have changed what happened in the Hampton case, but it will certainly negatively affect my clients. For example, a New Hampshire resident who, due to inattention, lack of motivation, or some other reason, fails to renew his or her license for up to a year and is caught driving will still only be guilty of a violation, unless it happens twice in 12 months.
However, a person who never had a New Hampshire license or has one that expired could be arrested and found guilty of a misdemeanor and jailed. Immigrants who are undocumented cannot be issued a driver’s license in New Hampshire; those immigrants who are in the process of obtaining legal status or fighting to keep their status often can go long periods of time without the necessary documentation to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license. Those are the people who are going to be penalized by the new law – not persons who have had a license suspended or revoked and, for the most part, not unlicensed US citizens, either.
The U.S. Department of Justice has posted additional guidance for public elementary and secondary schools (it is not new but sometimes people forget):
Under federal law, all children in the United States are entitled to a public elementary and secondary education regardless of their race, color, national origin, citizenship, or immigration status or the status of their parents/guardians. On May 8, 2014, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education issued an updated set of guidance documents to all public school districts reminding them of their obligation under federal law to provide equal educational opportunities to all children residing in their districts, and to offer assistance to ensure they are complying with the law.
Every year about this time -- the new poverty guidelines are put in place for determining the household income that must be shown in order to sponsor an immigrant relative. The poverty guidelines are actually created by The Department Health & Human Services. US Citizenship & Immigration Services then repurposes them by multiplying by 1.25 to get their 125% of poverty numbers.
Household size 2 - $19,662 Necessary Income
3 - $24,737
4 - $29,812
The rest of the information can be found on the form I-864p a copy is attached below.
Last call for Obama on immigration
On Wednesday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., reminded lawmakers that the clock is ticking on immigration reform. "After almost a year with no serious movement forward on immigration reform in the House," he said, "I am beginning to wonder whether the Republicans will get serious about immigration before they run out of time." Gutierrez warned Republicans that President Obama could soon take unilateral action. "Do you think he will sit by and do nothing just because you are doing nothing?"
Gutierrez is right. Not only is the window rapidly closing on any possibility of reform over the next few years, it is also shutting on the GOP's long-term viability as a national party. And after repeatedly refusing to act on immigration, House Republicans cannot complain if President Obama decides to move ahead without them.
The stubbornness of House Republicans on immigration is shameful considering the efforts of so many others to make reform a reality. Immigrant advocates assembled a coalition of labor, business, and religious leaders to push for an overhaul of our broken system. The Senate passed the bill put forward by the bipartisan "Gang of 8." House Democrats came up with their own immigration bill, and attempted the long-shot maneuver of a discharge petition to force a vote on it.
~follow the link to see the rest of the story
Well now, that is an interesting way to start a Presidential primary campaign. The substance of what Mr. Bush is saying -- that illegal immigration is against the law, but that the venom and anger associated with the issue is out of proportion -- is entirely correct. Comprehensive immigration reform should allow for some commensurate penalties for breaking the law. Not everyone who wants to come here to live and work can be allowed to do so (legally or otherwise); yet not everyone who has come here without permission (or stayed longer than permitted) should be forced to leave. The key is to strike the right balance for the United States, its communities, businesses and families. It is not an easy task -- that is why immigration law reform is complicated and why we have a giant bureaucracy of immigration benefit adjudicators, law enforcement officers and administrative courts. Implementing this complicated system to do the most good for the most people is hard work. It could be made a little easier with the right reforms (which have been stalled by Congress since 2001).
Some would like it to be simple -- either they all must go or it might as well be considered an amnesty and they can all stay. Neither of those approaches will work to the benefit of this country. For all the faults I might find with the Bush family political dynasty -- this is one thing they seem to understand.
Drew Law Office, PLLC has started our first ever print advertising campaign with a nice little ad in the Hippo, a weekly news and entertainment tabloid from the Hippo Press here in Manchester, NH. We always have a copy at the office because it has the rundown of all the shows & concerts and all the events going on at local restaurants, pubs and clubs.
It is a free publication available all over Southern New Hampshire and the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. You can even view it for free online: http://www.e-pages.dk/thehippo/346/
is this week's issue (first week of April 2014) enjoy!
Many reports in the media describe this as a longshot measure or that it is doomed to fail. They may ultimately be found correct -- but that is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people contact their Congressional Representatives and tell them they want to see the procrastinating stop and to get this done -- it can be passed. The bill itself has 199 co-sponsors and they only need 218 signatures for the discharge petition. Voting yes would bring the bill to the floor for a vote -- it would still have to pass. There aren't 20 Republicans in the House who could be convinced to hold a vote on the bi-partisan bill that passed the Senate last Summer!?!
New Hampshire's Representatives are already signed on ... if you have family that live in another state that are represented by a Republican -- ask them to call their House member and get them to sign up!