AILA South Florida is regularly called upon by local and national media outlets to serve as a qualified resource on immigration law and the latest legislative updates.

Below is a sampling of the published articles written by or quoting AILA South Florida and its members.

 

Visa program for investors is one of the most popular in American immigration history

 http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/immigration/article45763990.html

By Alfonso Chardy

November 21, 2015

A little-known immigration program that allows foreign nationals to get a green card after investing at least $500,000 on a project that creates 10 jobs has proven so successful that last year for the first time it exceeded the limit of 10,000 visas per year.

The program, known as EB-5, has enabled commercial and residential developers in big cities including Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. to jump-start major projects — primarily residential and commercial developments that otherwise might not have obtained traditional funding from U.S. investors.

In Miami, the program is helping to finance mega-projects like the 83-story residential and commercial Panorama Tower now under construction in the Brickell financial district.

Though the program is booming, a dark cloud has appeared on the horizon.

A bill pending in Congress could spell disaster for EB-5 if it becomes law, according to immigration lawyers whose clients include investors who have obtained green cards through the program.

Under the bill’s provisions, current investors would be required to increase their investment by $300,000 or $700,000, depending on the type of project they are funding.

The current $500,000 investment is for projects in a rural area or one deemed of high employment. If the investment goes to other areas then it must be higher, as much as $1.2 million in some cases. If the bill becomes law, it would require $500,000 investors who filed petitions after June 15, 2015 to increase their investment to a minimum of $800,000. Because most investment areas would no longer qualify as high unemployment areas, many investors would have to raise their $500,000 expenditure to $1.2 million.

Immigration attorneys and developers familiar with the program said the problem is not the higher investment, but that the new requirements are retroactive to June 15, 2015.

The bill would also require investors to prove their money has created a percentage of full-time direct jobs lasting 24 months — not just jobs in general as currently specified. Most projects do not use staff employees, but instead use contract workers.

The proposed new requirements could lead to the suspension of green card benefits for thousands of foreign investors approved since June 15 — unless they increase their allocations.

“If passed in its present form, this could shut down the EB-5 program,” said Tammy Fox-Isicoff, a Miami immigration attorney whose clients include foreign nationals who have invested money in various local projects.

The program began in 1990, but remained largely dormant until the 2007-2008 U.S. economic crisis gave it new life.

Since then, EB-5 has become one of the most popular investor visa programs in American immigration history.

In 2006 immigration authorities issued 502 EB-5 visas to foreign investors. But the number of EB-5 visas gradually increased: to 795 in 2007; 1,443 in 2008; 4,218 in 2009 and 8,564 in 2013. In the last fiscal year it shot up to 10,692 — over the annual limit of 10,000.

Investments are pooled by so-called EB-5 Regional Centers. The pooled money of several investors allows developers to fund commercial and residential mega projects. One of the largest in the country is the Hudson Yards project on New York’s West Side with six towers featuring 5,000 apartments.

“Since 2012, we have been raising EB-5 money for our projects,” said Rodrigo Azpurua of Riviera Point Holdings. “We started with a first project in Broward County, an office park; and we did a second one in Doral, another office park. And then we did a third project in Broward, also an office park.”

Azpurua said EB-5 has been good both for his business and for his investors who have been approved for green cards. He said the majority of his EB-5 investors come from Asia and South America.

Recent immigration agency figures show that most EB-5 investors are from China and South Korea. The majority of Latin American EB-5 investors are from Venezuela, figures show.

One of the reasons EB-5 is attractive to developers, more so than traditional sources of funds, is because they pay investors relatively small returns — about 1 to 3 percent, instead of the 7 to 10 percent in a traditional real estate investment plan.

For EB-5 investors, though, the attraction is not profit, but American residency. After five years, those who are permanent residents can apply for citizenship.

But if the proposed bill becomes law, many of the investors who have already filed for green cards could lose their investment and the opportunity to obtain lawful permanent residence if they can’t come up with the larger investment amounts.

“Thousands of investors who invested and filed EB-5 petitions over the last six months would no longer qualify,” wrote H. Ronald Klasko, an EB-5 expert who writes a blog on the program.

The blog’s analysis of the EB-5 bill is available at his website: www.klaskolaw.com/eb-5-investor-visas/the-draft-eb-5-bill-the-good-news-and-the-bad-news/.

Though the blog gives the bill a low chance of becoming law, the legislation is co-sponsored by powerful lawmakers: Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

“The EB-5 regional center program was created to benefit American communities through investment and job creation,” Grassley said recently in a statement on the bill. “In many instances the program has helped combat a stagnant economy. At the same time, though, we’ve seen too many occasions where national security has been put at risk and job creation has taken a back seat.”

Grassley did not cite an example. But in 2013, Grassley sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement expressing concerns about how EB-5 could be used by Iranian covert operatives to infiltrate the United States. Grassley based his concern on an internal memo he had read from Homeland Security Investigations, a unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement that contained that warning.

Immigration attorneys such as Fox-Isicoff agree that the program could be strengthened and integrity measures added, but contend that changing the rules retroactively for those who invested in good faith would destroy the program.

Fox-Isicoff says this would be counterproductive because the program has enabled many projects, including infrastructure projects, to become reality. Proposed changes, she said, could result in “serious foreign policy implications.”

Make it easier to immigrate legally

 http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article38873457.html

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
OCTOBER 12, 2015

What if the United States were no longer a secure place to live? What if men and boys feared being dragged from their beds and beheaded, r women and girls became war prizes, supermarket shelves were bare, schools that educate our children closed? When faced with death, most people will choose survival at any cost.

What if the United States were no longer a secure place to live? What if men and boys feared being dragged from their beds and beheaded, r women and girls became war prizes, supermarket shelves were bare, schools that educate our children closed? When faced with death, most people will choose survival at any cost.

Though politicians boast about building the biggest fence to block those seeking illegal entry into this country, none has addressed the lack of legal course for those fleeing persecution to enter the United States.

Our legal immigration system, last addressed in 1990, is not responsive to the world we live in. For most immigrants fleeing persecution, there is no legal way to enter the United States. While Germany is expected to give shelter to more than 800,000 refugees by year’s end, the United States, which prides itself on welcoming the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, will take in a mere 70,000. Though this number will grow to 100,000 by the end of 2017, it is still a globally insignificant sum.

It is time for Americans to engage in soul searching. Many of us can reach not that far back to touch the soil that our ancestors came from. I regularly encounter those fleeing persecution. They are not the inherently evil lawbreakers that politicians would have us believe; rather, they are desperate people, longing to survive.

Those whose lives are now in upheaval are no different than us. They had homes, jobs; their children went to school.

Pope Francis appealed to every European parish to take in one refugee family. What better way to embrace those who may not understand or appreciate our way of life? Americans need to tell our leaders to step forward. Hopefully, if we found ourselves needing to walk in the shoes of those we read about regularly, someone would welcome us.

TAMMY FOX-ISICOFF,
FORMER INS PROSECUTOR
AND SPECIAL ASSISTANT
U.S. ATTORNEY, MIAMI

 

Friends and Neighbors

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/community-voices/article23043057.html

By Christina Mayo

June 3, 2015

Young writer honored

Congratulations to Olga Rocio Rivas for her third-place win in the national Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest. Olga, a student at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami, titled her essay “America Believes.” She placed first in the regional competition in which dozens of entries from South Florida fifth graders were considered.

The event is sponsored nationally by the American Immigration Council (AIC), and locally, by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) South Florida Chapter. It encourages students to write about why they are glad America is a nation of immigrants. This is the second year that our regional winner has placed nationally.

Olga was honored in a recent ceremony at school along with her two Carrollton classmates who placed second and third in the regional contest.

Torivia Castro won second place with her “In The Land of Tomorrow,” and Alexandra Dominguez placed third with her “Untitled” entry. The inspiring teachers of these young writers also were recognized at the local ceremony.

“We congratulate Olga Rocio Rivas for her placing nationally in the Celebrate America contest with her wonderful piece on the importance of immigration to America,” said AILA South Florida President Jacob Ratzan in a release. “Our local competition received an incredible number of wonderful and insightful entries, and it’s a remarkable honor to once again have South Florida represented among the national winners.”

In recognition of Olga’s accomplishment, a flag will be flown over the U.S. Capitol in her honor, and her writing will be published in Skipping Stones magazine, a multicultural publication for youth that “encourages communication, cooperation, creativity and celebration of cultural and environmental richness.”

The essays in the national competition were reviewed by renowned judges including Gerda Weissmann Klein, founder of Citizenship Counts; Edwidge Danticat, author and National Book Award finalist; Valentino Achak Deng, the Minister of Education in South Sudan; and Charlotte Leigh, the contest’s 2014 Grand Prize winner.

AILA South Florida is encouraging local schools and teachers to include the contest as they plan their curriculums for the upcoming school year. To learn more visit http://www.celebrateamericawritingcontest.org/

 

Fraude: varios notarios se hacen pasar por abogados de EEUU

http://www.diariolasamericas.com/3838_inmigracion/3109610_fraude-notarios-pasan-por-abogados-de-eeuu-florida.html

By Laura Rivera

May 18, 2015

El Fraude Notarial es muy común en Estados Unidos, especialmente en las comunidades de inmigrantes en el sur de la Florida. Muchas veces los abusos son cometidos por personas del mismo origen que se aprovechan de la confianza que depositan sus compatriotas y de la urgencia de los inmigrantes por resolver sus problemas migratorios.

“Estas personas no son abogados y no tienen el conocimiento necesario para representar a las personas en sus casos de inmigración”, alertaron las abogadas Christine J. Alden y Maggie Arias, miembros de la Asociación Americana de Abogados de Inmigración del sur de Florida (AILA South Florida).

En un comunicado, explicaron que “ellos no pueden acompañar al inmigrante a las oficinas de Inmigración ni pueden representarlo frente a un juez. Estos notarios muchas veces prometen resultados imposibles y les causan problemas irreparables en los procesos de inmigración”.

En Estados Unidos, un notario o notario público no es un abogado y no puede dar asesoramiento legal ni proporcionar servicios legales. Un notario público de Estados Unidos tiene poderes limitados: puede solamente administrar juramentos y ser testigo de firmas. Las leyes de EEUU no permiten que un notario público de consejos legales, llene formularios legales, presente documentos con su firma a inmigración, ni ayude a los clientes con asuntos legales.

“Los notarios que preparan casos de inmigración dañan a sus víctimas, cobrando miles de dólares para presentar solicitudes sin fundamento legal”, indicaron las abogadas.

Algunos de los errores que cometen son, por ejemplo, que pasan por alto los plazos de presentación, hacen que sus clientes firmen aplicaciones que no entienden, o peor aún que contienen información falsa que les afecta su futuro en EEUU.

“Muchos inmigrantes pierden oportunidades de obtener su residencia legal, pueden ser sujetos a cargos criminales por presentar declaraciones falsas, y pueden ser deportados innecesariamente y a menudo pagando el precio final – la separación familiar”, advirtió el comunicado.

Engaños típicos

Los inmigrantes caen víctimas de estos notarios porque muchos inmigrantes recién llegados, confían en personas de su mismo origen y que hablan su idioma. Además, muchos inmigrantes piensan que un notario en EEUU es un abogado con conocimiento legal como lo es en su país.

Las abogadas dieron el ejemplo reciente de una señora rusa, que contrató a un notario que no era abogado para que le ayudara a poder quedarse legalmente en EEUU. “La señora no hablaba inglés y confiando en el notario, firmó una aplicación que creía que era para extender su permanencia en EEUU.

“Lamentablemente sin saberlo, ella firmó una aplicación de asilo político que contenía mucha información falsa. Esta petición causo que la señora fuera puesta bajo deportación”, comentaron.

“Lo más triste de esta situación es que ella era elegible a la residencia permanente por su matrimonio con un ciudadano americano. Pero por haber cometido fraude ahora no es elegible para hacerse residente por su matrimonio. El tribunal ordenó su deportación y le prohibió la entrada a EEUU permanentemente”, agregaron.

Sin solución

Esta señora no tiene ningún recurso legal en contra del notario por que el notario no es un abogado y no tiene ninguna agencia reglamentaria que lo rige. Si un abogado se hubiera equivocado o hubiera presentado algo falso, ella pudiera reportarlo al colegio de abogados y se le suspende su licencia y no puede ejercer su profesión. También los jueces de inmigración pueden re-abrir y reconsiderar un caso en estas circunstancias.

De acuerdo con una decisión de la Corte Suprema de la Florida en 1978, las personas que no son abogados no pueden llenar, editar ni añadir información a un formulario de inmigración.

Otros estafadores

El crimen de practicar leyes sin licencia no se limita a notarios y también incluye a los abogados extranjeros, consultores legales extranjeros, agentes inmobiliarios, preparadores de impuestos, agentes de títulos de propiedades, exempleados del Departamento de Inmigración y asistentes legales o paralegales que no estén trabajando bajo la supervisión de un abogado licenciado.

Las abogadas recomendaron que antes de contratar a un abogado, las personas exijan lo siguiente: “un contrato que explique los costos y los servicios legales ofrecidos, ser informado sobre su proceso periódicamente, una copia del caso y de todos los documentos presentados a Inmigración, los recibos de Inmigración y todas las comunicaciones que Inmigración manda en el caso”.

Además, aconsejaron que “si usted es una víctima o conoce a una víctima de fraude de inmigración, no se sienta avergonzado o desamparado, repórtelo al Florida Bar (la asociación que rige a los abogados que tienen una sección dedicada a eliminar la práctica de ley sin licencia). También lo puede reportar a AILA South Florida. Estos reportes se pueden hacer en forma anónima si desea”.

 

Commentary: Speak out Against Notario Fraud and Immigration Scams

http://m.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/commentary-speak-out-against-notario-fraud-and-imm/nmBnT/

By Christine J. Alden and Maggie Arias

May 8, 2015

Notario fraud is rampant across the United States, but especially in Latino, Caribbean, Russian and Brazilian communities in South Florida. Scammers target their own, preying on fearful, desperate immigrants and promising often unattainable results. This is something that will increase as immigrants anxiously wait for President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration reform to come into effect.

Many of us in South Florida know that a “notario” in Latin America refers to someone with the equivalent of a law license in their country — but not in the U.S. Notarios rely on this confusion among immigrants to drum up business. A “notario publico” who obtains a U.S. notary public license and offers it as evidence that she is qualified in immigration law is committing notario fraud.

Notarios irreparably damage their victims by taking thousands of dollars to file baseless applications. They provide oversimplified or patently wrong advice couched in legal jargon. They miss filing deadlines. Victims sign applications they do not understand, or worse, the notarios sign for them. As a result of the notario’s advice or actions, immigrant clients can miss opportunities to obtain legal residency, can become subject to criminal charges for filing false claims, and be unnecessarily deported. They are left exposed before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, often paying the ultimate price — enduring heartbreaking separation from family, perhaps forever.

Why are immigrants so vulnerable? Many newly arrived immigrants understandably trust those who speak their language and share their culture. Also, immigrants may perceive notarios as educated and powerful, and therefore owed the type of compliant respect they would get back home.

Recently, a Russian woman hired a nonlawyer to help her find a way to remain in the U.S. as she approached the end of her lawful exchange visitor status. She spoke no English, but, trusting her nonlawyer, signed an application she believed was to lawfully extend her stay. Instead, the application was a fabricated asylum claim the nonlawyer created. The Immigration Court put her in removal proceedings.

What is worse, during the pending removal, she should have been able to file for permanent residence because she had married a U.S. citizen. However, she was prohibited due to the court’s fraud finding. She alone bore the devastating result of her trust in the nonlawyer and was ordered deported, permanently barred from returning to the U.S. Her nonlawyer presumably lost nothing. Had he been a licensed attorney committing fraud or making serious errors, the client would at least have had a remedy as a consumer and the lawyer could be penalized or even disbarred.

According to a 1978 Florida court decision, nonlawyers are limited to typing forms using information provided by the applicant. They may not edit or add to a form, nor discuss it.

Immigrants must be empowered to demand what is rightfully theirs: A written contract for legal services; the right to be timely informed about the status of their case and about all representations made to the government on their behalf; and the right to copies of all forms, receipts and other documentation in their case.

If you are a victim or know a victim of immigration fraud, don’t feel ashamed or helpless. Report it to the Florida Bar, or to the American Immigration Lawyers Association of South Florida, even anonymously. Protect yourself, your family and your future.

 

Commentary: What Wasn’t said in the OIG Report About Alejandro Mayorkas

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/commentary-what-wasnt-said-in-the-oig-report-about/nkkqL/

By Tammy Fox-Isicoff

April 2, 2015

The U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report last week, critical of U.S. Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ conduct relating to several EB-5 projects. Though the report was an investigation of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employees’ complaints over Mayorkas’ involvement in the adjudication of several projects, findings in the report were critical of his overall management of the EB-5 program.

As a member of the American Immigration Lawyer Association’s (AILA) EB-5 liaison team, I attended many stakeholder meetings and several “conversations with the director” where EB-5 issues were discussed. It was clear that when Mayorkas became the director of USCIS (a position he held from August 2009 to December 2013), the EB-5 program was broken.

There was virtually no published policy guidance on EB-5 adjudications and adjudications were inconsistent and prolonged. It was impossible for project developers and attorneys to know what would pass USCIS muster as there were no standards. A case that was favorably adjudicated one day would be denied the next day, on the same set of facts. USCIS officers, who are neither lawyers nor sophisticated in business affairs were ill-equipped to deal with the complex range of business and economic issues involved in EB-5 adjudications. They had little understanding of business plans and business documents and the complex legal issues that arose as a result of sophisticated EB-5 deals involving numerous parties. Mayorkas, a lawyer and scholar, recognized these and other serious problems with the program. He also recognized the importance of the EB-5 program to the U.S. economy, which when he became director, had been seriously underutilized.

The EB-5 program brought only $321 million to the U.S. in 2008. That grew to more than $2.5 billion in 2014, with an economic impact of over 250,000 jobs.

When Mayorkas took over as director, the EB-5 program was drastically under-utilized because no one had faith in the agency’s ability to manage the program. Mayorkas changed this. He published guidance in May of 2013 that created predictability in adjudications. Under his direction, USCIS issued legal opinions on a number of legal issues, not just those impacted by the three cases cited in the OIG report. He hired business professionals and economists with expertise in sophisticated areas involved in EB-5 adjudications and centralized adjudications in Washington, D.C. He created decision boards with experts who could liaise with developers and attorneys on a sophisticated level. These decision boards have provided a forum for lawyers, developers and USCIS economists, adjudicators and business analysts to discuss complex deal documents and legal issues.

While Mayorkas may have erred in providing favoritism to a select few, Mayorkas was not just the director of USCIS, he was one of the few directors of the agency with a sophisticated legal background. He realized that in a number of cases his non-legal staff simply got it wrong. Besides the three cases referenced in the OIG report, Mayorkas took the lead in interpreting a plethora of legal provisions in the EB-5 arena, providing consistency in adjudications and insulating the agency from an onslaught of lawsuits.

The OIG report referenced granting some petitions to expedite adjudications and denying others arbitrarily. The law provides for the processing of immigration benefits in 180 days. This seldom happened in EB-5 adjudications and continues to be a shortfall in the EB-5 process. If USCIS adjudicated EB-5 petitions within the time-frame contemplated by Congress, there would be little need to expedite EB-5 filings, as those involved in projects would have a good idea how long adjudications take. They currently take three times as long as Congress contemplated.

Thanks to Mayorkas’ changes to the EB-5 adjudicatory process, the EB-5 program is now fully utilized. This year, the entire 10,000 quota of EB-5 visas will be utilized, with a tremendous impact on job creation. Evidence of the success of the EB-5 program is apparent in South Florida, with developers utilizing or seeking to utilize EB-5 funds for a number of projects including the The Water Club in North Palm Beach, Signature Hospitality’s six hotels in South Florida, Palm Beach Raceway, and the Harbourside and Waterpoint developments in Jupiter.

 

NBC 6 South Florida

March 15, 2015

President Jacob Ratzan appeared on the live show for a segment lasting several minutes discussing the chapter’s sponsorship of the local Celebrate American Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest. A video of the clip was secured by Red Banyan Group following the appearance and provided to the group.

 

Friends and Neighbors

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/community-voices/article13879838.html

By Christina Mayo

March 12, 2015

STUDENT CONTEST

South Florida fifth-grade students have until March 21 to enter an important creative writing contest sponsored by the South Florida Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Immigration Council.

The topic is “Why I Am Glad America is a Nation of Immigrants.”

This regional competition is part of the national 18th annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest. Students are encouraged to express their thoughts about America’s blended culture, their own family history and personal immigration experiences and the challenges for immigrants.

Last year’s national winner was Charlotte Leigh, a student of Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami, for her piece “The Land of Opportunity.”

South Florida submissions should be sent to Regional Coordinator Sandra Echevarria at miamiimmigrationattorneys@gmail.com. To learn more, visit http://www.celebrateamericawritingcontest.org/

 

Commentary: Provide Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/commentary-provide-drivers-licenses-to-undocumente/nkNhR/

By Jeffrey Stewart

March 4, 2015

Driving a car, truck or motorcycle is indispensable to many people working and living in Florida. At any given time there are millions of cars on Florida’s roadways. However, it is estimated that as many as one in five of these drivers does not have a driver’s license. Under current law, Florida’s undocumented immigrants lack driving privileges, exacerbating this problem.

To allow Florida’s undocumented individuals to apply for provisional licenses just makes sense.

Legislators this session will vote on a bill that would significantly increase road safety, provide enhanced security by allowing law enforcement to identify individuals, and provide real economic benefits to the state. Legislatures across the country have enacted laws tailored to providing driver licenses to undocumented individuals to promote public safety and accountability. To date, 11 states have enacted such legislation: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Puerto Rico, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

The results speak for themselves: In Utah there was a 20 percent decline in the number of uninsured drivers after the law was passed. Similarly, New Mexico’s rate of uninsured vehicles decreased from 33 percent to less than 9.1 percent.

Opponents might argue that this is just another benefit the government is extending to law-breakers. However, these licenses do not confer immigration status, nor do they serve as a federal identification document. Instead, these licenses are “provisional” ones of limited duration, there to protect Florida’s drivers on our roads. Florida should enact smart, responsible legislation targeting the benefits of road responsibility and accountability without creating a federal identification document used for purposes other than temporary state driving privileges.

Licensing undocumented immigrants can provide an important law-enforcement tool for police making routine traffic stops and identifying individuals. It helps the state and federal governments know who is in the United States and where these individuals reside. Providing a pathway for undocumented immigrants to obey traffic laws will make everyone on our state’s roads safer.

There are also real economic benefits to laws providing licenses to undocumented immigrants. Insured drivers pay on average $115 more per driver to cover accidents involving those without insurance. Issuing licenses to undocumented individuals would markedly reduce the number of uninsured motorists on the road. This would cause aggregate auto insurance revenues to increase and premium costs to fall considerably in the state. After New Mexico began issuing licenses to undocumented individuals, its rate of uninsured motorists fell more than 20 percent.

Providing licenses to undocumented immigrants in Florida also could increase automobile sales and generate new revenue for the state in the form of license fees, vehicle registrations and license plate fees. Almost $9 million in increased license fees would be generated if only 50 percent of the undocumented immigrants in Florida applied.

Thus, by decreasing the number of uninsured motorists and increasing revenues from fees and automobile sales in the state, new legislation would provide real economic benefits to all Floridians.

 

Concurso Sobre Immigración para Estudiantes de Quinto Grado

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/elsentinel/fl-es-concurso-inmigracion-aila-20150303-story.html

By Melvin Felix

March 3, 2015

“¿Por qué te alegra que América sea una nación de inmigrantes?”

Esa es la pregunta que dos organizaciones pro inmigrantes han planteado a jóvenes en escuelas primarias del sur de Florida, a través de un concurso que termina el próximo 21 de marzo.

En su décimo octava edición, la competencia pide a estudiantes de quinto grado que expresen creativamente su aprecio por la diversidad cultural de Estados Unidos en menos de 500 palabras (a través de un ensayo, poema, entrevista, etc.).

Tres ganadores regionales recibirán premios monetarios, y el primer lugar en el sur de Florida pasará a la competencia nacional, según un comunicado de los organizadores, el capítulo local de American Immigration Lawyers Association y American Immigration Council.

La ganadora nacional el año pasado fue Charlotte Leigh, una estudiante de Miami que escribió un poema sobre el viaje de un inmigrante huyendo de la persecución en su país de origen.

Para informes o para participar, escribe a Sandra Echevarría a miamiimmigrationattorneys@gmail.com con el titular “South Florida Creative Writing Contest”.

Más informes aquí.

 

U.S. Should Fix Visa Program to Keep Top Foreign Grads

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-fix-visa-system-012715-20150126-story.html

By Jordana A. Hart

January 26, 2015

About a third of U.S. Nobel Prize winners in medicine, chemistry and physics were born abroad.

Foreign-born entrepreneurs have founded a fourth of U.S. engineering and tech companies since 1995, including giants Google, Yahoo and eBay.

Foreign students are more than 70 percent of enrollment in U.S. graduate electrical-engineering programs, 63 percent in computer science and 60 percent in industrial engineering.

The engine of U.S. might and creativity is literally in the hands of these students, most of whom want to stay. Yet antiquated, tin-eared U.S. immigration laws will force many to leave.

The undocumented are at the heart of the president’s executive orders on immigration announced in November. But some of these thoughtfully crafted directives go as far as possible within the president’s powers to keep foreign engineers and scientists from hitting the proverbial immigration wall and walking away.

The visa system batters the documented and, in the process, shoots U.S. competitiveness in the foot. A record 886,052 foreign students were enrolled at U.S. universities last year, adding $27 billion to the economy. Almost 80 percent of the 102,673 Indian and 42 percent of the 274,439 Chinese students were in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs.

Many want to stay after they graduate — to teach, invent and start companies. Isn’t it just common sense to help them stay? The visa system tells us — and them — otherwise. Here is what these talented people face if they try to stay:

•As STEM grads, they are currently allowed 17 months of work after graduating. The president has ordered this program, called Optional Practical Training, to be extended by 19 months and include more areas of study. But what happens when the 36 months run out?

•The end of OPT generally leads to H-1B: A congressional cap limits the H-1B visa for professionals to 65,000 annually — fewer, actually, due to treaty carve-outs of 6,800 for Chileans and Singaporeans. There are another 20,000 H-1Bs for advanced-degree professionals. For some perspective on how measly this cap is for U.S. employers seeking talent, last year employers filed 172,500 H-1B petitions and this fiscal year some say it could exceed 200,000 petitions. Only Congress can raise the cap.

•If a Chinese or an Indian graduate is lucky enough to get an H-1B (valid for six years), the roadblock to permanent residence (green card) is mind-boggling: Based on a government-issued monthly bulletin that shows where an applicant’s filing date falls in an unfathomable processing backlog, a Chinese STEM researcher will wait at least five years to file his residence application. Why?

Because due to a severe visa shortage — particularly for Indians and Chinese, who are the highest users in the advanced-degree category — the immigration service recently was processing the applications of Chinese advanced-degree applicants filed on or before Feb. 1, 2010. For Indian engineers and scientists, the visa backlog is more dramatic. The service is processing Indian advanced-degree applications filed on or before Feb. 15, 2005, meaning they will wait a decade — or even decades because processing can slow down even further in any given month.

Only Congress can increase the number of available immigrant visa numbers. But some experts argue that the president can alter how the existing number of visas are distributed — one visa number per family versus one visa number per applicant, the current method, which quickly eats up the available numbers. Giving one visa number to each family would triple or quadruple the number of visas available, and shorten the wait.

Until an applicant can take the final step to file her permanent-residence application, her only lawful U.S. status is whatever she can cobble together through OPT, H-1B, or some other temporary status, most of which don’t last as long as the maddening residence delays. So she is forced to take her valuable U.S. education and immense skills back to India, or perhaps Canada or Australia.

The president’s orders serve our national interest by helping foreign scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to stay. The effect, though, is short-term legal tinkering. The U.S. is educating its potential rivals. Congress must listen to the roar of the marketplace and use the feedback to fix the visa system.

Jordana A. Hart is an immigration attorney in Miami and co-chair of the Media Advocacy Committee of the South Florida chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

 

Deutch Vows to Fight for Undocumented Kids

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/fl-undocumented-minors-folo-20141218-story.html

By Melvin Felix and Mike Clary

December 18, 2014

A local congressman is calling for legislation to ease the plight of thousands of undocumented children from Central America who arrived in South Florida this year.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, says the children should be entitled to legal representation once here. Deutch said he plans to push for a bill, when Congress reconvenes in January, requiring the U.S. attorney general to make sure each child is represented by an attorney.

Deutch’s call to action comes after the Sun Sentinel and its sister paper El Sentinel published a four-monthlong special project that chronicled the lives of Central American youngsters who crossed illegally into the United States this year, and ended up with family members in South Florida. Titled “The Uncertain Future of Undocumented Children,” the article shed light on the children’s complex journey through the U.S. legal system.

“At a minimum, we should treat these children with respect and compassion when they come here,” said Deutch in a phone interview. The congressman said he plans to push early next year for passage of the Vulnerable Immigrant Voice Act, which would grant lawyers to unaccompanied minors in deportation proceedings.

One of the undocumented children featured in the Sun Sentinel article received some welcome news on Thursday. Hugo Pascual Tomás, a 16-year-old Guatemalan who faced his third deportation hearing this week, was granted an eight-month extension by Judge Charles Sanders. His next hearing is set for August.

“There’s a lot of work and research to do on it, but thankfully we now have a lot of time,” said the boy’s pro bono attorney, Natalie Navarro.

Unlike Hugo, many of the unaccompanied minors here do not have lawyers because their families cannot afford one, advocates say. Without an attorney, these children face difficulties proving their case in court.

“What kind of country would we be if we were to just throw these children back to the terror they fled?” said Rev. Frank O’Loughlin, executive director of the Guatemalan Maya Center, a nonprofit group in Lake Worth that helps youngsters like Hugo.

The bill co-sponsored by Deutch is similar to part of a broader immigration package that was approved by the Senate last year but languished in the Republican-controlled House.

Backers of the proposed bill — all Democrats — say the costs of providing undocumented children with attorneys would be offset by reducing the time that youths spend in detention and in court.

An influential member of South Florida’s congressional delegation, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, favors helping the unaccompanied minors.

“I am supportive of increased resources to get more kids lawyers and get their cases heard,” said Wasserman Schultz, adding that any measure should be adequately funded and not impact taxpayers.

“This nation was built on a foundation of fairness and the rule of law, and we should always take steps to uphold those principles,” she said.

The arrival of more than 53,000 unaccompanied children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador this year has had a major impact on some local schools and created a backlog in federal immigration court. The children come here seeking to reunite with families and escape the violence and poverty in their homelands. In Florida alone, more than 5,500 arrived this year. And more than half of them made their way to South Florida.

“Immigration officials and courts have certainly worked hard to address this really difficult situation, but we can do better,” Deutch said after reading the Sun Sentinel-El Sentinel report. “For too many [of the children], we’re failing.”

Several organizations are also attempting to force the federal government to provide lawyers for unaccompanied minors. The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Immigration Council and several other national groups filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in July, arguing that the children’s right to a fair hearing is violated by not having a lawyer.

“The reality is that children are unlikely to understand the complex procedures, their legal options, or how to build a case,” said Beth Werlin, deputy director of the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center, in Washington, DC.

“Forcing children to proceed on their own violates due process,” she added.

Some immigration advocates are hanging their hopes on legislative initiatives such as the bill that Deutch has promised to reintroduce in the House early next year.

“There’s so much pressure to do something for these kids,” said Sui Chung, chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s South Florida pro bono committee. “Obviously the Justice Department feels a lot of pressure … and there will be interest on the Hill and in the executive branch to find a solution. I think it will get done.”

 

The Uncertain Future of Undocumented Children

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/interactive/sfl-the-uncertain-future-of-undocumented-children-htmlstory.html

By Melvin Félix and Mike Clary

December 15, 2015

AILA South Florida was featured in a Sunday edition cover story in the South Florida Sun Sentinel about undocumented children. The enormous, five-page article included multiple quotes from chapter representatives Jacob Ratzan and Sui Chung, including listing their associations with AILA South Florida.

 

News Radio WIOD 610

December 2 and 3, 2014

Tammy Fox-Isicoff conducted two interviews with the station on December 2 and December 3 surrounding our media roundtable and President Obama’s immigration changes.

 

Fraud Warning: Attorneys Warn About Notarios Offering Cheap Immigration Help

http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202677412535/Fraud-Warning-Attorneys-Warn-About-Notarios-Offering-Cheap-Immigration-Help?mcode=1202615581416&slreturn=20150609162542

By John Pacenti

November 25, 2014

A reporter who participated in AILA South Florida’s press call following President Obama’s administrative changes on immigration published a detailed piece warning about notarios and quoting Tammy Fox-Isicoff and Michael Vastine at length.

 

Undocumented Immigrants Warned: Don’t Apply Too Fast After Obama Order

http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/undocumented-immigrants-warned-dont-apply-too-fast/njFTT/#14bcbafd.3867937.735562

By John Lantigua

Nov. 25, 2014

South Florida immigration attorneys are warning undocumented people who think they could benefit from President Barack Obama’s new deportation policies not to fall prey to irresponsible and unscrupulous notaries who could take their money to file applications but cost them their ability to stay in the United States.

It will be at least 90 days before new regulations go into effect and the government is expected to better define rules between now and then, Tammy Fox-Isicoff, past president of the South Florida chapter of American Immigration Lawyers Association, said Monday. She said undocumented people who think they will qualify under the new regulations should start gathering their paperwork, but do nothing else. Tens of thousands of people in South Florida are expected to qualify.

“Don’t apply for anything; don’t move forward,” she said. “Don’t put down money for an application when we don’t even know what the rules of the game are yet.”

In the past, undocumented people have sometimes taken the lower-cost alternative of hiring notaries instead of attorneys to file applications for legal immigration status. But immigration lawyers say that in many cases those notaries made errors in paperwork, or did not keep their clients informed of subsequent application stages, meaning that undocumented people missed crucial court dates and were ordered deported.

Fox-Isicoff also warned that notaries might not know exactly who qualifies for the new deferral of deportation and who doesn’t, and anyone who applies but doesn’t qualify could find themselves targeted by immigration agents. She said the immigration lawyers group is mounting a campaign statewide, including public service announcements and statements read to church congregations, to head off potential tragedies.

“It’s a huge concern,” she said. “We have a state outreach program going on right now to warn the foreign national population not to fall victim to the practice of notaries.”

The executive order announced by Obama Nov. 20 would give between 4 million and 5 million undocumented people protection from the threat of deportation for at least three years. The majority of those covered are adults who have been in the U.S. at least five years and are parents of U.S.-born children. They must pass background checks to ensure they don’t have criminal histories that disqualify them and they must pay taxes they owe. If they pass, they will get work permits and in Florida they could get driver’s licenses.

The order also broadens DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – which Obama created in 2012 and which protects from deportation undocumented people brought to the U.S. before age 16. Previously, DACA protections were restricted to people who had entered the U.S. by June 15, 2007 and no one born prior to 1982 could apply. The new cut-off date for entry is Jan. 1, 2010 and there is no restriction regarding date of birth.

The order indicates the Obama administration will continue to focus its deportation efforts on people with significant criminal histories. But the attorneys aren’t clear on who else might be excluded from the new protections. Their questions include: which misdemeanor offenses might disqualify people from the protections; if an undocumented father who doesn’t contribute to the support of a U.S.-born child will qualify; whether a person who goes back to his home country and returns to the U.S is disqualified for violating the five-year requirement.

The order also indicates that undocumented people who cannot prove they were in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2014, will not qualify for protection. Boynton Beach immigration attorney Richard Hujber says he has many clients who arrived after Obama’s five-year cutoff date for work permits, but before this year and are in deportation proceedings.

They are not people who have committed serious crimes, Hujber said, and the new enforcement priorities indicate they should not be targeted for deportation. Hujber believes the new regulations could lead to deportation proceedings being dropped against many of his clients, including those held in federal detention centers.

“This could be huge,” he said. But again he needs to see the details of the new regulations.

 

Inmigrantes podrían ser deportados buscando beneficiarse de orden ejecutiva.

http://voces.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/25/inmigrantes-podrian-ser-deportados-orden-ejecutiva_n_6219114.html

November 25, 2014

MIAMI (AP) — Abogados de inmigración advirtieron que aún se desconocen innumerables detalles de un paquete de medidas anunciado por el presidente Barack Obama para conceder estatus legal a casi la mitad de los 11 millones de inmigrantes no autorizados, pero aseguraron que las personas pueden comenzar a preparar sus documentos.

“Estos programas son complicados… hay muchos factores interconectados que hace que no se pueda predecir cómo van a ser implementados estos programas o cómo van a funcionar exactamente”, manifestó Michael Vastine, profesor de Leyes y director de la Clínica de Inmigración de la Universidad Saint Thomas en una conferencia telefónica.

“Los detalles se van a conocer en diferentes momentos”, explicó su colega Tammy Fox-Isicoff, quien instó a los inmigrantes a no acudir aún a ningún abogado porque es muy pronto.

¿Quiénes son los beneficiados?

El presidente Obama anunció la semana pasada un paquete de medidas de inmigración que permitiría a cerca de 4 millones de personas congelar su deportación y obtener un permiso de trabajo válido por dos años. Para beneficiarse deberán demostrar que han vivido en Estados Unidos durante cinco años, tienen hijos estadounidenses o residentes permanentes y someterse a una revisión de antecedentes criminales.

Las autoridades han señalado que el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional comenzará a recibir solicitudes en el segundo trimestre de 2015. Tendrán un costo de 465 dólares.

Los abogados dijeron que en 90 días podrían conocerse los detalles sobre las medidas que ampliarán los requisitos para el programa vigente que ampara a los jóvenes extranjeros que llegaron a Estados Unidos de niños de manera ilegal; y que podrían pasar alrededor de 180 días hasta que se revelen los detalles sobre las medidas que beneficiarán a los padres extranjeros de hijos estadounidenses.

“Por el momento que vayan reuniendo información, y en unos seis meses que vayan a un abogado”, recomendó a los inmigrantes Fox-Isicoff.

Documentos que se requieren para el proceso

Entre los documentos que necesitarán, dijo, están los que demuestren que han vivido de manera continua en Estados Unidos — como cuentas de teléfono o de electricidad_, certificados de nacimientos de sus hijos, antecedentes criminales, documentos de educación escolar, y de buen comportamiento, que demuestren que no figuran entre las prioridades de deportación del gobierno.

La abogada advirtió asimismo que no se trata de una amnistía sino de medidas ejecutivas.

La información no es confidencial

La amnistía, dijo, conlleva un aspecto de confidencialidad de la información de los inmigrantes. “Esta ley no lo tiene”, aseguró refiriéndose a la confidencialidad.

Explicó que si alguien presenta sus papeles para beneficiarse con las medidas y luego le informan que no califica, “esa información queda en los records y podría ser elegible para deportación”.

Los abogados dijeron que aún desconocen el alcance de todas las personas que pudieran ser beneficiadas.

“No sabemos qué pasa si (la persona que presenta sus documentos) es el padre de un hijo estadounidense que tal vez el hijo no es legítimo, o si el padre está divorciado de la madre y no paga la manutención del hijo, o qué pasa si la persona tiene ha sido convicto por manejar en estado alcoholizado, o si regreso a su país por tres años”, dijo Fox-Isicoff.

Su colega Jordana Hart, por su parte, advirtió a la población inmigrante que no acudan a notarios.

“El potencial de daño al caer víctima de notarios y de abogados inescrupulosos es muy alto en estas situaciones cuando las gente está desesperada, y es muy importante que la gente vea a abogados para evaluar sus casos, reúnan su documentación, y estén preparados en el momento en que las cosas comiencen a implementarse”, manifestó la abogada.

 

Aguardan detalles de alivio migratorio.

http://www.telemundo51.com/noticias/inmigracion/Aguardan-detalles-de-alivio-migratorio-283760561.html?akmobile=0

November 24, 2104

MIAMI.-Abogados de inmigración advirtieron el lunes que aún se desconocen innumerables detalles de un paquete de medidas anunciado por el Presidente Barack Obama para conceder estatus legal a casi la mitad de los 11 millones de inmigrantes no autorizados, pero aseguraron que las personas pueden comenzar a preparar sus documentos.

“Estos programas son complicados… hay muchos factores interconectados que hace que no se pueda predecir cómo van a ser implementados estos programas o cómo van a funcionar exactamente”, manifestó Michael Vastine, profesor de Leyes y director de la Clínica de Inmigración de la Universidad Saint Thomas en una conferencia telefónica.

“Los detalles se van a conocer en diferentes momentos”, explicó su colega Tammy Fox-Isicoff, quien instó a los inmigrantes a no acudir aún a ningún abogado porque es muy pronto.

El Presidente Obama anunció la semana pasada un paquete de medidas de inmigración que permitiría a cerca de 4 millones de personas congelar su deportación y obtener un permiso de trabajo válido por dos años. Para beneficiarse deberán demostrar que han vivido en Estados Unidos durante cinco años, tienen hijos estadounidenses o residentes permanentes y someterse a una revisión de antecedentes criminales.

Las autoridades han señalado que el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional comenzará a recibir solicitudes en el segundo trimestre de 2015. Tendrán un costo de 465 dólares.

Los abogados dijeron que en 90 días podrían conocerse los detalles sobre las medidas que ampliarán los requisitos para el programa vigente que ampara a los jóvenes extranjeros que llegaron a Estados Unidos de niños de manera ilegal; y que podrían pasar alrededor de 180 días hasta que se revelen los detalles sobre las medidas que beneficiarán a los padres extranjeros de hijos estadounidenses.

“Por el momento que vayan reuniendo información, y en unos seis meses que vayan a un abogado”, recomendó a los inmigrantes Fox-Isicoff.

Entre los documentos que necesitarán, dijo, están los que demuestren que han vivido de manera continua en Estados Unidos – como cuentas de teléfono o de electricidad-, certificados de nacimientos de sus hijos, antecedentes criminales, documentos de educación escolar, y de buen comportamiento, que demuestren que no figuran entre las prioridades de deportación del gobierno.

La abogada advirtió asimismo que no se trata de una amnistía sino de medidas ejecutivas.

La amnistía, dijo, conlleva un aspecto de confidencialidad de la información de los inmigrantes. “Esta ley no lo tiene”, aseguró refiriéndose a la confidencialidad.

Explicó que si alguien presenta sus papeles para beneficiarse con las medidas y luego le informan que no califica, “esa información queda en los records y podría ser elegible para deportación”.

Los abogados dijeron que aún desconocen el alcance de todas las personas que pudieran ser beneficiadas.

“No sabemos qué pasa si (la persona que presenta sus documentos) es el padre de un hijo estadounidense que tal vez el hijo no es legítimo, o si el padre está divorciado de la madre y no paga la manutención del hijo, o qué pasa si la persona tiene ha sido convicto por manejar en estado alcoholizado, o si regreso a su país por tres años”, dijo Fox-Isicoff.

Su colega Jordana Hart, por su parte, advirtió a la población inmigrante que no acudan a notarios.

“El potencial de daño al caer víctima de notarios y de abogados inescrupulosos es muy alto en estas situaciones cuando las gente está desesperada, y es muy importante que la gente vea a abogados para evaluar sus casos, reúnan su documentación, y estén preparados en el momento en que las cosas comiencen a implementarse”, manifestó la abogada.

 

A Simple Immigration Fix with a Big Payoff

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article3499782.html

By Tammy Fox-Isicoff

November 2, 2014

We are on the brink of a potentially historic moment in the interpretation of our archaic immigration laws. President Obama has the rare opportunity to score a trifecta. He can take executive action that would receive full support from business groups, religious groups, and minority coalitions.

The president has stated that he will announce before year’s end administrative interpretations that do not require changes in the immigration laws as passed by Congress. Perhaps the most important change he can make is to alter the manner in which the worldwide visa quota is counted.

Although, this may appear to be a very complicated “fix,” it is in fact a very straightforward way of solving many of the unintended consequences of our outdated immigration laws. Currently, one visa is counted against the worldwide immigration numerical quota for every individual immigrating to the United States, even though the statutory language clearly contemplates one deduction from the worldwide quota per family unit, not per individual.

Here’s how it works: The Immigration & Nationality Act provides that a set number of individuals from defined classifications, such as siblings, skilled workers and investors, can immigrate to the United States annually and that immediate family can immigrate with the principal.

Yet, despite the statutory language, the congressionally authorized number of immigrants in each category has been reduced by assigning a separate visa number under the quota for each accompanying family member. For example, although Congress clearly prescribed 10,000 immigrant visas for foreign investors immigrating to the United States, only 2,500-3,000 investors actually immigrate annually, depending on how many investors have a spouse and/or children.

No one could possibly believe that this is what Congress intended when it approved existing legislation. Nor did it intend to make family members wait for up to half a century to be able to unite with the family member who acquired the visa.

Imagine a scenario where this country rejects foreign nationals deemed to be in our national interest or of extraordinary ability because the system has exceeded the worldwide quota for these individuals; and imagine a lawful permanent resident spouse who cannot live with her husband for many years because of a shortage of immigrant visas. These absurd results have become our reality.

The United States is losing exceptionally talented foreign nationals because there is no longer any pathway for them to immigrate to this country. Many in America question why this country has so many illegal foreign nationals. The answer is really very simple. There is often no way for foreign nationals to legally get here and stay here. Employers continue to need the skills of foreign nationals. Our country should never be in the position of having to shut the door on so many extraordinarily talented individuals, but we do — every day!

This country will never be able to conquer the problem of illegal immigration without a sensible path for foreign nationals to become legal. Our current laws lack this sensible path, leaving many foreign nationals, even those whose residence is deemed to benefit our national interest, without any pathway to immigrate. The recent bipartisan immigration bill passed by the Senate recognized the problem with the manner in which worldwide visa numbers were being allocated and provided that immediate family members immigrating with the principal would not need a separate visa number.

Rarely does an opportunity come along to solve an intractable problem in a way that has strong support from so many diverse groups in the immigration debate. In fact, several former general counsels of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and legacy INS have supported the more generous interpretation. Eliminating family members of qualified immigrants from the congressional quota is an opportunity that President Obama should not overlook.

TAMMY FOX-ISICOFF IS PAST PRESIDENT OF THE SOUTH FLORIDA AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYER’S ASSOCIATION.

 

Unaccompanied Minors

http://www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/jnnews01.nsf/cb53c80c8fabd49d85256b5900678f6c/e6c4e3658eb7b24885257d770048c59b!OpenDocument&Highlight=0,Jacob,Ratzan*

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

By Jacob L. Ratzan, President, AILA South Florida Chapter

November 1, 2014

As the president of the South Florida Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA South Florida”), I took great interest in the October 1 story “Florida lawyers stand with unaccompanied minors.”

Since the start of the rocket dockets at the Miami Immigration Court, AILA South Florida, an organization of 750 immigration lawyers, has worked closely with Catholic Legal Services (CLS), Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ), and the Cuban American Bar Association (CABA). Our organization has attended court hearings, assisted with the intake of unaccompanied minors, provided legal education to practitioners on immigration relief for unaccompanied minors, encouraged attorneys to take pro bono cases, arranged for U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-FL, and Ted Deutch, D-FL, to attend court hearings, and participated in stakeholder meetings with the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Chief Counsel.

AILA South Florida has great respect and admiration for CABA, CLS, and AIJ in leading the initiative at the Miami immigration court to find representation for unaccompanied minors. But the sheer number of children who need representation in deportation proceedings is enough to bring down an already overburdened system. Since the end of August, three judges at the Miami immigration court have each been hearing up to 50 unaccompanied minor cases per day. Recently, a fourth judge was added. This means there are as many as a few thousand unaccompanied children in Miami who will need representation.

While it is true that many lawyers are rising to the occasion throughout Florida, the real story is the government’s dependence on non-profit organizations and private bar to clean up the mess. The government expects us to act as friends of the court to help judges, spend hours doing intake to determine eligibility for immigration relief, and ultimately provide pro bono representation to the children. We have asked the government to slow down the process by granting continuances of up to one year to allow us to find representation for the thousands of affected children. Legal representation is in each child’s best interest. We hope the government agrees and will heed our requests.

 

Delayed Administrative Immigration Reform has Real-Life Consequences

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-viewpoint-immigration-policy-20141023-story.html

By Tammy Fox-Isicoff

October 23, 2014

President Obama’s broken promise of enacting administrative immigration reform by the end of the summer will undoubtedly have dire consequences for countless families in this country.

Contrary to the administration’s assertion that they have targeted “criminal aliens” for deportation, only 1 in 5 of those deported this fiscal year had engaged in any type of criminal activity, and for the most part that activity involved driving offenses, such as driving with a suspended license or without a license. A staggering 80 percent of those deported only committed civil immigration offenses, rather than criminal. In addition, many of those deported are the parents of U.S. citizens and the primary earners in the household, creating a devastating issue for their families left behind.

But what harm will waiting an additional 2-3 months cause? It will inflict serious, life-changing harm on the multitude of individuals who will be deported in the meantime and perhaps permanently separated from their loved ones. In the last 11 months, immigration judges have ordered 82,878 individuals to be deported. This amounts to roughly 9,116 deportations per month. Therefore, by waiting another two months, a jaw-dropping additional 18,233 people will be deported.

Take the case of Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez. A Mexican national married to a U.S. citizen and father to three stepchildren (one of whom suffers from cerebral palsy) and one biological son, Hernandez-Ramirez has lived in this country for more than a decade. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has advised him that he will be deported. Hernandez-Ramirez, employed in nurseries, is the breadwinner in the household. He is also the only one in his family who can physically lift and care for his 25-year-old disabled stepson. Another Mexican immigrant facing imminent deportation is Nora Galvez, the mother of an 8-year-old U.S. citizen son. Galvez makes a living doing what most Americans won’t do, picking and packing apples. She was apprehended by ICE during a routine traffic stop. For Nora’s son and Pedro’s family, a 2-month delay will, at minimum, cause lifelong trauma, and may even prove fatal.

The fact is that many of the individuals illegally in the country hold jobs that need to be filled, but that no U.S. workers will take or would want. Imagine if everyone who is illegally in the U.S. stopped working today. Our country would collapse. Crops would rot in the fields. Americans would have to pay $10 for a head of lettuce. Homes would not be built. American parents would not be able to work because their children and elderly parents would have no one to care for them.

Despite the president’s assertions that ICE will focus on priority cases such as foreigners convicted of serious crimes or caught crossing the border illegally, many foreign nationals who do not fit within these “priorities” and who would benefit from administrative reform will undoubtedly be deported within in the next several months because of the president’s delay. President Obama must reinforce that, given its limited resources, ICE must strategically target those who pose a threat to the security of the U.S. or have been convicted of serious criminal offenses, not mere civil immigration violators. It certainly makes no sense to use our government’s limited resources to deport immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who pose no threat to the security of this country, and hurt their families’ changes of survival by leaving.

Tammy Fox-Isicoff is a past president of the South Florida American Immigration Lawyers Association.

 

Children in the Immigration System Need More Legal Protection

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article2626258.html

By Rick Nease

October 8, 2014

The vast majority of the 66,000 unaccompanied Central American children who have surrendered at the southwest border still do not have attorneys. Desperate advocates, seeking lawyers to represent kids as young as 6 appearing alone in court to fight deportation, are being forced to tinker around the edges of an unfolding legal crisis.

Many immigration judges — their courtrooms packed daily with unaccompanied children (UC) who have fled all manner of violence in their countries — are relying on a model called Friend of the Court (FOC) to help them try to adhere to a lawful, and fair, process.

The problem is that FOC does exactly what its name suggests — it exists to help the court and not the child, and some suggest it expedites a process stacked heavily against the unrepresented child. FOC is a like a tourniquet where surgery is required. (Unlike other courts, lawyers are not guaranteed in immigration court.)

With the Obama administration seeking “fast-track” child deportations, judges cannot keep pace and themselves argue that speed compromises accurate and lawful decision-making. “Speeding up the process creates an unacceptably high risk of legal errors,” the National Association of Immigration Judges said in a recent statement.

Even without the child “surge,” 228 immigration judges nationwide are already juggling about 375,500 cases with an average decision time of 587 days. The administration has shoved the children to the front of the line, reassigning judges to UC dockets and requiring initial or “master” hearings within 21 days instead of months.

Advocates are torn over the FOC as a primary court tool. In the Miami Immigration Court, four judges have been assigned to UC “rocket dockets,” fast-paced appearances of about 150-200 unaccompanied children, and now children with parents, in the courtrooms on any given day.

Four local groups have, or will, become the FOC for these judges: Catholic Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Miami, the Cuban-American Bar Association, Americans for Immigrant Justice, and, perhaps shortly, the local chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

FOCs have streamlined the court’s ability to efficiently gather information; pointed out government errors in service and paperwork; encourage judges to grant longer continuances so children can find lawyers; and orient the child to courtroom procedures, all of which provide some modicum of protection.

But last month, Chief Immigration Judge Brian M. O’Leary issued a memorandum setting a bright line for FOCs on the “limitations on the proper use” of a FOC.

“The FOC is a stop-gap and not the answer,” said Michael Vastine, a law professor at St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami Gardens and secretary of South Florida AILA. “The alternative was to watch the system crash, and the kids would unnecessarily suffer.”

The quandary for advocates is that FOC likely provides a veneer of due process while aiding the government’s goal of swiftly deporting children. The argument has weight: About half of represented children are allowed to stay, while 90 percent of those without have been ordered removed.

There are efforts afoot:

▪ New York City, San Francisco and the state of California have allocated funds to pay for lawyers.

▪ U.S. Health & Human Services has allocated $9 million over two years to help 2,600 kids.

▪ AILA national has signed up about 800 lawyers and organizes trainings.

▪ AILA South Florida is seeking attorneys and may organize events to match them with kids.

In Seattle, a federal court denied a preliminary injunction seeking one-year continuances and legal representation for unaccompanied children. The court, however, said it was “sympathetic to plaintiffs’ plea for legal assistance with the immigration maze in which they now find themselves.”

While laudable, these are piecemeal efforts for a crushing child-refugee crisis. Children, regardless of their immigration status, should be afforded more rather than fewer legal protections precisely because they are children.

It is shameful that, with our astounding national wealth and reputation as a human-rights beacon, the administration is putting the hammer to children, and legal advocates are literally begging for help.

JORDANA A. HART IS AN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY IN MIAMI AND CO-CHAIR OF THE MEDIA ADVOCACY COMMITTEE OF THE SOUTH FLORIDA CHAPTER OF AILA.

 

WTFL-AM

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/joyce-kaufman/id484640742?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

October 7, 2014

AILA South Florida member Jeffrey Stewart appeared on the Joyce Kaufman Show on local station 850 WFTL-AM to discuss the benefits of providing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

 

Workers Granted Pretrial Program Unlikely to be Deported

http://www.naplesnews.com/news/local-news/workers-granted-pretrial-program-unlikely-to-be-deported_94340154

By Maria Perez

October 7, 2014

The majority of workers arrested in a highly publicized raid on an East Naples packing facility likely will not be deported, thanks to an offer from the State Attorney’s Office.

Although the fate of the more than 100 people arrested isn’t certain, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will consider enforcement actions only against people who have criminal backgrounds, have crossed the border recently or have committed “egregious” immigration law violations.

“Sensible, effective immigration enforcement prioritizes efforts first on those serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities,” said DHS spokeswoman Tamara Spicer. “Not sweeps or raids to target undocumented immigrants indiscriminately.”

All the workers arrested, save for a few, were offered a pretrial diversion program, said Samantha Syoen, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office. At least 20 workers have signed those agreements.

That means defendants don’t need to plead guilty or no contest. If they comply with the deferred prosecution agreement, their charges will be dismissed, said Jacob Ratzan, president of the South Florida chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

The workers were arrested by the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud and charged with workers’ compensation fraud and criminal use of personal identification after the agency raided the packinghouse owned by Oakes Farms on July 16.

If defendants don’t admit guilt, ICE cannot start a deportation based on the case, Ratzan said.

“That scenario, it’s not generally a conviction for immigration purposes,” he said.

But Ratzan said that in some Florida counties, defendants who enter into this program have to sign a private agreement admitting they are guilty — and that can be used in an immigration court.

It’s not clear if that has happened in this case.

Ratzan added that if ICE wished to, they could deport the workers because they are undocumented. But although ICE has started deportation procedures against undocumented immigrants without a criminal backgrounds, they usually go more aggressively after those who have been found guilty of a crime, Ratzan said.

Syoen of the State Attorney’s Office said the prosecutor offered the pretrial diversion program agreement to the workers because they qualify for it — they are first offenders — and it’s a general policy to offer the agreement to those who are eligible.

Syoen could not give more details about the agreement on Tuesday.

The deferred prosecution agreement for some of the workers states that they have to comply with some requirements, such as not violating the law, not carrying firearms, not using drugs or getting intoxicated and reporting to a pretrial program officer for between six and 18 months.

Martha Velasquez, one of the workers arrested together with her husband, said that now the process is almost over, she is more worried about taking care of her 8-day old baby and her 4-year-old son.

“I am happy,” she said in Spanish. “Thanks to God, everything is going be alright. Although I am still nervous.”

She said she is no longer working, and she doesn’t know what will happen with her immigration status.

“They told us to look for an immigration attorney,” she said.

Ashley Carr, a spokeswoman for the state’s chief financial officer, said the case is still ongoing.

“Several allegations were made against Oakes Farms when this case was brought to the Division of Insurance Fraud’s attention in September 2013,” she said in an email. “The investigation remains ongoing, and if we find that more laws have been broken, we will bring the corresponding charges against the individuals responsible.”

Some immigration activists believe the raid and the publicity surrounding it could prevent other undocumented workers from asking for benefits they are entitled to or from complaining if the are denied a benefit.

“Workers will be more reluctant to speak out,” said Maria Rodriguez, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Rodriguez said the state should be using its resources to fight risks to Florida’s economy, not attacking workers.

“What’s the purpose of going after these people?” she said.

 

Commentary: Dire Consequences of Delayed Immigration Reform

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/commentary-dire-consequences-of-delayed-immigratio/nhWBQ/

By Tammy Fox-Isicoff

September 26, 2014

President Barack Obama’s broken promise of enacting administrative immigration reform by the end of the summer will undoubtedly have dire consequences for countless families in this country.

Contrary to the administration’s assertion that it has targeted “criminal aliens” for deportation, only one in five of those deported this fiscal year had engaged in any type of criminal activity, and for the most part that activity involved driving offenses, such as driving with a suspended license or without a license. A staggering 80 percent of those deported committed only civil immigration offenses, rather than criminal. In addition, many of those deported are the parents of U.S. citizens and the primary earners in the household, creating a devastating issue for their families left behind.

But what harm will waiting an additional two to three months cause? It will inflict serious, life-changing harm on the multitude of individuals who will be deported in the meantime and perhaps permanently separated from their loved ones. In the past 11 months, immigration judges have ordered 82,878 individuals to be deported. This amounts to roughly 7,534 deportations a month. Therefore, by waiting another two months, a jaw-dropping additional 15,068 people will be deported.

Take the case of Pedro Hernandez-Ramirez. A Mexican national married to a U.S. citizen and father to three stepchildren (one of whom suffers from severe cerebral palsy) and one biological son, Hernandez-Ramirez has lived in this country for more than a decade. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has now advised him that he will be deported. Hernandez-Ramirez, employed in nurseries, is the breadwinner in the household. He is also the only one in his family who can physically lift and care for his 25-year-old disabled stepson. Another Mexican immigrant facing imminent deportation is Nora Galvez, the mother of an 8-year-old U.S. citizen son. Galvez makes a living doing what most Americans won’t do — picking and packing apples. She was apprehended by ICE during a routine traffic stop. For Nora’s son and Pedro’s family, a two-month delay will, at minimum, cause lifelong trauma, and may even prove fatal.

The fact is that many of the individuals illegally in the country hold jobs that need to be filled but that no U.S. workers will take or would want. Imagine if everyone who is illegally in the U.S. stopped working today. Our country would collapse. Crops would rot in the fields. Americans would have to pay $10 for a head of lettuce. Homes would not be built. American parents would not be able to work because their children and elderly parents would have no one to care for them.

Despite the president’s assertions that ICE will focus on priority cases such as foreigners convicted of serious crimes or caught crossing the border illegally, many foreign nationals who do not fit within these “priorities” and who would most certainly benefit from administrative reform will undoubtedly be deported within in the next several months because of the president’s delay.

Obama must reinforce that, given its limited resources, ICE must strategically target those who pose a threat to the security of the U.S. or have been convicted of serious criminal offenses, not mere civil immigration violators. It certainly makes no sense to use our government’s limited resources to deport immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who pose no threat to the security of this country, and hurt their families’ chances of survival by leaving.

 

Migrant Landings Increasing Along Coastline, Border Patrol Says

http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2014-09-15/news/fl-highland-beach-migrants-found-20140915_1_haitian-migrants-border-patrol-dominican-republic

By Adam Sacasa and Brett Clarkson

September 15, 2014

A journey that started more than 700 miles away ended in detention for another group of Haitian migrants, this time in Highland Beach, early Monday.

Authorities tracked down 13 migrants who came ashore in the 2700 block of South Ocean Boulevard at about 3 a.m. Border Patrol spokesman Frank Miller said eight men and five women arrived in good condition on a small boat from the Bahamas.

Whether any of them are the smugglers is under investigation and no one has been charged with smuggling, he said.

This latest incident comes weeks after one woman drowned while she and 19 other Haitians were trying to make it ashore on Hillsboro Beach in Broward County on Aug. 25.

It’s a scene played out frequently on Florida beaches.

Miller said he’s seen an increase in the number of migrants being smuggled to the area but the reasons, whether they’re based on economic conditions or motivated by political unrest, are unknown.

In Haiti, poverty and disease are often a motivating factor. In addition to 58.7 percent of the country living in poverty, according to the latest World Bank data in 2012, Haiti also has more than 65,000 possible cases of the mosquito-borne virus, chikungunya, according to recently published news reports.

But regardless of the reason, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Fedor, chief of law enforcement for Miami’s 7th District, said in earlier published reports that the growing numbers are a concern.

“We are seeing right now, with Cubans and Haitians, the highest levels we’re seen in past five years,” he said after the Aug. 25 incident.

Randy McGrorty, an immigration lawyer and executive director of Catholic Legal Services in Miami, said that despite any short-term increase in migrant landings, over the long term, the number of Haitian immigrants arriving by boat in South Florida is still lower than the numbers in the years before the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

“In no way are we approaching the averages from the years before the earthquake,” McGrorty said, citing data from the U.S. Coast Guard.

McGrorty said that the 2010 Haitian earthquake likely stalled the number of migrants because so many Haitians were left homeless, they were consumed by their immediate survival needs, but also because there was a larger calling to stay and help rebuild the country.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, they detained 28 Haitians in July. The number jumped to 127 in August but both numbers are still less than the 240 detained in November.

Statistics also show that the Coast Guard detained 252 Cubans last month, along with 359 Cubans in July.

From October to August, the Coast Guard has detained 3,131 migrants. While that number might seem high, it pales in comparison to 2004, when 10,899 migrants were detained. Of those, 3,229 were Haitian and 5,014 were from the Dominican Republic.

The 2004 coup that toppled Haiti’s president and caused chaos across the country likely played a factor in the several-year’s-long spike of migrants from that country trying to make it to the United States, McGrorty said.

He added that in the past five years, immigration advocates have noticed a disturbing change in the way immigrants are smuggled into the country. Whereas in years past the smugglers were often freelancers who owned a boat and wanted to make some quick cash, increasingly, smugglers are part of a larger, sophisticated operation.

“These are organized criminal enterprises with absolutely no heart,” McGrorty said.

The Border Patrol asks anyone who has any information on human or drug smuggling to call 877-772-8146. Tips can remain anonymous.

asacasa@tribune.com, 561-243-6607 or Twitter and Instagram @adamsacasa

By the numbers

127

Haitians detained by Coast Guard in August 2014

28

Haitians detained by Coast Guard in July 2014

240

Haitians detained by Coast Guard in November 2013

252

Cubans detained by Coast Guard in August 2014

359

Cubans detained by Coast Guard in July 2014

Source: U.S. Coast Guard

 

Visas for Investors Well-Regulated

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article1979055.html

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 10, 2014

Re the Aug. 8 story Miami to dangle visas to foreign visitors: Miami has become the first city in the country to own and operate an EB-5 regional center (RC) certified by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to match vetted foreign investors, seeking lawful permanent residence to vetted South Florida projects needing funds.

This effort to spur development and create jobs is a great thing. Yet the Herald’s use of the term “dangle” implies something nefarious or unfair is afoot.

The article quotes critics saying that wealthy investors are buying their way to the head of the visa line. This is incorrect. First, there are several separate visa “lines” and investors are in one such line. Second, some EB-5 regional center and pooled investor petitions are taking more than two years to adjudicate.

Following the investment of $500,000 or $1 million and the lengthy wait for an EB-5 approval, the investor must then file his or her own green card application — or, if abroad, process an application at a U.S. embassy — and wait several more months, only to be granted a conditional two-year green card. After two years, another process of sometimes more than a year awaits the investor in order to gain full resident status.

This maze hardly qualifies as buying one’s way to the head of the visa line.

In addition, critics imply that the EB-5 program is badly run and regulated. What the story failed to note were the tough warnings of securities expert Steven T. Anapoell, at the Miami EB-5 conference. He said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), well aware of actual and potential EB5 abuses, met with Homeland Security officials and pulled thousands of EB-5 files for suspicion of federal securities violations, including fraud and broker-dealer violations. EB-5, he said, must be seen as “a corporate securities offering with an immigration overlay.”

With the popularity of EB-5 on the rise, investors and the projects seeking their funds should take some comfort knowing the SEC is actively regulating regional centers and pooled investor programs. Mr. Anapoell is among those advising the new Miami EB5 RC, promising to make it a well-managed venture for developers and investors alike.

JORDANA A. HART, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY, MIAMI

 

Easy fix to Offer Relief to Immigration Courts

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article1977689.html

By Bruce W. Solow

July 31, 2014

Much has been written about the strain placed on the immigration court system by the recent influx of minors from Central America. A little known fact about the Immigration Court system, unlike every court in the land, virtually no immigration court cases are resolved without a hearing.

A simple rule change requiring mandatory pre-hearing negotiations between the parties, with a view to stipulating noncontroversial facts leaving core issues for hearing resolution, would necessarily lead to shortened hearing times, easier resolution of cases, and allowing more cases to be heard.

Presently there are approximately 243 immigration judges located in 59 immigration courts serving the United States and its territories. Of this number of judges, only about 228 actually hear cases; the remaining are used in an administrative capacity. Among the sitting judges, there are more than 375,500 pending cases, with an average days of pendency at 587. These numbers are exploding due to the influx of arriving aliens across the southern border of the United States.

It should be noted that the immigration court system is an agency within the Department of Justice. Indeed, until the last decade, the Department of Justice was also the umbrella organ for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, now part of the Department of Homeland Security.

As employees of the executive branch of government, both of which share a law-enforcement mission, they work closely together on policy at the highest levels within the Executive Department. To this day, it appears that immigration courts, notwithstanding their important function within the United States justice system, are step-children when it comes to funding — more work with the same or lessened resources. It is therefore obvious that, given the courts’ shortfall of resources, any saving in time constitutes at least another Band-Aid on a failing system.

With a rule change requiring parties to submit to the court agreed to facts before hearings — a process available in almost all of the court systems’ nationwide — saved time will extend the courts’ resources.

Currently, it appears that government attorneys are severely hampered in their exercise of discretion in the courtroom by policy directives from on high. The institution of a rule requiring the use of their discretionary function in pre-hearing accommodation would ensure that government trial attorneys work effectively with the private bar to squeeze out at least some new measure of additional time for the immigration courts to use.

Resolution of issues before trial, however, will require preparation beforehand by all parties — the private bar by filing as complete submissions of evidence as possible and the government by earnest preparation to enter into fruitful negotiations.

Easy areas that come to mind include stipulations on expert witness credentials and expertise, more liberal use of withholding of removal (remedies that confer no immigration benefits, but do stop removal to an offending country); in marriage fraud cases, disallowing court room questioning on the validity of the marriage, where there is already a visa petition approved after interview by USCIS; limiting testimony in cancellation of removal cases to the extreme and unusual hardship prong of the law.

Other cases that come to mind to save time include stipulation on the admission of discretionary evidence; accepting declarations of witnesses or agreeing, in the alternative, for those witnesses targeted questions only; stipulations to grant relief based solely on well-documented evidence. These are but some of the issues that might be addressed to shorten hearing times.

Imagine our state or federal court system if every case went to trial. This is a snapshot of our immigration courts. It is hoped that DHS will vest its attorneys with the ability that all other government attorneys have to use their discretion to resolve cases, without the necessity of formal regulations.

With a good faith effort by all sides to prepare and to reach agreement by stipulation, much can be accomplished to the goal of saving time without unduly prejudicing the rights of the parties.

BRUCE W. SOLOW IS A FORMER IMMIGRATION JUDGE IN MIAMI.

 

Dade, Broward Lead the Way

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article1976943.html

By Rebecca Sharpless

July 24, 2014

Miami-Dade and Broward county jails have stopped detaining immigrants for the federal government at taxpayers’ expense. Florida’s other jails and prisons should do the same.

Every year, more than 130 of Florida’s jails and prisons detain tens of thousands of immigrants for the federal government on what are called “ICE detainers” or “immigration holds.” Foreign nationals arrested on charges as minor as driving with a suspended license are often held long after posting bond and even after their criminal charges are resolved.

In fact, a number of U.S. citizens have been mistakenly held by jails on ICE detainers solely because of their appearance or accent. This detention costs Florida taxpayers millions of dollars annually in unreimbursed costs.

Detaining immigrants for the federal government imperils the safety of our neighborhoods by discouraging immigrants from cooperating with the police. When police are viewed as enforcers of immigration law, immigrant crime victims and witnesses are reluctant to come forward. The Major Cities Chiefs Police Association has cautioned that commingling crime control and civil immigration enforcement “would result in increased crime against immigrants and in the broader community, create a class of silent victims and eliminate the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving crimes.”

Florida counties are under no obligation to honor immigration detention requests. The feds have acknowledged that their “detainers” are no more than requests, and a federal appeals court held earlier this year that our Constitution prevents the federal government from forcing states and localities to lock people up.

In fact, our jails can be sued for holding immigrants for federal immigration authorities. The Constitution prohibits any person from being deprived of liberty without probable cause determined by a neutral arbiter, usually a magistrate judge. Because ICE detainer requests are not supported by a judicial warrant, jails act illegally when they detain people based on them.

The liability faced by our jails and prisons is not theoretical. One county in Pennsylvania recently paid $95,000 in damages for illegally detaining Ernesto Galarza, a U.S. citizen, for three days. The county’s director of corrections told reporters that he “contacted federal officials ‘in the closing hours of [the] case’ to see if they would help pay, considering ‘our trouble we went through over the past three years of litigation. The answer was a resounding no. They don’t pony up for the liability we face when they make an error.’ ” In Oregon, a county paid $30,000 to Maria Miranda-Olivares, who was held in detention 19 hours after her criminal case concluded.

In the wake of these court decisions, more than 150 jurisdictions have stopped acceding to ICE detainer requests. Miami-Dade and Broward counties have wisely decided to join this growing group. Now is the time for all of our county jails and state prisons to follow suit and to decline to detain immigrants in the absence of a warrant issued by a U.S. magistrate.

REBECCA SHARPLESS IS A BOARD MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYERS ASSOCIATION, SOUTH FLORIDA CHAPTER, AND A FACULTY MEMBER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF LAW.

 

New refugee crisis calls for change in immigration policy

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/fl-oped-immigration-20140625,0,2912503.story

By Jordana A. Hart

7:54 a.m. EDT June 25, 2014

Come December, as many as 80,000 Central American children will have walked, jumped freight trains, starved, and suffered rape and other abuse to throw themselves at the mercy of U.S. border agents, asking to be protected and, in many cases, reunited with family already here.

Immigrant rights groups project the number could soar to 130,000 children next year, more than all the people who came from Cuba during the Mariel boatlift in 1980, making this the largest refugee surge on U.S. soil.

President Obama has called the mass child exodus an “urgent humanitarian crisis” and the U.S. Department of Justice is already launching a joint effort, justice Americorps Legal Services, to represent non-detained youngsters under 16.

Yet Jeh Johnson, the president’s Homeland Security Secretary, is not sounding at all humanitarian. “Those apprehended at the border are priorities for removal,” he said at a recent press conference. “They are priorities for enforcement of our immigration laws regardless of age.” He and Vice President Biden are urging Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, the sending countries, to quickly repatriate them.

Ours is no longer simply a broken immigration system; it is a hellish one if it can’t even treat children as special under the law. DHS apparently intends to deport them as quickly as possible, even though many may have legitimate claims to asylum, special immigrant juvenile status, family reunification, U and T visa protection against crime and trafficking, and other humanitarian relief. But these protections require court hearings and legal preparation. They require even the youngest to appear before a judge. They require time.

Let’s call this what it is – a refugee crisis. The number of children making this forced migration of more than a thousand miles has doubled each year since 2010, according to published reports. Journalists at the border say some of the children as young as 4 have notes pinned to their clothes giving authorities contact information for a U.S. relative. Miami, one of 10 cities being sent children for detention and deportation proceeding, has seen a threefold jump in the number of kids needing legal help since April, says Cheryl Little, who heads Americans for Immigrant Justice in Miami.

For those tempted to argue that the children are economic migrants or trying to get in under a law for undocumented children called DACA (for which they don’t qualify), the U.S. is not their only destination. The UN Refugee Agency in a recent report found that “combined, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize documented a 435% increase in the number of asylum applications” filed by El Salvadorans, Hondurans and Guatemalans.

Why can’t parents just leave the U.S. to get their children? Most of the parents are undocumented or in a protected or deferred status that does not allow them to travel abroad. For them, leaving the U.S. could mean being barred from returning for a decade or more, and losing the only financial life line their children have. (Remittances from the U.S. last year accounted for 16.5 % of GDP for El Salvador, 15.7% for Honduras and 10% for Guatemala, more than foreign aid, according to the World Bank.)

The UN says a refugee is someone forced to flee her country because of persecution, war, or violence, someone with a well-founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The United States is a party to international treaties regulating the treatment of refugees and, in particular, children.

In April, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush famously called the act of illegally crossing the U.S. border to join family an “act of love.” Courageous, desperate children fleeing gangs, narco-traffic, bloody violence and abuse, and seeking a chance to reunite with their parents, is an act of love that deserves more than Jeh Johnson’s summary deportation.

Jordana A. Hart is co-chair of the media advocacy committee of the S. FL. chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

 

 

President Obama can fix immigration, without Congress

http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/15/4176833/president-obama-can-fix-immigration.html

BY TAMMY FOX-ISICOFF

tfox@rifkinfox.com

Our current immigration laws make little sense. Coupled with a broken Congress and virulent partisanship, we must accept that comprehensive immigration won’t be happening in the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, President Obama can do much within his executive powers to lawfully sidestep Congress and fix, or alleviate, many of the immigration problems plaguing families and employers.

Just in the past few weeks, President Obama has wielded his administrative power in a clear message to Congress that he will no longer succumb to delays, roadblocks and a culture of No.

President Obama’s executive latitude in fixing immigration policy is broad. He can lawfully exercise this power, without Congressional action, to ameliorate harsh immigration policies that are not responsive to family and business needs. What are some practical changes the president can make without Congressional action?

• He can extend the practical training granted to foreign graduates of U.S. universities, allowing U.S. employers to benefit from their talents. The administration has already done this for graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields where their employers enroll in the e-verify program.

Why not offer this option to all U.S. foreign graduates? Doing so would free up the professional H-1B work visa, which Congress has capped so that the total number of visas available to foreign professionals is exhausted on the first day that the visa becomes available.

• The administration can grant work permission to spouses of H-1B professionals and O-1 extraordinary workers, further alleviating pressure on the H-1B quota. Executive authority has already been used to grant spouses of other nonimmigrant visa categories the right to work.

• Obama can mandate the use of favorable prosecutorial discretion in certain deportation cases and cease deportations of spouses and children of U.S. citizens with no criminal records.

• He can find, as did the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, that those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are eligible to apply for permanent residence if they are the beneficiaries of approved visa petitions. Certain citizens of Haiti, Syria, El Salvador and Honduras, among others, have TPS because of war or natural disasters back home.

• He can instruct immigration officials to apply more discretion to favorably adjudicate waivers for undocumented immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. These individuals would be eligible to legally process their residence papers, if granted a waiver. Under a previous administration, immigration agencies exercised discretion favorably to stop deportation of certain Central American refugees under a law called NACARA.

• He can grant the undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens “parole in place” (already available for undocumented immediate relatives of U.S. military and Cuban arrivals), thereby permitting them to apply for lawful permanent residence.

• Although he cannot increase the number of family and employment-based immigrant visas without Congress, he can alter the way family units are counted against the worldwide visa quota, counting only one number per family unit against the quota, instead of counting each member of the family against the quota.

This would open up the number of available visas and reduce the cruel wait times that separate families and deprive employers of skilled workers.

Executive decisions that fix immigration will bring howls of fury from some in Congress. They will accuse the president of going rogue.

They will also remind us that a new president can rescind these changes.

This is where courage comes in. President Obama has been an immigration-reform advocate, but he has been, at best, meek in using his great power to effect change. Obama has a contentious path ahead, but he has given Congress time to act, and it has failed to do so.

Will he have the courage and fortitude to take the lead?

Let’s hope so.

Tammy Fox-Isicoff us a past president of the S. Fla. American Immigration Lawyers Association.

 

Tammy Fox-Isicoff: EB-5 immigrant program a boon to nation’s gross domestic product

http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2014/jun/13/tammy-fox-isicoff-eb-5-immigrant-program-a-boon/#comments

Lake Point project just one local example of where it’s being used
Tammy Fox-Isicoff, Miami, is past president of the South Florida American Immigration Lawyers
Association.

Posted June 13, 2014 at 4 a.m.

Foreign investors are looking to pump millions of dollars into Florida for what has become known as the
Lake Point project near Lake Okeechobee. This aggregate rock mine and restoration effort would further
state compliance with EPA water restoration mandates, provide desperately-needed water
decontamination areas and create public green space. Additionally, it would generate numerous in-state
jobs and culminate with the property owners gifting in phases the land, including the storm water and
wetlands areas, valued at more than $100 million, to the state of Florida.

Yet projects like Lake Point are making great strides in large part due to the little-known EB-5 Immigrant
Investor Program. This job creating initiative allows foreign nationals to obtain lawful permanent
residence in the U.S. upon investing $500,000 in a project in a targeted employment area, so long as
that investment, at least indirectly, results in the creation of 10 or more jobs.

Every day, successful entrepreneurs are looking to invest in the land of opportunity that is the United
States, with companies ranging from restaurants to retail to manufacturing to professional services and
afar beyond. EB-5 fosters this potential by figuratively investing in the investors who want to contribute
their funds to our country and create American jobs.

Since Congress enacted and later refined the EB-5 Pilot Program, it has created more than 100,000
American jobs in Florida and other states strongly affected by the recent recession and struggling with
high unemployment rates. Roughly 33,000 of those employment opportunities came in 2012 alone.
Spending associated with EB-5 investors contributed $2.65 billion to the U.S. GDP and supported more
28,000 U.S. jobs in 2010-2011, contributing $347 million to federal tax revenues and $218 million to
state and local tax revenues.

EB-5’s investment in America was crucial during 2010-2011, as it provided the requisite capital for the
development of projects, during a time when financing from banks was at best difficult to obtain, and at
worst completely unavailable. Today, more projects than ever are financed by EB-5 capital.

During 2010-2011, EB-5 investments also accounted for a substantial portion of the capital used in
commercial developments. It accounted for more than $10 million in the state of Florida, as well as more than $310 million in California, New York and Pennsylvania, almost $300 million in South Dakota,
more than $80 million in Washington, almost $50 million in Vermont and Wisconsin, and more than $10
million in D.C., Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland and Ohio. It also provided substantial capital to a
myriad of other states including Iowa, Alabama, Idaho, Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey, South Carolina,
Texas and Virginia.

As staggering as they are, these numbers only represent dollar amounts from when the EB-5 program
was being partially utilized. Merely one-third of the 10,000 annual visa limit had been subscribed in
fiscal year 2011, and a little under one- fifth of this number in 2010.

By fiscal year 2014, the 10,000 EB-5 quota may be fully subscribed, and bring with it monumental
benefits for this country. If the entire 10,000 allotted visas are subscribed, EB-5 spending would be
responsible for more than 83,000 U.S. jobs and contribute $6.6 billion to U.S. GDP.

Federal tax revenues would increase to $863 million and state and local tax revenues would swell to
$544 million. These figures do not even include the significant favorable economic impact that results
from wealthy individuals settling and paying taxes in the United States.

However, what is most surprising about EB-5 is that many of our legislators, even those in states such as
Florida which have extensively reaped the rewards of EB-5 investment, know nothing about this
phenomenal program! It has brought incredible benefits to this country at a time when our economy
desperately needed and continues to need this windfall.

In a state like Florida, where nearly 30 percent of business owners are immigrants, the immense value of
EB-5 is self-evident. And as more and more U.S. entrepreneurs, lawmakers and successful foreign
investors take advantage of this wonderful program, it will undoubtedly cultivate the U.S. economy and
display amazing new waves of the innovation and entrepreneurship which American was built upon.

 

AILA South Florida NBC 6 Appearance for Celebrate America Contest

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqJxOdae-o0

 

Carrollton students win contest for writing poems about immigration

http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/12/4112854/carrollton-students-win-contest.html

BY ALFONSO CHARDY
ACHARDY@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

As the White House and immigration advocates push Congress to approve stalled immigration reform, the issue has sparked widespread debate, prompting many to talk or write about it.

This became evident Wednesday when school officials and members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association announced that three South Florida fifth-graders, all members of immigrant families, won honors in national and regional writing contests about immigration.

Charlotte Leigh, Valeria Rizo-Patron and Carolina Alicia Swain – all 11-year-old students at the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami – were winners of the writing contest.

Charlotte was selected national winner of the 17th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest. As national winner, Charlotte will represent South Florida in Boston when the American Immigration Council holds its annual benefit dinner June 20. Charlotte also will receive an engraved plaque and have the U.S. flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in her honor. Her winning piece will be printed in the Congressional Record, according to a statement from AIC and the AILA South Florida chapter.

Charlotte was entered into the National Creative Writing Competition after winning the regional contest.

Valeria was the second-place winner in the regional competition and Carolina was the third-place winner. Carolina, Charlotte and Valeria were honored at a school assembly last week. Also on hand was Miami immigration judge Lourdes Rodríguez — a Carrollton alumnus.

Each of the fifth-graders wrote a poem, inspired by research into immigration — including Ellis Island, the nation’s chief immigrant port of entry from 1892 to 1954.

Charlotte, the only actual immigrant among the three students, titled her poem The Land of Opportunity.

Here’s a passage from The Land of Opportunity by British-born Charlotte: “Ten years past for our family, it’s a different story, they are settled in America and living in glory, their minds have cleared of their nightmare past, they are living their dreams at long last.”

Valeria, whose parents came from Peru, wrote a poem titled Becoming an American Citizen. A passage: “You are in America! You eat YOUR food, you dance YOUR dance, you live YOUR life, you sing YOUR song.”

Carolina, whose grandparents came from Cuba, wrote an untitled poem that says in part: “In America we have many cultures, like Japanese or Cuban, everyone’s special, bringing gifts to the table.”

The contest was sponsored by the American Immigration Council, a Washington-based advocacy group that promotes immigration by highlighting the nation’s immigrant history.

 

Estudiantes de Miami galardonadas por escribir poemas sobre inmigración

http://www.elnuevoherald.com/2014/05/09/1744162/jovenes-estudiantes-de-miami-galardonadas.html

ALFONSO CHARDY
ACHARDY@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

A medida que la Casa Blanca y los defensores de los inmigrantes presionan al Congreso a aprobar la reforma migratoria, el tema ha suscitado un amplio debate nacional que ha inspirado a muchos a hablar o escribir sobre él.

Esto se puso en evidencia el miércoles, cuando funcionarios de una escuela en Miami y miembros de la Asociación Americana de Abogados de Inmigración (AILA) anunciaron que tres estudiantes de quinto grado del Sur de la Florida, todas de familias inmigrantes, ganaron los máximos honores en concursos nacionales y regionales de escritura sobre inmigración.

Charlotte Leigh, Valeria Rizo-Patrón y Carolina Alicia Swain —todas de 11 años de edad y estudiantes de la Escuela Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart en Miami— fueron ganadoras del concurso de escritura.

Charlotte fue seleccionada como ganadora nacional del Decimo Séptimo Concurso Anual de Escritura Creativa “Celebrando América” para Estudiantes de Quinto Grado. Como ganadora nacional, Charlotte representará al Sur de Florida cuando la organización American Immigration Council (AIC) celebre su cena anual benéfica el 20 de junio en Boston. Charlotte también recibirá una placa, y la bandera de Estados Unidos ondeará en su honor a lo alto del Capitolio en Washington. Además, su poema se publicará en el registro del Congreso conocido como Congressional Record, de acuerdo con un comunicado de AIC y el capítulo AILA del Sur de la Florida.

Charlotte pasó a competir en el concurso nacional después de ganar el concurso regional.

Valeria y Carolina ganaron, respectivamente, el segundo y tercer lugar en la competencia regional. Estas, junto con Charlotte, fueron huéspedes de honor en un evento escolar el miércoles por la mañana. También estuvo presente a título personal la jueza de inmigración de Miami Lourdes Rodríguez, una ex alumna de Carrollton.

Cada una de las alumnas de quinto grado escribió un poema, inspirada en la inmigración.

Charlotte, la única inmigrante directa entre las tres ganadoras, tituló su poema La Tierra de la Oportunidad. Es una obra rebosante de orgullo nacional y admiración por aquellos que huyen del miedo y la desesperación y que en este país encuentran libertad y prosperidad.

He aquí un pasaje del poema que escribió Charlotte, que nació en Inglaterra: “Diez años después para nuestra familia, la historia es diferente. Se han asentado en América y viven en la gloria, sus mentes limpias de su pasado de pesadilla, porque están viviendo su sueños al fin”.

Valeria, hija de padres peruanos, escribió un poema titulado Convertirse en Ciudadano. Un pasaje del poema dice: “¡Usted está en América! Come SU comida, baila SU baile, vive SU vida, canta SU canto”.

Carolina, cuyos abuelos vinieron de Cuba, escribió un poema sin título que en parte, dice: “En America, tenemos muchas culturas, como la japonesa o la cubana, donde todo mundo es especial, y donde cada uno trae regalos a la mesa”.

El concurso fue patrocinado por la organización American Immigration Council, un grupo que defiende los derechos de los inmigrantes con sede en Washington y que promueve la inmigración, poniendo de relieve la historia de los inmigrantes.

 

Grove student wins national writing competition

http://coconutgrovegrapevine.blogspot.com/2014/05/grove-student-wins-national-writing.html#links

South Florida student Charlotte Leigh has been selected as the national winner of the 17th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest. She took top honors for a poem expressing why she is glad America is a nation of immigrants. The contest is sponsored by the American Immigration Council (AIC) and locally by AILA South Florida to help spread a positive message about the benefits of immigration to America.

As the nationwide winner, 11-year-old Leigh will represent South Florida during an all-expenses paid trip for three to Boston to read her winning entry at the American Immigration Council’s Benefit Dinner. Leigh will also receive an engraved plaque, have a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in her honor, and her winning piece entitled “The Land of Opportunity” will be printed in the Congressional Record.

A fifth grade student at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Coconut Grove, Leigh was entered into the National Creative Writing Competition after winning the regional contest, which drew dozens of entries from schools throughout South Florida.

Second place in the regional competition went to Valeria Rizo-Patron and third place to Carolina Alicia Swain, also both from Carrollton School. The three local winners were honored at a school assembly on May 7, and AILA South Florida will hold a ceremony for them at its upcoming membership luncheon on May 21. Each winner receives a cash prize, and a $100 gift certificate is also being awarded to the top winner’s teacher.

“We are incredibly proud that Charlotte will be representing South Florida as the national Celebrate America winner,” said AILA South Florida President Antonio Revilla III. “We received so many terrific and insightful entries from local children discussing the importance of immigration in America. Charlotte and her fellow students displayed optimism, creativity, and a depth of maturity far beyond their years about the true principles and values of our country.”

South Florida schools and teachers should be sure to include this contest as they plan their curriculums for the upcoming school year. In addition to hosting this annual contest, AILA South Florida is always happy to have members visit local classrooms to discuss the topic of immigration.

The top winners in all of South Florida are as follows:
1st Place – “The Land of Opportunity” – by Charlotte Leigh
2nd Place – “Becoming an American Citizen” by Valeria Rizo-Patron
3rd Place – “Untitled” Carolina Alicia Swain

 

Se ganaron el reconocimiento por sus poemas de inmigración

http://noticias.univision.com/article/1947852/2014-05-09/inmigracion/noticias/se-ganaron-el-reconocimiento-por-sus-poemas-de-inmigracion

“Diez años después para nuestra familia, la historia es diferente. Se han asentado en América y viven en la gloria, sus mentes limpias de su pasado de pesadilla, porque están viviendo su sueños al fin”, así inicia el poema que la pequeña Charlotte, de 11 años, escribió sobre su situación migratoria.

Pero no fue la única que se atrevió a hacerlo. Valeria, hija de padres peruanos, escribió: “¡Usted está en América! Come SU comida, baila SU baile, vive SU vida, canta SU canto”

Mientras que Carolina recordó la historia de sus abuelos cubanos: “En América, tenemos muchas culturas, como la japonesa o la cubana, donde todo mundo es especial, y donde cada uno trae regalos a la mesa”.

Estas historias forman parte de la poesía migratoria. Los deseos por alcanzar el sueño americano se vieron expresados en estas tres estudiantes de quinto grado del sur de Florida, quienes se ganaron los máximos honores en concursos nacionales y regionales de escritura sobre inmigración.

Las tres estudiantes provienen de familias migrantes. Charlotte Leigh, Valeria Rizo-Patrón y Carolina Alicia Swain son los tres pequeños, de 11 años, que ganaron el concurso. Todos pertenecen a la Escuela Carrollton School of the Scred Heart en Miami.

Estos reconocimientos se dan enmedio de un entorno en el que la Casa Blanca y los defensores de los inmigrantes presionan al Congreso a aprobar la reforma migratoria.

Sus galardones

Los premios quedaron de la siguiente manera: Charlotte fue seleccionada como ganadora nacional del Decimo Séptimo Concurso Anual de Escritura Creativa “Celebrando América” para Estudiantes de Quinto Grado.

Como ganadora nacional, Charlotte representará al sur de Florida cuando la organización American Immigration Council (AIC) celebre su cena anual benéfica el próximo 20 de junio en Boston.

Charlotte también recibirá una placa, y la bandera de Estados Unidos ondeará en su honor a lo alto del Capitolio en Washington. Además, su poema se publicará en el registro del Congreso conocido como Congressional Record, de acuerdo con un comunicado de AIC y el capítulo AILA del Sur de la Florida, reveló el diario El Nuevo Herald.

Valeria y Carolina ganaron el segundo y tercer lugar en la competencia regional. Ambas, junto con Charlotte, fueron huéspedes de honor en un evento escolar el miércoles por la mañana. También estuvo presente a título personal la jueza de inmigración de Miami Lourdes Rodríguez, una exalumna de Carrollton.

Sin embargo la única migrante directa de las tres es Charlotte. Su poema, bajo el título, La Tierra de la Oportunidad. En su escrito rebosa su orgullo nacional y admiración por aquellos que huyen del miedo y la desesperación. Además sobresale que buscan que su país se encuentre en libertad y vaya hacia la prosperidad.

El concurso fue patrocinado por la organización American Immigration Council, un grupo que defiende los derechos de los inmigrantes con sede en Washington y que promueve la inmigración, poniendo de relieve la historia de los inmigrantes.

El concurso fue patrocinado por la organización American Immigration Council, un grupo que defiende los derechos de los inmigrantes con sede en Washington y que promueve la inmigración, poniendo de relieve la historia de los inmigrantes.

 

NO SOLO VENEZOLANOS RICOS BUSCAN REFUGIO EN MIAMI

https://news.yahoo.com/no-solo-venezolanos-ricos-buscan-refugio-en-miami-164741837.html

POR GISELA SALOMON
ASSOCIATED PRESS

MIAMI (AP) — Cuesta creer que Frank Perozo, un administrador de empresas que habla seis idiomas y llevaba una vida desahogada trabajando para firmas multinacionales en Venezuela, esté viviendo en una precaria casa móvil en las afueras de Miami que paga con la ayuda de amigos.

Perozo dijo que se vino a Estados Unidos con lo puesto hace cinco meses tras recibir amenazas de muerte por haber denunciado irregularidades como miembro de mesa en elecciones del 2013. Indicó que se permitía que discapacitados entrasen a sufragar acompañados por más de una persona y que a los miembros de mesa del oficialismo les permitían tener teléfonos móviles y a los de la oposición no. Antes de partir se mudó de casa, vendió su automóvil, dejó su empleo y cambió el número de su teléfono celular para evitar ser encontrado, pero aún así las amenazas siguieron.

“No es fácil vivir sabiendo que te están siguiendo. Me sentía como un ladrón, un preso, no podía hablar con nadie, no podía salir… Tenía miedo de que me mataran”, manifestó el hombre de 44 años, que ha adelgazado unos 11 kilos desde que llegó en octubre.

Perozo es parte de una nueva camada de inmigrantes venezolanos de clase media y sin demasiados recursos que vienen a Estados Unidos para escaparle a la inseguridad reinante en Venezuela, a menudo denunciando persecución política y sin el respaldo económico que tenían los connacionales que comenzaron a arribar tras la llegada de Hugo Chávez al poder en 1999.

Son mayormente profesionales y pequeños empresarios a los que se les hace cuesta arriba comenzar una vida nueva desde cero y que con frecuencia pasan grandes penurias en Estados Unidos. En algunos casos dejan todo en su país y viven aquí con la ayuda de amigos, familiares, iglesias u organizaciones comunitarias. Sin visas de trabajo o residencia, esperan obtener un asilo político que les permita trabajar para poder subsistir.

“Antes solo salían los ricos y la clase media tradicional. Ahora está saliendo la nueva burguesía y la clase media porque es mucho más difícil vivir allí”, manifestó a la AP Christopher Sabatini, director de políticas públicas del Consejo de las Américas y profesor de asuntos latinoamericanos en la Universidad de Columbia. “La mayor preocupación es la seguridad. La gente no sale a la calle, afecta su forma de vivir”.

Los que emigran le huyen a una escasez crónica de alimentos básicos, una inflación del 56%, pocas perspectivas laborales y, sobre todo, la inseguridad. La convulsión política que vive Venezuela se ha intensificado en las últimas semanas, en que enfrentamientos entre manifestantes y la policía dejaron al menos 25 personas muertas y cientos de heridos.

Venezuela es uno de los países más violentos de la región, con una tasa de homicidios de 39 por cada 100.000 habitantes, según el Ministerio de Relaciones Interiores de esa nación. Cálculos del organismo activista Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia, sin embargo, indican que el 2012 terminó con un índice de 79 homicidios por cada 100.000 personas.

También abundan los secuestros extorsivos. No existen estadísticas sobre la cantidad de secuestros, pero algunas organizaciones no gubernamentales sostienen que se trata de un índice elevado. El gobierno, en cambio, alega que se han reducido y los analistas atribuyen el descenso a que las víctimas han dejado de denunciar sus casos.

El secuestro de una hija de 16 años fue precisamente lo que impulsó a Enrique Landaneta a dejar su restaurante en manos de un empleado y venirse a Estados Unidos con su familia en febrero del 2013, según dijo. Como los 10.000 dólares de ahorros que traía ya se le han acabado, un amigo le facilita un apartamento a unos 30 kilómetros al noroeste de Miami.

Landaneta asegura que tras recibir amenazas de muerte por permitir que en su negocio se reunieran dirigentes de la oposición, fue interceptado por cinco individuos encapuchados cuando bajaba de su automóvil una noche al llegar a su casa, donde estaban sus dos niñas y su esposa. Después de amordazarlos e insultarlos, los hombres se llevaron a la mayor de sus hijas en la camioneta del empresario y los teléfonos que había en la casa. Horas más tarde, abandonaron a la chica y al vehículo en un descampado sin haber pedido dinero para el rescate, relató Landaneta tras asegurar que fue una intimidación ya que los secuestradores “no buscaban pertenencias ni nada”.

“Aquí la vida no es fácil, pero la seguridad no tiene precio”, expresó Landaneta en una reciente entrevista con The Associated Press. “Es bastante difícil, pero no estamos arrepentidos. La tranquilidad no tiene precio”, insistió el hombre de 36 años, que junto a su familia solía venir de vacaciones a Estados Unidos y también fue a Aruba, Brasil y Panamá. Ahora no puede solventar una salida a un restaurante.

La embajada de Venezuela en Washington no respondió los mensajes de correo electrónicos enviados por la AP para tratar de hablar sobre la emigración de los venezolanos.

El empresario Carlos Salamanca, su mujer y dos hijas se vinieron a Estados Unidos en enero. Al igual que Perozo, no tenían propiedades, familiares ni amigos en este país. Sólo 7.000 dólares y la esperanza de permanecer lejos de la inseguridad callejera. A dos meses de su arribo, el matrimonio duerme en un viejo automóvil Nissan que compraron por 1.000 dólares y se alimenta con la ayuda de compatriotas.

Salamanca, de 54 años, tenía una empresa de venta de tanques de gas de oxígeno, que dejó en manos de su hermano.

“Me desespera ver a mis hijos durmiendo en el asiento trasero del auto, incómodos, con todo este calor”, declaró Mercedes Olivares, la esposa de Salamanca, de 42 años.

Personas como Perozo, Salamanca y Landaneta le están cambiando el rostro a la colonia venezolana de Estados Unidos.

A comienzos de los 2000 la comunidad venezolana del sur de la Florida, la más numerosa de Estados Unidos, estaba integrada mayoritariamente por familias que llegaban a invertir e instalar sus negocios y que por esa vía conseguían visas para permanecer legalmente en este país. Algunos se instaron en casas de vacaciones que ya tenían, mientras que otros compraron con sus ahorros residencias lujosas en elegantes vecindarios.

Pero en los últimos tiempos el perfil del venezolano que vive en Estados Unidos ha cambiado: los inversionistas e inmigrantes con poder adquisitivo se ha entremezclado con personas que arriban principalmente como turistas escapando de la inseguridad en su país y deciden no regresar.

En 2013 Estados Unidos concedió poco más de 221.000 visas de no inmigrantes a venezolanos, unas 55.000 más que en 2010, de acuerdo con el Departamento de Estado. Las solicitudes recibidas en la embajada de Caracas, sin embargo, fueron más: un promedio de 245.000 en 2011, 2012 y 2013, según información del consulado de Estados Unidos en Caracas.

Aunque no existen estadísticas sobre la cantidad de venezolanos que llegan para quedarse, “podríamos estar hablando de miles en el último año”, dijo José Antonio Colina, presidente de la organización Venezolanos Perseguidos Políticos en el Exilio, tras detallar que sólo su grupo ha atendido a una 40 familias de un promedio de cuatro miembros al mes, que representarían a unas 2.000 personas al año.

“Se vienen sin casa, sin plata, sin un lugar a donde quedarse … Por lo general tienen algún familiar o amigo que le permite estar una semana con ellos, pero no un mes; y en algunos casos no conocen a nadie”, explicó.

En Estados Unidos la cantidad de venezolanos se incrementó de 91.500 en el 2.000 a 215.000 en el 2010, de acuerdo con información del censo. La mayoría de ellos, el 57%, vive en la Florida.

En el sur del estado hay ciudades vecinas de Miami, como Doral o Weston – hacia el noroeste- conocidas como “Pequeña Venezuela” por la numerosa comunidad venezolana que reside allí.

Muchos venezolanos que llegan sin nada se aferran a la posibilidad de conseguir asilos políticos.

Salamanca, quien asegura fue amenazado por haberse inscripto en un partido opositor tras haber simpatizado con Chávez, y Landaneta, quien también dice que recibió amedrentamientos tras alejarse del oficialismo y permitir que activistas de la oposición se reunieran en su negocio, afirman que sus vidas corrían peligro, y esperan obtener asilo en Estados Unidos.

Los abogados de inmigración advierten que se trata de un trámite difícil y que no basta con haber sido amedrentado.

La cantidad de asilos otorgados a venezolanos, no obstante, casi se duplicó de 585 en el 2009 a 1.099 en 2012, de acuerdo con la oficina de estadísticas de inmigración del Departamento de Seguridad Interna.

“Deben probar que efectivamente van a ser perseguidos en su país”, expresó en entrevista telefónica con AP Antonio Revilla, presidente del capítulo del sur de la Florida de la Asociación Estadounidense de Abogados de Inmigración. “No hay ningún beneficio automático aquí para los venezolanos. Tienen que probar su caso como cualquier otra persona”.

Para obtener asilo político, una persona tiene que probar que ha sido perseguida o va a serlo debido a su opinión política, raza, religión o pertenencia a algún grupo.

“Me siento como un don nadie”, dice Perozo, quien vivió en un cuarto de hotel durante dos meses, luego rentó una habitación en una casa de familia, y ahora, con la ayuda de amigos vive en un precario cuarto en una casa rodante con una cama, una heladera pequeña y dos hornallas eléctricas para cocinar. “Nadie me conoce, no tengo validez de mis títulos (universitarios)… Pero a mi país no puedo volver. Si vuelvo me van a matar, tengo que seguir. Ya no hay vuelta atrás”.

 

Crisis venezolana no garantiza el asilo

America Latina | Added on March 8, 2014

Expertos en inmigración advierten que la crisis actual de Venezuela no es argumento suficiente para solicitar asilo.

http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/spanish/2014/03/09/hauser-venezuelans-asylum.cnn.html

 

Venezuelans here must beware of false information

http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/09/3984588/venezuelans-here-must-beware-of.html

BY JORDANA A. HART
JHART@IMMIGRATEUSA.COM

As Venezuela spirals into chaos, fearful Venezuelans are seeking help to come to the United States or, if they are already here, looking for ways to avoid returning home. Nowhere in the Venezuelan diaspora is this panic being felt more than in South Florida, home to the highest percentage of Venezuelans in the United States.

Many local immigration attorneys are getting frantic calls and emails from Venezuelans asking whether it is true their family and friends can fly to Miami International Airport and be admitted with no visa, or whether they should apply for political asylum right away at the airport. Others have asked whether Venezuelans in this country illegally can now seek political asylum or otherwise avoid deportation.

Certain attorneys and notarios have taken advantage of the turmoil to egregiously misinform Venezuelans. For example, on Feb. 27 on America Noticias, a Spanish-language news show, a local attorney stated categorically that Venezuelans unlawfully present in the United States can now apply for political asylum because the government has softened the requirements for asylum in order to accommodate Venezuelan applicants in a time of crisis.

This is patently false.

The impact of such misinformation from supposed legal authorities is strongest in our state. Some 40 percent of the estimated 250,000 Venezuelans in the United States reside here, the majority of them in the Miami area.

The potential damage to those who believe the advice of the television attorneys is immense. For example, Venezuelans, including their children, seeking asylum could be detained at the airport and sent to a detention center for weeks or months while their claim is investigated, and they could ultimately be deported.

If an immigration judge finds they committed fraud and orders them deported, they could be barred permanently from returning to this country.

“Not all Venezuelans qualify for asylum and the loss of a claim can result in removal from the U.S. and the loss of the ability to return to the U.S. in the future,” the South Florida chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association stated in a March 4 release in response to the misinformation. “The U.S. has an extremely strict approval process for granting asylum.  . .  . General unrest, bad conditions, poor leadership and opposition to the current government in Venezuela do NOT warrant a grant of asylum.”

To date, the U.S. government has not granted any special relief to Venezuelans. Here is rundown of the latest immigration-related problems and efforts:

• Democratic Florida Congressman Joe Garcia has asked President Obama to halt deportations to Venezuela and to more rapidly process pending asylum cases. He has asked the president to direct U.S. agencies to give special attention to cases filed by Venezuelans. There is no action yet.

• Garcia has asked the president to consider granting Venezuelans a special immigration designation known as Deferred Enforcement Departure that would allow them to live and work here legally for now.

Some have called for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, granted to nationals from countries overwhelmed by conflict or natural disaster — including Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan and Syria. But Garcia said TPS for Venezuelans would be “premature” because it would imply the fight against the Venezuelan government is over. There is no decision yet on deferred action.

• Many Venezuelans are in the United States on the L-1 “intracompany transfer” work visa, which requires proof of an ongoing affiliation between the U.S. employer and the visa holder’s employer or company in Venezuela. Some of these visa holders are seeing government takeovers of the Venezuelan business, or government directives forcing huge price reductions that are leading to punishing business losses.

If this has not happened yet, the risk hangs over them. These L-1 visa holders may lose their lawful work status here due to the demise of the company abroad. This scenario applies equally to employment-based green-card petitions that require the same corporate affiliation, so Venezuelans with this type of pending permanent residence case are also in jeopardy.

It is important for Venezuelans in crisis to separate gossip from fact and avoid rash steps that could damage their immigration status and prospects. It is also vital to seek legal advice from reputable immigration attorneys or nonprofit organizations, such as Catholic Charities Legal Services of Greater Miami or Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ).

Jordana A. Hart is an immigration attorney with David J. Hart, P.A., in Miami.

 

Alertan en Miami sobre las solicitudes de asilo de los venezolanos

http://www.elnuevoherald.com/2014/03/06/1695431/1alertan-sobre-las-solicitudes.html

MARIA PEREZ
MPEREZ@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

Muchos venezolanos del sur de la Florida están llamando a despachos de abogados de inmigración con la impresión falsa de que la situación en Venezuela los hace automáticamente elegibles para pedir asilo en Estados Unidos, han alertado diferentes abogados de inmigración.

Pero la situación en Venezuela, donde la represión de las protestas contra el gobierno de Maduro ha dejado ya al menos 18 muertos, no ha cambiado el hecho de que los venezolanos que pidan asilo en Estados Unidos deben probar con detalles y hechos específicos que han sufrido o sufrirán persecución por parte del gobierno por su raza, religión, opinión política, nacionalidad, membresía en un grupo o nacionalidad, afirmó Antonio Revilla, abogado de inmigración y presidente de la Asociación Americana de Abogados de Inmigración del Sur de la Florida (AILA).

“Hay muchos venezolanos que se están comunicando con nosotros averiguando si hay un beneficio especial o un beneficio automático para los venezolanos”, dijo Revilla, quien señaló que en algunos medios y en internet está circulando información incompleta sobre este tema.

“La realidad es que ahora mismo no lo hay. No hay ese beneficio. Todavía la persona venezolana tiene que probar su caso”, dijo Revilla, quien notó que las llamadas de venezolanos aumentaron desde hace diez días y que ahora recibe entre 10 y 20 a la semana. Entre las llamadas que recibió, afirmó que sólo califican para solicitar asilo el 20 por ciento.

El congresista Joe García solicitó la semana pasada al presidente Barack Obama que conceda más solicitudes de asilo a ciudadanos venezolanos y detenga las deportaciones en vista de la situación en el país.

Sin embargo, afirmó Revilla, todos son propuestas, y de momento no se ha producido ningún cambio.

El abogado señaló de que muchas de las personas que llaman son venezolanos que se han vivido indocumentados en Estados Unidos durante varios años y que ahora tienen la impresión de que pueden solucionar su situación.

Pero el abogado advirtió de que si una persona que está en situación ilegal en Estados Unidos pide asilo y pierde el caso, puede ser deportada. Si los tribunales consideran que la solicitud es frívola o fraudulenta, se le podría impedir que regrese a Estados Unidos.

“Mucha gente es muy honesta, y dice que no puede vivir en el país por la situación en la que está, que no está siendo perseguido, pero que la vida es imposible allí”, dijo Revilla, quien señaló que estas personas no califican para pedir asilo.

Andrea Martini, abogada de inmigración de padres venezolanos y miembro de AILA, afirmó que tan sólo el martes recibió 15 llamadas de venezolanos preguntando si podrían calificar para pedir asilo y que sólo uno o dos califican para ello.

“Cuando uno aclara y les explica, ya las personas entienden que muchas de ellas no califican”, dijo Martini, quien afirmó que los requisitos de estas solicitudes son muy estrictos.

La abogada afirmó que la mayoría de las llamadas que recibió fueron de venezolanos que viven en el sur de la Florida. Algunos querían regularizar su situación. Otros tenían planes para volver, pero ahora temen regresar. Otros están preocupados por la situación de sus familiares y amigos en Venezuela.

También la mayoría de los venezolanos que han consultado con la abogada de inmigración y miembro de AILA Lizette Sierra estos últimos dos días residen en el sur de la Florida.

Sin embargo, algunas llamadas se hicieron desde estados como Carolina del Norte o Texas, o desde Venezuela, afirmó Sierra, quien señaló que tanto el martes como el miércoles había recibido unas diez llamadas de este tipo.

Entre quienes llamaron, había dos venezolanos a quienes ella les había dicho que no eran elegibles para recibir asilo hace tiempo. Ahora tenían la impresión de que había habido un cambio en las normas y podían ser elegibles.

“No era elegible en ese momento y no lo es ahora”, afirmó Sierra sobre uno de los casos.

Sierra recomendó a quienes estén explorando pedir asilo que acudan a un abogado profesional.

“Los venezolanos de nuestra comunidad tienen que ser cuidados e investigar a la persona para asegurarse de que son abogados cualificados”, dijo Sierra. “Hay gente vendiéndoles ilusiones falsas”.

Writing Contest

http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/21/3951413/lawyers-and-staff-spend-valentines.html

Members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association of South Florida are calling on fifth-grade students to enter a creative writing contest to discuss their personal challenges, family histories and immigration experiences.

The winner of the local contest will be entered into the 17th annual Celebrate America Creative Writing Contest that is open to fifth-graders nationwide.

South Florida teachers and students should submit entries by the recently extended deadline of March 14. Visit www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/community/celebrate-america-creative-writing-contest for online submission information and more about the history of the contest and awards.

Palm Beach Post Highlights Celebrate America Contest

http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/local-education/park-vista-high-rummage-sale-scheduled-for-saturda/ndWjf/

The American Immigration Lawyers Association of South Florida is sponsoring the regional competition of the Celebrate America fifth-grade creative writing contest. The competition encourages students to express why they’re glad America is a nation of immigrants. The regional winner will be entered into the nationwide competition. Entries are due by March 14. Submission details can be found at www.celebrateamericawritingcontest.org.