Five Things Business Owners Should Know About DACA

The fate of DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – will be determined by Congress, but since the Trump Administration rescinded the program in September, many business owners are concerned about their employees who have been working legally under DACA. Will employers be able to keep these employees, or will they be lost? What consequences will they face? If you’re an employer or a “Dreamer,” keep reading, and you’ll learn some answers.

The end of the DACA program, at least for now, will impact more than 700,000 Dreamers – the undocumented immigrants who were minors when they were brought to the U.S. by their parents – who have been protected from deportation by the program. Beginning with the announcement of the DACA program’s cancellation on September 5th, Congress has six months to renew the program or to implement an alternative.

If no Congressional action is forthcoming, the Dreamers who have been protected by DACA may lose their ability to live, attend school, and hold a job in the United States. Thus, the concerns of employers are real and understandable according to Sara Itucas, who’s a client solution specialist with TriNet, a California-based human resources agency.

WILL U.S. EMPLOYERS BE ABLE TO KEEP THEIR DACA EMPLOYEES?

TriNet serves approximately 14,000 companies with staffing and payroll services. Many of those companies have hired employees who were protected by DACA, and several of the businesses are actually owned by Dreamers. Most employers she speaks with “want to find out how to keep them,” Ms. Itucas told CNN.

“From an employer’s standpoint,” she said, “they are qualified workers and valuable members of the team.” Ms. Itucas said that since September 5th, employers have been asking TriNet five key questions about the DACA program and the Dreamers. What is it that employers want – and need – to know?

Listed below are the five questions and the best current answers – so keep reading if you are an employer or a Dreamer – but until Congress takes action, some of the answers must be tentative rather than final. If you are an employer who hired workers under DACA – or a Dreamer who’s worked or attended school in the U.S. under DACA – consult an experienced Ohio immigration attorney for the sound and specific legal advice that applies to your own situation.

1. DO DACA EMPLOYEES NO LONGER HAVE WORK AUTHORIZATION?

If Congress takes no action, the DACA program itself is set to end on March 5, 2018, but a Dreamer’s work authorization will remain in effect until its expiration date. If the DACA program is not renewed or replaced, when a Dreamer’s work authorization expires, he or she will not be legally allowed to seek or hold employment in the U.S.

If you are a Dreamer and you are currently employed in the United States under DACA, you can find the date when your work permit will expire by checking your I-795 Approval Notice and by looking at the bottom of your Employment Authorization Document.

2. IF AN EMPLOYEE HAS NOT APPLIED FOR DACA PROTECTION OR A WORK PERMIT, IS IT TOO LATE?

It’s now too late for anyone to take advantage of the current DACA Program. The final applications were accepted by the Department of Homeland Security in September, when the tentative end of the DACA program was announced.

3. IF AN EMPLOYEE’S DACA ELIGIBILITY EXPIRES, IS RENEWAL STILL ALLOWED?

No. While the DACA program was operative, Dreamers had to requalify for DACA status every two years, but with the announcement of the program’s cancellation, the last day that DACA work permits could be renewed was October 5th.

4. CAN MY COMPANY SAFELY SEND A DACA EMPLOYEE OUTSIDE OF THE U.S.?

Sara Itucas at TriNet says the answer to this one is tricky. The right to travel internationally was allowed under the DACA program, but to assure reentry into the United States, Dreamers were required to obtain special permission to travel called “advance parole.” Advance parole is simply a permit issued – to allow reentry into the U.S. after travel abroad – to a non-citizen who does not have a valid immigrant visa.

At TriNet, “Generally, we are cautioning against travel,” Ms. Itucas tells CNN. Since September 5th, the United States is no longer approving advance parole for DACA Dreamers, and applications that were still pending on September 5th are no longer being processed. The Department of Homeland Security will refund any related fees that have already been paid.

While Dreamers with an advance parole document should still have no problem departing the United States and reentering, advance parole gives U.S. Customs and Border Protection the discretion to allow or block reentry of non-citizens who hold an advance parole document. Sara Itucas warns that if your employee has not already been granted advance parole, he or she should probably not travel abroad at this time.

5. WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO TO HELP THEIR DACA EMPLOYEES?

Employers can help their DACA employees by consulting an experienced immigration lawyer. An immigration attorney can probably identify some helpful visa options for a DACA employee and also help with the paperwork necessary to obtain an appropriate visa. An immigration lawyer can also identify particular immigration difficulties that an individual employee may need to have resolved.

Thus, those are the answers to the five questions that, according to TriNet, are being asked by so many employers about DACA. The Dreamers themselves, of course, are asking their own questions, but their most important question clearly is this: Can my employer in the United States fire me?

Generally speaking, without a union contract or some other work contract, employment in all fifty U.S. states is “at will,” meaning that an employer may terminate an employee at any time, provided that the employer is not illegally retaliating or discriminating against the employee. Even with valid work authorization, in most cases, an employer may legally fire you.

Most employers won’t do that – at least until Congress acts or fails to act on the future, if any, of the DACA program. An employer may agree to place an employee on a leave of absence until that employee can be authorized to work again, but that is the employer’s choice.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD THOSE WHO EMPLOY IMMIGRANTS KNOW?

However, employers should know that when any employee’s work authorization expires, that employee may no longer legally work for your business. Increasingly, businesses that hire immigrants are coming under scrutiny, and the current focus in Washington is on employer compliance. An experienced Ohio immigration attorney can help employers understand and remain compliant with the applicable immigration laws and regulations.

A number of proposals that will impact Dreamers are currently being considered by Congress, along with several proposals for a comprehensive overhaul of the entire immigration system. However, Congress is also dealing with other pressing issues – like hurricane relief and the potential threat from North Korea – so it may be months before Dreamers and their employers can have any final assurances regarding the future.

How To Get U.S. Residency Through Investment

For a number of years, obtaining a “green card” (that is, becoming a lawful permanent resident) through investment in the United States has required an investment of one million dollars in a U.S. business. The minimum investment amount can be reduced to $500,000 if the business is set in a rural location or in an area with high unemployment, a “Targeted Employment Area” or “TEA” where unemployment is at 150 percent or more of the national average. To acquire a TEA designation, a prospective EB-5 investor must invest in a project located in a rural area or a high unemployment area.

In September, President Trump signed into law H.R. 601, a continuing resolution which extends the EB-5 Regional Center Program through at least December. Some changes to the EB-5 Program may be expected at that time, and the $500,000 minimum investment amount may increase to $800,000.

Nevertheless, by providing green cards to qualified international investors, the EB-5 Investor Visa Program has created thousands of new jobs and scores of new businesses in every part of the U.S. Changes to the EB-5 Regional Center Program are likely, but the passage of H.R. 601 ensures that no changes will be made prior to December of this year.

At the present time, as many as 10,000 EB-5 visas are offered each year to foreign investors who invest in projects that create a minimum of ten full-time positions for workers in the U.S. Developers in the U.S. are coming to depend more often on the investment funds that the EB-5 program provides to finance projects that include luxury hotels, new stadiums, and posh vacation resorts.

The program has provided over $6.5 billion to development projects throughout the U.S. over the last decade, and it has created more than 130,000 jobs. If you are an investor looking for a good investment in the U.S., the EB-5 Investor Visa Program might be right for you.

WHO MAY APPLY FOR AN EB-5 VISA?

Every qualified investor may apply for an EB-5 visa – it doesn’t matter what nation you are from. Through the EB-5 Investor Visa Program, international investors may reside in the United States along with immediate family members. As the terms of the EB-5 program are met over a period of months, the investors and their family members become eligible for lawful permanent residence.

Obtaining an EB-5 visa and finding the right investment opportunity is time-consuming and complicated, but scores of investors have discovered that the benefits of the EB-5 Program are well worth their patience and efforts.

Investors who have any concerns or questions about the EB-5 program should consult an experienced immigration attorney here in the United States. In fact, from anywhere in the world, you can arrange by telephone or by email to speak with an experienced Columbus immigration attorney, learn more regarding the EB-5 and your other visa options, and start the complicated visa application process.

The EB-5 Investor Visa Program offers the American Dream to those who qualify. It provides business owners and developers with an additional option for obtaining the resources they need to start up new ventures and to return prosperity to struggling businesses and communities. The usual return on an EB-5 investment is about eight percent, but the truth is that many investors are more concerned with acquiring green cards and good educations for their sons and daughters.

HOW DOES A REGION BECOME A TARGETED EMPLOYMENT AREA?

Putting an EB-5 investment in a Targeted Employment Area or TEA lowers the minimum investment requirement from $1 million to $500,000. An EB-5 investment has to be located in a rural region or in an area with a high unemployment rate in order to receive the TEA designation. To qualify as a Targeted Employment Area, the location must have an unemployment rate of at least 150 percent of the U.S. national average.

To obtain a TEA designation, an EB-5 visa applicant must produce evidence that the project is located in a rural or a high unemployment area. Several types of evidence are acceptable, and a Columbus immigration lawyer can help investors compile that evidence and provide additional insights and advice. Nineteen states provide a list of the TEAs they have designated, but certifications are still issued to investors on an individual basis.

EB-5 is the sole immigration category allowing international investors entrance into the U.S. as lawful permanent residents. The EB-5 Program grew slowly after its launch in 1990, but in more recent years, the program has grown to be overwhelmingly popular. Since 2008, the visas issued through the EB-5 Program have more than quadrupled. In a single year – 2014 – EB-5 investments totaled over $2.6 billion and created over 16,000 jobs.

WHAT DO EB-5 “REGIONAL CENTERS” DO?

To attract investors, EB-5 “Regional Centers” are in rural and high-unemployment areas. Regional centers are designated by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), but they are operated privately and promote local economies through rising sales, higher regional productivity, the creation of jobs, and increased investment. Investors in regional centers do not have to prove that they themselves created the new jobs; they only have to prove that the regional center itself created ten or more new jobs, directly or indirectly, for U.S. workers.

With a December deadline approaching, investors may choose to take action immediately. The EB-5 Regional Center Program will probably be changed. The minimum investment figure – $500,000 – will probably rise, the definition of a “TEA” will likely be amended, and additional requirements for prospective investors will perhaps be required. This, investors may want to reach out to an immigration lawyer now and begin the EB-5 visa application process before Congress takes action in December.

As you read this, large development projects across the U.S. are relying on EB-5 funds. Most reform proposals would raise the minimum investment amount while reducing opportunities fraud and for misappropriation of EB-5 monies. Investors who want to take advantage of the EB-5 program should work from the start with a U.S. immigration attorney who regularly helps and represents international investors.

The EB-5 visa is a superlative path to permanent residence – and eventual citizenship – in the U.S. Investors can learn more or begin the application process by consulting an experienced Columbus immigration attorney. The time to do that is now.

In Some U.S. States, Crime Drops as Immigration Increases

Some of the ideas that some people have about immigration are based on confusion and fear rather than facts. For example, more immigrants inevitably means more crime, right? Think again. That kind of prejudice is being entirely debunked in 2017.

A research study released in June shows that California’s substantial decline in drug overdoses, gun violence, and juvenile crime actually parallels the increase in the state’s immigrant population. What we are learning is that more immigrants actually means less crime. How can that be?

According to a San Francisco-based non-profit, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, the rate of violent crimes committed by young people in California dropped substantially in the years from 1980 through 2015, by 72 percent. In the same 35-year period, homicide arrests of urban youths in the state of California have declined by a remarkable 92 percent.

In those same 35 years, millions of immigrants arrived in the nation’s largest state – California – and a population that was two-thirds white non-Hispanic in 1980 has transitioned into a population that was about 60 percent nonwhite by 2015.

EXACTLY HOW HAS IMMIGRATION POPULATION CHANGED?

Since 1995, 3.4 million immigrants have arrived in California from a number of foreign nations. Also since 1995, two million U.S.-born residents, predominantly white, have emigrated out of the state. An estimated 2.6 million undocumented immigrants, mostly from Mexico and nations in Central America, now live in California, which became an all-minority state with no demographic majority in 1998.

The rest of the nation is projected to have no demographic majority by the 2040s. The author of the report, Mike Males, Ph.D., said his findings suggest that as diversity increases, it may be having a benign impact on crime statistics and public safety.

Males is a senior research fellow at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. He writes, “California has demonstrated substantial gains in health and safety as its demographic composition has become more diverse and immigration has increased. The state’s experience shows that racial transition can accompany greater public safety and well-being, a reality that should impact the national discussion over immigration.”

From the 1950s through the 1970s, California was a state with extraordinarily high rates of drug overdoses and violent crime. As the population becomes diversified, states like California have seen a number of genuine improvements in public health and safety.

The state’s immigration experience shows that greater public safety and well-being is one of the lesser-known effects of rising immigration. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice report comes at a moment when the nation is engaged in a contentious political controversy over so-called “sanctuary” cities.

PRECISELY WHAT ARE SANCTUARY CITIES AND HOW CAN THEY HELP IMMIGRANTS?

Sanctuary cities are those cities where police officers do not ask persons about their immigration status and do not hold undocumented immigrants in custody for immigration authorities beyond their scheduled release dates.

The Trump Administration and Attorney General Sessions have announced that they will seek ways to withhold vital federal funding – as much as $4.1 billion in federal resources – from those cities and counties that have proclaimed themselves sanctuaries. Some of the cities have even created legal defense funds to assist those immigrants targeted by the raids now being conducted by immigration officials and the Trump Administration.

A number of police officials in those cities, however, understand that a “crackdown” on sanctuary cities and undocumented immigrants will backfire and eventually result in more crime, not less. Why? Because immigrants without sanctuary protection are often afraid to report crimes committed against them to the police, out of the fear that they will be discovered as undocumented and deported back to their home countries for their lack of documentation. In sanctuary cities, however, no one is afraid to report crimes for that reason. Crimes are routinely reported and investigated, and offenders are taken off the street.

The police officers in cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco (as well as other sanctuary cities like Chicago and Detroit) adhere to sanctuary-style policies that build trust and a spirit of cooperation with immigrant communities. When people in a community trust the police, that community is safer for all.

But without the information that immigrants can offer, police investigations can stall out, and crime goes up. The truth is that most undocumented immigrants have no criminal background, and they are statistically less likely to commit crimes than U.S.-born citizens. In its conclusion, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice report says:

“That these sustained declines in crime, violence, and school dropout rates have been concentrated in the groups most impacted by immigration – Californians compared to those in other states, urban residents more than rural ones, younger age groups more than older age groups, and Asian and Latino populations more than populations with a lower proportion of recent immigrants – suggests that immigration may be contributing, in part, to reduced risk” for addiction, crime, and dropping out of school.

HOW DOES IMMIGRATION BENEFIT THE ECONOMY?

Immigrants don’t increase the crime rate in the United States. In fact, as immigrants arrive, crime drops. Immigrants are not a burden on the economy, either – that’s another prejudice that’s being debunked in 2017. Immigrants are vital to the U.S. economy and a key part of the workforce.

Many immigrants have invested in job-creating enterprises in the U.S. In 2010, undocumented immigrants paid over $8 billion in sales taxes, over $1.5 billion in property taxes, and over $1 billion in personal income taxes. Immigrants also contribute to the Social Security fund, and the law prevents undocumented immigrants from obtaining food stamps or other public benefits.

Many immigrants have worked hard and struggled for years to build hope in the United States for themselves and their families. If that hope is threatened in any way, an experienced Ohio immigration lawyer can help. An Ohio immigration lawyer can explain your legal situation and options, protect your rights, and guide you through any necessary legal procedures.

If you are an immigrant in the U.S. and you are dealing with any immigration matter, consult an experienced immigration attorney right away. If you are an immigrant in the United States, do not let a simple technicality or a misunderstanding destroy what you have worked for so long and so diligently.

Bringing A Family Member To The United States Using A Petition For Alien Relative

A top priority for U.S. immigration authorities is keeping families together. When a U.S. citizen submits an I-130 visa petition on behalf of an immediate relative, the system is supposed to let immediate relatives obtain green cards quickly. While the immigration process favors immediate relatives over almost all other immigrants, it still takes far too long to process I-130 visa petitions. An Ohio immigration attorney can help.

If you are a citizen of the United States and you have a spouse and/or children who are not U.S. citizens, and if you want to bring your spouse and/or children to the United States, you’ll need to start the process by completing an I-130 visa petition form with the help of an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. The I-130, known as the “Petition for Alien Relative,” is one of the forms most frequently handled by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

By filing a Petition for Alien Relative, a U.S. citizen or a permanent U.S. resident establishes a familial relationship with a non-citizen and indicates an intention to help that person immigrate to the United States. In most cases, approval of a Petition for Alien Relative by USCIS is required before an immigrant can apply for a green card – meaning lawful permanent residence – in the United States.

HOW LONG DOES I-130 PROCESSING TAKE?

After you have completed and filed Form I-130, how long will it take USCIS to review and process the petition? How long will it take until your spouse or child can actually receive a green card? After USCIS receives the Petition for Alien Relative, the petition is reviewed first for completeness. Filing a Form I-130 is only the first step in helping a relative immigrate to the United States.

If anything is missing, USCIS may return the entire package to the petitioner or simply send a letter asking for the missing information. Sometimes items are simply lost at the USCIS processing center, but a good immigration attorney can usually help you avoid any responsibility for this kind of delay by making certain that the paperwork with your Petition for Alien Relative is accurate and complete.

If the lost item is simply a copy of a document, you can recopy it and send it again to USCIS upon their request. However, if USCIS misplaces the check for your I-130 filing fee ($535 as of December 23, 2016), you’ll have to cancel the check and issue a new one. Unfortunately, USCIS makes these kinds of mistakes all too frequently, so you should be prepared and know what to expect.

HOW ARE I-130 PETITIONS REVIEWED?

After USCIS has decided that your I-130 petition is complete, the petition “gets in line” to be reviewed. Processing time for a Form I-130 will hinge on a variety of factors, particularly the number of I-130 petitions in front of yours. A wait of several weeks or months is not atypical. USCIS scrutinizes your petition to ensure, for example, that the immigrant’s birth certificate contains all off the official government information that is expected from the immigrant’s home country.

When a Petition for Alien Relative is approved, USCIS will notify the petitioner with an official I-130 approval notice and transfer the file to begin the next step in the process. What that next step is depends on where the relative is currently located and whether he or she will apply for a green card through the Adjustment of Status process (which takes place in the United States) or through consular processing (which happens at a foreign-based U.S. consulate).

If the relative will be adjusting status in the United States, the petitioner will have to complete more paperwork and file it along with a copy of the approval notice for the Form I-130. A few weeks or possibly several months later, the relative will be contacted and asked to attend an interview with USCIS. A decision to issue or refuse a green card to the relative will be made subsequent to the interview, but unless some irregularity emerges, most relatives are approved at this point for green cards.

On the other hand, if the relative is outside of the United States and his or her green card application will be considered through consular processing, the National Visa Center (NVC) will forward the appropriate paperwork to the relative, who will then be asked to attend an interview at a U.S. consulate in his or her home country. That’s where a decision will be made regarding the approval or denial of the green card.

Provided that all other basic immigration requirements are met, visas are always made available to the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. However, merely having an approved Form I-130 does not give an immigrant any right to enter or remain in the United States. Immediate relatives who are already in the United States can file Form I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status” at the same time the petitioner files Form I-130.

IS THERE ANOTHER VISA OPTION FOR THE SPOUSES OF U.S. CITIZENS?

U.S. citizens may also petition USCIS for K visas for their foreign-born fiancés, spouses, and the unmarried, dependent children of those fiancés and spouses. K visas are temporary visas even though they are granted to persons who intend to move permanently to the United States.

A K-3 spouse visa is valid for two years and may be renewed provided the marriage has not been dissolved in the interim. K-4 visas are provided to the qualified children of K-3 visa holders. K-3 and K-4 visa holders are eligible for work authorization in the United States and may travel freely in and out of the country provided their visas remain valid.

Foreign nationals who are the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens by blood or by marriage may apply to become lawful permanent residents by submitting Form I-485, and they may eventually apply to become full naturalized United States citizens.

If you need to obtain any type of U.S. visa, speak directly to an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. A good immigration lawyer can review your current legal, familial, and employment circumstances, explain your options, help you avoid any unnecessary delays, and if necessary, represent you and advocate for justice on your family’s behalf.

Across The Nation, Police Chiefs Support Sanctuary Cities

A complicated legal battle is about to take place between the Trump Administration and the nation’s “sanctuary” cities, cities that are presumably not in compliance with federal immigration laws. A great deal of the confusion stems from the fact that the term “sanctuary city” was created by the media, so there is no legal doctrine of sanctuary and no legal definition of precisely what constitutes a sanctuary city. Because the term means different things to different people, the legal dispute may be difficult for some to follow and understand.

Some self-proclaimed sanctuary cities have established policies that prevent their law enforcement officers from asking about the immigration status of residents, while other jurisdictions refuse to hold undocumented immigrants in jail for federal authorities beyond their scheduled release dates. Some cities have established legal defense funds to help immigrants who may be targeted in the raids now being ordered and conducted by the Trump Administration.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that he will work to withhold federal funds from cities and counties that consider themselves sanctuaries. The Attorney General is threatening sanctuary jurisdictions with the loss of as much as $4.1 billion in federal resources.

However, “The rhetoric doesn’t match the legal authority,” according to Peter L. Markowitz, the director of the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. Markowitz told the New York Times, “In fact, the president has very limited power to exercise any kind of significant defunding.”

WHAT ARE THE NATION’S MAYORS SAYING ABOUT SANCTUARY CITIES?

With an estimated eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the United States – and perhaps half or more of that eleven million living in sanctuary cities – talk of a crackdown on undocumented immigrants has created tension across the nation. “We’re going to defend all of our people regardless of where they come from, regardless of their immigration status,” says New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared: “I want to be clear: We’re going to stay a sanctuary city.” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee added, “We will not give in to threats, or political grandstanding,” while Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh told reporters, “To anyone who feels threatened today, or vulnerable, you are safe in Boston. We will do everything lawful in our power to protect you. If necessary, we will use City Hall itself to shelter and protect anyone who’s targeted unjustly.” If you live in Chicago and need legal help, contact a Chicago immigration attorney.

A group called the Immigrant Legal Resource Center says that at least 39 cities and 364 counties across the United States identify themselves as sanctuary jurisdictions, but those cities and counties vary in the ways that they enforce – or fail to enforce – federal immigration statutes. For many U.S. police departments, calls for a “crackdown” are particularly disturbing.

Police chiefs and commissioners believe that a crackdown will actually mean higher crime rates and more dangerous neighborhoods. Most undocumented immigrants will not report crimes – even when they are the victims – if they fear local police will hand them over to immigration authorities.

WHY DO POLICE CHIEFS SUPPORT SANCTUARY CITIES?

In Tucson recently, an undocumented immigrant recently stopped and struggled with a man who was trying to steal a car that had children inside. The immigrant held the suspect until police could arrive, and the suspect was charged with auto theft, burglary, and kidnapping.

In cities across the U.S., those who are undocumented frequently help police officers with reports, descriptions, and other important information the police need – because, in sanctuary cities, those immigrants feel secure.

Police officials also understand that an unreported violent crime today means more crime and more violence in the future. Police departments in cities like Los Angeles have adopted sanctuary-style enforcement policies – and have invested substantial time, resources, and manpower – toward building trust and a spirit of cooperation with immigrant communities. When the people in a community trust the local police, that community is safer for everyone.

Some people have the mistaken idea that immigrants living in sanctuary cities get a “free pass” to commit crimes. No idea could be more mistaken. All law enforcement agencies and police officers are dedicated to the pursuit and arrest of violent and dangerous criminals without regard to a suspect’s immigration status.

In fact, immigrant communities are happy to help the police capture violent criminals because those communities are often the communities most at risk from such persons. Without the information that immigrant communities provide, investigating crime becomes difficult in many cities, and crime goes up.

The cities of Seattle and San Francisco will argue in federal court that the federal government’s coercion of sanctuary cities violates the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by forcing local governments to enforce federal immigration statutes. Seattle and San Francisco contend that the Department of Justice’s threats to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities constitute a violation of the Tenth Amendment.

HOW CAN IMMIGRANTS AND THEIR FAMILIES OBTAIN SOUND ADVICE?

Several cases will soon be heard in federal courts regarding sanctuary cities, and as rulings are rendered and appealed, the legal situation may change – more than once – over the next few months. Immigration law is always complicated, and in 2017, with a new president setting new policies, the situation is even more complicated and confusing.

Until definitive rulings that resolve the legal questions are handed down by the United States Supreme Court, immigrants, nonimmigrant visa holders, employers of immigrants, and the families of immigrants may need the legal advice and guidance of an experienced Columbus immigration lawyer.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have not announced how many arrests they have made this year, but they did release a statement on February 13th announcing “a series of targeted enforcement actions” around the country. Late in March, CNN reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has, in fact, stepped up its enforcement operations in several sanctuary cities.

Now more than ever, if you are a foreign national and you are without documentation, or if you are seeking a visa, a change in your immigration status, protection from deportation, or a green card, you must have sound legal advice and experienced representation. A Columbus immigration attorney can help with visa petitions, legal documentation, change-of-status applications, interviews and hearings, and all other aspects of the immigration process.

Will Trump’s Latest Immigration Plans Affect The Economy?

The day after President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress, the Dow Industrial Average hit 21,000 for the first time ever. Investors are anticipating substantial tax cuts, especially in corporate taxes, along with massive infrastructure projects and perhaps the largest public works project of all time – “the wall.” It’s certainly good news for investors, but how are the rest of us fairing under President Trump? Will the president’s immigration plans affect the economy positively or negatively – or at all? If you are an employer who hires foreign nationals, how will the administration’s immigration policies impact your business in particular?

A deportation plan that would send hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants out of the country could be a catastrophe for the economy. Undocumented immigrants constitute about five percent of the U.S. workforce, and particular sectors of the economy, like agriculture, are almost entirely dependent on undocumented immigrants. Up to 85 percent of California’s agricultural workers are undocumented, according to Manuel Cunha, president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League. If the administration were to weed out illegal workers, California farmers say their ability to do business would be crippled.

For example, the Trump Administration’s immigration policies could dramatically impact California’s Central Valley, a region of agricultural land extending from Bakersfield to Redding. Agriculture is by far the Central Valley’s largest industry, and more than 6.5 million people live there. Agriculture in the Central Valley brings in about $35 billion a year and provides more of the nation’s food than any other region.

WHAT WOULD BE THE RESULT OF MASS DEPORTATIONS?

The consequences of a serious deportation plan would ripple through the dairies and orchards but other locally owned shops, diners, and also completely different businesses, like insurance and energy. Harold McClarty, a fourth-generation farmer in Kingsburg who grows, packs, and ships peaches, plums, and grapes across the United States, told the New York Times, “If you only have legal labor, certain parts of this industry and this region will not exist. If we sent all these people back, it would be a total disaster.”

California farmers have struggled for years with a labor shortage, partly because of better security along the border and partly due to increased costs of smugglers who assist civilians across. The formerly-endless inflow of workers from rural towns and villages in Mexico has nearly ceased. Growers in California and across the country hope that the Trump Administration will further develop and ease the H-2A visa program, which allows growers to bring in foreign workers for temporary agricultural jobs.

Farmers are also among those concerned about the administration’s trade policies. The president has already pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and President Trump has promised to pull the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as well if he is unable to negotiate favorable circumstances for the U.S. Farmers would benefit from more positive terms, but pulling out of NAFTA entirely could trigger economic punishment from Mexico that could potentially damage agriculture in California, which earned $21 billion from trade in 2016.

WHAT OTHER INDUSTRIES ARE CONCERNED ABOUT IMMIGRATION POLICY?

Silicon Valley is also concerned about the administration’s immigration policies. Dozens of tech companies – including Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and PayPal – are opposing Mr. Trump’s executive orders barring immigrants from Middle Eastern and North African nations – and opposing the other immigration crackdowns the administration has promised – because the policies could signal the end of the U.S. as a destination for the world’s best tech inventors.

If that sounds dramatic, consider that more than half of the 87 privately held U.S. start-ups valued at $1 billion or more were founded by one or more people from outside the United States, according to researchers at the National Foundation for American Policy. The Partnership for a New American Economy found in 2011 that more than 40 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 were founded by immigrants to the United States or by the children of immigrants. For the newest members in the Fortune 500, many of them technology companies, even more were founded by immigrants.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO H-1B VISAS?

And while the Trump Administration’s stance on illegal immigration has been quite clearly articulated, the president has nevertheless sent mixed signals about the H-1B visa program. Tech firms may have to begin settling for the talent they can find here in the U.S., as the president has suggested that he will restrict or abolish the H-1B visas that so many tech companies use to find and employ international workers.

Members of the Trump Administration, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have characterized the H1-B visa program as a system riddled with fraud and abuse that prioritizes cheaper, foreign labor ahead of U.S. workers. Limiting or eliminating H-1B visas would substantially impact the ability of U.S. companies to hire the most talented workers in the technology sector and related fields.

It’s still too soon to predict how this administration’s immigration policies will impact the domestic and global economic and business environments. Until Congress hashes out some of President Trump’s proposals – and until the Supreme Court issues definitive rulings on the president’s executive orders – employers and immigrants should have no cause for fear. The president has implied on a number of occasions that when he declares a “policy,” it may in fact only be a starting position for negotiations on the issue.

Litigation that may affect immigrants is already pending in several courts around the country. Several legal challenges to President Trump’s “travel ban” have been launched. As various courts render rulings and as those rulings are appealed, the legal situation could change rapidly throughout 2017, and employers, immigrants, nonimmigrant visa holders, and their families may need the legal advice and guidance that an experienced Columbus immigration attorney offers.

Do not hesitate to discuss any of your immigration concerns with an experienced immigration lawyer. If you are a foreign national and you are seeking a visa, a green card, a change in your immigration status, or protection from deportation – or if you are a U.S.-based employer who hires foreign nationals – it’s imperative to have sound immigration advice and experienced legal representation. The right immigration lawyer – a trustworthy Columbus immigration attorney who works right here in the United States – can help with applications, hearings, and all of the additional immigration requirements.

Over 100 Tech Companies Oppose Trump’s Immigration Ban

The famous tech companies of Silicon Valley – and some of the not-so-famous tech companies as well – have lined up in opposition to President Trump’s January 27 executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The executive order bans entry into the United States by travelers from seven predominantly-Muslim North African and Middle Eastern nations. As of February 8th, 127 companies in the tech industry have joined a friend-of-the-court brief that seeks to overturn that executive order.

The friend-of-the-court brief charges that the executive order is “a significant departure from the principles of fairness and predictability that have governed the immigration system of the United States for more than fifty years.” The brief also claims, “The Order makes it more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world’s best employees. It disrupts ongoing business operations. And it threatens companies’ ability to attract talent, business, and investment to the United States.”

The friend-of-the-court brief, authored by Washington attorney Andrew Pincus, also includes some remarkable immigration statistics: “Immigrants are leading entrepreneurs. Some of these businesses are large. Immigrants or their children founded more than 200 of the companies on the Fortune 500 list…. Collectively, these companies generate annual revenue of $4.2 trillion, and employ millions of Americans.” The brief also mentions that 18 percent of the business owners in the United States – and 16 percent of the labor force – are immigrants.

WHICH COMPANIES HAVE JOINED THE BRIEF? WHICH HAVEN’T?

The brief was submitted to the San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a lawsuit filed by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Companies joining the brief include Google, Facebook, Apple, Airbnb, Ancestry.com, LinkedIn, Intel, Lyft, Uber, Mozilla, Microsoft, and PayPal. However, Amazon, Oracle, Qualcomm, and IBM were not among the tech companies that joined the friend-of-the-court brief. IBM told Forbes magazine that its CEO, Ginni Rometty, has already “conveyed the company’s views directly” to the White House.

The friend-of-the-court brief expresses Silicon Valley’s abiding conviction that immigrants are essential and key actors on the U.S. economic scene. Immigration benefits “not just the new immigrants who chose to come to our shores, but American businesses, workers, and consumers, who gain immense advantages from immigrants’ infusion of talents, energy, and opportunity,” according to the brief.

Martin Flaherty, who is a professor of constitutional law at Fordham Law School in New York City, told USA Today that friend-of-the-court briefs allow parties with an interest in a case to offer judges their own conclusions without actual being a party in the case. Judges often appreciate the insights offered by those with special knowledge about a case or a special interest in a case. Particularly controversial and landmark cases often generate scores of friend-of-the-court briefs on each side, Flaherty said.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE EFFECT OF THE EXECUTIVE ORDER?

The January 27 executive order suspended the processing of visas for foreign nationals from seven North African and Middle Eastern nations: Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. Some foreign nationals from those nations were prevented from entering the U.S. after arriving at U.S. airports. Others have had their visa applications suspended or revoked prior to their departures for the U.S. The executive order has been met with numerous protests and extensive criticism in both the United States and abroad, and with a number of legal actions.

In Seattle, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a restraining order on February 3rd that temporarily prevents the federal government from enforcing several sections of the executive order. As of February 8th, that restraining order is still in effect. For the moment, the federal government may not enforce the 90-day travel ban on “immigrants and nonimmigrants” from the seven designated countries, the 120-day suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, or the indefinite suspension on the admission of Syrian refugees.

The U.S. District Court’s temporary restraining order probably will not be in effect for long, and the case will almost certainly be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the interim, cases pending in several other courts may also have an impact on immigrants and nonimmigrants from the seven designated nations. Until the Supreme Court provides a definitive ruling on the multiple legal issues raised by the January 27 executive order, the situation for immigrants, nonimmigrant visa holders, and families could change very quickly – and more than once.

Immigration attorneys across the nation and around the world are counseling individuals and families impacted by the executive order and are advocating aggressively for justice on their behalf. If you or anyone you love – or anyone you employ – needs legal direction or assistance regarding the January 27 executive order, an experienced Ohio immigration attorney can answer your questions, address your concerns, and if necessary, take the appropriate legal action.

For a number of tech firms and other companies in Silicon Valley and across the United States, the January 27 executive order has reportedly created pandemonium. Google has announced that almost 200 of its employees are being affected, while Microsoft said that more than 75 of its employees are impacted. As mentioned previously, until the United States Supreme Court rules on the matter, the legal situation for immigrants and nonimmigrant visa holders from the seven designated nations – and for their families – will be changing and confusing.

IS IMMIGRATION ALWAYS THIS CONTROVERSIAL AND CONFUSING?

Although the January 27 executive order has triggered controversy and aroused strong passions, what we’re seeing is really nothing new, historically speaking. Immigration law in the United States has always been torturously complex, and immigration practices and policies have always generated contention and acrimony. However, two facts never seem to change – employers need foreign-born employees, and many foreigners strongly desire to work in the United States.

Legal complexities and ever-changing regulations are always an element of the immigration process, but especially at this time, immigrants, non-immigrant visa holders, families, and employers affected by the January 27 executive order may need the legal advice and services of an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. It may be months before the United States Supreme Court finally and definitively resolves the legal questions raised by the January 27 executive order.

Where Are The Best Computer Programmers?

Our prosperity in the United States is built on the renegade, risk-taking spirit of innovation and invention. A new business is an expression of belief – the confidence that “we can make it” in the United States. Historically, wave after wave of immigrants have put their trust into the American dream that anything is possible in the United States for those who put in the effort. For example, more than half of the companies in Silicon Valley today began as immigrant-founded startups.

Paul Graham is a computer scientist, a venture capitalist, and an internationally-acclaimed writer. He is the author of several programming books, and his blog deals with a number of issues related to computer programming. Graham recently asked – and then answered – the question, “Where are the best computer programmers?” The answer may surprise you, because it’s an impeccably sound argument for comprehensive immigration reform.

U.S.-based high-tech firms say that they need comprehensive immigration reform because they can’t find enough good computer programmers in the United States. Opponents of immigration reform insist that we should simply train more of the people who were born here to be computer programmers instead of letting immigrants take those jobs. Who’s right? Paul Graham has no problem answering the question bluntly. He says the high-tech firms are right and the opponents of immigration are wrong.

WHY ARE THE OPPONENTS OF IMMIGRATION WRONG?

Graham says the high-tech firms are right because the United States comprises less than five percent of world’s people. If the traits and characteristics that make a person a superlative computer programmer are evenly distributed – and there’s every reason to believe that they are – then more than 95 percent of the world’s potentially great computer programmers are born outside of the United States.

“What the anti-immigration people don’t understand,” Paul Graham writes, “is that there is a huge variation in ability between competent programmers and exceptional ones, and while you can train people to be competent, you can’t train them to be exceptional. Exceptional programmers have an aptitude for and interest in programming that is not merely the product of training.”

WHY DO COMPANIES LOOK AROUND THE WORLD FOR PROGRAMMERS?

One persistent theme of immigration opponents is that high-tech firms want to hire immigrants so that they can drive salaries downward. However, current immigration law already ensures that the salaries paid to immigrants in fields like computer programming are comparable to the salaries of U.S.-born workers doing the same job. Why are high-tech companies looking around the world for programmers if it’s not to keep salaries down?

The truth has little to do with salaries. There simply aren’t enough good programmers right here in the United States. “It would be great,” Graham writes, “if more Americans were trained as programmers, but no amount of training can flip a ratio as overwhelming as 95 to 5.” He adds, “A country with only a few percent of the world’s population will be exceptional in some field only if there are a lot of immigrants working in it.”

Paul Graham admits that recognizing the need for comprehensive immigration reform is only half the battle. Once lawmakers are agreed that comprehensive immigration reform is imperative, how does the U.S. then make itself attractive to the world’s best computer programmers? Graham suggests that we make the U.S. attractive to programmers simply by letting them work here. If more programmers are here, he reasons, even more will want to be here. Graham writes, “good people like good colleagues.”

Although he focuses on programmers, Paul Graham admits that the United States also needs to attract the very best designers, electrical engineers, and others falling into the category he calls “digital talent.” As they have in the past, immigrants bring ambition, a work ethic, and diverse cultural perspectives that generate U.S. economic growth and innovation. By welcoming immigrants, the United States gains a huge economic and trade advantage over other nations – like China and Japan – with more restrictive immigration laws.

Unfortunately, however, without comprehensive immigration reform, the annual cap on H-1B visas for highly-skilled foreign professionals will remain at 65,000, with another 20,000 set aside for foreign professionals with post-graduate degrees from U.S. universities. If you are a U.S.-based employer who hires international employees, obtain the immigration help you’ll need from an experienced Ohio immigration attorney.

ARE THERE GOOD ALTERNATIVES TO THE H-1B VISA?

A good immigration lawyer can help businesses of any size with H-1B visa petitions and other work visas, I-9 compliance, and the big complicated mess that we call “immigration law.” The next filing period for H-1Bs begins next April 1, so the time for employers to get started is now. H-1B visas are hard – but not impossible – to obtain, and even if an employer obtains an H-1B visa in April, the visa recipient can’t begin working until October 2017. Fortunately, there may be some alternatives:

• An employee of a multinational corporation who wishes to work for a U.S.-based parent, branch, or subsidiary corporation in a managerial or executive capacity, or who has specialized knowledge about the company, may qualify for an L-1 intracompany transferee visa.

• E-1 visas are for traders and E-2 visas are for investors. Only nationals of countries that have commercial treaties with the United States qualify for E visas.

• The E-3 Australian specialty worker visa is comparable to the H-1B, but only Australian nationals qualify.

• Professionals from Canada and Mexico may qualify for TN professional visas.

• The H-1B1 visa for citizens of Singapore or Chile is similar to the H-1B. 5,400 are set aside annually for citizens of Singapore, while 1,400 are reserved for Chileans.

• Individuals with extraordinary abilities and significant accomplishments in certain fields may qualify for the O-1 visa.

• The J-1 visa is for individuals working or training in the U.S. in particular career fields.

Many H-1B-eligible international workers will qualify for at least one of these visas, according to our business immigration attorneys. Scores of U.S.-based employers choose one or more of these alternatives to the H-1B visa and are pleased with the results. Every visa takes time, and there’s inevitably some wrinkle or complication in the process, so employers should discuss their visa needs and related concerns with an experienced Ohio business immigration attorney as soon as those needs and concerns emerge.

Immigrant Population In U.S. Reaches All-Time High

New data from the Census Bureau is telling us that the number of immigrants entering the United States – both with and without documentation – is not only growing but accelerating. According to a report released in November by the Center for Immigration Studies – an organization that lobbies for lower levels of immigration and opposes comprehensive immigration reform – about three million new immigrants entered the United States in the years 2014 and 2015.

In the United States in 2015, the total foreign-born population, 43.3 million, was a record high. Despite the Center for Immigration Studies’ reputation as “opponents” of immigration, there’s no reason to doubt the accuracy of their November report, which is based on the Census Bureau’s ongoing American Community Survey. Steven Camarota, the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies said, “We are now certain that immigration surged in 2015.”

About 1.5 million new immigrants entered the United States in 2014, a 17 percent increase over 2013. In the first six months of 2015, another 914,000 new immigrants arrived in the U.S. At 13.5 percent, the percentage of immigrants in the U.S. population is larger than at any time since 1910, and according to Census Bureau projections, the percentage of immigrants in the U.S. will reach a record level by 2022.

WHY IS THE PACE OF IMMIGRATION PICKING UP?

Why is the pace of immigration picking up right now? Camarota speculated that an improving economy is one reason, but he also pointed to procedural changes in federal immigration policies such as allowing the spouses of guest workers to obtain work permits in the United States. Congress also amended the rules for non-agricultural seasonal workers, so that those who worked in the U.S. last year and return this year do not count against the visa cap for workers in that category. Progressive legislation in states like California has also had a role in drawing immigrants to those states.

What are the states with the fastest-growing immigrant populations? If you’re thinking New York, Florida, Texas, and California, you’d be entirely wrong. Surprisingly, from 2010 through 2015, the states with the fastest-growing immigrant populations are North Dakota (up by 72.2 percent), Wyoming (38.9 percent), West Virginia (31.1 percent), South Dakota (25.2 percent), and Delaware (21.8 percent). However, in terms of overall population as of 2015, California still has the highest percentage of immigrants (27.3 percent). The other top states are New York (22.9 percent), New Jersey (22.1 percent), Florida (20.2 percent), and Nevada (19.3 percent).

One key aspect of the new report is the changing demographics of the immigrants themselves. The percentage of those entering the United States from Mexico is declining, while the numbers  of new immigrants arriving from east Asia and South Asia are rising. In 2004, 35 percent of the new immigrants in the U.S. were from Mexico; by 2014, that number had declined to 11.6 percent. East Asian and South Asian immigrants constituted only 24.1 percent of the new immigrant population in 2004; that number grew to 38 percent in 2014.

Immigration from Central America is also rising. Non-Mexican immigrants from Latin America comprised 18.7 percent of the new immigrant population in 2011 and 23 percent in 2014. In 2015, the number of people from all Latin American nations living in the U.S. was 22.1 million, a 10 percent increase over 2010. Immigrants from predominantly Muslim nations constitute a far smaller number of people entering the U.S. – only 2.7 million in 2015 – but that still represents a 24 percent increase since 2010. Although they are frequently discussed in the news media, only 13,210 Syrian refugees have entered the U.S. since the beginning of 2016.

WHERE ELSE ARE THE NEW IMMIGRANTS ARRIVING FROM?

From everywhere, people are trying to get into the land of the free and the home of the brave any way they can. The arrests of more than 8,000 people from India, China, Romania, Bangladesh, and Nepal between October 2015 and August 2016 presents new challenges to immigration agents whose job is to apprehend those caught crossing the border without documentation. Surprisingly, India and China are now also among the leading nations of origin for people caught trying to enter the United States without documentation.  Of course, the best way to enter the U.S. is by the rules, with the help of someone like an experienced Ohio immigration attorney.

Victor Manjarrez, the director of the Center for Law & Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso – and a one-time Border Patrol sector chief – says the increase in migrants from countries far beyond the western hemisphere should be considered a growing concern. “In the grand scheme, as a percentage, it’s relatively small but the raw numbers are such a big jump historically,” Manjarrez said. Why should immigrants from faraway nations be a growing concern?

Most Mexican immigrants caught at the border without documentation are sent home after just several days – they can basically be “just turned around.” But for those from nations on the other side of the world, the deportation process is lengthier and costlier. These immigrants may be held in immigration facilities for months, waiting for legal documents from their home nations or waiting for an immigration judge to determine their fate.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE IMMIGRANTS?

Of course, the best way to enter the United States is with full documentation and the counsel of an experienced Ohio immigration attorney. An immigration attorney helps international students, professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors obtain visas to enter the U.S., helps families reunite in the U.S., and helps employers hire immigrants and stay compliant with the plethora of immigration-related employment laws and regulations.

The rising number of immigrant arrivals from other continents, along with a rise in border crossings, has filled U.S. immigration facilities with more than 40,000 people in September and October. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s budget allows them to house only 34,000 at any given moment, and immigration authorities may face a budget crisis in the first months of 2017 if the trend persists.

Gillian Christensen, speaking for the Department of Homeland Security, says that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has enough resources to operate “at current levels” through December 9, when a temporary budget resolution expires. After that, Christensen said, Homeland Security will have to shift resources from other agencies in the department or find an “alternative” budget strategy.

Immigration and The Flight From El Salvador

Two years ago – in 2014 – thousands of unaccompanied minors poured into the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The U.S. government was unprepared. The young people from Central America and the immigration authorities were caught in what President Obama called at the time an “urgent humanitarian situation.” In 2016, another crisis at the border may be imminent.

Entire families from El Salvador are flowing into the U.S. in what could be record numbers. The number of Salvadoran families apprehended along the Mexican-U.S. border has jumped by 96 percent in only a year, and more undocumented families are coming to the U.S. from El Salvador than from any other nation. This year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data, for every Mexican family detained at the border, ten Salvadoran families are apprehended. Salvadorans also face removal proceedings more often than immigrants from any other nation.

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Why are entire Salvadoran families fleeing their homes and doing whatever it takes – sometimes at great personal risk – to make it to the United States? Observers believe that El Salvador is on the edge of civil war. El Salvador’s attorney general’s office said in August that government forces recently thwarted a terrorist scheme designed to turn El Salvador’s gang-and-drug violence against the government itself. Prosecutors charged 78 leaders of “MS-13” with conspiring to buy high-caliber weapons in Guatemala and Mexico to attack government targets in the capital city, Managua, and across the nation.

The Salvadoran government charges that MS-13 was raising $1 million to buy assault rifles and ammo, surface-to-air missiles, bulletproof vests, and commando uniforms. The scheme, prosecutors say, was ultimately a nationwide assault to gain control of territory while disrupting El Salvador’s fragile economy and challenging the nation’s entrenched political leadership. By targeting police officers and politicians for daily assassinations, MS-13 hoped to both incite fear in the general populace and to bankrupt the government. Basically, the rebels intended to raise the fear level dramatically in what is already one of the world’s deadliest places.

WHAT DO OPPONENTS OF THE SALVADORAN GOVERNMENT SAY?

Opponents of the Salvadoran government are insisting that the case against the MS-13 leaders is fabricated entirely for propaganda purposes and that none of the charges are true. “This is an operation of psychological warfare,” according to Paolo Luers, a former gang truce mediator and opposition political activist. Luers says the government is trying to justify the harsh measures it adopted earlier this year to crack down on gang violence and to create distrust among MS-13’s leadership.

Luers told the Fusion Media Group that the gangs would never fight a war against the government. He says even trying to launch such a war would mean “the beginning of the end” of gang influence in Salvadoran villages, communities, and neighborhoods. The MS-13’s members themselves, in a “communique” released in June, insisted that “we don’t have any interest in involving the country in war.”

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Whether or not the insurgents in El Salvador are planning war, the number of Salvadoran families arriving in the United States suggests that most Salvadorans have no faith in their government to keep the peace. For these families, the risks of traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border are small compared to the danger of continuing to live in violence that could quickly turn into civil war.

IS REFUGEE OR ASYLUM STATUS RIGHT FOR YOU?

If you have fled from El Salvador, you may qualify for either refugee status or asylum status in the U.S. If you are currently not in the United States, you must apply for refugee status, but those who make it to the U.S.-Mexican border may apply for asylum status. Both statuses give legal protection to immigrants who are afraid to return home. Those approved for refugee or asylum status are authorized to seek work in the U.S. and may apply for lawful permanent residence – a green card – after only a year.

Not every Salvadoran will qualify for refugee or asylum status. Immigrants applying for asylum or refugee status should first discuss their particular case with an experienced Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney. The right immigration lawyer can also see to it that all of your legal paperwork and documents are in order, since any errors could delay approval for refugee or asylum status.

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Honestly, very few immigrants are eventually approved for asylum status in the United States. Only one in twenty of the immigrants who received green cards in 2011 entered the U.S. as asylum seekers. Yet the imperative for legal protection is greater now than ever. Drug wars and gang violence dominate much of Central America, while ethnic violence and religious warfare continue to pose threats in north Africa, the Middle East, and other parts of the globe.

HOW CAN AN IMMIGRANT BE APPROVED FOR ASYLUM STATUS?

To petition for asylum status, you must submit a USCIS Form I-589 (Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal) within a year of entering the U.S. Spouses and unmarried children under age 21 already in the United States may be included in your petition. After a year, those granted asylum may apply for a green card by submitting USCIS Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status). You must submit a separate Form I-485 for a family member who was granted derivative asylum on the basis of your own case.

You’ll have to wait 150 days – or until your asylum status is approved, whichever comes first – to apply for employment authorization. After 150 days, if no determination regarding asylum status has been made, you may petition for work authorization by submitting USCIS Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). Make sure that an experienced Michigan or Ohio immigration attorney helps you with the application forms and other legal documents.

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Historically, the United States has been a beacon of hope to immigrants everywhere who seek a better life for themselves and their families. Immigration law in the United States is exceedingly complex – in fact, it’s a broken and antiquated immigration system badly in need of reform. But with a bit of patience, a bit of effort, and sound legal advice from the right immigration attorney, most immigrants can move ahead successfully with their plans for a better life in the United States.