February 18, 2008

CBP Inspector's Field Manual (354 Pages!) on the Internet

AILA member Charles "Chuck" Miller (a former INS attorney) managed to obtain much of the current IFM through a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request. (Ongoing; he is still negotiating with CBP for further releases.) He has posted it to his website, linked here. Large PDF file: 354 pages, almost 2MB, so download may be slow depending on your connection. Fully searchable with Adobe Acrobat. Chuck says Ch. 15 is especially interesting. Kudos to Chuck for getting this info and posting it! Way to go, Chuck!

See http://www.millerlawoffices.com/publications and scroll down to CBP Inspector's Field Manual.

NY Times Editorial on Citizenship & Immigration

See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/opinion/17sun2.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Citizenship Blues

Published: February 17, 2008

Three bits of news from the first two months of 2008 highlight the galling inconsistency and inadequacy of the federal government’s system for turning immigrants into citizens.

The first is that the wait for citizenship and green cards is up — way up. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported in January that the average time to process a citizenship application had risen to 18 months, from seven, and that green cards would now take a year, instead of six months or less.

It was a sorry moment for the agency, which jacked up its fees last year with a promise to use the new money to end vast paperwork backlogs. The opposite happened: the agency is drowning in applications from people who filed before the increase to avoid being gouged.

The second was the news last week that the agency had finally taken a baby step toward clearing its green-card backlogs by easing a rule on background checks by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The F.B.I. will still do full checks on every applicant, comparing fingerprints against a criminal database and names against lists of criminals and terrorists. It’s just that those who have had to wait more than six months for a green card because of one last, unfinished piece of an application — a “name check” of people who have ever been mentioned in criminal investigations, even peripherally — will get their cards.

The move is sensible, and long overdue. The understaffed agency has faced mounting pressure to act. An increasing number of immigrants, after waiting years for name checks, have sued and won, with federal judges ordering the government to do its job.

The third development is the surge in businesses using E-Verify, the federal system for checking employees’ immigration status. As more states and localities have adopted harsh campaigns to purge undocumented immigrants, E-Verify has taken on a larger role, with 52,000 employers now using it, compared with 14,000 a year ago. President Bush’s new budget includes $100 million to expand E-Verify, which the citizenship agency calls “a cornerstone” of “long-term immigration reform.”

You can tell a country’s priorities from what works and where the money goes. With billions for border and workplace enforcement, the government has been rushing to impose ever more sophisticated and intrusive means to keep immigrants out. Yet it continues to tolerate a creaky, corrosively inept system for welcoming immigrants in — an underperforming bureaucracy that takes their money and makes them wait, with a chronic indolence that is just another form of hostility.

U.S. immigration law drives husband & wife apart for 10 years!

An Arizona Republic newspaper article of interest. See http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0217illegalbride0217.html

U.S. immigration law drives husband, wife apart
"It was the Christmas holidays. Brown was visiting his wife, Virginia Carrillo, and son, Bryan. Their separation began in September the day the family applied for legal status for Carrillo, Brown's illegal-immigrant wife. They hoped Carrillo would qualify for a green card based on her marriage and child to Brown. Instead, Carrillo was barred from returning to the U.S. for 10 years. Now, the family is forced to live separately on opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexican border." Arizona Republic, Feb. 17, 2008.

February 14, 2008

Feds Admit Mistakenly Jailing Citizens as Illegal Immigrants

WASHINGTON — A top Immigration and Customs Enforcement official acknowledged Wednesday that his agency has mistakenly detained U.S. citizens as illegal immigrants, but he denied that his agency has widespread problems with deporting the wrong people.

Gary Mead, ICE's deputy director of detention and removal operations, testified during a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing that U.S. citizens have been detained on "extremely" rare occasions, but he blamed the mix-ups on conflicting information from the detainees.

Nonetheless, Mead said his agency is reviewing its handling of people who claim to be U.S. citizens "to determine if even greater safeguards can be put in place."

The testimony before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law came after immigration advocates told McClatchy that they'd seen a small but growing number of cases of U.S. citizens who've been mistakenly detained and sometimes deported by ICE. They accuse agents of ignoring valid assertions of citizenship in the rush to deport more illegal immigrants.

Unlike suspects charged in criminal courts, detainees accused of immigration violations don't have a right to an attorney, and three-quarters of them represent themselves.

Last month, Thomas Warziniack, a U.S. citizen who was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, was mistakenly detained for weeks in an Arizona immigration facility and told that he was going to be deported to Russia.

Warziniack, 40, was released after his family, who learned about his predicament from a McClatchy Newspapers reporter, produced his birth certificate.

In another high-profile example, ICE agents in California mistakenly deported Pedro Guzman, a mentally disabled U.S. citizen, to Mexico. Guzman was found months later when he tried to return to the United States.

Mead contended that both Warziniack and Guzman said they were illegal immigrants, and he said ICE agents have to be careful not to release the wrong people. Guzman and Warziniack had been serving time for minor offenses when their jailers turned them over to immigration authorities.

For the full story, see "Feds admit mistakenly jailing citizens as illegal immigrants," by Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Tribune (02/14/2008)

Submitting a FY 2009 H-1B Cap Case

When can I file an H1-B Cap petition?
H-1B petitions can be filed 6 months in advance of the requested start date. Therefore, petitions seeking an October 1, s008 start date can be filed no sooner than April 1, 2008. This is when the majority of H-1B cap subject petitions are filed. Conversely, petitions that are cap exempt may be filed at any time during the year, dependent on the petitioner's need.

What is Premium Processing Service?
For certain employment-based immigration benefits, petitioners may choose to file a Form I-907 with the accompnaying filing fee of $1000 to have their perition adjudicated within 15 calendar days (this fee is in addition to the required base filing and other applicable fees). H-1B petitions are eligible for the Premium Processing program.

How do ensure that my H-1B Cap petition is considered properly filed and accepted?
Be sure to complete all sections of the Form I-129 petition, the H Classification Supplement to Form I-129, and the H-1B Data Collection and Filing Fee Exemption Supplement. Original signatures are required on each form. Send the correct fee amount.

Checks should be payable to the Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services dated within the last 6 months, and include the proper guarantee amount, and signature.

Here are the current filing fees that petitioning employers must pay:
  • Base filing fee = $320
  • American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998
    • Employers with 1 - 25 full time employees = $750
    • Employers with 26 + full time employees = $1500
  • Fraud fee = $50
  • Premium Processing fee = $1000

For a complete review of the requirements, click here

February 12, 2008

U.S. State Department Visa Bulletin

MARCH 2008

Family Immigration - Note that there was some movement in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Preference categories for relatives int he Philippines. There was only slight movement for the remainder of the other categories.
  • 1st Preference (USC unmarried sons & daughters over 21)
    • Worldwide: 15 February 2002
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 15 February 2002
    • India: 15 February 2002
    • Mexico: 01 July 1992
    • Philippines: 01 March 1993
  • 2A Preference (LPR spouses & unmarried children under 21)
    • Worldwide: 15 April 2003
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 15 April 2003
    • India: 15 April 2003
    • Mexico: 01 May 2002
    • Philippines: 15 April 2003
  • 2B Preference (LPR unmarried sons & daughters over 21)
    • Worldwide: 08 February 1999
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 08 February 1999
    • India: 08 February 1999
    • Mexico: 01 April 1992
    • Philippines: 01 February 1997
  • 3rd Preference (USC married sons & daughters)
    • Worldwide: 15 May 2000
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 15 May 2000
    • India: 15 May 2000
    • Mexico: 15 July 1992
    • Philippines: 01 April 1991
  • 4th Preference (USC brothers & sisters)
    • Worldwide: 15 July 1997
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 15 December 1996
    • India: 01 November 1996
    • Mexico: 15 November 1994
    • Philippines: 22 February 1986
Employment Based - Note that there was significant movement in the EB-3 (3rd Preference) category and the Unskilled Workers (Other Workers) category.
  • 1st Preference (EB-1)
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • 2nd Preference (EB-2)
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 01 December 2003
    • India: UNAVAILABLE
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • 3rd Preference (EB-3)
    • Worldwide: 01 January 2005
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 01 December 2002
    • India: 01 August 2001
    • Mexico: 01 May 2001
    • Philippines: 01 January 2005
  • Schedule A workers (RNs, PTs)
    • Worldwide: UNAVAILABLE
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: UNAVAILABLE
    • India: UNAVAILABLE
    • Mexico: UNAVAILABLE
    • Philippines: UNAVAILABLE
  • Unskilled Workers (less than 2 years experience required)
    • Worldwide: 01 January 2002
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 01 January 2002
    • India: 01 January 2002
    • Mexico: 01 January 2002
    • Philippines: 01 January 2002
  • 4th Preference (EB-4)
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • Religious Workers
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • Iraqi & Afghani Translators
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • 5th Preference (EB-5: Investors)
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • Targeted Employment Areas/ Regional Centers)
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT

February 11, 2008

Immigrants To Get Green Cards Before FBI Name Check Clearance

In a major policy shift aimed at reducing a ballooning immigration backlog, the Department of Homeland Security is preparing to grant permanent residency to tens of thousands of applicants before the FBI completes a required background check.

Those eligible are immigrants whose fingerprints have cleared the FBI database of criminal convictions and arrests, but whose names have not yet cleared the FBI's criminal or intelligence files after six months of waiting.

The immigrants who are granted permanent status, more commonly known as getting their green cards, will be expected eventually to clear the FBI's name check. If they don't, their legal status will be revoked and they'll be deported.

About 150,000 green card and naturalization applicants have been delayed by the name check, with 30,000 waiting more than three years.

DHS officials are determining exactly how many are affected, but confirmed that tens of thousands of people could be eligible for the expedited procedure. The new policy was outlined in an internal memo obtained by McClatchy Newspapers. Officials said the policy will be posted this week on the department's Web site.

Lawyers who represent immigrants applauded the change and predicted green cards would be issued faster.

However, advocates of stricter immigration enforcement accused DHS of creating security loopholes and not solving the problem.

DHS officials said the new process does not pose new security risks because green card applicants have been allowed to remain in the country while they wait to be screened.

"This is something that we're doing to get benefits to people who deserve them as quickly as possible," said Chris Bentley of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the DHS agency that processes green cards and citizenship.

Immigrants seeking citizenship will continue to be required to clear name checks before being naturalized. Officials said the requirements remain in effect for naturalization because U.S. citizenship is more difficult to revoke than a green card.

At the same time, the bureau tightened its background check requirements. The FBI not only runs applicants' names against lists of suspects in criminal and intelligence files but also looks for names of applicants that have surfaced during the course of an investigation or any associates of suspects.

"It's a very complicated process," said Bill Carter, a FBI spokesman. "It involves dozens of agencies and databases and often foreign governments."

Adding to the backlog, a surge of applications flooded Citizenship and Immigration Services last year, prompted partly by fee increases.

Although the FBI clears about 70 percent of the name checks within 72 hours, the bureau struggles to keep up with more than 74,000 requests per week, roughly half arising from immigration applications.

Slowing the process even more, many applicants who don't immediately clear are flagged for extra scrutiny because their names are similar to those of suspects.

Hundreds of people caught up in the backlog have sued the government to force the agencies to initiate background checks. Some of the plaintiffs have found the FBI inexplicitly clears them soon after a lawsuit is filed.

Michael Baylson, a judge in Philadelphia overseeing six of the lawsuits, recently expressed frustration with the government for what he described as "a strategy of favoring delay by litigation, instead of developing an orderly and transparent administrative resolution."

"Congress certainly did not intend for the process to become tortuous, expensive, mystifying and delayed, but it has," the Bush appointee wrote in January when ordering the government to explain the delays.

Critics have charged the naturalization delays could unfairly shut potential voters out of the upcoming presidential election. Last month, Emilio Gonzalez, director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, vowed to hire 3,000 new and retired employees to cut the backlog.

For the full story see: "More immigrants to get green cards before full review" by Marisa Taylor, McClatchy Newspapers, 02/11/2008