July 24, 2008

August 2008 Visa Bulletin

NOTE: Significant changes between the July and August Visa Bulletin occurred in the Employment-based visa priority dates. As stated below, the EB-3 category no longer has any visa numbers available. Furthermore, the unskkilled workers category has also become unavailable. Finally, on the Family-based immigration side, the only significant change can be seen in Mexico's 4th Preference category - jumping forward a year.

Family Immigration
- Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act sets an annual family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000.
  • 1st Preference (USC unmarried sons & daughters over 21)
    • Worldwide: 15 March 2002
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 15 March 2002
    • India: 15 March 2002
    • Mexico: 08 August 1992
    • Philippines: 22 March 1993
  • 2A Preference (LPR spouses & unmarried children under 21)
    • Worldwide: 01 October 2003
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 01 October 2003
    • India: 01 October 2003
    • Mexico: UNAVAILABLE
    • Philippines: 001 October 2003
  • 2B Preference (LPR unmarried sons & daughters over 21)
    • Worldwide: 01 November 1999
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 01 November 1999
    • India: 01 November 1999
    • Mexico: 15 April 1992
    • Philippines: 15 March 1997
  • 3rd Preference (USC married sons & daughters)
    • Worldwide: 08 June 2000
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 08 June 2000
    • India: 08 June 2000
    • Mexico: 08 September 1992
    • Philippines: 01 April 1991
  • 4th Preference (USC brothers & sisters)
    • Worldwide: 08 September 1997
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 22 February 1997
    • India: 22 February 1997
    • Mexico: 08 January 1995
    • Philippines: 08 March 1986
Employment Based - Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act sets an annual limit for employment-based preference limit of 140,000
  • 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 June 2006
    • India: 01 June 2006
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • 3rd Preference (EB-3)
    • Worldwide: UNAVAILABLE
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: UNAVAILABLE
    • India: UNAVAILABLE
    • Mexico: UNAVAILABLE
    • Philippines: UNAVAILABLE
  • 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: UNAVAILABLE
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: UNAVAILABLE
    • India: UNAVAILABLE
    • Mexico: UNAVAILABLE
    • Philippines: UNAVAILABLE
  • 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

July 18, 2008

Nightmare Experience at Airport for Fiance of U.S. Citizen

Warning: Always talk to an immigration attorney experienced in fiance(e) visas and marriage to U.S. Citizen immigration cases before traveling to or outside the U.S. or getting married! (Randall Caudle gives free phone consultations on these issues)

Stopped at U.S. Border and Banished for Betrothal: Ann Woolner

Commentary by Ann Woolner

July 18 (Bloomberg) -- Naomi Malca Walls doesn't fit the profile of someone U.S. agents would stop at the border, interrogate for hours, deport and forbid to ever set foot on U.S. soil again.

No hint of terrorist ties lurks in her background, not even a traffic ticket. A 32-year-old photographer and Israeli citizen, she carries no plague.

She expected no complications at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport in March, when she arrived with her soon-to-be-husband, an American, who had proposed marriage three days earlier while visiting her in Tokyo.

Instead, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents detained her for 30 hours, questioned her, screamed at her, laughed at her, accused her of lying, ignored her questions and her pleas, photographed her, fingerprinted her, searched her and put her in a cold holding cell where she spent seven hours shivering and weeping and wondering what was happening, she recounted four months later.

``They made me feel like I did a crime,'' she says. ``I don't even know what the crime is.''

Then the agents escorted her to a plane bound for Tel Aviv.

``I still don't know what's the reason,'' she said in an international phone call this week.

What happened to her is called expedited removal, by which tens of thousands of foreign nationals attempting to enter the U.S. are sent back to their homelands each year.

Finding WMD

``Expedited removal is the WMD of immigration law,'' says Kathleen Campbell Walker, immediate past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She practices immigration law in El Paso, Texas.

Under a 1996 law, you can be expeditiously removed if a border officer decides either that you lack proper papers or that you are lying about something that matters.

If you know to ask, a supervisor can review the decision. And if you fear persecution at home, you can get a hearing on that.

But in all other cases, there is no appeal, no judge, no lawyer. And sometimes there is no explanation.

Almost 40,000 foreign travelers were speedily booted out from U.S. air, sea and land ports of entry during the last fiscal year, according to the Customs and Border Protection bureau. The number doesn't include others intercepted elsewhere.

Five to Life

Expedited removal brings an automatic five-year ban on returning to the U.S. If agents think the traveler was attempting fraud, the ban lasts forever.

So it was for Naomi, who insists she told the truth and was willing to prove it, to no avail.

Extreme treatment based solely on the discretion of one or two border officials is legal for foreign nationals not yet admitted into the U.S. They have no constitutional right to a fair hearing, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Just because they can be treated shabbily doesn't mean they should be. Often, the travelers' only crime is that they don't know the arcana of U.S. immigration law.

``People just kind of stumble into these terrible situations,'' says Walker, who has no connection to Naomi's case but quickly surmised the problem when told what occurred. Naomi's mistake was in not knowing that you can't use a tourist visa to gain entry to the U.S. when betrothed to an American.

No Congratulations?

``I just got engaged,'' Naomi says she told the first agent she saw. ``This is my fiancé.''

``Soon as I said that,'' she recalls, ``someone took me to the room'' where her ordeal began.

Agents assume if you are about to marry a U.S. citizen, you plan to live in the U.S., not merely tour it. You need a fiancé visa, which puts you in the intended immigrant category.

Foreign nationals often assume entry will be easier, not harder, when betrothed to an American. Walker remembers a Mexican who cheerfully drove to the U.S. border in her wedding dress. Big mistake.

If the agent thinks it an innocent error, the traveler can withdraw the entry application, go back home and apply for the proper visa, as many do.

But if the agent thinks the traveler is committing fraud, that's another matter.

``They told me I'd been lying to them,'' Naomi said. About what, they wouldn't say.

But she acknowledges her tourist visa had the wrong date for her divorce, an honest mistake.

And her previous travels to the U.S. may have worked against her, leading the officers to wonder whether she was actually living in the U.S.

Life, not Five

No one told her during those 30 hours that she would be banished for life. To date, the only document they gave her says it's a five-year ban.

Not being schooled in immigration law, she didn't know that the ``6C1'' an officer wrote on her visa means fraud.

As for the other side of the story, a Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman says privacy concerns prevent the agency from discussing individual cases.

Yes, the U.S. must protect its borders, which are so porous that more than 12 million illegal aliens now live in this country. And no, Naomi's experience isn't the most horrific immigration story around.

But it is plenty bad for her and her now-husband, Scott Walls, a business consultant in Tampa, Florida.

Across the Border

Yesterday, the couple met up in Toronto. What comes next, they don't know. She may apply for a waiver, but those are hard to come by and expensive to get, given legal fees.

Walls, 40, says he has always defended the extra security measures imposed after the Sept. 11 attacks.

But these days, he says he is disappointed in what the country has become.

``They take very sound, appealing arguments to the American people,'' such as the need to keep out illegal aliens, he says. ``Then they use that to do whatever they want to.''

Walls says he isn't so sure he wants to live in a country that treats an innocent woman, his wife, the way his did.

That's what happens when power goes unchecked.

(Ann Woolner is a Bloomberg news columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

-Editors: James Greiff, Jim Rubin.

To contact the writer of this column: Ann Woolner in Atlanta at awoolner@bloomberg.net.

July 16, 2008

Immigration Sweep by ICE in Lake Tahoe - 42 Arrested

Immigration sweep nets 42 in Lake Tahoe area

July 16, 2008 06:46 AM

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Federal officials say 42 people were arrested around the Lake Tahoe Basin during a recent sweep by immigration agents.

Of those detained, 21 were immigration fugitives, meaning they had previously been ordered to leave the country by an immigration judge but refused to comply, Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the Sierra Sun newspaper.

Six of the detainees had previous criminal convictions.

The sweep took place June 30 and July 1 around the Tahoe area and were part of the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Fugitive Operations Program.

"The majority of those encountered during the operation have already been repatriated to their native countries," Kice said.

July 15, 2008

Interactive Detention, ICE & Immigration Court Map Online

Thanks to Detention Watch Network for this interactive map of ICE detention facilities, ICE offices and immigration courts across the country.

See http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/dwnmap

July 02, 2008

Advocates rally after raid, arrests


Organizers call federal actions inhumane

Immigration rally in Baltimore

Jessica Alvarez, vice president of the National Capital Immigrant Coalition, speaks during a rally in Baltimore protesting a raid on an Annapolis painting company that resulted in the arrest of 46 suspected illegal immigrants. (Sun photo by Kim Hairston / July 1, 2008)

The 6 a.m. call jolted Nicolas Ramos out of bed. His cousin Veronica Ramos was on the other end sobbing. Armed federal immigration agents had broken down her apartment door and hauled away her husband, Eduardo Delgado, as their three children hid under their beds.

"She said she never saw something like this in her whole life," said Ramos, owner of the Baltimore restaurant Arcos, and a member of the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs. "She's scared, the kids are scared. They don't know what they are going to do."

Ramos shared his story yesterday during a protest of Monday's raid on an Annapolis painting company that resulted in the arrest of Delgado and 45 other immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally.

More than 75 immigrant advocates gathered at Hopkins Plaza, in front of the Baltimore Offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, hoisting signs with slogans such as, "Don't divide our families," and "Painting Houses is not a Crime."

Priests with the Archdiocese of Baltimore offered prayers for the families of arrested workers in Spanish and English. Organizers decried the raids as inhumane, called the workers victims of a broken national immigration system, and accused their employer, Annapolis Painting Services Inc., of exploiting them.

"Every person affected yesterday has a family," said Jessica Alvarez, vice president of the National Capital Immigrant Coalition. "Today we are here to show that every person has a voice and has a community behind them. This is unjust, and our voices need to be heard."

Some who attended the rally held signs emblazoned with a crossed-out image of Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold.

The Republican county executive defended the raid by federal and county authorities on the painting company and 15 homes, which police say were rented to employees by the company's owner, Robert Bontempo Jr.

Bontempo could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the 46 arrests, agents seized five bank accounts, 11 vehicles and more than a dozen homes as part of an investigation into the hiring and harboring of illegal immigrants. The company's owners were not arrested, but authorities said the investigation was continuing.

"Illegal means illegal. The laws should be respected and obeyed," Leopold, a former state legislator, said in an interview. "This administration has had a fair and balanced approach to immigration. On the one hand we crack down hard on illegal immigrants, but at the same time we reach out to try to assist those who are trying to secure citizenship through proper legal channels."

Midway through the rally, advocates were interrupted by shouts from onlookers who said the immigrants were to blame for their own problems.

"It's about the rule of law," said Ken Aldrich of Ellicott City, the former director of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps of Maryland, which supports strict enforcement of immigration rules.

Some at the rally charged that agents acted callously toward the workers.

Liza Zamd, a staff attorney with the advocacy group CASA of Maryland, said agents put one arrested worker's 18-month-old child in the custody of a neighbor without the man's consent. The man was later released, she said.

Jonathan Greene, a Towson immigration attorney who has offered to represent the arrested workers for free, said he has not been able to obtain the search warrants authorities used in the raid.

"No one said they received any kind of warrant," he said. "We are very concerned about what happened here," he said.

Scot Wittenberg, assistant special agent in charge for ICE in Baltimore, disputed the claims and said that federal search warrants were issued.

"If there was a child at a location, they would only be turned over to the custody of a person that the parent or guardian requested us to turn him over to," he said. "We would not turn them over to just anyone."

Nicolas Ramos, meanwhile, said he fears for his family. Ramos, a legal immigrant and entrepreneur, came to the U.S. from Nueva Rosita, Mexico, two decades ago, struggling to make a living like many of those arrested this week.

"He is a good man, hardworking and a wonderful dad," Ramos said of Delgado. "This is devastating."

Sun reporter Steven Stanek contributed to this article

July 01, 2008

Child Detainees Battle System Alone


Friday 27 June 2008

by: Maya Schenwar, t r u t h o u t | Report

Children who enter the US parentless may undergo a series of harsh trials even before they reach the courtroom to seek asylum. (Photo: Time)

Detained children often face harsh conditions while struggling against a legal system over which they have little hope of triumphing.

Undocumented children entering the US alone must confront barriers that extend far beyond the border. If apprehended, they're met with a sometimes-brutal detention period, followed by a trial under a legal system that treats them the same as apprehended adults, according to children's rights advocates and recent reports by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's Office (OIG) and the Government Accountability Office.

OIG estimates that more than 10,000 unaccompanied and undocumented children will be detained this year, not counting children who are immediately deported upon contact with Homeland Security. Most travel from Mexico or Central America. Kids migrate alone for some of the same reasons that adults do: to reunite with family or to escape persecution. Many have experienced child-specific threats, like assault by youth gangs and recruitment for special roles in organized crime, according to Sarnata Reynolds, director of the Refugee Program at Amnesty International USA. A smaller percentage, driven by devastating poverty, come to find work.

Children apprehended at the border are taken to Border Patrol stations, frequently remaining in concrete cell blocks for days on end and sometimes being transferred repeatedly to different stations before being handed over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, according to Michelle Brane, director of the Detention and Asylum Program at the Women's Commission, who has extensively investigated the treatment of unaccompanied children. Children are then placed in more permanent facilities to wait for their court dates.

"Generally before their placement, they're held in bad conditions," Brane told Truthout, noting that children are often not informed of their legal situation or what the future will bring. Although the OIG notes that 84 percent of children are placed within three days, some wait for much longer, especially during the Resettlement Office's "high season," when the system may see a backlog.

Children are eventually placed in foster care, shelters or "secure" or "staff-secure" facilities (the equivalents of juvenile detention centers). According to Brane's findings, the secure facilities are overused: due to inadequate, hurried evaluations, children with behavior or mental problems that could be otherwise resolved are often sent to "secure" detention centers.

Detention Conditions

Abuse and neglect within secure facilities are not uncommon. Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, a nonprofit legal agency, recently filed lawsuits against two detention centers that were committing "egregious abuses" against unaccompanied undocumented children, Legal Aid attorney Erica Schommer told Truthout.

Eight immigrant youths suing the Abraxas Hector Garza Treatment Center in San Antonio describe being beaten repeatedly, so severely that several required hospitalization. The abuse continued even after it was reported to their caretakers' supervisors. In Nixon, Texas, ten detained young people filing a Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid lawsuit allege repeated assault and retaliation upon reporting the abuse. Of course, most abused detainees do not have access to pro bono lawyers and cannot hope to sue; much more often than not, their stories go untold.

According to a June report by the Government Accountability Office, child detainees are not immune to the neglect suffered by their adult counterparts, widely publicized earlier this month. The report cites the example of the Cowlitz County Juvenile Detention Center in Washington State, where, despite federal mandates, "no medical screening was performed at admission and first aid kits were not available, as required." The facility also ignored requirements to maintain minors' medical records on site.

For the most part, however, the facilities' violations are kept from the public eye - and the eye of the federal government doesn't see much of them either, according to a recent OIG report noting that "interviews with Department of Unaccompanied Children's Services central office officials indicate that little oversight of facilities occurs." Federal officials aren't required to meet with children when they visit the facilities, so direct feedback is next to nonexistent.

"Severe allegations of abuse have gone uninvestigated," Reynolds told Truthout.

A lack of oversight is especially dangerous when it comes to children, she said, because they are much less likely than adults to speak out for themselves.

"Children are incredibly vulnerable - they're completely subject to the adults in charge," Reynolds said. "These kids are already feeling a lot of victimization. The last thing they need is for the detention process to subject them to further victimization."

Moreover, documentation on health care provided to detained kids is almost universally sparse, due to either "poor record-keeping" or "failure to provide services," according to the OIG. More than half of the children's medical case files lack a required assessment of their needs, and all case files are missing at least one mandatory document describing care the children received.

Some minors' situations are subject to particularly little oversight. Children whose "unaccompanied" status is questionable remain in Homeland Security custody after being apprehended, instead of being transferred to the Resettlement Office. Brane emphasizes the extraordinary absence of transparency when it comes to these kids, who may be detained indefinitely in prison-like facilities, invisible to the outside world.

"We don't know who they are or where they are," Brane said. "Most of them are kept in juvenile detention facilities meant for criminals. There's so little transparency that we haven't been able to speak to any of those children."

The Legal Wall

While detained, unaccompanied children sit in waiting for their court date, which will follow a set of legal standards exactly mirroring standards for adult detainees. This means that, when it comes to demonstrating their eligibility for asylum in the US, the children themselves hold the burden of proof.

Seventy percent of the time, these children are not provided with legal representation, according to the Women's Commission's findings, which are backed up by a 2007 Congressional Research Service report. Often, the children are not even given the chance to consult with counsel beforehand to learn their rights and the legal standards on which their cases will be decided.

However, Reynolds noted, the government is backed up by attorneys. Thus, many times an immigration judge is deciding a case between government officials armed with lawyers and an unrepresented child who speaks no English.

Although non-English-speaking defendants are always provided with an interpreter, the translator often only interprets what the judge needs to hear to decide the case, according to Brane. Kids are often left wondering the definitions of most of the words spoken in the courtroom - a reality that is not only frightening for children, but also detrimental to their chances of providing a complete testimony that addresses the claims of the governmental representatives.

Qualifications for asylum are complicated, especially for a minor unfamiliar with the US legal system. Immigrants must clearly recount the risks they would face upon returning to their home country. Kids often don't know how to articulate those dangers, according to Reynolds. For example, a child may know that he or she is being targeted by violent men, but may not understand that those men are members of a paramilitary group singling out the family based on political affiliations.

Plus, not knowing whether their testimonies will be kept confidential, children are often hesitant to speak, especially if they have been persecuted in their home country, Reynolds noted.

"Many have more than one fear, and may be afraid to talk about any of them," she said. "They don't understand what will happen to them if they tell their story."

*Randall Caudle is a mentor for the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children. He mentors large law firm attorneys providing pro bono representation to unaccompanied minors.