October 27, 2008

Immigrants' advocates protest costly cervical cancer vaccine order

From the Los Angeles Times

Immigrants' advocates decry cervical cancer vaccine order
Gardasil, recommended for young female residents, is required for their immigrant counterparts. Its cost and safety questions raise concerns.
By Mary Engel

October 22, 2008

A controversial cervical cancer vaccine that has been only recommended for U.S. residents has become a requirement for all new female immigrants ages 11 to 26, sparking an outcry over the order's safety and cost.

"It's outrageous," said Sara Sadhwani, project director for the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California. "It seems absolutely premature to mandate this for immigrant women."

The requirement went into effect Aug. 1 and will apply to more than 130,000 immigrants a year.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June 2006 approved the vaccine Gardasil for females ages 9 to 26 to block strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. About 4,000 women in the U.S. die of cervical cancer each year.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly recommended the vaccine for 11- and 12-year-old girls, with catch-up shots up to age 26. (The vaccine works best if given before a young woman is sexually active and may have already contracted the virus.)

A 1996 immigration law directs the Citizenship and Immigration Services to require that new immigrants receive inoculations that the CDC's immunization committee recommends for U.S. residents.

"It's not really a decision of ours," said immigration service spokeswoman Sharon Rummery. "We can't cherry-pick the recommendations."

Foreigners applying for permanent residency must get medical exams and vaccines against such highly contagious diseases as measles, meningitis and polio.

CDC spokesman Curtis Allen said that his agency's immunization committee, an advisory panel of physicians, did not consider the immigration implications of its decision.

"They made the recommendation based on the effectiveness and importance of the vaccine," he said. "That's their charge, and not immigration."

The CDC, Allen said, stands by its recommendation.

Although most medical organizations echo the CDC's advice that Gardasil be part of routine vaccinations, it has not been universally embraced. About a quarter of U.S. teen girls -- roughly 2.5 million -- received at least one of the three-shot series in the vaccine's first full year of distribution, according to the CDC reports. The goal is 90%. Only Virginia has made Gardasil mandatory.

There have been concerns about the vaccine's potential side effects. As of June 30, the FDA had received 9,749 "adverse events" reports from physicians and patients after Gardasil injections. Most involved pain at the injection site, headaches, nausea, fainting or fever.

The 6% of incidents that were deemed serious included 20 deaths as well blood clots and several cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can lead to paralysis. The FDA says there is no evidence that Gardasil caused the deaths or led to Guillain-Barre.

Still, some physicians believe that the vaccine's safety has not been adequately proven. Dr. George F. Sawaya, a UC San Francisco obstetrician-gynecologist who specializes in cervical cancer, called the CDC recommendation "premature" because the vaccine is so new.

"We don't know what the long-term effects will be," he said.

The vaccine blocks four strains of HPV, two of which cause about 70% of cervical cancers. The other two cause most genital warts, which can be a painful nuisance.

Hailed by many as a huge breakthrough in women's health, Gardasil is seen by others as only modestly effective. A three-year study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the vaccine reduced the incidence of precancerous lesions by just 17% overall, in part because many of the young women in the study had already been exposed to the virus.

That caveat is particularly relevant for immigrants.

"Many women will very likely get this only for the purpose of the visa," said Kate Bourne, a vice president of the New York-based International Women's Health Coalition. "Quite likely they will be at the upper end of the age range, which means they are more likely to already be sexually active, and this vaccine is useless to them."

And because only the first shot is required before applying to immigrate, there is no guarantee that applicants will complete the three-shot series, rendering the inoculation "triply meaningless," Bourne said.

Consumer advocates have also complained that the vaccine is too expensive.

The CDC's stamp of approval ensures that some private insurance plans as well as U.S. programs for the poor will cover the steep price -- $360 for the series, plus the cost of office visits. But that's no help to applicants outside the country or not eligible for U.S. aid.

"This is just an additional barrier to coming to America," said Tuyet G. Duong, a senior attorney for the Asian American Justice Center, a civil rights group based in Washington, D.C. "It just adds another layer to what has become a toxic environment for immigrants."

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, agrees.

"We don't want to convey that we don't want individuals to make healthy choices or seek out preventive healthcare," she said. "We just don't see why it should be linked to immigration."

Engel is a Times staff writer.

mary.engel@latimes.com

October 23, 2008

Deportations create dilemma for families with young U.S. citizens

Deportations create dilemma for families with young U.S. citizens

06:34 AM CDT on Wednesday, October 22, 2008

By DIANNE SOLÍS / The Dallas Morning News
dsolis@dallasnews.com

It's at bedtime that Jorge Barraza misses his father most. The 5-year-old, clutching two stuffed animals, is dressed in pajamas and a felt cowboy hat just like his dad's. But such comforts don't make up for the absence of Juan Carlos Barraza, a Mexican migrant repatriated to his old hometown.
"He's really in Mexico. By himself," Jorge says in English. "We went to visit him, and the first night I wanted to get home."

Jorge, who lives in Mesquite with his mother, is one of nearly 3.5 million children in the U.S. caught in the middle of the national debate about illegal immigration – born in this country to a parent who is an illegal immigrant.

Amid the biggest wave of repatriations and deportations in decades, these children are being pulled in two directions – a situation that the U.S. government blames on the parents.

"The responsibility of these decisions rests with the parents, not with ICE," says Carl Rusnok of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

Some, like Jorge, stay in the U.S. without one of their parents.

Others, like 8-year-old Leslee Acuitlapa, are asked to start new lives in countries that are foreign to them.

For almost a year, Leslee and her family have lived in Malinalco, a town of about 8,000 about 80 miles south of Mexico City. Its fresco-filled convent and Aztec temple draw weekend tourists, as does the nearby golf course. But there's also considerable poverty, and the Acuitlapas are living in it.

As a construction worker, José Acuitlapa makes a fraction of what he did as a golf course groundskeeper in Georgia, where the family had a three-bedroom house. Here, everyone sleeps in one room, and the three children haven't had an easy adjustment.

Leslee once drew pictures of an airplane and a sun with beams of tears.

"I had to leave," her caption read. Her 3-year-old sister, Sarah, clings constantly to their mother; 13-year-old brother Justin finds school easy. Among his classes is English as a second language.

Their U.S. citizen mother, Marty Parsons Acuitlapa, says simply, "They miss Georgia."

History-making

Jeffrey S. Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, says the magnitude of the immigration issues facing the U.S. is unprecedented.

"For the first 100 years of U.S. history, there was no such thing as an illegal immigrant," Mr. Passel says. "And for the next 50 years, if you showed up, they let you in. We didn't have a significant illegal immigrant population living here until the 1970s."

The number of undocumented immigrants is estimated to be about 12 million – the most in U.S. history.

Under the 14th Amendment, children born in this country generally are citizens by right, regardless of the immigration status of their parents.

Some would like to see birthright citizenship ended and argue that the 14th Amendment has been legally misinterpreted.

Others want legislation passed that would limit automatic citizenship at birth to children born in the U.S. who have a parent who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia has sponsored such legislation – his latest attempt in early August – but the measure hasn't gone far.

And there seems little chance that the Constitution will be amended further.

For those who stay in the U.S., life can be harsh. Raids by immigration authorities, house arrests and greater scrutiny by local police have led to a record number of interior removals by federal authorities.

A study last year by the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank, found that children whose parents were caught in raids suffered from feelings of abandonment, of being outcasts.

And a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association last month said that the jump in immigration enforcement placed children at a heightened risk for depression and anxiety disorders.

Blaming the parents

The federal agency that enforces immigration laws says the parents are to blame if these children suffer.

"This comes down to the children or family being impacted negatively by the decisions of their parents," says Carl Rusnok of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

Others say that the children shouldn't get a free pass to live in the U.S. just because of their parents' decision to come here.

Cathie Adams, president of the Texas Eagle Forum and a recent delegate to the Republican Party convention, said parents "have prepared the way for a difficult future by breaking the law."

"But I would encourage them to stay with the children," she said. "If they came here illegally, I would encourage them to go home and come in the right way."

The solution is simple, says Joe Kennard, a real estate developer who lives part time in Waxahachie. He started HelpCitizenChildren.org so church groups could sponsor a U.S. citizen-child with financial help to cover rent, schooling and other expenses. He says parents of these children should not be sent away.

"These are fellow citizens left in limbo," Mr. Kennard says of the children. "The radicals say that they deserve what they get. I say: Why?"

Last year on Sept. 9, Ms. Parsons Acuitlapa went to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez with her husband, hoping his green card would finally be approved based on her status as a U.S. citizen.

Instead, he was barred by U.S. consular officials from re-entry into the U.S. for 10 years because he had entered the country illegally.

Ms. Parsons Acuitlapa decided the family couldn't live apart. A month later, she and the children reunited with her husband.

"Some say we would have been better off not to have applied for papers," she says.

And she emphasizes that she and her children didn't "come back" to Mexico.

"We were forced to come to a place we didn't know," she said. "I hope that the laws change in the U.S."

Mesquite is home

Jorge's mother, Yvette Medrano-Barraza, 27, chose to stay in the U.S. to keep her son in Mesquite schools.

She had visited her husband's hometown of Recodo after he was barred in March from re-entry to the U.S. But the schools there were substandard, she decided, and far too many people in the Mexican state of Sinaloa were involved in the drug trade.

"My husband made the choice to come here illegally," says Ms. Medrano-Barraza, a U.S. citizen. "I made the choice of marrying him, knowing he was here illegally. My son didn't make a choice to have a dad who was here illegally."

These days in Mesquite, Jorge tells his mother, "I am angry with my dad because he left us."

Ms. Medrano-Barraza has abandoned the $70,000 house she bought. She lives with an aunt to save on utilities. And she's done a voluntary repossession on her small sport utility vehicle. She sends her husband $200 a month, sometimes half that. She's taking medication to fight depression and insomnia.

In Recodo, Mr. Barraza makes $25 a week – a fraction of the $600 he sometimes earned as a Texas chimney cleaner.

Each night, he waits for his wife's call, Mr. Barraza says in a phone interview. And when he talks to his son and Jorge asks when he'll return, he says only "pronto." Never anything more. "I can't say more."

Staff writer Laurence Iliff contributed to this report.


THE 14TH AMENDMENT

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

October 17, 2008

President Bush Discusses the Visa Waiver Program

11:13 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Please be seated, thank you. Welcome to the White House. I'm pleased to stand with the representatives of seven countries -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea -- that have met the requirements to be admitted to the United States Visa Waiver Program. Soon the citizens of these nations will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism without a visa. I congratulate these close friends and allies on this achievement, and I thank you for joining us here.

I also thank Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of the Homeland -- Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff for working hard to make sure this day has finally arrived. Appreciate other members of the administration here and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

All of the nations represented here today allow American citizens to travel to their countries visa-free. The United States has not accorded their citizens the same privilege. For years the leaders of these nations have explained to me how frustrating it is for their citizens to wait in lines and pay visa fees to take a vacation or make a business trip or visit their families here in the United States. These close friends of America told me that it was unfair that their people had to jump through bureaucratic hoops that other allies can walk around.

I told them I agree with them. I also told them that in the world after September 11th, we could only expand travel opportunities if we increased security measures at the same time. So nearly two years ago, my administration asked Congress to modernize our Visa Waiver Program in a way that accomplished both of these goals. I appreciate the bipartisan support this initiative has received on Capitol Hill. My administration worked with Congress to pass a law allowing us to admit new countries to the Visa Waiver Program. These countries agree to share information about threats to our people. They also agree that their citizens use a new system that requires travelers to register online ahead of their visits to the United States. These citizens will travel to the United States only if they have tamper-proof biometric passports. I'm grateful to the dedicated officers from the United States and our allies who worked hard to complete the agreements to meet these new requirements.

Because of this good work, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has notified our Congress that the administration intends to use its new authority to admit seven countries into the Visa Waiver Program. In about a month, we will be proud to extend to citizens of these seven countries the privilege of visa-free travel.

Today's announcement signifies a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and your nations. It is a testament to the strong bonds of friendship that unite our people.

This is a significant achievement, but it is only the start. A number of America's other close friends are participating in a process called the "visa waiver road map" that is helping them qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. I welcome the ambassadors from these "road map" countries -- Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Poland, and Romania. We thank you for coming today. We thank you for your friendship. And we look forward to the day when your countries join the Visa Waiver Program.

I believe the best foreign policy for America is one that lets people from other countries get to know this country firsthand. Throughout our history, some of the strongest advocates of freedom have been those who came to America and saw the blessings of liberty with their own eyes. Extending this opportunity to some of our closest allies deepens our friendship and makes all our countries safer. I'm grateful to all the countries here for seeking to strengthen the ties between our citizens. I look forward to even stronger partnerships in the years ahead.

Thank you for coming. (Applause.)

END 11:17 A.M. EDT

October 14, 2008

November 2008 Visa Bulletin

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT VISA BULLETIN

NOVEMBER 2008

(COURTESY OF THE LAW OFFICE OF RANDALL CAUDLE)

FAMILY IMMIGRATION

PREFERENCES

WORLDWIDE

CHINA (PRC)-
mainland
born

INDIA

MEXICO

PHILIPPINES

1st (USC Unmarried Sons & Daughters over 21)

MAY 01, 2002

MAY 01, 2002

MAY 01, 2002

SEP. 15, 1992

MAY 01, 1993

2A (LPR Spouses & Unmarried Children under 21)

FEB. 08, 2004

FEB. 08, 2004

FEB. 08, 2004

JULY 15, 2001

FEB. 08, 2004

2B (LPR Unmarried Sons & Daughters over 21)

JAN. 15, 2000

JAN. 15, 2000

JAN. 15, 2000

APRIL 22, 1992

JUNE 15, 1997

3rd (USC Married Sons & Daughters)

JULY 01, 2000

JULY 01, 2000

JULY 01, 2000

SEPT. 15, 1992

MAY 08, 1991

4th (USC Brothers & Sisters)

NOV. 15, 1997

JUNE 08, 1997

JULY 22, 1997

JAN. 22, 1995

MAR. 22, 1986

EMPLOYMENT-BASED IMMIGRATION

PREFERENCES

WORLDWIDE

CHINA (PRC) Mainland Born

INDIA

MEXICO

PHILIPPINES

1st (EB-1)

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

2nd (EB-2)

CURRENT

JUN. 01, 2004

JUN. 01, 2003

CURRENT

CURRENT

3rd (EB-3)

MAY 01, 2005

FEB. 01, 2002

OCT. 01, 2001

SEP, 01, 2002

MAY 01, 2005

Schedule A Workers

(RNs, PTs )

JAN. 15, 2003

JAN. 15, 2003

JAN. 15, 2003

JAN. 15, 2003

JAN. 15, 2003

Unskilled Workers (less than 2 years exp. Required)

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

4th (EB-4)

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

Religious Workers

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

5th (EB-5) (Investors)

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

Targeted Employment Areas/Regional Centers

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets an annual family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000. The annual limit for employment-based preference immigrants is 140,000.

October 10, 2008

Family Tangled Up in Immigration System Divided Between Two Countries

By Anne Blythe / McClatchy Newspapers
Thursday, October 9, 2008


DURHAM, N.C. - Angela Guerrero knew she might be overwhelmed for a few weeks, possibly a month, juggling work, child care and the daily grind of family life when her husband set out for the U.S. consulate offices in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

She never expected to be in the predicament she is in - her husband of five years banned from this country for at least a decade, her family torn between two countries and a tangle of immigration issues to unsnarl.

Ricardo Guerrero, an illegal immigrant, had tired of looking over his shoulder, constantly wondering whether deportation was just a misstep away.

So one February day, Guerrero kissed his family goodbye in Durham. Eager to stop living on the fringes of the law, as many illegal immigrants do, he flew to his native Mexico with papers a Wake County notary public had helped him prepare and a two-page letter from his American-born wife.

His optimistic plan was to return with a green card, the official document that would give him better access to the jobs and education he dreamed of when he came to this country nine years ago in search of a better life.

But those hopes were dashed by what immigration lawyers say is a sweeping problem - notaries who are unauthorized and unlicensed to practice law overstepping their bounds and giving bad advice about immigration laws and procedures.

Now the Guerreros are a family divided by a border and thousands of miles.

He’s in Mexico City with their sons Cauhtli, 2, and Yoali, 5. She’s raising the school-age girls Kristine, 12, and Samantha, 8, in Durham, the city where she has lived all but a few years of her life.

"It gets really hard, really depressing," said Angela Guerrero, 30. "I feel like it’s just like imprisoning somebody. All of us as a family, all of us are in prison. And for what? What have we done to have our family separated like this?"

The family’s experience is the backbone of a civil lawsuit filed in the Durham County courthouse by the North Carolina Justice Center against Eiblys and Edna Ochoa, who run Global Enterprises of North Carolina, an immigration-service business that once had offices in Durham, Wake County and Wilson.

Jose Antonio Guillen Mendoza, a Mexican citizen and North Carolina resident, is also party to the suit, which the Justice Center hopes to pursue as a class-action case.

The Ochoas, through their lawyer, John M. Kirby of Raleigh, have declined to comment about the allegations. But in court documents they have disputed the claims and asked for the case to be dismissed.

Ricardo Guerrero, 27, sought the assistance of the Ochoas in 2004 after tuning in to a weekly Spanish-language radio program on WETC 540 AM. Eiblys Ochoa, according to the suit, dispensed advice on immigration law to callers, often telling them to visit Global Enterprises storefront offices for further assistance.

Many callers to the radio show referred to Eiblys Ochoa as "abogado," the Spanish word for lawyer. Although he is not a lawyer, the suit said, the radio personality failed to correct those who called in for advice.

In the Guerreros’ Durham home, the radio was often tuned to Spanish-language stations. Angela Guerrero, a North Carolina native whose Spanish is limited, remembers the day her husband decided to seek the assistance of the Ochoas.

"He heard this guy and said, ’Well, we can go to him, he can help us get our paperwork together,’ " Angela Guerrero recalls. "I was thinking because we were married - we were told our situation looked good - that we wouldn’t have a problem."

Angela Guerrero joined her husband the first few times he visited with the Ochoas in their Durham office. Eiblys Ochoa was a licensed notary, and the Guerreros thought that by plunking down more than $1,400 they were getting the advice they needed to navigate the complexities of U.S. immigration law.

"That was our assumption," Angela Guerrero said.

But Tom Fulghum, the Durham immigration lawyer who is helping Ricardo Guerrero appeal the U.S. State Department decision, says otherwise.

"We’re trying to undo the damage," Fulghum said.

Ricardo Guerrero went to his 15-minute interview at the consulate inadequately prepared. Even though his wife is American and their children were born in this country, the couple had to show that their not being together would be an extreme hardship. A green card was not a sure thing.

He had been in North Carolina illegally for years. Once, after an immigration raid, he chose to leave the United States voluntarily rather than risk deportation; and he divulged that information to State Department officials.

"He was up front about it," Fulghum said. "But he doesn’t understand the difference between a voluntary return and a deportation."

Deportation results in a lifetime ban from this country. Had Guerrero truly been deported, Fulghum said, his return to North Carolina would have been a violation that immediately made him ineligible for the family-based waiver he sought.

"He kind of went in there blind and was trying to be extremely honest," Fulghum said. "Because he’s not a lawyer, he didn’t understand the difference between the two procedures."

His request for legal status was quickly rejected.

As lawyers work to untangle the legal issues hamstringing the Guerreros, the couple struggles with the upheaval in their family life.

"We went through this process because we wanted a better life for our children," Angela Guerrero said.

Angela and Ricardo met in 1999 when they both worked as house painters in Durham. They married in June 2003.

Although he was here illegally, Ricardo was able to string together routine work as a painter and contractor.

On weekends and after work, Ricardo liked to play soccer with a league in Oxford. When they had extra money, the couple would spend hours at Northgate Mall in Durham, shopping and sampling from different restaurants in the food court.

They also liked to take their children to the movies.

Their routines are very different now.

It’s her responsibility to be the family bread-winner. If their truck breaks down, as it has been doing lately, she has to get it fixed.

The daily cell phone calls are their family time.

"I miss his company. I miss his being at home," Angela Guerrero said. "It’s just terrible being at home by yourself."

Angela Guerrero works four 12-hour days each week as a nurse’s aide at UNC Hospitals. Then three days a week, she goes to nursing school classes at Alamance Community College, working her way toward a degree that will give her a chance at higher-paying jobs.

Overwhelmed by work, school and raising four children, Angela Guerrero got passports for their two sons and took them in April to live with their father for a while. She visited once in the summer.

Her eyes well with tears and her voice cracks with emotion when she talks about the childhood milestones she is missing while the boys are away.

She worries that her youngest son, who has been soaking up new words and experiences in her absence, no longer responds to her voice.

The girls miss their brothers and Ricardo.

Every phone call ends with "Daddy, when are you coming back?"

Angela Guerrero, a practical and patient woman, hopes her family will be reunited soon. "I know it takes time, especially to overturn a case," she said. "I think we’re finally getting the kind of help we need."

Although she’s not one to hold a grudge, Guerrero says she hopes telling her experience in the lawsuit will serve as a cautionary tale for others.

"That’s more or less what I want to do is make other people aware of what’s going on," Guerrero said.

"If I’m going through this, God only knows what somebody else is going through. These people go and they want to get help and want to be able to become U.S. citizens and even get an education. They get so excited thinking ’I’m getting my paperwork filled out.’ You’re trusting someone to fill your paperwork out right and act for you. It’s hard when they don’t."

October 09, 2008

America's promise to protect asylum-seekers gets lost in the paperwork

By Lisa Rab
October 09, 2008

Eleven years ago, Peter arrived in America, desperate for a place to hide.

In his native Uganda, he had been a rebel, a human-rights activist who fought for a multi-party system in a country ruled since 1986 by a one-party regime. Peter, who did not want his real name printed for fear of retribution, had worked to motivate young people to join the opposition Conservative Party. He'd driven people to rallies and tried to educate them about their political rights.

In September 1997, he was driving with his boss, the director of a Ugandan human-rights organization, when government soldiers arrested them at a roadblock. Peter was taken to a place the soldiers called a "safe house" — a military barracks not part of the regular justice system in Uganda. Here, people suspected of supporting political enemies of the regime were tortured in secret. Peter says he was detained without trial, beaten and tortured for a month.

While he was there, Peter says, his father, another longtime activist, was arrested and fatally stabbed with a bayonet. His mother, already suffering from heart and blood-pressure problems, couldn't bear the loss of her husband and son at the same time. She died within a week. Peter, who was thirty then, missed both of their funerals.

Eventually, he managed to escape from the prison and use his political connections to obtain a visa and a ticket to safety the United States.

But in Denver, where he ended up, he met a fate familiar to many refugees before him: failure. He found work as a janitor and applied for asylum. "If I return to Uganda, there is no doubt that I will be detained without trial, tortured, beaten once again by Ugandan government soldiers," he wrote in his application.

But he was rejected, and his appeal was unsuccessful.

"They didn't even believe my story," he said in a September interview with Westword at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jail. "They said, 'Well, Uganda is not that bad.' "

So Peter, who'd also had some run-ins with the law here, spent the next few years in and out of immigration jails, waiting to be deported.

Just before he was set to leave, in April 2004, he called the Ugandan embassy in Washington, D.C., to discuss his travel documents. Embassies officials must be informed when their countrymen are being deported, but in the case of asylum-seekers, the foreign government is not supposed to know why. Dictators and military regimes don't look kindly on political opponents who criticize their policies and are not likely to roll out the welcome mat when they return home.

But in Peter's case, something had gone very wrong; the Ugandan embassy officials were expecting him. The consul who answered the phone told Peter that he had seen his asylum file and knew that Peter was still a supporter of the opposition party — destroying any chance that he could return home unnoticed by the authorities.

Panic radiated over the phone line as Peter realized what this meant. "How will I be treated when I get to the airport, or in Uganda?" he asked.

You'll find out when you get there, the consul said, and hung up.

Secrecy is an essential part of America's promise to refugees.

When they apply for asylum, they are by definition seeking to escape persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality or political views. The law says that everything they write will be kept private. "No information indicating that you have applied for asylum will be provided to any government or country from which you claim a fear of persecution," the instructions for asylum applications state.

When refugees have face-to-face interviews with immigration officials, the promise is repeated, says one local expert on the process. "Everything you tell me will be kept confidential. It won't be shared with your home government," says Regina Germain, legal director of the Rocky Mountain Survivors Center in Denver. "It doesn't say 'unless you're rejected.'"

Sometimes, though, secrets leak out. Especially for those refugees the government decides to send back home. In Peter's case, it began with a mere paperwork error.

When ICE officials decide to deport someone who doesn't have a valid passport, they must first get a new passport from the person's home government. Often, the home embassies want to know why their citizen is being deported. Over the years, it has become common practice for ICE officials to send a copy of the immigration judge's order, showing that an applicant has been legally asked to leave.

The order form is a standard bureaucratic document, with a line at the top explaining, "Respondent was ordered removed from the United States to [name of country]." Then there is a list of reasons why the person is being deported — a green card denied, a crime committed, an invalid marriage, etc. — and boxes to check off which ones apply. Near the middle of the form is an option saying an application for asylum was denied.

ICE officials understand that they are supposed to keep this part secret, but they take a very simple approach to the problem: They white out, redact or cover up the asylum portion of the form, then send it off to the person's home embassy.

In fact, this is common at immigration field offices all over the country, according to testimony by Tammy Cyr-Talbot, a supervisor at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C., who took the stand in a similar case in Denver. "Sometimes I've seen where a piece of paper has been put over the reference, and then a photocopy is submitted," she testified in January 2008.

But in Peter's case, the government skipped a step. ICE officials neglected to white-out his form, instead sending the whole, unedited version to the Ugandan embassy. (Embassy officials didn't respond to an interview request).

From his home office in Lafayette, Jim Salvator has spent more than two decades helping immigrants find a legal haven in the United States. Peter tried for months to hire Salvator — known for both his success and his soft spot for pro bono cases — with his failed asylum case, but the attorney kept saying it was a lost cause. Until one day in 2004, when Peter mentioned his phone call to the embassy.

"Well, that's different," Salvator said.

The government's failure to edit Peter's paperwork was a blatant breach of confidentiality, Salvator reasoned. And because it put Peter in grave danger if he were returned to Uganda, it was grounds for him to be granted asylum.

By coincidence, a few days before Peter called the Ugandan embassy, the non-profit watchdog Human Rights Watch had released a new report on political conditions in Uganda — and the news wasn't good. "State of Pain: Torture in Uganda" described how, in the name of rooting out armed rebels, Uganda's military and security officers were torturing ordinary civilians who opposed the reigning political party. Suspects were being held in secret prisons, just like the one Peter had endured.

"Politicians challenging the de facto single-party state and the 18-year rule of Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, are often detained, severely beaten and threatened with death by the uncontrolled security apparatus," the report said.

Since 2001, the use of torture as an interrogation tool has become more common in the country, and victims were often suspended from the ceiling with their hands and feet tied behind their backs, beaten with hammers and sticks studded with nails, forced to endure genital mutilation, or made to lie face up while water from an open spigot poured into their mouths, the report continued.

Human Rights Watch investigators interviewed more than twenty current and former prisoners about their experiences. A man named James, who had worked on the campaign of the opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, described being placed on the floor and blindfolded. Then "they poured water over him and beat him with wire cables. They beat him all over his body, stepped on him with their boots, and hit him in the head with a board with nails on it; he has three scars on his head," the report reads.

Even the U.S. State Department admitted that the situation in Uganda was deteriorating. In 2004, the department wrote that "there were widespread and credible reports that security forces tortured and beat suspects in unregistered detention facilities to force confessions." In fact, the Uganda Human Rights Commission had received more than 2,200 complaints of mistreatment by security forces; 179 of those incidents involved torture, according to the State Department. That year, 128 Ugandans applied for asylum in the United States.

For Peter, the stakes were especially high. "The Internal Security Organization here knows him as a rebel who wants to overthrow the government by the use of arms," John Ken-Lukyamuzi, president of the Conservative Party, wrote to the U.S. Justice Department in 1998, in support of Peter. (Ken-Lukyamuzi still leads the party.)

All of this helped convince the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia and U.S District Judge Marcia Krieger in Denver to reopen Peter's case. And when new hearings began, Salvator says he was amazed at how ICE officials explained their practices.

Denise Cordova, a local ICE deportation officer, testified that she had sent the Ugandan embassy Peter's paperwork, and although she didn't send his whole asylum file — as Peter originally claimed — she did admit to sending a judge's order of removal that "was not completely redacted."

"We did not take out everything that's pertained to...asylum," she testified. "His application for voluntary departure [that] was denied, his asylum denial, and then the application for withholding of removal that was denied."

"The truth began to seep out," Salvator says. "Since then, we've been winning."

As the months passed and Peter began to understand what had happened in his case, it also became clear that he was not alone.

Germain, who spent six years working for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, says that during that time, she heard of approximately ten cases where the confidentiality of an asylum applicant was breached. Typically, the mistake occurred during the U.S. government's request for travel documents.

But of greater concern, she says, is how many cases never get reported, because most people never see the paper trail that reveals the problem. By the time their clients are being deported, immigration lawyers have already lost their cases. They don't usually follow up to see what happens afterward.

"I don't know how widespread the problem is," says Phil Alterman, another Denver immigration attorney. "My concern is that it might be going on nationally."

Alterman represents an asylum-seeker whose situation was similar to Peter's. Because his case is still ongoing and because his client fears deportation, Alterman would not give out his client's name or his home country. He would say only that the country is a totalitarian regime, one of a group that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called "outposts of tyranny."

In Alterman's case, ICE officials did redact the asylum information from the judge's order before sending it to his client's home embassy. But Alterman argues that even this attempt to protect his client's identity was flawed. Once you've seen the full judge's order, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which portion has been whited out. Any embassy official familiar with the form could fill in the blanks.

So far, this argument has proved powerful in the courtroom. In 2005, the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed to reopen Alterman's client's case, reasoning that by sending the form to his home embassy, ICE "caused the [foreign] government to become aware of an opponent."

A former ambassador to the country wrote a letter bolstering the argument, noting that "the fact that the government of [the country] may have learned that [Alterman's client] has applied for asylum...exposes him to enormous risk of persecution upon his return."

A new hearing was held in a Denver immigration court, and three months ago, Alterman's client won asylum (The government has appealed its decision).

Meanwhile, other cases have emerged. At a recent hearing in Peter's case, attorney Sandra Saltrese testified about an unnamed Ugandan asylum-seeker she represented. In June 2006, his application for asylum was rejected, and his effort to prove that confidentiality rules were broken failed. He was about to be deported from Denver, but the man was so afraid to go home that ICE guards had to sedate him before taking him on the plane. When he arrived in Uganda, he was turned over to government authorities, and his American escorts left.

After that, Saltrese testified, he was "beaten up" by Ugandan police officers, who taunted him by saying things like "You applied for asylum; that's not gonna work here." Finally, one of the man's relatives bribed enough officials to get him out of prison, and the man fled to Canada, where he has since received asylum. But he was so scarred by the experience and so paranoid about retaliation that he refused to testify in Peter's case.

Then there is the case of Dorothy Anim, a native of Cameroon who applied for asylum in 2003. According to court documents, Anim said she was member of the South Cameroon National Council, an organization that advocates for the secession of English-speaking provinces, which face discrimination from the French-speaking government. In 2002 she was arrested three times because of her involvement with the group. The third time, she was beaten every day for two months, according to court records, until her uncle bribed a police commander to help her escape.

When she made it to the U.S., she presented her case to an immigration judge; it included affidavits and letters from her former bosses and family members, testimony from a former professor who had heard about her persecution, and copies of police convocations ordering her to return to the police station after she escaped. But the judge wasn't sure her story was credible, so he asked the State Department to verify her documentation.

An investigation was conducted by a Cameroon-born citizen who worked for the American embassy. That person interviewed a security official in the Northwest Province and concluded that Anim's police convocations were forged. This helped convince the immigration judge to deny Anim asylum.

But Anim wasn't ready to give up. She appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, saying her confidentiality had been breached by the government's investigation. Her lawyer pointed out that the State Department never explained who the Cameroonian was who conducted the investigation, or what methods the person used to prevent the government security official from learning that Anim had applied for asylum in the U.S.

Anim lost that appeal. But this August, she won another. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia reasoned that showing unedited copies of the police convocations to the Cameroon security official "would allow the official to reasonably infer that Anim had applied for asylum, thus satisfying the test for a breach of confidentiality."

Anim won a new hearing, and immigration advocates saw her case as a victory against a flawed system.

The government's attorneys are less than thrilled about the recent spate of confidentiality rulings and they have fought to quash each case. When Peter won his second asylum hearing, ICE appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which ordered a third hearing in Denver.

ICE attorney Dani Page argued that Peter's claims about his political activities in Uganda weren't credible. She pointed out that in his original application for asylum, he only mentioned being a member of a group called Human Rights Africa, not the Conservative Party. (Peter says the translator helping him with his application, Lameck Mukeeze Muwanga, edited out the political information. The feds later investigated Muwanga for fraud involving the asylum applications of several Ugandan refugees, and he was barred from working as an interpreter for the Denver immigration court. Muwanga now lives in Tacoma, Washington, and the person who answered his phone said he is temporarily out of the country.)

But even if Peter was in danger, Page said that ICE's error in allowing the Ugandan embassy to see his unedited judge's order was no big deal — and in fact, it probably wasn't an isolated mistake. "We always get travel documents with a redacted order or with an order," she said at a 2006 hearing in Peter's case. "Certainly there've been other mistakes. There's absolutely no evidence that somebody being returned under those circumstances has suffered any consequence."

To support her argument, Page submitted a letter from Lynn Sicade, acting director of the State Department's Office of Multilateral and Global Affairs. Sicade wrote that her office had contacted the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, about Peter's case, and an unnamed official there had "noted that in his two years at the embassy, he has not come across any record of the Ugandan government taking action against an individual because they had attempted to claim asylum in another country."

In the absence of a corpse or a victim with bruises, the feds reasoned, how can you be sure Peter will be punished?

Page followed a similar strategy in Alterman's case. Three months ago, Alterman's client had a new hearing in federal court, and he won asylum. But Page has already appealed the decision.

She and other ICE attorneys argue that sending the redacted judge's order to a deported asylum-seeker's home embassy does not violate that person's confidentiality — in fact, it meets the standard for protecting confidentiality. "The Department continues to believe that this minimum standard is sufficient," Ronald Lapid, an attorney for the Department of Homeland Security, wrote in a 2005 brief to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Alterman's case.

In Lapid's view, even corrupt or dictatorial governments aren't interested enough in the activities of their deported citizens to compare a regular judge's order with redacted ones, much less deduce anything from them.

"There is...no evidence in the record to show that the [totalitarian country's] government has ever made such comparisons, or that the [country's] government continually tries to find out whether its citizens have ever applied for political asylum in the United States," he wrote.

Page referred all questions to regional ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok, who insisted that his department was dedicated to protecting the secrets of refugees. "ICE exercises extreme caution to ensure that individual asylum seekers are not identified," he wrote in an e-mail. "As a matter of fact, I cannot discuss specific asylum cases with the media for that very reason; their confidentiality is paramount."

On a chilly September morning, Peter walks reluctantly into Judge David Cordova's courtroom, wearing the standard orange jumpsuit of the Aurora immigration jail. He's tall and lean, with a beard that needs trimming and sweat that betrays his nerves.

Usually, Salvator says, Peter is an excellent jailhouse lawyer — articulate and passionate in his arguments, with an impressive command of English. Today, though, he seems disoriented, barely able to look at the federal attorney cross-examining him.

It's his medicine, used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, Salvator explains. According to the jail's staff psychiatrist, Peter suffers from flashbacks and depression from the torture he experienced in Uganda. "By taking medication, he is better able to cope with his living," the doctor wrote in a note for the court.

Every time Peter is released from jail, he loses access to his medication. So he self-medicates with drugs and finds himself in some kind of trouble, Salvator says. He's pleaded guilty to possessing drug paraphernalia and trespassing, and at one point violated his parole (only aggravated felony charges affect asylum cases). If Salvator had his way, Peter would get a psychiatric evaluation so the courts could decide if he should be put in a mental-health facility. "I don't know if he can hold a job without his meds," Salvator says.

But today, none of that matters. All Peter wants is for his case to be resolved. And after a decade, he finally has a chance to win.

Judge Cordova decides that ICE did violate Peter's confidentiality, and he now "has a reasonable fear of going back to Uganda."

"I think he's credible; I think he has a fear of going back," Cordova says. He grants Peter asylum. (ICE attorneys have until October 15 to appeal the decision.) Grinning, Peter hugs his lawyer and shakes hands with everyone around. In a few hours, he'll be free. He'll spend his first night in a homeless shelter, without a phone or a job. But at least he doesn't have to worry about going home.

Contact the author at lisa.rab@westword.com.

Figures From The World Bank And The United Nations Reveal How Migratory Trends And Remittance Are Affected By The Global Economic Climate

Only three out of every 100 people on earth is an international migrant,
according to the latest United Nations report on population and
development, and
the surprising aspect is that this figure has not changed since 1990. But while
the number of international migrants may have risen by 36 million (as the
world's population has increased) to reach 191 million by 2005, the irony is
that in this era of globalisation the growth of the migrant population has
slowed down. Also, in contrast to some perceptions that migration is spiralling
out of control it is interesting to examine in the current shifting global
economic circumstances how increasing numbers of migrants may be returning home
to improved domestic circumstances.

Migration patterns have changed but in different ways. The increase in the
global number of migrants between 1990 and 2005 was five million lower than
between 1975 and 1990. In 1970, in only three countries with populations in
excess of 10 million (Australia, Canada and France) did the proportion of
international migrants surpass 10%. But by 2000 that number of countries had
increased to nine (Australia, Belarus, Canada, Cote d'Ivoire, France,
Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and the US), with those nine accounting for
40% of the world's migrant stock.

Today, not surprisingly, the more developed countries are hosting 60% of the
world's migrants with one in three migrants living in Europe and one in four
living in North America. In 2005, according to the UN, three quarters of all
migrants were hosted by the 28 largest receiving countries. The UN also notes
that since 1990, 72 countries registered an absolute decline in their migrant
populations as a result in large part to the successful repatriation of some 21
million refugees, particularly to developing countries.

Gulf booms

Reflecting the resolution of some long-standing conflicts,
migration patterns
have changed as millions of refugees have been able to return home.
The UN notes
that the global refugee population dropped from 20 million in 1990 to less than
14 million in 2005. Also, demographics and economic necessity are driving
change. Europe's population, for example, would have been declining since 1995
had it not been for migration. Also, one of the largest concentrations of
migrants is found in the oil-producing countries in the Middle East, where by
2005 the Gulf states were hosting 13 million migrants, mostly
temporary workers.

The oil-rich Gulf states have proved particularly useful to
migrants from the
Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh, especially amid the Gulf's current
economic boom.

According to a World Bank report on remittances in July, the Gulf Co-
operation Council (GCC) states have among the highest number of migrants as a
share of population in the world, with Qatar at 78%, UAE at 71%, Kuwait at 62%,
Bahrain at 41%, Saudi Arabia at 26% and Oman at 24%. Remittances to the
Philippines and Pakistan are continuing to grow robustly by between 15% and 20%
in the first nine months of 2007, while Bangladesh has experienced a steep
increase in the first half of 2008 compared with the previous three years.
Remittances from migrants to these areas are said to be helping mitigate the
impact of high food and oil prices on the poor in many developing countries.

Remittance trends

The latest World Bank data reveals that remittance flows to developing
countries reached $251bn in 2007, up 11% on 2006 and more than double those of
2002. Mexico and the Philippines, which are among the top four remittance
recipients in the developing world, reported remittance inflows for 2007 of
$25bn and $17.2bn, respectively, with Poland reporting actual inflows of $11bn
in 2007, or 2.5% of GDP, twice earlier estimates. This change makes Poland the
fifth largest remittance recipient among developing countries with Romania also
significantly higher at $9bn in 2007. India and China were the top
remittance-recipient countries in 2007, with an estimated $27bn and $25.7bn in
remittances, respectively.

So what factors affect migration trends and remittances? And what impact do
events such as the credit crunch have? Last month, Mexico's central bank, Banco
de Mexico
, announced that remittances have fallen for the first time in a
decade. A 6.93% decline was reported for July compared with the same period a
year ago. Remittances are Mexico's second largest source of income after oil,
and in 2007 reached $25bn, compared with $13.6bn from January-July 2008.

This fall has been influenced by high inflation in the US, stricter border
controls
reducing the influx of immigrants into the US, and the currently
troubled US economy. After remittances more than doubled between 2002 and 2007,
the slowdown in the US economy, especially the construction sector,
has affected
the employment and incomes of Mexican migrants in the US.

The World Bank says: "The stock of Mexican migrants may not have
changed much
but the recent (US) enforcement efforts appear to have reduced the number of
seasonal migrants and their ability to send remittances, especially through
formal channels."

Why people migrate

Are economic changes the prime cause behind migration moves?
Clearly the boom
in the GCC states creates job opportunities, but Michelle Mittelstadt,
spokesperson for the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute (MPI), is
adamant that major moves are not affected by the short-term business climate.

"We believe decisions to migrate are long-term life decisions that have far
less to do with the destination countries than the country of
origin," she says.

But much also has to do with skills and levels of government
support. The MPI
emphasises the role of circular migration programmes by governments
to encourage
and support mobility patterns and also what governments, such as that of the
Philippines, can do to better manage migration.

According to the World Bank's Neil Ruiz: "More than 8.2 million native
Filipinos work or live abroad, equivalent to almost 25% of the total labour
force. About 75,000 Filipinos are deployed for overseas employment every month.
Filipinos also comprise 30% of all sea-based workers in the world. Remittances
from these migrants amounted to about $17bn or 13% of GDP in 2007."

For example, prior to departure, all Filipino overseas contract workers must
undergo the Philippine government's mandatory deployment process, two key
components of which are pre-departure orientation seminars and the issuance of
identification cards. Creating an institutional framework helps better manage
international migration.

India, China and Mexico were the three largest recipients of remittances in
2007 and, with $77.7bn, they account for nearly one third of remittances
received by the developing countries. But migration issues cover more than just
remittances, and new markets are opening up in various geographies for various
skill sets.

Not only are 300,000 so-called 'sea turtles' returning to new opportunities
in China (see box) but areas such as the Gulf are now attractive places for
senior bank executives from major financial centres, not just for construction
workers. With the global financial focus moving east, the Gulf, India and China
are taking on new perspectives and luring back many expatriates who have gained
valuable experience abroad. Also, immigration structures are changing
significantly. In late 2007, Europe created an expanded 'free-travel area',
known as the Schengen Area, with the addition of nine EU member states to the
area.

"This amounts to a 'big-bang' expansion of an internally borderless Europe,"
says Demetrios Papademetriou, president of MPI. "In this age of mobility, the
Schengen expansion demonstrates a real commitment on the part of the EU to
creating a union free of internal borders." Global people flows in all
directions are now more of a reality.

The Return of the sea turtles

Expanding markets from China to Brazil and the Gulf, especially banks,
require talented management and the market for that talent is undoubtedly
global. As the credit crunch exposes weaknesses in Western markets, new
geographies operating on different economic cycles are attracting new prospects
keen to find the next boom and ride a new wave of prosperity.

For institutions everywhere hiring the right talent is critical to their
success and in China the group most sought after are 'sea turtles' - English-
speaking Chinese "returnees" with international banking experience ('sea
turtles' and 'returnees' have the same pronunciation in Mandarin).

As China opened up and foreign bank branches expanded in the 1990s, growing
by at least 20 a year and almost doubling assets under management every year,
there was huge demand for sea turtles with middle and senior banking
experience,
but demand for them far outstripped supply. Grace Cheng, country manager for
executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates in Greater China, says:
"First, this was because there weren't significant numbers of overseas Chinese
people
with banking experience, as most of the early generations of overseas
students were government-sponsored scientists and academics.

"Second, China wasn't seen as attractive enough to lure back those who were
doing well on Wall Street or in London. A former New York based Merrill Lynch
Chinese banker told us that his friends thought he was crazy when he left his
$400,000 pay vice-president position in 1997 to return to China."

Since China's entry into the World Trade Organisation in 2002, foreign banks
have exploded as has demand for sea turtles. Fourteen foreign banks are now
incorporated in China, competing directly with Chinese counterparts. They are
seeing incredible growth. In 2003, Standard Chartered had just 300 people in
China, it now has more than 3500. Citibank has about 4000 people in
China and 14
branches in Shanghai and Beijing alone.

Sea turtles remain the most sought after people, says Ms Cheng, particularly
those with experience in advanced Western management and products.
One driver is
foreign banks' increased targeting of domestic Chinese enterprises. Another
interesting development is that, increasingly, retail banks are hiring sea
turtles to be branch managers instead of non-Chinese ex-pats.

As China's economy continues to grow rapidly, albeit at a slower rate than
historical levels, the number of overseas Chinese returning to the country will
grow steadily. According to the Chamber of Commerce of Western
Returned Scholars
Committee, 300,000 sea turtles had returned to China by 2007. The committee
expects that number to be 500,000 by 2010. They will be needed by the foreign
and Chinese banks as they increase their spread across the country.
The question
is whether there will be enough of them with the right relevant
experience to go
round.

Attracting the right talent in China or anywhere comes at a price and in the
Hay Group's latest World Pay Report, Global Management Spending Power, the
average salary of a management level employee is examined in order to reach a
ranking of the relative spending power in countries across the world (see
table). The ranking of the 20 highest management spending power countries uses
the US as the base point of measurement or 100 on the index.

The oil-driven Middle East economies top the table with Qatar's spending
power, at 241.7 on the index, almost two and a half times that of US managers.
The demand for top talent in the Gulf continues to drive salaries higher.

October 08, 2008

Constitutional Rights

Immigrants have the rights under the 4th and 5th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

1. You do not have to speak with, or answer any questions by, or give any documents to any immigration or Ice agent. (5th Amendment)


2. You do not have to let any immigration or ICE agent enter your home unless they have a warrant to enter, signed by a judge or magistrate, with your name on it. (4th Amendment)


3. You do not have to give permission to any immigration or ICE agent to search your belongings. (4th Amendment)

U.S. Immigration Won't Allow Family Unification for Same-Sex Couples


|South Florida Sun-Sentinel

As soon as Terrence Smith saw his partner step off a plane from England three years ago he knew he had found a soul mate.

It's a modern day love story, starting with an Internet hello. After weeks of online chatting, they met in Atlanta. A long-distance relationship ensued. Then Smith proposed.

If Smith had asked a woman to marry him, he would simply ask immigration officials to grant his wife permanent residence here. It's called family unification and it's the most common way for immigrants to gain legal status in the country. But federal law prohibits same-sex couples from that right.

So the 43-year-old Hollywood lawyer and Halil Akkor, 39, of London, remain separated. So do 36,000 of other same-sex couples across the country, according to Immigration Equality.

"U.S. immigration law intolerably discriminates against gay and lesbian Americans by denying them the same rights received by heterosexual couples," said U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D- Boca Raton, a co-sponsor of the Uniting America Families Act. "This is offensive and unacceptable."

Advocates say the act would grant immigration benefits to same-sex couples so that they could stay together in this country. But the bill has stalled in Congress.

Critics say granting immigration benefits to same-sex couples would be a step toward gay marriage.

"Americans basically support marriage between a man and a woman," said the Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, a church lobbying group.

Up until 1990, homosexuality was grounds for not allowing people into the United States, said Victoria Nielson, legal director of the New York-based Immigration Equality, an immigration rights group that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive individuals.

Current immigration law focuses on uniting families. But the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex relationships, Nielson said.

So many foreign-born partners of American citizens turn to renewing temporary work or student visas, asking for asylum, difficult-to-get employee-sponsored residency or staying illegally. Some leave the country.

Durrell Watkins, senior pastor of Fort Lauderdale's Sunshine Cathedral MCC, called immigration benefits for same-sex couples a "human rights and civil rights" issue. He has witnessed the current law's effect on couples. Watkins recalled a colleague who moved out of the country to be with her partner and spent the last year of her life abroad.

"She had to die in Spain," he said.

Friends and family held a funeral in Canada in September so her partner, who overstayed a visa and was deported from this country, could attend.

In another instance, an ill congregation member spends six month of the year alone without his Taiwanese partner, who's allowed into the United States temporarily for the other half of the year.

"People should be able to spend their lives with the people that they love," Watkins said.

For Smith that may mean moving to London, leaving a well-established law career and his home. However, he struggles most with the thought of leaving his mother and father, both 83.

"My dad was diagnosed with stomach cancer," Smith said.

Still, the time may come when he'll leave his homeland.

"I have a country on the other side that is willing to embrace me with open arms," he said.

October 2008 Visa Bulletin

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT VISA BULLETIN

OCT 2008

(COURTESY OF THE LAW OFFICE OF RANDALL CAUDLE)

FAMILY IMMIGRATION

PREFERENCES

WORLDWIDE

CHINA (PRC)-
mainland
born

INDIA

MEXICO

PHILIPPINES

1st (USC Unmarried Sons & Daughters over 21)

APRIL 15, 2002

APRIL 15, 2002

APRIL 15, 2002

SEP. 08, 1992

APRIL 01, 1993

2A (LPR Spouses & Unmarried Children under 21)

JAN.01. 2004

JAN. 01, 2004

JAN. 01, 2004

MAY 01, 2001

JAN. 01, 2004

2B (LPR Unmarried Sons & Daughters over 21)

DEC. 15, 1999

DEC.15, 1999

DEC. 15, 1999

APRIL 22, 1992

MAY 08, 1997

3rd (USC Married Sons & Daughters)

JUNE 22, 2000

JUNE 22, 2000

JUNE 22, 2000

SEP. 15, 1992

MAY 01, 1991

4th (USC Brothers & Sisters)

OCT. 22, 1997

MAY 01, 1997

MAY 22, 1997

JAN. 15, 1995

MAR. 08, 1986

EMPLOYMENT-BASED IMMIGRATION

PREFERENCES

WORLDWIDE

CHINA (PRC) Mainland Born

INDIA

MEXICO

PHILIPPINES

1st (EB-1)

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

2nd (EB-2)

CURRENT

APR. 01, 2004

APR. 01, 2003

CURRENT

CURRENT

3rd (EB-3)

JAN. 01, 2005

OCT. 01, 2001

JUL. 01, 2001

JUL. 01, 2002

JAN. 01, 2005

Schedule A Workers

(RNs, PTs )

JAN. 01, 2003

JAN. 01, 2003

JAN. 01, 2003

JAN. 01, 2003

JAN. 01, 2003

Unskilled Workers (less than 2 years exp. Required)

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

4th (EB-4)

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

Religious Workers

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

5th (EB-5) (Investors)

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

Targeted Employment Areas/Regional Centers

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets an annual family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000. The annual limit for employment-based immigrants is 140,000.