November 25, 2008

Immigrant Widows Left In Limbo

Everybody loves a love story - everybody it seems, except the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. In our post-9/11 world, immigration has become increasingly tough on, of all groups, widows.

A foreigner who marries a U.S. citizen is entitled to become a U.S. resident. But as correspondent Bob Simon reports, immigration wants to deport several hundred widows-and a few widowers-foreigners who had been married to American citizens when the Americans died.

Immigration claims basically that a widow is not a wife, and that if the widow did not complete the process to become a U.S. resident while her husband was alive, she cannot remain in the country.

If that sounds a little strange, wait till you hear what happened to Raquel Williams when she met up with immigration.

Raquel Williams, a young nursing student from Brazil, was visiting Florida when, one night, she and three girl friends drove into a gas station. They caught the eye of a car full of guys who were also getting gas.

"I guess they noticed that we were, you know, not from here," Raquel remembers, recalling when she first met her future husband. "Well, they're like, 'Oh, Where you guys from?' You know? 'Oh, my name's is Derek. Nice to meeting you.'"

That chance meeting with Derek Williams led to love, marriage, and eventually parenthood. Two years after they met, their son Ian was born.

But then the unthinkable happened.

"I woke up 4:30 in the morning, 5:00 and to find my husband laying on the couch. I could see that something's wrong. Get closer. And he's not breathing. And called 911 and they stay on the phone with me. And then I hear that they coming. And I said, 'Please, please. Oh, come fast. Fast.' And it was, he was, he was gone by that time," Raquel remembers.

Derek had insomnia, so he'd watch TV on their couch during the night. But he also had breathing problems and an irregular heartbeat, which proved fatal. After he died, Raquel and her son Ian moved in with Derek's parents, and three months after Derek died, Raquel finally had the immigration interview that shed been asking for for a year - the interview to prove that her marriage was legitimate.

She went to the interview with Ian, and brought all the documentation needed to prove she had been married to Derek; she also brought the death certificate.

"And I explained what happened. 'My husband pass away. What can I do from now? This is his death certificate,'" she remembers. "'Oh, your case, your case is gonna be denied.'"

"And they said, 'You're gonna have to go back to Brazil.' And I said, 'I have my son. You know? This is my son. He's American citizen.' And they said that, 'You can go. He can stay.'"

Ian was five months old at the time.

Raquel, like all the other widows 60 Minutes met, had entered the U.S. legally. Still, immigration has been rejecting requests for permanent residence if the American spouse died before they had their immigration interview to prove their marriage was based on love.

But the government can take months-sometimes more than a year-to schedule that interview. Raquel's mother-in-law, Linda, says Raquel shouldn't be penalized because the bureaucracy didn't move fast enough.

"They were doing things legally. They filed the right papers. They filed them in a timely manner. Things were not processed in a timely manner. And they're and then my son died. This was not something that you can foresee," Linda says.

Raquel and her in-laws are raising Ian together. They've managed to hold off deportation while they appeal immigration's decision; but they know a knock on the door can come at any time. They know it, but they still can't believe it.

"We're Americans. You know? This is our country. And my country is threatening to send my daughter-in-law and my grandson out of the country? He's an American citizen," Linda says.

"They're not threatening to throw your grandson out of the country," Simon remarks.

"But who would separate a mother and a child? Who? My country would separate? His mother Raquel? Ian's mother and him? It isn't right. That is not right. And this is America," Linda says.

Monika Monroe is still grieving over the death of her husband Tim. Monika is a movie make-up artist from Germany, who met Tim when they were both vacationing in Prague, where, she said, it was love at first sight.

"It's a beautiful place to fall in love," Simon remarks.

"Yes, but we [were] even blind to the place because all we could see were each other," she says, laughing. "It's like the whole world changed. We felt like we cannot survive without each other anymore. So he begged me to come to Los Angeles, so I came two weeks later."

And two months after that, Tim took her out in a boat in Sequoia National Park, where he got on his knees and proposed.

Tim was an artist, and their house doubled as his studio. She told Simon her life had never been better, until it all fell apart. "Everything happened so fast. It was, like, we were in our life and then he died of a heart attack. And then he was gone," she says.

And now she's fighting deportation, trying to stay where she and Tim built their life together.

Asked why it's important to her to stay in the house, rather than to return to Germany, Monika tells Simon, "Because it's my home. And it's the place that I was the happiest in my life."

While a foreign spouse can become a U.S. resident, immigration argued in court that a widow is not a spouse, citing Black’s Law Dictionary, which defines spouse as "a married person."

"That rules out widows," said immigration, "because a widow is no longer married." But the federal court in Massachusetts rejected that argument because just a few lines down the same law dictionary defines a surviving spouse as one who outlives the other. So, the court said widows are spouses and are eligible to become U.S. residents.

But immigration is appealing that decision and three other federal court rulings that have all gone against them.

60 Minutes tried to find out why the government is being so tough on widows, but immigration and its parent agency, Homeland Security declined our requests for interviews. So 60 Minutes went to the top, to a press conference held by Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

Asked why his department is refusing U.S. residency to legitimately married widows, Chertoff says, "All I can tell you is, without getting into you know, specific cases and arguing the facts and circumstances that I think the lawyers have an obligation to pursue the matter through the system until we get a final resolution from the courts."

"Four courts, sir, have ruled in favor of the widows. And your department appeals the cases every time," Simon points out.

"I think what you’re seeing is a normal part of responsible lawyering, if I may so," Chertoff replies.

But attorney Brent Renison says the government could accept all the court decisions instead of appealing them. Renison is working pro bono for many of the widows. He's filed a class action suit to force immigration to simply examine each marriage to determine whether it was legitimate. That is, instead of automatically turning all of them down. He says making sure the marriage was bona fide would cost the government a lot less than to keep fighting in various courts.

"All we're asking for is a bit of common sense. We need someone to tell the agency to stop this madness or Congress to enact some laws that provide for this," Renison says.

Bills are pending in the House and Senate to direct immigration to change its policy. That can't happen soon enough for Diana Engstrom. Her husband Todd was killed in Iraq. They'd met in her native Kosovo, fallen in love, and gotten married near Todd's home in Illinois. Then he signed up with a private contractor to train Iraqi soldiers.

Asked why Todd went to Iraq, Diana says, "He told me he wanted to serve his country. It was his duty to do that."

Then one day, the truck Todd was riding in was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.

Todd's father Ron got the first call, explaining how his son had died. "A rocket propeller grenade hit basically where Todd was sitting. Todd was killed instantly. It's the kind of call that no parent should have to receive," he remembers.

And soon after that, Ron heard that immigration wanted Diana to leave the country. His reaction? "Disbelief. We had buried our son. Was in the shock of that. We were just in shock again."

"I don't think that any other country would treat a widow like that. So, it's just unbelievable," Diana adds.

Immigration said Diana couldn't become a resident because she hadn't had her immigration interview with Todd, so she couldn't prove her marriage was bona fide. "There was no question that they were in love, that they were happy; that they were gonna build a future together. No question," her father-in-law Ron says.

Diana is part of Renison’s class action suit, so she hasn't been deported - yet. She and the other families feel the government has betrayed them, and worse, betrayed their dead husbands and sons.

"Cindy, what do you want our viewers to understand," Simon asks Todd's mother.

"That our son gave his life for this country," she says. "And our government should stand behind him and do what he would have wanted."

November 21, 2008

Immigrant's Residency Dream Becomes a Nightmare

Published: November 20, 2008

In 2004, Heathcliffe Bradley was planning to return to his native New Zealand after eight years in the United States when he met Cheryl Losee, a New Jersey native, and his plans flew out the window. He stayed, they married, and then he turned his attention to a lingering problem: Mr. Bradley was an illegal immigrant.

Cheryl Losee reunited with her husband, Heathcliffe Bradley, when he was released earlier this month after spending 36 days in an immigration detention center in Elizabeth, N.J.

But what seemed to them a straightforward process to make Mr. Bradley a legal resident soon turned into a bureaucratic and legal nightmare. Last month Mr. Bradley, a construction worker who says he has no criminal record in either the United States or New Zealand, was hauled from his home in handcuffs and put in an immigration detention center in Elizabeth, N.J., and told he was going to be deported.

He is challenging his deportation in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

“I’m fighting for my wife and for myself,” he said on Tuesday, sounding weary. “This is my life, and this is where I want to live.”

Mr. Bradley, 36, had been swept up in tougher enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security’s Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of certain countries, all close allies of the United States, to stay in the country for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

The government admits millions of travelers on visa waivers every year, requiring them to sign a document waiving any right to challenge their removal, except under certain conditions. Most leave in a timely fashion, officials said. But Mr. Bradley, who entered the country in August 1996 with a visa waiver, never left.

Since 9/11, the Visa Waiver Program, which now includes 34 participating countries, has come under close scrutiny as a potential loophole for terrorists. In 2004, all visa waiver visitors were required for the first time to be photographed and fingerprinted when they arrived in the United States. In the 2008 fiscal year, 785 foreigners who entered the United States on visa waivers were deported, up from 750 the year before, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement figures.

As the spouse of an American citizen, Mr. Bradley was eligible to apply for an adjustment of his administrative status and seek a green card.

It is a common enough process: Immigrant law experts estimate that hundreds of people who have overstayed their visa waivers apply successfully for green cards every year. Indeed, a brother and a sister of Mr. Bradley, both of whom had overstayed their visa waivers, married Americans and successfully obtained green cards.

Mr. Bradley applied for a green card interview and was granted one scheduled for March 24, 2008. He twice postponed the interview because of work conflicts, according to his lawyer, Harry Asatrian.

He said he did not expect any problem with the application. He had worked illegally, mostly as a bartender in New Jersey. But he had stayed out of more serious trouble, he said.

On June 5, however, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services denied Mr. Bradley’s second request for a postponement, saying he had failed to show “good cause,” Mr. Asatrian said. Mr. Bradley filed an appeal with Citizenship and Immigration Services on June 24, the lawyer said.

Mr. Bradley heard nothing more about his case until 5 a.m. on Oct. 8, when immigration officers knocked on the couple’s door in West Milford, N.J. They said he was going to be deported, and they arrested him.

Harold Ort, a spokesman for the Newark office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that the agency could not comment on any deportation cases that were in litigation.

In his appeal to the deportation order, Mr. Bradley challenges the integrity and constitutionality of the visa waiver procedure itself.

Mr. Asatrian said that the Department of Homeland Security had not produced the document waiving Mr. Bradley’s right to challenge his removal. Court papers filed by Mr. Asatrian say that Mr. Bradley “vaguely recalls” signing the waiver when he passed through immigration at Kennedy International Airport, but that he was not in any condition to waive his rights “knowingly and voluntarily” since he was not sufficiently knowledgeable about his legal rights and was “groggy from the sleeplessness, jet-lagged and sufficiently intoxicated.”

“If you take a survey,” Mr. Asatrian said, “I don’t think 90 percent of the people would know what they are signing away.”

The government has argued that the Third Circuit has no jurisdiction in the case, and that Mr. Bradley’s “constitutional claims” do not apply, because he waived his rights to appeal a deportation order before entering the United States, according to court records.

As for proving whether Mr. Bradley knowingly waived his rights, “the form itself is the prima facie evidence,” said Stephen F. Day, a trial lawyer in the Department of Justice who is handling the case. “He admitted signing it.”

On Nov. 10, the appeals court stayed the deportation. It has agreed to hear the case. Mr. Asatrian said it could take up to two years to complete. Mr. Bradley was released on Nov. 14 pending the outcome of the case.

“It’s still very surreal; I still haven’t quite adjusted fully,” he said in a telephone interview from his home. “I’m still worried when cars are driving by the house, and I’m still looking out the window. Hopefully that feeling will go away with time.”

November 19, 2008

Illegal staff may bring arrest, fine

November 17, 2008

Illegal staff may bring arrest, fine

Letters would warn employers if IDs didn't match database

By Janell Ross

When Nashville immigration lawyer Linda Rose holds a seminar for business owners, there are usually questions about worksite immigration raids.

But at a seminar this month, much of Rose's audience wanted to talk about immigration enforcement that comes in the mail, not through the door: the no-match letter.

After nearly 2½ years of litigation delays, the Department of Homeland Security announced in late October plans to revive an effort to put employers with suspected illegal workers on notice. If they don't act, they'll be penalized or even prosecuted.

No-match letters actually come from the U.S. Social Security Administration. The letters advise employers information submitted about workers does not correspond with information in the Social Security Administration's database. Under the new effort, the employer and employee would have about 90 days to address the problem.

Homeland Security announced in October the letters will include a list of actions employers must take. If an employer fails to follow the steps or fire the worker, the employer would be engaged in "knowingly employing" someone the agency considers an illegal worker.

Some first-time offenses — those that are a matter of a clerical error and those involving illegal workers but no evidence of a pattern — are considered civil violations. They carry fines that range from $110 to $3,200 per worker, Rose said.

But in cases where the government believes that there is a pervasive pattern of hiring illegal workers, criminal charges can be filed.

Penalties can range as high as six months in jail and or $3,000 fines.

A suit filed by the AFL-CIO in 2006 and joined by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups initially stopped Homeland Security from moving forward with its plans.

The groups said the measure would disrupt business operations, force employers to provide new training and, because of the 18 million errors the Social Security Administration estimates exist in its database, mistakes were likely.

Lawsuit pending on plan

The errors haven't been corrected, but Homeland Security wants to move forward. Officials will find out whether they can after a Friday federal court hearing on the lawsuit.

The Social Security Administration hasn't decided "due to the pending litigation whether it will be mailing the letters (to employers) or not," said Patti Patterson, an agency spokesperson based in Atlanta.

Some suspect the burden of proving a legal right to work in the U.S. will fall to employees.

"They are the ones who will be at risk of not being able to work when they are legally and fully able to do so," said Stephen Fotopulos, executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. "I think there are a lot of people who want an employment system that works. But it will never work better than the data."

Tom Negri, the general manager of the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, said new workers there are run though an existing Department of Homeland Security database and must pass a background check and drug test. He said he doubts the plans would affect him, but they will other companies.

"They have to spend the money to have the kinks worked out," Negri said. "If they don't … well, with unemployment as high as it is, do you want it to affect millions of people, employable U.S. workers? I would think not at this period in time."

Cheney, Gonzales, Vanguard Group in "Prisonville"

Private prison corporations are a good place to put money – if you are interested in making good money from companies that imprison people for profit. As the two leading private prison firms like to tell investors, it’s a booming business these days not because crime rates are rising but because of the new opportunities in immigrant detention.

So it’s not surprising that Vanguard Group, one of the country’s largest mutual funds companies, puts its investors money into private prison firms, including the country’s two largest: Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group (originally incorporated as Wackenhut). Vanguard Group is also a major investor in Correctional Services Corporation.

Willacy County, Texas is the epicenter of the private prison phenomenon that is sweeping the country, fueled in recent years by the immigrant crackdown. Over the past three years, over 3,000 new “prison beds” have come on line in Raymondville, the county seat, as politicians and Texas developers have attempted to cash in on the federal government’s demand for prison space for detained immigrants. The largest operator is the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, although GEO Group also has prison operations in Raymondville, commonly called “Prisonville” by locals.

The recent indictments of Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for private prison-related crimes highlighted the controversial role of private prisons in immigrant detention. The indictments were filed by outgoing County Attorney Juan Angel Guerra but have not yet been signed by the county judge.
Cheney is charged organized criminal activity related to the vice president's investment in the Vanguard Group, while Gonzales is charged with using his position as attorney general to stop investigations of prisoner abuse at private prisons in the country. Also indicted are GEO Corp, state Sen. Eddie Lucio (profiting from public office by accepting honoraria), two district judges, and a former U.S. attorney.

The country’s largest private prison company, CCA, has no business in Willacy County. However, County Attorney Guerra had protested the country contracts with Management and Training Corporation, contending that CCA would be a better partner for the country. In particular, he charged that Senator Lucio was lobbying for MTC and, as a private prison consultant, was benefiting from his favoring the Utah firm.

For more on Willacy County and private prisons, see an excellent report in the Texas Observer by Forrest Wilder.

November 18, 2008

Fact Sheet: Visa Waiver Program Expansion

Release Date: November 17, 2008

For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
Contact: 202-282-8010

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables eligible citizens or nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and was recently expanded to include seven new allies to the list of countries authorized to participate in the VWP.

Facilitating Travel Between Partner Nations With A Common Focus On Security

  • The administration sought authority for years to reform the VWP.
  • In 2006 President George W. Bush proposed, and Congress ultimately passed as part of the "Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act)," reforms to the VWP law that gave the Administration greater flexibility to admit countries to VWP as the program's security was strengthened. Section 711 of the 9/11 Act amends Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which provides the legal authority for the VWP.

Easier Travel For Legitimate Tourists And Travelers

  • DHS has increased the number of participating VWP countries from 27 to 34. Expanding the number of countries whose citizens can travel to the U.S. without a visa increases business and social ties between our countries and at the same time deepens cooperation on required security measures.
  • The seven newly added countries are: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia.
  • Citizens of countries eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP prior to November 17, 2008 are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Strengthening Security Measures To Protect Against Those Who Want To Do Us Harm

  • To be admitted to the VWP, a country must meet various security requirements, such as enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States and timely reporting of both blank and issued lost and stolen passports. VWP members are also required to maintain high counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security standards.
  • As a result of these information sharing measures, DHS is able to screen arriving VWP passengers far more effectively and to detect, apprehend, and limit the movement of terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous travelers.
  • Beginning November 17, 2008 eligible citizens or nationals from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia must obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP
  • Beginning Jan. 12, 2009, eligible citizens or nationals from all VWP countries must obtain approval through ESTA prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP.
  • ESTA is an automated system that assists in determining eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP, and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk. Upon completion of an ESTA application, a VWP traveler is notified of his or her eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP.

For more information on the Visa Waiver Program, please visit ov/travel/id_visa/business_pleasure/vwp/. For additional information on ESTA, visit

November 14, 2008

Pragmatic Hope for Immigration Reform Under Obama

New America Media, Access Washington Report, Rupa Dev, Posted: Nov 14, 2008

Editor's Note: Immigrant rights advocates are optimistic in the aftermath of the Nov. 4 elections, in which anti-immigrant politicians lost seats in Congress. They hope comprehensive immigration reform will prevail under the Obama Administration. Rupa Dev is a reporter for New America Media.

The results of elections 2008 are good news for immigration reform. It's not just the election of Barack Obama, say advocates. From the Senate to Congress, immigration failed as a wedge issue. And some anti-immigrant candidates have lost their seats.

Representatives of immigration rights groups recently weighed in on the elections during an Access Washington call organized by New America Media. They discussed how the ethnic vote swayed the presidential and congressional races in battleground states and why they perceive the changing landscape of the U.S. government as a victory for immigration reform supporters.

"Immigration is not just a Latino or Asian or immigrant issue," proclaimed Angela Kelley, Director of the Immigration Policy Center. "This is an issue of America."

Candidates - both presidential and congressional - spent $27.5 million dollars on 253 advertisements on immigration issues, reported Lynn Tramonte, policy director of America's Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. Though it didn't come up in the presidential debates, immigration policy emerged as a key issue in the Nov. 4 elections, especially among New American voters – immigrants and children born since 1965.

An exit poll, reported by America's Voice, interviewed voters in Florida and California and found that 63 percent of the 2,101 Hispanic voters polled felt immigration issues were "very important" to them. It is a misconception that Latinos aren't concerned about immigration just because it is not always the top issue, said Clarissa Martinez, senior director of Immigration and National Campaigns for the National Council of La Raza.

Martinez believes that immigration, especially over the last three years, has been the "driving push factor" influencing the Latino vote. "We've seen this [trend] since the election in 2006, when Latinos started walking away from the Republican Party because of their embrace of anti-immigrant political strategies," Martinez explained.

An exit poll of Chicago metropolitan voters, released by the Asian American Institute, found that 68 percent of Latino voters felt the Republican Party is not favorable to immigrants while 47 percent of Asian-American voters felt that way.

Election results indicated that a candidate's stance on immigration reform played a pivotal role in who gained the majority vote in certain battleground congressional races.

Some Republican representatives attempted to make illegal immigration a wedge issue in their campaigns, but this strategy proved ineffective. In Pennsylvania, Lou Barletta, the Republican mayor of Hazleton, ran an anti-immigration campaign against incumbent State Senator Paul Kanjorski, who was one of the few vulnerable Democrats. Barletta lost, which was heralded by immigrant rights groups who view him as the poster child of restrictionism.

Tramonte and her America's Voice colleagues tracked the 16 competitive battleground races in which Republican candidates highlighted their Democratic opponent's immigration reform positions. This tactic failed, for the most part. In 14 races, the Democratic candidate who supported comprehensive immigration reform won her/his race.

"It just proves that being for [immigration] solutions, being for common sense reform is not a political liability, and it actually enhances your chances in battle ground states," said Tramonte.

Immigrant rights groups are casting an eye towards five newly elected, pro-immigration reform senators who they hope will examine immigration issues with a different light and solve problems. They include: Mark Warner (Virginia), Mark Udall (Colorado), Kay Hagan (North California), Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampire), and Tom Udall (New Mexico).

Now that Congress and the White House are in the Democrats' hands, there's no excuse not to move forward with immigration, argued Karen Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, a civil rights group.

"Immigration is long overdue," agreed Tramonte.

But Narasaki cautioned against setting expectations too high, noting that President-elect Obama will experience a trying first year in office with the current troubled state of the economy.

"In a weak economy, when people are losing jobs and feeling financially insecure, it's going to be much more difficult to have a rationale discussion about immigration and get the kind of fair, humane, comprehensive policies that we are seeking," she said.

When asked about how much leeway Hispanic organizations will extend to Obama's administration before pressing him to act on immigration matters, Martinez said, "We're not going to give them a free pass; we're not going to wait more than one year."

The challenge for Obama, perhaps, is not so much when he will tackle immigration reform but how he will approach all the issues it entails: amnesty, backlog, raids, enforcement agencies, border patrol, and the undocumented.

What will Obama do about the raids, for example?

"Obama knows the raids aren't an effective enforcement technique and have horrible ramifications in the community," observed Kelley, but at the same time, he must also balance that knowledge against the need, as commander-in-chief, "to not show weakness and inexperience on security and enforcement matters."

He will have to carefully walk a tightrope, she concluded.

While all four immigrant rights representatives shared confidence in Obama's ability to successfully push comprehensive immigration reform, each had different concerns moving forward.

Latinos placed a majority of the 250,000 calls to Congress in 2007, but Martinez wanted to make sure that that civil engagement does not lose steam now that the election is over.

Kelley said leaders in the community, locally and nationally, need to openly debate what fair enforcement measures should be proposed – not the ones that round up legal permanent residents and tear families part.

Since the Obama campaign promised change, hope, and solutions to tough problems, Tramonte said she would look to the administration to transform those ideals into action.

Narasaki suggested the Obama Administration should at least consider suspending the ICE raids because she believes group processing, during which clusters of immigrants testify before a judge together and are forced to plea to charges they don't really understand, is neither fair nor humane.

"I can't really think of another issue more important than how we treat America's newcomers, and how we treat American communities and families that are not monolithic in their immigration status," said Kelley.

Expanding Borders, Diminishing Rights

New America Media, Commentary, Sophie Feal, Posted: Nov 12, 2008

Border checks are no longer happening just at the border. Immigration checks are being carried out on passengers traveling domestically in the U.S. writes Sophie Feal, Supervising Immigration Attorney at the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc. in Buffalo, NY. She is a member of the Detention Watch Network, a national coalition working to reform the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system. IMMIGRATION MATTERS regularly features the views of the nation's leading immigrant rights advocates

Many people may believe that if they are traveling domestically inside the United States, they cannot be questioned about their immigration status. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true. Indeed, in Upstate New York, an alarming number of noncitizens who are out of status and encountered by the U.S. Border Patrol aboard buses and trains from New York City have been arrested, detained and placed in removal proceedings. Those who are not carrying proper immigration documentation with them, such as a “green card” or a passport and I-94 card, may be delayed and subjected to a humiliating interrogation while officials investigate whether they are in fact in status. Amtrak and Greyhound provide no warning to their passengers that they may be subject to such inspections by immigration authorities.

It is clear that when a person is seeking to enter the United States at a border point, or a port-of-entry as immigration law refers to it, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers can request a passport and a visa, if required, or other appropriate identification, and can inquire in detail about the reason why one wants to come into the country. Therefore, there are very few rights at the border. The Government is authorized to question individuals to determine whether they have a legitimate right to enter or remain in the U.S. This is called the inspection process.

However, this process is not just limited to the physical border. There is a provision in the immigration law that treats a distance of up to 100 miles from an international border as its “functional equivalent.” This allows Border Patrol and other immigration officials to enter and search vessels, buses, trains, and vehicles traveling inside the U.S. to determine whether those aboard are legally in the country. These searches extend to train and bus stations, and even airports which have no international flights. Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a fact sheet on the “Constitution-Free Zone,:” this area 100 miles from an international border, including the U.S. coastline. The organization calculates that 197.4 million people live in this zone.

In Upstate New York, the Border Patrol has generally extended its power to stop and question within the “functional equivalent of the border” to only 25 miles from the physical border. Nonetheless, since 400 miles of New York State borders Canada, this still means that all major Upstate cities, including Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany, are within Border Patrol’s jurisdiction. Moreover, these four cities lie along Interstate 90, a major pathway for buses and trains from New York City to points westward, such as Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago and onward.

The “functional equivalent of the border” rule gives immigration authorities broad powers to conduct transportation checks farther from the actual border in order to stop and question people about their immigration status, as well as to establish checkpoints inside the U.S. However, this does not mean that one gives up all of his or her rights. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. Therefore, a law enforcement officer must have a search warrant or the consent of an occupant to enter a dwelling. Similarly, outside of a checkpoint, immigration officials must have a reasonable suspicion that a U.S. immigration law has been violated in order to stop a car, as well as probable cause or a warrant to search the car. It is also very important for individuals to know that, if stopped by Border Patrol at a bus or a train station or at an airport, even within the area known as the “functional equivalent” of the border, they still have the right to remain silent and may refuse to respond and walk away.

Since 9/11, given the concern that terrorists might enter the United States from Canada, there has been a steady increase in agents conducting checks along the Northern border. While in 2001 only 340 immigration agents were assigned to this border, by next year, there will be 1800. These agents are aggressively patrolling the region: they board buses, trains and ferries to question people about their status in the U.S. and they operate undercover in area's airports as well. Although it has publicly denied doing so, immigrant advocates express concern that the Border Patrol is engaging in racial profiling during its transportation checks to determine who is not a U.S. citizen.

While civil rights organizations like the ACLU justifiably view the transportation checks as a broad and illegitimate expansion of law enforcement’s authority to protect U.S. borders, there have been no legal challenges of the law to date. For individuals caught up in the dragnet, nonetheless, the consequences are severe.

November 10, 2008

December 2008 Visa Bulletin











1st (USC Unmarried Sons & Daughters over 21)

MAY 22, 2002

MAY 22, 2002

MAY 22, 2002

SEP. 22, 1992

JUNE 01, 1993

2A (LPR Spouses & Unmarried Children under 21)

APRIL 01, 2004

APRIL 01, 2004

APRIL 01, 2004

AUG. 01, 2001

APRIL 01, 2004

2B (LPR Unmarried Sons & Daughters over 21)

FEB. 15, 2000

FEB. 15, 2000

FEB. 15, 2000

MAY 01, 1992

JULY 15, 1997

3rd (USC Married Sons & Daughters)

JULY 22, 2000

JULY 22, 2000

JULY 22, 2000

OCT. 01, 1992

MAY 15, 1991

4th (USC Brothers & Sisters)

JAN. 01, 1998

JULY 15, 1997

SEP. 15, 1997

FEB. 15, 1995

APRIL 15, 1986




CHINA (PRC) Mainland Born




1st (EB-1)






2nd (EB-2)


JUN. 01, 2004

JUN. 01, 2003



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)






4th (EB-4)






Religious Workers






5th (EB-5) (Investors)






Targeted Employment Areas/Regional Centers






November 05, 2008

The New American Electorate: The Growing Political Power of Immigrants and Their Children

This new and innovative analysis explores the growing electoral power of “New American” voters: immigrants who are naturalized U.S. citizens and the U.S.-born children of immigrants. These voters will likely play a pivotal role in national, state, and local elections in the years to come—particularly in battleground states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Read the complete report in pdf.

This new and innovative analysis explores the growing electoral power of “New American” voters: immigrants who are naturalized U.S. citizens and the U.S.-born children of immigrants. These voters will likely play a pivotal role in national, state, and local elections in the years to come—particularly in battleground states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Detailed supplemental tables for every Congressional district on the number of voting-age citizens who are naturalized immigrants, Latinos, and Asians are also available: