Archive | October, 2013

Two Big Asylum Cases at 4th Circuit This Week

28 Oct

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This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the federal appellate court which sets federal law in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas, will hear two cases regarding U.S. asylum law.  In Temu v. Holder and Martinez v. Holder, the court will consider the contours of the protected ground of “particular social group.”  The decisions in these cases will determine whether asylum law will be more inclusive or whether the law will shut many deserving applicants out of the protection of asylum.

Asylum may be granted to an individual who can demonstrate that she has suffered persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution in her home country on account of her race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.  These five bases for asylum are known as “protected grounds.”  Whereas political opinion, race, religion, and nationality are all fairly intuitive, U.S. law has had to define “particular social group” on a case-by-case basis.  The results have been fairly uneven.  The watershed decision establishing what constitutes a particular social group is a 1985 decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals, Matter of Acosta In Acosta, the Board defined a particular social group as a group of individuals who share a certain immutable characteristic that can not be changed or is so fundamental to their identity that they should not be required to change.  The Acosta definition served asylum law pretty well for two decades.  Since Acosta, homosexuals, members of clans, family relationships, women opposed to female genital mutilation, women who refuse to conform to strict religious codes, and women seeking escape from domestic violence have all been recognized as social groups for the purposes of asylum.

However, in the last few years, the Acosta standard has come under attack by the Board of Immigration Appeals.  In Matter of C-A-, the BIA added a new element to the standard Acosta definition: social visibility.  While purporting to uphold the Acosta definition, the BIA stated that members of a particular social group must “be easily recognizable and understood by others to constitute social groups.”  By emphasizing social visibility, the BIA added a new element and resulted in denying asylum to a confidential informant against the Cali cartel whose life was in danger as his informing activities had been discovered.  The BIA found that confidential informant, by their very nature were not recognizable to the public.  The carnage continued with Matter of SEG and Matter of EAG.  In Matter of SEG, the BIA held that Salvadoran youth whose life was in danger because they had resisted recruitment by gangs did not constitute a social group that was recognizable to members of society.  In Matter of EAG, the BIA also found that persons resistant to gang membership and those who might be mistakenly identified by police as gang members did not qualify as social groups.  CA, SEG and EAG have severely limited the class of individuals who could qualify for asylum by claiming persecution on account of membership in a particular social group.

Some courts have rejected the BIA’s analysis.  In Benitez-Ramos v. Holder, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago rejected the social visibility test, insofar as the BIA test required that a group member be visible on sight.  The 7th Circuit held that the social group of “former gang member” was immutable and that gang membership is easily identifiable, as is former gang membership.

The 4th Circuit will now consider in Martinez whether a young man who was conscripted into a gang and subsequently left can obtain protection under U.S. asylum law.  Mr. Martinez was attacked on multiple occasions and was aware that gang leaders had given the “green light” to other gang members that they were free to murder their former compatriot.  In its decision in Martinez, the BIA decided that Congress could not have intended gang membership and therefore former gang membership to create an opportunity for protection under U.S. law.  Congress could not have intended for criminal gangs to be social groups worthy of protections of U.S. law.  The 4th must decide whether former gang membership is immutable and how closely it will adhere to the BIA’s social visibility test.

In Temu, the 4th Circuit must consider whether a man who was imprisoned and tortured in his home country of Tanzania because he was acting erratically as a result of his mental illness qualifies for asylum.  When Mr. Temu was beaten in the prison in Tanzania, he heard the guards call him names reserved for the mentally ill, except in Tanzania the belief is that such behavior comes from demonic possession rather than biochemical origins.  The BIA held that Temu was imprisoned because of his behavior and not because of his mental illness, even though the record is clear that, once in prison, he was treated differently than other prisoners because of his mental illness.

Both cases are being argued by experienced and talented lawyers who are working pro bono.  Argument is this week and we expect decisions in the spring.  We will keep you updated and have our fingers crossed that the law will become more welcoming from those seeking violence and persecution in their home countries.

BR’s Dree Collopy and Liana Montecinos Shine at AILA Conference

25 Oct

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Throughout the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s two-day conference designed to help paralegals provide more effective assistance to their supervising attorneys, faculty reviewed and discussed the paralegal’s role with regard to key legal and factual issues, as well as the preparation of application forms and supporting documentation.  As members of the conference faculty, Dree Collopy and Liana Montecinos presented on asylum and removal case preparation, covering the asylum process, removal proceedings before the U.S. Immigration Courts, Immigration Court filings and preparing cases for trial, and the important role of the paralegal throughout these immigration cases.  Paralegals from all over the country participated, either in person or by the conference’s webinar component.

Benach Ragland Paralegal (and Superstar) Liana Montecinos began her portion of the presentation by asking, “Who here thinks of themselves as an artist?”  Liana then went on to describe the “art” that she creates every day in preparing filings to be sent to Immigration Courts around the country, emphasizing the importance of being detail-oriented, while also keeping in mind that each part of a filing contributes to its effectiveness as a whole.  From the cover page, to the index of exhibits, to the supporting evidence, to the proof of service, everything must be in order and must be presented like a valuable piece of art.

Benach Ragland Partner Dree Collopy emphasized the importance of teamwork in tackling the preparation of filings and testimony to be considered by the Immigration Courts.  In cases before the U.S. Immigration Courts, it is not only an individual’s livelihood or career and it is not only an individual’s family unity that is at risk; often times, it is a family member’s well-being and survival, or even the individual’s life and freedom at risk.  Because of this, the stakes are incredibly high and the nature of the relief sought can be quite complicated.  In meeting the Respondent’s high burden of proof in cases before the Immigration Courts, it takes a team, and paralegals are an essential part of that team.

Perhaps the most important aspect of teamwork on Immigration Court cases, whether you are an attorney or a paralegal, is providing impeccable client service from the beginning of the case until the end.  Liana and Dree emphasized the importance of client service throughout their presentation, noting that clients in removal proceedings are going through one of the most stressful times in their lives, and often times, having to recall and discuss in detail some of the most traumatic times in their lives.  Communicating frequently with clients, helping them feel comfortable with the procedures, and educating them about removal and the relief they are seeking will enable them to participate more fully in their cases and to feel more confident and calm throughout the process.

BR attorneys and staff are committed to improving the quality of practice of representation of immigrants.  In addition to having an opportunity to share our experience, we had the chance to learn from great immigration lawyers and paralegals and made many new FOBRs.

Iraqi Naturalization Victory

22 Oct

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On October 17, 2013, Alan Attoof Baba became a citizen of the United States.  A native of Iraq, Alan obtained his Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status in 2011 through the Department of State’s Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program.  Alan served the U.S. Government in Iraq as a Media & Cultural Specialist, a position that placed him in grave danger.  His faithful service garnered him the praise of his supervisor, who recommended him for the special visa program.  After moving to Washington, D.C., Alan married his wife Sherizaan Minwalla, who is a U.S. citizen, in 2012.  In January of 2013, Sherizaan joined Mercy Corps, a U.S. humanitarian aid and international development organization, as its Deputy Country Director in Iraq.  The newlyweds began planning their life abroad, but the move and indefinite stay outside the U.S. placed Alan’s continued residency and eventual citizenship in jeopardy.  In order for Alan to keep his LPR status, he had to maintain a residence and continue cultivating ties in the United States.  And in order for him to become a U.S. citizen based on his marriage to Sherizaan, he needed three years of continuous residence and eighteen months of actual physical presence in the United States.  An immigration lawyer Alan and Sherizaan consulted told them there was nothing they could do to avoid the continuous residency and physical presence requirements for naturalization.

Alan contacted Benach Ragland in December of 2012, one month before he and Sherizaan were scheduled to embark on their move to Iraq.  We advised Alan to file an application for naturalization under Section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), so-called “expedited naturalization.”  An applicant who meets the requirements of Section 319(b) is exempt from the usual continuous residence and physical presence requirements if he can demonstrate that his U.S. citizen spouse is employed by either the U.S. Government or an American firm or corporation engaged in whole or in part in the development of foreign trade and commerce of the United States.  Under Section 319(b), a qualifying applicant does not need to show any period of residence in the U.S. and can hold LPR status for as little as a single day, yet still be eligible to naturalize.  We concluded that Mercy Corps, a U.S. humanitarian relief organization that receives considerable funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was a qualifying entity for Section 319(b) purposes.  To support the application, we obtained evidence that Mercy Corps is involved in the development of U.S. foreign trade and commerce through its food aid programs.  Through its Title II Programs, Mercy Corps ships tons of U.S. foods and commodities on U.S. ocean carriers to developing countries in need of emergency food aid.

Thomas Ragland accompanied Alan to his naturalization interview on October 16, 2013.  Upon review of the Section 319(b) evidence we presented, the interviewing officer approved Alan’s application. The following day, Alan took the oath of allegiance and became a U.S. citizen at a ceremony in Fairfax, Virginia.  Alan’s case confirms that Section 319(b) is intended to be interpreted broadly, and that humanitarian aid and development organizations like Mercy Corps can be qualifying entities under this section.  Benach Ragland congratulates Alan on becoming a U.S. citizen and wishes him and Sherizaan all the best in their continued efforts to improve the lives of refugees and others in our global community. Alan Flag

On Marches and Flags

14 Oct

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Last week, among the hundreds of American flags raised at Tuesday’s March for Human Dignity and Respect,  a few Mexican flags were spotted. That’s right.  Mexican citizens carried the Mexican flag in Washington DC, the capital of the United States, of all places.  The reaction of the anti-immigrant crowd was predictable- this was akin to General Santa Anna’s troops razing the Alamo, slaughtering the proud Texans within.  The FOX news crowd immediately seized upon the Mexican flag to show that the immigrants marching for a solution to our broken and corrupt immigration system where not like the immigrants of the past but rather a different breed who want nothing to do with American customs and culture.

Armed with fear, I set out to see if other groups were also resisting the melting pot of American integration.  Less than a week later, I discovered the Italian flag in cities across the country.  People who seem like normal and decent Americans gathered along city streets to wave the Italian standard.  In fact, in some cities, spectators made replicas of warships and “sailed” them proudly down the avenue. (with children, no less!)

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It is worth pointing out at this time that Italy is mired in a prolonged economic slump with a government that seems incapable of responding to the crisis.  Italy has a strong history of organized crime that work in tandem with Italian-American gangs in the U.S.  At times like this, the refusal of Italians in the U.S. to integrate into mainstream American culture and renounce their warlike tendencies is troubling.

Then I learned that much of this country embarks upon a drunken bacchanalia every March 17 in honor of an Irish saint.  On March 17, otherwise abstemious and virtuous Americans become infected with the debauchery well known to afflict the Irish.  Waving Irish flags and consuming vast amounts of alcohol, the Irish and those easily influenced by ale and liquor make a mockery of American integration.

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Finally, my studies led to some real Americans eager to take back their government.  I saw a protest this weekend that took into account the historical flags of our American forefathers.

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That one in the middle, known as the Confederate Battle Flag,  was flown when Southern states, afraid of the direction of the country, rebelled violently against the national government, which was increasingly dominated by an industrialized and heavily immigrant north.

Guess, I sort of understand the fear.

In Other News: CLINIC’s Update on Provisional Waivers

4 Oct

Despite the government shutdown, USCIS carries on processing applications and petitions at its glacial pace as usual, including the large number of provisional unlawful presence waiver applications (I-601As) that have been filed since they were first accepted in March 2013, and a corresponding high number of I-130 Immediate Relative Petitions pending approval.

We have written on the unlawful presence waiver topic many times, but have been thirsty for statistics and helpful information on the process. Our thirst has been quenched! Last week the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) conducted an intensive training on provisional unlawful presence waivers, including an update and presentation by Robert Blackwood, the Assistant Section Director for Adjudications at the National Benefits Center (NBC), which serves as a pre-processing center for applications adjudicated at USCIS field offices, including I-130 immediate relative petitions and I-601A applications for provisional waivers. CLINIC generously has circulated the update on the NBC’s I-601A process, and we share portions of it with you here.

I-601A Adjudication Process

All I-601As are filed at the Chicago Lockbox, which reviews submissions under rules that address document sufficiency. If an application is rejected for sufficiency reasons, the rejection should be accompanied by an explanation of deficiency. If the application is accepted, the Chicago Lockbox creates a case receipt file and forwards it to the NBC. Division 1 (of eight divisions) at NBC is responsible for I-601A adjudications and currently is staffed with between 45-50 adjudicators and 5 supervisors. Once a forwarded application is received at the NBC, the NBC goes through its own initial processing checklist to determine if the application is complete. If NBC staff determines documents are missing, it issues a Request for Evidence (RFE); otherwise, it will schedule the applicant for a biometrics appointment. When the biometrics and the name check results come back, the application is transferred to the “JIT” (“Just in Time”) shelves and is considered ready to be adjudicated.

Division 1 Supervisors assign cases to adjudicators when they are ready to be adjudicated. When an adjudicator receives a file, he or she first looks for basic eligibility – name check and biometrics response, national security issues – and if there is a “hit,” the file is forwarded to a security clearance team for resolution. For cases that pass security clearance or do not have “hits,” the adjudicators follow a “processing checklist” sheet, which guides them through the process of determining statutory eligibility for the waiver (e.g., USC qualifying relative) and whether the applicant has satisfied the extreme hardship standard. The adjudicator makes notes on the processing checklist, for purposes of decisionmaking and supervisor review. If the case is denied, the file is sent to the National Records Center, where it will be stored. If it is approved, the file will be sent to the Texas Service Center (TSC). The TSC holds on to the case files so they can be matched up after the applicant immigrates. The NBC sends the applicant and the representative the written approval or denial decision.

The NBC sends the National Visa Center (NVC) an electronic data report on I-601A receipts on a daily basis, so that the NVC can stop processing the immigrant visa (IV) application until there is a decision on the waiver application. A “decisions” report is sent to the NVC every week, to inform the NVC of waiver application outcomes so that the NVC can then proceed with IV processing. The NBC does not send the actual I-601A decision to the NVC; it only sends notification of whether the I-601A was approved or denied. If the NBC denies the application because it has a “reason to believe” the applicant might be inadmissible under another ground, it only informs the NVC that the waiver application was denied.

For the first two months of provisional waiver adjudication, all applications were reviewed by division supervisors to ensure that the appropriate decisions were being made. Now, all denials are reviewed by the supervisor and approvals are only spot-checked. If a supervisor has questions or concerns about a particular decision, the encourages a dialogue with the adjudicator to find out more about the decision recommendation, but does not instruct the adjudicator on how to rule in a particular case. If there is still disagreement as to whether the application should have been approved or denied, the supervisor may seek further guidance from one of the section chiefs.

Every week a report is generated indicating how many applications were adjudicated. The NBC communicates and shares data with the State Department to determine whether I-601A applicants who were denied were later approved by the consulate through an I-601 waiver, and whether applicants whose I-601As were approved were later denied by the consulate due to a finding of inadmissibility on a ground other than unlawful presence. The statistical evidence is not yet meaningful to draw any conclusions on these issues.
If an I-601A applicant who is denied elects to re-file, the NBC will pull the original application and check it against the new application.

Statistics

The NBC has provided the following numbers based on I-601A applications received or adjudicated from March 4 – September 14, 2013:

23, 949 applications were sent to Lockbox
17,996 applications were accepted by Lockbox
5,953 applications were rejected by Lockbox

The reasons for rejection could include no applicant signature, no proof of I-130 approval, no proof of NIV fee paid, or applicant is under 17. The number of applications received may include re-filings by applicants whose cases were initially rejected at the Lockbox.

The NBC currently has 12,098 applications in the pipeline, with approximately 2,300 ready for processing. It is averaging approximately 600 applications/week, so it has about four weeks of applications to adjudicate. With 45 adjudicators currently working these cases, this averages out to each adjudicator handling about 13 applications per week, or about 2.6 per day. Mr. Blackwood noted that adjudicators have other work responsibilities, including time spent in trainings and at meetings.

The NBC has issued the following decisions:

3,497 approvals (59%)
2,292 denials (39%)
103 administrative closures (application returned for various reasons, e.g., filed I-601 instead of I-601A) (2%)

Although applications have been denied for various reasons, the highest number of denials – 1,093, or 48% of all denials – is for “reason to believe.” That is, the adjudicator has reason to believe that the applicant is inadmissible for reasons other than unlawful presence. The second highest number – 937, or 41% of all denials – is for failure to establish extreme hardship. Other reasons for denial include: abandonment, applicant in proceedings, pending adjustment of status application, lack of qualifying relative, pre-2013 consular interview scheduled, and applicant subject to existing or final order of removal.
At present, the average time between receipt of an application at the Lockbox and decision issuance is 103 days. The goal is to reduce the adjudication time to 90 days, the pace at which NBC adjudicators were working until “reason to believe” denials became a controversial issue.

Reason to Believe

USCIS has no authority to determine admissibility in a case to be decided by the consulate after the applicant has left the United States and appeared for the interview. Mr. Blackwood explained that the provisional waivers working group developing the I-601A regulations and procedures for processing wanted USCIS officers to limit their consideration to waiver adjudication, leaving inadmissibility determinations as a function of the Department of State. In other words, the USCIS did not want its adjudicators analyzing whether the applicant was inadmissible on grounds other than unlawful presence, but at the same time, the USCIS did not want to approve I-601As and have the applicant be denied at the consulate for another ground of inadmissibility.

That was the rationale for developing the “reason to believe” standard, where the adjudicators make a quick assessment as to whether the applicant might be inadmissible on a ground other than unlawful presence, based on the name check and biometrics results. Under this standard, adjudicators are instructed to deny all applications involving a criminal conviction, regardless of the type of conviction, when it occurred, or whether it fell within a recognized exception to inadmissibility, like a petty offense. If the fingerprint check resulted in a “hit” that revealed a conviction, then the application was denied under the “reason to believe” standard. Similarly, if there was an inconsistency in the name or date of birth of the applicant and that provided during CBP processing for voluntary departure after an arrest at the border, the applicant was denied for “reason to believe.”

The NBC staff soon realized that this broad application of the “reason to believe” standard led to a high denial rate. Given this development, Mr. Blackwood announced that, as of six weeks ago, NBC stopped issuing any “reason to believe” denials and is suspending adjudication of cases where this issue is present while USCIS and DOS reconsider the current policy and decide how to proceed in the future. During this time, the 1300 pending cases that involve a potential “reason to believe” concern are being held in abeyance, and will not be adjudicated until there is further guidance. Mr. Blackwood noted that if the “reason to believe” standard is changed so that not all of the denied cases would warrant denial under revised interpretation, the NBC will consider whether to apply any new policy retroactively and reopen denied cases sua sponte.

While there is no mechanism to appeal a denial or seek reconsideration, the NBC can reopen a case on its own if it believes a denial was made incorrectly based on misapplication of the reason to believe standard, including, for example, cases where the applicant’s name and date of birth appear inconsistent as a result of clerical or insignificant error, but not including cases containing criminal convictions. Mr. Blackwood indicated during his presentation that denials made under the reason to believe standard that seem clearly wrong could be brought to his attention, and he would pull the file to see if the agency made a mistake. To bring those cases to Mr. Blackwood’s attention, applicants were directed to send an e-mail to CLINIC training leaders at sschreiber@cliniclegal.org or cwheeler@cliniclegal.org, and to include the name of the applicant, the waiver receipt number, and the “A” number, as well as a brief description of the issue (e.g., month and day of applicant’s date of birth were transposed; applicant’s name recorded incorrectly).

Adjudication of Extreme Hardship and RFEs

Current policy does not mandate that the agency issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) before issuing a denial, but NBC adjudicators typically will issue an RFE if they believe additional documentation will help them reach a decision in a case. (For example, if an applicant claims a health-related hardship, but only submits financial evidence, or if the applicant claims multiple hardships but submits evidence supporting only one claimed hardship, or weak evidence of hardship.) If the applicant claims hardship and the officer believes sufficient evidence was presented but that the extreme hardship standard was not met, then the adjudicator can simply issue a denial without issuing an RFE. In other words, if additional documentation would not add any value to the hardship claim, the NBC will forgo issuing an RFE. Mr. Blackwood noted again that all denials are reviewed by a supervisor.

RFE response times are set at 30 days so that consular processing is not delayed. A request for an extension may be considered if there are compelling reasons warranting additional time to respond to the RFE.

Comparison with NSC Adjudications of I-601

Mr. Blackwood explained that NBC staff made adjustments to their standards for evaluating “extreme hardship,” in the wake of exchanging information and statistical data with the NSC regarding its adjudication of I-601 waivers, as well as reviewing AAO waiver denial reversals. Adjudicators are now assessing extreme hardship to the qualifying relative as impacted by hardships to other family members. As a result, the denial rate has come down and the NBC is approving more applications. Mr. Blackwood anticipates that the denial rate will continue to go down as adjudicators gain more experience.
Mr. Blackwood also noted that the provisional waiver is more challenging for the applicant, because the hardship to the qualifying relative is prospective, as opposed to the I-601 applicant who has left the United States and whose qualifying relative is already experiencing the hardship. For this reason, the denial rates will not necessarily be comparable.

Waiver Submission Format

Mr. Blackwood encourages applicants to submit a cover letter or brief that summarizes the hardships and helps the adjudicator understand the theory of the case, and all supporting evidence that is pertinent, such as a doctor’s letter summarizing medical conditions. The Chicago Lockbox removes all tabs and bindings, so applicants are encouraged to use some kind of pagination system to help identify and segregate supporting documentation. The original submission is sent to the NBC – any highlighting of important documentation or color dividers separating exhibits will be retained.

If submitting supplemental information after the application has already been submitted, make sure to include the receipt number and the A#. Avoid sending multiple pages from the Internet on a specific medical condition (e.g., definition of diabetes) or DOS country conditions reports.


In the coming months…

Stay tuned for a formal decision from the USCIS on whether the NBC will modify the way it adjudicates I-601As with respect to the “reason to believe” standard. Expect the NBC’s current approval rate (approximately 60%, including reason to believe denials) to increase.

Many thanks to CLINIC for this thorough and helpful information!

A New Fiscal Year and the Same Old Dysfunction

1 Oct

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The air is noticeably crisper, the baseball playoffs have begun, I have started to see decorative gourds, but the traffic got a whole lot lighter today.  It is October 1, 2013, the first day of the fiscal year 2014 (FY2014), and the federal government has shut down over the inability of Congress to pass a budget that does not seek to undo the Affordable Care Act.  With the radical takeover of the House of Representatives, government functions, including immigration, have ground to a halt.  If the House can not even keep the government running, how are we to expect that they can actually create positive change by passing meaningful immigration reform?

Here are things that are not going to happen because of the government shutdown:  our client, a lesbian from South Africa, will not get to present her case for protection to an immigration judge and she will remain in limbo for the forseeable future, worrying whether she must return to a country where “corrective rape” is a common occurrence for those deemed to be gay; our clients, DI and NM, husband and wife, will continue to be separated while they wait for the National Visa Center to resume processing DI’s case and deciding whether the birth and marriage documents from Iran are the right ones, and our client, DR will have her hearing rescheduled once again.

DR’s case presents an amazing saga of government bad luck and government dysfunction.  DR is supposed to go before the immigration judge on Monday, yet the case is likely not to go forward due to the shutdown.  Even if it did, the word is that the Congressionally-limited 4000 green cards available through cancellation of the removal for FY 2014 are already gone.  Chew on that for a minute.  The 4000 visas available for cancellation, meant to get the country through the entire year, were gone before the FY even started.  Thus, the Judge could not even grant the relief we were seeking.  Perhaps she could have reserved one of the FY 2015 visas and had us return in a year to finish the case.  This was supposed to all occur last year for DR.  However, last year, Super Storm Sandy closed the immigration court in New York for about two weeks.  DR missed her hearing and, by the time, she returned to court in December 2013, the cancellation visas were all gone.  Certainly, there would be new cancellation visas on October 7, a week after the FY begins, we all reasoned in December.  So, we scheduled for October 7.  Oops.  The irony of all this is that the government and the Judge all agree that she should be granted her residence.  Yet, it is Congress that has continued to stand in the way.  The 1996 Congress which passed the dreadful immigration law which limited cancellation grants to 4000 a year has caused endless bureaucratic delay and now with a shut down has made it impossible for the parties to work out a solution.  Meanwhile, DR keeps working and going to school, wondering when she will get the relief she deserves.

The Congressional inaction has also stalled immigration reform.  Millions of immigrants wait for the chance to regularize their status and integrate more deeply into American life.  The promise of reform has been tantalizingly close since June when the Senate passed its immigration bill.  Yet, the House has done nothing with that bill.  Rather than build, they seek to destroy.  In the meantime, millions of immigrants, their families and their employers get up and go to work and school.  They do their jobs while the House Republicans close the biggest employer in the DC area.  Yet, the deportation machine keeps running.  ICE has announced that enforcement and removal operations will continue during the shutdown.  The heavy priority on enforcement over benefits and relief has been noticed in the immigrant priority.  Certain immigrant groups have taken matters into their own hands, seeking entry into the United States across the Mexican border.  I have no idea what will be the long-term effect of that strategy, but I do know that it can not be any less effective than trying to lobby Speaker of the House John Boehner.

At least the traffic in downtown DC is better.