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Lifted Lamp’s Top Ten Blog Posts for 2013 & Poll for Topics for 2014

27 Dec

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Looking back on what turned out to be a disappointing 2013 for the lack of progress on meaningful immigration reform and on the continuing pace of removals, we have tried to figure out what articles and stories most appealed to our readers.  Turns out that our readers were not as interested in the minute-by-minute accounts of progress, but rather came to Lifted Lamp for information about developments in the law that had a real impact upon their lives.  The provisional waiver, DACA, the de Osorio litigation were topics that continually received interest from our readers.  We hope to use this information to make this blog more useful and interesting to our readers.

We have compiled our 2013 Top Ten Blogposts and provide some thoughts on them after they have been written, published and we have received feedback.

10.  Leave it to controversy to be popular.  Our tenth most popular blog of 2013 is just over a month.  On November 25, we wrote about the young man who challenged the President to halt removals while waiting for immigration reform.  In “Does the President Have the Power to Stop All/Most Removals?“, we discussed whether the President can use his executive power to halt all deportations.  We decided that the President probably could not halt all deportations, but he could definitely stop a whole lot more.

9.   The provisional waiver, which has allowed the spouses of U.S. citizens to seek the required waiver of the ten year bar before traveling abroad, has been a continually popular topic on this blog.  In February 2013, we asked “Should I Apply for a Provisional Waiver or Wait for Immigration Reform?”  We answered that the provisional waiver was likely the better bet.  Turns out we were right.  Hundreds of people have received their residence through the provisional waiver, whereas immigration reform remains stuck in the quagmire of today’s politics.  While there is lots of talk about the prospects for reform in 2014, we continue to place our bet on the provisional waiver.

8.  The de Osorio litgation regarding the interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act has generated a lot of interest on this site.  We have chronicled the litigation from our submission of an amicus brief on behalf of undocumented youth at the 9th circuit and celebrated the victory in the 9th Circuit decision.  We implored the administration not seek review of the 9th Circuit’s decision in the Supreme Court and  shared our disappointment in the government’s decision to seek certiorari review in “Opportunity Lost: Administration Seeks Supreme Court Review of de Osorio.”  The Court heard arguments on December 12, 2103 and a decision is expected by June 2014.

7.  Also, in January 2013, we sought to explain some basics of immigration law as the popularity of the “go to the back of the line” school of thought dominated discussion of immigration reform.  In “What’s The Deal with the Immigration Line?“, we discussed how the visa numbers and quotas work and, more often, don’t work.  We had a lot of fun with this post and are glad that it was so well received.

6.  In February 2013, we highlighted a piece of legislation proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) called the I-Squared Act.  In “Immigration Reform 2013: Understanding the I-Squared Act,” we described Senator Hatch’s proposals to modernize and improve the visa process for high tech workers.  Much of Senator Hatch’s bill was folded into the Senate bill which passed the Senate in June 2013 and remains languishing in the House of Representatives.

5.  A surprise for number 5!  In March, we wrote about Congress’ belated re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  In “Congress Reauthorizes VAWA But Falls Short on Immigration Provisions,” we discussed the history of the VAWA, improvements made in the 2013 reauthorization, and disappointments in the bill.  One of the bigger disappointments was Congress’ failure to raise the cap on U visas, a failure that has proven to be significant as the U visa cap for 2013 was reached in December.

4.  In January 2013, we discussed the development and roll-out of the provisional waiver process.  The provisional waiver has been one of the most popular topics on our blog.  And for good reason, the provisional waiver is one change to the immigration laws that has directly benefited immigrants in 2013.  While immigration reform has stalled, the provisional waiver has proven to be a way out of the catch-22 of ineligibility for adjustment in the U.S. and the ten year bar triggered by traveling abroad.  In “Q&A on I-601A Provisional Waivers,” we reported on the procedures that CIS would use in executing the provisional waiver process.

3.  The provisional waiver dominates the top three spots.  In “The Provisional Waiver and Removal Proceedings,” we discussed the process of seeking a provisional waiver for individuals in removal proceedings.  This topic still draws interest as I took a call yesterday from a lawyer who wanted our thoughts on a government motion to terminate removal proceedings so that the client could seek the provisional waiver.

2. Again, the provisional waiver draws a lot of interest.  In this post, “What is Extreme Hardship?“, we used our years of experience preparing applications for waivers to help illuminate this very subjective and squishy standard.  One of our most popular posts, this post is very similar to many of the consultations we do where we help people identify relevant hardship factors before applying for waivers.

numero uno1.  Our most popular post is “10 Facts About the Provisional Waiver Process.”  This is, by far, our most popular post.  It was our first post of 2013.  We are a bit curious as to its popularity given how many developments there have been in the provisional waiver process, but this post remains an informative introduction to the provisional waiver, what it means to accomplish, and the mechanics of seeking a waiver.

Thanks to all of our readers.  We have studied these results and will use this information to make this blog more interesting and useful to you.  Happy new year to all!

Mayorkas v. Cuellar de Osorio: CSPA at the Supreme Court

9 Dec

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Tomorrow, December 10, 2013, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Mayorkas v. Cuellar de Osorio, reviewing the 9th circuit decision that reversed the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision in Matter of Wang that rejected the applicability of the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) to a large number of immigrants.  If the Supreme Court upholds the decision of the 9th Circuit, many aged-out young adults will be immediately eligible to apply for residence.  If the Supreme Court reverses the 9th Circuit, the BIA’s interpretation will stand and young adults who aged-out while their families’ petitions were stuck in the immigration backlogs will continue to wait for alternative paths to residence.

At the heart of the dispute is a common question in U.S. immigration law- how much deference does a court owe to an agency’s interpretation of matters within its expertise.  In a seminal 1984 case, Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, the Supreme Court held that the answer to that question requires a two part analysis.  First, the court must determine whether Congress spoke clearly in the statute.  If Congress spoke clearly, the court must look to whether the agency faithfully implemented the statute’s directive.  The second part of the analysis comes into play if the court determine that Congress did not speak clearly and left the details of the matter to the expertise of the agency.  Where Congress spoke ambiguously, courts should defer to the agency’s special expertise so long as their interpretation was reasonable.  As a practical matter, if a court finds that Congress’ directive in a piece of legislation was ambiguous, it will likely uphold the agency’s interpretation.  Thus, in this case, the Court must decide whether the Child Status Protection Act was clear in how these aged-out young people should be treated.  If the court decides that Congress was pellucid in the language of the statute, it is likely that the court will reject the BIA’s interpretation and uphold the 9th Circuit’s decision.  In addition to the 9th Circuit, one other court, the 5th Circuit, has also rejected the BIA’s formulation.

Cuellar de Osorio’s lawyers will be arguing that Congress spoke with particular clarity when it passed the Child Status Protection Act and intended for all aged-out derivative beneficiaries of their parent’s immigrant petitions to be able to reclaim their original filing date rather than going back to the “end of the line” after turning 21.  They are supported by a brief filed by several Senators who explain to the Court that their intention in passing the legislation was to help as many aged-out children as possible.  The government seeks to muddy the waters and state that Congress was not clear and that the court should defer to the government.  The government warns of major disruption to the way visas are distributed if the Court rejects its interpretation.

Tomorrow, lawyers for the government and for the immigrants affected will get their chance to argue the case before the Supreme Court.  A decision will likely come in the spring of 2014.

Prerna Lal on CSPA and de Osorio Update

5 Jun

Despite being on leave from Benach Ragland to study for the California bar, Prerna Lal continues to provide valuable insight on the status of the de Osorio case.  De Osorio is the 9th Circuit case in which the court held that the Board of Immigration Appeals and the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service had interpreted the Child Status Protection Act wrongly in a way that excluded thousands of young people from the opportunity to obtain status with their families.  The government has sought review of the de Osorio decision before the United States Supreme Court, which will decide by the end of June, whether it will hear the case.  From Prerna’s blog:

Attorneys for de Osorio filed an excellent reply brief to the DOJ’s petition seeking certiorari on May 24. Usually, the petitioners can file a reply brief within 10 days but it appears that the Department of Justice did not file a reply brief in de Osorio yesterday. They are not obligated to do so. As of now, the government’s petition for review of the Ninth Circuit’s decision has been distributed for conference on June 20. I believe SCOTUS will probably vote to hear this, but I’d love to be wrong.

Empirical analysis suggests that it is rare for the Supreme Court to deny hearing a case when the Solicitor General requests review. While I think that the appeal is without merit, and almost frivolous, it only takes a law clerk to place the certiorari petition in the pool for review and four Supreme Court justices to agree to grant review.

If the Supreme Court grants certioriari, as in, agrees to hear the case, which we will know by June 24, 2013, then the stay of mandate continues, and no one can seek adjustment of status (or a green card) under de Osorio until the Supreme Court hears the case. Persons under the jurisdiction of Fifth Circuit (Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi), who are in removal proceedings, continue to be eligible for relief under Khalid v. Holder. New briefs would be filed, oral arguments held, and the Supreme Court would have until the end of June 2014 to issue a decision.

If the Supreme Court denies review, then the stay on mandate is lifted, and de Osorio becomes law nationwide because it was certified as nationwide class action lawsuit (and hence, there are no circuit split issues).

I hope everyone separated from their parents or adult children, get to see their family members soon.

Much love.

Thanks for keeping this on the front burner, Prerna.  We will continue to keep you informed as the Supreme Court considers the case.

Opportunity Lost- Administration Seeks Supreme Court Review of De Osorio

26 Jan

On the same day that the immigration world was abuzz with news that the President would unveil his immigration reform plan next week, the administration filed a brief to preserve the unnecessary family separation caused by its cramped  understanding of the Child Status Protection Act reflected in the Board of Immigration Appeals decision in Matter of Wang.  The juxtaposition of the prospect of common sense immigration reform with the wholly unnecessary appeal of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Cuellar de Osorio v. Mayorkas provides significant doubt that the administration really understands the pain caused to American families by the immigration laws and the decisions that the administration takes on a daily basis that make those immigration laws worse than perhaps Congress even intended.  When the administration is more restrictive then Congress, that is a sorry state of affairs.

Enough editorializing.  We can write more about what a disastrous decision this was for the administration once emotions are less raw.  For now, we will focus on what happens.

The administration has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court to review the decision of the 9th Circuit.  A writ of certiorari is a statement from the Supreme Court that they will review a case.  “I will review” is the basic Latin translation of certiorari.  By petitioning for the writ, the government is asking the court to review a case.  Review at the Supreme Court is discretionary, meaning that the Supreme Court does not review all cases in which certiorari is sought.  In fact, the Supreme Court rejects the overwhelming majority of cert petitions filed each year.  The Supreme Court grants only about 2% of all petitions for certiorari. That might be comforting, but the odds are improved when the petitioner is the Department of Justice, as it is here.  In addition, other factors, such as the split between circuit courts to have reviewed the CSPA, and the national implications of the decision are factors that indicate that the government’s petition for a writ of certiorari in de Osorio are better than the 2% average.

The Supreme Court will vote on whether to hear the case.  Four justices must vote in the affirmative to hear the case. It is difficult to say when the Supreme Court will rule on whether to grant certiorari.  A good discussion of Supreme Court procedure can be found here. If the Supreme Court denies the petition for certiorari, the decision of the Ninth Circuit will stand.  If the Supreme Court grants the petition, it will receive briefs from the parties and all sorts of other interested people and organizations.  It will hold oral argument.  It is unlikely that the Supreme Court will hold oral argument before October as the Court recesses from June to October.  A decision would likely come about a year from now.

So, there remain two more opportunities to end this struggle.  The first chance is whether the Supreme Court grants cert.  The second is when, if it grants cert, it decides on the case.

There remains substantial hope.  The lawyers handling this are some of the best in the business.  Many other interested parties will weigh in.  Benach Ragland will continue to be a part of this litigation and continue to advocate for sane immigration laws.  Also, cert is rarely granted.  The government still has an uphill road to follow.  This is a setback and not a defeat.

Time to Decide in de Osorio

24 Jan

The Obama administration has until tomorrow January 25, 2013 to file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court to seek review of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit decision in Cuellar de Osorio v. Mayorkas, which provided a humane and reasonable interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act.  If the government does not seek review in the Supreme Court, the decision of the 9th Circuit becomes law nationwide and thousands of people will be eligible to apply for adjustment of status using their old priority dates.

If the government does seek review, the case will remain on hold.  However, a petition for a writ of certiorari does not mean that the Supreme Court will take the case.  The Supreme Court does not take every case that comes before it and must agree to hear the case.  If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, then the 9th Circuit decision becomes law.  If the Supreme Court takes the case, we will need to wait for a ruling from the Court before knowing the fate of the de Osorio class of potential applicants.

We have explained in multiple posts the reasons why the government should let the de Osorio decision stand and how this single act could improve the immigration system for thousands of American families.  In the week of the President’s inauguration with its soaring hopes and promises, the President has an immediate opportunity to translate those words into policy and law.  Let’s hope he takes it.

DACA, Provisional Waivers, and de Osorio?

4 Jan

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The publication of the rule allowing for processing of provisional waivers for unlawful presence in the United States was another act of administrative rule-making that the President has undertaken to make the immigration laws more humane.  Over the past year, the effort at prosecutorial discretion, the introduction of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and the provisional waiver have created a much improved immigration system that attempts to solve real immigration problems for families.

The President has been justly criticized for an enforcement-only approach to immigration.  It is clear that, early in the first term, the White House miscalculated in believing that if it demonstrated that it could enforce U.S. immigration law, it could persuade Republicans in Congress to support sensible immigration laws.  It did not work.  Despite record removals, many members of Congress labor under the fallacy that the President has refused to enforce immigration laws.  As the intransigence of Congressional Republicans made any meaningful immigration reform an impossibility, the administration has taken significant steps to make the immigration system better.

And make no mistake- these steps taken by the administration have made the immigration system better.  Critics can cite the low numbers of cases where prosecutorial discretion has been applied and the individual instances where prosecutorial discretion has been refused where it seems like the individual fit within the criteria.  The systems have not been perfect, but they are improved.  If one case was terminated as a result of memoranda issued in the past year, a benefit was received.  In the past, a request for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion was a last ditch and usually fruitless effort reserved for the saddest of cases.  It is now a routine part of representation and utilized successfully in cases where the law provides no options for relief.

In addition, I have seen the exercise of prosecutorial discretion bleed into areas other than the termination of cases.  I have seen the government agree to join motions to reopen to allow the spouses of citizens to adjust their status in the U.S.  This was a rarity before.  I won’t go so far as to say that they are regularly joined these days, but I have had more joined in the past year than in the previous five years.  DACA has been an amazing experience. Watching all of these kids get a chance to go to college or put their education to work has been an inspiration.  The country has benefited tremendously from the energy and vigor they have brought to our communities when the smallest of welcome was extended to them.

Finally, the provisional waiver will allow families to regularize their status without the risk of long term separation.  Thousands of families have refused to risk separation and have thus continued with one partner without status fearful of being stopped by the police and unable to find meaningful work.  The provisional waiver process should allow thousands of undocumented immigrants to get their residence properly.

The President has done this in the face of a hostile Congress colluding with an insubordinate agency.  ICE bureaucrats have been in open rebellion against liberalized immigration policies since the beginning of the President’s terms.  They have teamed with their Congressional supporters to accuse the administration of everything from allowing jihadis to roam free to making cynical ploys for Latino votes.  Luckily, these rear-guard actions have failed.  They are the death shrieks of a disappearing order, where once can say of Joe Arpaio, Russel Pearce, Kris Kobach, and Steve King, as Bob Dylan once did, “something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is.

While there are countless other administrative actions that the administration can take, another step that would further demonstrate the administration’s willingness to place family unity and sensible immigration policy over “the way things have always been,” would be for the administration to forgo Supreme Court review in de Osorio v. Mayorkas, the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that allows the unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents who aged out of eligibility under petitions for their parents to receive credit for the time they waited under their parents’ petitions.  In de Osorio, the 9th Circuit joined the 5th Circuit in Khalid v. Holder rejecting the Board of Immigration Appeals decision in Matter of Wang.  Both Courts of Appeals decided that the plain language of the  Child Status Protection Act allowed kids who aged-0ut of eligibility under petitions filed for their parents to recapture the time that they waited when their parents, now permanent residents, filed petitions for them.  In Matter of Wang, the Board decided that the kids could not recapture that time and would have to go to the end of the line.  This resulted in what one brief in de Osorio calculated would be a 115 year wait for an unmarried adult son or daughter of a Mexican citizen!  The de Osorio decision has the potential to help ensure family unity for thousands of families where parents and minor children have received residence, but one or two older children aged-out.

The de Osorio decision came down on September 26, 2012 and the next stop for review is the Supreme Court.  The government has sought two extensions to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.  As of now, their petition for Supreme Court review, known as a petition for a writ of certiorari, is due on January 26.  If the government files a petition, the Supreme Court may or may not take the case.  However, the de Osorio case will likely not take effect until the Supreme Court decides whether to take the case.  If the Supreme Court takes the case, then we will have to wait until the Supreme Court decides the matter before we know anything further.  If the Supreme Court does not take the case, the de Osorio case will take effect and many people will become eligible for adjustment of status.

Of course, the government does not have to file a petition for a writ of certiorari.  They did not seek certiorari in Khalid.  Moreover, WHY??  Why appeal this?  What is the possible compelling interest for the government?  The de Osorio decision allows the sons and daughters of permanent residents who waited in line with their parents only to lose their eligibility due to lengthy delays in the immigration process to rejoin their families.  How does the government have an interest in avoiding that happy result.  Immigration law has always been anchored in the concept of family unity?  Prosecutorial discretion, the provisional waiver and, to a lesser extent, DACA, reflect principles of family unity.  By letting the de Osorio decision stand, the administration can once again signal its firm alliance with immigrant families.

As one former President said, on a petition for cert, Mr. President, “Just say no!

Mr. President, Let de Osorio Stand!

19 Dec

As ideas for immigration reform take shape, there is one thing that the administration could do without lifting a finger that would help thousands of immigrants.  This benefit would actually require the government to refrain from doing something.  If the government decides not to appeal the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals  for the 9th Circuit in Cuellar de Osorio v. Mayorkas, the Court’s decision would stand and thousands of young immigrants would be able to apply to adjust their status after waiting years for that opportunity.

As we discussed before, in September 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that the Board of Immigration Appeals had misinterpreted the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) in a way that excluded thousands of young immigrants from eligibility for immediate residence.  The issue arose in cases where a child was included as a derivative of an immigrant petition filed on behalf of their parent.  Due to backlogs, that child often aged-out of eligibility by turning 21 before the parent received her green card.  In that case, many parents, subsequent to receiving their residence, filed I-130 immigrant petitions on behalf of their children.  However, those children were sent to the back of the line of the unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents, despite having already waited for years with their parents.  The CSPA attempted to remedy this by allowing these derivative children to recapture their old priority dates when their parents or an employer later sponsored them.  In Matter of Wang, the Board unnecessarily limited the class of derivative beneficiaries who could recapture their priority dates, basically undermining the congressional fix in the CSPA.  Now the 9th Circuit has joined the 5th Circuit in rejecting Matter of Wang and the government must decide how it will react to these rulings.

So far, their reaction is not encouraging.  The government filed and the 9th Circuit granted an unopposed motion to stay the mandate, which holds up the effectiveness of the de Osorio ruling.  The mandate has been stayed until December 26, 2012.  At the same time, the government filed a request to extend its time to file a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court, which is a request that the Supreme Court hear the case.  Their petition to the Supreme Court would also be due on December 26, 2012.  However, yesterday, the government filed another request to stay the mandate until January 25, 2013 to give the government more time to consider whether to file a cert. petition to the Supreme Court.  We expect that the court will grant this motion as well.  So, by January 25, 2013, we will know whether the case is over or whether it will go on.

The administration does not need to seek review.  It is hard to see what the compelling government interest is in demanding that these aged-out beneficiaries continue to wait.  An analysis of the backlogs revealed that certain Mexican nationals might need to wait over 100 years for a visa under the Matter of Wang interpretation.  By deciding to let the de Osorio decision stand, the government will demonstrate that it is firmly on the side of keeping families together, rational  immigration policy and that it is abandoning its practice of fighting to win for winning’s sake, regardless of the social costs.  As the administration begins the process of reviewing our immigration laws, it must look closely at the litigation positions it takes and ask whether those positions are consistent with humane and compassionate immigration policy.  Appealing de Osorio is not and the administration should leave the decision alone.

Many of the same factors that drive support for DREAMers can equally be said about those who would benefit from de Osorio.  de Osorio beneficiaries applied for residence, but due to processing delays and backlogs, did nothing more than grow up.  They did what they were supposed to do.  Their families have now received residence and they have been left behind.  Despite Congressional intent to help these beneficiaries, an interpretation by the BIA left them out in the cold.   The Obama administration now has a chance to fix this and give effect to the original intent of Congress to help these immigrants and to help keep families together.

The government has just over a month to decide whether to appeal de Osorio to the Supreme Court.  What it chooses to do will say a lot about the truth behind the rhetoric.