Problems Created for U.S. Citizens by President Trump's Executive Order

Image credit CBP

Image credit CBP

President Trump's executive action blocking foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States is not shocking, given his campaign rhetoric. What is surprising is that the ban is also applicable to permanent residents of the United States. This is going to raise some big problems: 

  1. What happens at the airport with a mixed status family? Let's say that Mom and Dad are permanent residents and the children are U.S. citizens? What then? Are we now depriving U.S. citizen children of their ability to live in the U.S. with their parents who have lawful status and have "done everything right" and "followed the rules"?
  2. What happens to long term permanent residents? I have clients who have not naturalized but have been permanent residents for decades -- are they barred too?
  3. If a permanent resident is eligible for naturalization and files their application outside the U.S. -- what happens? Being physically present on U.S. soil is not a requirement for filing. Are they barred from attending their interview?
  4. If a U.S. citizen wants to marry someone from one of those countries are they now banned from bringing their spouse to the U.S.? 
  5. If a U.S. citizen is traveling abroad with their permanent resident spouse, is their spouse now banned from coming home? 
  6. What if a permanent resident travels abroad, has filed a naturalization application, attended their interview, had their application approved and is merely waiting for their naturalization ceremony? What happens if they are forced to miss their naturalization ceremony? They have been deprived of their precious right to U.S. citizenship.
  7. What happens if a permanent resident loses their job because they cannot get back into the U.S.? Are they supposed to accept financial ruin?
  8. Permanent residents already go through screening during the application - does that screening not count?
  9. If their country of origin does not agree to supply more information, do these permanent residents cease to be permanent residents? Under the law they are entitled to a hearing for termination of permanent resident status. 

I am not naive - I know that there are evil people in the world who wish to do harm to the U.S. and its citizens. I am also not opposed to increased screening or securing our borders. I am opposed to rules that deprive U.S. citizens of their parents and spouses. I am opposed to rules that deprive permanent residents of their livelihoods and their homes. 

Lesson in the law

Criteria for naturalization:

  1. Be at least 18 years old at the time of filing the application
  2. Be a permanent resident for 5 years or 3 years if married to a U.S. citizen
  3. Continuous residence in the U.S. for at least five years
  4. Physical presence in the U.S. for at least 30 months out of the past five years or 18 months if married to a U.S. citizen
  5. Be able to read, write and speak basic English
  6. Have a basic understanding of U.S. history and government
  7. Be a person of good moral character
  8. Demonstrate an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. constitution

 

 

 

My Advice to Donald Trump on Border Security

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Fox News reports this morning that President-elect Donald Trump has slightly walked back his assertion that Mexico will pay for “the Great Wall.” Meaning the U.S. taxpayer will initially be on the hook for the estimated $14 billion project and we will be “paid back by Mexico later!” 

I think “the Great Wall” is a better title for the next great American musical than sound immigration policy.  

I interact with our immigration system everyday serving my clients. Here’s my advice to President-elect on how to get our immigration system moving in a more secure direction: 

  • Robust IT infrastructure investment: I regularly FedEx phone book sized filings to USCIS because there is no system for electronic filing. This leads to lost documentation, wasted time and higher costs. I recently emailed the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City to fix a visa error in a client’s passport - my email bounced back because the attachment limit was 1MB. I was brought back to the days of AOL dial up.
  • Mandatory E-Verify: All employers should be required to use E-Verify for all of their employees. The current iteration of E-verify also needs to be improved.
     
  • National Biometric ID card: This card would be mandated for work authorization, voting and all government benefits. Many countries with economies similar to the U.S. have national ID cards. 
     
  • Robust Exit / Entry tracking system: There is no robust system for tracking people who are legally admitted to the U.S. and whether they comply with the exit date on their visa. The latest somewhat reliable data available is from a 2004 report based upon 2000 data, stating that visa overstays account from 27% to 31% to 57% of those in the U.S. illegally. If there are roughly 11,000,000 people in the U.S. illegally that is between 2.9 million and 6.2 million people who would have had no interaction with “the Great Wall."
     
  • Significant employer sanctions: We pay our taxes because we know the IRS generally wins. Employers exploit undocumented workers because they know they can get away with it. The 1986 immigration reform and amnesty under Ronald Reagan was stripped of meaningful employer sanctions — leading us to our current situation.

“The Great Wall” is a wonderful public relations tool, but it will not solve the very real problems our immigration system has.

Announcing: Huntley Inc - Immigration Law

Happy New Year! I am very proud to finally announce the formation of my new immigration law firm - Huntley Inc.

I am very lucky to call myself a happy lawyer. I have the privilege of helping my clients, whether they be a multi-national corporation, small business, investor, research institution, family or individual build their own American dream.

I will be adding all sorts of content to this page over the coming days and weeks so please spread the word by liking and sharing the firm's facebook page.

Wishing you and yours joy, peace and prosperity in 2017!

www.huntleyimmigration.com

Naturalization and Long Term Green Card Holders

Image courtesy of ice.gov

Image courtesy of ice.gov

The day after the presidential election I went on a previously scheduled tour of Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) in Burlington, Massachusetts. The most interesting part was an operations room on the second floor with some rather innoccuous looking piles of paper. The room is the nerve center of ICE enforcing the consequences of criminal actions by foreigners, including permanent residents*, in the U.S.

The piles reminded me of a consultation I did for an Italian-American family several years ago. Their brother had gotten into trouble as a young man, and, despite living in the U.S. since babyhood, was deported back to Italy after serving some jail time for a low level drug offense. Their brother was not a hardened criminal - he was a teenager who got involved with the wrong crowd - but because he had never become a U.S. citizen, he has now had to build a life in a country half a world away from his family.

It is doubly important for parents to seek naturalization for their minor children before the difficulties that can arise during teenage years. My Italian-American family client would still have their brother in the United States if he had been naturalized as a small child when he was first eligible.

This is why I urge my permanent resident clients to naturalize as soon as possible. Once naturalized you cannot be deported or excluded from the United States.

*Immigration vocabulary lesson: permanent resident, legal permanent resident and green card holder mean exactly the same thing -- someone who has been authorized by U.S. immigration authorities to work and live permanently in the U.S. It is the only path to U.S. citizenship.


EB-5 Due Diligence is Essential - 5 Things Investors Need to Know

Gov. Peter Shumlin, Jay Peak CEO Bill Stenger, Ariel Quiros, the owner of Jay Peak, and his son Ary Quiros. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

Gov. Peter Shumlin, Jay Peak CEO Bill Stenger, Ariel Quiros, the owner of Jay Peak, and his son Ary Quiros. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

I have been following the ongoing investigation around the ill fated EB-5* investment vehicle Jay Peak in Vermont ever since news began to break that things at Jay Peak were not as pure as Vermont snow a few years ago. Once upon a time, Jay Peak was seen as a model for spurring economic development with foreign money in struggling areas -- even the New York Times could not resist a profile in 2012, "Lure of Green Cards Brings Big Investments for Remote Resort in Vermont." It is a stark contrast with their May 10, 2016 article, "Fraud Charges Mar a Plan to Aid a Struggling Vermont Region."

I frequently discuss the EB-5 program with potential foreign investors and here are my tips for those considering utilizing the program for themselves and their family:

  1. Hire your own immigration lawyer. If a project insists that you use their immigration lawyer you should find another project. A client is entitled to use the lawyer of their choosing. You should also directly inquire as to whether your lawyer has a financial interest in the project or will be receiving a "finder's fee" from the project.
  2. Make sure the project has a positive immigration track record. Remember that the point of the EB-5 investment is permanent residence in the United States. If the promoters of the project cannot show you prior green card approvals seek other options.
  3. Hire an independent financial advisor to evaluate the project as a financial investment. It is unethical for lawyers to give investment advice.
  4. Beware of lack of responsiveness. I was at the beginning of our due diligence for a client and the company seeking our client's investment would not respond to multiple phone calls or emails asking for basic information. The only information we received was where the client could wire their $50,000 deposit.
  5. Do not get caught by aggressive sales tactics. I did a consultation for a client who was interested in investing in a project in New York City. He contacted me saying he needed to make a $20,000 deposit in the next 48 hours or he would lose the opportunity. The client showed me beautiful brochures and marketing materials. A quick Google search found nothing on this "shovel ready" construction project in downtown Manhattan.

The best thing an EB-5 investor can do for themselves and their family is to make sure they assemble a team of legal and financial advisors who can collaboratively find a successful project.

More reading on the Jay Peak saga: Investigative news blog VT Digger has done excellent reporting on the issue, their chronicle of the EB-5 mess in the Northeast Kingdom is well worth following. Their November 24, 2016 update, "Receiver seeks $1.95M for helping to Clean up EB-5 Mess at Jay Peak," inspired this post.

*Immigration vocabulary lesson: Simply put, an EB-5 visa is available to a foreigner and their family who invests $500,000 in a business within a defined economic area (called a regional center) and can show that their investment generated 10 jobs over a two year period. If the foreigner is successful they can obtain permanent residence in the United States for themselves, their spouse and children.