Friday, November 22, 2013

ICYMI: Immigration Reform News This Week

This week has been tough for immigration advocates as House Republicans have repeatedly announced reasons to stall and turn down the opportunity to take up immigration reform in the U.S. House of Representatives before the end of the year.  President Obama has come forward stating that he is open to the idea of piecemeal reform—i.e. take the Senate Bill and “chop that thing up into five pieces.”  Despite the lack of progress on immigration reform, this week has been full of great immigration news stories, Op Eds, and articles.  So, in case you missed it, here is a wrap-up of some of this week’s media:

Deportation for Minor Crimes.  The Atlantic published an article about immigrants who have been deported for minor crimes but do not pose an active public safety threat, stating, “[D]eportation is no longer a mere administrative matter; it is being used as a punitive measure for the sorts of crimes that are usually accompanied by due process.” http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/11/why-are-immigrants-being-deported-for-minor-crimes/281622/

Detention Bed Mandate.  NPR investigated immigration detention facilities and brings light to a “detention bed mandate” that “calls for filling 34,000 beds in some 250 facilities across the country, per day, with immigrant detainees” and explains the financial and social costs of such mandates. http://www.npr.org/2013/11/19/245968601/little-known-immigration-mandate-keeps-detention-beds-full

Immigration Hackathon.  Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and a group of 20 immigrant software programmers who came to the U.S. without documentation took part in a “hackathon” to come up with new applications that support immigration reform and activism.  http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-facebook-immigration-20131121,0,5953575.story#axzz2lFThzSJD

Immigration and Women:  Several media outlets have featured Op Eds and articles on women’s role in immigration reform and the need for woman leadership in the movement.
The Seattle Times:  http://seattletimes.com/html/opinion/2022269137_pramilajayapalleeannhallopedwomenimmigration17xml.html?cmpid=2628
The Washington Post:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2013/11/20/can-women-give-immigration-reform-the-boost-it-needs/?utm_source=buffer&utm_campaign=Buffer&utm_content=bufferec92d&utm_medium=twitter

David Leopold’s Op Ed.  Immigration Activist David Leopold concisely sums up the House Republicans position on moving on immigration reform and sums up his piece with:  In other words, the GOP is refusing to perform its Constitutional duty to legislate in good faith.”  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-leopold/the-house-gops-refusal-to_b_4283546.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Compromising on a Path to Citizenship.  The New York Times highlights the path to citizenship debate.  Should immigration advocates compromise on a path to citizenship for overall immigration reform?  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/21/us/illegal-immigrants-divided-over-the-importance-of-citizenship.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

By Kelli Stout
Attorney, McCrummen Immigration Law Group, LLC

Monday, October 21, 2013

QUESTIONS ABOUT DRIVER LICENSES IN KANSAS AND MISSOURI FOR IMMIGRANTS

We have received a lot of questions lately about how immigrants can obtain driver licenses in the states of Missouri and Kansas.  Specifically, there has been a lot of confusion about rumored “new driver license rules” in the state of Kansas for undocumented immigrants.  Here are a few tips about who can (and who can’t) obtain a driver license in Kansas and Missouri:

  • Kansas -The Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan recently announced that Kansas “no longer plans to require people renewing drivers’ licenses to produce proof that they live in the U.S. legally.” http://www.kansascity.com/2013/09/16/4486265/kansas-wont-require-proof-of-legal.html  The key word to note here is: renewing.  People who are applying for a Kansas driver license for the first time will have to prove legal status in the United States.  But those who are applying to renew a driver license already obtained in the state of Kansas will be able to do so without proving legal status in the United States.  A comprehensive list of who can apply for driver licenses in Kansas- and the documentation required- can be found at: http://www.ksrevenue.org/dmvproof.html.
  • Missouri - An interesting tip for immigrants living in Missouri is that persons in removal proceedings are eligible to apply for a Missouri driver license.  In fact, “Persons in Removal or Deportation Proceedings” is a category specifically noted in the Missouri Department of Revenue’s list of immigrants eligible for driver licenses.  Immigrants living in Missouri who are in removal proceedings should bring the following documents when applying for a driver license: (1) Notice to Appear; (2) immigration court future hearing notice (or Employment Authorization Document); and (3) the applicant’s non-expired foreign passport.  A comprehensive list of immigrants who are eligible to obtain driver licenses in Missouri-and the documents they need to provide the DMV- can be found at: http://dor.mo.gov/pdf/idrequirements.pdf.   A final tip: if the applicant needs assistance in     Spanish, many McCrummen Immigration Law Group clients have had success working with a bilingual customer service agent at the Liberty, MO DMV office.
Although we are immigration attorneys and not driver license specialists, we understand how important driver licenses are to our clients and we empathize with the plight of immigrants who are unable to navigate this complicated process on their own.  In extreme circumstances, we communicate with DMV supervisors in Jefferson City and Topeka on behalf of our clients.  Providing our clients with driver license information is just one of the many ways we provide “comprehensive immigration solutions” to the immigrants we represent.  For more information about the services we provide at the McCrummen Immigration Law Group, visit www.kcimmigrationlaw.com.

By: Andrea Comfort Martinez
Associate Attorney
McCrummen Immigration Law Group, LLC

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Obamacare and Immigration

Over the past few weeks, the public has been inundated with information about Obamacare.  We have heard of new health care exchanges, tax credits, tax penalties, changes to Medicaid, but it is difficult to understand exactly how Obamacare works—especially how it works for immigrants. 

What is Obamacare?

Obamacare, or more formally, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), is a health care reform law enacted in 2010.  The changes under the law to the current U.S. health care system come in stages—some parts of the law were implemented right away and some will be implemented years after the law was enacted.  The most recent news coverage about Obamacare refers to the implementation of the new health insurance marketplace or the “exchange.”  The exchange offers health insurance plans of various coverage levels (labeled bronze, silver, gold, and platinum) for those individuals who do not receive health coverage through employment or Medicaid.  The health insurance plans offered on the exchange will vary from state to state. 

Obamacare will also offer a tax credit in 2014 to those individuals and families with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (about $23,000 to $94,000 for a family of four).  This tax credit will help cover monthly premiums and may be used towards the purchase of any plan sold on the exchange. 

Additionally, Obamacare will offer two types of cost-sharing subsidies in 2014.  The first is available to those individuals and families with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level, who purchase silver-level insurance through the exchange.  This first type of subsidy is meant to reduce out-of-pocket exposure by reducing the maximum cap set for consumer out-of-pocket spending under a health care plan and is paid directly to the insurer.  Obamacare also provides a second cost-sharing subsidy to individuals and families who earn up to 250% of the federal poverty level (about $58,875 for a family of four) and purchase silver-level insurance through the exchange that will help reduce their deductible and co-pays even if they do not come close to reaching the maximum expense cap.  

In 2014, those who do not have health insurance coverage may have to pay a tax penalty.  The tax penalty could be as low as $95 in 2014 but may be more depending on the uninsured’s income.  The minimum tax penalty will increase each year until 2016.  This tax penalty is also referred to as the individual mandate.  Certain exceptions apply, including exceptions for those who are uninsured for less than 3 months, those who do not have to file a federal tax return, or those who would have qualified for Medicaid but their state did not expand the program.

Finally, the ACA permits states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover all people making up to 138% of the federal poverty level (about $33,000 for a family of four). 

But how do these changes in the U.S. health care system affect immigrants?  Below I have outlined the eligibility requirements—both those that have changed and those that remain unchanged by the ACA—for immigrants and naturalized citizens.

Who is covered?

Naturalized Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents for 5 Years or More

·       Eligible to purchase insurance through exchange

·       Subject to tax penalty if do not have health insurance coverage, unless exception applies

·       Low-income individuals eligible for tax credit and cost-sharing subsidies*

·       Low-income individuals eligible for Medicaid*

Lawful Permanent Resident for 5 Years or Less

·       Eligible to purchase insurance through exchange

·       Subject to tax penalty if do not have health insurance coverage, unless exception applies

·       Low-income individuals eligible for tax credit and cost-sharing subsidies*

·       Not eligible for Medicaid until have held green card for more than 5 years

o   Individual states may eliminate the 5-year waiting period for eligible children and pregnant women but not for other adults

Refugees/Asylees

·       Eligible to purchase insurance through exchange

·       Subject to tax penalty if do not have health insurance coverage, unless exception applies

·       Eligible for tax credit or cost-sharing subsidies*

·       Low-income individuals eligible for Medicaid*

Non-immigrant Visa Holders

·       Eligible to purchase insurance through exchange for coverage extending through period of authorized stay

·       Subject to tax penalty if do not have health insurance coverage, unless exception applies or if not present in the U.S. for whole period of enrollment

·       Eligible for tax credit or cost-sharing subsidies*

·       Not eligible for Medicaid

Undocumented Immigrants and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Recipients

·       Not eligible to purchase insurance through the exchange

·       Not subject to tax penalty

·       Not eligible for Medicare, nonemergency Medicaid, CHIP (assistance for children and pregnant women)

*Other eligibility requirements apply.

Other individuals who are eligible to purchase insurance through the exchange and whp are subject to the tax penalty include:  asylum applicants who have work authorization, applicants for temporary protected status (TPS) who have work authorization, applicants for adjustment of status, applicant for withholding of deportation or withholding of removal under CAT, those granted a U visa or status through VAWA, and those who have an administrative order staying removal.  Immigration status will be verified with the USCIS before any benefit is granted. 

For more information about how the ACA affects you and how to access the exchange, please visit https://www.healthcare.gov/ or for Spanish speakers, https://www.cuidadodesalud.gov/es/. 

By: Kelli Stout
Associate Attorney
The McCrummen Immigration Law Group, LLC

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cierre del Gobierno – ¿qué es lo que esto significa para mi caso migratorio?


Como probablemente usted ya escucho toda esta semana, el gobierno federal se encuentra en un cierre parcial. Esto es debido a que el Congreso fracasó en pasar un presupuesto para el siguiente año fiscal o una resolución para mantener todo al nivel de gasto anterior. Por lo cual, todas las partes del gobierno que dependen del gasto “discrecional” no fueron financiadas a partir del 1º de octubre. Muchas agencias gubernamentales, parques nacionales, programas de ventaja, aún la Panda Cam están actualmente cerradas debido a que no tienen dinero para mantener sus puertas abiertas. Incluidas en este cierre están diversas agencias, las cuales directa e indirectamente afectan casos migratorios.

Oficina Ejecutiva para la Revisión Inmigratoria (“EOIR”) – Corte Migratoria

La Corte Migratoria está actualmente sesionando casos de detenidos. Cualquier extranjero que es detenido tendrá aún el derecho de hablar ante un Juez Migratorio en cuanto a apelaciones de casos, mociones, casos que han sido enviados al juzgado federal, y fianzas.

Todas las otras audiencias (audiencias preliminares, así como audiencias individuales) están canceladas. En el pasado, cuando la Corte Migratoria de Kansas City cerró debido a las inclemencias del tiempo, la Corte envió por correo nuevas fechas de audiencia por las audiencias que fueron canceladas. Debido al alto volumen de casos y el calendario que de por sí está tan lleno, es muy probable que las nuevas audiencias serán programadas en el 2015.

La línea directa del EOIR esta, asimismo, cerrada.

Servicios de Inmigración y Ciudadanía de los EEUU (“USCIS”)

El USCIS sigue funcionando debido a que es un servicio basado en cuotas y no depende de las apropiaciones del gobierno para su financiamiento. Esto significa que podemos aún entregar aplicaciones, obtener recibos, tener citas de biométricas, tener entrevistas, y hacer citas de Infopass. No obstante, el FBI no está procesando chequeos de historial criminal por el momento.

Sin los chequeos de historial criminal del FBI, el USCIS no puede completar la autorización de seguridad requerida para cada aplicación. Sin una autorización de seguridad, el USCIS no podrá adjudicar casos en su totalidad. Así que, aun que el USCIS sigue funcionando, no pueden expedir aprobaciones. Si su caso está pendiente, este preparado para esperar por más tiempo por una decisión.

Departamento de Estado (“DOS”) – Servicios Consulares

DOS sigue adelante con muchas “operaciones normales como les es posible” y no ha hecho ninguna declaración oficial en cuanto si las citas o servicios consulares serán retrasados o suspendidos. Las operaciones de pasaporte, operaciones de visa, y asistencia crítica a Ciudadanos Americanos continuarán.  Si usted tiene una cita en el consulado, planee en atender a esa cita. No obstante, es posible que el retraso del chequeo de historial criminal del FBI afecte la expedición de las visas en el extranjero.

Departamento de Trabajo (“DOL”)

Para los casos basados en el empleo, el DOL ha actualmente suspendido todos los procesos de PERM y LCA. Esto significa que las aplicaciones PERM no pueden ser entregadas y no están siendo procesadas por el momento. Las Aplicaciones de Condición Laboral, o LCAs, no pueden ser entregadas para nuevos casos H-1B no están siendo procesadas en la actualidad.

Entonces esto significa… ¿qué?

El cierre del gobierno está retrasando casos migratorios. La realidad frustrante es que esto no tenía que pasar. No tiene que seguir pasando. Cada año el Congreso decide cómo financiar al gobierno. Cada año la fecha límite es la misma. Este año la Casa de Republicanos, después de exhaustar sin éxito cada manera legal de revocar la Ley de Cuidado Accesible (“Obamacare”), se negó a pasar el presupuesto a menos que el Obamacare no fuese financiado. Haciendo la politica a un lado, ésta simplemente no es la manera de revocar una ley. El costo de esta acción ostentosa está realmente sobre miles de personas que están actualmente navegando en el proceso migratorio.

Para más información:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/30/absolutely-everything-you-need-to-know-about-how-the-government-shutdown-will-work/


http://www.asylumist.com/2013/10/01/dear-house-republicans-hate-the-government-go-live-in-a-country-without-one/

Por: Valerie Tarbutton
Abogada Asociada
The McCrummen Immigration Law Group, LLC

Friday, October 4, 2013

Government Shutdown – what does this mean for my immigration case?

As you have probably heard about all this week, the federal government is in a partial shutdown.   This is because Congress failed to pass a budget for the next fiscal year or even a continuing resolution to keep everything at the previous spending level.  Therefore, all parts of the government that rely on “discretionary” spending were not funded as of October 1st.  Many government agencies, national parks, head start programs, even the Panda Cam are currently closed because they have no money to keep their doors open.  Included in this shutdown are several agencies which directly and indirectly affect immigration cases.
 

Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) – Immigration Court

 
Immigration Court is currently only hearing detained cases.  Any alien who is detained will still have the right to speak to an Immigration Judge regarding case appeals, motions, federal court remands, and bonds. 

All other hearings (master calendar hearings as well as individual hearings) are canceled.  In the past, when the Kansas City Immigration Court was closed due to inclement weather, the Court mailed out new hearing dates for the canceled hearings.  Because of the high volume of cases and the already crowded dockets it is extremely likely that the new hearings will be scheduled in 2015.
 
The EOIR hotline is also closed. 
 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”)

 
USCIS is still up and running because they are a fee-based service and don’t rely on government appropriations for their funding.  This means that we can still file applications, get receipts, have biometric appointments, have interviews, and make Infopass appointments.  However, the FBI is not currently processing background checks.
 
Without the FBI background checks, USCIS cannot complete the security clearance required for every application.  Without a security clearance, USCIS will not fully adjudicate cases.  Therefore, even though USCIS is still functioning, they are unable to issue approvals.  If your case is pending, expect to wait longer for a decision.
 

Department of State (“DOS”) – Consular Services

 
DOS is continuing as many “normal operations as possible” and has not made an official statement as to whether appointments or consular services will be delayed or suspended.   Passport operations, visa operations, and critical assistance to U.S. Citizens will continue.  If you have an appointment at the consulate, plan on attending that appointment.  However, it is possible that the FBI background check delay could affect the issuance of visas abroad.
 

Department of Labor (“DOL”)

 
For employment-based cases, the DOL has currently suspended all PERM processing and LCA processing.   This means that PERM applications cannot be filed and are not currently being processed.  Labor Condition Applications, or LCAs, cannot be submitted for new H-1B cases and are not currently being processed. 
 

So this means…what?

 
The government shutdown is delaying immigration cases.   The frustrating reality is that this didn’t have to happen.  It doesn’t have to continue to keep happening.  Every year Congress decides how to fund the government.  Every year the deadline is the same.  This year the House Republicans, after unsuccessfully exhausting every lawful way to repeal the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), refused to pass a budget unless Obamacare was defunded.  Politics aside, this is simply not the way to repeal a law.  The cost of this grandstanding is taking a very real toll on thousands of people currently navigating the immigration process. 

For more information:

 
 



By: Valerie K. Tarbutton
Associate Attorney
 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ley de Asilo y Beneficios Públicos para Asilados/Refugiados

Nosotros como americanos, presumimos del hecho que nuestro país es un refugio seguro para personas que son perseguidas en sus países de origen. Desde principios del siglo XIX, hemos tenido una historia conocida por permitir a miles de personas encontrar seguridad y esperanza dentro de nuestras fronteras, y florecer como miembros de nuestra sociedad. Sin embargo, nuestras leyes de asilo no reflejan este sentimiento. En 1996, por ejemplo, las leyes migratorias fueron cambiadas para requerir que las personas en búsqueda de asilo apliquen durante un año a partir del tiempo de llegada.

En muchos casos de asilo, individuos no saben que ellos califican y pueden aplicar por asilo durante un año de su entrada. Las experiencias traumáticas que muchos solicitantes pasan son suficientes en sí mismas para hacérseles  difícil aplicar dentro de un año. Actualmente, la Oficina de Asilo no reconoce esta realidad y se rehúsa a disculpar aplicaciones tardías a menos que exista una “circunstancia extraordinaria”.

Para que el asilo sea concedido, una persona debe (1) probar que es un refugiado mostrando que si regresasen a su país, ellos tendrían un miedo bien fundado de persecución debido a su raza, religión, nacionalidad, membresía en un grupo social en particular, o por su opinión política; (2) mostrar que ellos no son inadmisibles por alguna otra razón; y (3) corroborar su petición con evidencia.
Las personas en búsqueda de asilo, no solamente enfrentan obstáculos legales, sino que también enfrentan problemas logísticos aun después de que les ha sido concedido el asilo: Mientras que navegaba a través de docenas de páginas de internet del gobierno, hacía una tras otra llamada telefónica, y leía incontables memorándum consultivos en mi propia investigación en la ley de asilo, me di cuenta que requiere tremenda energía y dedicación aplicar para beneficios públicos como refugiado o asilado en los Estados Unidos.

En McCrummen Immigration Law Group, tenemos el conocimiento legal, experiencia y determinación para ayudar a solicitantes de asilo a navegar a través de los complejos procesos legales que de otra manera serian casi insuperables. Asimismo, tenemos diversos recursos en nuestro despacho para asistir a asilados en la obtención de beneficios públicos, incluyendo Seguro Social, Asistencia en Nutrición Suplementaria (TANF), Cuidado Médico, Vivienda Pública, Asistencia de Empleo, y Cuidado de Niños. Un excelente lugar para que los asilados encuentren información acerca de beneficios públicos son las páginas de internet y centros locales y estatales:
Programa de Reasentamiento de Refugiados en Missouri:

(La información de contacto varía de acuerdo a la región)

Programa de Refugiados en Kansas:

http://www.dcf.ks.gov/services/ees/Pages/Refugee/RefugeeAssistance.aspx
1-888-369-4777

Oficina de Reasentamiento de Refugiados; Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de los Estados Unidos

 
Si usted es una persona que le gustaría aplicar por asilo, pero la tarea le parece insuperable o arrolladora, usted debería contactar a un abogado de inmigración licenciado que sea miembro de la Asociación Americana de Abogados de Inmigración (AILA). Nuestros abogados en McCrummen Immigration Law Group están adecuadamente versados en las leyes de asilo, y tenemos experiencia con casos complejos.
Por: Shane Wesley
The McCrummen Immigration Law Group, LLC

Friday, September 20, 2013

Asylum Law and Public Benefits for Asylees


As Americans, we take pride in the fact that our country is a safe haven for people who are persecuted in their homelands. Since the early nineteenth century, we have had a rich history of allowing thousands of people to find safety and hope within our borders, and to flourish as members of our society.  However, our asylum laws do not all reflect this sentiment.  In 1996, for example, immigration laws were changed to require that people seeking asylum apply within one year of their arrival. 
In many asylum cases, individuals do not find out that they qualify and can apply for asylum within a year of their entry.  The traumatic experiences that most applicants go through is enough alone to make it difficult to file within one year.  Currently, the Asylum Office does not recognize this reality and refuses to excuse delayed application unless there is some “extraordinary circumstance.”

To be granted asylum, a person must (1) prove that they are refugee by showing that if they return to their country, they have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion; (2) show that they are not inadmissible for any other reason; and (3) corroborate their claim with evidence.
Not only do people seeking asylum face legal obstacles, they also face logistical problems even after they have been granted status:  As I waded through the dozens of government websites, made phone call after call, and read over countless advisories and memos in my own research on asylum law, I realized that it takes tremendous energy and dedication to apply for public benefits as a refugee or asylee in the United States.

At McCrummen Immigration Law Group, we have the legal knowledge, experience, and determination to help asylum applicants wade through the complex legal processes that would otherwise be nearly insurmountable.  We also have several resources in our office to assist asylees in obtaining public benefits, including Social Security, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (TANF), Health Care, Public Housing, Employment Assistance, and Child Care.  A great place for asylees to find information about public benefits are local state websites and centers:

Missouri Refugee Resettlement Program:
http://www.dss.mo.gov/fsd/refug.htm
(Contact info varies by region)

Kansas Refugee Program:
http://www.dcf.ks.gov/services/ees/Pages/Refugee/RefugeeAssistance.aspx
1-888-369-4777

Office of Refugee Resettlement; U.S. Department of Human Health and Services
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/

If you are a person who would like to file for asylum, but the task seems insurmountable or overwhelming, you should contact a licensed immigration attorney who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  Our attorneys at McCrummen Immigration Law Group are well versed in the laws of asylum, and we have experience with complex cases.
By: Shane Wesley
The McCrummen Immigration Law Group, LLC