Supporting our AAPI Community

This featured blogpost is a message of solidarity with our beloved members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Community as they process the recent tragedies in Atlanta, Georgia and all across the United States.

 

We stand with you, today and always.

 

Across the United States, Americans have seen a steady increase in the number of hate crimes specifically targeting the Asian American Pacific Islander community. These crimes have been on the rise and vary in levels of violence.

 

On March 16th, 2021, a white supremacist murdered several people in a mass shooting in Atlanta, GA, killing six (6) Asian women and two (2) others. This cannot be tolerated, nor can this crime go unpunished. As an organization that prides itself in our commitement to assist foreign nationals and immigrants from all over the world live and thrive in the United States, we cannot stand aside and silently watch our community struggle. Our AAPI community members deserve better. And we can do better.

 

If you see someone who is experiencing racism, discrimination, harassment, or even physical assault, please do not remain silent. Be an active bystander and report hate crimes. There are several resources to help you with this, but a few have been listed below:

  • www.stopaapihate.org
  • www.standagainsthatred.org

 

Make a contribution

If you would like to contribute to the community in another way, either by volunteering or making a donation, please feel free to research the following sources below that would aid the AAPI Community:

  • GoFundMe: www.gofundme.com/aapi
  • www.stopaapihate.org
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice: www.advancingjustice-aajc.org
  • Red Canary Song: www.redcanarysong.net
  • New York Mag has a list of 45 ways you can donate to help the AAPI Community using this link: bit.ly/nymag-aapi

 

Mental health resources for AAPI Community Members

  • Asian Mental Health Collective: www.asianmhc.org
  • SAMHSA National Hotline: 800-662-HELP
  • National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA): www.nqapia.org
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
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I-944 Cancellation and what it means

Form I-944 in the background with a faded image that reads “Public Charge Form I-944” in bold lettering layered on top.

 

So by now, you may have heard that the public charge rule, I-944, is no longer required. There are a lot of questions in the community, so we’d like to give you some information on what is going on. You may be wondering what major changes you can expect to see, what happens with petitions that have already been filed before this new ruling, and so on. Before we answer those questions, let’s do a little background on the I-944 and what this used to mean for immigration policy.

 

The public charge rule, originally brought in in 2019, is no longer in place – effective immediately. This is good news. On March 9, 2021, USCIS officially declared they would stop enforcing the public charge rule, visible on their website. There have been a couple litigation challenges in several courts that turned out to be successful. Additionally, with Biden’s Administration halting the opposition to this ruling, we were able to see a turn in our favor. The Supreme Court announced they would no longer be pursuing the case, and as a result, District Courts began doing the same.

 

So what does this mean exactly?

Great question. It means that USCIS is no longer applying the harsh rule from 2019 that tested education, health, financial status, etc. and which made it quite easy for someone to become subject to public charge. For those who receive government benefits, but are hoping to sponsor family members (for example), this rule will no longer hinder your goals.

 

What happens now?

Now we will see USCIS going back to the original regulations from 1999. This still requires you to prove that you will not be a burden on the government, but you will no longer have to jump through the bureaucratic hoops you had to with this past rule. You can submit form I-864 and prove that you meet the public guidelines, depending on your household size.

 

In addition, questions regarding the public charge on other forms, such as sections of the I-539 and I-129 forms, are going to be excluded and will not have to be completed by the applicant / petitioner any longer.

 

What if I had already filed an application before this rule was overturned?

USCIS has stated they will not be applying the 2019 rule to any applications filed on or after March 9, 2021. You will not have to include form I-944 or any of the supporting documents previously required with this rule.

 

What if I had already filed an application before this rule was overturned and I’ve received an RFE or NOID since then?

If you received an RFE and the request specifically mentions or pertains to form I-944, you do not have to worry about it or respond. Keep in mind that this is only if the RFE specifically pertains to the I-944. If the RFE contains other information that they would like you to submit, you will still have to do so. If you have documents that are also applicable to other forms, such as the I-539 and I-129, that relate to the public charge, they are no longer required.

 

Where do we go from here?

You can work with your attorney to figure out if this rule cancellation affects you and what you will need to do if it does. This information is certainly subject to change, but for now, public charge is gone. Rejoice, but stay vigilant in your applications and the forms you are completing.

 

We hope this blog was helpful to you and at least made you aware of what USCIS is doing in terms of public charge rule changes. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to our firm if you have any questions or concerns about your case. We would be glad to assist you whether or not you are already a client of our firm. Please give us a call at our Pittsburgh office at 412.258.8080, our Philadelphia office at 215-982-2381, or schedule a free consultation on our site using this link. We look forward to working with you.

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Receipt notice delays: A frustrating reality

 

A USCIS Receipt Notice lays on a table and showcases a receipt number, date, and notice date.

When you file cases with USCIS, you always receive a receipt notice in the mail documenting the delivery of your application or documentation. Recently, however, USCIS has been experiencing rapid delays in the issuance of receipt notices. They list the Covid-19 pandemic, an increase in case filings, and US postal delays as the main factors contributing to these delays.

 

According to their website, USCIS has declared delays of up to 4-6 weeks to receive a receipt notice. This is on top of the usual wait time of receipt notices, and for all application types, not just a select few. We are aware of other firms waiting on receipts for over 8 weeks, so if this is the case for you, do not panic. Speak to your attorney about these delays and remain calm. It is possible that these delays may be up to 10 weeks or more, although at Goldstein & Associates, LLC, we have not experienced issues to this degree – waiting a maximum of 6 weeks in delay for receipt notices for several clients, regardless of case type.

 

So what is USCIS doing to combat these delay issues, you may be asking?

Great question. They have stated that USCIS employees and officers are working overtime to meet the higher demand in application filings, in addition to shifting cases from specific locations to help lighten the load of specific offices. If you receive an unexpected Transfer Notice in the mail, this may be the reason for that development – and if so, it would only be to speed up the processing of your case.

 

What can you do to speed up this process, if anything at all?

Another great question. First, be patient, and trust in your attorneys who helped you prepare your applications. We know the process is frustrating, confusing, and lengthy. At G&A, all of our staff work long and hard to make sure there’s less for you to worry about. Unfortunately, we have no control over the processing times, or any delays that accompany them, but we are here for you. Don’t hesitate to give us a call or send your representative an email if you need some reassurance or peace of mind.

 

Another thing you can do is submit a G-1145 form, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance using this link. By filing this form attached to your application, you can receive email and text notifications from USCIS to help you keep track of any updates on your case. Please reach out to us for a free consultation if you would like help with this, or if you would like to go through our attorney services instead. If you are already a client of ours and are interested in this process, please contact your case representative to see if this method would work for your immigration goals.

 

We hope this blog was helpful to you and at least made you aware of USCIS receipt notice delays and issues that may be occurring due to Covid-19, US postal delays or other external factors. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to our firm if you have any questions or concerns about your case. We would be glad to assist you whether or not you are already a client of our firm. Please give us a call at our Pittsburgh office at 412.258.8080, our Philadelphia office at 215-982-2381, or schedule a free consultation on our site using this link. We look forward to working with you.

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Embassies and consulates: Appointments, delays, and more

A sign saying, “Expect Delays.” This image demonstrates the delays we are seeing due to Covid-19 and other external factors at embassies and consulates around the world.

 

As many of you have probably realized, it has become nearly impossible to schedule appointment at local embassies and consulates around the US. Some have even outright closed during the pandemic onslaught, making appointment backlogs and service requests entirely unreasonable. Much of this is due to Trump’s stark inability to control the raging pandemic on US soil, and it is now on Biden’s shoulders to find a better way to reopen these institutions, add more staff, and begin allowing appointments for urgent cases once again. Continue reading

Students and OPT: What changes are in sight for foreign youth in the US

A recent graduate sits at a table with others, while wearing a graduation cap and gown. Her cap is decorated with a flowers and reads, “IMMIGRANT.”

 

Well, it’s happened. Trump is old news and Biden has stepped up to bat by signing over a dozen executive orders on his first day as the 46th President of the United States. Many of those orders were direct reversals of his predecessor’s decrees, but some are new. The ones we are most excited to see come to fruition are the immigration policies. Specifically, those relating to the demolition of non-Covid related travel bans, the destruction of the border wall between the United States and Mexico, and a new and bright path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Continue reading

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Sessions Ends Administrative Closure at the Expense of Due Process in Immigration Court

Altering decades of practice in immigration court and placing immense pressure on an overburdened immigration court system, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a decision in an immigration case on Thursday declaring immigration judges do not have general authority to administratively close cases. The decision applies nationwide—though we can expect it will be challenged in the federal courts in individual cases.

Administrative closure has long been an uncontroversial management tool used by immigration judges to manage their caseload. It allows a judge to temporarily take a case off the court docket, usually to allow for completion of related proceedings that will impact the outcome of the individual’s removal proceeding. Sessions’ decision largely eliminates this vital tool. Judges now will be forced to keep long-pending cases on their active dockets, contributing to the already massive backlog of immigration cases.

In his lengthy decision, Sessions concluded that judges lack legal authority to grant administrative closure. But he pays short shrift to the legal authority that does not support his view. As amicus (friend of the court) briefs submitted in the case pointed out, the Board of Immigration Appeals repeatedly has declared that administrative closure stems from immigration judges’ inherent authority to conduct proceedings and take actions necessary to decide a case. No federal court has questioned immigration judges’ authority to grant administrative closure.

Not only is Sessions misinterpreting the law, he is creating terrible policy. The National Association of Immigration Judges urged Sessions not to end administrative closure, arguing that its termination could “overwhelm the system” and “waste precious hearing time.” A 2017 report commissioned by the immigration court system concluded morecases should be administratively closed in order to reduce the courts’ backlogs.

Others argue that ending administrative closure will harm vulnerable populations, including children and individuals of limited competency. Many of these individuals need to pause their proceedings to allow other federal and state entities to make determinations that would prevent their deportations.

Furthermore, Sessions’ move to insert himself in this case is particularly alarming given his anti-immigrant bias. As immigrant rights groups explained in the case, Sessions’ long history of anti-immigrant rhetoric prevents him from being an impartial adjudicator. The groups called for his recusal from this decision-making process.

In the decision, Sessions determined that administrative closure “encumbered the fair and efficient administration of immigration cases.” Yet, his decision will result in the very widespread unfairness and inefficiency he claims to oppose, restricting the authority of immigration judges to control their dockets and punishing immigrants who need additional time to obtain the results of other federal and state agency proceedings to qualify for immigration relief. And we should be wary of the ways he downplays the impact of this decision. He notes, for example, that judges who need to extend cases may grant “continuances” instead of administratively closing cases while simultaneously neglecting to mention that he is weighing in on another immigration case that may greatly reduce the availability of continuances.

Though Sessions ended administrative closure for future cases, regulations still permit the practice in a limited number of cases. As for the 350,000 cases currently administratively closed, those cases will gradually make their way back onto court dockets in the coming weeks and months through motions by the government.

The fact remains that this is a devastating decision for those who want to preserve due process in immigration courts. Sessions has not only restricted the authority of immigration judges, but he also has found another way to make immigrants increasingly vulnerable in a system that is already stacked against them.

This article was originally published by the American Immigration Council and written by Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. Click here for the original article.

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Your Rights Entering the United States of America

Image result for us customs airport

Whether you are at the airport or entering the United States via land or a sea port, you will encounter officers with the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) and/ or officers with Customs and Border Protection (CBP). We at Goldstein & Associates wish to outline what rights you have when you are traveling into the country.

Please note that you cannot travel out of the country and be let back in without a valid US Passport (for US Citizens), approved travel document (for those applying for an immigrant visa), or valid US Visa.

All information below is summarized from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) series, “Know Your Rights.” The original article can be found at: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/what-do-when-encountering-law-enforcement-airports-and-other-ports-entry-us.

TSA and CBP officers have the right to search all people and property when entering the country. Questioning and fingerprinting (for non-US Citizens) is routine, and it is advisable to cooperate with basic inquiries. If you are selected for additional questioning, you have rights. If you are a US Citizen, you have a right to an attorney. If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident or visitor, your rights to an attorney are limited to certain circumstances, and you may be refused legal counsel by the officers. However, if you are under arrest, you always have the right to an attorney, regardless of country of citizenship.

In some cases, TSA or CBP officers may ask you to unlock your personal electronic devices. You are not required to do so. However, failure to cooperate with these requests may cause the officer to deny you entry into the United States. If your electronic devices are confiscated, you should write the name of the officer down, and get a receipt for the item(s) taken.

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Your Rights if you get Stopped by Law Enforcement Officers

Police car

If you are a recent immigrant, you may be feeling anxious about possible encounters with law enforcement officials or officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We at Goldstein & Associates wish to outline what to do if you are stopped by the police or ICE Agents in your car or on the street, as well as what rights you have.

All information below is summarized from an article from the American Civil Liberties Union. See the original article at: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/stops-and-arrests-what-do-when-encountering-law-enforcement?redirect=know-your-rights/when-encountering-law-enforcement-stops-and-arrests.

If an Officer Stops You

If an officer stops you and asks you questions, and you have legal immigration status, then comply with their requests. You are required to carry your immigration documents with you, such as your green card, Employment Authorization Card (EAD), documentation of nonimmigrant status (such as a work or student visa), or border crossing card. Failure to produce these documents can result in your arrest. If you are in the process of procuring one of these documents, but your application is pending with USCIS, then show the officer the receipt notices from your case.

If you do not have legal immigration status, or if your pending application has not been issued receipt notices yet, then ask if you are free to go. If they answer yes, then calmly walk away. Never run. Sometimes, officers may state that you are not under arrest, but you are not free to leave. In this case, you are being detained (but not arrested). They may pat you down and ask for your name. If they ask any further questions, you do not have to answer.

If an Officer Stops you in your Car

Remain calm and pull over immediately, roll down the window and keep your hands visible at all times. You must show your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. You do not have to answer any of the officer’s questions, unless they inquire about your valid immigration status, and you do not have to let the officer search your car. However, if they have a reason to believe that you have committed a crime, they may search your car anyway.

If you are Arrested

You have the right to remain silent. Do not disclose any information other than your name. You have the right to speak with an Attorney. When you make phone calls from prison, officers may listen to calls you make to friends and family, but not to attorneys.

If you are concerned about how this may affect you or your family, or if you have any other immigration needs, feel free to contact us online or call our office at 412-254-8700.

Immigrant Rights and Law Enforcement

ice-agents-make-arrest-Getty

If you are a recent immigrant, you may be feeling anxious about possible encounters with law enforcement officials or agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We at Goldstein & Associates wish to outline what to do if ICE agents come to your house, as well as what rights you have.

Your Rights if ICE Agents are at Your Door

All information below is a repost of an original article from the American Civil Liberties Union. See the original article at: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/what-do-if-immigration-agents-ice-are-your-door.

1. If officers are at your door, keep the door closed and ask if they are Immigration agents, or from ICE. Ask the agents what they are there for. Opening the door does not give the agents permission to come inside, but it is safer to speak to ICE through the door. If the agents don’t speak your language, ask for an interpreter.

2. If the agents want to enter, ask them if they have a warrant signed by a judge. If ICE agents do not have a warrant signed by a Judge, you may refuse to open the door or let them in. An administrative warrant of removal from immigration authorities is not enough. If they say they have a warrant, ask them to slip the warrant under the door. Look at the top and at the signature line to see if it was issued by a court and signed by a judge. Only a court/judge warrant is enough for entry into your premises. One issued by DHS or ICE and signed by a DHS or ICE employee is not.
a. An example of an order by a judge: https://www.aclu.org/files/kyr/kyr_abra-la-puerta.pdf
b. An example of an order by ICE: https://www.aclu.org/files/kyr/kyr_no-abra-la-puerta.pdf

3. Do not open your door unless ICE shows you a judicial search or arrest warrant naming a person in your residence and/or areas to be searched at your address. In all other cases, keep the door closed. State: “I do not consent to your entry.”

4. If agents force their way in anyway, do not attempt to resist. If you wish to exercise your rights, state: “I do not consent to your entry or to your search of these premises. I am exercising my right to remain silent. I wish to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.” Everyone in the residence may also exercise the right to remain silent.

5. Do not lie or show false documents. Do not sign any papers without speaking to a lawyer.

If you are concerned about how this may affect you or your family, or if you have any other immigration needs, feel free to contact us online or call our office at 412-258-8080.

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Trump Proposes “Fortress America” Following Orlando Shootings

os-donald-trump-attacks-his-opponents-and-addresses-protesters-at-a-packed-cfe-arena-20160305Donald Trump has put a new twist on his immigration policy following the mass shooting at a Florida nightclub by the American-born son of Afghan immigrants. If elected, Trump promised, he would halt immigration from any area of the world with a “proven history of terrorism” against America or our allies. He also accused the Muslim community of broad involvement in these types of attacks.

While a ban on immigrants from certain countries has been done before and has some legal standing, Trump’s proposed religious-based ban poses serious Constitutional concerns. No previous U.S. president has proposed a religious ban on immigrants and Trump’s proposal demonstrates his poor understanding of the Constitution and the founding principles of our nation.

Trump has used the Orlando massacre as evidence of Islamic threat to America and as reason to suggest a temporary prohibition on Muslim immigrants. Because of the vagueness of his announcement, it is hard to discern how broadly Trump would extend an immigration ban on any other country or religious groups.

Goldstein & Associates urges anyone who may be concerned about their status to contact us online or call us at 412-258-8080 to discuss options before it is too late.

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