Embassies and consulates: Appointments, delays, and more

Pictured: A sign that says, “Expect Delays.” This image was used to demonstrate 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.


The closure or inaccessibility of embassies and consulates have halted many cases that were already in-progress, and have outright disallowed for new cases to have a reasonable processing time. The reopening of these institutions needs to be a priority for this new administration. All Covid safety precautions and regulations applied, of course. Biden, in this case, will need to focus more on adjudication and less on enforcements. Hopefully, as time passes, and Biden’s Covid task force makes headway in curbing the spread of the devastating pandemic rampaging through the States, we will see some progress in the reopening of embassies and consulates across the country.


Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. Make sure to stay tuned for updates as our firm will be following the news on when embassies and consulates will begin reopening. If you or a loved one are experiencing difficulties because of embassy or consulate closures, please do not hesitate call 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.

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

Pictured: 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.


A large part of moving onward from the wreckage of Trump’s presidency is looking towards our future. The key to this would be to consider who is paving the way for that future: our children.


Whether it be international students studying in the the US, F-1 visa holders, or OPT recipients, these young people who are planning on entering, or who have already entered, our workforce are the ones who are going to be influencing the number of opportunities immigrants will have in the United States in the upcoming years. Biden’s administration would be wise to realize the potential these young people hold, by investing in the opportunity while they are dusting off the rest of the White House to get things set up to Joe’s liking. By allowing more students to work after graduation, and finding a better way for students to make the transition from school/university to the workforce more seamless, the 46th President will inherently help to encourage more youth to move to the US for their education. This transition is crutial and has been overlooked time and time again. However, a focus on it could help young people everywhere astronomically by making it easier for them to blend into the American workforce.


If you’re a foreign student, undocumented or otherwise, and have questions about your immigration status, what lies ahead for you and your studies or post-grad plans – please do not hesitate to reach out to our firm. We would be glad to assist you and/or your family in the road ahead. If you have any questions or concerns, you are welcome to call 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.

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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


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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Immigration and Our Economy



Both immigration reform and economic performance in the United States are hot topics during this presidential election. As such, it is imperative to look at the effect of immigration on our economy. Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has an impractical and self-destructive approach to immigration that would have severe consequences for our economy. In addition to the construction of a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border and a banning of all Muslim immigration to the U.S., Trump suggests a mass deportation of any undocumented individual. This alone would destroy the United States economy if it were to be implemented.

Deporting the 6.8 million employed undocumented workers would wreak havoc on our economy and reduce private industry output by between $381.5 billion and $623.2 billion dollars, according to the American Action Forum’s (AAF) May report. Not only would this revenue disappear, but the AAF reports that the government would have to spend between $400 and $600 billion to address the deportation efforts of the roughly 11.2 million undocumented immigrants. A mass deportation would destroy industries, economics, and families across the United States.

It is important to note that unauthorized immigrants are paying billions of dollars in taxes, spending billions of dollars in U.S. businesses, and having U.S.-born children who will grow up to do the same. A pathway to legal status and citizenship, as outlined by Hillary Clinton, would allow for this substantial tax revenue, consumer spending, and entrepreneurship to continue.

Goldstein & Associates understands how integral immigrants are to the United States economy and society in general- we would be happy to assist anyone interested in exploring their immigration options. Contact our office online or call for a free consultation at 412-258-8080.

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Justice Department v. Judge Hanen

Judge HanenThe Texas v. SCOTUS debate is heating up. The feud between the Obama administration and a federal Judge has escalated after Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville, Texas, ordered the Justice Department to provide the names of tens of thousands of immigrants that were granted protection from deportation under Obama’s DAPA and DACA programs.

The Justice Department is calling the judge’s order grossly disproportionate and a clear overstep of his authority. This is ironic, considering Obama’s implementation of these programs has also been called an overstep of authority. It is clear that there is bad blood between Judge Hanen and the government lawyers involved; in addition to the request for the names, the Judge also ordered lawyers to take ethics courses and even barred some from appearing in his court.

According to the Obama administration, if implemented, these measures would cost roughly $8 million over five years. In addition to the exorbitant financial cost, forcing the government to reveal the identities of innocent immigrants would be a serious breach of the confidentiality of immigration applicants.

On June 7, 2016, the Judge halted this order and it will be “stayed” until a hearing in August. The Department of Justice has until July 31, 2016 to file a brief explaining the lawyers’ “misrepresentation” of the DAPA and DACA programs.

Goldstein & Associates will continue to follow the case and provide any significant updates. If you are concerned about how this may affect you or your family, feel free to contact us online or call our office at 412-258-8080.

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On Obama’s Immigration Actions

Orlando-Immigration-Attorney-President-Obama-Immigration-ChangesAs Barack Obama’s second term comes to a close, we have the opportunity to look back at the relationship between his presidency and the illegal immigrant population in the United States.

It is important to understand the numbers prior to Obama taking office in 2008; when George W. Bush left office in 2007, the total number of illegal immigrants was estimated to be 12.2 million. During Bush’s time in office, between 2000 and 2006, an estimated 4.16 million immigrants illegally settled in the United States. Reports from the Center for Immigration Studies estimate that, between 2009-2015 (the first six years of the Obama administration), around 2.52 million immigrants illegally settled in the U.S. The latest numbers revealed that in 2012, the population of illegal immigrants was 11.7 million. In looking at these numbers, it is clear that both the number of migrations and total illegal immigrants went down after Obama took office.

Some argue that in recent years, since Obama began his immigration reform efforts such as DACA and DAPA, that the number of illegal immigrants has dramatically increased. However, since 2009, the size of the illegal population has remained almost constant due to new arrivals being offset by those who returned home or became authorized to live in the U.S. It has recently been reported that there has been a decline of around 100,000 in illegal immigrants between 2013 and 2014. While this may seem promising, the decline is probably not statistically significant. There is a margin of error associated with these types of statistical studies that essentially makes it impossible to know if the decline is substantial. Even so, the overall numbers clearly indicate that the number of undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. during the Obama administration was lower than that in the Bush administration.

Goldstein & Associates encourages those seeking immigration options to contact us online or at 412-258-8080 as soon as possible to ensure that you can take advantage of opportunities under the current administration.

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