Thousands of unaccompanied minor immigrant children need comprehensive immigration reform

While waiting for urgently needed reform, children and their relatives stay in the U.S. at their peril.

While waiting for urgently needed reform, children and their relatives stay in the U.S. at their peril.

Unaccompanied minor immigrant children face U.S. immigration courts without adult representatives, without legal counsel, and without the opportunity to have fair court proceedings. Many unaccompanied minors are teenagers but are also as young as toddler-age. Children end up in the U.S. for several reasons. Some left abusive homes and families in Central America and Asia where systems failed them. Others are separated from families coming to the U.S. seeking protection and better opportunities. Most of the children are traumatized by their circumstances and navigating complex immigration law is a hopeless challenge for many.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote in her recent editorial published in the LA Times, that “According to the Esperanza Immigration Rights Project, about 145 unaccompanied minors are released each month from federal child detention centers. Once released they are unlikely to have access to legal representation or advocates.[i]” Lawyers in immigration courts frequently see children in court. In an April 2013 video interview featuring immigration lawyers and policy leaders, one of whom mentions a judge getting angry with a child for coming to court alone without a guardian and the child mentioning their guardian being undocumented and fearing deportation, hence sending the child to court alone.

Watch Video: Migrant Children Face The Court System Alone[ii].

Some of the immigrant children in the U.S. are DREAMers, seeking immigration relief through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program while Congress continues debating comprehensive immigration reform, including the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (“DREAM”) Act.[iii] While working hard and staying out of trouble many still end up in the immigration court system without the benefit of legal counsel or advocates. When children represent themselves in court without a lawyer or understanding of complex immigration law, they could easily jeopardize any current or future legal immigration status. Who will represent these children?

Immigration cases can take hundreds of hours of time and the number of volunteer attorneys and organizations are limited. One pro bono organization called KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), founded by Angelina Jolie and Microsoft Corporation. “KIND serves as the leading organization for the protection of unaccompanied children who enter the US immigration system alone and strives to ensure that no such child appears in immigration court without representation. We achieve fundamental fairness through high-quality legal representation and by advancing the child’s best interests, safety, and well-being.[iv]

While organizations like KIND do what they can to help children in crisis today, Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform providing proper counsel to unaccompanied immigrant children as a humanitarian objective. Senator Feinstein, in the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration bill, “included an amendment to establish basic standards for children in the custody of Customs and Boarder Protection, including the provision of nutrition, clothing and shoes, personal hygiene and sanitary products, and mental health and emergency care services.[v]

While waiting for urgently needed reform, children and their relatives stay in the U.S. at their peril. Immigration attorneys help them apply for temporary legal status. Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law issues including applications for temporary immigration relief and adjustments of immigration status. For more information about the law firm, please visit www.KiKisLaw.com, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter. You can also review Attorney Mosley’s endorsements on her Avvo profile.

[i] LA Times Letters: First, protect migrant children. Sen. Diane Feinstein, Mar. 14, 2014.

[ii] Huffington Post Live: Migrant Children Face The Court System Alone . Hosted by Alyona Minkovski. Original air date Apr. 15, 2013.

[iii] American Immigration Council, Immigration Policy Center website: The Dream Act.

[iv] Kids in Need of Defense website: About us.

[v] See Sen. Feinstein article cited FNi.

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Parole in Place: Eligible Military Relatives Can Adjust to Lawful Permanent Status

Spouse, parents and unmarried children of U.S. citizens in the military, if eligible, can apply for PIP.

Spouse, parents and unmarried children of U.S. citizens in the military, if eligible, can apply for PIP.

Parole in place[i] (“PIP”) allows U.S. military relatives legal immigration status and military benefits. Family members already qualifying for a green card based on a close family relationship can adjust their status and apply for a green card or lawful permanent residence without first leaving the U.S. as would normally be the case.  This initiative came to being in response to a strong push for President Obama to take action despite Congress stalling on comprehensive immigration reform. Supporters of PIP praise the allowance of benefits to undocumented family members of U.S. military and veterans while critics disapprove of the broad reach of PIP and the lack of Congressional approval.

Spouse, parents and unmarried children of U.S. citizens in the military, if eligible, can apply for PIP.

In order to apply for PIP status change and benefits you must be eligible for a U.S. green card as an immediate relative. Eligible relatives are a U.S. citizen’s parent, spouse or unmarried child under 21 years of age. Blocks to eligibility[ii], despite family relationship, include security, criminal and immigration violations; being likely to require public welfare assistance; communicable diseases, and so forth. Note that there are options where an individual can apply to waive inadmissibility grounds, but the PIP policy gives certain applicants the benefit of the doubt, and an undocumented military spouse who arrived or remains present in the U.S. without designated immigration status[iii] will not be considered inadmissible and can apply for PIP legal status without an inadmissibility waiver.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) parole in place memorandum, by the authority and direction of President Obama, identifies and addresses several concerns for members of the U.S. Armed Services:

  • “Military preparedness can potentially be adversely affected if active members of the U.S. Armed Forces and individuals serving in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, who can be quickly called into active duty, worry about the immigration status of their spouses, parents and children.”
  • “Similarly, our veterans, who have served and sacrificed for our nation, can face stress and anxiety because of the immigration status of their family members in the United States. We as a nation have made a commitment to our veterans, to support and care for them. It is a commitment that begins at enlistment, and continues as they become veterans”

When the U.S. citizen served in the military is a broad component of PIP, which extends beyond Active Duty military. In addition, PIP eligibility extends to close family of current Selected Reserve and Ready Reserve members as well as those who previously served.

Take a moment to watch this short news video embedded in a recent news article[iv], telling the story of a wounded U.S. military veteran who relies on the care of his wife, an undocumented immigrant who the PIP policy is designed to offer relief.

VIDEO LINK: Fox News: New Immigration Policy Grants Legal Status To U.S. Military Relatives

PIP approved status applications and adjustments of status are discretionary and may require an attorney.

Like most immigration status applications and adjustments, the process for obtaining a green card or lawful permanent resident status is complex. The PIP offers an allowance but it does not grant a right to immigration status or benefits. You cannot start the process as an adjustment of status to a green card, without first submitting the proper applications to address entry to the U.S. and a request for PIP benefits. A licensed immigration attorney can help interested eligible military family members with the process.

Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law issues including PIP and adjustments of immigration status. For more information about the law firm, please visit www.KiKisLaw.com, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter. You can also review Attorney Mosley’s endorsements on her Avvo profile.


[i] U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – Policy Memorandum 602-0091

[ii] 8 U.S. Code § 1182 – Inadmissible aliens

[iv] Fox News: Immigration change gives legal status to undocumented relatives of US military. By William La Jeunesse, Dan Gallo, Mar. 11, 2014.

Federal Court rules in suit involving mandatory detention without bond hearings.

All of the Plaintiffs were detained without bond hearings at the Northwest Detention Center (“NWDC”) located next to the Port of Tacoma, Washington. The mega facility with a capacity of 1,000 detainees opened in 2004 under DHS management until 2005 when the GEO Group received the contract to operate the facility for ICE. Several critics suggest contract prisons are profit centers.

All of the Plaintiffs were detained without bond hearings at the Northwest Detention Center (“NWDC”) located next to the Port of Tacoma, Washington. 

Three  Plaintiffs detained without bond in an ICE detention center in Tacoma, Washington recently prevailed in their lawsuit over the Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) interpretation and enforcement of the mandatory detention statute that denies bond hearings for individual in pending removal proceedings.  The Court granted relief to the Plaintiffs, enjoined DHS from detaining the plaintiffs and clarified the meaning of the law, stating, “Here, there is no question that all class members will benefit equally from the court’s declaration that the government may not subject an alien to mandatory detention via Section 1226(c) unless the government took the alien into custody immediately upon his release from custody for an offense described in subparagraphs (1)(A) through (1)(D).[i]

The Plaintiffs were released from criminal sentences many years before being arrested and detained without bond hearings by ICE.

The Plaintiffs in this case are: Bassam Yusuf Khoury, a Palestinian and lawful permanent resident since 1976; Alvin Rodriguez Moya, a national of the Dominican Republic and U.S. lawful permanent resident since 1995; and Mr. Carrera, a Mexican national who has been in the U.S. since 1998.[ii]

The issue before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington concerned the way DHS interpreted the mandatory detention of criminal aliens. The law concerning the apprehension and detention of aliens, 8 U.S.C. 1226(c)(2), gives the federal government authority to “lock away certain aliens who are in removal proceedings, denying them bond hearings via the so-called “mandatory detention authority.[iii]

Many years after they were released by criminal courts to their families and communities, two of the Plaintiffs in this lawsuit, Mr. Khoury and Mr. Rodriguez, were arrested by ICE and held in mandatory detention, without bond hearings, for six months, from April 2013 through October 2013. The third Plaintiff, Mr. Carrera, was held for four months, from April 2013 through August 2013. The Supreme Court has commented in past cases that it may have Due Process concerns about detentions for six months when six weeks would be a more correct period of detention. [p3. Line 10] Without the availability of a bond hearing, the Plaintiffs did not have the opportunity to appear before the immigration court to plea for release back to their families and community pending removal proceedings.

The NWDC, the detention center in Tacoma, operates on a government contract, by GEO Group, who has been the subject of criticism.

All of the Plaintiffs were detained without bond hearings at the Northwest Detention Center (“NWDC”) located next to the Port of Tacoma, Washington. The mega facility with a capacity of 1,000 detainees opened in 2004 under DHS management until 2005 when the GEO Group received the contract to operate the facility for ICE. Several critics suggest contract prisons are profit centers. In an article published in the Huffington Post, the GEO Group was mentioned. “Their business model rests on incarceration, and their profits soared throughout the 1990s and 2000s as harsh sentencing laws, the War on Drugs, and tough immigration enforcement led to a dramatic rise in detention and incarceration.[iv]

When the Court interpreted the law, it clarified that mandatory detention is only allowed immediately upon release from custody for the underlying offense.

The length of time between release from jail sentences and the ICE arrest was upsetting to the court. Mr. Khoury was released in June 2011 from 30 days in jail on a drug charge; ICE arrested him in April 2013. Mr. Rodriguez served part of a three-year sentence and was released in August 2010; ICE arrested him in April 2013. More than two or three years, Mr. Carrera, who served a 60-day sentence, was released in February 2003, and more than ten years later ICE arrested him in April 2013.[v]

The Court clearly stated in its March 11, 2014, Order: “The government violates the law to the extent it continues to subject to mandatory detention aliens who it did not take into custody at the proper time. The court has no reason to expect that the government will not take appropriate action to end its violation of the law.[vi]

To learn more about mandatory detentions and removal proceedings, or if someone you know may be improperly held, you can call the Law Offices of KiKi M. Mosley for assistance. Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law and litigation. For more information about the law firm, please tap/click here to visit the rest of the website, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter.

 

USCIS extends Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti for 18 months

Temporary Protected Status gives temporary respite from deportation to those who temporarily cannot safely return to their home country.

Temporary Protected Status gives temporary respite from deportation to those who temporarily cannot safely return to their home country.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) extended the designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) for 18 months from July 23, 2014 through January 22, 2016.[i] Eligible Haitian nationals must re-register to extend their status during within a 60-day window. Applications were accepted as of March 3, 2014 and must be received no later than May 2, 2014 to take advantage of the extended TPS period. Haitian TPS beneficiaries working in the U.S. may also apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) to receive an EAD card valid through January 22, 2016.[ii] TPS does not grant permanent resident status (a green card) but it does offer temporary shelter I the United States without fear of deportation to the victims of disaster in their countries of origin.

Temporary Protected Status gives temporary respite from deportation to those who temporarily cannot safely return to their home country.

Haiti was designated a TPS country in 2010 when they suffered the severe earthquake. Other TPS countries include: El Salvador; Honduras; Nicaragua; Somalia; South Sudan; Sudan; and Syria.[iii] Countries receive TPS designations when their nationals face ongoing-armed conflicts, environmental disasters and other extraordinary conditions making for unsuitable living. The 2010 Haiti earthquake was catastrophic. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates 316,000 people died in the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti.[iv] Another several hundred thousand residences and buildings were destroyed leaving many homeless and without an able government to stabilize the area. Marking the four year anniversary of the earthquake, NPR published an article, “Four Years After Earthquake, Many in Haiti Remain Displaced.[v]” The article states that many have been able to rebuild, “But for nearly 150,000 people, life hasn’t moved on. They still live in the temporary plastic and plywood structures erected after the disaster.”

Haitian nationals who are beneficiaries of TPS must meet eligibility requirements to stay in the U.S.

The eligibility requirements for TPS and blocks to gaining TPS are listed on the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) website and are listed below. “To be eligible for TPS, an applicant must:

  1. Be a national of a country designated for TPS, or a person without nationality who last habitually resided in the designated country;
  2. File during the open initial registration or re-registration period, or meet the requirements for late initial filing during any extension of your country’s TPS designation;
  3. Have been continuously physically present (“CPP”) in the United States since the effective date of the most recent designation date of your country; and
  4. Have been continuously residing (“CR”) in the United States since the date specified for your country. The law allows an exception to the continuous physical presence and continuous residence requirements for brief, casual and innocent departures from the United States. When you apply or re-register for TPS, you must inform USCIS of all absences from the United States since the CPP and CR dates. USCIS will determine whether the exception applies in your case.[vi]

Haitian TPS beneficiaries should be aware of blocks to eligibility requirements for extensions.

Some individuals may not be eligible for TPS or to maintain their status in the event they are convicted of a felony or multiple misdemeanor crimes while in the U.S. Additionally, criminal and security related grounds otherwise barring immigration and asylum eligibility will prevent TPS. Also, failure to maintain the CPP and CR requirements can be a block to TBS. Finally, failures to timely re-register for TPS as required could preclude eligibility.

Living and working in the U.S. requires compliance with immigration laws. TPS beneficiaries who work in the U.S. with a valid EAD card who apply for extended TPS must also obtain a new EAD with an extended expiration date. An immigration attorney can not only help TPS beneficiaries with the EAD process, they also work with individuals with issues related to TPS denials and withdrawals. When denied TPS, immigration attorneys can file appeals and motions when appropriate.

Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law issues including TPS and EAD matters. For more information about the law firm, please tap/click here to visit the rest of the website, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter or Google Plus.


[i] U.S. Customs and Immigration Services: Temporary Protected Status Extended for Haitians. Media release date March 3, 2014.

[ii] U.S. Customs and Immigration Services: Employment Authorization Document.

[iii] U.S. Customs and Immigration Services: Temporary Protected Status.

[iv] U.S. Geological Survey: Deaths from Earthquakes in 2010.

[vi] U.S. Customs and Immigration Services: Temporary Protected Status.