How to Find Your Immigration Lawyer

Finding a lawyer at the best of times is difficult, but when immigration and citizenship is involved it can seem so much harder. Here are some tips to get you started:

Knowledgeable:

This is key when you are in the market for any lawyer, obviously, but it is so important it bears listing first and foremost. Law practice is complex, and laws are added, amended, changed, or made obsolete every day. It is important that they not just understand the law as they knew it when they passed the bar, but the law as it stands today, with all the changes that have taken place. Also key is making sure that your lawyers is trained in the specific laws of your state, as many laws vary based on location. If your lawyer doesn’t have the right information he or she can’t provide you with the best legal representation.

 

Resources:

Your State Bar, National Immigration Law Center, American Immigration Lawyers Association are all good places to start. Your local state bar will be able to connect you with licensed lawyers in good standing, and point you in the direction of specialty practice if you have specific needs. NILC is a non-profit organization devoted to assisting low-income individuals with immigration services they can afford. AILA is a national association of attorneys and legal experts who can teach and/or practice immigration law, so this is a good place to begin a search and feel good that you are finding someone well-versed in immigration policy. An AILA membership is not required to practice immigration law, so membership can show that they have dedicated themselves specifically to the practice.

 

References:

Ask friends, coworkers, family, or anyone else you know if they know an immigration lawyer. Even if they haven’t been through immigration processes themselves, they may know someone who has, or have heard of a success story in your area. People love to talk about good experiences, and love to talk about bad ones even more. Word of mouth, online reviews, and references from clients of the lawyers are all helpful when beginning your search. When you interview your lawyer, make sure to ask them for references from former clients, a reputable lawyer should be happy to introduce you.

 

Speaks Your Language:

Literally and figuratively. It is important that you fully understand your lawyer and that they understand you. Multi-lingual immigration lawyers exist is most places, and it is important to make sure that they are fluent in the language you speak natively. It is also important that you speak with them in person, trust them, and feel comfortable putting your future into their hands, so make sure that your personality and goals as client and lawyer are a good match. Honesty is key, and so is communication. Make sure that they are willing to educate you on your case so that you full understand their responsibilities, and your own.

 

Costs:

Make sure that you understand the fees and costs. Some attorneys charge hourly fees while working on your case. Some charge a fee per task, set in advance. Some charge one single fee for the entire case, beginning-to-end. Make sure that you understand the pricing of your lawyer, and that you compare prices of more than one attorney to ensure you get one that fits your budget.

Immigrant Children Representing Themselves in Court

boy wearing tie

 

Recently, during federal court proceedings, Senior Justice Department official Jack H. Weil, (who, along with other responsibilities, is tasked with training other judges in proper procedure and conduct,) made a statement under oath that he believes three and four year old migrant children can learn immigration law well enough to be able to represent themselves in court, which would in turn save the citizens the costs of assigning taxpayer-funded attorneys to them.

“I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds,” Weil said. “It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. They get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.”

Obviously, the backlash to this statement from both legal experts, and child psychology experts, was immediate and disparaging. Obviously immigration law is a deep and complex branch of practice, and children of that age are still learning how to cooperate with other children and develop fine motor skills, let alone represent themselves in a court of law.

“I nearly fell off my chair when I read that deposition,” said Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University, who is a witness for the plaintiffs in the Seattle case. “Three- and 4-year-olds do not yet have logical reasoning abilities. It’s preposterous, frankly, to think they could be taught enough about immigration law to be able to represent themselves in court.”

This testimony from Justice Weil came out during a case that is arguing for legal representation for every indigent child who cannot afford a lawyer to represent themselves in court. Immigrant rights groups and the American Civil Liberties Union are both demanding that the courts be required to provide this. The Justice Department is contesting suit, and Weil has, in the aftermath of his statement receiving loud and virulent backlash, insisted that the statements that are being attributed to him do not “present an accurate assessment of my views on this topic” and are being “taken out of context.”

The ACLU officials are nonplused by this recant. “This is the person in charge of training immigration judges about how to treat children? And this is the witness the government puts forward to present their views as to how this is supposed to happen?” said ACLU deputy legal director of Southern California Ahilan Arulanantham, the attorney who questioned Weil under oath. “That is horrifying.”

According to statistics that were collected by the Justice Department, more than twenty thousand unaccompanied children that were involved in deportation proceedings that took place over the course of 18 months from July 2014, a whopping 42% of those children had no attorney. In many cases the children facing these charges do not speak English, and are relying on government-provided interpreters to understand what is happening to them, let alone to understand how to argue for themselves in court. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democrats recently introduced legislation stipulating that government-appointed counsel be afforded to all children in immigration court who had crossed the border alone or are victims of other duress such as abuse, torture or violence.

 

Texas Denying Birth Certificates to U.S. Born Children

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Based on a federal judge’s ruling earlier this month, Texas can continue denying undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain birth certificates for their children born in the United States. There is no immediate relief while the legal issue is sorted out. In a complex case, the District Judge behind this current decision has gone on to explain the tough predicament he found himself in.

The US District Judge Robert Pitman did not give a preliminary injunction for the civil rights lawsuit which was filed back in May against the state of Texas. The suit began when the state decided to not adhere with the 14th Amendment which grants citizenship to anyone who is born on U.S soil irrespective of their parentage.

Citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants was raised as an issue during the primary debates and primary campaigns in November 2016, where the Republican candidate Donald Trump questioned how citizenship can be automatically granted and Jeb Bush was criticized heavily on his comments about the matter.

Two non-profit organizations, the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. filed a lawsuit on behalf of the 6 children & their parents who were immigrants. They were denied birth certificates because the parents did not have what the state considered proper identification. In some cases, parents attempted to present an official ID card, a matricula, which is issued through Mexican consulates as well as Mexican passport. But the lack of a U.S. visa makes it so that the state refuses to accept those forms of ID.

The groups which filed the lawsuit argued that the entitlement for birth certificates was one of the constitutional rights, which was being violated in Texas. In this case, Judge Pitman had to weigh whether or not to force the state to accept those forms of identification.

While the legal procedure is taking its course in the court, the group had asked the judge to give a preliminary injunction that will make the state take two forms of identification that the mother can easily provide to issue birth certificate to her children.

Judge Pitman acknowledged that the evidence that has been raised points to extremely grave concerns on how children who were born in the United States to immigrant parents are treated. But he also said that a preliminary injunction is a very extreme relief and he could not issue it without further exploring the case. Furthermore, the Judge has upheld that the State does have a right to ensure that the forms of identification that it accepts are reliable and valid.

How Canada’s Immigration Policy Differs From the United States’

Abogado Aly Canada's Immigration PolicyThe new immigration policy of the 1920s, the Great Depression, and World War II caused there to be a dramatic decrease in immigration to Canada and the United States. After World War II, legislation allowed refugees and displaced persons from the war to immigrate to the United States and Canada. Both countries’ ideologies began to shift more towards egalitarian ideas such as welfare state and multiculturalism which implemented more tolerance towards people of different races and lead the charge against racial discrimination.[1] During the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement lead to an increasing interest group for racial acceptance which fostered the new immigration policies implemented by the United States and Canada. (Talk about Great Society coalition of Jews, Catholics and Liberals as described in Mills) It was with these policies in which Canada decided to take a different route than that of the United States’.

Whereas Canada’s immigration policy of today is geared towards a completely economical public policy stand point, the United States’ policy makers adhered to a more humanitarian approach. According to Borjas with regards to Canada, “According to Borjas, “the point system attempts to match immigrant skills with labor market needs and reduces the fiscal burden that immigration would place on Canada’s generous system of public assistance”[1]. This is then a clear cut way that Canada is trying to economically find a solution to the immigration debate. According to Borjas with regards to the United States, “At some point in the debate over any social policy, the facts have to be let out of their moral vacuum. And the facts have to be interpreted in the context of a set of beliefs, values, and a vision of what the United States is about”[2]. When talking about the immigration policy in the United States, Borjas describes the U.S. immigration policy as not just done for the quantitative, numeric, economic gains and losses, but there is also a moral context in which the policy adheres to. The United States is known as the land of opportunity and a country of immigrants. The United States is one of the most wealthy countries in our nation, so helping people who are less fortunate than them has become part of the moral fabric in the United States’ immigration debate. According to an article in the Economist, “in the United States, you rarely hear somebody advocate for immigration on the grounds that it adds to the social fabric of the country. When the normative argument arises here, it has a humanitarian dimension. I would posit that in the United States, identity is a right, not a value”[3]. This is the clear distinction between the way in which policy makers in the United States look at immigration and how policy makers in Canada look at immigration. The United States sees immigration to their country as a right to the immigrant whereas Canada looks at immigration as a value to their own country. According to Borjas the United States’ main immigration objective is to maximize the economic well-being of the native-born population[4].  If the United States really wanted to increase the economic efficiency of their immigration policy, wouldn’t they just follow Canada’s point system?  Borjas mentioned in an earlier talk about the immigration of “high-skilled” labor from Russian mathematicians in 1992 that lead to basically a replacement of high skilled US mathematicians for only about 400 Russian mathematicians that ended up comprising of about 10% of the mathematics papers written in the United States at this time. However, Borjas’ conclusion, using a future regression model, was that if the Russians had not come at all, we would have had about the same amount of mathematics papers as we do today. So with the influx of low skilled labor and high skilled labor, these immigrations really have not done much for the economy at this point.

 

Immigration Policy in the 1920s

Abogado Aly Immigration 1920Immigration policy rose in national importance in the 1920s for a couple of reasons. “Economic concerns, nationalism brought about by World War I, and a tilt toward a smaller percentage of new immigrants with English as their native language contributed to moving public sentiment towards restricting immigration”. The emergence of “Eugenics” as a public policy tool in policy circles and Western philosophy also played a role. “Eugenics is the belief in improving the qualities of the human race by preventing the reproduction of people deemed to have genetic defects or undesirable characteristics and/or encouraging increased reproduction by those with supposed desirable inheritable characteristics.” According to Anderson, this widespread belief in eugenics was a decisive factor in creating the restrictive immigration laws in the 1920s. Natives in Canada and the United States were in favor of the status quo of their countries, so they did not want a large amount of immigrants they deemed as “undesirable” tainting their countries national structure.

This word “undesirables” is funny in this context because the factors in which made a person undesirable were two different types of people: criminals and people of different races. Racism, therefore, was a major aspect in creating the immigration policy of the 1920s. The Ku Klux Klan started in 1915 to “control minority groups which it identified with moral and political nonconformity”. There was strong support for anti-Jewish sentiments. A quote from U.S. consuls abroad said that “by barring legislative action the United States would face an onslaught of Jews who were “abnormally twisted,” “inassimilable,” “Filthy, un-American, and often dangerous in their habits”.  These were times of tense national identity, or, as we like to call it in the progressive era, racism, so of course the immigration policies of the 1920s for both Canada and the United States were to keep their national identity and therefore their morals, values, traditions, and most importantly there so called “intellectual level”.

Canadian Immigration Policy vs. US Immigration Policy

Abogado Aly US immigration policy vs. CanadaAfter the Second World War, Canadian immigration policy became a little less race oriented and geared more toward economic profitability. Finally in 1962, Ellen Fairclough, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration basically eliminated racial discrimination by implementing a new Canadian immigration policy. This new immigration policy stated that if an immigrant wanted to come to Canada and was not sponsored, as long as that immigrant proved his educational skill or quality that seemed desirable for Canada, he or she was allowed to immigrate without racial bias. Whereas the United States took a more humanitarian approach to immigration policy reform in the 1960s, Canada’s immigration reform was geared more towards the economic needs of Canada, as evidenced by its point based system.

This point system was implemented in 1967 where there was no quota for the amount of people who could come into Canada. Instead, anyone who wanted to come into Canada had to take a test which tested immigrants on specific qualities that the Canadian government was looking for. These qualities included language proficiency in English and French (which are Canada’s main languages), whether or not they had a job set up in Canada, whether or not they had family members in Canada, their level of education, and the area of Canada to which they wanted to immigrate too. Just like in the United States, this caused there to be a shift in the type of people who immigrated to Canada from Europeans to Asians.

Finally in 1976, a new Canadian Immigration Act, that Canada still uses today, was implemented. This act separated Canadian immigrants into four separate categories, or as they call them, classes:  a humanitarian class (which included refugees, persecuted or displaced persons), an independent class, a family class, and an assisted relative class. Just like in the United States, Canada implemented a very strong family immigration policy, but what makes Canadian immigration policy different from American immigration policy is the strong emphasis on the independent class which is run by the point system. Canada’s immigration policy therefore is using immigration more for economic profitability purposes, whereas the United States’ seems geared more to a humanitarian or familiar goals. This fundamental difference in immigration policy between the two countries illustrate strong political differences between the two countries which result in differing economic impacts of immigration.

 

 

 

Immigration Law Post World War II

Abogado Aly immigration law reform

Abogado Aly Immigration Law

The passage of the Walter-McCarran Act in 1952 was the next major piece of immigration legislation. This act implemented a quota not on the origins of the U.S. population, but extended the quota to people with high skilled labor that the United States felt like they needed in their labor force. It also set up preferences towards relatives of U.S. residents. This was a fundamental change, implemented by the Truman administration, in immigration policy from national origins to family unification and labor needs. Finally, in 1965, President Kennedy amended the 1952 act as part of the civil rights legislation to completely eliminate the inherent racism in the old immigration policy. This new policy completely eliminated the national origins quota and granted  complete priority to family members of American citizens and other immigrants that had complete U.S. residence. This immigration policy was on a first come first serve basis, and annually allowed no more than 20,000 immigrants per country with a global limit of 290,000 immigrants. Eighty percent of the 290,000 limit were saved for close relatives of American citizens or residents, so it is obvious that family unification was the driving force for the 1965 immigration policy. This preference in family unification caused a decrease in the number of European immigrants and an increase in the number of Asian and Hispanic immigrants. This immigration policy is the policy that the United States has today, and this immigration policy is unique compared to other countries such as Canada, England and Japan.

In Canada, the early history of immigration policy is similar to that of the United States. In the mid to late 19th century, immigration policy in Canada was fairly open only restricting criminals and other extreme undesirables. There were not many immigrants coming to Canada before 1896, so Canada was actively seeking immigrants to tend to their large amounts of land. The Dominion Land Act was then established in 1872 which gave land in northwestern regions of Canada to any male over the age of 18 who in return had to promise to cultivate and take care of that land. At the turn of the century, Canada was trying to obtain low skilled labor to enter their vast agricultural sector in the Northwest region. Frank Oliver, a Canadian politician who represented a vast majority of the Northwest region, implemented the Canadian Immigration Act of 1910 that gave more power to the federal government and prohibited the entry “of immigrants belonging to any race deemed unsuited to the climate or requirements of Canada.” This new immigration policy became even more strict during and after the First World War.  Just like the United States, Canada’s immigration policy at the beginning of the 1920s became increasingly race oriented because of the rising world tensions. Canada’s immigration policy was split up into two groups: the preferred and the non-preferred. Since not many immigrants found incentives to immigrate to Canada, Canada implemented policies to incentivize immigration from England, America, and Western Europe. On the other hand, Canada also implemented numerous policies to keep the so-called “undesirable races,” in the eyes of the Canadians, out of their country.

 

Immigration Law Reform into the 20th Century

Abogado Aly History of Immigration ReformOpposition towards immigration began in the late 19th century as the immigrants coming into the United States (Irish Catholics, Germans, Chinese, Spanish) were ethnically different than the immigrants who had already established themselves (English Protestants). Eventually the opposition became strong enough to create   political pressures that called for immigration restrictions during the early 20th century.

Before 1875 immigration policy was never really discussed by the federal government  because there was nothing about immigration in the constitution. It was in 1875 when the US supreme court ruled that the federal government had complete control over immigration because it was the federal government’s  constitutional duty  to regulate international commerce.[1]  In 1882, the United States implemented its first two laws  to restrict immigration, The Chinese Exclusion Act, which suspended Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States, and forced Chinese non-laborers to obtain authorization from their government. Second, Congress enacted and the President signed the Immigration Act which banned “convicts, prostitutes, lunatics, idiots, and those likely to become a public charge”[2] from entering the United States.  Up until the 1920s, a few more immigration laws were passed restricting the number of Japanese, Chinese, and women; even a Bureau of Immigration was established in 1891. The third wave of immigration was a period of the heaviest immigration to the United States, so the political pressures were mounting for a change in policy.

In the 1920s the Quota Law of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 were implemented. These laws were significant in reducing the overall amount of immigration and skewed immigration towards the already settled immigrants of Britain, Ireland and other parts of northwestern Europe.[3] The Quota Law of 1921 legislated a maximum number of immigrants allowed per year. This maximum was limited at “three percent of the number of foreign-born persons of that nationality who lived in the United States in 1910”[4]. For example, if there were 100,000 immigrants from Ireland already in the United States, then only 3000 Irish people were allowed to immigrate to the United States that year. The Immigration Act of 1924 went a step further and reduced the number of foreign born to two percent for a three-year period while reducing its base year from 1910 to 1890.[5] This reduced the previous quota by half, and skewed the number of immigrants towards Irish, English, and German immigrants basically eliminating immigration from southern and eastern Europe. In 1929, immigration laws tightened again, reducing the quota even further and used the entire American population as its basis for ethnic origins causing there to be smaller percentages of immigrants from specific countries who were allowed into the United States.  By the end of the 1920s, immigration flow fell drastically from about 1 million per year to between 200,000 to 300,000 per year.[6] These quotas were implemented for the Eastern Hemisphere, whereas there was no real need for a quota on the Western Hemisphere because there was such a small amount of immigration from the West at this time.

Bureaucracy Laws Impede Immigration and Silicon Vally Growth

Abogado Aly Immigration LawImmigrating to the United States of America is not made easy by all of the laws an bureaucracies put in place. Many people in the United States are against amnesty and other forms of citizenship that allow illegal immigrants to stay in the United States. Their rational being that if the illegal immigrants want to stay in the United States, they should apply for a visa and wait until they are legally approved. This makes sense at first glance, but within the constructs of the law is an extremely untimely bureaucratic process that gives immigrants little hope of living legally in the United States anytime soon.

A recent study done by Forbes suggests that a computer programer from India has to wait 35 years, on average, if they want to live “legally” in the United States. Someone from Mexico with a high school diploma has to wait an average of 130 years! Complex rules and regulations are creating a difficult situation for both immigrants and the United States.

Studies show that immigrants make up most of the founders in Silicon Valley as they invent things twice as fast as native-born Americans. A lot of Sillicon Vally tech startups are feeling handcuffed by the US immigration policy as it becomes increasingly difficult to hire highly skilled immigrants. The tech startup industry is all about speed and efficiency. The US immigration process is too slow for the hiring processes of these growing startups, which limits their hiring abilities and thus limits competition.

Low skill and high skill is not a factor in the start-up rat race. Labor is a spectrum where all levels of labor are needed to keep up in the industry. These startup companies are hoping that the immigration laws become more relaxed so that they can hire who they need to hire.

 

 

A History of the United States Immigration Policy

Abogado Aly Immigration History“What do the American people want immigration to do for the United States”[1]? According to George Borjas, one of the leading labor economists who specialize in immigration issues, this should be the fundamental question in the modern immigration debate. Technically, everyone who now lives in the United States has some ancestor that immigrated to the United States from abroad and there was a point in time where there was no immigration policy. As the United States became wealthier and wealthier, an immigration policy became necessary to keep overpopulation and major wealth divisions from happening. Typically, when policy makers of the world focus on the immigration debate, they seem to use economics as their main basis for policy change. This is how immigration policy is implemented in most countries. If immigration were to make the native people economically worse off, why wouldn’t a country impose a strict immigration policy? On the other hand, if immigration were to make the native population economically better off, why wouldn’t a country impose a more lose immigration policy? This paper will describe the political forces in Canada and the United States that led to their different historic approaches to immigration, and then analyze their respective current policies in both political and economic terms.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. During the colonial era, from 1607 to 1820, a little less than one million people arrived and settled in the United States which comprised of about 600,000 Europeans, about 300,000 African slaves, and a small mix of Scots, Irish, Dutch, Germans, Swedes, and French.[2] This was considered the first wave of immigration to the United States. The second wave occurred from the years between 1840 and 1870 where about 15 million immigrants entered the country. Most of the immigrants came from Ireland (because of the Irish Potato Famine) and Germany while some Spanish speakers were coming through the southwest region and Chinese laborers were coming to California (because of the California gold rush).[3] The third wave of immigration, during the years between 1880 and 1920, was really when immigration opposition began and the need for an immigration policy became apparent. During the third wave, there were about 25 million immigrants. Most came in from England, Ireland, and Germany; but this time around, there was an abundance of immigrants coming in from southern and eastern Europe: Italy, Poland, Greece, Russia, Hungry, and other smaller nations.[4] Immigration public policy was marginally discussed by the mid-19th century. There were minimal attempts to keep criminals and other extreme undesirables out, but other than that, immigration did not affect people’s lives enough for there to be public discussion about it.

 

[1]George J Borjas, Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1999) xvi.

[2] John Isbister, The Immigration Debate: Remaking America (West Hartford, CT: Kumarian, 1996)32.

[3] Isbister 32.

[4] Isbister 32.