#MoreThanALabel: Immigrant Stories Define What It Means to be American @lorellapraeli & @juansaaa

Originally posted on SocialWork@Simmons

In my experience, there is no issue that impassions people more than immigration. Why? Fundamentally, I believe it is because immigration is visceral: It is about our essence as individuals, as a people, as a culture, and as a nation. It is about where we have been and where we are going. What kind of a country do we want to be? Do we want to be a welcoming nation that opens its arms to people from all over the world, and from all walks of life, or do we want to turn our backs on those in need, and restrict critical opportunities for engineers, entrepreneurs, researchers, and scientists like Einstein, who was, by the way, a refugee?

I know which nation I want.

Let me tell you about two immigrants who inspire me. Two outstanding individuals who have taught me much about what it means to be an American.

Lorella Praeli

Lorella was born in Ica, Peru. At 2 years old she lost her right leg in a horrific accident caused by a drunken driver. Determined that their young daughter receive the best medical care available, Lorella’s parents brought her to the U.S. several times a year for treatment for her high amputation. Eventually the travel took its toll, and Lorella’s parents had no choice but to permanently move the family to the U.S. so she could receive the health care she needed. The family settled in New Milford, Connecticut, where Lorella’s aunt lived.

Lorella excelled at school but also endured cyberbullying because she was physically challenged, a Latina, and an immigrant.

But Lorella was not deterred. In high school, she became active with the Anti-Defamation League’s Names Can Really Hurt Us program and worked hard to promote bullying awareness and reconciliation.

Lorella went on to graduate at the top of her high school class and was awarded a full academic scholarship to Quinnipiac University, where she went on to graduate summa cum laude.

But despite her amazing accomplishments, Lorella was burdened by a secret. She was an undocumented immigrant — a fact she had learned when she needed a social security number to apply for college. Like so many other undocumented immigrants who have been brought to the U.S. as children, Lorella lived with the constant gnawing fear of arrest, detention, and deportation.

Yet she was not deterred. Lorella eventually went public as an undocumented immigrant in the DREAM movement, the heroic campaign to pass the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide a pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented youth. Lorella fought successfully for in-state tuition for undocumented students in Connecticut and went on to become Director of Advocacy and Policy for United We Dream, the largest organization of undocumented youth in the United States. While at United We Dream, Lorella was a driving force in the struggle that eventually led the Obama Administration to institute Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which offers qualified individuals a temporary reprieve from deportation and a chance to pursue higher education.

In June Lorella became the Director of Latino Outreach for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaignwhere she focuses on issues of critical concern to the Hispanic community across the U.S.

She has only begun to fight for what she believes in.

Juan Escalante

Juan is the oldest of three brothers, and the son of Vilma and Saul Escalante. When they arrived in the country in 2000, the Venezuelan family settled in Kendall, Florida, a suburb of Miami.

Although they entered the country legally on intracompany transferee visas, the Escalante family, including Juan, became undocumented in 2006. An immigration attorney provided bad advice, leaving them without visas and green cards. Even though they followed the rules, the Escalantes found themselves without legal documents and without a way to legalize their immigration status.

Despite these obstacles Juan persevered. He studied hard in school, earned a 4.0 grade-point average and a spot at the top of his high school graduating class. Juan was accepted into numerous universities across Florida, some of which awarded him scholarships. However, because he was undocumented, Juan did not qualify for either in-state tuition or for the scholarships that he’d earned.

But Juan refused to be cowed by the unfairness of a broken immigration system. Adept at social media and other forms of online communication, he became an advocate for the DREAM Act. Juan developed innovative strategies designed to maximize the impact of young people on the national immigration reform agenda. He was instrumental in the public defense of countless unjust deportation cases, and focused his energy on lobbying and educational outreach.

Juan also made continuing his education a priority. He earned his associate degree from Broward College in 2009 and, with the encouragement of Florida State University President T.K. Whetherell, enrolled in FSU. There Juan became active in the Student Government Association where he helped pass resolutions highlighting the DREAM Act. In 2011 Juan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international affairs.

But he didn’t stop there. In 2012 Juan, as a beneficiary of the DACA program, re-enrolled in FSU and, on August 8, 2015, earned a Master of Public Administration.

Today Juan is the Director of Digital Campaigns for America’s Voice, one of the most prominent immigration reform groups in the U.S. He frequently writes about immigration policy and provides cutting edge analysis on immigration issues to major media outlets, including the New York Times.

Promoting Immigrant Pride    

Lorella and Juan inspire me as do the thousands and thousands of immigrants with whom I have had the honor of working over the years.

When I think of immigrants, I think of research physicians in America’s foremost medical centers devoted to finding cures for life-threatening diseases such as cancer, cognitive heart failure, and AIDS. I think of engineers in Silicon Valley reining in the future with bold, creative ideas. I think of highly skilled workers in fields, farms, nurseries, hotels, and restaurants across this great land whose labor is the lifeblood of America’s economy.

In 1989, in his final address to the nation President Ronald Reagan described his vision of America as a shining city. He said:

[I]n my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

Reagan understood that America’s strength is its openness: its celebration of creativity and new ideas. We are a welcoming nation, and it’s our job to celebrate the immigrants who grace our shores, no matter how they got here.

David Leopold practices immigration law in Cleveland, Ohio. He is an immigration reform advocate and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. To learn more about Mr. Leopold, visit his website www.immvisa.com

What happened to the lawsuit against Obama’s #immigration actions?

HOMESTEAD, FL - JULY 09: Donatila Diego, originally from Guatemala, (L) and Juana de Leon, originally from Guatemala, stand with others as they show their support for the Obama administration's immigration reform plan on July 9, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. The organizers held the protest the night before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is expected to consider lifting the injunction on the Obama administrations executive action to allow parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to gain temporary status in the U.S., as well as to expand the deferred action program for undocumented youth. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Originally  posted on MSNBC.com by David Leopold

The legal maxim “justice delayed is justice denied” pretty much sums up the procedural posture of the Obama administration’s appeal of the Republican lawsuit attacking the president’s executive actions on deportation. The appeal—which asks the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate a hold placed on the deportation deferrals by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen—has been in the hands of a three judge panel of the court since it heard final argument on July 10.

But nearly three months later, the panel has failed to rule, leaving 5.5 million DREAMers and undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful residents unable to apply for a deportation reprieve, undergo background checks and temporarily come out of the shadows until Congress sees fit to do its job and pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Were this a routine civil case, the panel’s delay in ruling probably wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. But this litigation is anything but routine. It directly impacts the lives of millions of Americans across the country – real people like Andrew of Stow, Ohio, who wakes up every morning fearing that his mom, Maria, will be taken from him. Or Ashley of Findlay, Ohio, who fears her undocumented husband, Manny, will be deported to Germany.

The Texas immigration lawsuit is unquestionably a brazen political attack on the president’s November 20, 2014 executive actions on deportation. Before the ink was even dry on the deferred action guidance, the state of Texas, joined by mostly GOP governors and attorneys general from 25 states, shopped for a friendly judicial forum in which to launch their legal assault on the deportation reprieve. And they found one in the Brownsville, Texas, courtroom of U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who’d made a name for himself in other cases excoriating the Obama administration for what he described as its “failure to enforce current United States law.”

RELATED: The cruel reality of Trump’s deportation plan

Apparently Judge Hanen is unaware that under Obama more than 2 million immigrants have been deported, far outpacing any previous president. Nor does he seem to grasp that undocumented population in the U.S. has stabilized, reflecting the lowest levels of unauthorized immigration in many years. In February, as many expected, Hanen issued an order temporarily blocking DACA and DAPA. The Obama administration appealed and, in March, the 5th Circuit granted its request to fast-track the case. On July 10, a three judge panel of the court heard argument on the merits of the case.

That was three months ago and still no ruling.

Compounding the frustration of delay, there’s little doubt about what this panel is going to do – it’s all but certain to uphold Hanen’s injunction. We know that because in May, two of the three panel judges, Jerry E. Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod – both Republican appointees – refused to temporarily lift Hanen’s hold on the administration’s immigration actions reasoning that “Because the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal of the injunction, we deny the motion for stay and the request to narrow the scope of the injunction.”

Yet despite the uncertainty about when the 5th Circuit will rule, one thing’s for sure – whatever the court decides, the final word on the Obama’s executive actions will come from the U.S. Supreme Court. The GOP lawsuit is aimed at millions of mixed-immigration status American families and raises serious constitutional questions about whether the case is even properly before the court. In another challenge to the immigration executive actions brought by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell dismissed the suit as improper, ruling that that “The role of the Judiciary is to resolve cases and controversies properly brought by parties with a concrete and particularized injury – not to engage in policymaking better left to the political branches.” Moreover, observed another panel of the 5th Circuit earlier this year, the question of standing to sue the president is “especially rigorous,” when the lawsuit requires the court to decide whether an action taken by the commander-in-chief is unconstitutional.

But time is short. The Supreme Court begins its term this week. Unless the 5th Circuit rules soon – like in the next two or three weeks – it’s highly unlikely the Supreme Court will be able to decide the case before June 2017. That means the panel’s protracted delay will effectively leave 5.5 million low enforcement priority undocumented immigrants and their families in immigration limbo until well after Obama leaves office.

The panel’s delay feeds directly into the strategy of the GOP plaintiffs who clearly brought the suit to block the implementation of DAPA and DACA. Of course it’s impossible – indeed counterproductive – to speculate about why the 5th Circuit judges may be is taking so long to decide a case of such magnitude. But one thing is certain: It’s time for Judges Smith, Elrod and Carolyn King to rule. Further delay serves no purpose. To the contrary, it now threatens to deprive millions of American families of the justice they deserve.

David Leopold practices immigration law in Cleveland, Ohio, and is former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Immigrants sue USCIS and DOS over rollback of green card filing dates. READ COMPLAINT –>

Earlier this month, as part of President Obama’s executive actions, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of State announced a streamlined green card process which allows applicants with approved immigrant visa petitions who are subject to backlog to file their adjustment of status (green card) applications BEFORE their priority dates are current.  This is significant because it will allow backlogged applicants to port to new employers and will permit them and their spouses to file for employment authorization and advance parole.  The development was welcome news to many long backlogged Chinese and Indian advance skill professionals.  Many were looking forward to October 1 when they could begin filing their applications for adjustment to green card status.

But last week the USCIS and DOS issued a revised visa bulletin pushing back the October 1, 2015 green card filing dates, effectively preventing many immigrants from applying for their green cards and sending them back to backlog purgatory.

Late yesterday immigrants from across the US who would have been eligible to begin filing their adjustment of status applications on October 1 filed a class action lawsuit in Seattle, Washington asking a federal judge to reinstate the previously announced green card filing dates.  You can read the lawsuit —> here.

The legal complaint was filed by Greg Siskind of Memphis, Tennessee.

BREAKING: State Department revises October visa bulletin, rolling back green card “Filing Dates”

Earlier this month, as part of President Obama’s executive actions, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of State announced a streamlined green card process which allows applicants with approved immigrant visa petitions who are subject to backlog to file their adjustment of status (green card) applications BEFORE their priority dates are current.  This was significant because it will allow backlogged applicants to port to new employers and will permit them and their spouses to file for employment authorization and advance parole.  The development was welcome news to many long backlogged Chinese and Indian advance skill professionals.  Many were looking forward to October 1 when they could begin filing their applications for adjustment to green card status.

Not so fast.

Today the USCIS and DOS issued a revised visa bulletin pushing back the October 1, 2015 green card filing dates, effectively preventing many immigrants from applying for their green cards and sending them back to backlog purgatory.

Here’s who’s been moved back by today’s revised bulletin:

  • EB2 China: Moved from 5/1/2014 to 1/1/2013 (1 year 5 months)
  • EB2 India: Moved from 7/1/2011 to 7/1/2009 (2 years)
  • EB3 Philippines: Moved from 1/1/2015 to 1/1/2010 (5 years)
  • FB1 Mexico: Moved from 7/1/1995 to 4/1/1995 (3 months)
  • FB3 Mexico: Moved from 10/1/1996 to 5/1/1995 (1 year 5 months)

This is a shining example of the broken system.

The shocking reality of Donald Trump’s plan to deport millions

Posted on MSNBC.com by David Leopold

DALLAS, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. More than 20,000 tickets have been distributed for the event. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

DALLAS, TX – SEPTEMBER 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. More than 20,000 tickets have been distributed for the event. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty

It’s not clear what was the most shocking about Donald Trump’s rally Monday night in Dallas, Texas: his description of undocumented immigrants as part of a “dumping ground for the rest of the world,” or the reaction of the nearly all-white crowd who awarded his rhetoric with a standing ovation and chants of “USA, USA.”

One day – hopefully soon – when the presidential candidacy of Donald Trumpreaches its ignoble end, perhaps we’ll better understand how a real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star turned-politician could become the front-runner in the Republican primary. But for now, we must take Trump at his word: If elected president, he plans to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants – including their U.S. citizen children. What’s more, Trump claims he’ll do it all within 18 months to two years. It is, according to Trump, just a question of “good management.”

It is surprising, then, that as we head into the second Republican debate Wednesday night at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, that Trump’s brazen call for mass expulsion of all undocumented immigrants has largely escaped scrutiny in the media, either because he isn’t taken seriously or journalists are afraid of offending him and losing access. But now that the “summer of Trump” has turned into fall, it’s high time that someone call on Trump to explain what he means when he declares that undocumented immigrants “have to go.”

We’re left asking this question in 2015: How would Trump actually deport 11 million people in less than two years?

The leading GOP candidate is talking about ferreting out, arresting, and forcibly removing a population of men, women and children roughly the size of the state of Ohio. Setting aside the Constitution for the moment – something most of Trump’s immigration platform ignores – let’s imagine what a grand scale deportation would mean in real terms. It’s frightening, extreme – and decidedly un-American.

First there would be the rooting out of undocumented men, women and children throughout the entire United States. Department of Homeland Security enforcement agents would have to fan out all over the country looking for undocumented immigrants. Since many work in agriculture, we’d likely see agents combing through rural areas and small town America – places like Painesville and Findlay, Ohio.

We got a glimpse of what that would look like in 2008, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided the Agriprocessors kosher meat packing facility in Postville, Iowa. Hundreds of armed ICE agents swooped into the town – population 2,000 – with helicopters and prison buses to arrest nearly 400 undocumented immigrants, most of whom were Guatemalan laborers. ICE then locked up the immigrants at the National Cattle Congress – which had been turned into a makeshift immigration prison – in nearby Waterloo, where they awaited criminal trials and deportation.

But Postville was just one small town in Iowa. Trump’s mass deportation plan would recreate that disturbing scene in every American community in all 50 states – every county, town and city. As Malcom Harris recently observed, “Sending an amped-up ICE on a mass-deportation mission wouldn’t just be an assault on undocumented people and their families, it would be an attack on American cities, where more than 90 percent of them live.”

Trump’s deportation dragnet would likely start by wreaking havoc on the lives of millions of U.S. citizens. To find undocumented immigrants, immigration enforcement agents would have to whittle down who they question about their immigration status, and that would include interrogating U.S. citizens. Further, because so many undocumented immigrants are part of mixed immigration status families, Americans would be put in the untenable position of having to decide whether to stay in their country, separated from their loved ones facing deportation, or leave the U.S.

In Trump’s America, where the newly inaugurated president would seek to make good on his campaign promise to deport 11 million people within 2 years, what would happen to core American values including family, hard work, community and fairness?

Would our citizens be coerced into becoming immigration informants? Would Americans rat on their neighbors, friends or relatives out of a misguided feeling of patriotism or, perhaps worse, vengeance and retribution? Would undocumented women, children and elderly be exposed to abuse by those who would take advantage of Trump’s deportation machinery to extract control, money or other unspeakable forms of abuse under threat of being exposed to homeland security agents?

Would non-white American citizens and lawful residents be at greater risk of stop, arrest and investigation based on their manner of dress, accent or skin color? And what about unscrupulous employers? One of the strongest arguments in favor of comprehensive immigration reform is that a pathway to earned legal immigration status will reduce workplace exploitation, including sweatshop wages and sexual abuse. One can only imagine the horrible price a corrupt employer might extract from an undocumented immigrant who is desperate to avoid deportation and separation from her family.

Even if Trump were elected president, he would not be able to fulfill many of his draconian promises on immigration – including mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants. Trump’s ugly agenda assumes there is no Constitution, no separation of powers, and no checks and balances which would prevent him from carrying out mass expulsion of undocumented immigrants. Nevertheless, the media has a professional and ethical obligation to the American people to press Trump for specifics on how he would implement his stated immigration agenda, so that voters know exactly what they’d be signing up for if they accept Trump’s offer to “make America great again.”

Tomorrow night in Simi Valley would be a good time to start.

David Leopold practices immigration law in Cleveland, Ohio, and is the past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Let’s remember what Ronald Reagan said about #immigration

Reagan understood that America’s strength is its openness: its celebration of creativity and new ideas.  We can only hope that those who claim his legacy heed his lesson. We are a welcoming nation, and it’s our job to put a human face on all of the immigrants who grace our shores, no matter how they got here.

USCIS announces important changes to green card application process

Updated 9/12/15

New Immigrant Visa Application Procedures

As part of President Obama’s executive actions the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of State have been working to streaHow-to-obtain-a-green-card-by-PERMmline the family and employment-based immigrant visa processes. Now applicants with approved immigrant visa petitions who are subject to backlog will, under specified circumstances, be able to file their adjustment of status (green card) applications BEFORE their priority dates are current.  This is significant because this will allow backlogged applicants to port to new employers and file for employment authorization and advance parole.

The USCIS has posted a Fact Sheet on its website entitled “When To File Your Application For Family-Based or Employment-Based Immigrant Visas” which describes the new procedure in detail.

New Visa Bulletin Charts

The Visa Bulletin will now have two different charts because of the revised procedures. DOS will post two charts per visa preference category in the DOS Visa Bulletin. The charts are:

Application Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued); and
Dates for Filing Applications (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply).
When USCIS determines there are immigrant visas available for the filing of additional adjustment of status applications, the Dates for Filing Applications chart may be used to determine when to file an adjustment of status application with USCIS. Otherwise, the Application Final Action Dates chart must be used to determine when to file an adjustment of status application with USCIS.

In coordination with the DOS, USCIS will monitor visa numbers each month and post the relevant chart on this page under When to File.

PLEASE NOTE: This information is posted solely for informational purposes and is not legal advice. Transmission of this information does not create, and receipt by you does not constitute, the formation of an attorney-client relationship. Any on-line readers should not act upon any information contained in this post without first seeking advice from a qualified attorney. For more information please contact our office at 216.696.4676.

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