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Time to Renew your Deferred Action (DACA)

Renewal Of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) 

Earlier this month USCIS outlined the process that must be followed in order for those who were granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to renew their status. USCIS first started granting DACA requests in September 2012 for periods of 2-years, meaning those whom initially received DACA will soon need to renew their status.  

USCIS will be creating a new form that must be filed in order to renew your status under DACA. In order to renew your status you must have your DACA and employment authorization application and documentation submitted to USCIS approximately 120-days (4-months) before your current period of DACA expires. This gives USCIS the chance to decide whether or not they will renew your application before your status expires. Filing your applications late may result in the loss of status as well as work authorization.

Failure to renew your status under DACA will result in unlawful presence and losing your employment authorization and possible continued eligibility to remain in the United States.

If you have been granted DACA, it is important that you start this process early so that you do not lose your legal status in this country as well as your authorization to work here in the United States.  Contact Scales of Justice, LLP to set up a phone or in-person consultation to discuss your case.  We can be reach by email at: info@tipthescalesforme.com or by phone at our San Diego office: (619) 796-1765 or Los Angeles office: (323) 577-8529.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) extended for Haitian nationals

USCIS Extends Haiti Designation for Temporary Protected Status

The Department of Homeland Security has extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for qualified Haitian nationals for a period of 18 months, from July 23, 2014 until January 22, 2016.

This 18-month extension allows for current TPS holders to re-register for TPS and apply for a new employment authorization document (EAD). For those who have previously filed for TPS, the registration period lasts from March 3, 2014 – May 2, 2014. Once you are registered USCIS will issue a new EAD with an expiration date of January 22, 2016. Given the time that it takes to process EAD’s USCIS recognizes that some TPS holders will not receive their EAD before their current EAD expires on July 22, 2014. For that reason, USCIS will automatically extend EAD’s for  eligible Haitian TPS holders until January 22, 2015.

If you currently have TPS based on your Haitian citizenship it is critical that you start this process early so that you do not risk losing your status and/or authorization to work here in the United States. If you would like assistance with re-registering  for TPS and renewing your EAD please contact us at Scales of Justice LLP at Zamora@tipthescalesforme.com or San Diego number :(619) 796-1765 or Los Angeles number: (323) 577-8529

The Deportation of Justin Bieber: A Real Possibility?

The Deportation of Justin Bieber: A Real Possibility?

You’ve probably heard or read the news—a petition for the deportation of Canadian-born pop-star Justin Bieber has made its way to the White House. But the real question is, regardless of how many signatures the petition has gathered, can U.S. officials actually deport Justin Bieber from the United States?  Probably not, unless Bieber picks up new charges. Let me explain.

According to Time magazine, Bieber is in the United States on an O-1 Visa, not a green card. Specifically, he is likely in the United States on an O-1 “A” visa, which is for people who have demonstrated “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.” 8 C.F.R. §214.2(o)(1)(ii)(A)(1).  This type of visa is a non-immigrant worker visa, meaning, it is not meant for permanent residence within the United States, but used to come to the United States temporarily for work in one of those specified fields.

But just because Bieber has been awarded a visa for “extraordinary ability” in the arts, it doesn’t mean it can’t be revoked.  Under U.S. law, in order for Bieber to keep his visa to work in the United States, he, or anyone else on an O-1 visa, cannot be convicted of a “crime of violence” or a crime “for which a sentence of more than one year imprisonment may be imposed.” 8 C.F.R. §214.2(g).

According to CNN entertainment, Bieber turned himself into Canadian officials on January 29 for assault charges in Toronto. But this case won’t likely affect his visa status because he must be convicted under “laws of United States jurisdictions” for his U.S. visa to be revoked. 8 C.F.R. §214.2(g).  But then there is his recent arrest in Miami, Florida, for which according to CNN, he has been charged with DUI, resisting arrest, and driving with an expired license. A quick perusal of the Florida statutes show that none of these charges carry a maximum sentence of more than one year, or constitute a crime of violence under federal immigration law.  Thus, even if he is convicted of all of those charges in Florida, those crimes alone are not enough for Bieber’s visa to get revoked.

But then there is the “egging” incident. According to the Daily News, Bieber is suspected of throwing eggs at his neighbor’s mansion-sized house in Calabasas, California, on January 9, causing an estimated $20,000 dollars in damage. The case is currently under investigation, but if California prosecutors decide to pursue the matter, Bieber could face charges for felony vandalism due to his criminal history, and the amount of damage.  And felony vandalism could carry a jail sentence of 16 months or more—enough jail time under U.S. law to cause an O-1 visa to be revoked.

No charges in the egging case appear to have been filed yet. But if Bieber is charged with and convicted of felony vandalism in California, his visa could be revoked, and he will need to purchase a one-way ticket back to Canada, or face removal from the United States.

This information was provided by Isabel O’Donnell, Esq., an Associate Attorney at Scales of Justice, LLP, and is for informational purposes only, and not to be construed as legal advice.

California Department of Motor Vehicles prepares to institute AB60, Allowing Undocumented Persons to Apply for Driver’s Licenses

California Department of Motor Vehicles prepares to institute AB60, Allowing Undocumented Persons to Apply for Driver’s Licenses

In a move to improve public safety on California roadways, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will be implementing new law AB60, starting January 1, 2015.  This new law requires the DMV to issue driver licenses to undocumented persons.  Consequently, AB60 also requires that undocumented persons meet the minimum driving proficiency standards established by the California Driving Handbook (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/home/dmv.htm).  More specifically, undocumented persons would have to pass a written and practical driving test to obtain a license and carry proof of insurance before driving in California. 

The DMV plans to propose a new design for the licenses issued to undocumented persons.  The design is ultimately reviewed and approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for compliance with federal law.  Simultaneously, the license design must meet certain aesthetic requirements to be in compliance with AB60.  In order to meet both standards, the design will be very similar to the current California driver license, but some distinction on the license will appear so that AB60 regulations are met, such as using the abbreviation “DP” (“driving privilege”) rather than “DL” (“driver’s license”).  Although the law does prescribe distinguishing licenses issued to U.S. citizens from those issued to undocumented persons, AB60 explicitly prohibits using the distinctive license for criminal investigation, arrest or detention based on immigration status.   

The DMV is already preparing for the law to become active in two ways:  1) drafting new regulations and 2) establishing new field offices.

Drafting New Regulations

For AB60 to be an active piece of law, the DMV must adopt regulations that outline how undocumented persons can apply for a driver license.  The process will include proof of identity and residency in California, although the specific standards of evidence have yet to be determined. 

The DMV is currently in the drafting stages, writing proposed regulatory measures according to rules from the Office of Administrative Law.  Once a regulation is drafted, there will be a public notice of the proposed regulations, a public comment period, and a final decision by OAL whether to approve the regulations. 

Establishing New Field Offices

In conjunction with drafting the new regulations, the DMV will establish new field offices to accommodate application processing.  The government anticipates a sharp influx in applications once AB60 takes effect. 

Annually, the DMV processes around 10 million driver license-related transactions in their offices.  There are also about 12 million online transactions per year that funnel through the DMV’s system.

If you have any questions about how to qualify for a California Driver’s License under AB60, call or email Scales of Justice, LLP to set up a consultation.

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The above information is not legal advice.  It is provided for informational purposes only.  Contact Scales of Justice, LLP to discuss how the above information may apply your case. 

Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act: Stepping towards a standardized family law for military families

Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act:  Stepping towards a standardized family law for military families

The custody aspect of divorce proceedings is rarely a simple matter.  In any circumstance, distance can be difficult for families, but when a parent is a military service member, in particular, the travel requirements of their occupation can quickly complicate child custody and visitation cases. 

Generally simple issues, such as each parent’s state of residence or which state law to apply, can quickly transform into complex legal questions of jurisdiction when one of the parents is in the military service and is subject to mobilizations, temporary duty, deployment and remote assignments.  To wit, the Uniform Deployed Parent Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) is intended to protect the parental rights of military service members (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) while they are abroad. 

Among those rights, the UDPCVA establishes that deployment does not change the residence of a service member and that courts cannot use past or future deployment alone to determine the best interests of a child.  The act sets a uniform standard for “military absence,” which provides that the mere absence of a military parent from a state will not be used to deprive that state of custody jurisdiction.   

In line with larger family law principles, the UDPCVA encourages parents to reach their own agreements and sets parameters for the form and execution of those agreements.  Under the act, a parent who is a military service member must give reasonable notice of their deployment.  Subsequent to proper notice, the UDPCVA encourages both parties to negotiate a written temporary order that will be signed by both parents, outlining the custody arrangement during deployment.  The agreement should be as detailed as possible and include allocation of care-taking authority and decision-making authority.  Under the UDPCVA, the agreement terminates either by agreement, upon return of the deployed service member parent, or by court order.

If parents cannot come to a mutual agreement, the UDPCVA contains provisions for the court to rule on custody issues prior to deployment via an expedited hearing, so that the matter can be settled before deployment.  In the event that the custody agreement or order requires modification during deployment, the UDPCVA provides that the courts can make decisions to grant temporary custody to a non-parent with a close and substantial relationship to the child.  Regardless, any custody order given by the court before or during deployment, however, is only temporary.  The UDPCVA disallows the courts from entering permanent custody orders without the consent of the service member parent to be deployed.

Even though the UDPCVA is not formal legislation, it does establish standardized guidelines that each state can adopt in full or in part, amending the portions of the uniform act that conflict with current state law.  So although the application of the UDPCVA will vary slightly from state to state, the uniform act provides an important source of basic legal rights to service members who are parents, while preserving the best interests of the children involved.

If you would like to learn about your parental rights as a service member, please contact Scales of Justice, LLC to set up a consultation.  The above information is not to be construed as legal advice but is solely for the purposes of general information.    

Proving “Extreme Hardship” in Applications for Immigration Waivers of Inadmissibility

Proving “Extreme Hardship” in Applications for Immigration Waivers of Inadmissibility

Noncitizens who are trying to obtain immigration benefits are often times inadmissible to the United States based on several different criteria.  To overcome this inadmissibility, some individuals may qualify to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility.  To be eligible to file the waiver, the noncitizen must have a qualifying family member and has to establish that the qualifying family member would suffer extreme hardship if the Noncitizen was not allowed to immigrate to the United States.  The USCIS and courts usually consider the following factors when extreme hardship is at issue:

          Family ties, both in the U.S. and abroad

          Length of residence in the U.S.

          Health conditions, either physical or mental

          Conditions in the home country of the noncitizen

          Financial status

          Possibility of other means to immigrate

          Special assistance to the community

          Immigration history/violations

          Position in the community

All of these factors are supposed to be considered cumulatively, taking into account the totality of the circumstances for each case on an individual basis.  Although there are no clear guidelines as to what constitutes extreme hardship for the qualifying family member these items are the most often utilized pieces of evidence in trying to obtain a waiver for inadmissibility. 

This information was provided by Pablo A. Zamora, Esq., managing Immigration Partner at Scales of Justice, LLP.  Call or email Scales of Justice, LLP to set up a consultation to determine whether you qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility. 

 The above information is not to be construed as legal advice.  It is written for information purposes only.    

Hot Summer Nights!!!

Hot Summer Nights!!!

Last Friday, Aug. 30th, Scales of Justice hosted a night of socialization, fun and food at Dragon’s Den in Downtown San Diego.  Friends from a variety of legal backgrounds including immigration law, criminal law, and family law were all in attendance, as well as law students from the local law schools and colleagues from non-legal fields.  Along with a custom drink menu, curated by our own Pablo Zamora, there was a smorgasbord of delectable bites from the talented kitchen at Dragon’s Den.

As the event reached the height of the evening, law students and lawyers alike were engaged in vivacious conversation on everything from the hottest legal issues to the current state of San Diego’s legal job market.  Pablo summed up the evening perfectly, “Hot Summer Nights was definitely a scorcher!”

Check out pics from Hot Summer Nights on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ScalesOfJusticeLLP

SUPREME COURT FINDS THE DEFENSE AGAINST MARRIAGE ACT (DOMA) UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

In what can only be described as a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional. In a 5-4 decision with the majority opinion given by Justice Kennedy, the Supreme Court struck down DOMA as a violation of the 5th Amendment and Equal Protection of Law. The Supreme Court’s decision in the DOMA case will have a far reaching impact on immigration law.

What is DOMA?

DOMA was passed in 1996 in response to the movement among several states to recognize same-sex marriages. Essentially DOMA stated that the federal government would not recognize same-sex marriages even if they were officially sanctioned by the state.  Since the Federal Government refused to recognize same-sex marriages, even if a state or foreign country deemed them valid, same-sex spouses could not receive any benefit from the federal government which required marital or spousal status as a requirement. Why did the Supreme Court say the government cannot do this? The court said that marriage is typically defined by the state, and to treat two sets of legally married couples from the same state differently is unconstitutional..

The particular benefit that was at issue in the DOMA case was the failure to refund an estate tax when property passes from one spouse to another. However, the Supreme Court stated in their decision that DOMA affected over 1,000 federal laws which marital or spousal status is addressed as a matter of federal law. United States v. Windsor, (2013). Because the effect of DOMA was to treat gay and lesbian married couples differently than their heterosexual counterparts, the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional. As a result of this ruling, the federal government must grant any federal benefit heterosexual couples are entitled to (including immigration benefits) to same-sex spouses when the same-sex marriage is done in a state or country where it is legal.

How Does This Impact Federal Immigration Law

Marital or spousal status affects over 1,000 federal laws. Many of these federal laws are the immigration laws of the United States, which the federal government alone has the sole authority to make.

One of the many unfair practices by the government, sanctioned by DOMA, was the fact that heterosexual couples could immigrate their spouse based on a valid marriage, but the same-sex spouses could not.

As a result of this decision, the federal government in their immigration laws must recognize a valid same sex marriage. Therefore, if you are married in a state or country that recognizes same-sex marriages the federal government must treat you the same as it does heterosexual married couples. Meaning, this decision has officially paved the way for spouses of same sex marriages to immigrate to the United States based on their marriage. In addition, this will allow same sex partners to get waivers to certain grounds of removability (ex. Cancellation of Removal) based on their marriage to a US citizen.

This is truly a monumental moment in American history, and another victory against discrimination that took far too long. Given the magnitude of this decision there has been reactions from many prominent Americans, including President Obama. President Obama released the following statement regarding the decision by the Supreme Court, “I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law….” Later in the statement the President added, “We are a people who declared that we are all created equal—and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” Here, at Scales of Justice, LLP, managing partner Pablo Zamora said, “the battle didn’t end for America on July 4, 1776 to gain freedom for all Americans” he added, “finally, we are on the right side of history.”

America is referred to as the land of the free, and the home of the brave. Today the Supreme Court took another step towards showing why we are the land of the free, as a result of the brave same-sex married couples who stood up for what they believe in.

If you have any questions or believe todays monumental ruling may impact you please do not hesitate to give us a call here at Scales of Justice, LLP, (619)796-1765 or email Pablo Zamora at Zamora@tipthescalesforme.com.

Registering and Enlisting in the U.S. Military for Immigrants

Registering and Enlisting in the United States Military for Immigrants

The following is provided for informational purposes only.  Consult with an experienced Immigration Attorney regarding how this information applies to your case.  Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding registering and enlisting in the United States Military:

Registering with the United States Selective Service

Q: What is the Selective Service Registration?

A: Registration is the process in which an individual provides the Selective Service System with personal information, such as name, address, date of birth, and other related information. The Selective Service registers almost all young men between 18 and 26 and the government keeps this list of names in case there is a national emergency requiring rapid expansion of the Armed Forces. Registering with the Selective Service does NOT mean you are joining or enlisting in the military.

Q: Who must register with the Selective Service?

A: Generally, almost all males (citizens and non-citizens) living in the United States who are between the ages of 18 and 26 are required to register with the Selective Service. Undocumented immigrants are included on the list of those who must register with the Selective Service. Registering with the Selective Service does not mean the male will be automatically inducted or enlisted into the military. The eligibility requirements for registering are separate from the actual ability to enlist in the military.

Q: When must a male register?

A: Men living in the United States are required to register at age 18. Men who enter the United States as immigrants are also required to register if they are between the age of 18 and 26.

Q: Are non-U.S. citizen males required to register?

A: Yes, some are. The general rule is that if a male noncitizen lives in the United States before his 26th birthday, he must register with the Selective Service.

Q: Specifically which non-U.S. citizen males are required to register?

A: Non-U.S. citizens, such as undocumented individuals, legal permanent residents (LPRs), asylum applicants, refugees, and DACA recipients are all required to register with the Selective Service.

Q: Which non-U.S. citizen males are not required to register with the Selective Service?

A: Men who are in the United States and have maintained lawful nonimmigrant status (e.g., someone who is here temporarily on a tourist visa) the entire time they are 18 through 26 years of age, are not required to register with the Selective Service. Tourist visas, student visas, and U visas are all examples of nonimmigrant visas. But, men with non-immigrant statuses are only exempt from registering if they maintained lawful nonimmigrant status since they turned 18 up until they turned 26. If a man’s legal nonimmigrant status expires or is revoked before he turns 26, he will probably have to register. Diplomatic and consular personnel and families and seasonal agricultural workers (H-2A visa) are also not required to register.

Q: Are male DACA recipients required to register with the Selective Service?

A: Yes, DACA recipients are required to register. DACA does not confer a lawful nonimmigrant status and recipients are residing in the United States without a lawful nonimmigrant status; accordingly, they are required to register.

Q: Are dual citizen males of the United States and another country required to register?

A: Yes.

Q: Are men who are incarcerated, hospitalized, or institutionalized required to register with the Selective Service?

A: No, men who are incarcerated or hospitalized or institutionalized for medical reasons do not have to register while they are committed. However, they must register within 30 days after being released if they have not yet reached their 26th birthday. Men who are physically and mentally handicapped and are continually confined to a residence, hospital, or institution are also exempt from registering with the Selective Service.

Q: Are male conscientious objectors required to register?

A: Yes, unless they fall under one of the exempted categories listed above. If a draft begins and they are called, they would then have the opportunity to file a claim for exemption from military service based upon their religious or moral objection to war.

Q: Should undocumented immigrant men register with the Selective Service?

A: Yes, they are required to register by law. Additionally, a social security number is not required in order to register with the Selective Service.

Q: What are the consequences of undocumented men not registering with the Selective Service if they were required to do so?

A: It may hurt their chances of obtaining another kind of federal or immigration benefit in the future, such as naturalization, if they don’t. Men who fail to register may also be unable to demonstrate “good moral character” for purposes of the DREAM Act, so failure to register may bar them from DREAM Act benefits if the DREAM passes and has a “good moral character” requirement in it. Men who fail to register with the Selective Service may also be affected if an immigration reform bill requires men to register in order to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident.

Q: Some men receive a registration reminder card at their home. From where does the Selective Service get their information?

A: The Selective Service gets names and contact information from one of the many lists they use to identify people who may be eligible to register. For example, the Selective Service can obtain names from a driver’s license list from a state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), a list from a federal or state agency, such as the Department of Homeland Security (which is the umbrella organization under which USCIS falls), Department of Education, the Department of Defense’s recruiting list, or from a high school list.

Enlisting in the United States Military

Q: Can non-U.S. citizens join the military?

A: Yes, lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may enlist in the military, but undocumented immigrants cannot.  Under the MAVNI (Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest) program, some other lawfully present noncitizens, such as TPS status holders, T and U visa holders, and asylees/refugees, may also join the military.

Q: Can a DACA recipient currently join the military?

A: No, DACA recipients are technically still undocumented immigrants, and thus, cannot currently join the military.  However, H.R. 435 (Military Enlistment Opportunity Act of 2013) has been introduced in Congress and if that law passes, DACA recipients will be able to join the military and as a result become lawful permanent residents and/or U.S. citizens.

Q: Will H.R. 435 allow any DACA recipient to enlist in the military?

A: No, not all DACA recipients will be eligible to enlist.  H.R. 435 will allow DACA recipients to enlist in the military if they are otherwise eligible and meet the other enlistment requirements.  The bill does not wave the other military enlistment requirements, such as education, age, physical criteria, etc.

Q: Does H.R. 435 limit what military branch a DACA recipient can join?

A: No, under H.R. 435, DACA recipients can join any branch of the military, such as the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard.

Q: How will H.R. 435 give DACA recipients a green card?

A: If H.R. 435 passes, it will allow DACA recipients to become lawful permanent residents immediately upon military enlistment through the Registry provisions (under section 249 of the INA).

This important information was provided in part by attorney Margaret D. Stock, Counsel to Lane Powell of Anchorage, Alaska and from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.  It has been added to the Scales of Justice, LLP blog page for informational purposes.  Contact Scales of Justice, LLP to discuss your case and how this information applies to you. 

The Ninth Circuit holds that detainees locked up for six months or longer are entitled to bond hearings

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has issued a landmark ruling that curtails one of the most wasteful and draconian features of our immigration lock-up system: the government’s practice of putting immigration detainees behind bars for months or even years, without ever holding a bond hearing to determine if they should be locked up in the first place.

In Rodriguez v. Robbins, the Court upheld an order requiring bond hearings for detainees locked up six months or longer while they fight their deportation cases. The ruling stands to benefit thousands of immigration detainees across the Ninth Circuit, where an estimated 25% of immigrant detainees are held every year.

The Ninth Circuit specifically rejected the government’s claims that we need mass immigration lock-up to keep our streets safe.  As the Court held: “Contrary to the government’s rhetoric, this injunction will not flood our streets with fearsome criminals seeking to escape the force of American immigration law,” but “provides individuals . . . a hearing where a neutral decision-maker can determine whether they might deserve conditional release from the prison-like setting where they might otherwise languish for months or years on end.”

Does this decision help your immigration case?  Contact Scales of Justice, LLP today to discuss your immigration case.

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