2014 June

Amara’s scars: Rape victim fights for political asylum

By | Clients | No Comments

Amara (not her real name) was beaten and raped by low level government employees in Ethiopia. Then she was abused by the American immigration court system.

I met Amara after her application for asylum had been denied. She was in the immigration court system and the US government was seeking to remove her from the United States. She turned to a nonprofit organization, which in turn referred her case to me, to renew her claim for asylum in front of an immigration judge.

 What was the crime that the Ethiopian government workers punished Amara for? She had been born and raised during a peaceful time. But during a time of border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Amara had the temerity to be of mixed Ethiopian-Eritrean descent. She had left the country before the tensions erupted, living in Italy and studying hairdressing. But when the tensions increased, her family, including her husband, disappeared. So Amara went back to Ethiopia to look for them.

 Upon her return, she was arrested at the airport based on her Eritrean ethnicity. She was held in a cell for several days, during which she suffered unspeakable abuse. On her release, the officers handed Amara a deportation order and told her to leave the country. She remained for a few weeks, hiding at a friend’s home to recover from her ordeal. Then she made her way to the United States, where she applied for political asylum. She was terrified to return to Ethiopia.

But Amara had a weak case. All she had to support it was her own testimony and two original documents from Ethiopia: the deportation order and her marriage certificate. The government attorney who was attempting to have Amara removed from the United States sent the documents out for forensic examination. An analyst who knew nothing about Ethiopia concluded that the documents were false. Although the government attorney had this information for six months, she chose to blindside Amara and me with the analyst’s report on the day of Amara’s hearing. The immigration judge found nothing wrong with this abuse of process, and allowed the testimony to proceed.

 In an attempt to be fair, the immigration judge told me that I could have a second hearing date, when I would have the opportunity to rebut the analyst’s testimony. My witness on that day was an emeritus professor who had spent some fifty years studying and teaching about Ethiopia, had lived in Ethiopia for several years, and had learned the native language, Amharic. Yet the judge would not allow him to speak because he was not a forensics expert.

In her decision denying Amara’s political asylum, the judge relied heavily on the evidence with which I had been blindsided, and which I had not been allowed to rebut. She substituted her own professional judgment for that of my client’s therapist, and misstated several facts of the case.

The Board of Immigration Appeals rubber stamped the immigration judge’s decision.

 Finally, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest federal court in Illinois, reversed the denials, calling for a new, unbiased judge to finalize the case in immigration court. Amara finally won political asylum, more than five years from the day she started the process.

 During the five years, Amara had to prepare for trial over and over, rehashing the story of her torture and rape, because of the government attorney’s delays. After the Board of Immigration Appeals denied her case, while she was waiting for the federal court to rule, she lost her right to work in the United States for over three months and had to survive on the charity of friends.

There are many thousands of stories like Amara’s; those who have sought the refuge promised by the words on the Statue of Liberty, only to learn how far this country has come from the spirit of those words.

Official DACA renewal process was finally announced

By | Deferred Action Status, Uncategorized | No Comments

On Thursday, USCIS finally released the new revised form I-821D for both Initial DACA applications and Renewal DACA applications. As of June 5, 2014, all DACA applications, both initial and renewal must be submitted on the new I-821D form.

Here is an overview of the requirements for filing a DACA renewal application:

When to file? 

  • You should submit your DACA renewal application no sooner than 150 days prior to the expiration of your status.
  • In order to avoid accruing unlawful presence you should submit your DACA renewal application no later than 120 days prior to the expiration of your status.
  • You may submit your DACA renewal application up to one year after the expiration of your status. However, as soon as your DACA status expires, you begin accruing unlawful presence, and your employment authorization is no longer valid.

What to file?

  • You must submit your DACA renewal application with 2 passport photographs and a copy of your current employment authorization card showing that you have DACA status.
  • If you have traveled without advance parole since August 15, 2012, you must include evidence of your travel
  • If you have incurred any new criminal arrests, charges, or convictions, for which USCIS does not have any records of, you must include those in your renewal application.

As you may notice, there is no requirement to submit evidence that you are still enrolled in school or that you have graduated from any program you were previously enrolled in. However, we encourage all DACA recipients to complete their courses of study or to continue to pursue an education as these requirements could change in the future.

To find out more about the renewal process or even about the initial filing process, please visit USCIS Frequently Asked Questions page (http://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-process/frequently-asked-questions).

Immigrants Keep Horse Lovers on Edge

By | Outstanding Immigrants | No Comments

Horse racing

It has been 36 years since the horse racing community has produced a “Triple Crown” winner – a horse that wins the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and then the Belmont Stakes. This year many people thought it would happen.

California Chrome, a horse that was owned by two newcomers to the racing community, won the first two races. One hundred thousand in-person viewers, as well as millions in front of their TV’s, were on the edge of their seats for the final race, the Belmont Stakes on June 7, 2014. Would it be a historical moment or not? Unfortunately for the history books, Tonalist, a 9-1 longshot, won the race.

But the story goes way beyond the horses. It takes countless hours of training and practice to get the horses to their moment of glory. And in the final moments, no matter how well-trained the horses are, the victory is in the hands of the jockey.

In the Belmont Stakes, would it be the Domincan or the Mexican jockey who brought the crowd to their feet? Many years before the 2014 horse races, Victor Espinoza was born on a dairy farm in Mexico, the 11th of 12 children. He loved riding horses, and at the age of 15 he traveled to assist his brother with training quarter horses. Later, at the age of 17, he paid for jockey school by driving a bus in Mexico City.

By 1994, Espinoza had moved to Northern California and become the leading apprentice rider at the Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields racetracks. Fast forward to 2002, where he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness by riding War Emblem. Again in 2014 he had the same two nationally recognized accomplishments riding on California Chrome.

But once again, the day of the Belmont Stakes, Espinoza was to lose his bid for the Triple Crown. Espinoza’s challenger was Joel Rosario, a Dominican who had enrolled in jockey school and had his jockey’s license by the age of 14. He found his way to the United States and won his first Breeders’ Cup race in 2009, riding on Dancing in Silks. He came to national attention in 2013 by winning the Kentucky Derby on Orb. After numerous other nationally recognized appearances, Rosario ruined Espinoza’s Triple Crown quest by winning the Belmont Stakes on Tonalist.

Americans were enthralled by this contest between two outstanding immigrants!

H-1B cap and denials have prevented job creation and wage growth for US-born tech workers

By | Employment-Sponsored Immigration, Politics, Tech Workers, USCIS, Visas | No Comments

it office

The Partnership for a New American Economy’s new report, Closing Economic Windows: How H-1B Visa Denials Cost U.S.-Born Tech Workers Jobs and Wages During the Great Recession, shows how existing H-1B visa lottery caps disproportionately hurt American-born tech workers by slowing job and wage growth in more than 200 metropolitan areas across the United States. H-1B visa denials in 2007 and 2008 caused these areas to miss out on creating as many as 231,224 tech jobs for American-born workers in the years that followed and cost U.S.-born, college-educated workers in computer-related fields as much as $3 billion in aggregate annual earnings.

Key report findings include:

  • The high number of H-1B visa applications that were eliminated in the 2007-2008 visa lotteries represented a major lost opportunity for U.S.-born workers and the American economy overall. The rejection of 178,000 H1-B visa applications in computer related fields in the 2007 and 2008 H-1B visa lotteries caused U.S metropolitan areas to miss out on creating as many as 231,224 often highly-sought after tech jobs for U.S.-born workers in the two years that followed. The total number of U.S.-born workers with computer-related jobs would have exceeded 2 million by 2010 with that additional employment.
  • The U.S. tech industry would have grown substantially faster in the years immediately after the recession if not for the large number of visas that didn’t make it through the 2007 and 2008 H-1B visa lotteries. The number of jobs for U.S.-born workers in computer-related industries would have grown at least 55 percent faster between 2005-2006 and 2009-2010, if not for the applications eliminated in the recent H-1B visa lotteries. Computer firms could have added as many as three times more jobs for U.S.-born workers than they actually did during that period without all the unsuccessful H-1B visa applications.
  • U.S.-born workers without bachelor’s degrees were disproportionately hurt by the H-1B visa lotteries in 2007-2008. Because less-educated tech workers often play valuable roles supporting the work of high-skilled engineers, programmers, and others, they were particularly impacted by recent H-1B trends. By 2009-2010, U.S. metropolitan areas lacked as many as 188,582 computer-related jobs for U.S.-born workers without a college degree as a direct result of the large number of applications that were eliminated in the 2007 and 2008 H-1B visa lotteries. The number of positions missing from the economy for U.S.-born, college-educated tech workers, in contrast, was between 24,280 and 42,642.
  • The H-1B visa lotteries in 2007 and 2008—and the denials resulting from them—greatly slowed wage growth for workers in computer-related industries. In 2009, the 1.1 million U.S.-born, college-educated workers in computer-related fields missed out on as much as $3 billion in aggregate annual earnings as a direct result of the large number of applications that were unsuccessful in the H-1B visa lotteries in the 2007-2008 period. From 2005-2006 to 2009-2010, wages for college-educated, U.S.-born workers with computer-related jobs grew by 1.7 percent. Without the earlier visa lotteries, their wages could have grown by as much as 4.9 percent during that period.
  • For some cities, the H-1B visa lotteries in 2007 and 2008 had a particularly large impact.  In New York City and Northeast New Jersey, the large number of H-1B visas that didn’t make it through the lottery for workers in computer-related fields caused the local economy to miss out on creating as many as 28,005 jobs for native-born workers in those industries by 2009-2010. The Washington, DC metropolitan area, including parts of Virginia and Maryland, lost the opportunity to create as many as 30,222 computer-related jobs for U.S.-born workers during that period; Chicago and Dallas Forth Worth passed up the opportunity to create as many as 27,329 such positions together.

This report was prepared for the Partnership for a New American Economy by Giovanni Peri, University of California, Davis and the National Bureau of Economic Research; Kevin Shih, University of California, Davis; and Chad Sparber, Colgate University.