Recent Developments on South Carolina’s New Immigration Law

December 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Recently, a federal judge blocked many provisions of South Carolina’s new immigration law from taking effect on January 1, 2012, including a requirement for law officers to check the legal status of people they pull over if officers suspect they are in the US illegally.

US District Judge Richard Gergel also blocked certain sections making it a state crime not to carry immigration documentation or for illegal immigrants to transport or house themselves.

“While the Court does not doubt the good faith of the South Carolina General Assembly in attempting to address the immigration issue, the Constitution of the US and the INA have placed the policy-making role regarding immigration in the hands of the national government,” the judge wrote. “It is clear to the Court that Congress did not intend to allow the state any further role beyond arresting persons allegedly harboring or transporting unlawfully present persons.”

The federal government had earlier sued South Carolina challenging the constitutionality of the law set to take effect on the New Year day. The federal government and civil rights groups that also includes the American Civil Liberties Union wanted to block the act of checking the immigration status of suspects pulled over by the police. One can be questioned following a stop or arrest for something else, and stops the officers from holding someone solely on that suspicion. Some were also of the view that it would encourage racial profiling.

During the hearing, the judge referred to the provision as the “traffic dragnet” and ruled that it would ultimately capture far more “low priority targets” than was necessary and leading to complicating federal immigration enforcement efforts. Previously, Gergel also denied the state’s request that the law proceed as scheduled and that he suspend all court hearings on the case until the US Supreme Court rules to Arizona’s similar law.

In addition to these, a federal appeals court turned down requests by Georgia and Alabama to delay action on challenges to their own new illegal immigration laws pending the outcome of the US Supreme Court decision. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has also requested for such a delay for their new law. According to a spokesman for South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, other sections of the law would go into effect on the New Year day. State prosecutors have said the country’s high court will most likely rule in six months or less.

The judge in his ruling, has said blocking the whole law would have phased out sections that are clearly lawful, like a requirement that all employers check their new foreign national employees’ legal status through a federal online system. Businesses found to violate the law could have their operating licenses revoked. Gergel was also not impressed on the state’s contention that the new law will help federal authorities control immigration issues.



Crimes That Can Prevent You From Getting US Citizenship

August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

You have to meet many eligibility requirements to qualify for American citizenship. One important requirement is that you should be a person of good moral character. If you commit certain crimes during the five years prior to filing the citizenship form or even if you lie during their naturalization interview, you will not be considered to be of “good moral character” and your case will be denied.

A few of the behaviors that show lack of good moral character are drunk driving or being drunk most of the time, illegal gambling, prostitution, telling lies to gain immigration benefits, failing to pay court-ordered child support, committing terrorist acts, persecuting someone because of race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or social group.

Certain crimes will bar you from becoming an American citizen and if you commit those, you probably will be removed from the country. These crimes are generally known “bars” to naturalization. Crimes that come under “aggravated felonies” are murder, rape, sexual abuse of a child, violent assault, treason, and illegal trafficking in drugs, firearms, or people and will result in permanent bars to naturalization.

Persons exempted or discharged from serving in the US Armed Forces and those who deserted from the US Armed Forces are also permanently barred from American Citizenship. The chances of citizenship getting denied is more if you behave in other ways that show you do not have good moral character. There are other crimes that result in temporary bars. Temporary bars prevent you from becoming a US citizen for up to five years since you committed the crime.

While filing the citizenship form, it is very important that you are transparent in disclosing any crime that you committed. Even if the crime was removed from your record or you committed a crime before your 18th birthday, it is mandatory that you report it. If you try to hide such information, citizenship will denied and will also lead to your prosecution. So always be transparent and truthful with the information you provide in your application.

Immigration process, at times can be sophisticated. You can avail the services of a licensed immigration lawyer for any assistance. You can get in touch with your local bar association for assistance in finding a qualified lawyer. Some states certify specialists in US immigration law. However, it is up to decide whether to hire a particular attorney. If you do not have enough money to hire a lawyer, you have some low cost or free assistance options. You can get help from:

  • A Recognized Organization : To qualify, the organization should have adequate knowledge and experience to offer services to those seeking. Such organizations are recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). They charge or accept a very minimal fee for such assistance.
  • An Accredited Representative : Such persons,connected to BIA “recognized organizations” too offer services and charge a minimal fee for the services they render.
  • A Qualified Representative : These persons offer free services. They should have sufficient knowledge in US immigration laws and the rules of practice in court. Law school students and graduates and people with good moral character who have a personal or professional affiliation come under “qualified representatives”.
  • Free Legal Service Providers : There are many attorneys and organizations available to represent immigrants in proceedings before Immigration Courts. Attorneys and organizations help immigrants without accepting any fees only in immigration proceedings. Some may not be able to help you with non-court-related issues such as visa petitions, naturalization, etc.

Initiative to Combat Immigration Services Scams

June 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

The US government started a multi-agency, nationwide initiative to combat immigration services scams. The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are in the forefront in this initiative. This initiative aims at immigration scams involving the unauthorized practice of immigration law (UPIL), which happens when legal advice and/or representation regarding US immigration matters is given by an individual who is not an attorney or accredited representative.

This initiative is based on three pillars—enforcement, education and continued collaboration—formed to prevent UPIL scams and prosecute those who are responsible and also to educate immigrants about these scams and how to avoid them; and inform immigrants about the legal immigration process and where to find legitimate legal advice. The Department of Justice is investigating and prosecuting many cases against so-called “notarios.” Last year, DOJ has worked with investigators at the FBI, ICE, and USCIS, and with state and local partners, to secure convictions—with sentences up to eight years in prison and forfeiture and restitution of over $1.8 million. This is apart from the many actions at the state and local levels that have been filed against individuals and businesses engaged in immigration services scams.

In a recent case in West Palm Beach, Fla., ICE Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested an individual on May 26 who had posed as an attorney and processed more than 3,000 fraudulent immigration applications.

Meanwhile, FTC has created a new Immigration Services code in the Consumer Sentinel Network, its online consumer complaint database, thus making it easier for consumers to alert law enforcement about these scams. Sentinel is a secure online database that has more than 6 million consumer fraud complaints. Sentinel will act as an investigative tool for USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security officers, and will support communication between organizations on immigration services scam-related cases.

USCIS’s efforts will be primarily aimed at providing immigrants with the information they need to make informed choices when seeking legal advice and representation on immigration matters. USCIS has also unveiled a new brochure, a poster, public service announcements for use on radio and in print publications, billboard and transit ads, and a new Web resource center that includes a video.

To bolster this effort, DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and FTC will produce and distribute educational materials for different populations that may be affected by immigration services scams. Driven by a continuing dialogue with DOJ, the City Bar of New York, the New York State Bar Association, the New York Office of the Attorney General, the Katzmann Study Group, and nongovernmental organizations, a legal training program will be launched this summer in New York City to expand the pool of lawyers who can assist in immigration matters.

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