California Litigation Attorney Blog

Over the past few months, I have received quite a few calls where employers told me that they assumed their salaried employees were automatically exempt and therefore, not entitled to overtime or other statutory benefits due to nonexempt employees. This is not a good assumption. The confusion may arise because of the theory that a yearly salary, which usually exceeds a year’s worth of minimum wage by a substantial amount, sufficiently compensates the employee for any overtime. However, the Court of Appeal has held that under Labor Code section 510, “Absent an explicit, mutual wage agreement, a fixed salary does not serve to compensate an employee for the number of hours worked [pursuant to] statutory overtime requirements.” (Hernandez v. Mendoza (1988) 199 Cal.App.3d 721.) In other words, a weekly salary usually compensates the employee only for the standard forty-hour workweek rather than all hours worked in a week.

In apply the foregoing, the Court of Appeal held that an employment agreement for $300 a week served only to set the rate of pay for a standard forty-hour workweek, which works out to $7.50/hour. The employee worked significantly more than forty hours and should have been paid overtime for those excess hours using $7.50 as the regular rate of pay.

The Court of Appeal’s decision is particularly important for employers who do not require salaried employees to clock in and out because the Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the employee despite the employee’s inability to show the actual hours worked. The United States Supreme Court held that where the employer has failed to keep records required by statute, the consequences for such failure should fall on the employer, not the employee. “In such a situation, imprecise evidence by the employee can provide a sufficient basis for damages.” (Id. at 727.) This means that the employee can claim any amount of overtime and the employer must demonstrate that the employee did not actually work those hours, which becomes almost impossible if the employer did not bother to make the employ clock in and out. Lesson – have your employees clock in and out!

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Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), an intending immigrant is inadmissible as a public charge (INA §212(a)(4)) unless he/she is financially sponsored under an affidavit of support pursuant to INA §213A.  By signing the affidavit of support – a formal contract, a sponsor agrees to provide support to maintain the sponsored alien at an annual income of not less than 125% of the Federal poverty guidelines (not less than 100% for active military members sponsoring a spouse or child).

The affidavit of support is legally enforceable against the sponsor not only by the sponsored immigrant with respect to financial support (such as when an intending immigrant is living below the 125% poverty guidelines), but also by the federal government, any state, or any entity that provides any means-tested public benefit, with respect to reimbursement for public services provided. By signing the affidavit of support, the sponsor submits himself to the personal jurisdiction of any court of the United States or of any State, territory, or possession of the United States if the court has subject matter jurisdiction of a civil lawsuit to enforce the Form I-864.[1]

Federal courts have consistently found that Form I–864 is a legally binding and enforceable contract between the sponsor and the sponsored immigrant.[2]

The obligations under the affidavit of support end only when the sponsored immigrant (1) becomes a U.S. citizen, (2) has worked, or can receive credit for, 40 quarters of coverage under the Social Security Act, (3) is no longer a permanent resident and has departed the U.S., (4) is subject to removal, but applies for and obtains, in removal proceedings, a new grant of adjustment of status (permanent residency) with a new affidavit of support, or (5) dies.

Because financial obligations under the affidavit of support terminate only upon the occurrence of one of the five circumstances above, divorce will not invalidate the contract created by the affidavit of support. In fact, instructions accompanying the affidavit of support Form I-864 provide that “[d]ivorce does not terminate [the] obligation” of a sponsor to support the sponsored immigrant. (Affidavit of Support at 8).

Notwithstanding the above, the courts have recognized the defenses of set-off (i.e., receipt of spousal or child support), mitigation of damages (i.e., whether or not the sponsored immigrant made reasonable efforts to find employment), fraud, unclean hands, and others.[3]

What happens in the case of an annulment when the marriage is void ab initio or is treated as if “no valid marriage ever existed”[4] has yet to come before a court but, fraud at the inception of the marriage (a basis for annulment) would certainly provide a strong defense.

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[1] Shumye v. Felleke, 555 F. Supp. 2d 1020, 1023–24 (N.D. Cal. 2008).

[2] See e.g., Younis v. Farooqi, 597 F.Supp.2d 552 at 554 (D.Md.2009); Shumye v. Felleke, 555 F.Supp.2d 1020, 1023 (N.D.Cal.2008).

[3] Id.

[4] Pearsall v. Folsom (1956) 138 F.Supp. 939, 1941).

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Bajo la Ley de Inmigración y Nacionalidad (“INA” por sus siglas en ingles), un inmigrante es inadmisible como carga pública (INA §212 (a) (4)) a menos que él / ella sea patrocinado(a) financieramente bajo un contrato de sostenimiento según INA §213A. Al firmar el contrato de sostenimiento – un contrato formal, el patrocinador queda de acuerdo en sostener al inmigrante patrocinado con un ingreso anual de no menos del 125% de las pautas federales de pobreza (no menos del 100% para los miembros activos del servicio militar que patrocinan a un cónyuge o niño).

El contrato de sostenimiento se puede ser forzado contra el patrocinador no sólo por el inmigrante patrocinado con respecto a apoyo financiero (como cuando un inmigrante está viviendo bajo las pautas de pobreza del 125%), sino también por el gobierno federal, cualquier estado o cualquier entidad que proporcione cualquier beneficio público basado en recursos, con respecto a un reembolso  por los servicios públicos prestados. Al firmar el contrato de sostenimiento, el patrocinador se somete a la jurisdicción personal de cualquier tribunal de los Estados Unidos o de cualquier estado, territorio o posesión de los Estados Unidos si el tribunal tiene la jurisdicción o autorización para escuchar una demanda civil para hacer cumplir el Formulario I-864.[1]

Los tribunales federales han encontrado sistemáticamente que el Formulario I-864 es un contrato legalmente ejecutable entre el patrocinador y el inmigrante patrocinado.[2]

Las obligaciones bajo el contrato de sostenimiento terminan solamente cuando el inmigrante patrocinado (1) llega a ser ciudadano de los EEUU, (2) ha trabajado, o puede recibir crédito por, 40 cuartos de cobertura bajo la Ley del Seguro Social, (3) ya no es residente permanente y ha salido de los Estados Unidos, (4) está sujeto a remoción, pero solicita y obtiene, en un procedimiento de remoción, una nueva concesión de ajuste de estatus (residencia permanente) con un nuevo contrato de sostenimiento, o (5) fallece.

Debido a que las obligaciones financieras bajo el contrato de sostenimiento terminan sólo cuando ocurre una de las cinco circunstancias anteriores, el divorcio no invalidará el contrato creado por el contrato de sostenimiento. De hecho, las instrucciones que acompañan el contrato de sostenimiento en el Formulario de Apoyo I-864 estipulan que “[el] divorcio no termina la obligación” de un patrocinador de apoyar al inmigrante patrocinado. (Formulario I-864, página 8).

No obstante lo anterior, los tribunales han reconocido defensas bajo la ley de contratos como la compensación (es decir, el recibo de manutención de cónyuge o de hijo), la mitigación de los daños (es decir, si el inmigrante patrocinado ha hecho esfuerzos razonables para encontrar un empleo), fraude, entre otros.[3]

¿Qué sucede en el caso de una anulación cuando el matrimonio es nulo desde el principio o cuando se considera como si un “matrimonio válido nunca hubiese existido”?[4] Ningun tribunal ha considerado esta pregunta, pero el fraude al inicio del matrimonio (una base para la anulación) sin duda proporcionaría una defensa fuerte.

[1] Shumye v. Felleke, 555 F. Supp. 2d 1020, 1023-24 (N.D. Cal. 2008).

[2] See e.g., Younis v. Farooqi, 597 F.Supp.2d 552 at 554 (D.Md.2009); Shumye v. Felleke, 555 F.Supp.2d 1020, 1023 (N.D.Cal.2008).

[3] Id.

[4] Pearsall v. Folsom (1956) 138 F.Supp. 939, 1941).

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BankruptcyThe Supreme Court’s 2017 ruling in Jevic declared unlawful priority-skipping structured dismissals in Chapter 11 bankruptcies. This ruling calls into doubt the use of priority-skipping surcharge carve-outs under 11 U.S.C. Section 506(c).

Specifcally, on March 22, 2017, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Czyzewski v. Jevic Holding Corp., No. 15–649, 2017 WL 1066259, __ S.Ct. ___ (Mar. 22, 2017) (“Jevic”). Jevic reversed a bankruptcy court order approving a settlement that violated priorities by “earmarke[ing] . . . legal fees and administrative expenses,” and paying some to unsecured creditors, while skipping priority wage claims.

In Jevic: “The Bankruptcy Court agreed with petitioners that the settlement’s distribution scheme failed to follow ordinary priority rules. But it held that this did not bar approval. That, in the Bankruptcy Court’s view, was because the proposed payouts would occur pursuant to a structured dismissal of a Chapter 11 petition rather than an approval of a Chapter 11 plan. The court accordingly decided to grant the motion in light of the ‘dire circumstances’ facing the estate and its creditors. Specifically, the court predicted that without the settlement and dismissal, there was ‘no realistic prospect’ of a meaningful distribution for anyone other than the secured creditors. A confirmable Chapter 11 plan was unattainable. And there would be no funds to operate, investigate, or litigate were the case converted to a proceeding in Chapter 7.”

Jevic found that: “The Code’s priority system constitutes a basic underpinning of business bankruptcy law. . . .  The priority system applicable to those distributions has long been considered fundamental to the Bankruptcy Code’s operation.”

Instead, Jevic found that: “Nothing else in the Code authorizes a court ordering a dismissal to make general end-of-case distributions of estate assets to creditors of the kind that normally take place in a Chapter 7 liquidation or Chapter 11 plan–let alone final distributions that do not help to restore the status quo ante or protect reliance interests acquired in the bankruptcy, and that would be flatly impermissible in a Chapter 7 liquidation or a Chapter 11 plan because they violate priority without the impaired creditors’ consent.”

Jevic also discussed “interim distributions that violate ordinary priority rules. But in such instances one can generally find significant Code-related objectives that the priority-violating distributions serve. Courts, for example, have approved ‘first-day’ wage orders that allow payment of employees’ prepetition wages, ‘critical vendor’ orders that allow payment of essential suppliers’ prepetition invoices, and ‘roll-ups’ that allow lenders who continue financing the debtor to be paid first on their prepetition claims. In doing so, these courts have usually found that the distributions at issue would ‘enable a successful reorganization and make even the disfavored creditors better off.’”

Jevic explained: “By way of contrast, in a structured dismissal like the one ordered below, the priority-violating distribution is attached to a final disposition; it does not preserve the debtor as a going concern; it does not make the disfavored creditors better off; it does not promote the possibility of a confirmable plan; it does not help to restore the status quo ante; and it does not protect reliance interests. In short, we cannot find in the violation of ordinary priority rules that occurred here any significant offsetting bankruptcy-related justification. Rather, the distributions at issue here more closely resemble proposed transactions that lower courts have refused to allow on the ground that they circumvent the Code’s procedural safeguards.”

Jevic set forth that the policies for following statutory priorities “include changes in the bargaining power of different classes of creditors even in bankruptcies that do not end in structured dismissals. They include risks of collusion, i.e., senior secured creditors and general unsecured creditors teaming up to squeeze out priority unsecured creditors.”

Jevic quoted its prior precedent that “that courts cannot deviate from the procedures ‘specified by the Code,’ even when they sincerely ‘believ[e] that . . . creditors would be better off.'”

Jevic calls into doubt the Ninth Circuit ruling in In re Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino, Inc., 255 F.3d 1061, 1068, fn. 4 (9th Cir. 2001), which found that a “surcharge” under § 506(c) could skip priorities by providing funds directly to an administrative creditor at the expense of other creditors in order of their priorities.

Debbie Reynolds found “that a § 506(c) surcharge is not an administrative claim, but an assessment against a secured party’s collateral. [Citation.] As such, it does not come out of the debtor’s estate, but rather comes directly from the secured party’s recovery. Consequently, § 506(c) expenses do not fall within the priority scheme of the Bankruptcy Code at all.”

Debbie Reynolds “reject[ed] the BAP’s conclusion that direct distribution of the surcharge will result in a reordering of the Bankruptcy Code’s priority schedule. In re Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino, Inc., 238 B.R. 831, 840 (9th Cir. BAP 1999).”

Specifically, the BAP in Debbie Reynolds found that: “The bankruptcy court’s use of § 506(c) to circumvent § 364(c)(1) and the priority scheme of the Code was erroneous” because, “as a general rule, § 506(c) ‘is a reimbursement provision for the benefit of the estate, not an independent compensation provision available to a trustee or any other claimant seeking personal compensation.’” In re Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino, Inc., 238 B.R. 831, 840 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. 1999). The BAP’s ruling in Debbie Reynolds seems directly in line with the reasoning from Jevic.

Based on Jevic, court should adopt the reasoning from the case of In re Res. Tech. Corp., 356 B.R. 435, 444–45 (Bankr. N.D. Ill. 2006), which found that: “a § 506(c) recovery by a trustee cannot properly be paid to an individual administrative creditor . . . . Rather, because only a bankruptcy trustee may seek a § 506(c) surcharge, the surcharge can only be recovered for the benefit of the bankruptcy estate.”

Further litigation over the meaning of Jevic will clarify whether priority-skipping settlements in other contexts will also be deemed impermissible.

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Esta mañana, lunes 6 de marzo de 2017, el Presidente Trump firmó una Orden Ejecutiva revisada que prohíbe la entrada a Estados Unidos a los ciudadanos de países de mayoría Musulmana, pero esta vez excluye a ciudadanos de Irak. Se prohíbe la entrada a Estados Unidos por un período de al menos 90 días a los ciudadanos de Irán, Libia, Siria, Somalia, Sudán y Yemen. La nueva orden también prohíbe que refugiados ingresen a los Estados Unidos, aunque ahora no se hace distinción entre refugiados sirios y refugiados de otros países, y también recorta por más de la mitad del número de refugiados que se permitirán ingresar a los Estados Unidos a partir del año fiscal 2017.

En un comunicado de prensa, el Secretario de Seguridad Nacional John Kelly declaró que la nueva orden sólo aplica a los extranjeros que están fuera de los Estados Unidos y “que no tienen una visa válida,” y que no afecta a los residentes permanentes legales o personas con autorización para entrar al país. La portavoz de la Casa Blanca Sarah Huckabee Sanders declaró que la nueva orden entraría en vigor el 16 de marzo del 2017.

Esta nueva orden revisada revela algunos de los mismos términos confusos y ambiguos en su aplicación, y plantea muchas de las mismas cuestiones que la primer orden firmada el 27 de enero del 2017, incluyendo la discriminación basada en religión, violaciones del debido proceso de ley, violaciones de protección de igualdad, preocupaciones humanitarias, y otras. Seguiremos publicando más información a medida que esté disponible.

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This morning, Monday, March 6, 2017, President Trump signed a revised Executive Order banning citizens from Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the United States, but this time excluding citizens from Iraq. Citizens of the remaining banned countries, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, are prohibited from entering the U.S. for a period of at least 90-days. The new order also prohibits refugees from entering the U.S. although no distinction is made between Syrian refugees and refugees from other countries, and cuts by more than half the number of refugees that will be allowed to enter the U.S. starting with fiscal year 2017.

In a press release, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly stated the new order applies only to foreign nationals outside of the United States “who do not have a valid visa,” and that it does not affect current lawful permanent residents or persons with current authorization to enter the country. White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated the new order would take effect on March 16, 2017.  

A review of the new order reveals some of the same vague and ambiguous language on its application, and it poses many of the same issues as the first order signed on January 27, 2017, including discrimination based on religion, due process violations, equal protection violations, humanitarian concerns, and others. We will continue to post more information as it becomes available.

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On January 27, 2017, a mere two days after signing sweeping immigration Executive Orders, President Trump signed yet another Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” (the “Order”) which was implemented immediately and caused chaos at airports and outrage throughout this country and the world.

The Order, commonly-known as a “Muslim-ban,” suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, reduces the number of refugees to be admitted, bars indefinitely the admission of Syrian refugees, and bans the entry of individuals from the Muslim-majority countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian, and Yemen, for at least 90 days. As a result, anyone from these countries who sought – or were already approved for, immigrant visas to permanently reside in the U.S. or non-immigrant visas for temporary travel to the U.S. were denied entry. Incredibly, the Order was also made applicable to Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs), who have already been vetted by the government, who were returning home from business trips or vacation. Since then, the Administration has provided a number of “updates” including a couple of updates to clarify the Order is not applicable to LPRs. These updates have led to confusion and as of the writing of this blog continue to change.

Since the implementation of the Order, at least thirteen (13) lawsuits were filed against the new Administration, including a class action lawsuit, alleging Constitutional violations of procedural and substantive due process rights under the Fifth Amendment, as well as the right to readmission as LPRs; discrimination based on country of origin substantially motived by animus toward Muslims in violation of the Equal Protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment; violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by giving preference to non-Muslims; and violations of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (AILA Doc. No. 17013101).

The lawsuits yielded immediate results in the form of stays and, on February 3, 2017, U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle temporarily blocked the Order nationwide. The government quickly sought an emergency stay of Judge Robart’s order but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to immediately reinstate the ban. On February 7, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court heard oral arguments on the government’s motion, and a decision is expected later this week. Once a decision is issued by the Ninth Circuit Court, either side could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court but, as has been noted, it could prove difficult to find the required five votes given the Court has been missing its ninth justice for almost a year since Antonin Scalia’s death.

The last immigration case that reached the Justices was in 2016 when Texas and 25 other states sued the Obama Administration to prevent the implementation of deferred action for parents, which resulted in a 4-4 decision. (United States v Texas, 136 S. Ct. 2271 (2016)). The other issue is time. How and when the case will reach the U.S. Supreme Court is unknown. The “Muslim-ban” is for 90 days and the issue could be moot by the time a decision is reached by the Justices. Or, as we have seen with so many updates, the government could yet again change the Order.  

It would be wise for anyone affected by this Executive Order, especially those who intend to travel, to seek the immediate assistance of immigration counsel.

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La Orden, comúnmente conocida como “Prohibición Musulmana,” suspende por 120 días el Programa de Admisión a Refugiados de los Estados Unidos, reduce el número de refugiados que pueden ser admitidos, impide indefinidamente la admisión de refugiados del país de Siria y prohíbe la entrada de personas de países con mayoría de Musulmanes, Irán, Irak, Libia, Somalia, Sudán, Siria y Yemen, durante por lo menos 90 días. Como resultado, se les negó la entrada a cualquier persona de estos países que aplicaban – o ya estaban aprobados para, visas de inmigrante para residir permanentemente en los Estados Unidos o visas de no inmigrante para viajar temporalmente a los Estados Unidos. Increíblemente, la Orden también se hizo aplicable a los residentes legales permanentes, que ya han sido examinados por el gobierno, que estaban regresando a casa después de viajes de negocios o vacaciones. Desde entonces, la Administración ha proporcionado una serie de “actualizaciones,” incluyendo un par de actualizaciones para aclarar que la Orden no es aplicable a los residentes. Estas actualizaciones han llevado a la confusión y, desde que se escribió este blog, siguen cambiando.

Desde la implementación de la Orden se han presentado por lo menos trece (13) demandas contra la nueva Administración, incluyendo una demanda colectiva, alegando violaciones Constitucionales de los derechos procesales y sustantivos del debido proceso bajo la Quinta Enmienda, así como el derecho a readmisión como Residentes Permanentes; discriminación basada en el país de origen sustancialmente motivada por la animosidad hacia los musulmanes en violación del componente de Protección Igual de la Cláusula del Debido Proceso de la Quinta Enmienda; violaciones de la Cláusula de Establecimiento de la Primera Enmienda dando preferencia a los no musulmanes; y violaciones de la Ley de Procedimiento Administrativo y la Ley de Restauración de la Libertad Religiosa.

Las demandas dieron resultados inmediatos en forma de estancias y, el 3 de febrero del 2017, el Juez de la Corte de Distrito Estadounidense en Seattle, James Robart, bloqueó temporalmente la Orden en todo el país. El gobierno rápidamente buscó una suspensión de emergencia de la orden del Juez Robart pero el Tribunal de Apelaciones del Noveno Circuito se negó a restablecer inmediatamente la prohibición. El 7 de febrero del 2017, el Tribunal de Apelaciones del Noveno Circuito escuchó argumentos orales sobre la moción del gobierno, y se espera una decisión a finales de esta semana. Una vez que una decisión es emitida por el Tribunal de Apelaciones, cualquiera de las partes podría apelar a la Corte Suprema de los EE.UU. pero, como se ha señalado, podría resultar difícil encontrar los cinco votos requeridos dado que la Corte ha estado operando con ocho Jueces durante casi un año desde la muerte de Antonin Scalia.

El último caso de inmigración que llegó a los jueces fue en 2016 cuando Texas y otros 25 estados demandaron a la Administración Obama para impedir la implementación de acciones diferidas para los padres, la que resultó en una decisión de 4-4. (United States vs Texas, 136 S. Ct. 2271 (2016)). La otra cuestión es de tiempo. Se desconoce cómo y cuándo llegará el caso a la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos. La “prohibición de los musulmanes” termina dentro de 90 días y la cuestión podría ser sin discusión cuando los Jueces lleguen a tomas una decisión. O, como hemos visto con tantas actualizaciones, el gobierno podría cambiar nuevamente la Orden.

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Most construction agreements between general contractors and subcontractors contain indemnity provisions that obligate the subcontractor to defend and hold harmless the general contractor from any claim growing out of the subcontractor’s work.  (See e.g., Crawford v. Weather Shield Mfg., Inc. (2008) 44 Cal.4th 541, 547-48.)  Under these types of provisions, when any party makes a claim against the general contractor, the general contractor may tender its defense to the subcontractor in an effort to force the subcontractors to pick up the general contractor’s attorneys’ fees or pay a quick settlement to avoid the cost of litigation.  Simply refusing to pay may create a perverse incentive for the general contractor’s attorney to churn the file because the attorney represents the general contractor, but the attorney will ultimately seek those fees against the subcontractor who failed to pick up the defense obligations.   Many subcontractors incorrectly assume that their defense and indemnify obligations arise only after a finding of fault or at least, some finding of a connection between the subcontractor’s work and the claim against the general contractor.  In reality, the specific language of the indemnity provision controls.  The misconceptions may be attributable to the misunderstanding of Crawford.

In that case, the indemnity provision obligated the window installation subcontractor to indemnify the developer from all claims “growing out of the execution of [its] work” and to defend and indemnify the general from all actions “founded upon the claim of such damage.”  (44 Cal.4th at 547-48.)  Several homeowners filed suit against the developer alleging that the windows had been improperly designed, manufactured, and installed.  (Id. at 548.)  The developer filed a suit for indemnity against the subcontractor, which contended that the duty to defend and indemnify only arose after a court determined that the subcontractor performed negligently.  (Id. at 548-49.)  The Supreme Court held that the subcontractor’s duty to defend “arose when such claim was made” based on the interpretation of the specific indemnity provision at issue, which referenced any “claim” and contained a singular clause for defense and indemnity.  (Id. at 558.)

Although Crawford seems straightforward, the case is often cited for the proposition that the subcontractor’s obligations always arise when a claim is made, presumably because the Supreme Court held that the subcontractor had to defend the developer.  For example, the Court of Appeal characterized Crawford as “holding that a contractual indemnitor incurs a duty to defend the indemnitee as soon as the indemnitee tenders its defense to the indemnitor.”  (UDC-Universal Development v. CH2M Hill (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 10, 15.) However, the Court of Appeal’s interpretation went too far as the Supreme Court emphasized that its interpretation was based upon the particular provision at issue.  (Crawford, supra, 44 Cal.4th at 567.) Not every defense and indemnity provision is the same.  Consequently, subcontractors looking to avoid paying out defense costs prior to a finding of liability or based on any “claim” should evaluate the language used in their indemnity provisions and consider adding language distinguishing it from the provision in Crawford.

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On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed two Executive Orders, which impacted immigrants nationwide. No doubt you have heard about the building of a physical wall on the border with Mexico and back and forth argument on who will bear the cost. The impact of the Executive Orders, however, is much more serious than who gets to pay for the wall or than what has been reported on the news. In an attempt to avoid information overload, this blog will focus only on the more problematic aspects of each Order.

            The first Executive Order entitled “Border Security and immigration Enforcement” was signed on January 25, 2017 and it directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allocate funds to construct a physical wall on the border with Mexico and detention facilities. In addition, the EO directs DHS to “empower [s]tate and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer” (EO, Sec. 10) under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In other words, state and local law enforcement will have the authority to investigate, apprehend, or detain aliens. These types of agreements under INA 287(g) were reduced significantly during the Obama administration because they were problematic and led to racial profiling and due process violations. Even more troubling is that, in conjunction with 287(g) agreements, the EO expands “expedited removal” to allow the removal of undocumented individual – including those with U.S. citizen spouses and children, without ever seeing an immigration judge. (AILA Doc. No. 17012505). Needless to say, the cost involved in building a wall is minimal next to the due process violations that are likely to occur when empowering state and local authorities to act as immigration officers, and when removing individuals without a court hearing.

            The second Executive Order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” was also signed on January 25, 2017 and it increases Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resources by hiring additional officers. Troubling, however, is the new enforcement priorities which basically changes the definition of who is a “criminal” for immigration purposes. In essence, the EO makes every undocumented individual a priority for removal, including those who “have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved,” those who “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense,” and, broadly, those who “otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security” (EO, Sec. 5). Under the language of the EO, priorities could also include those who have been charged with minor offenses such as jaywalking as well as those who have overstayed their visas. The EO raises serious due process concerns. For instance, anyone charged with a crime – but not yet convicted, could be subject of removal prior to resolution of their state case. In addition, the definition of who “pose[s] a risk to public safety or national security” is left to the discretion of the arresting Federal, state, or local agent. (AILA Doc. No. 17012506).

            Needless to say, the implications of each Executive Order are many, and anyone who is impacted by the Orders should immediately seek the advice of competent counsel.

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El 25 de enero del 2017, el Presidente Trump firmó dos Órdenes Ejecutivas que afectaron a inmigrantes en todo el país. No hay duda de que usted ha oído hablar de la construcción de un muro en la frontera con México y  argumento sobre quién va a pagar el costo. El impacto de las Órdenes Ejecutivas, sin embargo, es mucho más serio de quien va a pagar por el muro o lo que se ha informado en las noticias. En un intento por evitar la sobrecarga de información, este blog se centrará sólo en los aspectos más problemáticos de cada orden.

            La primera Orden Ejecutiva firmada el 25 de enero del 2017 es titulada “Seguridad Fronteriza y Cumplimiento con la Ley de Inmigración,” y ordena al Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS por sus siglas en inglés) a asignar fondos para construir un muro físico en la frontera con México y más centros de detención. Además, ordena a DHS que “autorice a las agencias estatales y locales a desempeñar las funciones de un oficial de inmigración” bajo la sección 287(g) de la Ley de Inmigración y Nacionalidad (INA por sus siglas en inglés). En otras palabras, las autoridades estatales y locales tendrán la autoridad para investigar o detener a los extranjeros. Estos tipos de acuerdos bajo INA 287(g) se redujeron significativamente durante la administración de Obama porque eran problemáticos y facilitaron la discriminación racial y violaciones de debido proceso legal. Aún más preocupante es que, en conjunto con los acuerdos 287(g), la Orden Ejecutiva amplía la “expulsión acelerada” para permitir la remoción de los Estados Unidos de personas indocumentadas -incluyendo aquellas con cónyuges e hijos ciudadanos, sin ver jamás a un juez de inmigración. No hace falta decir que el costo involucrado en la construcción de un muro es mínimo al lado de las anticipadas violaciones del debido proceso legal cuando se faculta a las autoridades estatales y locales para actuar como oficiales de inmigración, y de igual manera el remover a personas sin una audiencia judicial.

            La segunda Orden Ejecutiva también firmada el 25 de enero del 2017 es titulada “Fortalecer la Seguridad Pública en el Interior de los Estados Unidos,” y aumenta los recursos del Servicio de Inmigración y Aduanas de Estados Unidos (ICE por sus siglas en inglés) al contratar oficiales adicionales. Sin embargo, lo más preocupante de esta Orden es que básicamente cambia la definición de quién es un “criminal” para fines de inmigración. La Orden hace que cada persona indocumentada sea prioridad para la remoción, incluyendo a aquellos personas que “han sido acusados de algún delito, donde no se ha resuelto esa acusación,” aquellos que “han cometido actos que constituyen un delito penal,” y, ampliamente, aquellos que “de otra manera representan un riesgo para la seguridad pública o la seguridad nacional”. Bajo el lenguaje de esta Orden, las prioridades también podrían incluir a aquellos que han sido acusados de delitos menores, tales como la imprudencia peatonal, así como aquellos que se han quedado en al país después del vencimiento de sus visas. La Orden plantea graves problemas de debido proceso legal. Por ejemplo, cualquier persona acusada de un delito – pero aún no condenado, podría ser objeto de la eliminación antes de la resolución de su caso estatal. Además, la definición de quién “plantea un riesgo para la seguridad pública o la seguridad nacional” se deja a la discreción del agente federal, estatal o local que lo arresta.

            Huelga decir que las implicaciones de cada Orden Ejecutiva son muchas, y cualquiera persona que sea afectado por las Órdenes debe inmediatamente buscar asesoría legal de un abogado con experiencia.

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Domestic violence occurs in all communities irrespective of ethnic or socioeconomic backgrounds. Immigrant women and children, however, are particularly vulnerable since the U.S. citizen (USC) or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse is able to use immigration as yet another means of controlling the victim.

In 1994, Congress recognized the plight of abused immigrants and their children by enacting the Violence Against Women Act which amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to allow abused immigrant spouses and their children to obtain permanent residence by self-petitioning before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). “Self-petitioning” means to request status independently, without the involvement or knowledge of the abusive USC or LPR spouse. VAWA 1994 was subsequently amended by the Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act (VAWA 2000) and again by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2005. It is important to note that, despite the name, relief under VAWA is available to abused spouses regardless of gender.

Currently, a self-petition under VAWA may be filed by (1) abused spouses of USCs or LPRs; (2) spouses of USCs or LPRs whose children have been abused by the USC or LPR spouse; (3) abused “intended spouses” of USCs or LPRs (an “intended spouse” is one who marries a USC or LPR in good faith but then learns that the marriage is not legitimate because the USC or LPR is still married to someone else (see INA §101(a)(50)); (4) abused children of USCs or LPRs; and (5) abused parents of USCs who qualify as immediate relatives (abusive USC must be at least 21 years old). (INA §201(a)(1)). In addition, other than the last category, applicants may include their children as derivative beneficiaries even if the children are not related to the abuser and even if the children have not been abused. (8 CFR §204.2(c)(4)).

The requirements for a self-petition vary slightly depending on whether the self-petitioner is a spouse, child, or parent. A spouse or “intended spouse” must show the following:

(1) Good Moral Character, generally for the last three years preceding the filing of the self-petition (8 CFR §204.2(c)(1)(vii)). Waivers may be available to those who meet eligibility requirements.

(2) Marriage to a USC or LPR. An abused spouse who has since divorce or whose spouse has died within the past two years may self-petition. (INA §§204(a)(1)(A)(iii)(II)(aa)(CC)(ccc), (A)(vi), (B)(ii)(II)(aa)(CC)(bbb)).

(3) Good faith marriage. A self-petitioning spouse must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the marriage or intended marriage was entered into in good faith.

(4) That during the marriage, the spouse was battered or subject of extreme cruelty committed by the USC or LPR spouse. (INA §204(a)(1)(A)(iii)(bb), (iv), (B)(ii)(I)(bb), (iii)). Abuse is defined as “any act or threatened act of violence, including any forceful detention, which results or threatens to result in physical or mental injury.” It includes psychological abuse, rape, incest, and forced prostitution. (8 CFR §§204.2(c)(1)(vi), (e)(2)(vi)).

(5) Residence, in the past or presently, with the USC or LPR spouse, and

(6) The abuse spouse’s current residence in the United States or, if living abroad, that the abusing spouse is an employee of the U.S. government, member of the uniformed services, or that the battery or extreme cruelty occurred in the United States. (INA §§201(a)(1)(A),(B)).

As you can see from this discussion, there are many nuances involved in the VAWA application process and every case requires a thorough analysis and assessment of the particular facts of each case.

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