Articles Posted in Family Visas

1206728_21045799_03192012.jpgThe Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a federal law that provides for additional resources for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes committed against women, including immigration provisions protecting people who may lack legal status but also need protection from an abusive spouse, parent, or child. After two renewals of the law in 2000 and 2005, it is up for reauthorization again in 2012.

Several Democratic Senators brought VAWA up for renewal again on Thursday, March 15, in the midst of an already-charged political climate. With debates over issues like insurance coverage of contraception dominating the news in recent weeks, this is either a very opportune time to bring up this issue, or a very bad time. It is important to note, however, that VAWA offers important protections to immigrants who may have a valid claim to a green card or visa, but who cannot obtain one because of a bad domestic situation.
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1353719_33392970_02242012.jpgLidiane Carmo’s family came to the United States twelve years ago. Lidiane was only a toddler at the time. They arrived here from Brazil with nonimmigrant visas, but they remained after the visas expired. According to friends and relatives, the family always wanted to become legal U.S. residents, but they never had a legal mechanism to do so. The family settled in suburban Atlanta, where Lidiane’s father co-founded a church and became one of its pastors. By all accounts, Lidiane became a “regular American girl.” She has little knowledge of her native Brazil and can barely speaks Portuguese.

Today she is a high school freshman, age 15, who has survived an unspeakable tragedy. On January 29, she and her family were returning home from Orlando, Florida, where they had attended a church conference. They were involved in a massive car accident, allegedly brought on by smoke from a brush fire that blinded drivers on Interstate 75 near Gainesville. Lidiane’s father, mother, and 17 year-old sister died in the crash, along with her uncle and his girlfriend. Lidiane was the only survivor from her family’s vehicle, a church van. The multi-vehicle crash killed a total of eleven people and injured eighteen more. Lidiane suffered serious injuries requiring at least two surgeries so far.
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224884_5022_02202012.jpgA gay couple on Long Island learned last month that they have achieved a victory, albeit a temporary one, in their struggle to keep one of them in the United States legally. After several New York politicians spoke on the couple’s behalf, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) granted a reprieve to Tim Smulian, a 65 year-old citizen of South Africa, so that he may stay and care for his husband, 70 year-old New York native Edwin Blesch.

Smulian and Blesch were married in South Africa in 1999. Their marriage is legally recognized by both the state of New York and Suffolk County, where they reside. Federal law, under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), does not recognize their marriage. Smulian is in the United States on a tourist visa, which he must renew annually. Since 1999, he and Blesch have spent six months in the U.S. and six months abroad. Blesch is suffering from HIV, and he suffered a series of mini-strokes a few years ago, along with other complications from his illness. He is therefore no longer able to travel with Smulian. Smulian is trained to care for HIV patients and is Blesch’s primary caregiver.
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1320722_90126592_02162012.jpgU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it will no longer approve its standard international adoption forms for United States residents seeking to adopt children from Vietnam. It bases this decision on a finding by the Department of State (DOS) that Vietnam has not complied with its responsibilities under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). For now, people wanting to adopt a child from Vietnam must wait until DOS determines that Vietnam can comply with the Convention.

The Hague Adoption Convention is an international convention that governs adoption between countries and guards against child trafficking. It went into effect on May 1, 1995 and is centrally administered by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH). Eighty-five countries are signatories, and eighty-two of those countries have ratified the Convention. The United States signed the Convention in 1994, but did not ratify it until 2007. It went into force in the U.S. on April 1, 2008. The Convention took effect in Vietnam this month, according to HCCH.
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Thumbnail image for dreamstime_7852193The Kansas legislature introduced a bill that would allow some undocumented immigrants to work in industries that are facing worker shortages. The Kansas Business, Workers, Communities Partnership Act would create a state program that grants employment authorization to local undocumented immigrants who are considered to be a low-priority for deportation. The bill, HB 2603, comes this year as many immigration proposals are expected as state legislatures across the country begin their 2012 sessions.

Supporters of the Kansas bill say it addresses the issue of dealing with the undocumented foreign nationals living in the state, and that it also may avoid crisis in agriculture and other areas. Critics argue that there is no legal way to hire such workers, but the coalition claims they have a creative approach.
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dreamstime_21176[1].JPGPresident Obama proposed to eliminate country-specific caps for certain immigrant visa categories to stimulate small-business growth. Country-specific immigrant caps are limits on the number of immigrant visa the United States will grant each year. According to a White House statement, the purpose is to attract more high skilled foreign workers, including entrepreneurs to the United States. Employers, especially those in the technology business, complain that these caps prevent them from hiring skilled workers and growing their companies in the United States.

Obama called for a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and if this is not politically possible, he will seek reforms in smaller steps. “If election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses and defend this country,” Obama said.
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862490_29326952_02022012.jpgMissouri may join the list of states with their own immigration laws that rival the federal government’s traditional enforcement role. A bill introduced in the Missouri Legislature by Republican State Senator Will Kraus would require state and local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone stopped by police with reasonable cause. The law would also make it a misdemeanor not to carry documentation of citizenship. These provisions are similar to the laws passed in Arizona and Alabama. The Missouri bill would also require school officials to verify students’ immigration status. This has led to much criticism that the law would damage education and cause extensive racial profiling and harassment of children.

Laws currently on the books in Arizona and Alabama also make state and local law enforcement responsible for checking immigration statuses if they have reasonable suspicion that a person may not have legal status. Since immigration status is determined based on federal law, and immigration laws are principally enforced by federal agencies, this has created a conflict between state and federal law enforcement. Local police may not have the particular training and expertise to enforce federal immigration laws and regulations. Immigration regulations change on a regular basis. The state laws have also raised concerns that local police will engage in racial profiling, targeting individuals who, in essence, do not look “American.”
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Mexican Family.jpgMany spouses and children of U.S. citizens qualify for legal immigration status, but are required to file the application overseas at their country of origin because they are unlawfully present in the U.S., also called “entering without inspection.” If they were unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 180 days, and then they go overseas, there is a law that bars them from reentering the U.S. for 3 years. This bar increases to 10 years if the illegal stay is longer than one year. This creates a catch-22 because if they leave the U.S. to apply for legal immigration status, they will be unable to reenter for 3 to 10 years. So, rather than go overseas to apply for legal status, many simply remain unlawfully in the U.S. to avoid being separated from their family for several years.

Many people who would be subject to the 3 or 10 year bar may be eligible for certain hardship waivers to allow them to return to the US after they apply for legal status overseas despite the 3 and 10 year bar. But critics say this process is lengthy and flawed. They are required to remain overseas until the waiver is granted before they can reenter the U.S., which is a process that can take from months to years, and there is no guarantee that the waiver will be granted. Therefore, many do not risk going overseas to apply for the waiver.
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Sheriff Arpaio.jpgMiriam Mendiola-Martinez, a foreign national of Mexico, filed a lawsuit in Arizona last week against Maricopa County Sheriff, Joseph M. Arpaio alleging that she was mistreated while she was pregnant as an inmate in the Sheriff’s jail. She was six months pregnant when she was arrested in 2009 on charges of identity theft. The suit states that her Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by the MCSO’s infliction of cruel and unusual punishment, deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs, and disparate treatment. The lawsuit alleges that MCSO and Maricopa Medical Center’s unconstitutional policies, practices, acts and omissions, Ms. Mendiola-Martinez suffered immediate and irreparable injury, including physical, psychological and emotional injury and risk of death.

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Mendiola-Martinez was undernourished at the jail due to what jail staff called a “special” pregnancy diet. These pregnancy meals consisted of items such as two slices of bread, two slices of cheese or ham, undistinguishable cooked vegetables, and an occasional piece of fruit. She was also given two small cartons of milk per day. This hardly seems to be enough food for a pregnant woman eating for two.
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