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Lancaster Immigration Law Blog

Deportation situation causes upheaval of controversy

Many Pennsylvania immigrants may know someone currently facing a very stressful situation over immigration status. Approximately 200 immigrants were recently arrested and detained for possible deportation to Iraq. Some say the massive sweep was intended to force the hands of several other countries to take back nationals who were ordered to leave the United States.

Most of those arrested reportedly have serious criminal records. Crimes include kidnapping, murder, drug trafficking and other violent offenses. Close to 1,500 Iraqi nationals were ordered to be deported since March, but the government says only eight of those people have actually been removed from the United States.

Boys' immigrant mother finally wins asylum

If a survey were conducted in Pennsylvania, asking immigrants why they came to this nation, answers would no doubt vary. Many would likely include stories of fleeing homelands from abject poverty and imminent violence. In fact, a young woman in another state says she escaped El Salvador under similar circumstances and, after recently winning asylum, is now in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.

The woman says her journey to provide a safe and happy life for her sons in the United States has been wrought with challenges. The 34-year-old was allegedly abruptly awakened from sleep when immigration officials came to her home. She was reportedly threatened with deportation at that time.

When deportation fears are part of daily life

Perhaps you or another immigrant you know in Pennsylvania gets nervous any time a police officer is nearby. Maybe you jump whenever there's an unexpected knock on your door. For many who have emigrated to the United States from other lands, this type of anxiety is often prompted by constant fear of deportation.

Whether documented or undocumented, many immigrants worry that getting pulled over in a traffic stop, running into a clerical error or other problem on a tax form, or any number of other typically minor situations, may result in family separations and a forced return to their countries of origin. Building a new life in America is a joyful and exciting, yet frightening and challenging experience for most immigrants. For those who face particular language challenges or are living and working in this state or another without documentation, daily life can become quite stressful.

The O visa program

There are various nonimmigrant visa programs here in the United States. A nonimmigrant visa authorizes a person from another country to temporarily stay in the U.S. for a particular purpose. Today’s post will be focused on one nonimmigrant visa program in particular: the O visa program.

O visas cover temporary stays in the U.S. by individuals with extraordinary ability and certain individuals connected to them. There are multiple types of such visas.

Legal status, birthright citizenship and national history

The issue of birthright citizenship may be a familiar topic to Pennsylvania voters as political candidates discuss their perspectives on immigration. One of the most extreme solutions is promoted by Donald Trump, who suggests that he would like to end birthright citizenship so that undocumented parents would no longer be motivated to have children in the United States. However, this issue is not a new concern. In fact, the matter was settled by the Supreme Court in 1898.

A Chinese American who was born in San Francisco faced challenges to his citizenship upon returning to the U.S. after visiting China. At the time, the sentiment toward Chinese people was negative, and the nation had passed the Chinese Exclusion Act approximately one decade before the individual in question was denied the right to re-enter the country. The Court indicated in its decision that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution affirmed an individual's right to citizenship by birth in the country. Unfortunately, the man at the center of that case was not fully recognized as a citizen in spite of the case. He raised his family in China and died there after the conclusion of World War II.

Establishing U.S. citizenship for Pennsylvania minors

When a child under the age of 18 comes to the United States, he or she may automatically become a United States citizen when both parents become citizens. However, for those who were 18 prior to February 2001, they may become citizens if their only naturalized parent was their mother or their other parent was deceased. In the event that a child's parents got divorced, a child could be automatically naturalized if the parent with legal custody becomes naturalized.

However, depending on when the child is born, it may also be possible that he or she could become a citizen if even one parent was born or naturalized in the United States. In addition, the child would have to become a permanent resident prior to turning 18 and cannot be married. The law does not specify whether permanent residency or the parent's naturalization comes first as long as both criteria are satisfied.

New decisions about H-1B visas and employee moves

Pennsylvania employers may not be required to file a new or amended petition for employees who are on an H-1B visa and who moved to another geographic location if the move occurred prior to April 9, 2015, but the new clarification of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is ambiguous on the topic. More clearly, it states that after August 19, before an employee on an H-1B visa who is moved to a new location can begin working, a new or amended petition must be filed for that employee.

Another new clarification states that if the move happened between April 9 and August 19, the employer has until Jan. 15, 2016, to file the new or amended petition. The prior deadline was August 19.

Lawmakers consider changes to EB-5 visa, propose new EB-6 visa

Pennsylvania readers may be interested to learn that federal lawmakers from both parties are proposing immigration reform ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline for the renewal of the EB-5 program for immigrant investors. The EB-5 visa allows immigrants who invest at least $500,000 in a job-creating project in an area with high unemployment to obtain permanent residency. It also allows for the pooling of these investments into "regional centers," which can be used to fund larger projects.

In June, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced legislation to renew the regional center portion of the EB-5 visa for five more years. However, the cash-for-visa portion of the program has drawn criticism that it encourages favoritism and could be a national security risk. Grassley and Leahy have proposed background checks for investors, disclosures that would uncover conflicts of interest, better oversight and raising the minimum investment to $800,000.

Immigration status ruled irrelevant in wage and hour disputes

In a case that could impact workers in Pennsylvania and across the United States, a federal court in New York has ruled that employees are not required to produce immigration documents when suing employers over wage and hour disputes. This is significant because employers will no longer be able to defend themselves by alleging a worker is an illegal immigrant.

In the case before the court, an employer who was being sued for allegedly failing to pay employees demanded that the workers produce various documents proving their immigration status. The workers countered that their immigration status was irrelevant to the question of whether the employer had paid them. The court ultimately sided with the workers, stating that requesting a worker's immigration status produced a "danger of intimidation" that outweighed any value such evidence may have supplied. The judge held that federal courts have established that the protections provided by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act are available to undocumented workers.

Appeals court strikes down unconstitutional law

Pennsylvania immigrant fathers may be interested to learn about a decision in a recent case by a federal appeals court. The court ruled that the existing way that fathers and mothers have been treated differently in determining whether their children can claim citizenship rights is unconstitutional.

The law in question required unwed fathers who are United States citizens to spend a minimum of five years residing in the country before being able to petition for their foreign-born child to become a U.S. citizen. The law applies when the child is born abroad out of wedlock and his or her mother is not a United States citizen. In contrast, the law only required unwed mothers to reside in the United States for one year.