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Tag Archives: citizenship

News for immigrants, non-citizens, and new Americans

Update from US Citizenship and Immigration Services

USCIS is considering changes that would allow certain immediate relatives (the spouse, children or parents of a U.S. citizen) who can demonstrate extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen spouse or parent to receive a provisional waiver of the unlawful presence bars before leaving the United States.

These procedures are not in effect and will not be available to potential applicants until USCIS publishes a final rule in the Federal Register specifying the effective date. USCIS plans to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the coming months and will consider all comments received as part of that process before publishing a final rule.

  • Do not send an application requesting a provisional waiver at this time. USCIS will reject any application requesting this new process and we will return the application package and any related fees to the applicant. USCIS cannot accept applications until a final rule is issued and the process change becomes effective. 
  • Be aware that some unauthorized practitioners of immigration law may wrongly claim they can currently file a provisional waiver application (Form I-601) for you. These same individuals may ask you to pay them to file such forms although the process is not yet in place. Please avoid such scams. USCIS wants you to learn the facts about protecting yourself and your family against scammers by visiting uscis.gov/avoidscams.

If you already have an immigrant visa interview with the U.S. Department of State, we strongly encourage you to attend. The Department of State may cancel your immigrant visa registration if you fail to appear at this interview.

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The following was taken from a newsletter from the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.

Emergency Medical Assistance: Recently, 2,300 Minnesotans received letters informing them that they would no longer qualify for Emergency Medical Assistance (EMA) beginning January 1, 2012. Specifically, due to changes made during the 2011 special legislative session, EMA would no longer cover such treatment as dialysis, chemotherapy, in-patient treatment, or mental health treatment. Due to the nature of who EMA covers, these changes impacted only non-citizens. The persons affected ranged from children to the elderly; from undocumented parents with U.S. citizen children to persons who have been legal permanent residents in Minnesota for years. Among other actions, ILCM began taking calls from affected immigrants and community partners almost immediately. Thanks to the generosity of the Minneapolis Foundation, we were recently able to hire a part-time attorney to screen immigrants for possible immigration relief such as applying for U.S. citizenship, U-visas, or a family petition to address both their immigration status and their eligibility to access life-saving healthcare. ILCM is also working hard with multiple partners to try to reinstate EMA coverage for as many persons as possible. Please be sure to sign up for action alerts and we promise to keep you informed as this issue moves forward. For more details, read this January 10 article from Minnesota Public Radio.

Click here to read a fact sheet compiled by the Department of Human Services on how last years change to EMA reduced coverage of serious medical conditions for some of Minnesota’s low-income immigrants.

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Family Visa Waiver Petition: On January 6, USCIS announced its intent to reduce the time that U.S. citizens are separated from their family members under certain circumstances while those family members proceed through the legal immigration process. This announcement from USCIS is wonderful news for immigrant families across the United States. We believe the announcement is the result of high-profile advocacy efforts like that of film director Ruth Leitman in her stellar documentary Tony and Janina’s American Wedding: A Deportation Love Story, as well as stories like Emily and Raul’s represented by ILCM and its pro bono attorneys, and another one in which an ILCM board member’s client died while waiting to be reunited with his U.S. citizen spouse from Hinckley.

 
 

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2012 legislation of interest (so far)

SF 1556 (Lourey; Higgins; Marty; Hayden and Sheran) (Companion to HF
1907)

Referred to the Health and Human Services committee. Restores the 20% wage cut for family members providing personal care assistance (PCA) services.
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=S1556.0.html&session=ls87
HF 1953 (Abeler and Hilstrom)

Referred to the Education Reform
committee. Prohibits bullying and retaliation against bullying in public schools and requires public and charter schools to provide bullying prevention programs for all K-12 students.
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=H1953.0.html&session=ls87

HF 1986 (Gottwalt)

Referred to the Health and Human Services Reform committee. Reduces the income eligibility criteria for the Healthy Minnesota Contribution Program, which provides MinnesotaCare enrollees with vouchers to purchase health insurance on the private market, from 200% to 150% of the federal poverty level. Extends the period of time the person on the program has to choose a health insurance plan from three to four months before they lose their eligibility and have to reapply. Allows MinnesotaCare enrollees who are eligible for MCHA (Minnesota’s high-risk pool) to enroll in MCHA without first being denied coverage by a health plan.
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=H1986.0.html&session=ls87

HF2048
Council on Affairs of Chicano/Latino People, Council on Black Minnesotans, Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans, Indian Affairs Council, and Council on Disabilities continued existence provided.
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=H2048.0.html&session=ls87.

HF645
Collaborative grant program to reduce minority populations unemployment and appropriation
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=H0645.0.html&session=ls87

SF1672 and HF1888
Expands medical assistance eligibility to include qualified noncitizens that entered the United States on or after August 22, 1996 and noncitizens that are not legally “qualified noncitizens” as they work toward citizenship. (this repeals the new provision passed in 2011 that cut off EMA for non-citizens).
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bin/bldbill.php?bill=S1672.0.html&session=ls87

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Legislative

 

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Gordon Hirabayashi, 1918-2012

Received word through social media that civil rights hero Gordon Hirabayashi, best known for being one of the few people to openly defy the government’s unconstitutional internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, has died. He was 93.

Hirabayashi was arrested, convicted and imprisoned, and eventually appealed his case to the Supreme Court (Hirabayashi vs. United States) — the first challenge to Executive Order 9066. The Court ruled against him, 9-0. However, his wartime convictions were successfully overturned forty years later.

Rest in peace. Here’s the Facebook post from Mr. Hirabayashi’s son, Jay Hirabayashi, announcing his passing:

My Dad, Gordon K. Hirabayashi, who was ninety-three, passed away early this morning. He was an American hero besides being a great father who taught me about the values of honesty, integrity, and justice. My Mother, Esther Hirabayashi, who was eighty-seven, also passed away this morning about ten hours later. She was a beautiful, intelligent, generous soul. Although my parents were divorced, they somehow chose to leave us on the same day. I am missing them a lot right now.

Here’s a good summary of Hirabayashi’s landmark case:

During World War II, Gordon Hirabayashi was a 24-year-old senior at the University of Washington – an American citizen by birth – when, as acts of civil disobedience, he defied a curfew imposed on persons of Japanese ancestry and refused to comply with military orders forcing Japanese Americans to leave the West Coast into concentration camps. He appealed his convictions to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in one of the most infamous cases in American history, held that the curfew order was justified by military necessity and was, therefore, constitutional. A year and a half later, in Korematsu v. United States, the Court relied wholly on its decision in Hirabayashi to uphold the constitutionality of the mass removal of Japanese Americans.

Forty years later, in 1983, represented by a remarkable and dedicated team of lawyers, Mr. Hirabayashi reopened his case, filing a petition for writ of error coram nobis in Seattle, Washington, seeking vacation of his wartime convictions on the ground that the government, during World War II, had suppressed, altered, and destroyed material evidence relevant to the issue of military necessity. In 1986, the Ninth Circuit, in an opinion authored by Judge Mary Schroeder, vacated both Mr. Hirabayashi’s curfew and exclusion convictions on proof of the allegations of governmental misconduct.
Hirabayashi v. United States, 828 F.2d 591 (9th Cir. 1987).

Next month, the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality will host a major conference to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Ninth Circuit opinion in the Hirabayashi v. United States coram nobis case. It’s happening February 11 at Seattle University. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, and to register, go here.

UPDATE: Here’s a statement on Gordon Hirabayashi’s passing from the Korematsu Institute and the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice: Fred T. Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education and the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice Remember Civil Rights Leader Gordon Hirabayashi.

 

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in National news

 

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Asian American Center for Advancing Justice acts on federal and state immigration policies

http://advancingjustice.org/

Asian American Groups Express Deep Concern and Opposition to Secure Communities

Secure Communities (S-Comm) is an Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) program that automatically forwards all fingerprints taken by local police to ICE for civil immigration background checks at the point of arrest.

Asian American Center for Advancing Justice has criticized S-Comm for being an indiscriminate mass deportation program, rather than one that is focused on identifying and deporting individuals with serious criminal convictions. 74 percent of those deported as a result of S-Comm either did not have any criminal convictions or have convictions for the lowest level offenses, including misdemeanors and minor traffic offenses.

Stewart Kwoh of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center states, “S-Comm has caused much harm to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Many AAPI immigrants come from countries with a history of government corruption, which makes it difficult for these community members to come forward and trust law enforcement. S-Comm compounds this problem by adding potential immigration consequences to contact with local law enforcement.”

Titi Liu of the Asian Law Caucus noted, “S-Comm is fundamentally flawed because it burdens and entangles local police with immigrant enforcement, thereby driving a wedge between immigrant community members and local police. This in turn compromises public safety for all community members.”

read more on Asian American Press…

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AAJC Applauds the Obama Administration for Taking Positive Steps Towards Fairer Immigration Policies

Last week the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Utah’s immigration law HB 496, which is similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 law. DOJ previously sued Arizona challenging SB 1070 and recently brought similar suits against copycat laws in Alabama and South Carolina.

SB 1070-type laws aim to criminalize undocumented immigrants and impermissibly authorizes local police to enforce federal immigration laws, which frequently leads to racial and ethnic profiling of all immigrants or persons who appear foreign.

read more on Asian American Press…

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Asian American Groups Urge Supreme Court to Hold That Legal Permanent Residents Should Not Be Retroactively Subjected to Harsh New Legal Consequences

Members of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice have joined an amicus curiae brief in Vartelas v. Holder. The brief urges the U.S. Supreme Court to hold that the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which seeks to remove a legal permanent resident’s (LPR) right to make “innocent, casual and brief” trips abroad without fear that he will be denied reentry, does not apply retroactively.

“Retroactive application renders long-time LPR’s unable to take short trips abroad to fulfill important family and religious obligations, including caring for dying parents and attending funerals. They also risk being subject to detention and deportation,” said Stewart Kwoh of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

read more on Asian American Press…

 

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Legislative, National news

 

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STAND BY COMMITMENT TO MINNESOTA’S REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS

The following article was originally printed in Asian American Press on Oct. 24, 2011

(Comments from CAPM: the typical fee for a citizenship test is $675, a cost that is very difficult to afford for low-income refugees and immigrants, especially those with a disability and limited English proficiency.)

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STAND BY COMMITMENT TO MINNESOTA’S REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS

By Pham Thi Hoa and John Keller

Mr. Vang is a refugee who was resettled in Minneapolis in 2004 after spending over a decade living in a makeshift refugee camp in Wat Thamkrabok in Thailand.

Like thousands of Hmong men, Mr. Vang proudly fought alongside U.S. forces during the Secret War in Laos. Because of his allegiance to the United States, Mr. Vang became a refugee after U.S. forces pulled out of Southeast Asia.

The United States agreed to resettle him and his family as legal refugees to the U.S., and ultimately Minnesota, under our international humanitarian treaty obligations. Today, he faces yet another crisis that leaves him fearful for his well-being.

At 63 years old, he faces the looming cut off of his Supplemental Security Income in the coming months if he does not successfully naturalize. He has already attempted to naturalize once, but did not pass the test because of his limited English language ability and his disability which both qualifies him for SSI and simultaneously makes attaining citizenship more difficult.

On September 30th, Supplemental Security Income benefits will run out for thousands of low income, elderly and disabled refugees across the nation like Mr. Vang, unless Congress acts quickly to address a short term extension of the benefits. In fact, 720 refugees in Minnesota are projected to lose their SSI in 2011 alone — the third highest number in the country.

SSI provides the bare minimum, no more than $674 for an individual, and $1,011 for a couple per month, to afford the very basic necessities. During these tough economic times, it is especially unconscionable for us to cut off basic resources to this vulnerable community to whom we promised humanitarian treatment, when it could mean they are left hungry and without their basic needs met.

Today’s problem began fifteen years ago. In 1996, Congress restricted SSI to no more than seven years for elderly and disabled refugees, with the misconception that they should be able to naturalize within this time and thus, remain eligible for benefits. Importantly, in 2008, President Bush recognized the hardship this mandatory cut-off was having on vulnerable refugees and signed legislation to protect them — until September 30, 2011.

As direct service providers who work with refugee populations know all too well, seven years is not nearly enough time to learn English and gain citizenship, especially for a population that is elderly and who have disabilities that limit their learning ability. For those who have severe mental or physical disabilities, usually caused by the very situation they were forced to flee, and those who are often among the most elderly, the ability to learn a new language and memorize information for the naturalization test may take the rest of their lives.

Furthermore, some of these same vulnerable, disabled individuals may also face the loss of SSI due to errors or delays by either themselves, the government, or both while requesting asylum, permanent residency, and naturalization — a reality that any Congressional staffer who works with immigration applications will acknowledge. Refugee elders are often critical contributors to the livelihood of entire family units and communities.

For many elderly and disabled refugees, the cut off of SSI is severe and has a wide ranging impact on the well-being of their families. Our members of Congress must act to ensure that an extension on SSI is passed as soon as possible to prevent needless hardship for those most vulnerable among us.

In addition, the Minnesota delegation must also work in Congress to sever the link between naturalization and SSI for those who are elderly or disabled and to help us honor the commitment made to these internationally vulnerable neighbors.

Pham Thi Hoa is the executive director of CAPI, a community-based social justice organization and a direct implementer of anti-poverty programs to provide jobs, housing, food, health education, youth and senior social services in the Minneapolis area.

John Keller is executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, whose mission is to provide quality immigration legal services, law-related education, and advocacy to meet the steadily increasing needs of Minnesota’s immigrant and refugee communities.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Community news, Legislative, National news

 

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