When Immigration Matters

Karen-Lee Pollak Quoted in Law360 Article About DACA

Posted by Michael Pollak on Fri, Jun 09, 2017 @ 5:08 PM

dream-act-button-resized-120.jpgdream act
Immigration Attorney Karen-Lee Pollak was quoted in the Law360 Article, "What Attys Should Tell DACA Clients as Uneasiness Lingers".

The article provides recommendations from some of the nation's top immigration lawyers for DACA "Dream Act" clients seeking to navigate the turbulent immigration environment created by the Trump administration regarding Dreamers.  Pollak is quoted regarding options beyond DACA:

  • Consider Options Beyond DACA 

Where possible, DACA recipients may also want to look for immigration options beyond the program, attorneys said. For instance, if someone qualifies through a relative, it could be possible to file a hardship waiver, to show difficulty that “would be suffered if they left the country," according to Karen-Lee Pollak of Pollak PLLC.

"In order to get their green card, if the [waiver] is approved, they would actually have to 'consular process,' so they'd have to leave the country to go to a consulate, to get their visa," Pollak noted. 

Learn More 

If you are a Dreamer seeking to learn more about your immigration options, contact the team at Pollak PLLC today.

We are passionate about helping people realize the American Dream, reuniting families, and bringing the best and brightest minds to the U.S. so they can pursue their goals and make a positive, meaningful contribution to the community.


Karen-Lee Pollak is the Managing Attorney at Pollak PLLC located in Dallas, Texas. She is a frequent speaker, author and blogger on immigration issues. She can be reached at [email protected] or under her twitter handle law_immigration.

White House Leaks President Obama's Immigration Reform Early

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 @ 3:51 PM

executive action; immigration reformExtracts of President Obama's Immigration Action have been leaked by the White House.docs/White-House-Details-on-Anticipated-Administrative-Relief.pdf  Essentially, you must pass criminal and background checks, pay taxes and a fee and show the following:

are a parent of a US. citizen or lawful permanent resident on the date of the announcement and have been in the USA since January 1 2010


  • are an individual who arrived in the USA before turning 16 and before January 1 2010 regardless of how old they are 
The Government also states it will reduce wait times that families are separated while obtaining green cards.  Undocumented immigrants who are immediate relatives of lawful permanent residents or sons and daughters of US citizens can apply to get a waiver if a visa is available.  
You must have been in the USA for at least 5 years to qualify for these programs.  Recent border crosses are ineligible (defined as entering after Jan 1, 2014)
The Government will not begin accepting applications until early 2015.

Immigration Reform: How the Bill is Debated in the Senate

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 @ 12:24 PM

 Dept. of Homeland Security, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, DREAMers, DREAM ActThe American Immigration Lawyers Association ("AILA") explains what is happening as S.744 is debated on the Senate Floor:

Process (Starting the Week of June 10th)  

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), filed cloture on the motion to proceed on 6/6/13

 The Senate will debate the motion to proceed for two calendar days and will conclude with a cloture vote on 6/11/13 at 2:15pm and a final vote at 4:00pm.  If cloture is

invoked (requires 60 yes votes—which should not be a problem as Minority Leader McConnell (KY) has indicated he will vote yes), and the motion to proceed passes then the Senate will begin debate of the bill.

 The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will release a score for the bill—estimating how much the bill will cost the government (add or reduce the deficit) over the next ten years.

 Debate will begin with opening statements from both parties and then time will be divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans

o Sen. Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will work with Sen. Reid and the four Democratic members of the “Gang of Eight” to lead the Democratic efforts for the bill.

o For Republicans, the time will be divided between proponents (the four Republican members of the “Gang of Eight” and others) and opponents (Senators Sessions (AL), Grassley (IA), and others).

 Amendments (offered over the next three weeks) see attached  filed as of 6/11/2013 http://www.immigrationbn.com/Portals/52046/docs/amend.pdf

 We anticipate that hundreds of amendments will be filed to S. 744; however, just because an amendment is filed does not mean it will be called up for a vote—in fact most won’t (similar to what happened in the committee process).  

 Time will be allotted to debate the amendments. Many (typically non-controversial) amendments will be accepted on a bipartisan basis.  We expect that the most controversial amendments will be held off until the third week of debate (June 24th), right before the cloture vote on the bill.

 Some amendments may require a higher 60 vote threshold, while others will only need a simple majority.

 Senators may offer amendments in any order to any part of the bill that has not already been amended. The order in which amendments are offered depends largely on the convenience of the Senators proposing them, not on requirements imposed by standing rules or precedents. 

 Senators can offer 2nd degree amendments to any amendment being debated on the bill.  After voting on any second degree amendments, the Senate votes on the first degree amendment as it may have been amended. Third degree amendments—amendments to second degree amendments—are not in order.



Final Votes on Bill as Amended (Most Likely Week of June 24th)

Filibuster: Because Senate rules establish no generally applicable limits on the length of debate, nor any motions by which a majority could vote to bring a debate to an end, or even limit it, the only formal procedure that Senate rules provide for breaking filibusters (endless amendments being offered, one senator speaking at length, etc…) is to invoke cloture.  

 When Senator Reid has decided that the time for offering amendments has expired, he will invoke cloture to end debate on the bill.  If any Senator objects to cloture it will then require 60 yes votes to end debate and move to a final vote.  If cloture is invoked successfully (60 yes votes) there will still be an additional 30 hours (or two calendar days) of debate when amendments can continue to be offered.

 If cloture is invoked, and after the bill has ripened (the 30 hours have elapsed), the Senate will then move to a final vote on the bill as amended.  This vote only requires a simple majority of the Senate for passage.

Immigration Reform: Living Undocumented in the USA

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Tue, Jun 11, 2013 @ 2:11 PM

describe the imageEllen H. Badger writes: "Living Undocumented explores the lives of diverse undocumented immigrant youth to illustrate the realities, challenges and opportunities they face through high school, college, and beyond. It is directed by Tatyana Kleyn (City College of New YorkSchool of Education) and produced by Ben Donnellon.  It features 6 DREAMers, who portray the realities of our nation’s immigration system and its impact on undocumented youth.  The documentary is intended for all audiences, but with the accompanying lesson plan and resource guide for students and educators, it is especially useful in high school classes.  The director, who is a professor at CCNY in New York City, has given full permission for its distribution.  She has created a website at this link: http://www.livingundocumented.com/  The film can be accessed at the web site.  The direct link to the film, which is YouTube, is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjBkrqJ9BEc."

So where are we on Immigration Reform? An analysis of the Senate Judiciary Bill

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 3:15 PM

comprehensive immigration reformAdvocates for comprehensive immigration reform won their first major legislative victory this week when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to approve the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" plan. 

It is the first step in a series of hurdles for immigration reform that includes increased border security, a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants and reforms to legal immigration designed to streamline the process.

 It took the 18 senators five days for markups and they considered 300 amendments, with many of those that passed doing so in a bipartisan nature.  Overall, 48 Republican amendments passed primarily strengthening immigration enforcement.  There were few, if any, significant changes made to the original "Gang of Eight" bill.

 So What Does the Bill Include?

 Path To Citizenship

 The estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally could obtain “registered provisional immigrant status” six months after enactment of the bill as long as:

(1) The Homeland Security Department has developed border security and fencing plans.

(2) They arrived in the U.S. prior to Dec. 31, 2011, and maintained continuous physical presence since then.

(3) They do not have a felony conviction or three or more misdemeanors.

(4) They pay a $500 fine.

—People in provisional legal status could work and travel in the U.S. but would not be eligible for federal benefits.

—The provisional legal status lasts six years and is renewable for another $500.

—People deported for noncriminal reasons can apply to re-enter in provisional status if they have a spouse or child who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or if they had been brought to the U.S. as a child.

—After 10 years in provisional status, immigrants can seek a green card and lawful permanent resident status if they are current on their taxes and pay a $1,000 fine, have maintained continuous physical presence in the U.S., meet work requirements and learn English. Also the border triggers must have been met, and all people waiting to immigrate through the legal system as of the date of enactment of the legislation must have been dealt with.

—People brought to the country as youths would be able to get green cards in five years, and citizenship immediately thereafter.

Border Security

Within 180 days of enactment, The Department of Homeland Security is required to submit a “Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy” including enhanced border security and fencing plans.  This is significant because any undocumented aliens eligible for Registered Provisional Immigrant Status (“RPI) will not be eligible to apply for a Green card until Border Security is effective and operational.   

Changes to the Family based Immigration (“Green Cards”)

  • Backlog for Family and Employment-based immigrants will be eliminated over a 10 year period
  • Sponsorship of Siblings of US Citizens is eliminated.
  • Sponsorship of Married adult children are only allowed if a child is under 31 years of age. 
  • Spouse/child of Permanent Residents will be treated like a spouse/child of US. Citizens so no wait times and no annual numerical limits

Changes to Employment-Based Immigration (“Green Cards”)

  • Backlog for Employment-based immigrants will be eliminated over a 10 year period
  • No annual numerical limits and no wait times on  Employment-based Derivative Beneficiaries, Aliens with Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Professors and Researchers, Multinational Executives and Researchers, Doctoral Degree Holders in Any Field and Certain Physicians
    • 40% to Advanced Degree Professionals (Arts Sciences, Professions, Business) and Master’s Degree in STEM with Offer of Employment
    • 40% to Skilled Workers and Professionals•
    • 10% to Special Immigrants•
    • 10% to Job Creators
  • Annual limitation on the number of employment-based immigrant visas but allocation changes:


  • The cap on the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers would be immediately raised from 65,000 a year to 110,000 a year, with 25,000 more set aside for people with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. school. The cap could go as high as 180,000 a year depending on demand.
  • New protections would crack down on companies that use H-1B visas to train workers in the U.S. only to ship them back overseas.
  • 60 day Job Transition Period
  • H-4 Work Authorization—(If sending country has a reciprocal law for US Citizens)
  • Additional H1B Fees-50 or More Employees and  more than 30%/ but less than 50% are H-1/L-1--$5000 per additional worker
  • 50 or More Employees and more than 50% are H-1/L-1--$10,000 per additional worker.  If more than 75% Employees H-1/L-1—No more sponsorship

New Visas

  • A startup visa would be made available to foreign entrepreneurs seeking to come to the U.S. to start a company.   Although not clearly defined, the Senate Bill creates an employment-based conditional immigrant visa for a sponsored alien entrepreneur:(1) with certain amounts of financial backing from a qualified investor, government entity, or venture capitalist; and(2) whose commercial activities will generate required levels of employment, revenue, or capital investment.
    • A new merit visa, capped at 250,000 a year, would award points to prospective immigrants based on their education, employment, length of residence in the U.S. and other considerations. Those with the most points would earn the visas.  This visa would be effective 5 years after enactment.  It is similar to the Canadian Landed Immigrant Visa System.
    • The bill would eliminate the government’s Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which randomly awards 55,000 visas to immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United


  • A new W visa (No Bachelor’s degree) would allow up to 200,000 low-skilled workers a year into the country for jobs in construction, long-term care, hospitality and other industries.  The visa would be valid for 3 years and can be renewed for three years. 

Employers will need to register with a new Bureau

  • Spouse and Children can receive work authorization
  •  Cannot be Unemployed for over 60 days•
  • 30 Day Recruitment Requirement• Cap—20,000 First Year Increasing Up to 75,000 in subsequent years

A new agriculture worker visa program would be established to replace the existing program. Agriculture workers already here illegally, who’ve worked in the industry at least two years, could qualify in another five years for green cards if they stay in the industry.

  • Spouse and Children(Work Authorization)• Cannot be Unemployed for over 60 days• 30 Day Recruitment Requirement• Cap—20,000 First Year Increasing Up to 75,000 in subsequent years


Within four years, all employers must implement E-Verify, a program to electronically verify their workers’ legal status. As part of that, noncitizens would be required to show photo ID that must match with a photo in the E-Verify system.  An amendment by Senator Grassley failed that would have enforced the system within 18 months of the bill's passage, instead of the four years outlined in originally.  The system is going to have to add in 5 million employers.  Right now it can handle only about 180,000

 One major addition to the original bill is the biometric entry/exit provision which requires all non-U.S. citizens to be fingerprinted when leaving the U.S. through the country's 10 busiest airports.

 Late in the day, the bill survived perhaps its most serious challenge when the Democratic committee chairman Leahy introduced and then withdrew an amendment that would have granted gay and lesbian couples the same rights as straight married couples to sponsor their foreign-born partners for immigration.

 Democrats who supported the notion said they could not vote for the amendment because it would have fractured the fragile, bi-partisan coalition that wrote the delicate legislation. Republicans said they would walk away if the amendment was included, resulting in Leahy vowing to fight the battle another day.

 So What Happens Now? 

 "Now the real work begins to see if we can reform this bill before we send it to the House," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said during closing remarks.  The Bill goes to the Senate for debate and vote.

If the bill is passed by Senate, the bill will then go to the House of Representatives.  The House can vote on the Senate bill or its own legislation.  

 The separate House "Gang of Eight" said last week it had agreed in principle on its own bill and expected to write its legislation and introduce it after the Memorial Day recess.  The House can vote on its own immigration legislation.  If it does, then the House and Senate must work together to reconcile the bills.  If that does not happen, both bills die. 

  If both the House and the Senate approve the same bill, then the bill is sent to the President to sign. After the President signs the bill into law, then the Department of Homeland Security has to figure out how to enforce it—but that is a whole different topic. 


Feb 13 2013 Live Updates on Senate's hearing on immigration Reform

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 @ 12:07 PM

immigration reformCourtesy of Ammerican Immigration Lawyers Association (Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 13020747 (posted Feb. 13, 2013))

On 2/13/13 at 9:30am ET the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold their first hearing on immigration reform of the 113th Congress that will feature Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

9:33am: Sen. Leahy (D-VT) starts the Senate Hearing: Few topics are more fundamental to who and what we are as a nation. We’ve effectively done enforcement first and enforcement only. The president is right, the time is now…The fundamental civil rights of U.S. citizens are more than a social issue. Any legislation that comes before this committee should acknowledge the rights of all citizens...The window on this issue will not stay open very long. This committee will start marking up immigration legislation soon.

Sen. Grassley’s (R-IA) opening statement: I’m going to start with a quote from then chairman, Sen. Simpson of WY made on 1981 as we started down a 6yr road of 1986 bill. Just as congress is about to undertake an overhaul of the immigration reform system, his words are relevant today. Since I was elected to the Senate, I have served on this committee. I voted for the 1986 amnesty bill because I believed it was a one-time solution to the problem. I was wrong. I applaud the movement by members to work towards an agreement. I have read the Senate bi-partisan framework. One line that struck me: “we will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform that will not need to be revisited” that sentence is the most important part of that document. We must learn from our previous mistakes so we don’t have to revisit the problem…The questions I have asked of this president and the secretary have gone unanswered. Why agents in NH were ordered not to arrest an individual convicted with sexual assault of a child. So the secretary must answer in the delay in arresting this sexual predator… I also plan to ask the secretary about the delay in transparency about the DACA program. About 5 letters about DACA have gone ignored…Finally, we have yet to see answers from the last hearing in this committee…Immigration must be settled, we must find answers. But getting answers to the basic questions of legislating seems impossible. I fear what will become of the President’s promise of transparency once we pass the bill. If we don’t have faith in the administration now, how can we trust in the implementation of an important bill we will pass later this year.

10:00am Sec. Napolitano praises the President’s plan and expanding on the need for Comprehensive reform in order to ensure America’s safety by driving down unauthorized crossings, bringing millions of people out of the shadows, and by prioritizing federal enforcement activities on narcotics smugglers, human traffickers and others.

10:08am: Sen. Leahy how is this plan different than the 1986 relief?
A: Immigration enforcement is light years away from what it was in 1986 and it’s seen in the numbers. There are 7 times more border patrol agents, we have 655 miles of fence infrastructure now as opposed to some chainlink fence, 409,000 deportation now as opposed to 25,000 deportation in 1986. The enforcement of removals has created tension what we saw expressed earlier today. Efforts must be sustained and multiplied and we must deal with the demand for illegal and legal migration.

Q:If we expand our legal immigration system does that make your job of removing criminal undocumented immigrants more or less difficult? A: It makes it less difficult because we can stop focusing on those that have long standing ties to their community, etc… and focus on priority cases

Q: Any longstanding prosecutor knows that you can’t prosecute everyone who commits a crime, you must show prosecutorial discretion. You’ve demonstrated this with DACA—that you can’t visit sins of parents against their children. Critics of DACA say that you’re breaking the law, how would you respond to that?
A: I would say that DACA is consistent with our values and the guidance we have given to ICE agents is to focus on those who have committed crimes, our repeat offenders and taking those who are low priority out of the system helps us meet those goals.

Q: Sen Collins (R-ME) and I are introducing the Uniting Families Act (that I have introduced every year for the last ten years). Some say that expanding spousal green cards to same-sex bi-national couples increases the potential for fraud, do you agree?
A: No, our adjudicators are experienced.

Sen Leahy: EB-5 is great! H-2A has had problems.

10:16am Sen. Sessions (R-AL) begins questioning Sec. Napolitano

Q: You’re afraid that enforcement first means enforcement only, but the American people are afraid that you mean amnesty only (without enforcement). I believe that if this Administration had done a better job of enforcement you’d be in a better place to ask for a more broad solution to the problem. I respect the lawmakers that are working to try to reach legislation, but it feels like what happened before with special interests controlling the process without ICE representatives, border patrol or real American people interests. I have my doubts that it will deliver on its promises. It might be better to deal with problems in a discrete level.

I fought for the fencing that’s on the border and it only got done when the last bill was going forward that called for 700 miles of double fencing, which has not been met. The additional border patrol agents that have been added were added over the objection of people who were fighting for amnesty last time. Last time you were here (October 2011) I raised concerns about the morale of ICE officers.

A: CBP and ICE were involved in discussions with the White House as the President formed his proposal. Operational issues on how the system works were part of the dialogue. On the fence, all but one mile is complete! With respect to ICE morale, ICE agents have the most difficult law enforcement job in America: they get criticized for deporting too many people and for not deporting everyone that is here without papers. It’s our responsibility as leadership of a prosecution agency to set priorities (as is done with state Attorney General’s office and the Justice Department)—the field officers don’t set the priorities, they get guidance from ICE leadership.

10:24am Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) begins asking questions.

Q: I want to ask about the visa waiver program, the importance of biometrics, and the entry-exit system. I was told by June 2012 that the Department would have a fully operational exit-entry system so that U.S. could calculate visa overstays. Can you give a quick update on when we’ll have this capability?

A: Biometrics is extremely difficult, and our airports are not designed to monitor exits, only entrants. We will have country by country visa over stay reports by the end of 2013.

Q: I am putting together the AgJobs part of the bill, E-Verify as currently constructed is not workable in agricultural settings. I asked Dir. Mayorkas how E-Verify could be modified for agricultural settings, but he did not provide any strategies to meet these difficulties.
A: I believe national implementation of a worker verification system is essential to immigration reform, but the problem with agricultural workers is they’re out on the fields so we’re testing mobile sites and other technology to put e-verify where the workers are.

Q: One of the principles of our system is family unification, what do you believe is the appropriate place for immediate family?
A:this President strongly believes in family unification, we will work with you on how big the chain is.

Q: Do you have any studies on the average number of people LPRs bring in?
A: No.

10:36am Sen. Durbin (D-IL) begins questioning Sec. Napolitano

Q: I want to commend you for DACA, over 400,000 DREAMers have applied. These students represent a great opportunity for America to be a better nation. We have drawn rules around DREAM Act and DACA that are the right rules. The individual brought up by Sen. Grassley was denied DACA and is now in deportation hearings. Some critics are suggesting that deportations are splitting up families and targeting families that are not threats to American safety. What is your response?
A: One factor that is considered in PD is whether the individual is a parent of a U.S. citizen children.

Q: I suppose what I am asking you to clarify is when there is no criminal record and you’re breaking up a family, what are the standards that are applied?
A:It should be a low priority case.


Q: There is a genuine good faith bi-partisan effort and we are doing our best to fix the broken immigration system and it is a threat to America’s future if we don’t deal with it comprehensively. There are elements in the negotiation that go beyond my personal feelings, buts an effort to reach a deal. We are encouraged by the President, but he has made it clear that he is anxious to mover this along. I thank you for accepting the most difficult job in this administration.


10:43am: Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) begins questions.

Q: this is like déjà vu for a lot of us. I believe the reason immigration reform failed in 2007 is because the American people don’t believe that Congress actually intends to follow through on enforcement measures. Did you say that “the border is secure.”
A: I did, but the context is that the border is more secure now that ever before and the numbers are better than they have been in decades. But we have to build and sustain that.

Q: Refers to a GAO Report that says that the Texas border is nowhere near operationally secure. I do not believe that the border is secure and we have a long way to go. A recent report signaled that you failed to apprehend 39% of border crossers, is that a good record?
A: We know that border security is important and that we’ve done more in the last four years to deter traffic over the border. The main driver of unauthorized crossings is the ability to work—all of these things go together, we need employment enforcement to drive down crossers. Other students have shown that net migration is negative.

Q: Would you agree that terrorist border crossings are a national security risk?
A: By improving the legal migration system will enable us to better focus on those who are nefarious and trying to do us harm.

10:51am Sen. Schumer (D-NY) begins questions.

Q: I want to thank the President for his remarks on immigration last night, he asked us to act now without making it a wedge issue. He gave us the space to come up with a bi-partisan proposal which is our only hope to pass something. We're looking to get this done in a short period of time and Chairman Leahy has said he'll make time for us. Both sides know they have to give and they are. It will be much easier to accomplish enforcement once we account for all of those people here without legal status-this way our law enforcement resources can focus on a smaller universe of criminals, future border stays, employers who hire unauthorized workers, etc… A: Fewer people are trying to cross the border than in four decades.

Q: In 2010 we gave you 1500 increased personnel, 4 drones and more DEA agents at the request of Sen. McCain.

10:57am: Sen. Lee (R-UT) begins questions.

Q: Our immigration system includes many different distinct parts and we should not assume that we must do this comprehensively. The good news is that Democrats and Republicans are not that far apart: we all agree to secure the border, reform visa system, streamline legal immigration and implement worksite verification. We should do the enforcement measures we agree on, as well as the legal immigrant system. I will be introducing the Fairness for Highskilled Workers Act, which will remove the per country cap on high skilled visas. Which specific component components of immigration reform do you think enjoy the most bi-partisan support that can be implemented quickly in your department.
A: I think the bi-partisan framework is a good place to start and we want to work with you to flesh that out with you.

Q: In 2011 ICE Director John Morton outlined two memos regarding PD. I don't agree with them.

11:04am Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI) begins questions.

Q: I want to talk to you about cyber security at a later time. I've been a supporter of the high skilled worker legislation with Sen. Kloubachar (D-MN). Can you make the case why encouraging high skilled workers is good for American jobs and the economy, rather than competing or displacing American jobs.
A: The case for STEM and high skilled workers is very strong, they complement American workers and become job creators.

11:06am Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN) begins questions.

Q: We are the world's talent and we need to attract the world's talent. Immigrant scientists and engineers are a third of what they were in 2001. 30% of U.S. Nobel Laureates were born somewhere else and 90 of the fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants. A problem with the system is that it treats drug smugglers the same as aspiring students.
A: With PD we take circumstances into account, but that is no replacement for statutory changes.

Q: Can you touch on how having so many people living in the shadows is difficult for law enforcement? A: What happens is, particularly in areas with large concentrations, is that people are afraid to interact with law enforcement when they've been victims of crime or have been witnesses. That is a cloud on those communities and when I speak with police chiefs (like SF and LA) it makes it very difficult for them to effectively ensure community safety.

Q: We did include U visas in VAWA for this reason, but were unable to include more in this go around. A: We need more U visas!

11:13am Sen. Flake (R-AZ) begins questions.

Q: Border security is a difficult term to define. The GAO has been quite complimentary of what’s happening in the Yuma sector of Arizona, but there are issues that the border patrol doesn’t have performance measures and goals to define border security.
A: The problem is how you define border security. One way to look at it if we have more money for enforcement, is it better to invest in employment verification system or to hire more border patrol agents. I think you can begin with the things listed in 2007 bill: apprehensions, crime rates along the border, drug and contraband seizures. The notion of a trigger implies that you don’t get to these other things until X is met, but we have to look at the simultaneously.

Q: I agree—we need people to have a legal way to come and go, only the path to citizenship would be tied to that. GAO reported in 2009 that in some sectors increased apprehensions as success, and in some decreased apprehensions as success. If directed by Congress can we go back to what we were doing prior to 2010 to “Operational Control?”
A: I would suggest that we should not go back. We cannot have a one or two line description of border security. We want a safe and secure border with efforts that can be sustained.

11:20am Sen. Hirono (D-HI) begins questioning Sec. Napolitano

Q: I am encouraged by the bi-partisan support around enforcement and visa reform, but unless we agree on how to address the 11 million people living in the shadows. The term Operational Control has been tossed out, and to some people that means zero illegal border crossings. How much money do we spend on border control?
A:Billions upon billions. Some studies suggest that you can add up the other expenditures of all federal enforcement agencies and it wouldn't reach immigration enforcement costs./p>

Q: So how much more would we need to spend to reduce border crossings to zero, because this about a cost-benefit anaylsis.
A:That's right, we are living in an austere world. I would advise that those efforts would be better spent on interior enforcement./p>

Q: I think immigration reform should be guided by principles that reflect our values. There has been a lot of emphasis on high skilled workers, specifically STEM, but another guiding principle should be the 50 year tradition of keeping families together. We should not get tunnel vision and forget the human element of immigration, I think we need to expand the opportunities for families to be united and kep together. Family immigration is essential to continue the vitality of the American economy. The success of immigrants in this country is closely tied to the success of the immigrants families. I want to ask about family unification backlogs, many immigrants have to wait in line for 20 years with Asian countries representing the largest backlogs. I'm pleased that the President included increasing the cap for family based visas to 15%, if that happens, what would you expect to see in terms of the reduction in the backlong, and how long would it take to eliminate the family based backlog.
A:I'd have to go back and get a firm number for you, but it would result in a reduction in the cap./p>

Q: In my community there are Filipino veterans who fought in WW II who have been waiting decades to be reunited with their children. I hope they will be prioritized. I've been told about 40% of the undocumented people in our country are visa over stayers, we have been attempting to address this for over a decade. What is it going to cost for us to put such a system in place to track these over stayers.
A:We have now linked databases and look at visa overstays and prioritize them as well. We will be doing enhanced biographic exit systems./p>

11:28am Sen. Graham (R-SC) begins questioning Sec. Napolitano

Q: We're not being overrun by Canadians are we? I would suggest that they return home because Canada has a stable government and economy and that most people who come are from worse situations. I think border security is the starting point. There are nine sectors that we've laid out, I want an inventory of what we can do that we haven't already done in each sector. Controlling employment is a virtual fence all of its own. I would bet that this could run into a roadblock on temporary worker program. I want American employers to be able to find the workforce they need without leaving the country. We are going to need a more robust legal immigration system in order to ensure the vitality of Social Security. We 're going to need more STEM workers.

11:35am Sen. Franken (D-MN) begins questioning Sec. Napolitano

Q: I want to talk about dairy. Cows aren't seasonal they have to be milked all the time. How will you help Minnesota workers?
A: We support reforms to the H2-A visa that would fix that issue.

Q: Approximately 205,000 parents were deported in two years from 2010-2012, we've seen firsthand in Minnesota how devastating these deportations can be on families. I know ICE has two sets of guidelines: parental directives and asking parents where they want children to go before placing them into custody. What is the status of these guidelines and what is DHS doing to protects children in enforcement actions?
A: These guidelines will be issues. This is the current hardship of the current immigration system-where parents need to be deported. We look at a number of factors: can one of the parents stay, are there other family members that can take the children?

Q: When an action is being taken, the children must have some contact with the parent, and the parents have some rights to be in contact with the children. We've seen this in Minnesota where it's been very traumatizing for children and parents and I'm introducing legislation to ensure that these families have right during those actions.

11:42am Sen. Coons (D-DE) begins questions of Sec. Napolitano.

Q: we're not living up to our Constitutional values of treating families and providing due process for all individuals. We're left with w system that's very expensive for all involved. One of the pillars of immigration reform is path to citizenship, what is the current path? Is there a line?
A: There is no line. We look at prior removals as a barrier.

Q: if someone is able to apply through a USC relative what is the process?
A:They are lengthy and complex. That's why we must create a path.

Q: In the context of reform there has been discussion about same-sex couples being a divisive issue, can we get a commitment of ceasing deportations of same-sex couples.
A: We can't because of DOMA.

Q: I want to talk about the process of deporting families along different parts of the border. How does the system ensure that refugees, asylum seekers or vulnerable women and children are protected and do agents have discretion?
A: We have found that one deterrent of repeat crossers of the border is consequences including lateral removal along the border.

Q: We want to focus on removing those who pose a threat to our community, under DACA DREAMers now don't live under the threat of an removal, has this policy resulted in the department's ability to focus on higher level priorities?
A: Yes it does and DACA is consistent with our values as a country.

11:55am: Second panel begins.

11:56am: Jose Antonio Vargas tells his life story to humanize the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

12:02pm: Jessica Vaughan speaks on limiting the flows of immigration and the problems with comprehensive immigration reform.

12:10pm: Steve Case speaks on the importance of immigrant entrepreneurs.

12:17pm: Chris Crane speaks on his disappointment that DHS does not enforce the country's immigration laws.

12:24pm: Janet Murguia speaks on the critical need for immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship, smart enforcement and a better legal immigration system.


Witness List:

The Honorable Janet Napolitano Secretary
United States Department of Homeland Security

Panel II

Jose Antonio Vargas
Founder, Define American

Jessica Vaughan
Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies

Steve Case
Chairman and CEO, Revolution

Chris Crane
President, National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 118
American Federation of Government Employees

Janet Murguía
President and CEO, National Council of La Raza

Chairman Leahy (D-VT) Statement


AILA Testimony

Do I Need a Lawyer to Apply for Deferred Action?

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Fri, Aug 17, 2012 @ 1:10 PM

It is not required to have a lawyer to apply for deferred action. 

However, PROCEED WITH CAUTION, the government has stated quite clearly that there will be no appeals or motions to re-open cases.  You get one chance to take advantage of this opportunity so it is probably worth it to retain the help of an experienced and reputable immigration lawyer.

Tips for selecting an immigration lawyerfinding immigration lawyer

1. Do your homework!  Choosing your immigration lawyer could have a profound impact on your future.  Get answers to the following questions:

    • How much experience does she have practicing immigration law? 
    • Has the lawyer successfully handled cases simliar in nature to your own?
    • Is the lawyer licensed and in good standing with a State Bar Association?
    • Is she a Certified Specialist in Immigration Law? 
    • How is she regarded by peers and clients?
    • Has she earned accolades such as "SuperLawyer"?
    • Do you trust this person?

2. Choose an AILA lawyer. AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) is the only legal association in the United States for immigration attorneys. More than 11,000 immigration lawyers are members of AILA. 

    • "Only a U.S.-licensed lawyer or accredited representative is authorized and qualified to assist with your immigration case. Unlike consultants, lawyers have completed extensive education and training before being licensed to represent clients. Lawyers are also required to maintain high ethical standards: and if they don’t, you can contact your local bar association for action. When a consultant promises to help—but doesn’t deliver—the damage may not be fixable, and there may be no one to turn to.
    • By promising too much—and knowing too little—unauthorized consultants can damage your chances. Many are little better than scam artists, taking your money and never having to answer for the results.
    • It is against the law for “public notaries” or even foreign lawyers who are not licensed in the U.S. to provide immigration advice—even “just” filling out forms is something that only a licensed, properly trained lawyer or accredited representative should do.
    • This is important because only a U.S.-licensed lawyer or accredited representative is authorized and qualified to assist with your immigration case." - AILA

3. Check client & peer reviews on sites like Avvo

    • Avvo is an expert-only Q&A forum where people can ask legal questions of lawyers  for free. The Q&A forum is backed by an online directory of lawyers licensed in the United States. Avvo provides listings to which attorneys can submit their own profiles and histories. The listings may also include client reviews, disciplinary actions, and peer endorsements.

4. Interview a few lawyers and go with your gut

    • Meet with a few lawyers and hire who you trust and feel most comfortable with.  It is common for lawyer to provide a free consulation so that they can understand your case and explain your options.  This is your chance to get a feel for whether you trust this person and feel comfortable with her.  You can also discuss fee structure and agreements. 

5. Be careful who you listen to!

    • "Be smart! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
    • Don’t believe it if someone tells you about a secret law or claims to have connections or special influence with any agency.
    • Never sign an application that contains false information, and try to avoid signing blank forms. If you must sign a blank form, make sure you get a copy of the completed form and review it for accuracy before it is filed.
    • Always get proof of filing—a copy or government filing receipt—when anything is submitted in your case.
    • Insist on a written contract that details all fees and expenses and make sure you receive a receipt, especially if you pay cash. If terms change, get a written explanation." - AILA


Related articles:

USCIS Releases Forms to Apply for Deferred Action

What are the risks with applying for deferred action?


What are the risks with applying for deferred action?

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Thu, Aug 16, 2012 @ 5:51 PM

The recent announcement that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting completed forms to allow individuals to request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals is an exciting time for many young people across the nation.  

risk deferred actionHowever, applying for deferred action is not without risk.  There are several factors to consider.  First, the political risk. What if President Obama is not re-elected?  Could deferred action be reversed?  Applying for deferred action requires you to reveal a lot of personal information about yourself and your family.  Although U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas says that the information in applications will be confidential and will not be used to round up other undocumented people, you should give careful consideration to the fact that you could be exposing your family to the risk of deportation by providing this information.  

Now fast-forward to Election Day on November 6thWhat if President Obama is not reelected?  Mitt Romney has been floundering for a position on the issue.  During a speech in Iowa in December, he flatly promised to veto the DREAM act.  However, in April, he expressed support saying that Republicans needed to propose a GOP version of the bill to garner support of Hispanic voters.  However, that version supposedly being drafted by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) has yet to materialize even after President Obama’s announcement in June.   The point is that the DREAM act is an executive order, not law, and if Mitt Romney wins the presidential election, he will have the power to revoke it.

The second risk is that the policy is a “temporary” measure. The President issued what he called a "stopgap" measure directing the Department of Homeland Security to halt the deportation of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the U.S. as children. This order effectively decriminalized the status of individuals who would have qualified for permanent residency under the DREAM Act, and is valid only for two years.  So, if President Obama is re-elected in November, Dreamers do not have immunity or a shortcut to citizenship and must assume they will be renewed, but will not know until further guidance is provided.

USCIS Releases Forms to Apply for Deferred Action

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Tue, Aug 14, 2012 @ 2:50 PM

deferred actionToday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new forms and instructions to allow individuals to request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals from USCIS.  USCIS will begin accepting completed forms tomorrow, August 15, 2012. 

On June 15, 2012, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and President Barack Obama announced that, effective immediately, certain undocumented youth who were brought to the United States as young children, who do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Under the administration plan, certain unauthorized immigrants, will be able to avoid deportation and obtain work authorization if they can satisfy specific key criteria:

  1. Came to the United States before they turned 16;
  2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of the memorandum (June 15, 2012) and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum (June 15, 2012);
  3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate or are honorably discharged veterans of theU.S. Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offence, multiple misdemeanor offenses or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
  5. Are not above the age of 30.

Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action and work authorization. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than five years immediately before June 15, 2012. Types of evidence include but are not limited to school records, medical records, high school diploma or GED certificate. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

In a change from the prior announcement, people currently in removal proceedings will use the USCIS process when it is implemented on August 15, 2012, rather than go through ICE. Only individuals in detention will go through ICE to make a deferred action request. Requestors will use a form developed for this specific purpose.

  • Requestors will mail their deferred action request together with an application for an employment authorization document and all applicable fees to the USCIS lockbox. Total fees including biometrics will be $465.00
  • All requestors must provide biometrics and undergo background checks.
  • Fee waivers cannot be requested for the application for employment authorization and biometric collection. However, fee exemptions will be available in limited circumstances. The four USCIS Service Centers will review requests.
  • Information provided as part of the deferred action request process is protected from disclosure to ICE or CBP for purposes of removal proceedings unless the requestor meets the criteria of USCIS' November 2011 NTA memo.
  • If a departure from the U.S. was due to removal, voluntary departure, etc., the absence was not brief, casual and innocent and would interupt the continuous residence that is required since June 15, 2007. Short absences before August 15, 2012, reasonably calculated to accomplish the purpose of the trip, would not be interuptive.
  • Only people who are currently not in status and were not in any lawful status on June 15, 2012 are eligible
  • A "significant misdemeanor" is one for which the individual was sentenced to more than 90 days, or a conviction for domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, firearm violation, drug distribution or trafficking (but not possession), or DUI, regardless of the sentence.
  • Whether a person has reached age 15, and whether the requestor meets the education requirements, will be determined as of the date the request for deferred action is filed, NOT the June 15, 2012 date.

We have attached copies of the pertinent applications and instructions for your review.

USCIS Announces Cost & Procedures to Apply for Deferred Action

Posted by Karen-Lee Pollak on Fri, Aug 03, 2012 @ 4:46 PM

deferred action, dream actOn August 3, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security provided additional information on the deferred action for childhood arrivals process during a national media call in preparation for the August 15 implementation date.

USCIS expects to make all forms, instructions, and additional information relevant to the deferred action for childhood arrivals process available on August 15, 2012. USCIS will then immediately begin accepting requests for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals.

Information shared during today’s call includes the following highlights:

  • In a change from the prior announcement, people currently in removal proceedings will use the USCIS process when it is implemented on August 15, 2012, rather than go through ICE.  Only individuals in detention will go through ICE to make a deferred action request. Requestors will use a form developed for this specific purpose.


  • Requestors will mail their deferred action request together with an application for an employment authorization document and all applicable fees to the USCIS lockbox.  Total fees including biometrics will be $465.00


  • All requestors must provide biometrics and undergo background checks.


  • Fee waivers cannot be requested for the application for employment authorization and biometric collection. However, fee exemptions will be available in limited circumstances. The four USCIS Service Centers will review requests.


  • Information provided as part of the deferred action request process is protected from disclosure to ICE or CBP for purposes of removal proceedings unless the requestor meets the criteria of USCIS' November 2011 NTA memo.


  • If a departure from the U.S. was due to removal, voluntary departure, etc., the absence was not brief, casual and innocent and would interupt the continuous residence that is required since June 15, 2007. Short absences before August 15, 2012, reasonably calculated to accomplish the purpose of the trip, would not be interuptive.


  • Only people who are currently not in status and were not in any lawful status on June 15, 2012 are eligible


  • A "significant misdemeanor" is one for which the individual was sentenced to more than 90 days, or a conviction for domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, firearm violation, drug distribution or trafficking (but not possession), or DUI, regardless of the sentence.


  • Whether a person has reached age 15, and whether the requestor meets the education requirements, will be determined as of the date the request for deferred action is filed, NOT the June 15, 2012 date.




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