Dedication, Compassion, & Professionalism
In-Person, Phone, and Skype-based video conference consultations
- Regular Business Hours
- 8:30 AM-5:30 PM CST Monday-Friday
- 1 (713) 589-2085
- Fax 1 (713) 589-3101
World Wide ServicesThe Law Office of Ruby L. Powers provides representation to clients throughout the United States and the world. Depending on the nature of your case, services can be provided regardless of your location. To learn more, please contact us and schedule a consultation.
Immigration Law News
September 26, 2014
My experience with the women and children at Karnes County “Residential” Center
On Friday, September 19, 2014, one of my small firm’s associate attorneys, the office manager, and I visited the Karnes County “Residential” Center in Karnes City, Texas for the first time. The Center was converted for the purpose of holding women and children on August 1, 2014. We were there for six hours and visited around 15-16 women. I am writing this note to express the great need for attorney volunteers and to inform attorneys of what they can expect upon arriving at Karnes.
I would like to echo the sentiments expressed by other attorneys who have been volunteering in Artesia, New Mexico. I am dismayed at the lack of access to information for the clients from the courts about their own cases and the large amount of deserving people in desperate need of representation being forced through the rigor of the US immigration system on their own, with their young children in tow, at a rapid and surprisingly expedited pace. Many of these immigrants speak predominantly Mamean or Quichean and yet have been conducting their credible fear interviews in Spanish. If the error is caught and challenged, this often turns into another round of credible fear interviews with the requisite wait time. Others prepare themselves as much as possible only to find out that their bond is too high to be paid, way above the national average of $5,200.
Before visiting Karnes I had already tried to convince myself that my firm wasn’t going to take any cases, we had already taken a UAC pro bono case in Houston, but only help as much as possible for the short period of time that we would be there. My law office is 3.5 hours away from the Center and I have a growing firm and two small children under 4 years old at home. However, once I realized how much these women needed adequate representation, I changed my mind and ended up taking a case of a woman and her two children fleeing from El Salvador where she was a victim of severe domestic violence and gang violence. I volunteered for the case even before I arrived at the Center. Things move quickly in Karnes. I learned of the client’s situation on Thursday from a fellow volunteer attorney. On Friday, I met the client, took her information and submitted motions with the court and by Monday, had a telephonic bond hearing via San Antonio. In taking the case I believed that it would be granted some leeway as I was a pro bono attorney who had just taken the case. However, I realized in conducting the hearing that the immigration judge had high expectations and required a thorough I-589 and statement with supporting documentation before granting a favorable decision. I now have one more week to prepare an I-589 and translate the client’s statement in hopes that it will meet the requirements meanwhile also learned about the 52-page motion from the trial attorney on how the family is a national security risk. Oh, and I am still 3.5 hours away from my pro bono client. It appears that in some cases the judges conduct mini-merits hearings for bond hearings, requiring pro bono attorneys to prepare in several days what they would usually have months to prepare for an asylum hearing.
The team of volunteer pro bono attorneys, the Karnes City Immigrant Family Pro Bono Project, supporting Karnes is amazing. They were all communicating and trying to help triage the cases as quickly as possible. I got a list of names from various members of the project the day before our visit with some instructions on what to do and handout materials to use as a guide. While there, I talked with other volunteers who helped answer questions.
Before going to Karnes it is important to get any paralegals or translators cleared in advance by the facility regardless if the person had been cleared somewhere else before. The attorney must fax a signed letter (I believe on letterhead would be ideal), a copy of the person’s driver’s license and social security card to Officer Acosta at 830-254-2975. I was told that it is helpful if someone calls them at 830-254-2500 about fifteen minutes after the fax is sent to confirm that the fax was received. It is said that pre-clearance should be faxed 48 hours in advance of going to the Center. We brought a copy of the clearance with us so there would not be any questions when we arrived. Though the clearance letter states it is valid for a year, I am told that the clearance letter must be brought every time that a paralegal or translator goes to Karnes.
We stayed in a hotel about 30 minutes away the night before so that we could get started as soon as possible the following day but traveling and visiting the Center could be done in one day if necessary from San Antonio, Austin, and Houston, for example. The Center is open from 8:00am to 8:00pm.
Upon arriving at Karnes we had to wait for thirty minutes to an hour for the detainees to be called into the waiting area. On the day which we visited the supervising officers had initiated a new policy we learned about mid-day which limits an attorney to only see five people per day and it is limited to the persons on the sheet of paper that has been filled out upon arrival. If a detainee passes you a note that a fellow detainee needs to see an attorney that detainee’s information has to be faxed in to the center before being able to see them. I figure you could use e-fax from your computer. In the end, I challenged this new policy and they let us see all the women on our list without any problems after that. We were grateful because that confusion was stressful as we were trying to work as fast and diligently as we could. I would just caution a volunteer to be prepared for policy changes without notice.
It is a requirement that cell phones and wallets be left in lockers for which we were provided a key at the entrance of the Center. There are a few vending machines attached to the waiting area and they require quarters or dollars. You cannot give food to the detainees. In six hours, I drank one bottle of ice tea for my caloric intake. My staff and I were running on empty. We didn’t want to waste time to eat. You could run to your car or locker for snacks. I don’t think there are a lot of restaurants in town.
There is a large waiting area with approximately six adjoining private consultation rooms. Each consultation room has a table and chairs. Laptops and wifi hotspots are allowed. There is a unisex bathroom in the waiting area. We were lucky enough to be able to use a printer brought by another pro bono attorney there at the time. Even the most basic of printers and copier can go a long way when you have no other options. A mobile scanner would be a great addition since a detainee’s documents are so critical for them to possess and yet share with potential volunteer help. Detainees are able to access email accounts if they already had created them previously though I am not sure that many of them would know how to check their email account if one was set up for them by a volunteer. It would also be helpful to bring plenty of I-589’s and forms in Spanish for the pro se client.
We had been told going in that attorneys were allowed a phone to call an interpreter. When I was entering the private consultation rooms, all of the landline phones were taken out. When I asked the guard which phone we were supposed to use to contact the interpreter, I was first told we can’t use phones. Then I pressed the issue with the help of another volunteer attorney who had been working at the facility on know your rights presentations. In the end, after talking with the supervisor, he told me that we could use our own cell phones only for that purpose. I was escorted to the locker to get my private phone and call the interpreter for whom I had been given for Mamean. While I was walking back, the supervisor said, you might not be able to get reception because a lot of staff say that their phones don’t work in the building. Luckily, my cell phone worked and I was able to reach the volunteer interpreter. But this could make contacting an interpreter difficult. For Quichean, I used a 12-year old girl who was also detained but happened to speak both Quichean and Spanish. She had to be called to my consultation room from her classroom.
The detainees wear plain clothes. The children attend school and there are toys in the waiting area for kids when they accompany their parents to the waiting room. There appears to be a playground in the backyard.
I would like to encourage my immigration attorney colleagues to take on one pro bono case or part of a case to help these victims. At this time there is a critical need for attorney representation for Immigration Judge reviews of Credible Fear Interview (CFI) denials, bond hearings and original filings of I-589’s.
All the detainees that we met with were victims of either domestic violence or gang-based violence. Many have entered prior to the September 2014 Matter of A-R-C-G, in which the Board of Immigration Appeals determined that married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship constitute a particular social group for asylum purposes.
The detainees seem to have a peaceful disposition, perhaps because they and their children are in a safe place with food and a roof over their heads. It really plays with your mind to see little babies and kids in the consultation rooms with the women in a detention facility, no matter what you name it. You wonder if you should be allowed to talk about such horrible experiences in front of young impressionable minds. I know I wouldn’t want talk about these stories in front of my two young kids. Imagine that the moms have to have the young children with them when they do the CFIs.
Although there might be a hint of peace, there is also a sense of fear of the unknown because they know that if they are unable to convince someone of their story and the relatives of their plight, that they will have to return to their country in which their violent husband or the violent gangs will be there waiting for them or their children. The despair on one woman’s face in particular who has two children with her and her husband is detained in Miami whom she has had no contact with was unbearable. I spent more time thinking how can I really help this lady and debating about taking yet another case. Her husband was a police officer in El Salvador and had actively fought the gangs. In retaliation, her family was threatened and even her uncle was killed. She now faces a $15,000 bond. Her father in law can only afford to bond out her husband and not both sets of detained members. She said the judge didn’t ask about her story but asked if she used a coyote and how much she paid. Gratefully, I learned today she found pro bono representation.
Another woman has lacerations in her uterus from sexual violence from her husband. Her children regularly saw him beat her. One woman’s father threw boiling water on her causing an obvious scar on her arm, when she tried to run away from her abusive husband and go home. She is 18, married at 14, and has a 2 and a half year old. After six hours and 8 women’s stories, I started to mix up all the stories. They all seem to have abusive husbands, no support, and running away from gangs and somehow brought one to four kids with them traveling about 1,500 miles. Of course there is more to that but the violence and impunity they experience is heart-wrenching. At one point, without a tissue box in my consultation room, I thought to go get toilet paper from the bathroom to hold back some of the tears for the women and myself.
I have a love-hate relationship with this experience. I love that I am helping people, through advocating for them and empowering them to be able to advocate for themselves as best as they can. I am doing what I went to law school for. At the same time knowing that this situation exists and that it is happening cannot easily be ignored. There are feelings of guilt that I should be there taking on more cases or that I should volunteer there more often. One thing that I can do whether in Houston or in Karnes City is spread the word to other immigration attorneys that there are many deserving women and children who need legal representation or simply be given advice on how to best argue their own case and I guarantee that you will not regret the time you spend helping these families.
If you have any questions about volunteering at Karnes Residential Center contact Lin Lichtenberg with the Karnes City Immigrant Family Pro Bono Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ruby L. Powers
AILA member and Karnes volunteer
713-589-2085Written by Ruby Powers on September 26, 2014 @ 3:13 pm
Filed under: Immigration Law
For the first time since the EB-5 program was created almost 25 years ago, the maximum number of EB-5 immigrant visas which are available for Chinese applicants for fiscal Year 2014 has been reached, while sufficient numbers for all other countries remain to ensure compliance within the annual Fiscal Year 2014 allocation. A new allocation of about 10,000 visas will be available on October 1, 2014, which is the first day of Fiscal Year 2015. As a result, there will be virtually no impact on most China EB-5 visa applicants who complete processing within the next 6 to 8 months.
For more information refer to: http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=49890Written by Ruby Powers on September 10, 2014 @ 3:31 pm
Filed under: Immigration Law
On September 9, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to provide comprehensive guidance on the H-3 trainees nonimmigrant visa category. The new policy guidance consolidates previous guidance on the H-3 nonimmigrant visa category, to include guidance on the background, purpose, and legal authorities of the H-3 program. It also provides guidance on the H-3 program requirements, descriptions, and restrictions, and includes a list of forms and documents for the H-3 visa petition.
http://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual-Volume2-PartJ.htmlWritten by Ruby Powers on September 10, 2014 @ 3:03 pm
Filed under: Immigration Law
Alternatives to H-1B Temporary Work Visa
The H-1B visa classification allows U.S. employers (petitioners) to petition to hire foreign nationals beneficiaries) to work temporarily in specialty occupations. The term “specialty occupation” means an occupation that requires: (1) theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge; and, (2) attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum requirement for entry into the occupation in the United States.
H-1B visas are capped per fiscal year at 65,000 for persons who hold a Bachelor’s Degree plus 20,000 for persons who hold a U.S. earned advanced degree (a Master’s degree, Professional Degree, or a PHD). There are a total of 85,000 visas available each year for persons who are being sponsored for a new employment in H-1B status. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) begins to accept H-1B CAP applications on April 1 of each year. The start date of approved H-1B CAP applications is October 1. According to the USCIS, there were 172,500 applications filed between April 1, 2014 and when the cap closed on April 7, 2014. The rest of the applications are usually placed in the lottery system. The USCIS begins to reject the applications not selected in the beginning of June.
This limited number of available visas often causes companies to lose the opportunity to employ skilled foreign nationals in the occupations for which there are no available and skilled U.S. workers.
The good news is that there are alternatives to H-1B work visa or status. Let us explore other available temporary work visas:
H-1Bs that are not counted against the CAP
The CAP only applies to new H-1B petitions. A person is not counted against the CAP if they have already been counted against the CAP within the past six (6) years. This means that the same person can apply for H-1B with a new employer and will not be counted against the CAP.
There is also a category of H-1B petitioners who are Cap-exempt. This category includes J-1 physicians who have obtained a waiver pursuant to the State 30 program or federal program. It also includes beneficiaries of employment offers at institutions of higher education, and petitioners who are a non-profit affiliated or related to an institution of higher education.
L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa
This type of visa allows companies with offices both in U.S. and foreign countries to transfer foreign employee to temporary work in the U.S. in executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge positions. There are no annual limits for this type of visas.
This visa category allows Canadian and Mexican citizens to temporarily enter in the U.S. work in a professional position or a Business Consultant position.
E 1/E-2- Trade or Investor Visa
This category allows citizens of foreign countries that have a treaty commerce and navigation, or a bilateral investment treaty providing for non-immigrant entries with the U.S.
The E-3 visa classification is limited to Australian Professionals. The E-3 visa is a “specialty occupation” visa similar to the H-1B visa. Therefore to be eligible for the visa, the Australian citizen must possess a bachelor’s degree or higher (or its equivalent) in the specialty and the specialty occupation must require the degree. There is a 10,500 annual limit on the E-3 visa.
The O-1 classification is suited for individuals of extraordinary ability or achievement. O-1 beneficiaries in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics must have extraordinary ability “demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim.” There is no annual limit for this classification.
Students who hold F-1 status and are completing their Optional Practical Training (OPT) can extend their training period for up to 17 months, if their field of study in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The students must work for an employer who is registered for E-verify and must be enrolled in a major included in the STEM program list.
B-1 in lieu of H-1B
This classification allows employee of a foreign company to enter in the U.S. to work temporarily for a short time for the affiliate U.S. Company. The foreign employee must occupy a professional occupation (which requires at least the attainment of a Bachelor’s degree). Also, the foreign employee can only be paid by the foreign company and must comply with other B-1/B-2 requirements.
J-1 Trainee Visa
This classification allows exchange visitor who has a foreign degree or a professional certificate and at least one year of prior related experience to obtain training for up to 18 months with a U.S. company.
This classification allows a temporary worker invited by an organization to receive instruction and training in any field of endeavor that is not designated primarily to provide productive employment.
Some of the classifications explained above only offer temporary work/trainee status for a short period of time and may entail some restrictions with regards to change of status to another classification. One should consult with an immigration attorney to better lay out a strategy suitable for one’s specific situation.
Finally, there is always an opportunity to apply for H-1B status when the next fiscal year opens and new H-1B CAP slots become available.
Author: Claudine Umuhire Gasana, Associate Attorney at the Office of Ruby L. Powers
Disclaimer: The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only and it is not intended to provide or be taken as a legal advice.
Contact us for specific analysis of your case at:
Law Office of Ruby L. Powers, P.C., 5225 Katy Freeway, Suite 202, Houston, TX 77007
Tel: (713) 589-2085
 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 214(i)(1) and 8 C.F.R 214.2(h)(4)(ii)Written by Ruby Powers on September 10, 2014 @ 2:52 pm
Filed under: Immigration Law
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is facing potential rifts with members of his own party in tough re-election contests as he barrels toward a fall fight with Republicans over his ability to change immigration policies.
If Obama takes the broadest action under consideration — removing the threat of deportation for millions of people in this country illegally — the short-term risks appear greatest for Senate Democrats in conservative-leaning states. Weeks before the November vote, they could find themselves on the hot seat for their views not only on immigration but also on Obama’s use of his presidential powers.
Wary of what could be coming, some of those lawmakers have said Obama should act with caution.
“This is an issue that I believe should be addressed legislatively and not through executive order,” said Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., one of the top targets for Republicans trying to retake control of the Senate.
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., another vulnerable incumbent, said in a statement that he also is “frustrated with the partisanship in Washington. But that doesn’t give the president carte blanche authority to sidestep Congress when he doesn’t get his way.”
Such statements have immigration advocates on edge.
A coalition of advocacy groups, in a letter to congressional Democrats on Friday, said immigrant families should not have to wait until after the November elections for relief. The organizations said any attempts by Democrats to delay or dilute administrative changes “will be viewed as a betrayal of Latino and immigrant communities with serious and lasting consequences.”
The letter was released because of advocates’ concerns that leading Senate Democrats may be shifting their positions because of political considerations after previously urging Obama to act.
A spokesman for Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., declined to say Friday whether Schumer still believes Obama should act by October, as Schumer had said before. A spokesman for Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, said the timing of executive action on immigration was up to Obama. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman had no comment on timing.
Still, Obama looks determined to move forward on his own despite the political risks for Democrats.
He is irritated by House Republicans’ inaction on immigration legislation passed last year by the Senate. The crisis over unaccompanied minors arriving in South Texas does not appear to have deterred him, and the slowdown of arrivals at the border may be shifting the issue away from the spotlight anyway.
The exact contours of Obama’s plans remain unclear.
Advocates and lawmakers who have talked with administration officials anticipate that he could expand a program that granted work permits and deferred deportation to more than 700,000 immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as kids. It could be extended to include parents of those children, as well as parents of U.S. citizens, or potentially others — groups that could add up to perhaps 5 million people.
During a news conference this month, Obama was not specific on his immigration plans. He did say that in the absence of congressional action and in order to address the crisis involving unaccompanied youths, he had to shift resources on his own and exercise prosecutorial discretion.
“I promise you the American people don’t want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done,” Obama said.
Some GOP leaders worry that opposition to a comprehensive overhaul will harm their party in the 2016 presidential race, where Latino turnout is higher than in midterm elections. Hispanics are a fast-growing sector of the presidential electorate and backed Obama overwhelmingly in 2012.
But Republicans also see a nearer-term chance to translate Obama’s potential executive actions into electoral success in November. Republicans need to win a net of six seats in order to take control of the Senate for the remainder of Obama’s term. The GOP already is all but assured of maintaining control of the House.
As Republicans meet with voters in their districts during the summer break, lawmakers have raised alarms about the scope of Obama’s potential plans. In some cases, they are hearing clamors for impeachment in return.
“It is up to Congress to actually go back and restrain this guy,” one voter told GOP Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland at a town hall meeting on the Eastern Shore. Harris had warned that Obama could expand an existing deportation relief program to 4 million or 5 million more people, “competing with Americans for work.”
Republicans have tagged Obama as an “imperial president” who goes around Congress rather than working with lawmakers, and House Republicans have moved to sue him over it. The prospect of the president making a unilateral move on a contentious issue such as immigration has Republican consultants salivating.
“President Obama’s executive amnesty would inject adrenaline into an electorate already eager to send him a message of disapproval,” said Brad Dayspring, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Also problematic for Obama: His apparent plans to act on his own authority come after years of saying that he did not have the legal justification to proceed without Congress.
“If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing them through Congress, I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws,” he said in November. A heckler had interrupted a speech he was giving in San Francisco, prodding him to halt deportations, which have reached record highs on Obama’s watch.
Since then the White House has apparently concluded otherwise.
Democratic pollsters argue that any executive action by Obama could give a political boost to Democrats, not just from newly energized Latino voters but from an electorate at large that would welcome any action from gridlocked Washington.
“Voters are so sick of the do-nothing Congress they don’t mind if there’s an imperial president,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. “They would just like someone to get something done about something.”
Pace reported from Edgartown, Massachusetts. Follow Pace atWritten by Ruby Powers on August 18, 2014 @ 10:09 am and Werner at
Filed under: Immigration Law