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US ImmIgratIon PolIcy SInce 9/11: Understanding the Stalemate over Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

Post 9/11 U.S. Immigration Policy

A report by the Migration Policy Institute (CAP) reviews the response to 9/11 in U.S. immigration policy by examining the state of affairs in 2001 before 9/11, and the subsequent legislation and policies. The report also explores the debate on comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) during the years of 2006-2010 and the reasons for its failure.

Read the report, “U.S. Immigration Policy Since 9/11: Understanding the Stalemate over Comprehensive Immigration Reform” on MPI’s website.

From what I can tell, so much has changed in immigration since 9/11. They have updated databases, they created SEVIS to monitor foreign students, and they created the Department of Homeland Security. I briefly worked in DC for the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security in 2004.  This would be a good read.

Investigation reveals widespread insider hacking at immigration agency

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Processing of Applications and Petitions Leave a comment

Investigation reveals widespread insider hacking at immigration agency


The investigation began in January 2008, when officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of Homeland Security, reported to the department’s inspector general that numerous personnel had violated federal security rules at the agency’s Texas Service Center, one of four regional centers that handle a variety of immigration-related petitions and applications. According to the materials obtained, employees and supervisors abused system logon privileges, gained unauthorized access in some instances and then allegedly sabotaged audit logs to leave behind no traces of their illicit activities. IG papers list the redacted names of 17 subjects of the investigation, all of whom were information technology specialists.

The evidence of breaches at the center is the latest revelation of insider threats at USCIS. With their ill-gotten access rights, the Texas personnel were capable of, for example, granting citizenship rights, as well as reading files containing sensitive information on contract awards, immigration reform or other policy formulations, say former USCIS IT officials there at the time.


Wow, this is horrible.  They need better oversight.


Ciudad Juarez I-601 Waiver Timeline

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Consular Processing, I-601 Waivers, Immigration Law 4 Comments

Ciudad Juarez I-601 Waiver Timeline

August 25, 2011 by I-601 Waiver Attorney, Ruby L. Powers

A common question I am asked by potential clients whose only option to obtain legal permanent residency for their spouse or fiancé from Mexico is, ‘How long will it take?’  The answer is not concrete but depends on several variables but I can give a general idea. The fastest with no complications, a very engaged client, and a pilot program approval would about 9-10 months from I-130-I-601 approval according to today’s processing times. In this ideal situation above, of that time if the client was in the US before the visa appointment, the client would be in Mexico 3-3.5 months.

But there are so many variables that it is best to discuss the steps and their timing. Also, it is important that anyone beginning this process understands that there is a possibility that the loved one cannot return to the US for 10 years.

First, the I-130 petition usually takes between 3-5 months for USCIS to adjudicate. My most recent I-130 was approved in 3 months. Although USCIS processing times list 5 months on their website. For a fast adjudication, a well-documented I-130 is essential.

Once the I-130 is approved, the file is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC).  The fee bills, which basically means advance payment for consular services, usually arrive within 4 weeks.  With the new electronic NVC system, the DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application and I-864 Affidavit of Support can be sent in with supporting documents within a week of paying fee bills. This is where the case can slow down if the client is unsure or if they are not prepared for the next steps.

From the point NVC has the DS-260/I-864, it has been taking about 4 weeks for NVC to process. I am also usually following up and making sure NVC has everything.  They changed the process a lot the last few months with the MEP filing and DS-260 so I follow up after a month of submission to make sure there are no problems. Then, we receive an email with the visa appointment scheduled in Ciudad Juarez. Recently, from the date of notice of the appointment and the visa appointment, it is about 3-4 weeks. Not a lot of time if you aren’t prepared. I normally like my clients to have their waiver started and almost finished by the time their family member leaves for Juarez.

Once we have the visa appointment, the client needs to schedule a biometric appointment about two days before the visa appointment and also plan to do a medical exam. Only after the biometric appointment is scheduled, should you schedule your flights and travel plans to Juarez.

After the initial interview and expected denial, the client can leave Juarez but needs to schedule their I-601 waiver appointment. The I-601 appointment timing varies. A year or two ago, the waiver appointment could be two days after the visa appointment, then it was 2 weeks later and now it has become approximately 2 months later.  From what I have learned, this time allows for USCIS to do a FBI background check and make sure there no problems.

At the waiver appointment, the client submits their waiver application.  My firm prepares a complete packet including: cover letter, I-601 with filing fee, G-28, and G-325, legal brief, qualifying relative’s affidavit, and supporting documentation.  As of Aug 25, 2011, the Juarez waiver results have been taking about a month from the waiver appointment to learn whether the client was approved in the pilot program or referred or put on the slow track.

Approved in the pilot program means the waiver was approved favorably and as fast as Juarez could adjudicate it. Approximately 50% of waivers through Juarez are approved through the pilot program.  If there was information missing or the waiver didn’t appear to have sufficient hardship at first glance, the client has an old A number, criminal record or any other complication, then the waiver is usually referred for further review.  According to a recent referral notice, USCIS states it takes 12 months to adjudicate referred waivers. According to a recent USCIS CDJ email, it states they are taking 10 months. According to their website, they are taking 13-15 months.  Memos, meetings, and notices state that USCIS is trying to get that processing time to 6 months and has been sending their waivers to other offices in the US for help to decrease the backlog.  They have had the 6-month goal for about 2 years.  I think that the referral adjudication is close to 10 months right now.

When USCIS adjudicates a referred case, it can either be approved or denied. If approved, you might have to update some documents like medical, I-864, etc at the Consulate because those have expired from so much time passing. If denied, you can either reapply or appeal.

If you reapply, it is possible to reapply starting at the waiver stage and not having to start all over again. Appeals take about  2 years to be adjudicated.  Depending on the circumstances, I generally suggest reapplying.

If approved in the pilot program, it can take a couple of weeks to get the visa in the passport. But once you have it in the passport, you can travel to the US and your green card will soon follow.

It is important to understand that the I-601 process is a serious undertaking.  It requires that families be prepared and know that significant time, money and risk is involved.  You should make sure you are working with an immigration attorney you trust, cares about your case and is promptly responding to your communication. If the waiver is denied, the law requires that the intending immigrant remain outside the U.S. for a specific period.  For many, this period is ten years.

In the end, with a strong case and the required preparation and patience, an approved I-601 waiver will provide a family security and joy knowing that their family member is in legal status, can live in the US, and has work authorization, ability to travel and a path to citizenship.   An experienced attorney and an engaged client can make a huge difference in this process.  Like many things in life, there is a great deal of work and risk involved before receiving a great reward.

Ruby L. Powers is an immigration attorney and owner of the Law Office of Ruby L. Powers which is located in Houston, TX. She represents individuals and businesses in all areas of immigration law all over the world. She enjoys reuniting families by helping them obtain I-601 waiver approvals.


Bogus Church Isn’t a Lawyer, Texas Says

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Immigration or Notario Fraud Leave a comment

Bogus Church Isn’t a Lawyer, Texas Says

August 24, 2011


HOUSTON (CN) – Texas says a woman is practicing immigration law without a license, telling suckers she can legalize them as religious workers if they join her “church” – and that at least 300 people have fallen for it.

     The Texas attorney general sued Yolanda Salazar Perez and her “church,” Nueva Uncion, or the New Anointing Biblical Institute, and three of her alleged cohorts, who are members of her family, in Harris County Court.

People need to be very careful of scams. There are people out there who say they can ‘fill out a form’ for you. Immigration is not just ‘filing out forms.’ There is law to it.  Be careful.

Ruby L. Powers

US Immigration Attorney


USCIS American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) EB-5 Committee Meeting

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USCIS American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)   EB-5 Committee Meeting

August 10, 2011

Meeting Notes

Here are the 10 Things You Should Know about DHS’s Announcement:

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Interior Enforcement, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

Great list brings the info down to 10 key points, from Reform Immigration for America blog posting:


Here are the 10 Things You Should Know about DHS’s Announcement:

  1. All 300,000 cases currently in deportation proceedings will be reviewed by senior DHS officials. Immigration judges and ICE trial attorneys will also be reviewing their cases on a daily and weekly basis to make sure that any case that goes forward is consistent with DHS enforcement priorities.
  2. This announcement is DHS’s attempt to “unclog” the deportation case log by removing “low-priority” cases in order to focus on individuals who pose serious dangers to our communities and our country.
  3. “High-priority” individuals include, but are not limited to, those who pose a serious threat to national security, are serious felons and repeat offenders, are known gang members, or have a record of repeated immigration violations.
  4. “Low-priority” individuals include, but are not limited to, veterans; long-time, lawful residents; DREAMers and others brought to the US as children; pregnant women; victims of domestic abuse and other serious crimes; and spouses, including LGBT spouses.
  5. Individuals in deportation proceedings who are deemed “low-priority” will get a letter from DHS stating their case has been administratively “closed”.
  6. Those whose cases are closed can apply for a work permit program. Decisions about work permits will be made on a case-by-case basis. Undocumented immigrants not in deportation proceedings cannot seek work permits.
  7. Individuals SHOULD NOT attempt to be placed in deportation proceedings in order to apply for a work permit.
  8. If implemented properly, these individuals will not be placed into deportation proceedings in the future so long as this policy is in place.
  9. The announcement does not change programs such as 287g and Secure Communities.
  10. This is not “back-door amnesty” as our opponents will claim. This is a procedural change in the implementation of DHS’s enforcement policies to target only those who pose serious threats to the US and those with long criminal records.

U.S. Immigration Policy and Mexican/Central American Migration Flows: Then and Now

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Immigration Trends Leave a comment

August 2011

A report by the Center for American Progress looks at the decline in immigration from Mexico and examines factors that have contributed, such as Mexico’s aging population and growing economy. The report concludes that decreased immigration provides an “opportune time” to implement sound immigration policy. Read the report, “What Changes in Mexico Means for U.S. Immigration Policy,” on CAP’s website.

I haven’t read the entire 27-page  report but I will soon.  I am not very shocked by the results. I have had had consultations or heard of many Mexicans returning back to Mexico because they can’t find employment in the US and it has become very hard to live in the US illegally with tougher driver’s license laws and stricter employment verification and workplace enforcement.


Ruby L. Powers

Houston Immigration Attorney


U.S. Visa Rule Will Burden Families, Lawyers Say

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Consular Processing, Immigration Law Leave a comment

U.S. Visa Rule Will Burden Families, Lawyers Say

Published: August 14, 2011

WASHINGTON — A new U.S. visa rule, taking effect Monday, appears likely to substantially lengthen the amount of time that Americans living overseas must wait before bringing along their noncitizen spouses or children if they have to move home quickly for personal or professional reasons, immigration lawyers say…

House Unanimously Amends Immigration and Nationality Act

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

The New York Times reports that the House passed, by a 426-0 vote, HR 398, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to toll, during active-duty service abroad in the Armed Forces, the periods of time to file a petition and appear for an interview to remove the conditional basis for permanent resident status.


DHS: Prioritizing Enforcement and Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion

Posted on by Ruby Powers in DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Interior Enforcement, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

August 22, 2011

American Immigration Council

 For Immediate Release

DHS: Prioritizing Enforcement and Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion
Experts Welcome New Guidance, But Agree the Devil is in the Details


August 22, 2011


Washington D.C. – Today, the American Immigration Council hosted a briefing to discuss the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) announcement last week that it would issue agency-wide guidance to make certain that prosecutorial discretion is exercised in a manner that ensures the agency’s enforcement resources are used to remove those who pose the greatest risk to public safety. DHS also announced the creation of a joint committee with the Department of Justice (DOJ) that will review nearly 300,000 cases currently in removal proceedings to determine which ones are low priority and can be administratively closed in order to begin unclogging immigration courts.  While it is unclear how these proposals will play out in practice, the federal government must continue to assert its authority over immigration given the rise of state legislative initiatives that seek to impose different priorities on immigration enforcement.

Melissa Crow, Director of the Legal Action Center at the American Immigration Council discussed the practical implications of the use of greater prosecutorial discretion and had a warning for immigrants not in removal proceedings:

“Prosecutorial discretion is not a new concept, and is exercised on a daily basis by law enforcement agencies.  It refers to the authority of a law enforcement agency or officer to decide whether – and to what extent – to enforce the law in a particular case. Prosecutorial discretion can take a variety of forms, depending on the nature of the case involved.
DHS has also been clear that last week’s announcements do not impact individuals who are not currently in removal proceedings. Thus, ‘DREAM’ students and others unlawfully present in the United States, but not in removal proceedings should not actively seek out the immigration authorities. Since there are no guarantees that an individual removal case will be administratively closed, anyone who seeks to be placed in removal proceedings could end up being deported.” 


Clarissa Martinez, the Director of Immigration and National Campaigns at the National Council of La Razadiscussed the Administration’s move:

“This is a huge step forward for our country. This means that DHS will be using its resources more effectively. For those attacking this approach, I would challenge them to say what should be prioritized over national security and public safety. Every law enforcement agency uses prosecutorial discretion to do just that.”

Javier Morillo-Alicea, President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26 in Minnesota said:


“For years now we have reminded the Administration that their stated enforcement priorities of going after criminals—not law-abiding citizens—was not an on-the-ground reality. Last week’s announcement, if properly implemented, will give teeth to long-stated enforcement priorities which is an extremely important move on the part of the Administration. It is right on policy and it is right on politics.”


To listen to a recording of the briefing or view other resources on Prosecutorial Discretion see:




For more information contact Wendy Sefsaf at wsefsaf@immcouncil.org or 202-507-7524