Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Salute to the Bravery of Escaping Domestic Violence

I want to salute the bravery it takes for a woman to take the affirmative steps necessary to escape domestic violence. 

You'll pardon me if I'm a little emotional as I write this today.  I just spent two days helping women who escaped from domestic abuse in Central America present their stories to Asylum Officers in the hope that they can gain the protection of U.S. law.  The stories have gotten me angry, and I need a constructive way to express that anger.

Sure, there's the obvious targets of my anger:  The SOBs who thinks nothing of treating their women like punching bags, or worse yet, like punching bags who had better have food on the table when I walk into the house drunk or stoned at 3:00am.  The men who feel it necessary to hold a machete tho their woman's throat to show them who's boss.  Who feel it necessary to use the most vile and foul language to constantly terrorize and tear down their women.  Who do all of this without regard to the fact that their children are in the room, watching and learning.

I'm also angry at the machismo culture that pervades much of Central America.  The culture that says a woman's identity is tied to that of her man, that says she is nothing without her man, that treats her as nothing more than property.  It's a culture where girls are trapped by decisions they make at 15 or 16, when they choose a man to be with, only later to find out his violent side when it's too late.  Of course, that's assuming the teenage girl hasn't been abducted by some SOB who thinks nothing of stalking and kidnapping in order to find a woman to tend to his needs.  It's a culture where families won't intervene in a "domestic dispute," because, well, this is the man you chose to be with.  It's a culture that adopts laws that say the right things, after all, we don't want to run afoul of the United Nations.  But, when it comes time to enforce those laws, the police are nowhere to be found.  Or, the police listen to a report of domestic abuse, only to do nothing.  Or maybe, they will arrest the guy, only to release him the next morning, angry enough to go back to his woman to teach her a lesson for making him spend a night in jail.  A culture that traps a woman, making it next to impossible for her to strike it out on her own, to make her own living without being dependent on a man.

But I'm also angry at the snot-nosed kid sitting behind the desk, who can't be more than thirty at the most, making my clients live their stories over and over again.  Worse yet, when human memory isn't perfect (as it rarely is), picking apart miniscule little holes, throwing the woman off their tracks as they try to tell their stories.  Using tiny misstatements as reason to doubt credibility.  Picking on those misstatements instead of taking in the clear emotional pain that is clearly being expressed at the mere mention of their ex-partner's name.  Using the fact that the these women do feel trapped, and for that reason did not come forward earlier, as further reason to doubt their stories.  Failing to realize that just as emotionally painful it is to retell the story in front of a total stranger, it is also painful to share that story with loved ones.  failing to understand that their very attitude is one of the reasons victims of domestic abuse don't come forward or try to escape.

I'm angry because someone has trained this snot-nosed kid to be this way.  Someone has trained him to suspect everyone seeking asylum in this country as just being a liar looking to stay in the United States the easy way.  Someone has trained him to be cold-hearted and skeptical.

I'm angry because just as the Board of Immigration Appeals releases a precedential decision that makes it clear that women who are trapped in abusive relationships that they cannot leave can indeed seek the protection of U.S. asylum law, critics, like those at the Daily Caller and Brietbart, who see it as nothing more than a way to open the flood gates to people who would flout our immigration law for the purpose of obtaining federal benefits.  Critics who would probably think nothing of telling me that all I've done is to assist those illegals in an effort to obtain amnesty.

And yet, it is in the face of all this that women like my clients had the courage to leave and seek protection.  They risked their lives leaving violent men, men who often continue to seek them out and threaten harm.  They risked their lives on the trip north, often knowing that the very Coyotes who are helping get into the promised land are going to rape them before leaving them off at the Rio Grande.  They face their fears over and over, telling their stories to their friends, their families, their lawyers, all before reaching the skeptics in the U.S. Government.

So pardon me if today I am a little angry, angry at a system that requires women to be brave in order to flee domestic violent and seek refuge in a place like the Untied States.  A system that likely exacerbates the emotional and psychological damage that has already been done.

By:  William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8832
(571) 551-6069 (ESP)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Memorandum Supporting President's Deferred Action Program

The White House released the memorandum written by the Justice Department detailing the legal support for his deferred action program.  Through this memorandum, President Obama's legal counsel provides analysis on whether it is permissions for: (1) the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize its resources to target undocumented aliens who are criminals; (2) the President to issue deferred action to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents; and (3) the President to issue deferred action to parents of DACA recipients.
Interestingly, the Justice Department concludes that while it is permissible to issue deferred action to the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, it would not be permissible to do so for parents of DACA recipients.  The distinction appears to lie in the fact that U.S. citizens and permanent residents have a legal status, whereas DACA recipients do not.
The release of this memorandum would seem to indicate that the President will not expand his deferred action program to cover the parents of DACA recipients later, as some have surmised.  To do so would clearly contradict the advice from his own Justice Department.
It is also interesting to note that this memorandum does not cover the spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents.  This is not to say that such undocumented aliens would be ineligible to receive deferred action, merely that this memorandum, and presumably the President's program, will not cover such aliens at this time.
By:  William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8832
(571) 551-6069 (ESP)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Granted to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone

Almost lost in the media attention given to the President's announcement on immigration yesterday was an announcement by the Department of Homeland Security extending Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  The move is meant to permit people who are present in the United States as of November 20, 214 to remain here for eighteen months while the Ebola outbreak continues in their home countries.

Those who qualify for the protection have until May 20, 2015 to apply.

TPS is a status designated by the U.S. Government to countries when it would be inhumane to require nationals from that country to return home.  Is permits people who are present in the United States to remain here without fear of deportation.  Aliens granted TPS may be given work authorization.

TPS does not lead to permanent residency or citizenship.  It is merely a temporary status, that expires once the U.S. Government determines that the conditions in the home country have improved.

TPS has been extended in the past due to such humanitarian reason as war and natural disasters.

By:  William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8832

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Procedures for the President's Immigration Action Not Yet in Place

The President announced that the spouses and parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the United States for five years, pass a background check, and pay their taxes can qualify for deferred action. At this time, USCIS reports that there are no procedures to apply for this program.  We at William J. Kovatch, Jr., Attorney at Law, PLLC expect the application process to be much like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Before the procedures are adopted, we will be accepting consultation appointments where we will take the information we believe will be necessary to apply for this deferred action and discussing whether you should apply.  We will use that information to fill out the forms, once they are adopted.

Call for an appointment: (703) 837-8832
(571) 551-6069 (ESP)

Graphic on the President's Immigration Program

Obama, Daring Congress, Acts to Overhaul Immigration

From the New York Times, a report on the President's announcement on immigration.

President Obama's Speech on Immigration, November 20, 2014

Will You Qualify for the President's Program?

President Obama has announced a program to assist those who are present in the United States who have either spouses or children who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.  The President will grant those who are eligible for the program deferred action, meaning that he will promise not to start deportation proceedings against them.  Those who are granted deferred action may also be granted legal authority to work in this country.

If you think you are eligible for the President’s program, call me at (571) 551-6069.  We can sit down and discuss your situation.

If you make an appointment to see me, you will first sit down with my of my bilingual staff members to collect your information.  Once we have collected your information, I will review it and discuss whether you are qualified for the program.

There will be a consultation fee of $200.  If you are eligible for the program, that money will be credited against the legal fee for helping you apply for this program.

The legal fee will depend on how difficult your case is. 

If you have all of the documents that are required to apply, such as your birth certificate, your marriage certificate, your children’s birth certificates, proof that your spouse or children are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and proof of presence in the United States for the past five years, the legal fee will be $750.

If you do not have all of your documents, the legal fee will be $1,000.

If you have two or more convictions for misdemeanors, or other problems with your eligibility, the fee will depend on how difficult your case will be.

These fees are in addition to any filing fees required by the Government to apply for the program.

If you need your documents translated, we can translate them for you.  The fees for translations are:

·         $50 for birth certificates
·         $75 per page for all other documents that are type-written
·         $100 per page for all documents that are hand-written.

We can translate from Spanish and French.

By:  William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8832
(571) 551-6069 (ESP)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

President to Make Immigration Announcement

It is being reported the President Obama will make a prime time announcement concerning immigration policy on Thursday, November 20.  The announcement is expected to include a program to shield many undocumented aliens already present in the United States from deportation.

The most likely vehicle for this will be an expansion of the deferred action program.  Deferred action is simply a promise from the U.S. Government that it will not deport a person.  A person granted deferred action can apply for work authorization.

At William J. Kovatch, Jr., Attorney at Law, PLLC, we stand ready to assist those who may benefit from the President's announcement.  To make an appointment to determine if you qualify, call us at (703) 837-8832.

En espanol, llame (571) 551-6069.

By:  William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8832
(571) 551-6069 (esp)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Can the Republicans Derail Administrative Action on Immigration?

The rumors are that President Obama will announce some kind of administrative action to address the large numbers of undocumented aliens already living in the United States.  What will that action be?  While at this point we can only speculate, the best educated guess is that it will be some type of expanded deferred action program, like the one the President adopted for undocumented aliens who were brought to the United States as children.  How broadly the program will cover remains to be seen.

Republicans, emboldened by their victories in the November mid-term elections, are warning that any executive action on the issue of immigration will meet with fierce legislative resistance.  The question, however, is just what can congressional Republicans do to derail any administrative action?

The President's safest bet would be to expand his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.  Deferred action is not really a legal immigration status.  It is merely a promise by the Government that it will not deport someone.  Deferred action is already built into the law.  The President can grant deferred action on a case-by-case basis.  Once deferred action has been granted, the law permits the alien to apply for work authorization.  Thus, while it is not a real legal status, and cannot lead to permanent residency or citizenship, it can allow an undocumented alien the ability to work and earn money legally.

There has been a lot of talk of impeachment.  That is, if the President were to act alone and announce such a broad-based deferred action program, some Republicans believe that there would be grounds to impeach the President.  The argument is that the President would be acting contrary to law by failing to enforce it.

Impeachment, however, would be a tough sell for Republican law makers.  First, as stated above, the law gives the President the discretion on a case-by-case basis to grant deferred action.  It has traditionally been a vehicle used for humanitarian purposes.  Nothing in the law says that the President cannot define a set of criteria on which he would grant deferred action.  Thus, on a purely legal basis, impeachment is on shaky grounds to begin with.

At any rate, a Republican-led House of Representatives has already impeached the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton.  While the grounds for Clinton's impeachment may have had sounder legal grounding (perjury by the chief executive officer in a sworn deposition of a pending lawsuit), the fact is that Republicans would have an image problem if they were to impeach two Democratic presidents in a row.  That is, it would leave the Republicans open to the charge of being willing to undermine the democratic process, instead of working together towards a solution to the nation's immigration problem.  (To those who would argue that the President is the one ignoring the democratic process by acting alone, it should be noted that the Republican-led House of Representatives has had numerous chances over the course of the past two years to propose and pass a serious immigration reform package.  They have failed to do so.)

The next strategy that appears to be gaining popularity is simply to de-fund the President's program.  This solution, some argue, would not require a shut-down of the Government, because the Republicans can just pass a continuing resolution that contains all of the funds necessary to have the Government operate, minus the funds needed to operate the President's program.

This strategy has two fatal flaws.  First, it fails to recognize how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"), the agency that would be charged with administering any program the President adopts, is funded.  USCIS is not funded as a line item in the budget.  To the contrary, USCIS is funded through user files.  That is, every petition or application for an immigration benefit involves some sort of filing fee.  As it is, those filing fees are pretty high.  To become a permanent resident, for example, involves filings fees of almost $1,500.

All DACA applicants had to pay a filing fee of $465.  That included the cost of processing the DACA application itself, the work authorization application and the background check.  Thus, so long as the Administration sets the filing fee at an appropriate level, what Congress does with the budget will have little impact on the President's program.

The second problem with de-funding the President's program is that it assumes that the President will sit back and let it happen.  In our republic, all legislation, including the budget, has to be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President.  Bills concerning spending must originate in the House of Representatives.  But, if the House passes a continuing resolution that funds some, but not all, of the Government, the President could veto it.  The House tried this a year ago in an effort to de-fund Obamacare.  In the end, it didn't work.  Worse yet, the Republicans were politically damaged and had to spend the next few months repairing the damage before the November elections.  (It is important to note  that redistricting played a huge role in the Republican electoral victory.  That is, state legislatures redrew congressional districts in such a way as to create a large number of districts with very conservative majorities.  The result was that many very conservative candidates did well in the primaries and rode the redistricting wave to victory in the general election.  In a presidential election, the Republicans will have to face a national electorate, which will not likely be as conservative as the smaller congressional races.)

In the end, there may be very little the Republicans can do to prevent the President from implementing a carefully constructed program to address the presence of undocumented aliens.  The risks to the Republicans are great, considering the national electorate they will face in the 2016 elections.  A better course may be for the Republicans to offer a constructive counter-solution, one that involves more than simply building bigger walls and a push for indiscriminate deportations.

By:  William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8832