<![CDATA[The HMA Law Firm - Immigration & Criminal Defense Lawyers - Blawg]]>Tue, 02 Feb 2016 16:35:01 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[ICE Raids Based On Meaningless Rhetoric]]>Tue, 02 Feb 2016 18:27:55 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/ice-raids-based-on-meaningless-rhetoricPicture
The ICE raids on undocumented immigrants with “final” orders of removal continue to paralyze immigrant communities throughout the country with fear. As many as 121 asylum seekers were taken into custody in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas. Deportation of 33 of the 121 has already been halted for due process violations, but dozens more were deported, the legality of their deportation remaining unresolved. ICE raids are hardly new – but what is new is the deliberate targeting of asylum seekers, including children. In his January 4 statement, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson wrote, “...our borders are not open to illegal migration. If you come here illegally, we will send you back consistent with our laws and values.” Apparently, this is pursuant to a directive to secure the border.

This is misleading political rhetoric. Asylum seekers are not the same as “illegal migrants.” Equating them to national security threats or felons is disingenuous. Moreover, the border is not going to be secured by removing asylum seekers fleeing horrific violence in Central America. Finally, there are frequent and serious due process violations underlying these ostensibly “final” orders of deportation.

One of my clients narrowly escaped forced recruitment into the Mara 18 gang. He slept
 in sugarcane fields for 2 weeks before making his way to the United States. Furious, gang members hacked his brother to pieces with a machete. Another young woman was raped by an MS-13 gang member who told her she “belonged” to him, to do with what he pleased, and there was no one who could protect her. She crossed the border 7 months pregnant. 
These people – like many who came in 2014 – became refugees. Our asylum laws are meant to allow people to come to our border and seek protection. Seeking asylum at the border is not “illegal migration” - lumping asylum seekers in with “illegal migrants” as if these people were coming in for a job interview is nonsensical. None of my clients – and very few of the asylum seekers who are now being targeted by ICE – are going to be deterred by these psyops.

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced sweeping executive actions on immigration. One of these was a 
superseding memorandum revising the prioritization of removals. Priority 1 is national security threats, gang members, felons, and recent entrants without criminal records. (Which one doesn't belong?) The 2016 raids focus only on recent entrants, wrongly stigmatizing them for seeking asylum, and equating them to Priority 1 national security threats, gang members, and felons. Yet ICE uses “precautions” due to the “sensitive nature” of removing high-threat “Priority 1” families with children.

Tying asylum seekers to border security is a meaningless political soundbite. These are people who pose the least threat but are the most vulnerable. A month before news of the raids, Secretary Johnson 
said, “We must not forget that the overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees are women, children and families who are fleeing the very same terrorism and violence we are concerned about.” And he is right: my Syrian clients tell stories that mirror what I hear from my Central American ones: people targeted by a criminal regime for daring oppose them in any way, including helping victims of the brutality, participation in a peaceful protest, or even not supporting the regime strongly enough. My Syrian clients have been beaten, detained, besieged, and seen their family members and children killed with impunity. Is there a different standard for Central Americans? 

There are no agreed upon benchmarks on border security. John McCain tried once, saying only “
I'll know it when I see it.” Immigration restrictionists have long argued that the border must be secured before there can be any Congressional fix of our broken system. But providing legal means to entry is what will help secure the border. Why would anyone pay $10,000 to a coyote and risk his life if there was a way to come in legally at a fraction of the cost? Less people entering illegally means it's easier and cheaper to know who's coming in and keep unwanted people out.

But our enforcement-first system instead strains under the pressure, and the the legal machinery meant to guarantee due process breaks down. ICE officers routinely pressure asylum seekers to waive their rights. Most are not represented by lawyers – which, when coupled with language, cultural, and educational barriers, leaves them helpless. 
Improper servicecoercion, and woefully inadequate legal representation are some of the main reasons these orders are rescinded. So these “final” orders of deportation aren't as “final” as they seem.

Ultimately, this is a misguided and ill-advised move by DHS. 146 congressmen wrote to President Obama on January 12 telling him as much. Regardless of the text of the memo, sensible prioritization means going after the dangerous people first – especially those who have
 had their fair day in court. For every child getting locked up and deported, a person with a serious criminal record walks free. 

Hassan M. Ahmad, Esq.

<![CDATA[HMA Law Firm On New Afghan Variety Show]]>Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:49:35 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/hma-law-firm-on-new-afghan-variety-showPicture
We have some exciting news to share!

Our firm has been invited to appear on a new international Afghan television program, Shakha-E-Dunyah. Shakha-E-Dunyah is aired twice a week on Payame Afghan TV, a satellite television network based in Los Angeles, California. Payam-e-Afghan is an Afghan channel that features news, music, and entertainment shows in primarily the Dari and Pashto languages.

It is broadcast 
all over the world and reaches thousands of viewers every week. Attorney Sharifa Abbasi (who speaks fluent Dari), will make a weekly appearance on the show and will discuss an important immigration topic each week. Click on the links below to watch her in action!

starts at 18:02

starts at 36:51

Sharifa Abbasi, Esq.

<![CDATA[Guidelines on Form I-693, Medical Examination]]>Mon, 11 Jan 2016 00:42:12 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/guidelines-on-form-i-693-medical-examinationIndividuals applying for adjustment of status by filing Form I-485 are required to submit the Form I-693, Medical Examination along with their Form I-485. The reasoning for submission of this document is to ensure that the individual is not inadmissable based upon public health grounds. Prior to 2002, the medical examination was considered valid within one year of the Civil Surgeon's signature. From 2002 to 2014, the medical examination was considered valid any time until adjudication of the Form I-485.

On May 30th, 2014, USCIS announced that starting June 1st, 2014, all medical examinations will be considered valid for one year after completion and signature by a Civil Surgeon, and will be considered valid for one year after submission to USCIS.

Some of the general requirements of the submission of the medical exam are as follows:

1) The medical exam must be performed by a USCIS-designated civil surgeon in accordance with Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations;

2) The medical examination report must be properly completed;

3) The medical examination report must be submitted to USCIS less than one year after completion of the examination [emphasis added];

4) The benefit application must be adjudicated no more than one year after the date the medical examination was submitted to USCIS [emphasis added]; and

5) The medical report must establish that the applicant does not have a Class A medical condition.

USCIS recommends submission the medical examination at the following times: 1) concurrently with the adjustment of status application (Form I-485); or 2) at any time after filing of the application but prior to its adjudication. 

Note: If it is not filed concurrently, USCIS encourages applicants to wait until USCIS requests the medical examination report before submitting it. USCIS also notes that it is acceptable to bring a completed medical examination form to an interview.

If an individual does not file the Form I-693, Medical Examination along with the Form I-485, USCIS recommends the following before submitting the medical exam:

USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) for a current Form I-693 when adjudicating an adjustment of status application. In order to facilitate the matching of the I-693 to the pending adjustment application, USCIS recommends that applicants wait for the Request for Evidence sending in the Form I-693. However, when the priority date in a retrogressed case may become available for a short period of time, practitioners may decide to submit the Form I-693 prior to receiving a Request for Evidence in an effort to increase the likelihood that the adjustment application will be adjudicated as soon as the priority date becomes available.

​Humza Kazmi, Esq.
<![CDATA[Oped: Donald Trump Showcases Ignorance (Again)]]>Fri, 11 Dec 2015 19:41:22 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/december-11th-2015Attorneys Humza Kazmi and Hassan Ahmed have an op-ed in Counterpunch discussing Donald Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States:

Ignorant of the thousands of applicants whose visas are denied, revoked, cancelled, or stuck in interminable security checks every day, Trump’s proposed solution accepts the radical’s narrative of religion, exposes his ignorance on the laws and processes of this country, and poses an even greater threat to national security than the national security problems they purport to solve. This latest proposal is much the same as his “solution” for immigration reform in general: build a wall.

Read the full op-ed here.]]>
<![CDATA[Nepal Temporary Protection Status Registration Deadline on Dec. 21, 2015]]>Fri, 11 Dec 2015 19:25:07 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/nepal-temporary-protection-status-registration-deadline-on-dec-21-2015The registration deadline for Nepalese nationals (and habitual residents) to seek Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States is fast approaching - December 21, 2015. 

As previously discussed, Temporary Protected Status designation was granted to Nepali nationals and residents on June 24, 2015, in the wake of the earthquake of April 25, 2015.  All eligible Nepali nationals and residents seeking TPS must register by December 21 in order to receive the benefits of TPS, which include work authorization and temporary relief from removal.

If you are a Nepali national or resident who has been in the United States  on, or before, June 24, 2015, you may be eligible for TPS. Please contact our office for further information and in order to determine eligibility - you must still meet the requirements for TPS. But you may apply even if you have an order of deportation, are in removal proceedings, or are out of status.]]>
<![CDATA[Op-Ed: Governors Refusing Refugees is Illegal Overstep]]>Thu, 19 Nov 2015 18:40:11 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/op-ed-governors-refusing-refugees-is-illegal-overstepAttorneys Humza Kazmi and Hassan Ahmad have an op-ed today in Hoy Dallas criticizing governors who have expressed opposition to settlement of refugees within their states:

While it is crucial for elected officials to safeguard the public, these refusals manage to be both counterproductive and without the support of law. Governors simply do not have the authority to control the entry of refugees into their states....[T]here's more to this than just a federal/state divide. Attempting to exclude refugees from a state based on their country of origin also touches upon issues of equal protection under the law – issues that were presumably resolved nearly 70 years ago.

Read the full article at Hoy Dallas here.
<![CDATA[Rare Deferral of Removal Victory for Honduran Client]]>Fri, 13 Nov 2015 23:07:44 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/rare-deferral-of-removal-victory-for-honduran-clientOn October 29, 2015, the Executive Office for Immigration Review granted deferral of removal for a client of the HMA Law Firm, who had been seeking relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). CAT claims are rarely granted; in 2014, under 5% of CAT claims were granted relief (EOIR FY 2014 Statistics Yearbook, Page M-1). Deferral of removal claims, in particular, were granted a scant 1.08% of the time. 

For someone to obtain deferral of removal under the CAT, they must demonstrate that they will likely be tortured in their home country, either by the government -- or by someone else with the acquiescence of the government. 

Here, our client was able to show the court that, through the past harms his family has suffered from being specifically singled out and targeted by gangs and his bearing a tattoo similar to a gang symbol, he would be at risk in Honduras, no matter where he was in the country. The court also concluded that the utter lack of police investigation, high levels of official corruption and involvement with organized crime, and use of extrajudicial violence and torture by government security forces indicated that the Honduran government "fails to protect victims of violence by gangs and criminal organizations."

Because there was nowhere for our client to seek protection from the violence he was likely to face upon his return to Honduras, and because the Honduran government would deliberately turn a blind eye to the dangers he would face from both gangs and Honduran security forces, the court granted our client deferral of removal. 

Attorneys Sharifa Abbasi and Humza Kazmi litigated this case. If you have any further questions about the CAT or deportation defense, feel free to contact the HMA Law Firm. 

DISCLAIMER: Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case. 

​Humza Kazmi, Esq.

<![CDATA[17-Month OPT STEM Extension Rule Invalidated by Judge in U.S. District Court]]>Tue, 18 Aug 2015 21:29:28 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/17-month-opt-stem-extension-rule-invalidated-by-judge-in-us-district-courtOn August 12th, 2015, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle invalidated the rule announced by USCIS in 2008 which allowed automatic 17-month extensions for students seeking Optional Practical Training in certain STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related positions. The Department of State announced the automatic extension in defense of thousands of students who would have to leave the U.S. upon completion of their educational programs leaving thousands of unfilled jobs in the STEM field.

The benefits of the 2008 announcement by DHS allowed three things: 1) Students with certain degrees were allowed automatic extensions in their OPT extending the validity period from 12 to 29 months. The second benefit was that the H-1B "cap gap" was automatically granted. The third benefit was that students on F-1 nonimmigrant status were allowed to apply for OPT up to 60 days after graduation rather than apply before their graduation date.  These have all now been eliminated with Judge Huvelle's invalidation of the 2008 rule.

Judge Huvelle's decision is stayed until February 12th, 2016 due to serious consequences this invalidation would cause for foreign students employed in the U.S.; they would need to immediately depart the U.S. With the current ruling, the Department of Homeland Security will need to pass a new rule by February 12th, 2016 in order to avoid students on STEM OPT to lose their employment authorization, will only be allowed to work while on F-1 status and cannot legally work after graduation, and H-1B cap-gap protection will no longer be automatic.

The invalidation of this 2008 rule by USCIS significantly limits the options of employers and students in seeking fulfillment of certain STEM-related positions. The limitation and revocation of the 2008 rule will result in thousands of positions unfulfilled and will force thousands of students to depart the United States.
<![CDATA[DHS Announces Temporary Protected Status Designation for Nepal]]>Wed, 24 Jun 2015 15:13:11 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/dhs-announces-temporary-protected-status-designation-for-nepalPicture
The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has announced the designation of Temporary Protected Status for nationals of Nepal living in the United States of America on/prior to June 24th, 2015. Due to the devastating earthquake that struck in Nepal on April 25th, 2015, and the subsequent aftershocks, eligible nationals of Nepal residing in the United States of America may apply for Temporary Protected Status along with employment authorization.

The designation period for Temporary Protected Status for Nepal will be in effect from June 24th, 2015 until December 24th, 2016. Filing for Temporary Protected Status will allow individuals without any formal means of permanent status in the U.S. to be allowed temporary relief from removal. The 180-day registration period begins June 24th, 2015 and runs through December 21st, 2015. Please contact our office for further information and in order to determine eligibility - you must still meet the requirements for TPS. But you may apply even if you have an order of deportation, are in removal proceedings, or are out of status.


If you are a citizen or national of Nepal, and are in the United States as of today,  June 24, 2015, it is important to create evidence of your physical presence in the United States. Take today's newspaper and stand in front of an American landmark or a well-known restaurant or store that only is in the US, and have someone take your picture.

<![CDATA[Crimmigration Training CLE for Virginia Lawyers]]>Fri, 05 Jun 2015 19:15:39 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/crimmigration-training-cle-for-virginia-lawyersOn July 1, 2015 HMA Law Firm attorney Hassan Ahmad will be conducting a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) for Virginia criminal defense lawyers on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions.

Register here. 2.0 live MCLE, 0.0 ethics. Replay on July 16, 2015 (also counts for live 2.0 MCLE).

Many of the concepts will be useful even for non-Virginia practitioners. Don't get Padilla'ed, avoid an ineffective assistance of counsel claim!

Learn the language of "crimmigration," how the deportation system works, what Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys look for in a record of conviction when assessing a non-citizen's removability, and how to achieve the best possible result for your non-citizen clients to avoid or minimize the risk of detention and deportation.

In Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the defendant was entitled to post-conviction relief because he entered a plea based on his counsel’s erroneous advice regarding the immigration consequences of conviction. As a result of Padilla, a defense counsel has an affirmative duty to advise non-citizen clients of the immigration consequences of their criminal convictions, or risk IAC claims. Don't let this be you.

In this first-of-its-kind seminar, experienced immigration and criminal defense attorney Hassan Ahmad will explain the collateral immigration consequences of criminal convictions in Virginia so you are prepared to tackle the issues.

Topics to be covered include:

  • The importance of understanding immigration consequences
  • An overview of the deportation system
  • Understanding Deportability vs. Inadmissibility
  • Crimmigration categories
  • Advice on handling the non-citizen client
  • Practice aids to include a Crimmigration Checklist and templated Padilla-compliant warnings (in English and Spanish)