<![CDATA[The HMA Law Firm - Immigration & Criminal Defense Lawyers - Blawg]]>Wed, 25 Nov 2015 16:14:21 -0500Weebly<![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. 
<![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)

<![CDATA[Forgiveness for Marriage Fraud? Maybe!]]>Thu, 21 May 2015 18:56:36 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/forgiveness-for-marriage-fraud-maybeBIA Decision Allows 237(a)(1)(H) Waivers for Adjustees
On May 18, 2015 the Board of Immigration Appeals issued a precedential decision in Matter of Agour, 26 I & N Dec. 655 (BIA 2015) confirming that the old waiver under INA 237(a)(1)(H) is  available for people who committed fraud to get their green card within the United States, not just those who committed fraud outside. For years, this waiver was always understood to protect those who used fraud or misrepresentation to "enter" the United States. Although the language was changed from "enter" to "admitted" in 1996, the courts refused to allow people who committed fraud by filing Form I-485 from benefiting from this waiver.

Which makes little sense. If there is a law meant to protect family unity to forgive fraud, why should it matter where the fraud occurs?

The BIA, in an unpublished decision back in 2013, had found adjustment of status constituted an "admission" for purposes of this waiver but since it was unpublished, it was not a binding decision. Not anymore.

For many people who obtained their green card via a fraudulent marriage after being admitted to the United States, say, on a visitor visa, this decision will help.

What if the person only obtained a 2-year conditional permanent resident (CPR) card? The answer is a little less clear. I do not believe a CPR card can "magically" become a permanent 10-year LPR card by applying for a 237(a)(1)(H) waiver. But it should allow a late-filed I-751 hardship waiver. Moreover, there is at least an argument that 237(a)(1)(H) waives marriage fraud such that the marriage fraud bar (under INA 204(c)) would not apply - which means that the qualifying relative in the waiver could, if a US citizen, apply to readjust the waiver applicant's status to a "fresh" green card. To read it any other way, I believe, would render the waiver meaningless as applied to CPR's - which cannot be consistent with Congressional intent. (The waiver, formerly under INA 241(f), pre-existed the CPR scheme enacted by the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986.) It remains to be seen how this will play out in the immigration courts.

We have litigated marriage fraud cases all the way up to the federal courts of appeal. We looked forward to the day when we would be able to tell our clients that though a mistake may have been made, there is potentially a way out. For many of our clients, that day has come.

<![CDATA[New Office Opening on April 20th, 2015]]>Sat, 18 Apr 2015 15:13:05 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/new-office-opening-on-april-20th-2015The HMA Law Firm is proud to announce the opening of our new office located in Tysons Corner, VA! Our new location will officially open on April 20th, 2015.]]><![CDATA[Fiscal Year 2016 H-1B Cap Filled]]>Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:31:05 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/fiscal-year-2016-h-1b-cap-filledUnited States Citizenship & Immigration Services announced on April 13th, 2015 that the H-1B Cap for 2015 had received more than 233,00 petitions for H-1B Specialty Occupation Worker visas as of the the initial filing allowance date of April 1st, 2015 until April 7th, 2015.

On April 13th, 2015, United States Citizenship & Immigration Services conducted a computer-generated selection. USCIS started with the 20,000 allotted spots available for those with advanced degrees, the remainder of petitions with advanced degrees were then counted against the general 65,000 spots available.

USCIS will begin sending notifications in the coming days to the attorney on record or petition employer in the coming days. Selected petitions will be issued the official receipt notice, Form I-797C, starting this week and into the coming weeks. Cases that were not selected in the lottery will not receive a notice. The entire filed petition along with filing fees will be returned to the attorney of record or directly to the petitioning employer.

Was your petition selected? We eagerly await results.
<![CDATA[Deportation for an Infantile Arrival?]]>Fri, 13 Mar 2015 02:15:51 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/deportation-for-an-infantile-arrivalICE issued an Notice to Appear (NTA - the charging document for initiation of removal (deportation) proceedings) for an alleged alien. The NTA failed to allege alienage, and instead alleged that the person "illegally entered the US by wading across the Rio Grande River near the Presidio, Texas port of entry on 1/15/15 with the intention of going to Dodge City, KS to reside and seek employment."

This individual's date of birth? 1/4/15. That's right. 11 days old. Waded across, somehow, with the intent to seek employment in Dodge City. His mother, by the way, maintains that the child was born on the US side.

I really wouldn't know what to say if this were my case. "Your Honor, we'd like a speedy bond determination. My client has deep ties to the United States, having lived here his whole life. I'm happy to brief the issue, but may we have a brief recess? It's my client's naptime."

If any non-government attorney brought a case this frivolous, they'd face sanctions by the Court and quite possibly the wrath of the Bar. Yet ICE carries on. Not long ago, another ICE attorney in Seattle, Jonathan M. Love, knowingly submitted, and maintained, a clearly forged document in an attempt to deprive a deserving man of deportation relief.  Other immigration attorneys report that despite the fact that Judge Hanen's temporary injunction did not reach Obama's executive action memorandum on prosecutorial discretion, ICE has been refusing to follow it.

"But we are a country of laws. The laws need to be followed. We can't reward lawbreakers!"

Pot, meet kettle.

See the redacted "Baby NTA."]]>
<![CDATA[Deferred Action...Not Deferred]]>Thu, 19 Feb 2015 14:54:33 GMThttp://www.hmalegal.com/blawg/deferred-actionnot-deferredOur firm is proud to announce yet another approval for an individual who entered the United States of America prior to the age of sixteen as a grant of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This individual arrived after turning 15 years of age but lacked sufficient proof to establish residency in the U.S. She was not in school. She had barely worked. She didn’t know too many people when she had first entered the United States of America. She came to our office with little evidence and even less hope.

“Do you really think this will work for me? Do you think that I will be granted Deferred Action?” she asked with fear, nervousness and a sense of defeat already in her voice. We assured her of her eligibility and qualifications; the biggest obstacle to overcome was determining what documentation we would have available to submit. Our client did not have much to show her years living in the United States. A common issue we see with our clients applying for deferred action is the ability to show, through proper documentation that they have been in the United States prior to the age of sixteen and before June 15th, 2007.

She came to our office with photographs of her at the local mall during the holiday season and was able to recall the year of the photograph. With a little bit of investigative work, we were able to contact the mall’s holiday decorators. We wanted to prove her presence in the United States by affirmatively showing, with the assistance of the mall decorators, that the decorations on the Christmas tree in the background of her photograph were of the same year required to prove that she had entered the U.S. before the age of sixteen.

With Deferred Action for a Childhood Arrival, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services place a great burden of proof of the Applicant to prove their residency in the U.S. prior to the age of sixteen. Obtaining affidavits (formal statements) can be a form of proof but is a last-ditch effort. Along with our proof of her presence at that specific mall, at that specific time of year but the specific decorator, we affirmatively proved our client was without a doubt, in the U.S. and therefore was eligible to be granted Deferred Action.

Unfortunately, the mall decorators were unable to determine who set up the tree that specific year. But it didn't matter: we were able to show that we did our due diligence.

Our firm prepared a strong Memorandum of Law with our filing to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services along with all of the affidavits of due diligence and other proof of her presence in the United States.

We are proud to welcome our newest Grantee of Deferred Action with three years of valid employment authorization and he ability to live in the United States of America without the fear of deportation hanging over her head at every turn. 

Do you think you are eligible for Deferred Action for a Childhood Arrival? Contact our office today to see if you qualify!

[Editor's Note: Despite Judge Hanen's ruling of February 16, 2015, people that qualified under the first DACA announcement in June 2012 are NOT affected and still able to file. They must meet the original requirements, not the "expanded DACA" requirements.]

Faisal Khan]]>