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Public Service Announcement: USCIS Recalls DACA EADs

July 29th, 2015 by Romona Paden

ead-card-back-qanda

Image of a United States Employment Authorization Document (EAD) front (left) and back (above).

Employment Authorization Document

Some immigrants who received three-year work permits  earlier this year must return the documents to local offices of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or face termination of work authorization and legal status.

Officials with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) are reaching out to some immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status with three-year Employment Authorization Documents (EADs.) Specifically, USCIS is urging the return of the work permits issued after Feb. 16, 2015—the day a federal injunction on President Obama’s executive orders on immigration reform went into effect.

“If you received a letter or were contacted directly by USCIS regarding the recall of certain three-year work permits, you must IMMEDIATELY return your three-year work permit, also called an Employment Authorization Document, to your local USCIS office,” a USCIS correspondence reads. “If you fail to return your card, USCIS will terminate your DACA and all employment authorizations effective July 31, 2015.”

Among those who must return the recalled EADs are 2,100 DACA immigrants who received three-year work permits that were issued after February 16. USCIS has already notified this group of immigrants of the error and has also sent replacement EADs that are valid for the pre-reform timeframe of two years. Along with the revised work permits, USCIS is including a request for the return of the three-year work permits.

“USCIS is carefully tracking the number of returns of these invalid EADs and continues to take steps to collect the remaining cards,” according to the USCIS statement on the matter. “Individuals who are required to return three-year EADs and have not done so will be contacted by USCIS by phone or in person.”

Another immigrant group affected by the EAD recall are those DACA recipients whose work permits were undeliverable through the U.S. Post Office. USCIS re-issued around 500 three-year permits that fall into this category after the pivotal February 16 date.

It’s worth noting that approximately 108,000 three-year EADs issued before February 16 to DACA recipients are not included in the recall. Because the injunction had yet to go into effect, these EADs are still valid and don’t require any action with the USCIS.

USCIS Moves to Correct Some Three-Year EADs

July 27th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Employment Authorization DocumentUnited States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is working to retrieve certain documents inadvertently sent out by the agency. The invalid documents are those three-year Employment Authorization Documents the agency sent out to some DACA recipients after Feb. 16, 2015—the date a federal injunction on the executive orders went into effect.

The legal wrangling taking place since President Obama issued his executive orders in November 2014 means any action taken by USCIS since the injunction took effect are now void. According to an article on the topic posted on the USCIS site, three-year EADs issued after February 16 were “likely mistakenly issued and must be returned.”

Counted among the mistaken documents are approximately 2,100 EADs issued to recipients within the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Instead, these DACA recipients should have received two-year EADs. USCIS workers have already updated records within the agency’s databases, and they have re-issued and mailed out the corrected EADs. Along with the corrected EADs, USCIS is also notifying the group to return the invalid work permits.

“USCIS is carefully tracking the number of returns of these invalid EADs and continues to take steps to collect the remaining cards,” according to the USCIS statement on the matter. “Individuals who are required to return three-year EADs and have not done so will be contacted by USCIS by phone or in person.”

It’s important to note that approximately 108,000 three-year EADs were approved and sent to DACA program recipients on or before Feb. 16, 2015. Because the federal injunction to stop the executive order had not yet gone into effect for this set of work authorization permits, recipients of these cards are not affected.

For those immigrants who were approved and issued three-year EADs on or before February 16, but the documents were returned to USCIS by the U.S. Post Office as undeliverable, the injunction issue likewise comes into play. Because the re-mailed three-year work permits were approved and sent out after the injunction date, USCIS has “updated records to reflect a two-year period of deferred action and employment authorization.” The agency is re-issuing corrected EADs to these individuals.

Museums and Libraries Celebrate Citizenship

July 23rd, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigrant influence in politicsWhen the United States celebrated its 239th birthday this year, museums and libraries acted as prominent venues in the festivities. With more than 50 naturalization ceremonies across the country, more than one-third of them took place in some of the nation’s most famous libraries and museums.

Settings for the naturalization ceremonies included the New York Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago, Seattle Center, the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Among the historic sites where the ceremonies occurred were George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virginia; Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia; and the USS Midway in San Diego, California.

Teri  DeVoe, library program officer with The Institute of Museum and Library Services writes in the organization’s blog about witnessing the naturalization ceremony that took place at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

“Although the ceremony I watched had its own special hallmarks, including a keynote address from CIA Director John Brennan and words of inspiration from a George Washington reenactor, it had features in common with many other naturalization events that weekend,” the blog entry reads.

Primary among the common features in all the naturalization ceremonies over the holiday weekend, which saw more than 4,000 immigrants become United States citizens, was the Oath of Allegiance. With the Oath of Allegiance, immigrants pledge their support for the principles laid out in the U.S. Constitution, and they renounce allegiance to any foreign government or power.

Federal buildings, state and national parks and other historically significant locations were among the other venues used in the naturalization ceremonies.  Among these: The Rush H. Limbaugh, Sr. Courthouse in Cape Girardeau, Mo.; McCoy Baseball Stadium in Pawtucket, RI; and First Tennessee Park in Nashville.

“Occasions like these ask us to remember the value held by these historic sites, “according to the USCIS blog about the special naturalization weekend.

Take a look at some of these naturalization statistics:

  • Each year, around 680,000 immigrants become citizens of the United States.
  • In fiscal year 2013, 75 percent of all naturalized citizens resided in just 10 states. In descending order: California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
  • In fiscal year 2013, the top countries of origin for naturalized immigrants: Mexico, India, Philippines, Dominican Republic and China.

Iowa Voters Support Path to Legal Status

July 20th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigration Reform IssuesAs a first-tier state in terms of presidential election politics, candidates are ramping up their campaigns to meet the expectations of Iowa voters. And while the Midwestern state is not at the top of most lists in terms of its association with immigration, Iowa voters have given the issue some thought.

In an opinion article published on TheGazette.com, Linn County Supervisor Brent Olsen blatantly calls on candidates—specifically Republicans–  to address immigration in a serious and genuine way. This is essential for any serious contender for the nomination, he writes in the editorial that ran on July 18, While some candidates are willing to “pander to the small but vocal crowd of voters” who favor an “electrified ‘great wall’ on the southern border,” this approach leads to nowhere.

According to a Partnership for a New American Economy and Burning Glass Consulting poll, only 17 percent of Iowa GOP voters favor mass deportations. What Iowa Republicans are looking for on the immigration issue are those candidates who offer “more though-fueled, realistic and compassionate” solutions.

“Over 81 percent of Iowa Republican caucus voters said they would support a candidate with a multi-step plan for moving undocumented immigrants to some form of legal status,” Olsen writes. “That should be enough to throw cold water on the efforts of the anti-immigration extremists.”

Olsen’s urging of GOP candidates to offer solid solutions around immigration– instead of platitudes aimed at the most extreme voters within the party—centers on the practical. Critical groups in the 2016 election, he says, are voters under the age of 35 and college-educated white women.

“These key electoral groups show no patience for anti-immigration extremism,” the editorial says.

Rhetoric between now and the day of the caucus, currently scheduled for Feb. 1, 2016, will tell us if candidates heeded Olsen’s advice.

Public Service Announcement – USCIS Warns on Scams Aimed at Immigrants

July 17th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Avoid Scammers!A wave of scams are making their way through immigrant communities across the nation as United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues a warning about Caller ID spoofing.  With the scam, perpetrators extort money or information from their target victims.

With Caller ID spoofing, scammers deceive their target victims by sending a false name and / or phone number to the target victim’s phone display. Once the recipient is made to feel as if the phone call is made in an official capacity— that it comes from someone working at USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—scammers use their trickery to bilk victims and their families out of money or personal information.

Personal information could include Social Security numbers, bank account numbers or other information.  Providing a scammer with a Social Security number is a set up for identity theft. Providing a bank account number could give thieves a means of wiping out account balances.

According to a late June 2015 USCIS blog entry, scammers portray themselves in a capacity and then proceed to make “threats such as deportation and tells you to make a money transfer or go to a store or drug store to purchase a money order, voucher or make some other type of money exchange, payment or withdrawal.” Recipients of these fraudulent phone calls  are advised, “Do not go along with it—hang up and report it!”

The USCIS report goes on to say, “USCIS never asks for any form of payment or personal information over the phone. Do not give payment or personal information over the phone to anyone who claims to be a USCIS official. In general, we encourage you to protect your personal information and not to provide details about your immigration application in any public area.

Immigrants are all-too-often the targets of scams.  Besides USCIS’ actions to protect immigrants against fraud, a number of states have likewise taken steps to protect foreign nationals.

Spanish-Language Media Speaks Up for Latino Community

July 16th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigrant influence in politicsThe media coverage that accompanies presidential politics is growing in its dialect as Spanish-language outlets promise a bigger impact on the electorate than ever before. With a record 28 million Latino voters estimated to take part in next year’s elections, Spanish-language news and information outlets force the issues central to their audiences.

While mainstream, anglo-centric media might focus on health care, unemployment and the nation’s economy, leaders within Spanish-language outlets say coverage of those issues central to Latinos is left to them. Dominant among these issues is immigration.

In a recent Los Angeles Times story, Spanish-language newspaper publishing company ImpreMedia vice president of content, Juan Varela, put it this way, “We try to amplify the issues that maybe the mainstream media is not covering. We have more responsibility than other journalists. We are a part of this community, and we have a responsibility to support our people and to help to integrate them.

The point Varela’s makes is easily substantiated. For example, in a recent Spanish-language television show appearance, Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley discussed his proposals to help the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. While the undocumented immigrant issue was the sole issue O’Malley discussed during the Spanish-language show appearance, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos didn’t bring up the topic of immigration at all in his interview with the candidate.

“If the Spanish-language media has five minutes to talk to a presidential candidate about anything, they will talk about immigration,” said Gabriela Domenzain, a former Univision producer who now acts as an advisor on the O’Malley campaign.

Jorge Ramos, a Univision anchor and perhaps the most prominent face within Latin media, is unequivocal in his defense of the heavy emphasis on Hispanic issues. In response to accusations of heavy Latino bias in his news coverage—accusations most prominently levied by Republicans—Ramos published an open letter to GOP detractors.

“The Republican Party has been complaining lately about how some Latino journalists, including me, only ask them about immigration,” he said. “That is correct, but what Republicans don’t understand is that for us, the immigration issue is the most pressing symbolically and emotionally, and the stance a politician takes on this defines whether he is with us or against us.”

Clinton Plans Appearance at La Raza Convention

July 9th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Reform ProtestersDemocratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is working to win over immigrant interests in her bid for the office with a scheduled appearance to speak at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza later this month in Kansas City.

La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization, could be a critical component for candidates in the race. The organization’s president and CEO, Janet Murguia, told an audience in February that the organization is ready to back those candidates who back President Obama’s executive action to provide relief to undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

“It is very clear that this issue will be front and center as we look at candidates who are emerging” in 2016 at the state and national levels, Murguia said. “This issue is of great importance to us as a community and as Latino voters, and it will be one of the top issues in which we use as a lens to determine our vote.”

With her plans to speak at the group’s convention it’s clear that Clinton plans to leverage her position to sway voters toward her candidacy and away from others in the race who also recognize the importance of including immigration policy in their platforms. Of course, as former secretary of state under President Obama, Clinton association with the executive orders might be perceived as tighter than that of other candidates.

Murgula said that La Raza is confident the president’s orders are on “solid legal footing” and that the organization helps walk undocumented immigrants through the appropriate amnesty program. She also said the group is ratcheting up its advocacy efforts within Latino communities ahead of the 2016 elections.

“Ultimately, we can determine which politicians stood on the side of the law and of history and our community and which ones did not,” Murgula said. She also predicted an “unprecedented effort to get out the vote as we see the presidential elections looming large in 2016.”

While Clinton support for the immigrant community is well known, other candidates are likewise aware of the importance of courting those who weren’t born with American citizenship. The issue also looks likely to be a top priority for Republicans.

USCIS Launches Citizenship Awareness Campaign

July 8th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Citizenship testIn an effort to help millions of immigrants move through the process of becoming naturalized citizens, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has launched a set of new promotional materials to supplement its Citizenship Public Education and Awareness Initiative. The promotion centers on providing information on the naturalization process and USCIS education resources.

In its news release about the promotion, USCIS cites Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statistics from the Office of Immigration. These numbers estimate that close to 9 million lawful permanent residents—green card holders—meet eligibility requirements necessary to apply for citizenship. According to these numbers, immigrants who fall into the lawful permanent resident category spend a median time of seven years with the status before applying for citizenship.

By law, green card holders who meet all citizenship requirements can apply for naturalization after only five years. Green card holders who are married to a US citizen can themselves apply for citizenship after just three years as lawful permanent residents.

The campaign, set to run from July 1-August 15, includes print ads, digital ads, radio ads and video public service announcements. The media campaign’s components consist of materials in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese. A second phase of the campaign, which will begin in September, will include additional print and digital media spots.

Fundamentally, the campaign is intended to “demystify the process and provide lawful permanent residents with information to protect themselves against the unauthorized practice of immigration law.” Foreign-born residents are often the targets of fraudulent immigration assistance.

USCIS encourages organizations serving immigrant communities to tap into the campaign materials as a means to supplement ongoing efforts.

“USCIS is proud to expand its efforts to assist those eligible for citizenship—the highest privilege of our nation’s immigration system—to take the necessary steps to complete their journey,” USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez says in a statement. “Through this initiative, USCIS continues to emphasize the importance of citizenship to both individuals and the nation while providing free preparation tools for aspiring citizens.”

NYC Schools Face Language Hurdles

July 7th, 2015 by Romona Paden

tuition bill for undocumentedWith some 180 languages spoken among its five burrows, immigrant parents of kids attending New York City public schools are struggling with staying involved in their kids’ education.  According to reported results of the New York Immigration Coalition, translation and interpretation services that are required by federal law and by the city’s own Department of Education (DOE) charter, the current status of offerings fall far short of what’s needed.

“We release this report with hopes that the DOE will take immediate action to address the serious language access barriers parents face when trying to engage in their children’s school lives,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the coalition. “Currently, the DOE has only two people who are responsible for monitoring and supporting more than 1,700 schools on translation and interpretation.”

Among the most critical first steps in addressing the issue, advocates say, is the need for a language access coordinator in each superintendent offices. The creation of this position would give district parents a central contract to which questions and requests for information can be directed.

To this suggestion, the DOE appears to be ready to move. In an e-mail, DOE reportedly has plans to reinforce the current programs.

“Chancellor (Carmen) Fariña has prioritized the expansion of access to all services in native languages,” a DOE e-mail is reported to say. “Additional funding has been allocated over the next two years to support over-the-phone language services for parents in over 200 languages.

Immigrant parents say the holes in the DOE’s service offerings are glaring. For instance, in one districted located in Bronx, language services are available for those with kids at the elementary level, but nothing is offered at the Pre-K level.

For Bangladesh national Munni Akther, the mother of two daughters who arrived in New York a little more than a year ago, the issue is prohibitive to parental involvement.

“When I go to parents’ conferences, I never get answers to my questions because they don’t understand my broken English. I feel bad because I want to be involved 100 percent in my kids’ education and I can’t,” she said.

Nepal Earthquake Leads to TPS Designation

June 30th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Temporary Protected StatusWhen a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the Nepal in April this year, the resulting devastation served to rally countries around the world to come to the aid of the developing South Central Asian nation. In the same spirit of aid, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson has designated Nepal with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months—through December 24, 2016.

Eligible Nepal nationals—as well as those people without a nationality who last habitually resided in Nepal– can apply for TPS status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The status means officials won’t remove these people from the United States and also that these people can receive Employment Authorization Documentation (EAD).

TPS eligibility requires applicants to demonstrate meeting all eligibility criteria. Among the primary of these is continuous physical presence and continuous residency in the United States since June 24, 2015. The full list of requirements is available on the USCIS site.

TPS applicants also undergo security checks. Those applicants with criminal records or found to pose a threat to national security won’t receive protected status.

USCIS lets applicants request a fee waiver for costs related to TPS-related filings with Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver or through a written request. Waiver requests must also include supporting documentation. USCIS won’t process TPS applications that don’t include the required fee or fee waiver request.

The earthquake and the subsequent aftershocks killed 8,000 people in Nepal and injured thousands more when it occurred on April 25. Since then, billions of dollars in aid that has been pledged to help in recovery is just now beginning to trickle in, according to The Daily Mail.

The British newspaper reports a group is putting out a documentary about the devastation as Nepal Rising records the harrowing accounts of those who lived through the disaster. One woman tells the story of watching her home collapse during an aftershock when her husband was inside. Another woman describes being buried under rubble and debris until rescuers heard her calls for help.

For those in the United States interested in filing for TPS status, full details on the application process is available on the Federal Register notice.

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