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Filipino WWII vets to receive parole

October 5th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Flag of the PhilippinesAfter years of waiting, some Filipino families will be reunited as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is creating a parole program for the family members of Filipino and Filipino-American World War II veterans. The move is projected to affect as many as 6,000 individuals who can now receive permission to reside and work in the United States while awaiting an immigrant visa and status as a lawful permanent resident—a green card.

President Obama’s Visa Modernization Task Force, which issued the report Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st century, issued a recommendation to DHS for humanitarian implementation of the parole program. The humanitarian aspect of the program, according a release on the parole news, is that it creates the necessary scenario allowing “eligible family members to provide support and care t their aging veteran family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.”

“For too many years, the U.S. government has failed to deliver promises and benefits to those brave Filipino WWII veterans,” second-generation Filipino-American attorney Rio Guerrero writes of the situation. “But, finally, after tireless efforts by Filipino WWII veterans and their advocates, a significant accomplishment is within reach. The estimated remaining 6,000 Filipino WWII veterans who became U.S. citizens may reunite with their sons and daughters inside the United States”

Other humanitarian parole programs include the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program and the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program. As with these family reunification programs, the success of the Filipino parole program, the attorney writes in his article, “will rely upon the family’s ability to prove eligibility, based upon either the humanitarian considerations or the U.S. national interest.”

“In 1941, more than 260,000 Filipino soldiers responded to President Roosevelt’s call-to-arms and later fought under the American flag during World War II. Many made the ultimate sacrifice as soldiers in the U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East and as guerilla fighters during the Imperial Japanese occupation of the Philippines,” the task force report on the group. “Estimates indicate that as many as 26,000 of these brave individuals became proud U.S. citizens.”

Immigrant entrepreneur brings floral artistry to White House

September 30th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Flower Arrangements by ImmigrantsIranian immigrant and entrepreneur, Hedheh “Roshan” Ghaffarian, is bringing her floral artistry to the pomp-and-circumstance events as well as the day-to-day décor of the White House, according to a release from the Office of the First Lady. In the statement, First Lady Michelle Obama stresses Ghaffarian’s story as a emphatic testament to the American dream.

Ghaffarian, who was born in Tehran, Iran, came to the United States with her family in the 1970’s—following the Iranian Revolution. Growing up in Northern California region of Los Altros, Ghaffarian ventured into her entrepreneurial endeavors by launching Flower Affairs from her parents’ garage. Now with a storefront in San Francisco, Ghaffarian’s credits include more than 25 years of experience in the floral industry and more than 1,000 events under her belt. Emphasizing her expertise in “envisioning, planning and executing large-scale events with great attention to detail,” the First Lady said in the statement “ the president and I look forward to seeing her creativity flourish for White House guests to enjoy year-round.”

White House Social Secretary Deesha Dyers emphasizes Ghaffarian’s depth of abilities for the job. “I couldn’t be more pleased that Roshan’s diverse portfolio will be reflected in our upcoming events and day-to-day décor, giving guests a true taste of American entrepreneurship and artistry,” she says.

According to the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, the bulk of immigration from Iran to the United States has occurred in two distinct waves– between 1950 and 1979 and between 1979 and 2001. While the years after the Second World War saw the development of joint business interests between the two countries, the years from 1925 through 1950 totaled around 2,000 Iranian immigrants. This is compared to 8,500 immigrants entering the United States in 1979 alone and 10,500 immigrants enter the United States in 2001. In 2012, according to a chart from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.,  13,000  Iranian nationals immigrated to the United States, bringing the total number of Iranian immigrants in the country to nearly one-half million.

For her part, it looks as if Ghaffarian is more interested in practicing her craft than in assessing her role in Iranian immigration.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to serve in this Administration and will dedicate myself to advancing the tradition of excellence and elegance in the White House,” she says in a statement.


Hispanic gala highlights service, education

September 28th, 2015 by Romona Paden

USCISA Montgomery County, Maryland business organization has made a tradition of support for the area’s Hispanic community. At this year’s Executive Hispanic Gala, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez was recognized for his work and dedication through a public service award while area Hispanic students were awarded with scholarships to be used at state institutions.

For USCIS Director Rodríguez, a resident of the area as well as county attorney from 2007-2010, the public service award is in “recognition of his impeccable record of public service in Montgomery County and for his help in achieving significant community partnerships so that permanent residents learn more about citizenship and the naturalization process,” Lorna Virgill, the gala’s founder, says in a press release.

The Hispanic Gala is designed to bring together stakeholders and organizations that are committed in their assistance of Hispanic youth in attaining a high level of education. For organizers, the event likewise is a tool to build strong and diverse communities across the country of Montgomery and through the state.

New and recent graduates from any Maryland high school or those who’ve obtained a Maryland GED are eligible to apply for the scholarships when attending a state institution in the Spring of the next year. Students must have graduated from high school with a grade point average of at least 2.5 and must demonstrate significant volunteer community service contributions in the last 12 months. Students who are eligible to apply must be U.S. citizens, a resident or a Dreamer—someone who benefits from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Applicants of the scholarship program are required to complete an online application as well as:

  • 500-word essay answering the effects of growing up in a diverse community and how this will affect career choices
  • Letter of recommendation from a school advisor, teacher or professor
  • Letter of recommendation from a community organization

“The 2015 Hispanic Gala Steering Committee is committed in developing highly educated Latino professionals while providing critical financial assistance that will increase graduation rates from post-secondary education,” according to site information.

Pope Francis Visit Could Recharge Immigration Push

September 23rd, 2015 by Romona Paden

Pope Francis in March 2013Hopes are running high for immigration reform advocates as Pope Francis begins his first visit to the United States. With his long-held stance that wealthy countries should welcome migrants from poor or war-torn countries, speculation holds that the head of the Catholic Church will leverage his visit to sway policymakers toward adding a healthy dose of compassion to the nation’s immigration laws.

The level of influence the pope holds is no small matter. In July, for instance, a Gallup poll showed almost 60 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of the pope. Last spring, a poll from the Pew Research Center showed the pope’s favorability rating at 70 percent.

“People really like him, even if they’re not Catholic,” Enrique Pumar, chair of the sociology department at the Catholic University of America, told USA Today. “They like his charisma, his humility. He’s not coming here to ask for a favor like a trade pact or U.S. investment in the Vatican. He’s advocating for compassion, for principles and values, and that tends to carry more weight.”

It’s Pope Francis likability factor that will most likely spearhead his efforts around immigration legislation. Director of the initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, John Carr, says he doesn’t expect to see the pope present a specific legislative proposal on immigration to Congress. Instead, Carr says, the pope will emphasize the need to treat immigrants with dignity.

“Washington worries about people with the most money and the most power. Immigrants don’t have either,” Carr says. “I think the pope will appeal to our hearts and souls and not to our polls or our politics.”

Pope Francis, who’s visiting the United States after spending several days in Cuba, will not only address congressional lawmakers, he’s also scheduled to offer remarks at the United Nations. At the UN, the pope is expected to again speak about the plight of immigrants, but will likely focus on the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Africa.

Kenneth Hackett, U.S. ambassador to The Vatican, put it this way, “I have to believe that he will reiterate that value of mercy that he has brought up in so many other endeavors.”

USCIS Pushes Naturalization Efforts and Builds Voter Rolls

September 21st, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigrant influence in politicsWith 8.8 million legal residents—green card holders—living in the United States, White House officials and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are pushing naturalization and citizenship efforts. The effectiveness of the push could carry strong influence in the upcoming 2016 elections.

During the week of September 17-23 alone, which is Constitution Week, more than 36,000 immigrants will become citizens through more than 200 naturalization ceremonies around the country— taking place in museums, libraries, landmarks and national parks. In the same effort, regional immigrant groups are organizing more than 70 citizenship workshops in cities across the nation.

Estimates put immigrants who are eligible to become naturalized citizens at around 60 percent Latino and at around 20 percent Asian. Significantly, both groups have demonstrated solid support for President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections. Presumably, each group will continue casting ballots for Democratic candidates.

“Sadly, I think the administration went overboard,” Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles said in a New York Times story on the topic. “I think it is politicizing the naturalization process.”

With Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 elections, some GOP observers suggested party outreach toward diversity efforts as the solution to the underlying problem of a shrinking base. According to reports, Romney lost nonwhite voters by more than 60 percent and Republican ranks of white voters in 2016 will come in at 2 percent less than the number of white voters in the 2012 election. In order to remain relevant, then, the drivers behind the next iteration of the Republican Party included a fundamental commitment toward diversity and the development of a multi-cultural platform.

The reinvigoration assessment fell apart when Donald Trump came on the scene, campaigning to an anti-immigration drumbeat. With his candidacy to become the party’s nominee, some say Republicans have doubled down on the party’s most conservative values.

According to immigration statistics from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS,) green card holders spend a median of seven years before becoming citizens. However, immigrants are eligible to apply for citizenship after spending only five years as a legal permanent resident when they meet all eligibility requirements, or after three years for those who are married to a U.S. citizen.

The naturalization and citizenship campaign highlights the naturalization process and USCIS educational resources available for use in the process. The Citizenship Public Education and Awareness Campaign got underway in July with digital media in California, New York, Texas and Florida. Now, USCIS is expanding the campaign to six additional states—New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Washington and Arizona. A full 75 percent of the country’s 13.3 million green card holders live in these 10 states.

DHS Designate Yemen for TPS

September 14th, 2015 by Romona Paden

CiudadaniaArmed conflict in the Republic of Yemen has spurred Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson to designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to eligible nationals of the Arab nation who currently reside in the United States. In response to a threat to personal safety on their return—a result of the humanitarian emergency resulting from ongoing armed conflict—eligible nationals can apply to receive TPS status from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.)

“Requiring Yemeni nationals in the United States to return to Yemen would pose a serious threat to their personal safety,” according to a USCIS release.

Yemen’s TPS designation went into effect September 3 and is effective through March 3, 2017. The designation means eligible Yemen nationals won’t be forced out of the United States and might also receive and Employment Authorization Document (EAD.)  USCIS offers a 180-day registration period, which runs through March 1, 2016. Status applications can be filed by both Yemen nationals as well as those without nationality who last “habitually resided” in Yemen, according to a USCIS release.

USCIS requires that eligible TPS applicants demonstrate continuous physical presence and also continuous residency in the United States since Sept. 3, 2015. Those who apply for the TPS status undergo a security check. Those individuals who have “certain criminal records” or “who pose a threat to national security” are ineligible for TPS.

The DHS secretary can bestow TPS designation on countries for a number of reasons. While ongoing armed conflict, such as the case with Yemen, is one such instance for TPS designation, others include environmental disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes or an epidemics or other “extraordinary and temporary conditions.”

TPS beneficiaries and those who are designated as preliminarily eligible on officials’ initial review of the case aren’t removable from the United States and can obtain EAD for employment. These beneficiaries and applicants can also be granted travel authorization. TPS status also means DHS officers are prohibited from detaining individual beneficiaries based on their immigration status.

Temporary Relief Extended for Soudelor-Affected Immigrants

September 10th, 2015 by Romona Paden

N Mariana IslandThe U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has extended temporary relief measures to immigrants from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) due to the extensive damage caused by Typhoon Soudelor on  August 2, 2015. While USCIS originally adopted a Sept. 2, 2015 cutoff date for temporary relief to these immigrants, the agency has now extended relief by 60 days through to Nov. 2, 2015.

USCIS relief measures include:

  • Changing or extending nonimmigrant status for an individual already in the United States. This applies even when the request is filed after the authorized period of admission expires;
  • Extending or offering re-parole to individuals previously granted parole by USCIS;
  • Expediting employment authorization application adjudication; and
  • Assisting lawful permanent residents (LPR) who are stranded overseas without immigration or travel documents, like a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card).

According to a USCIS release on the relief measures extension, the agency “may also exercise its discretion to allow for filing delays” due to the chaos caused by the typhoon. Discretionary matters could include:

  • Providing assistance to CNMI applicants who failed to appear for scheduled interviews or supply required forms. Applicants who fall into either of these categories can show how the typhoon interfered; or,
  • Providing assistance to those who’ve been unable to respond to a request for evidence (RFE) or notice of intent to deny (NOID). For those who fall into this category, USCIS is extending the RFE and NOID deadlines by at least 30 days and applies to all RFEs and NOIDs with a deadline of Aug. 2 through Nov. 2, 2015. “During this time, USCIS will not issue denials based on abandonment of an application or petition in the CNMI,” according to the release.

“Sometimes natural catastrophes and other extreme situations can occur that are beyond your control,” according to USCIS information on a page describing special situations within the domain of humanitarian outreach. “These events can affect your USCIS application, petition or immigration status. We cannot anticipate these events, but will do our best to help you get the benefits for which you qualify.”

Haiti TPS Designation Extended Additional 18 Months

September 2nd, 2015 by Romona Paden

Hatian ImmigrantsThe Temporary Protected Status (TPS) granted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) toward Haitian immigrants after a devastating January 21, 2010 earthquake struck the country has been extended for an additional 18 months. The extension is effective from Jan. 23, 2016, through July 22, 2017.

In an August 25 announcement posted on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) site, current TPS Haiti beneficiaries seeking to extend status must re-register during the 60-day period that runs from Aug. 25, 2015 through Oct. 26, 2015. The extended designation runs from Jan. 23, 2016 through July 22, 2017. The announcement also notes beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible.

With the 18-month extension, TPS beneficiaries who re-register can also apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Those who re-register before the October 26 deadline will receive a new EAD valid through July 22, 2017.

Because some re-registrants might not receive their new EADs until after expiration of a current EAD, “USCIS is automatically extending current TPS Haiti EADs bearing a Jan. 22, 2016 expiration date for an additional six months,” according the announcement. “These existing EADs are now valid through July 22, 2016.”

The checklist of materials to submit in order to re-register:

The Secretary of Homeland Security can grant TPS status to a foreign country due to conditions inside the country that “temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately,” according to USCIS information. “ USCIS may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the United States.  Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS.”

Alabama Trumps Immigration

August 27th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Immigrant influence in politicsAs a candidate who’s brought undocumented immigration to the forefront of issues in the presidential election, Donald Trump underscored his position at a mid-August rally at the University of South Alabama. While the billionaire presidential hopeful attracted a crowd of 30,000 to the event, one element that’s often been overlooked is that the state already has significant crackdown policies on the books that courts have consistently overthrown.

Passed by a new Republican legislature in 2011, the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act is designed to pressure undocumented immigrants to stay out of the state. The bill’s chief architect, Micky Hammon, said the passage of HR 56 would “make it difficult for them to live here, so they will deport themselves,” according to a Washington Post story on the topic. Renting a house to an undocumented immigrant, for example, became a crime. Additionally, the state’s police force as well as school administrators were empowered to demand proof of citizenship from anyone “who looked as if he or she might lack it,” according to the story.

The effect of the law brought substantial pushback from those on the other side of the issue. On the legal side, court challenges chipped away at the teeth in the law. On the political front, a public relations campaign successfully pushed the blame for vanishing capital investment and an exodus of agricultural workers at the foot of Republicans in the state.

One prominent Republican who supported the Alabama law was Mitt Romney, the party’s nominee in the 2012 election cycle. As the Washington Post story puts it, political strategists blamed Romney’s loss on “his support for the Alabama attrition policy. Those critics included Donald Trump.”

One of those on the other side of the issue from Trump is Frank Barragan. Barragan is the regional organizer in Mobile for the Alabama Coalition for Immigration Justice.

We could tell him a hundred of the things that went wrong in Alabama,” Barragan said in the story. “But our biggest concern is not really Donald Trump. Oour concern is that the other candidates are jumping on that bandwagon.”

Related: Arizona Immigration Laws go to Court

Papal Visit Could Push Immigration Agenda

August 25th, 2015 by Romona Paden

Pope Francis in March 2013Well known for his advocacy on behalf of immigrants the world over, Pope Francis will likely continue his crusade for the cause when the pontiff addresses both houses of congress during his visit to the United States in September. In addition to his address to Congressional lawmakers in Washington D.C., the pope’s itinerary during his U.S. visit also includes meetings with immigrants and Hispanic families

Pope Francis has been a vocal advocate for immigrants since he became head of the Roman Catholic Church in March 2013. Weighing in on the surge of Central American children crossing into the United States last year, he called the situation a “humanitarian emergency.” The pope has likewise previously noted a “tragic rise” in the number of immigrants fleeing poverty around the world. The pope will underscore his support of immigrants further by entering the United States by crossing over the southern border from Mexico if time allows.

Approximately one-third—169—of congressional lawmakers in Washington D.C. self identify as Catholic. Among the most high profile of these are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-L.A., and Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is also a devout Catholic and has invited the last three popes to address Congress.

Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democratic official from Massachusetts, is another Catholic who serves on Capitol Hill. “He’s been clear on our failure to respond appropriately to immigrants and refugees,” Rep. McGovern told Congressional Quarterly. “It may move some, it may not move others, but I hope it makes those who have been obstructionist feel uncomfortable.”

While McGovern anticipates the pope’s focus as immigration, Speaker Boehner’s office put out a statement that steers away from anticipating a single topic. “It will be the first time a pope has visited our Capitol building and also the first time a Pope has addressed a joint session of Congress,” according to a statement from a spokesperson. “While we cannot predict his remarks, we expect he’ll discuss issues that are important to Americans from all walks of life and on both sides of the aisle.”

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