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Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

U.S. Issues Travel Warning for Travel to and from Egypt

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The U.S. Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid travel to Egypt due to ongoing political and social unrest.  On January 30, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of dependents and non-emergency employees.  Violent demonstrations have occurred inseveral areas of Cairo, Alexandria and other parts of the country, disrupting road travel between city centers and airports.  Disruptions in communications, including internet service, may occur. The Government of Egypt has imposed a curfew from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez until further notice, and U.S. citizens should obey curfew orders and remain indoors during curfew hours.

U.S. citizens currently in Egypt should consider leaving as soon as they cansafely do so.  Cairo airport is open and operating, but flights may be disrupted and transport to theairport may be disrupted due to the protests.  Travelers should remain in contact with their airlines or tour operators concerning flight schedules, and arrange to arrive at the airport well before curfew hours. In the event of demonstrations, U.S. citizens in Egypt should remain in their residences or hotels until the situation stabilizes.

Security forces may block off the area around the U.S. Embassy during demonstrations, and U.S. citizens should not attempt to come to the U.S. Embassy or the Tahrir Square area at such times.  The U. S. Embassy is open for emergency services for U.S. citizens only until further notice.  Any change to Embassy hours will be posted on the Embassy website.  U.S. citizens in Egypt who require assistance, or those who are concerned that their U.S. citizen loved one in Egypt may require assistance, should contact the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo at EgyptEmergencyUSC@state.gov, or at 1-202-501-4444.

U.S. is also encouraging U.S. citizens in Egypt to enroll in the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP) at the following website: https://travelregistration.state.gov.  U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly at the U.S. Embassy.  By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassyto contact them in case of emergency.

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Written by MithrasLaw

January 31, 2011 at 10:39 am

President Obama’s Aunt Granted Asylum

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President Obama’s aunt, who is the half-sister of the President’s late father, Zeituni Onyango, came to the United States in 2000 seeking a better life and applied for political asylum in 2002, but was rejected in 2004 and ordered to leave the United States. Onyango remained undetected until the presidential election when she was found living illegally in Boston. Onyango filed a petition to reopen her asylum case and she was granted asylum last week in Boston by Judge Leonard I. Shapiro, on the grounds that she feared tribal violence and health risk if she were forced to return to her home country Kenya. (Click here for the earlier article where our attorney, Hanishi T. Ali, was interviewed by AP).

Asylum seekers must show that they will face persecution if forced to return to their home country on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group – which is a difficult standard to meet.

Onyango lawyers successfully argued that Onyango, 57, was a member of a minority tribe, the Luo Tribe, in Kenya and that she would face persecution if forced to return to Kenya. In addition, Onyango’s lawyers asked to for her to remain in the United States for health reasons as Onyango suffers from an autoimmune disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Onyango is now entitled to work and to apply for legal permanent residency in a year and US citizenship after five years.

Written by MithrasLaw

May 25, 2010 at 11:17 am

US Supreme Court entitles criminal cases defendants to immigration advice

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March 31, 2010

By a  7-2 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of a non-citizen immigrant, finding that his lawyer’s advice was so bad that it violated his constitutional right to a fair trial.

The high court’s ruling extends the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment guarantee of “effective assistance of counsel” in criminal cases to immigration advice, especially in cases that involve deportation.

“The severity of deportation – the equivalent of banishment or exile – only underscores how critical it is for counsel to inform her noncitizen client that he faces a risk of deportation,” said Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the opinion for the court.

In September 2001,  Jose Padilla, a native of Honduras agreed to haul almost 1,000 pounds of marijuana, but his cargo was discovered at a truck weigh station in Kentucky and he was arrested. His lawyer advised him to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of five years in prison.

Padilla, who has lived in the United States for more than 40 years as a legal permanent resident, said he asked his lawyer at the time whether a guilty plea would affect his immigration status and was told it wouldn’t.  It turns out, Padilla’s trial lawyer was wrong, and the US Government sought his deportation.

Today, the court held that criminal defense lawyers must not only advise their non-citizen clients of the legal punishments that flow from pleading guilty, but also of the risk of deportation. In Padilla’s case, the court said, the terms of the immigration law were “succinct, clear and explicit” in defining the consequences of pleading guilty.

While seven justices ruled in Padilla’s favor, two of them — Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito — didn’t go as far as the majority on the duty of defense lawyers. They said a lawyer is required only to warn a defendant that a guilty plea could adversely affect their immigration status and that they should therefore consult an immigration lawyer.

Written by MithrasLaw

March 31, 2010 at 2:41 pm

USCIS Humanitarian Parole Fact Sheet

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Humanitarian parole enables an otherwise inadmissible individual to enter the United States temporarily due to urgent humanitarian reasons. Parole is not intended to be used to avoid regular visa-issuing procedures or to bypass immigration procedures. Parole does not confer any permanent immigration status, but does enable a recipient to apply for and receive employment authorization.

Humanitarian parole is typically granted for the duration of the emergency or compelling situation at issue. Anyone granted humanitarian parole must depart the United States prior to its expiration date or risk being placed in removal proceedings. An individual paroled into the United States, however, may request that a period of humanitarian parole be extended.

Anyone may file an application for humanitarian parole, including the prospective parolee, a sponsoring relative, an attorney, or any other interested individual or organization.

Questions & Answers (issued by the USCIS)

Q.  Where can I find the law about humanitarian parole?
A. The legal foundation for humanitarian parole comes from the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Section 212(d)(5)(A) of the INA states USCIS has discretion to parole an individual into the U.S. temporarily under certain conditions for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit on a case-by-case basis.

Q.  If I have a pending or approved relative petition, but I need to get my family member to the United States more quickly than waiting for the normal immigration and visa processing, should I apply for humanitarian parole?
A. Humanitarian parole normally cannot be used to avoid normal visa-issuing procedures or to bypass immigration procedures.  The course of action in such situations is usually to request expedited processing of your relative petition and/or visa.

Q.  How do I request humanitarian parole?
A. You file a request for humanitarian parole using Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with the Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, following the instructions on the Form or the USCIS website.

Q.  Is there a fee and, if so, can it be waived?
A. Yes, all Form I-131s must be accompanied by a fee. Regulations do not permit USCIS to waive the fee. For more information on the fee, see the Form I-131 page on
http://www.uscis.gov/forms.

Q.  How long does will it take to get an answer on my application?
A. USCIS generally will make a decision on a request for humanitarian parole within 90-120 business days from the time USCIS receives the application. Urgent cases may be processed within days when necessary.

Q.  How can I find out the status of my application?
A. To check the status of your application, contact the Chief of the Humanitarian Affairs Branch at the following address.

Department of Homeland Security, USCIS
Attn: Chief, Humanitarian Affairs Branch
20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Suite 3300
Washington, DC 20529-2100

Please provide specific information about your application, such as the case number of the humanitarian parole application, the name, and date of birth of the petitioner, the date of application, and a brief explanation of the reasons for seeking parole.

Q.  How will I be notified if my request is approved?
A. If you are the applicant, you will receive a written notice when your application has been adjudicated.

Q.  For what period of time will I be granted humanitarian parole?
A. Humanitarian parole is typically granted for a set period of time that corresponds with the duration of the urgent situation at issue. It is seldom granted for longer than one year.

Guidelines

A Humanitarian Parole application package should contain ALL of the following:

  • Original Form I-131, Application for Travel Document

  • Original Form I-134, Affidavit of Support

  • Filing fee

  • Detailed explanation of the reasons why you are applying for Humanitarian Parole and the length of time for which you need Humanitarian Parole (the maximum time is usually limited to one year)

  • Detailed explanation of why you cannot obtain a U.S. nonimmigrant visa from the Department of State including:

    • when and where you attempted to obtain visas,

    • if you were denied, send a copy of the denial letter given to you

  • Detailed explanation of the reasons why you cannot obtain any required waiver of inadmissibility (if applicable) and a copy of the denial letter if you received one

  • Copies of any previously approved immigrant petitions (Forms I-130, I-140, I-360)

  • Copies of supporting documents (tax returns, doctor’s letters, etc) can also be referred to as evidence.

Written by MithrasLaw

March 16, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Human Rights, Immigration

Tagged with ,

USCIS To Process Applications of Widow(er)s of Deceased U.S. Citizens

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The President recently signed the FY2010 DHS Appropriations Act into law, allowing eligible widows or widowers of U.S. citizens to qualify for permanent resident status regardless of how long the couple was married. The new law amends the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by removing the two-year marriage requirement previously necessary for a widow(er) to qualify for permanent resident status as an immediate relative of his or her late U.S. citizen spouse. Additionally, when a widow(er) qualifies as an immediate relative under the law, his or her unmarried minor children will also qualify for the same status. The law applies equally to widow(er)s living abroad, who are seeking immigrant visas and widow(er)s in the United States, who want to become permanent residents based on their marriage.

These provisions of the FY2010 DHS Appropriations Act relate only to the impact of the citizen’s death on a widow(er)’s eligibility for classification as an immediate relative.  All other requirements for approval of a visa petition remain in force.  Specifically, the widow(er) must still establish that:

  • He or she was the citizen’s legal spouse.
  • The marriage was bona fide and not an arrangement solely to confer immigration benefits to the beneficiary.
  • He or she has not remarried.
  • He or she is admissible as an immigrant.
  • In an adjustment of status case, that he or she meets all other adjustment eligibility requirements and merits a favorable exercise of discretion. 

 

For more details see the USCIS Fact Sheet.

Written by MithrasLaw

January 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

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The U.S. Department of State has released its Individual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.  These reports are indispensable for refugee and assylum seekers.  Broad observations that can be drawn from the Reports are:

  1. In 2008, pushback against demands for greater personal and political freedom continued in many countries across the globe. A disturbing number of countries imposed burdensome, restrictive, or repressive laws and regulations against NGOs and the media, including the Internet.
  2. Human rights abuses remain a symptom of deeper dysfunctions within political systems. The most serious human rights abuses tended to occur in countries where unaccountable rulers wielded unchecked power or there was government failure or collapse, often exacerbated or caused by internal or external conflict.
  3. Healthy political systems are far more likely to respect human rights. Countries in which human rights were most protected and respected were characterized by the following electoral, institutional, and societal elements:
  • Free and fair electoral processes;
  • Representative, accountable, transparent, democratic institutions of government, including independent judiciaries, under the rule of law to ensure that leaders who win elections democratically also govern democratically, and are responsive to the will and needs of the people; and
  • Vibrant civil societies, including independent NGOs and free media.

Written by MithrasLaw

March 4, 2009 at 2:04 pm

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