Thursday, May 23, 2013

Asylum Changes May Come With Immigration Reform

Immigration reform may affect not only people in this country without documents and skilled technical workers, but also people seeking to escape persecution in their home countries. Congress is considering several changes to the law of asylum.

Right now, people who want to apply for asylum status must submit their applications within one year of entering the United States, or else their applications may be denied. This deadline for applications causes trouble for many asylum seekers. The current version of the Senate bill, which was recently approved in committee, would end that deadline. It could also give a second chance to people whose applications have been denied because they did not file their applications on time.

Another provision would take away a grant of asylum from anyone who returns to their home country without a good reason for doing so. Because the Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev visited Dagestan after receiving asylum in the United States, authorities are worried about visits to conflict-prone areas. However, this could cause lots of trouble for people who return to their home countries, even at great risk to themselves, to visit family or dying relatives.

The Senate bill may also increase asylum officers' power to resolve disputes, and impose stricter checks and security measures on people seeking asylum.

To read more, click here. If you are considering applying for asylum, contact Glickman Turley for information on how we may be able to help.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Immigration Bill

After intense debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the "Gang of 8" immigration reform bill. Now that it has been approved in committee, it will go to the entire Senate for approval.

The committee debated over two hundred amendments to the bill, and compromised on some important points. The main purpose of the bill, to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, remains in the text. However, the availability of this pathway is conditioned on the success of border security measures. Technology companies cheered a provision that would increase the number of H-1B technical worker visas allowed each year, while labor unions opposed the measure. 

The bill does not include a provision that would have allowed gay and lesbian U.S. citizens to petition for their same-sex spouses to gain status. Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy wrote the amendment, but withdrew it amid fears that Republicans would use it to block the passage of the bill.  Multiple senators expressed great regret at the decision to remove the amendment, with Sen. Chuck Schumer calling it "rank discrimination" to treat same-sex spouses differently under immigration law. Although this amendment will not be included in the language of the bill, there is a possibility that same-sex spouses could receive the same immigration opportunities as opposite-sex spouses currently do, if DOMA is overturned in the Supreme Court.

Some harsh provisions were removed from consideration, including Senator Ted Cruz's suggestion of barring immigrants for life from receiving public assistance.  Senators also added some measures to protect immigrants' rights, such as a ban on raids in schools, hospitals and places of worship.

Glickman Turley's attorneys are closely following the debates in Congress. We are thinking ahead about options for our clients under the new laws. Contact us today if you have immigration questions.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Glickman Turley's Client Gets Promising Ruling in Immigration Appeal

One of our clients came to us when she found out she was facing deportation. After her case was rejected by an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals, Glickman Turley attorneys filed an appeal in the First Circuit Court of Appeals. We requested a stay of removal for this client, so she could remain in the U.S. while her appeal was pending. The stay was granted, but the court also identified several issues it found relevant to her claims. Specifically, the court requested information on the question of whether there was "substantial evidence" to support the BIA's findings that our client would be able to find work in her home country and that she might have been aware of misconduct by her spouse many years ago. It also questioned the BIA's authority to review credibility findings and whether our client's stated intention to exercise her rights under U.S. law, should she become a citizen, could be held against her. 

Although our client's appeal is not yet decided, this is a promising sign. We will exercise our best efforts to fight for her ability to stay in the U.S.

If you are facing deportation, or if you want to change your immigration status, Glickman Turley can help. Contact us today about your immigration issue.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What happens to your e-mail account when you die?

You may never have thought about what will happen to your e-mail or social media after your death, and you may never read those long "terms of service" agreements required by many online services. Two Massachusetts siblings have been forced to consider these topics recently, while engaged in a long legal battle to get access to their deceased brother's email.

A man named Robert opened a Yahoo! e-mail account for his brother John in 2002. In 2006, John was killed in a car accident. Robert then tried to log in to John's email so that he could notify friends and family about John's memorial service, but he did not have the correct password. Robert and his sister Marianne then asked Yahoo! to give them access to John's e-mail account to help them find his assets and administrate his estate. At first, Yahoo! agreed to do this if they could get a copy of John's death certificate. Later, it refused based on a federal law called the Stored Communications Act, which is designed to protect the privacy of online service users.

Robert and Marianne got a court order allowing them to get "subscriber and e-mail header information," but after further negotiation with Yahoo! they were unable to get the contents of John's e-mails. They brought a case in Massachusetts probate court against Yahoo!, asking that the court declare that the contents of John's email were part of his estate.

So are e-mail messages part of the property of an estate under Massachusetts law? The appeals court has not yet reached an answer on this issue. Instead, it addressed some preliminary issues stemming from the Yahoo! e-mail terms of service agreement. The court determined that the provision in the terms of service requiring Robert and Marianne to use the California court was not enforceable, because they never received adequate communication of it until they began litigation. The case will go back to the lower court for more analysis. However, this case only involves a Yahoo! e-mail account, and does not deal with social networking sites, photos, reviews, and the other types of online content you may create.

What can you do to ensure your wishes are followed after your death? Only five states currently have estate laws that deal with electronic data, and Massachusetts is not one of them. If you have a Google account, you can sign up for "Inactive Account Manager," which gives access to a trusted person after a specified period of time without account activity. For your electronic data as well as all other property, it is wise to have an estate plan in place. Although the law around electronic data is complex and is still developing, Glickman Turley attorneys can help you come up with a plan that fits your needs.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Possibility of Second Chances for Deportees

Legislators are considering adding a provision to the immigration reform bill that would offer a new opportunity for previously deported people to return to the United States. To qualify, deportees would need to have a child, parent, or spouse with legal permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship, and be free of serious criminal convictions. This group would possibly also include people who first arrived in the U.S. before age 16.

This provision is highly controversial, and some people believe it would give an unfair second chance to people who already broke immigration laws. Others feel it is necessary to enable families to be reunited. Conservative lawmakers are still insisting that border security must be the first priority, and granting paths to citizenship should be conditional on achieving certain targets of border security. However, the bill is far from done; senators have filed at least three hundred potential changes, according to the Washington Post.

One of those possible changes would allow U.S. citizens to petition for their same-sex spouses to get green cards. This would allow same-sex couples to have equivalent ability to petition for their spouses as opposite-sex couples have, regardless of what happens with the Supreme Court decision on DOMA.

Lawyers at Glickman Turley LLP are closely following the immigration bill, and we look forward to advising immigrants of their options under the new law.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Administrative Appeals Office gives some consideration to "extreme hardship" faced by applicant's domestic partner of 17 years

In a recent decision, the Administrative Appeals Office sustained an appeal of a waiver application of a Mexican man who presented false documents to enter the country in 1993.  In order to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility under 212(i), an applicant has to show that the bar to admission imposes "extreme hardship" on a qualifying relative, which in the case of fraud can only be a parent or spouse of the applicant.  

Even though the applicant had a domestic partner of 17 years, the court's primary focus was on the hardship to his mother.  However, the applicant's counsel did present evidence that the domestic partner would suffer emotional and physical hardship. The court explained, "The AAO may give some consideration to the applicant's relationship as a family tie to the United States.  In this case, however, impacts to the applicant may not be considered except for the indirect impacts they have on qualifying relatives, in this case, the applicant's mother.  The AAO finds it reasonable to accept that the applicant's mother views her son's relationship with his domestic partner as a marriage, and it finds it equally reasonable to expect that she would experience an emotional impact due to her son being separated from his partner."  

Hopefully, immigration reform and/or or a decision by the Supreme Court will finally address these kinds of disparities in the treatment of heterosexual and homosexual couples.