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Orange County Immigration & Naturalization Law Blog

Abercrombie & Fitch fined for immigration discrimination

On June 25, Abercrombie & Fitch settled an immigration discrimination charge by agreeing to pay over $158,000 and submit to two years of federal monitoring. The charge against the clothing retailer, which has several locations in California, was filed by a woman who claims that she was required to present a green card to prove that she was eligible for employment, although similar proof was not required by applicants who were U.S. citizens.

The company's request of the plaintiff reportedly violated the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. Although the company did not admit to discriminating against the plaintiff based on her immigration status, the company agreed to pay the woman $3,661 for back pay plus interest. A $153,932 fund was also set up to compensate other people who might have been similarly discriminated against. The company also agreed to pay a $1,100 civil fine for the violation.

Supreme Court allows appeals of immigrants in mishandled cases

California immigrants may encounter challenges when seeking legal assistance in a variety of situations. Language and cultural barriers may make communication difficult, and if a case is handled incorrectly, an immigrant may have little realization of the fact that this has occurred. In some situations, a deportation could even occur because of a legal error. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled that federal appeals courts have the ability to intervene in cases requiring review based on legal errors.

The case resulting in this decision involved a man who pleaded guilty to domestic abuse charges. Because he was undocumented, he faced deportation action after this incident. His immigration attorneys at the time made a clerical error by failing to file the correct documents. He did not become aware of the error until he retained different attorneys. However, the deadline for filing an appeal was missed during this process, leading to the dismissal of the appeal.

Domestic partnerships not recognized by immigration law

California residents may not be aware that if they are not married to a foreign national, they cannot use their domestic partnership status as a path to permanent residence for the person. This is true even if the domestic partnership is registered with the state.

When a person marries their partner, they may petition on their partner's behalf for their green card. Since the immigration law does not recognize domestic partnerships, this means that they may want to marry their partner to provide them with a basis through which they can then apply for status as a permanent resident.

Court rules against citizenship for American Samoans

California residents may not be aware that those born in some U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico are granted automatic U.S. citizenship, but individuals born in others like American Samoa are not. A group of American Samoans decided to challenge this state of affairs by filing a lawsuit, but a June 5 federal appeals court ruling preserved the current law. The three judges who heard the case concluded that the 14th Amendment does not grant U.S. citizenship automatically to those born in an unincorporated political territory of the United States.

While many American Samoan residents likely hoped that the lawsuit would be successful, the litigation failed to garner support from the territory's government officials. The judges hearing the case expressed reluctance to make a ruling that many in American Samoa would not be in agreement with, but observers point out that objections to automatic citizenship are often based on a desire to preserve rules that prevent those with no American Samoan ancestry from owning land.

Supreme Court rejects appeal to save Arizona immigration law

California residents may be interested to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to reconsider an appeals court decision striking down an Arizona law that denied bail to illegal immigrants charged with serious felonies. The rejection, announced on June 1, means that the lower court's ruling that the law is unconstitutional stands.

In 2006, 78 percent of Arizona voters approved a constitutional amendment that said judges could not release illegal immigrants on bail "if the proof is evident or the presumption great that the person is guilty of the offense charged." Three state and federal courts allowed the amendment to stand based on a 2003 Supreme Court case that found illegal immigrants can be jailed before trial because they may flee over fears of being deported. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit overturned those rulings based on a 1984 federal law that states judges must decide on a case-by-case basis if dangerous defendants should be jailed before trial. The court found that Arizona's law was a "scattershot attempt" to combat flight risk. The majority of the Supreme Court declined to intervene. The court's three most conservative members, Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, would have heard the case.

How criminal convictions affect naturalized citizens

The process for immigrants to become naturalized citizens is long and complex, so it is only natural that they be concerned about whether they could be deported if they are convicted of a crime, whether the conviction occurs in California or any other state. While a conviction is not likely to lead to deportation when the crime was committed after the individual became a naturalized citizen, there are some rare cases in which deportation is possible.

Federal law makes it very hard for naturalized citizens to lose their naturalization status. One instance in which this could happen, however, is if they concealed a criminal record during the application process. When the government discovers this criminal past, it has the right to denaturalize the citizen. In the past, most deported and denaturalized citizens were Nazis or other World War II persecutors who did not tell the truth about their past when they applied for citizenship in the United States, but cases like this since then have been very rare.

Changes to immigration law regarding family detention

California residents may be interested to learn that on May 13, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it will be changing one of its policies regarding detention of immigrant families who are crossing the border illegally. It will no longer consider deterrence when making its decision about detention.

Other changes were announced as well. The federal agency will also review families who have been in detention for longer than 90 days. In addition, federal authorities announced intentions of improving conditions and access to attorneys at detention facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania.

EB-5 visa applications for Chinese investors paused

Chinese immigrants and investors looking to travel to California through the EB-5 visa program may be interested to learn that the program was paused on May 8. The report noted that this does not necessarily mean that the program is ending; the State Department and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services are reportedly giving investors from other countries a chance to obtain their green card.

Essentially, investors who applied for their visas after May 1, 2013, will be required to wait until more visas are available. The effects of the decision, which could include longer lines for visas in the future and a loss of millions of dollars in the form of new investments, were heavily weighed. It should be noted that, in early 2015, two congressmen introduced H.R. 616 which would reform the program.

A look at visa requirements for visiting international athletes

California residents may wish to know more about the visa process for bringing international athletes into the U.S. for competitions. Once granted, these visas are available and renewable for the duration of the athletic event.

Known as the P1-A visa, this type of immigration visa has certain requirements. These are slightly different for teams and individuals. For teams, they must be traveling to the U.S. in order to compete in a team sport that requires teams to be internationally recognized. Additionally, the team itself must have gained some international recognition. Individuals must meet similar requirements on an individual level. They must have some individual skill or other achievement that has caused them to be recognized internationally.

US sees record number of H-1B visa applications

Businesses in California and throughout the country are filing record numbers of applications in order to be able to bring more foreign workers in to take jobs in the science, engineering and computer fields. Applications for employment-based visas are limited by Congress to 85,000 per year, and only 20,000 are specifically available for those with a master's degree are higher. Despite the limit, more than 233,000 applications have already been filed for 2016.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services typically uses a lottery process to assign visas to companies seeking to hire foreign talent. This lottery is done by a computer program to ensure that it is administrated fairly. Because of the increased number of applications, employers have only a 36 percent chance of obtaining an H-1B visa.

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