Hale * began working with WGV partner Jacqueline Watson in 2011, when she applied for legal permanent residency as the daughter of a US citizen. Last month, Hale was able to achieve her dream of becoming a U.S. Citizen despite having profound physical and mental disabilities that prevented her from learning English, civics, history and even being able to attend her USCIS appointment. With Jacqueline’s advocacy, Hale was naturalized in her own home by a USCIS officer who traveled to her bedside to administer the naturalization ceremony. Congratulations Hale and Jacqueline for this inspiring victory!
* Name changed to protect client confidentiality
Omar* came to the United States from Honduras in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch caused such devastation in his country that he could not find work and his four children were at risk of starving. After arriving here knowing no one and not speaking English, he worked hard and learned the construction trade. After several years, he started a successful business laying stone flooring and patios in housing developments around central Texas. He continued to send remittances every month to his children in Honduras to provide for their welfare and education, and in 2008, he and his U.S. citizen girlfriend had a son together in Austin, Texas. Sadly, however, Omar’s girlfriend developed severe post-partum depression after the birth of the child and their relationship did not last. Omar was granted full custody of his son after it was determined that the child’s mother was not well enough to care for him.
In 2013, Omar was stopped in Williamson County on his way to a job after allegedly failing to use a turn signal. When Omar could not provide lawful immigration documents, the Williamson County Sherriff’s deputy turned him over to ICE. Omar was placed in removal proceedings and shortly thereafter hired WGV for his defense.
Because Omar had more than 10 years living in the United States, no criminal record, and a U.S. Citizen son, he qualified to apply for Cancellation of Removal in the immigration court. Winning Cancellation of Removal results in a grant of lawful permanent resident status, so we were hopeful that we could help Omar transform this stressful and frightening situation into a benefit for himself and his family.
The most challenging aspect of any Cancellation of Removal case is the requirement to show that one’s U.S. Citizen relative would suffer “extreme and exceptionally unusual hardship” in the event of deportation. Because Omar had been granted full custody of his son, and because his son’s maternal aunts, uncles and grandparents were willing to provide testimony to the fact that Omar’s role as father was critical to the child’s well-being, the Immigration Judge agreed that Omar met this very high hardship threshold and granted his application for Cancellation of Removal. Because of backlogs in the immigration court system, Omar’s green card was not issued until 2018, more than five years after he was placed in proceedings.
Omar gets to hug his children for the first time in nearly 20 years
Immediately upon the grant of his residency, Omar travelled to Honduras to visit the children he left behind in 1999. Because of Omar’s unfailing commitment to provide for them, his children have all had the opportunity to obtain an education in Honduras, a luxury that many Hondurans cannot afford. Omar is now beginning the process of petitioning for his adult sons and daughters and he hopes that they will one day be able to join him in the United States.
WGV is proud and honored to have assisted Omar and we congratulate him on his hard-won Lawful Permanent Residency.
Sayed* came to the United States in 2010 after having served the U.S. military in Iraq as an interpreter for five years. He was forced to leave Iraq under threat of death after his work with our armed forces was discovered by militants opposed to the U.S. presence there. Upon his departure from his country, he was awarded with numerous commendations for his courage, service, and sacrifice which were credited with having advanced the United States’ military mission in Iraq.
In March 2015, after accruing the required five years of presence in the USA as a lawful permanent resident (and meeting all other requirements), Sayed applied with USCIS for naturalization. His application stalled. Despite many attempts to gain information from USCIS about his application, Sayed was kept in the dark for almost three years regarding the status of his case. In late 2017, Sayed hired Walker Gates Vela to help with his case.
First, Walker Gates Vela reviewed Sayed’s application thoroughly. In doing so, we were able to ascertain that there was nothing in the contents of the application itself indicating a problem that could account for the delay.
Second, we submitted a written request for information to the San Antonio office of USCIS, where the application was to be adjudicated. When, after 30 days we did not receive a response to our inquiry, we escalated the case to the USCIS General Counsel in San Antonio. The GC was able to locate Sayed’s file and prompt USCIS adjudicators to schedule the required interview.
The Naturalization Interview
At the interview on his application, Sayed was subjected to questions which far exceeded the scope of what is normally reviewed during an application for naturalization. At the end of his interview, Sayed was instructed to gather and provide an extensive list of additional documentation in support of his application.
WGV helped Sayed gather, organize, and submit all the requested documentation, along with his letters of commendation from U.S. military officers. Not satisfied, however, USCIS then responded with an additional list of items for Sayed to submit. We responded again, only to be sent yet another list.
WGV files Lawsuit in Federal Court
Upon receipt of the third list of requested documents, WGV and Sayed agreed that USCIS had abused its authority with respect to his application and that the adjudication had already taken far too long. Sayed had no criminal record, had answered all of USCIS’s inquiries openly and honestly, and had provided plenty of evidence to demonstrate his eligibility for naturalization. Rather than continue to engage with USCIS regarding his application, Sayed decided to take his case to Federal Court.
Under section 336 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, if USCIS does not issue a decision within 120 days of interviewing an applicant for naturalization, the applicant may file a petition for naturalization with the Federal District Court presiding over his place of residence. Accordingly, in early October 2018, WGV filed a petition on Sayed’s behalf in the Western District of the U.S. District Court in Austin.
Sayed finally becomes a U.S. Citizen
Within approximately one week of Sayed’s District Court filing, USCIS agreed to schedule Sayed for his naturalization oath ceremony. Sayed would not be required to submit any additional documentation or attend any Court hearings or additional appointments with USCIS. On November 15, 2018, Sayed was sworn in as a naturalized U.S. citizen.
WGV is proud and honored to have assisted Sayed, and we congratulate him on his hard-won U.S. citizenship.