For our U visa clients who have been waiting many years to receive work permits while awaiting their U visa approvals, we have begun working through the federal court in Austin to push USCIS to make decisions on cases more expediently. To read more about those efforts, check out our blog post here.
Currently, we are concluding our first U visa delay lawsuit. Once that case is concluded, we intend to file for other clients who live in the Austin area, who have clean criminal and immigration records, and who have had their cases filed since at least 2017. Current processing times indicate that USCIS is adjudicating work permits for individuals who have had applications filed since September of 2015. We are arguing in our suit that five years waiting for a simple work permit is too long, and that this long wait time is frustrating the will of Congress, which is to provide legal status to cooperative victims of crime through the U visa program.
Last week, USCIS contacted us through their attorney and requested some clarification about our clients’ Form I-918B. The I-918B is the form that certifies that our clients were victims of a crime and cooperated with prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrator. In order for USCIS to approve our clients’ work permits, we need to coordinate with prosecutors at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office to clarify some of the information they included in the form. Once we do that, and submit the clarifications to USCIS, we anticipate that our clients’ work permits will be approved and issued within approximately 30 days.
If you have a U visa pending since at least 2017, have a clean criminal record, and live in the Central Texas area, you may be a good candidate to join our next lawsuit. For more information, please contact Jennifer Walker Gates at [email protected].
Since 2014, applicants for U visas have been forced to wait several years for their cases to be reviewed. Before then, U visas took about nine months for processing. But as the numbers of U visa applications exploded, USCIS did nothing to deal with all of the new cases, and the wait times for U visa processing became ridiculous.
Applicants for U visas are supposed to get a work permit while they’re waiting for the final decision on their case. But USCIS isn’t even conducting the preliminary review of cases for several years. Right now, WGV has more than 80 clients waiting for work permits for their U visas, and most of them have been waiting more than three years. We have been working with other attorneys from around the country to pressure USCIS to retool their U visa processing system but haven’t seen any real progress. Until now.
In late 2019, WGV filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court in Austin on behalf of two of our U visa clients, and we asked the judge to order USCIS to process our clients’ work permits. We didn’t know what would happen. The government fought back and asked the judge to dismiss our case. In January, the judge ruled that the government needed to provide a valid reason why their processing times were taking so long. The judge did not dismiss our case. In fact, he gave us permission to investigate USCIS to find out the reason they were taking so long. Instead of dealing with our investigation, however, USCIS offered to immediately issue our client’s work permit if we would drop the lawsuit. Which is what we wanted all along.
If you have a U visa case and have been waiting more than a year, we want to help. We are inviting U visa clients who have been waiting for more than one year to file lawsuits against USCIS for their U visa work permits. Also, before we file a lawsuit, we want to make sure you:
1. Have no significant criminal record;
2. Have had no past deportations;
3. Have no past fraud or misrepresentation problems.
But if you are like most of our U visa clients, you have a clean criminal history and a great opportunity to expedite the processing of your case if you join us in suing the government.
If you would like to discuss the possibility, please call us at (512) 633-1785 or email us at [email protected] to schedule an appointment.
Welcome to 2020! We hope your holidays were peaceful and full of the love of family and friends.
We at WGV are truly thrilled to welcome the new year. This year holds huge promise for our clients, our country, and our values, but ONLY if we all work together to make a change in our government in the November elections. This is a fact: in the United States, the number of people who don’t vote is much larger than the number who do. This means that, if everyone who is eligible to vote actually does vote, our government – and our country – will look much different.
Please understand: We at WGV are not interested in petty partisanship or political bickering. Rather, we want to see a government – regardless of party – that promotes just, fair, and humane policies for citizens and immigrants alike. We want a government that serves us rather than exploits, jails, and deports us. The current administration has used our clients’ suffering as a tool for their own political and personal gain. This is unacceptable to us, and we will do everything we can to ensure that the November elections put people in power who have integrity, compassion, and courage with respect to our country’s immigration policies.
To that end, we will be working hard in the coming months to make sure that every U.S. citizen we know is properly registered to vote. Our receptionist, Cristina Arellano, will become a Deputy Voter Registrar this month, so she will be able to assist any and all of our U.S. citizen clients with voter registration – right at our front desk. If you are a U.S. citizen and you need to register to vote or check your voter registration, please email Cristina so that she can contact you when it’s time to complete the process. Please note that if you have moved or changed addresses, you need to register again at your new address!
We are committed to working every day this year toward a more just and humane United States. Will you join us?
Many people have a poor understanding of what is meant by “freedom of speech” in the United States. There are many legal limitations that apply to “freedom of speech” and this is especially true for non-citizens. Therefore, if you have an immigration case, please know that the government will be scouring your social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, What’sApp, and many others. PLEASE do not post anything online that could put your case at risk, such as comments about drugs, crime, or violence, or even jokes that could be seen as degrading toward any group such as women, members of a particular religion, or minorities. And for heaven’s sake, DO NOT post pictures of yourself engaging in illegal activity! After you become a citizen, you can exercise freedom of speech more fully, but until then, please follow the “Grandma Rule”* with your social media activity (*if your grandmother would like it, it’s probably o.k.)!
If you need more information or are concerned about your social media presence, email us or call us at 512-633-1785 to make an appointment.
If you are in the United States and undocumented, unfortunately, you must face the reality that you are at risk of being arrested or questioned by ICE. This can happen if you are arrested for a crime, if there is a raid at your home or place of work, or even if you just stopped in your car for having a taillight out or an expired inspection sticker. If you are detained and/or deported, everything you have cared and worked for in the United States is put at risk.
However, just because you are detained and questioned by ICE does not mean that you will be deported immediately IF you know how to protect your legal rights. The three most important things to know if you are detained by ICE are: 1. Say nothing. 2. Don’t sign anything. 3. Get an Austin immigration lawyer.
Say Nothing: In the United States, the right to remain silent with law enforcement authorities is enshrined in our Constitution. Therefore, if you are stopped by ICE, the only thing you should say is, “Thank you. With all due respect, I refuse to comment until I speak with my attorney.”
Anything you say can be used against you later – in the criminal context (if you have been accused of a crime), and in the immigration context. So, answering the immigration authorities’ questions about where you were born, when you came to the United States, how you came here, where you live now, etc. etc. will probably be written down and then used against you in deportation proceedings. The best thing to say is, “I don’t want to speak with anyone but my lawyer.” Of course, be respectful and as cooperative as you can be – without engaging in conversation!
Sign Nothing: The second rule for handling an ICE arrest is “Don’t sign anything.” Especially if you are unable to clearly read and understand what you are signing, do not sign anything!
Signing a “voluntary return” is considered by the immigration service to break a person’s time living in the United States. So, you may have 20 years or more living here, no criminal record, and a child with a severe disability, but if you sign a voluntary return all of those good factors in your case are wiped away as far as the immigration service is concerned. If you come back to the United States without permission, you destroy your chances of legalizing your status through a family member and you may be charged with a federal felony and sentenced to time in a federal prison. Finally, crossing the border with human smugglers is exceedingly dangerous. Thousands of immigrants have died in the process, thousands more have become victims of kidnapping, human trafficking, and other crimes. So, no matter what, if you are detained by ICE and hope to have a chance of winning lawful status in the United States, do not sign anything that they put in front of you until a trusted lawyer has reviewed your case.
Get an immigration lawyer: If you are undocumented, the time to talk to an immigration lawyer is BEFORE there is an emergency. Interview several if you can so as to find one that you trust. Make sure your immigration lawyer has expertise in cases like yours and handles cases involving arrests, detentions, and deportation. Many immigration attorneys do not handle deportation matters.
Protection of your rights is not automatic. If you do not know what to do – and what NOT to do – in the case of arrest, you run the risk of destroying your chances of ever having legal immigration status. In the United States, our immigration system is extremely strict and very harsh in its application in many cases – especially involving undocumented immigrants. For this reason, knowing how to protect yourself in case of an ICE encounter is critically important to protect yourself and your family against the ruinous results of a run-in with the deportation machine.