To become a US citizen, one must possess “Good Moral Character.” What that means is not clearly defined. However, you don’t necessarily have to be a “Mother Theresa” to become a US citizen. In fact there are many who get their US citizenships after a stint on criminal probation. Here is the legal definition: good moral character is character that measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides.
In a naturalization or citizenship proceeding, the immigration officer would first review the last five years preceding your application. What did you do? The officer would be looking for the bad acts. Here is a short list of offenses that may raise a red flag: habitual drunkards, incarcerated for 180 days or more, those with certain gambling-related issues, those who have given false testimony and those who have committed aggravated felonies, prostitution, and practiced polygamy.
Are you safe if the bad conduct is outside the five years? It depends. The immigration officer may take into account the prior bad acts. If the officer believed that you have not reformed after your prior bad acts then those will be counted against you. If the officer believes your prior bad acts are relevant to the current application, you can get penalized. Can you get deported? Yes. For this reason it’s not a good idea to apply for citizenship without checking with an attorney if you’re concerned about a prior bad act.
Giving false testimony to obtain any immigration benefit is often taken for granted. Be careful on this one. If the false testimony was made orally, under oath or affirmation, and with intent to obtain an immigration benefit, you can get nailed. Don’t take anything for granted. Take your time to recall your past history. Go slow. If you’re concerned about a past misrepresentation check first with an attorney.
Immigration Service will conduct a background check on each applicant. At the time of the interview, the bad and the good will show. It’s best to be prepared and ready to explain your prior bad acts and let the officer know that you have a good moral character.
Courtrooms are made to reflect the power of the law and of the state – the stern guy in a long dark robe sitting behind a high desk, the flags floating behind him, the secretaries flanking him, the big police officers lurking everywhere.
Courtrooms are often controlled chaos – the lawyers flitting around talking to clients, the clerks milling in and out of side doors, the public flowing in from the back to fill the gallery, the underlying feel of tension.
Into this extraordinarily busy and confusing milieu, throw a youngster, and have him or her looking up – alone – at a judge, while being told that he or she must return to a place where crime and poverty and death prevail.
On January 29, 2018, in a case concerning a young fellow named CJ (alias), the U.S. Ninth Circuit Courts ruled that children who enter the country illegally with their parents have no right to a government-appointed lawyer in immigration court.
The ruling held that neither the Due Process Clause of the Constitution nor the Immigration & Nationality Act creates a categorical right to court-appointed counsel. The court relied on a federal case that held that since immigration court proceedings are considered civil cases rather than criminal, there is no constitutional right to an attorney.
The consequence of this ruling is that experienced and seasoned prosecutors are pitted against young and helpless children in court. The children don't stand a chance. These hearings are incredibly complex and some judges even have difficulty explaining the proceedings to adults, let alone to children. Nationwide, there are thousands of children in immigration courts. The end result may very well be the mass deportation of bewildered youngsters.
CJ's Story – Join or Die
CJ filed for asylum when he was 13, claiming that he feared persecution because a gang from Honduras was trying to recruit him. When he resisted the gang, his life was threatened. The boy came to the U.S. with his mother and ultimately appeared in immigration court without an attorney. Denied a stay of deportation, the gangsters are probably at CJ now – to join or die.
Imagine living in a town that is controlled by a bunch of drug-dealing murderers. The drug and gang wars in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are forcing kids and their families to flee their homes to survive. As they arrive in large numbers, many of them will land in immigration courts around the country – without any adequate representation.
“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me ...”
According to Stanford University Immigration Clinic, the present government believes that recent arrivals of children and their families are not entitled to any immigration relief. Yet, with a little bit of legal help, studies have shown that many recent arrivals would legally qualify for refugee status, or some type of special status, especially for certain vulnerable juveniles.
Also, Stanford indicates that many low-cost or non-profit immigration organizations are operating at capacity and unable to take many new cases in the wake of the ruling. Many people who are in removal or deportation proceedings are pretty much destitute and cannot afford an attorney. Courts often have to ask pro bono attorneys to represent them. The phones at my office are already jammed with people requesting low or free legal services.
This ruling may mean that thousands of children will have to represent themselves in immigration courts. Despite the recent ruling, it seems the Department of Justice has been deporting kids without benefit of attorney since 2014, according to Immigration Rights Advocates. The rule of law is essential, but there must be some compassion behind the law.
Help on the Way?
Despite the recent ruling facing young immigrants today, there is a current bill in Congress called "Fair-Day-in-Court-for-Kids-Act" according to Human Rights Watch. The act that would mandate court-appointed counsel for children, no matter the charge, civil or criminal.
With only kids to represent themselves in Immigration Courts, there will be mass deportations, sending these children back to the violence and the drugs and the gangs they are running from. This is tantamount to the U.S. delivering sentences of gang-slavery or gang-death on a massive scale. The undefended youngsters seem to be the criminals here.
About the author: Johnson Lazaro and Lazaro Law Group has been practicing law for over 22 years.
What is Family Law?
Divorce, child custody and support, spouse support or alimony, community property division, prenuptial agreements are all under the umbrella of Family Law. This is an area of the law that presents the whole spectrum of human emotions. Under family law we see denial, anger, bargaining, depression, frustration and acceptance. However due to the volatility of human relationship, family law becomes an integral part of our justice system. What follows are some answers to common family law questions.
How long to get a divorce in California?
Generally speaking a divorce is usually concluded within six months in California. However a marriage will not automatically dissolve within six months. There are procedures to be completed, forms to be filed and fees to be paid.
The lawyer for my ex keeps asking for my records and documents, should I provide them?
A party to a divorce has the duty to fully and accurately disclose all assets and liabilities in which one or both parties have or may have an interest. This responsibility includes the duty to disclose all community assets. The failure to disclose, or provide inadequate disclosure, can be grounds for the court to set aside the entire judgment. This means even after your divorce is completed, it can be reversed.
What’s the best way to gain custody of my child?
The Court will look into what is in the best interest of the child. You must honestly look at the situation that your child is in and decide whether you would be able to provide a more safe and nurturing environment. If you believe that the other parent would not do a good job caring for the child then get ready to articulate your reasons if you go to court without an attorney.
I have not seen my child in years. Can I still get custody?
The family law judge would not instantly award you custody of the child. You may first get some visitation time and gradually work your way to more custody. You’ll need to prove that you can be a responsible parent and comply with court orders. The next step will be to file a modification of custody.
How can I get spouse support?
Obtaining spouse support can be complicated. Try to consult with an attorney. Generally, some experts argue that temporary spouse support is to enable one spouse to live in her accustomed manner or lifestyle during a divorce proceeding. If one has a high standard of living during marriage and all of sudden, the divorce has left you without a roof on your head; you have good argument for support.
What’s the difference between a legal separation and a divorce? The main difference of course is that divorce dissolves the marriage. One is again single and free to marry. Legal separation does not terminate the marriage. Some people use legal separation to get around the six month waiting period. One can initially file for legal separation and then amend the petition once the residency requirement is met.
My house was fully-paid for before I got married. Now that my wife filed for divorce can I keep my house? Generally, property acquired before marriage are ordinarily the separate property of the spouse who acquired it. Conversely, if you acquire property during marriage but after separation you may get to keep that property as your own. See an attorney about this.
My child is with me in New Jersey and I have filed for child custody here. Now my Ex-husband filed a case California to get custody of my child.
Can he take my child? This is a very common question. Generally, unless there is an emergency, if there is a child custody proceeding in another state, a California Court will decline to hear the case especially if it determines that the parties will have hardship proceeding in California. However, the California Court may retain jurisdiction over the issues of the case such as the divorce or community property division.
Changing Times Increases Scrutiny at the Consulate Since the Trump Administration has tightened the borders, those conducting your immigrant visa interviews at the embassy or consulate are looking closer at your documents and answers. Even the smallest irregularity can result in a denial of entrance into the United States. In years past, a copy of a document or the actions of a distant relative would not have caused a problem, but it might now. What are the most common errors detected during the immigrant visa process? Let's find out.
Bring the Right Paperwork The process begins with paperwork before you even get to speak to a representative of the United States. Your petition should be reviewed by an attorney experienced in immigration law before you submit it to ensure that it is complete and accurate. After your petition is approved, you will be asked to collect documentation to support your request for a VISA.
The following documents and information will be required to qualify. Our firm will assist you to insure that you understand each of this these requirements.
1. Full legal name and full contact information of U.S. company.
2. Federal tax identification number of U.S. company.
3. Full legal name and contact information of foreign parent, if any.
4. Information about the nature of the U.S. company’s business in the form of an annual report, brochures, etc.
5. Five year business plan of U.S. company including financial projections and budgeting.
6. Stock certificates, stock ledgers, or other similar evidence of ownership by the foreign parent.
7. If no foreign parent, name and nationalities of foreign owners of U.S. company along with similar evidence of ownership (stock certificates, stock ledgers, etc.).
8. Evidence of investment in the U.S. company in the form of wire transfer receipts, bank statements, etc.
9. Evidence that the U.S. company is actively investing and total investment amount in the form of payments including all payments to vendors for office supplies, equipment, utilities, rent, insurance, travel, attorneys, accountants, etc.
10. Copy of current lease for office space sufficient to conduct business in the U.S.
11. Incorporation documents of U.S. company.
12. If applicable, government issued licenses for conducting specific type of business (e.g. retail sales, liquor license, etc.).
13. Total number of U.S. employees and number of U.S. employees in valid nonimmigrant work status.
In order to qualify you as an E-2 employee of the company, please provide the following.
1. Copy of current passport.
2. Copies of diplomas/transcripts for college or university education.
3. Detailed resume listing all prior positions with duties and dates of employment.
4. Job title and description of proposed duties for U.S. company.
5. If applicable, explanation of the knowledge and expertise you have that is needed by the U.S. company to ensure its success.
6. Proposed annual salary.
Take it or leave it. That's how the Trump administration framed its offer to save the "dreamers" in exchange for upending our country’s immigration system. The proposal would potentially allow as many as 1.8 million undocumented immigrants brought here as children to get a pathway to citizenship.
Unfortunately, this deal comes with extreme conditions that render it a dud. While the crisis facing the dreamers is real, it is not worth pitting immigrants against one another, or helping current migrants at the expense of future ones. The White House plan reflects a radical vision for the country that is as unrealistic as it is out of touch with American ideals.
Since President Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in September, the futures of roughly 800,000 DACA beneficiaries have been in limbo. Trump has sent mixed signals on their fate, and the Democrats went so far as to briefly shut down the government over the issue.
The new White House proposal is troubling on multiple levels. The overall problem is that it attempts to shift what should be a narrowly-focused debate over saving the dreamers into a broader one encompassing legal immigration. Yes, legal immigration.
But it makes no sense for lawmakers to wade into a distracting debate over legal immigration. Our economy is currently humming along, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average recently hitting 26,000 and unemployment at a 17-year low. The unemployment rates for Latinos and African Americans are at historic lows, too. Given that there is vast agreement among economists that immigrants are good for the economy, it is hard to see what problem is being solved by restricting legal channels of migration.
Source: USA TODAY
Foreign national parents, children and siblings of American citizens and legal residents have become the latest target as President Donald Trump and Congress tangle over immigration.
While much of the focus of the immigration debate has been on 800,000 to close to 2 million undocumented immigrants, Trump has pushed family-based immigration into the debate.
Late Thursday, he offered up a path to citizenship for the population of undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers in exchange for a list of border security and immigration enforcement resources, a border wall and significant cuts in the visas reserved for parents, children and siblings of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, about 1 million green cards are given to immigrants each year, with about two-thirds of those green cards for family-based immigration. The law allows U.S. citizens to sponsor for green cards spouses, minor children and parents and there is no numerical cap on how many of those visas can be granted.
U.S. citizens can also sponsor adult children and siblings, and legal permanent residents can sponsor spouses, minor children and adult married children. Those visas do have numerical caps.
by Suzanne Gamboa /NBC NEWS
The battle for child custody is ugly. Parents fight for the right to gain custody of the child. Some of the most pathetic and sad stories of the American family are sometimes displayed in full public view in American courtrooms. The child always caught in the middle –helpless.
The legal standard that judges use when parents fight over their children is the “best interest” standard. The Court determines custody based on what is in the “best interest” of the child. However, in reality, we see often that parents appear to forget about the child’s interest. In Court, it often becomes a mudslinging contest between the mother and the father. Sad but true. See for yourself. Go into a family court room - any family court room- and listen to the parents. Listen to how they plead their case. Listen to how they complain about the need to be with their children. Listen to their gripe about having to drive and pay for gas to pick up their kids. They whine about not getting this or not getting that. All of the sudden, it’s about the hardship of the parent. The child no longer matters.
Parents have the right to fight for custody of their beloved child. But when the child is used as an instrument to hurt or to retaliate against the other parent, the child suffers. Parents who forget about this may wage an all out war to gain custody. They will scream and curse and act in obnoxious ways trying to convince the court the he or she can best care for the child.
California has a policy of attempting to assure that the minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents. The Court has broad powers to make other orders related to the welfare of the child. And some good judges always remind the parents that child custody is not a fight between them. It is not a grudge match. It is trying to figure out the best possible parenting plan so that the child can grow as normal as possible despite the obvious hardships in having separated parents.
In many jurisdictions, parents are ordered to attend mediation in an attempt to settle their differences. The court may order counseling for parents with custody disputes. But despite the structured court procedures; the “best interest” standard is often ignored by resentful parents.
What parents must understand is that a child custody proceeding is not about them. It is a time when all responsible adults must resolve to agree for the “best interest” of the child. It is a time for civility and respect and to focus on the child’s interest. Parents may not agree with the system or the rules, but for the sake of the child, selflessness is warranted. It’s time to have big heart and an open mind. Realize that any child caught in the middle of a divorce suffers emotional pain. And the wounds may run deep.
When facing a potential child custody dispute, resolve to create a parenting plan amicably. Talk about how the child can retain as much contact with both parents. Be specific about when and how much time the child will spend with each parent. Discuss the quality of the child’s life as he or she adjusts to a new life. If the child is mature enough, be honest and truthful about the situation. You, the parents, don’t have to agree. But you will need to get along somehow. You will need to find a way to communicate and co-exist. For as long as you live, you will be both parents to that child.
People come to America for many reasons. We come in search of a better life and future. We come for our children – to provide them with more opportunities. But sometimes people try to enter the U.S. at all cost – even if this means committing fraud.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila is considered a high fraud post because of the enormous amount of fake documents and scams people use to get past the gatekeepers. For example, one would pretend to be single while actually married. Another will use a fake passport with a different name or identity. And yet another will not reveal that he has children.
Many immigrants get away with the fraud. They get admitted in the U.S. They arrive and become productive members of the community. Others are less fortunate. They get caught. The penalty is severe. Removal from the U.S. may mean a bar of over ten years.
However, even if a fraud is committed, there is a way to legally stay. Preparation and knowledge are keys. Find out ahead of time how to handle the interview at the immigration office. Any willful misrepresentation of a material fact or the presentation of a fraudulent document will get you in trouble.
However, there are solutions. If you can show that the fraud or misrepresentation was not willful or if it was unintentional, you maybe off the hook. If you didn’t know that you were committing a fraud, how can you be guilty of the fraud? Don’t act as your own attorney. The saying that “one who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client” applies here. Seek legal counsel if possible.
Even you are caught committing a fraud; there may be waivers that are available. A waiver is a legal term for “forgiving the fraud.” You may be allowed to admit the fraud and still enter the U.S. These are called “waivers of inadmissibility.” There are requirements attached to this waiver. Many of these waivers require that you are related to a U.S. citizen or a “green card” holder. Again see an attorney to find out about these requirements.
If the consul is unable to approve your case the first time, you are entitled to a written explanation. If the fraud can be mitigated, you’ll be given a chance. If not, the reason for the denial should still be in writing. Many consular decisions can be challenged. These State Department employees are humans and they make mistakes. Due to the high volume of cases that are reviewed, errors are not unusual. If you are accused of fraud or misrepresentation and you don’t agree, relax. Take your written explanation with you and see a qualified immigration lawyer.
It’s always better to enter the U.S. legally. But if fraud was committed, don’t give up hope. There are legal loopholes and there are potential reliefs. You can still live a normal life and be a productive member of the community. The key is to know your rights and to get the right advice
Lazaro Law Group, Managing Attorney