Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Board of Immigration Appeals’

1st July 2011

During a recent exploration of the World Wide Web it came to this blogger’s attention that there are increasing numbers of websites reporting on issues associated with same sex marriage and the legal ramifications of such unions upon both the accordance of federal benefits and the issuance of United States visas. In a previous posting on this blog it was noted that the sovereign State of New York recently enacted legislation which would legalize same sex marriage in that jurisdiction. However, there are those who would argue that the struggle for LGBT Equality is far from finished. To provide further insight into these unfolding events it may be best to quote directly from the TheNation.com:

[W]hile this is certainly a moment to celebrate, same-sex couples in New York are not out of the woods yet. Because of the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) passed by Congress in 1996, the federal government does not honor any same-sex marriages performed in the states. So as thousands of gay and lesbian couples are married in New York over the coming months, the federal government will treat those legally married couples as strangers and deny them more than a thousand federal rights and protections of marriage, including Social Security spousal benefits, fair tax treatment and the right to sponsor a spouse for a visa or citizenship.

Readers are encouraged to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this interesting article in detail. As noted previously in multiple postings on this web log the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) create a situation in which the federal government precludes recognition of same sex marriage even where one of the sovereign American States has legalized and/or solemnized such a union. This has lead some to note that failure on the part of the federal government to recognize such unions results in something of an abrogation of the notion of Full Faith and Credit as enshrined in the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. That stated, some federal legislators, such as Representative Jerrold Nadler and Representative Mike Honda, have introduced legislation  such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), the Respect for Marriage Act, and the Reuniting Families Act which are designed to mitigate some of the discrimination imposed by application of DOMA. As of the time of this writing, however, none of the aforementioned legislation has been enacted.

Bearing in mind the facts noted above, the reader should note that there have been some other positive developments, albeit relatively minor, in the struggle for full equality. In order to shed further light upon these developments it may be prudent to quote directly from the website LGBTQNation.com:

Another battle which is loosening the Jenga pieces under this bigoted piece of legislation is the fight for immigration rights by bi-national couples. One such case that we’ve covered is that of Henry Valendia and Josh Vandiver, a legally married couple residing in New Jersey. Under DOMA, Valendia, a Venezuelan national, was denied legal residency. Last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder vacated a decision made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)…[S]ome incredible news came to the Valencia-Vandiver family on Wednesday in the form of a dismissal by Jane H. Minichiello, the chief counsel at the Newark office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and arm of the Homeland Security Department…

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon the appropriate hyperlinks noted above to learn further details from this fascinating article.

It is certainly heartening to see that the United States government appears to have dismissed the proceedings related to this same sex bi-national couple. That stated, it is certainly possible that this may remain, at least for the time being, an isolated incident as the provisions of DOMA appear to still be in force. Hopefully, this case is the first in a long line of cases in which the LGBT community sees Full Faith and Credit and Equal Protection under the law of the United States of America.

For related information please see: US Visa Thailand.

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6th May 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention, via the website MetroWeekly.com, that the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, has vacated a decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals which applied controversial section 3 of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) in a recent case. To quote directly from a PDF copy of AG Holder’s order as posted to the aforementioned website:

Pursuant to my authority set forth in 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(h)(1)(i), I order that the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) in this case applying Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), 1 U.S.C. § 7, be vacated, and that this matter be referred to me for review.

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

Those reading this posting are encouraged to read the article on Metroweekly.com posted by Chris Geidner regarding these issues as this blogger found that posting to be very insightful.

For those who are not familiar with this issue it should be noted that the current provisions of DOMA preclude accordance of federal benefits to those who have entered into a same sex relationship. This preclusion even overrides State prerogatives regarding marriage as, in an immigration context, the language of DOMA precludes recognition of even a same sex marriage solemnized and/or legalized in a sovereign American State. Currently, there is some legislation, such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) or the Respect for Marriage Act, pending before the American Federal legislature which would seek to remove the current restrictions being imposed upon the LGBT community.

It remains to be seen whether same sex visa benefits will be accorded the same sex partners engaged in a bi-national relationship, but one thing is clear: there is momentum gathering behind the cause of LGBT equal rights as American authorities would seem to be taking notice of the legitimate grievances of those who have, for too long, been denied their rights to equal protection under the law. Meanwhile, this blogger finds it likely that there will eventually be some sort of decision regarding the accordance of Full Faith and Credit to those legal marriages solemnized and/or legalized by those States which currently license such unions. As of the time of this writing, however, such remedies remain to be seen and the assurances that they will manifest themselves sometime in the future is likely cold comfort to those who are separated from their loved ones now.

For related information please see: Full Faith and Credit Clause.

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16th February 2011

It has recently come to this blogger’s attention through anecdotal evidence that there may have been a relatively significant increase in the number of I-601 waiver petitions filed by American Citizens in both the Kingdom of Thailand as well as the greater area that comprises the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Apparently, the majority of these cases are being handled pro se (without attorney representation). It would appear that these pro se filings are being subjected to Requests For Evidence (RFE) which can be time consuming. Furthermore, there are some who also speculate that such petitions could see a higher denial rate.

Those who read this blog may have taken notice of the fact that this blogger takes the practice of United States Immigration law seriously. That said, there is nothing inherently wrong with American Citizens unilaterally petitioning their government for United States Immigration benefits pro se. This blogger has no problem with those who wish to seek immigration benefits without the assistance of counsel, but those pondering this course of action should be aware of the risks. First, the assistance of an American attorney in the US Immigration process can prove highly beneficial as such a professional can provide insight into the dynamics of immigration law as well as the regulations which are used to enforce that law.

Immigration law could be likened to dermatological medicine insofar as the routine cases that arise in an immigration context are sometimes easily taken care of by the petitioner or beneficiary themselves much the same way that a case of acne could be alleviated without the need to visit a dermatologist. Meanwhile, some issues which arise in immigration law can be extremely complicated and therefore such matters may require the assistance of one with a great deal of experience in matters pertaining to American immigration law. This state of affairs brings to mind a hypothetical situation involving dermatologists who specialize in skin cancers and various other skin maladies which are not commonly known to laymen. To take this hypothetical further, a patient afflicted with skin cancer is usually unable to treat themselves. To use this hypothetical as an analogy in an immigration context: those seeking an I-601 waiver are in a situation, similar to the skin cancer patient mentioned above, which may require professional assistance as failure to retain an attorney could increase the chances that an I-601 waiver (or for that matter an I-212 waiver) will be ultimately denied.

The standard of proof in an I-601 waiver is “extreme hardship” and this standard is not easily overcome. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has noted that “extreme hardship” does not mean “mere separation,” of the couple, but is, in fact, something more substantial. American Immigration lawyers expend a great deal of time and effort to see that I-601 waiver petitions are well founded. As a result, such petitions may be at a lower risk of being denied. Bearing this in mind, no attorney, or anyone else for that matter, can foresee what the outcome of a waiver petition will be. Those reading this posting should not misconstrue the author’s message by inferring that retaining an attorney will result in a guaranteed outcome as this is simply not the case. Should an I-601 waiver petition be denied, then it may be possible to have the case reconsidered in a Motion to Reopen or through an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Under such circumstances, the case will be adjudicated based upon an “abuse of discretion” standard which is not easily overcome. Therefore, submitting a well founded I-601 waiver petition the first time can be imperative for those wishing to have a legal grounds of inadmissibility waived.

As always, those seeking representation or counsel in matters related to American immigration should check the credentials of anyone in Southeast Asia claiming expertise in such matters. Only an attorney licensed to practice law in the United States is entitled charge fees to represent clients before the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, or American Missions abroad.

For related information about this issue please see: US Visa Denial.

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