Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Department of Homeland Security’

6th February 2018

It has recently been announced that the Trump administration is creating a new “National Vetting Center”. The following article is intended to shed light on what this institution is designed to do and how it will fit into the overall immigration process.

It should first be noted that the National Vetting Center should not be confused with the preexisting National Visa Center which acts as a sort of clearing house and central repository for documentation pertaining to visa applications through the Department of State. The National Visa Center’s function is to gather relevant documentation and forward cases to the appropriate US Embassy or US Consulate for visa interview scheduling.

The National Vetting Center would seem to have a different mandate, although not altogether different as both institutions deal with matters pertaining to US Immigration. In an effort to provide further insight it is necessary to cite a recent article from the website of USA Today:

The National Vetting Center will be run by the Department of Homeland Security with assistance from the intelligence community and the departments of State, Justice and Defense. Its mission: To “collect, store, share, disseminate, and use” a broad range of information about people who seek to enter the United States, with a goal of identifying people who may be a threat to national security or public safety. “This is yet another step towards knowing who is coming to the United States — that they are who they say they are and that they do not pose a threat to our nation,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.

Although disregarded by some at the time as overreacting, this blogger has noted in prior discussion of so-called extreme vetting policy that although it was initially discussed in a very narrow geographical and situational context the establishment of the National Vetting Center and the presumption that all future US Immigration processing will involve said institution shows that this policy will have broad ramifications for all visa applicants.

What does this mean for the timing of US visa applications? At this time it is too soon to say whether the addition of National Vetting Center protocols will result in slower processing times. However, it stands to reason that adding an entirely new institutional bureaucracy to the overall immigration framework will result in at least some delays in the processing of petitions and applications.

As has been discussed previously on this blog and through some of our firm’s videos: the Trump administration’s policies with respect to Immigration could have wide ranging and long lasting ramifications for those seeking visas in the future. Furthermore, if a deal can be reached with respect to Comprehensive Immigration Reform it looks as though the era of so-called “chain migration” (allowing extended family of Lawful Permanent Residents and American citizens to seek visa benefits)  and the visa lottery will likely come to an end.

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22nd June 2017

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that President Trump recently promulgated an executive order which amends a prior Obama administration order which dealt directly with processing procedures for non-immigrant visas to the United States of America. This Presidential executive order was enacted on June 21, 2017. The most pertinent section of the order, in this blogger’s opinion, reads as follows:

Section 1.  Amendment to Executive Order 13597.  Executive Order 13597 of January 19, 2012 (Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness), is amended by deleting subsection (b)(ii) of section 2 of that order.

In order to better understand the importance of this amendment, it is important to quote directly from the aforementioned order, specifically the section being deleted:

(b) The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the heads of such agencies as appropriate, shall develop an implementation plan, within 60 days of the date of this order, describing actions to be undertaken, including those that build upon efforts underway, to achieve the following…

(ii) ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application, recognizing that resource and security considerations and the need to ensure provision of consular services to U.S. citizens may dictate specific exceptions;

As the underlined portion noted above points out the specific section which has been deleted seems imply that fast non-immigrant visa processing is no longer a significant priority of the administration. Moreover, the President has specifically ordered Department of State personnel to disregard the previous administration’s clear policy of using best efforts to quickly process visa applications of those seeking non-immigrant visa benefits for the USA.

What type of visa applicants will most likely be affected by this policy change? Applicants for visas such as the B-1 visa (business visa), the B-2 visa (tourist visa), F-1 visa (student visa), J-1 visa (exchange visitor visa), as well as any other visa which is considered a non-immigrant visa (with the probable exception of so-called “dual intent visas“) will be directly impacted by this recent order. Concurrently, what will this mean in practical terms for processing of future visa applications? On the bright side, it takes time for policies to be enacted and thus result in a substantial impact on applicants. Furthermore, as the previous administration enacted policies to speed up non-immigrant visa processing and made practical provisions associated therewith it seems logical to infer that such measures are unlikely to be reversed quickly. Therefore, those seeking non-immigrant visa benefits in the near future are unlikely to be overwhelmingly adversely affected. That stated, those seeking similar benefits in a longer term context could see application processing times lagging compared to present time frames.

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27th May 2017

It has come to this blogger’s attention that the new administration in the USA has promulgated policies which will place more scrutiny upon those who may be applying for visas to the USA in the future. The proposed “extreme vetting” of US visa applications in a Consular Processing context appears to be aimed at narrow subsets of “red flagged” visa applicants. In order to best summarize this policy shift, it is necessary to quote directly from a relatively recent Reuters article:

The final cable seen by Reuters, issued on March 17, leaves in place an instruction to consular chiefs in each diplomatic mission, or post, to convene working groups of law enforcement and intelligence officials to “develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny.” Applicants falling within one of these identified population groups should be considered for higher-level security screening…

The new administration appears keen to narrowly target those applicants which are deemed to be appropriate for “increased scrutiny”. However, a rather recent proposal has been submitted by the U.S. Department of State requesting implementation of the emergency review procedures of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. In short, the DOS is requesting expedited processing of a request to modify the forms associated with applications for US visas. To quote directly from the US government website Regulations.gov:

The Department proposes requesting the following information, if not already included in an application, from a subset of visa applicants worldwide, in order to more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities:

  • Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel;
  • Address history during the last fifteen years;
  • Employment history during the last fifteen years;
  • All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
  • Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
  • Name and dates of birth for all children;
  • Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;
  • Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years; and
  • Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years.

 

Most of this information is already collected on visa applications but for a shorter time period, e.g. five years rather than fifteen years. Requests for names and dates of birth of siblings and, for some applicants, children are new. The request for social media identifiers and associated platforms is new for the Department of State, although it is already collected on a voluntary basis by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for certain individuals.

It is this blogger’s opinion that the long term implications of these policy changes will be broad. However, from reading the aforementioned notice, it appears that, at the present time, DOS personnel will only be seeking more detailed information on certain individual applicants, and not from all applicants seeking visas to the USA. How will the narrow subset of applicants subject to increased scrutiny be determined? To answer that it is necessary to quote further from the Regulations.gov website:

Department of State consular officers at visa-adjudicating posts worldwide will ask the proposed additional questions to resolve an applicant’s identity or to vet for terrorism or other national security related visa ineligibilities when the consular officer determines that the circumstances of a visa applicant, a review of a visa application, or responses in a visa interview indicate a need for greater scrutiny.

Notwithstanding the fact that enhanced scrutiny will apparently only be applied on a case by case basis and only upon those individuals who are deemed to be in need of such scrutiny it seems logical to infer that at some point these additional screening protocols may be applied on a broader basis; if for no other reason than the fact that applying such scrutiny across the board might save time and resources of Consular Officials making cases by case determinations. As it stands, as of the time of this writing, the new protocols add a degree of uncertainty to the visa application process and Consular processing in general as it is difficult to foresee what may be considered a trait which warrants heightened scrutiny. Therefore, planning for such an eventuality is problematic.

As this situation continues to evolve this blog will post further updates.

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10th November 2016

In light of recent events in the United States election and the campaign promises made by the now President-elect, it seems appropriate to assume that Immigration matters will likely come to the forefront of American political discussion. For this reason, this blogger finds it relevant to provide an overview of the Immigration apparatus and how the components function.

In order to understand U.S. Immigration matters and the enforcement of U.S. Immigration law one must first understand the Department of Homeland Security. This Department oversees most of the Immigration matters arising in the United States (The Department of State deals with matters pertaining to US visas issued abroad, for more information on the role DOS plays in the immigration process please check out the many pages on this blog dedicated to Consular Processing information).

There are three agencies under the jurisdiction of DHS which deal with different aspects of Immigration law and policy. The first agency that many intending immigrant will no doubt have had dealings with is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service or USCIS. This agency is tasked with adjudicating petitions for immigration benefits such as immigrant visas, work visas, and certain temporary stay visas. Furthermore, the USCIS also adjudicates I-601 waivers of inadmissibility as well as I-212 waivers for those who have previously been subjected to expedited removal. Those wishing to travel from abroad to the United States on some sort of immigrant or work authorized visa will likely have contact with USCIS.

Another component of DHS which deals with Immigration is the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service or USICE. USICE is often the agency tasked with ascertaining the legal status of foreign nationals physically present in the USA and if found to be present in the USA illegally USICE agents are tasked with apprehending such individuals and placing them in deportation proceedings.

Finally, there is the United States Customs and Border Protection Service or USCBP. In the US visa process, USCBP is arguably the most overlooked yet one of the most significant agencies an intending immigrant will deal with. Unbeknownst to most, notwithstanding the issuance of a valid visa, USCBP has the authority to turn away any alien attempting to enter the USA. In actual practice, an alien with a validly issued visa is unlikely to be refused admission at a port of entry, but it can happen. In most cases such refusal is due to a belief on the part of a USCBP officer that an alien attempting to enter the USA on a non-immigrant visa in fact has immigrant intent. This happens frequently to tourist visa holders who are attempting to conduct a so-called visa run in order to remain in the USA. In those cases involving immigrant spouses of US citizens holding visas such as the K-3, the CR-1, or the IR-1 refusal to admit the alien spouse is quite rare. The same can be said for foreign fiancees of US Citizens holding a K-1 visa, but the fact that USCBP has plenary power to turn away any alien seeking admission should not be forgotten.

Meanwhile in an interesting article in The Intercept, it was noted that certain documents have come to light which apparently show that although USCBP has traditionally recognized law enforcement functions (especially with respect to Customs matters) they also work with the FBI in matters not routinely thought of when pondering USCBP’s role. To quote directly from the aforementioned article:

“It is no surprise that law enforcement closely monitors border crossings for criminals or terror suspects. The initiatives described in these documents, however, are explicitly about gathering intelligence, not enforcing the law. A person doesn’t have to be connected to an active investigation or criminal suspect in order to be flagged; the FBI might want them for their potential to provide general intelligence on a given country, region, or group. The goal, according to an FBI presentation on an initiative at Boston’s Logan Airport, is “looking for ‘good guys’ not ‘bad guys.’”

Although immigration matters are often viewed as a “boring” aspect of the United States bureaucracy it should be noted that agents of the Department of Homeland Security play a significant role in maintaining the security of the USA and assist even in the gathering of intelligence.

Although the ultimate policies of the new administration regarding immigration matters remain to be seen it seems logical to infer that should the administration wish to make the immigration process more difficult for foreign nationals, then the sophisticated mechanisms mentioned above would likely have the capacity to make certain that such a course of events actually transpires.

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2nd July 2013

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a statement regarding the implementation of policies regarding adjudication of immigration petitions for same-sex bi-national married couples. To quote directly from the official website of DHS:

“After last week’s decision by the Supreme Court holding that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, President Obama directed federal departments to ensure the decision and its implication for federal benefits for same-sex legally married couples are implemented swiftly and smoothly.  To that end, effective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.”

This statement is a significant moment in the long fight for equal immigration rights for same-sex couples. In order to provide further information regarding these developments the DHS has posted some frequently asked questions on the same page as the aforementioned quotation. These FAQ’s are quoted below:

Q1:  I am a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in a same-sex marriage to a foreign national.  Can I now sponsor my spouse for a family-based immigrant visa?

A1: Yes, you can file the petition. You may file a Form I-130 (and any applicable accompanying application). Your eligibility to petition for your spouse, and your spouse’s admissibility as an immigrant at the immigration visa application or adjustment of status stage, will be determined according to applicable immigration law and will not be automatically denied as a result of the same-sex nature of your marriage.

Clearly, the United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident same sex spouse of a foreign national can now submit an I-130 petition for Lawful Permanent Residence (also known as “Green Card” status) for their husband or wife. In fact, it would appear that a same-sex couple in Florida was recently granted immigration benefits for the same-sex spouse. This would especially be true in a case where the couple not only was married in State recognizing same-sex marriage, but also resides in that same State or another of the 13 States which recognize such unions. An issue which is, as of yet, not so clearly delineated hinges upon a situation in which a same-sex married couple has married in a State which recognizes same-sex marriage (and performs them), but resides in a State which does not recognize such unions. To shed further light upon this issue it is necessary to quote again from the same DHS webpage, quoted above, regarding this issue:

Q2:  My spouse and I were married in a U.S. state that recognizes same-sex marriage, but we live in a state that does not.  Can I file an immigrant visa petition for my spouse?

A2: Yes, you can file the petition.  In evaluating the petition, as a general matter, USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage took place when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes. That general rule is subject to some limited exceptions under which federal immigration agencies historically have considered the law of the state of residence in addition to the law of the state of celebration of the marriage. Whether those exceptions apply may depend on individual, fact-specific circumstances. If necessary, we may provide further guidance on this question going forward.

For those wishing to visit the official website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to learn more please click HERE.

For those unfamiliar with the recent Supreme Court decision striking down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) it should be pointed out that the Supreme Court’s decision did not impact section 2 of DOMA which reads as follows:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

Therefore, notwithstanding the fact that there are some who argue that section 2 of DOMA violates the provisions of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, no Court ruling nor Act of Congress has repealed section 2 of DOMA and, in the words of the DHS website itself, in those “fact-specific” situations in which Section 2 of DOMA may be relevant the provisions of Section 2 could prove detrimental to a same-sex bi-national couple. That being said, according to the DHS website, a petition could still be filed and it would be adjudicated accordingly.

One final point to ponder on this issue is the K-1 visa. Under current United States Immigration law it is possible for an American Citizen to apply for a Fiance Visa, also known as the K-1 visa, for a foreign fiance residing abroad, so long as the couple intends to marry in the United States within 90 days of the foreign fiance’s arrival (other regulations apply to K-1 visa holders, but for the purposes of this analysis they are not necessarily relevant). If a same-sex couple, who are not yet legally married, wishes to obtain a K-1 visa based upon their intention to wed in the United States, then it could be inferred from the DHS Secretary’s statement that they might be adjudicated in the same manner as the same petition for a different-sex couple. However, this should not be viewed as a foregone conclusion because the statements quoted above only pertain specifically to couples who are already married. Neither the Court, nor the DHS, have specifically dealt with the question of those same-sex couples who wish to seek a K1 visa based upon an intention to marry in the USA. It could be inferred from the Court’s opinion in United States v. Windsor that those same-sex couples with the intention to marry in a jurisdiction where same-sex unions are recognized should be granted the same treatment as those different-sex couples in similar circumstances; but the issue has yet to be clearly adjudicated and therefore no completely clear answer arises.

Meanwhile, one significant question remains: based upon the above information how will USCIS adjudicate K-1 visa applications for same-sex couples who wish to travel to the United States to marry in a State which recognizes same-sex marriage, but reside in a State which does not? Hopefully the answer to this question will come soon. Until then it would appear that although DHS clearly intends to adjudicate same-sex married couples’ petitions for immigration benefits in the same way as different-sex couples; it remains to be seen how same sex fiances will be treated in the eyes of U.S. Immigration law.

For information on immigrant visas please see: CR-1 Visa or  IR-1 Visa.

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19th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may be poised to begin placing holds on some deportations. In order to provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the website of The Washington Times, WashingtonTimes.com:

The Homeland Security Department said Thursday it will halt deportation proceedings on a case-by-case basis against illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria such as attending school, having family in the military or are primarily responsible for other family members’ care. The move, announced in letters to Congress, won immediate praise from Hispanic activists and Democrats who had chided President Obama for months for the pace of deportations and had argued he had authority to exempt broad swaths of illegal immigrants from deportation…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to read this article in detail.

Although this blogger has been reluctant to support blanket amnesty per se, especially for those who have entered the United States illegally; there are often unique and extenuating circumstances which require adjudication in order to equitably administer American immigration law and regulation pursuant to legislative and executive plenary power. It remains to be seen how this policy will be practically implemented.

In news related to the struggle for LGBT Equality, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the federal delegation from the sovereign State of New York may be more supportive of DOMA repeal since a Congressional Representative from that State was recently noted for comments on this issue. In an effort to provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the website Towleroad.com:

After waiting for New York State to legalize gay marriage, Democratic Rep. Bill Owens now says he supports the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage. “I indicated I would not become a co-sponsor until New York took action,” said Owens, who represents the Empire State’s 23rd Congressional district. “Once they did that, I felt I had an obligation to the citizens in the state to make sure they weren’t adversely impeded by federal law.” Owens continued, “I think that people should have the freedom to make those kinds of decisions…”

The administration of this web log asks readers to click on the hyperlinks above to read this article in detail.

For those who are unaware of the evolving nature of this issue it should be noted that the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) preclude federal recognition of same sex marriage. This federal non-recognition is enforced even where one of the sovereign American States has legalized and/or solemnized the underlying same sex marriage. There are some who would argue that this activity violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution while others could argue that such discrimination violates the Equal Protection Clause. In any case, the result in an immigration context is that same sex bi-national couples (even those who have entered into a same sex marriage in a US State) cannot receive the same visa benefits (such as the CR-1 visa, IR-1 visa, or K-1 visa)  as their different-sex counterparts. Some federal legislators, such as New York delegation member Representative Jerrold Nadler, have attempted to remedy this problem through introduction of bills such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA: to address the specific issue of discrimination in an immigration context) and the Respect For Marriage Act (RFMA: a proposal which would accord federal “certainty” to State licensed same sex marriages). However, it remains to be seen whether such legislation will ultimately see passage.

In news related to the aforementioned issues it also came to this blogger’s attention that further “mainstream media” attention is being focused upon the case of the same sex bi-national couple who were married in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but face the prospect of separation due to the fact that the American government may remove the foreign spouse since their marriage is not recognized pursuant to the provisions of DOMA. In an effort to provide further detail this blogger is compelled to quote directly from the official website of The Washington Post, WashingtonPost.com:

Mr. Makk’s case illustrates the profound injustices meted out by DOMA, which was passed in 1996. The Obama administration this year denounced the Clinton-era law as unconstitutional because it deprives same-sex couples equal protection of the law. In April, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. put on hold the deportation of a British man who has lived in the United States since 1996 but who never obtained a green card or citizenship. The man, Paul Wilson Dorman, has been in a committed same-sex relationship for 15 years and entered into a civil union with his partner, a U.S. citizen, in 2009. Mr. Holder asked an immigration court to determine whether Mr. Dorman should be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law and thus entitled to stay in the country. Mr. Makk’s deportation should also be put on hold, as should those involving anyone in legally recognized same-sex relationships whose only infraction involves immigration status…

The administration encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail as this situation is poignant indeed.

Although this blogger can at times get caught up in the rather academic details of the debate on federal recognition of same sex marriage readers should be aware that this issue has a truly human context since couples like the one noted above could have their personal lives substantially disrupted as a result of federal policy with respect to same sex couples. There is some speculation that this matter may ultimately see resolution in the US Courts, but until such time as a final decision is made on the matter same sex couples and the Greater LGBT community in America are left to hope that their federal legislature will pass legislation akin to the RFMA or the UAFA. Perhaps in the meantime officers in the American immigration system can utilize their statutory authority and plenary powers to provide equitable relief to those who find themselves facing the prospect of being separated from their loved ones due to questionably Constitutional law.

For information pertaining to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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17th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that a former officer at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has been sentenced in connection to charges stemming from apparent corruption. In order to provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (USICE, although sometimes colloquially referred to as ICE) website, ICE.gov:

LOS ANGELES — A former supervisor with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and his son were sentenced Thursday on federal corruption charges to 60 months and 48 months in prison, respectively, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. Fernando Jacobs, 72, of Upland, Calif., and his son, Patrick Jacobs, 44, of Ontario, Calif., were sentenced by U.S. District Judge George H. King. Judge King also ordered Fernando Jacobs to pay a $30,000 fine. Fernando Jacobs was remanded into custody to begin serving his prison sentence immediately. Patrick Jacobs has been in custody since his arrest in December 2009. Fernando Jacobs, who was a supervisory immigration services officer with USCIS, and Patrick Jacobs were convicted by a jury of conspiracy, bribery and honest services wire fraud. Additionally, Fernando Jacobs was also convicted of visa fraud. The evidence presented during the two-week trial in U.S. District Court in April showed the elder Jacobs accepted bribes in exchange for helping aliens seeking status in the United States and that his son acted as a middleman brokering deals with those individuals. “The significance of public corruption cases like this cannot be overestimated,” said U.S. Attorney André Birotte, Jr. “The American public demands honest government service and the Department of Justice is committed to policing government and preserving the public trust.” The evidence showed the elder Jacobs and his son engaged in a scheme to defraud USCIS of Fernando Jacobs’ honest services, using his authority and official position to enrich themselves by receiving payments in return for various actions…

The administration of this web log encourages readers to click upon those relevant hyperlinks noted above to learn further details from this interesting article.

It has always been this blogger’s experience that officers of the USCIS are upright, hardworking, and forthright individuals; but notwithstanding this fact there are instances where corruption can exist in any organization. Therefore, it is a genuine relief to see prompt action to discourage this behavior while simultaneously seeing that those engaged in illegal activity are brought to justice. Hopefully further efforts will yield more efficient and effective government in the future as such factors could result in more efficient and faster processing times for adjudication of bona fide immigration petitions and applications.

In news pertaining to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it recently came to this blogger’s attention that China considers engagement with ASEAN in the future as both important and strategic. To provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the online Asia Times website, ATimes.com:

Under its “good neighbors policy”, Beijing naturally considers improving relations with ASEAN an important strategic task. China has built up a strategic partnership with the 10-member ASEAN since 2003, and also with some of its members, one after another…

This article was also very noteworthy to this blogger because it highlighted some interesting issues arising in ASEAN and the future of the geopolitical situation in said region. The author, “an Assistant Professor of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University,” Dr Jian Junbo, provides fascinating insights into the possible role of China in the Asia-Pacific region in the coming years:

China should help ensure regional public security with its growing military capability. Beijing should be broader-minded than its neighbors in regard to the use of its military to maintain regional stability by fighting piracy, terrorism and other international crimes in the Pacific Ocean. Instead of flexing its military muscle in territorial disputes, China should encourage political, economic and cultural integration in East and Southeast Asia. All in all, China should reshape its Asia strategy with an aim to functioning as a stabilizing force, while maintaining its strategy to keep a balance with the influence of the US in this region…

This blogger strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this incisive article in detail.

As economic and cultural integration increases in ASEAN, the so-called BRICS countries, the Asia-Pacific region, and the United States of America it stands to reason that further economic development will occur exponentially as a result of the current economic “cross-pollination” phenomenon which is happening at a rather rapid rate in the Pacific compared to roughly 10 years ago. As the economies of Greater Asia continue to prosper there are some who could argue that many financial and economic benefits will be accrued to the benefit of all concerned.

– Benjamin Walter Hart

For information about registering a company in America please see: US Company Registration.

For information pertaining to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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15th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that a senior American diplomat was recently noted for discussing matters pertaining to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific region. In order to provide further insight into these developments it is necessary to quote directly from the DAWN website, DAWN.com:

Kurt Campbell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, added in an interview with The Australian newspaper that there was more to US-Asia diplomacy than Washington’s relationship with Beijing. “One of the most important challenges for US foreign policy is to effect a transition from the immediate and vexing challenges of the Middle East to the long-term and deeply consequential issues in Asia,” Campbell said. He made clear this did not mean Washington would neglect its responsibilities in the Middle East, but was rather a desire to deepen relations with the Asian region. And while efforts were being made to enhance Washington’s dialogue with China, it was more than just relations with Beijing that were important. “I think what you see is an across-the-board effort (by the US) to articulate India as playing a greater role in Asia,” said Campbell, a key aide to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton…

This blogger asks readers to click on the hyperlinks noted above to read this interesting article in detail.

It was interesting for this blogger to note that there appears to be something of a shift in attitude toward the ASEAN region as Asia in general is viewed as playing an increasingly important role in the global economy. As the Asia-Pacific and ASEAN regions continue to show signs of future growth it stands to reason that countries such as China and India, or any of the so-called BRICS countries for that matter, will become economically more connected to the geographic area. Meanwhile, hopefully American policies in the region will be such that further Asian-American trade and business is generated.

In matters related to American immigration, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the American Bar Association has recently made resolutions regarding the unlicensed practice of law in an immigration context. In order to provide further details on these developments it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of Law Professor Blogs, LawProfessorBlogs.com:

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association supports measures to combat the unauthorized practice of immigration law (UPIL) and immigration practitioner fraud.
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association encourages federal, state, and local governments to adopt laws that:
(a) Create a private right of action for victims of UPIL or immigration practitioner fraud.
(b) Provide criminal penalties for engaging in UPIL or immigration practitioner fraud that would give federal and state authorities the right to investigate and prosecute those engaging in UPIL or immigration practitioner fraud.
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to make accommodations for victims of immigration practitioner fraud, including:
(a) Allowing the withdrawal without prejudice of submissions in cases in which a noncitizen can establish that his or her immigration filings were created or submitted by an individual engaged in UPIL or immigration fraud or alternatively, developing a means for submitting corrected filings which will supersede the documents previously filed.
(b) Allowing the U non-immigrant visa to be available for victims of immigration fraud who cooperate with federal, state, or local law enforcement, as well as state bars…

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read these resolutions in detail.

Clearly the ABA is taking policy stances in an attempt to reverse the trend of unlicensed legal practitioners preying upon an unsuspecting public in immigration matters. As previously noted in the pages of this web log, those seeking advice and counsel regarding US visa matters are well advised to check the credentials of anyone claiming qualification to practice American immigration law as only a licensed American attorney is permitted to accept client fees in order to engage in the practice of American law. Hopefully, policies will be officially promulgated to address the problem of unscrupulous individuals and organizations defrauding the public.

For information related to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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10th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Department of Homeland Security‘s United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is apparently compelling an Australian man, who is currently a partner in a same sex marriage with an American Citizen, to depart the USA. In order to provide further clarity on this situation it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the San Fransisco Chronicle, SFGate.com:

Citing the Defense of Marriage Act, the Obama administration denied immigration benefits to a married gay couple from San Francisco and ordered the expulsion of a man who is the primary caregiver to his AIDS-afflicted spouse. Bradford Wells, a U.S. citizen, and Anthony John Makk, a citizen of Australia, were married seven years ago in Massachusetts. They have lived together 19 years, mostly in an apartment in the Castro district. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied Makk’s application to be considered for permanent residency as a spouse of an American citizen, citing the 1996 law that denies all federal benefits to same-sex couples. The decision was issued July 26. Immigration Equality, a gay-rights group that is working with the couple, received the notice Friday and made it public Monday. Makk was ordered to depart the United States by Aug. 25. Makk is the sole caregiver for Wells, who has severe health problems…

The administration of this web log encourages interested readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to learn further details from this interesting story.

Frequent readers of this web log may recall that the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) preclude the federal government from recognizing a same sex marriage for purposes of distributing federal benefits. Therefore, same sex bi-national couples cannot acquire the same travel documents and visa benefits (such as the K-1 visa, CR-1 visa, or an IR-1 visa) as a different-sex couple notwithstanding the fact that the couple may be legally married in one of the State jurisdictions which legalize and/or solemnize such unions. It should be noted that legislation such as Representative Jerrold Nadler‘s Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) or the Respect for Marriage Act would rectify this situation to one degree or another. As of the time of this writing it remains to be seen whether this legislation will ultimately see enactment.

Meanwhile, in news of further interest to those who follow immigration matters; it recently came to this blogger’s attention that DHS has issued an announcement regarding a nationwide program to be administered by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (USICE, sometimes colloquially referred to as ICE). To provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the Washington Times, WashingtonTimes.com:

The District could be forced to participate in an immigration-enforcement program now that the federal government has issued a letter to states that voided their participation agreements and emphasized the program’s mandatory nature. The Department of Homeland Security sent the letter last week to governors of 39 states, including Maryland and Virginia, after three states expressed interest in opting out of their contracts with the federal Secure Communities program. The program allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to access fingerprints collected by state and local law enforcement and shared with the FBI. It was started in 2008 and has helped ICE identify and deport more than 86,000 convicted criminal aliens. “This is to avoid any further confusion,” ICE spokeswoman Nicole Navas said Monday. “We’ve made it clear. There’s no opting out.” DHS voided the agreements to clarify that they essentially served no purpose, and that states are required to remain in the program. Federal officials no longer will seek agreement with newly enrolled states and jurisdictions, and will simply notify them when they plan to implement the program…

This blogger asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in detail.

Matters pertaining to immigration can be difficult to understand especially in the context of the United States Constitution since many of the immigration-related powers of the American Legislature and Executive are plenary in nature. How such powers interact with States’ Rights can be difficult to ascertain as the legal principles involved can be quite subtle. In any case, the ultimate resolution of this issue remains to be seen. Hopefully, a solution will present itself which will prove amenable for all concerned.

For information related to United States immigration from Thailand please see: Legal.

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12th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the often venerated alternative media outlet ZeroHedge.com has posted an analysis of issues pertaining to a proposed change to the forms used by those seeking a US Passport. To provide further insight it is necessary  to quote directly from the Zero Hedge website, ZeroHedge.com

In the US, the government now requires all citizens to have a passport in order to pass the border, even when driving into Mexico or Canada. Obtaining a passport, however, is neither free nor guaranteed.  You must apply, pay an ever-increasing fee, and wait for weeks to be approved and receive it. Recently, the State Department quietly proposed a new ‘biographical questionnaire’ in lieu of the traditional passport application. The new form requires you to provide things like:

- names, birth places, and birth dates of your extended family members
– your mother’s place of employment at the time of your birth
– whether or not your mother received pre-natal or post natal care
– the address of your mother’s physician and dates of appointments
– the address of every place you have ever lived in your entire life
– the name and address of every school you have ever attended

Most people would find it impossible to provide such information, yet the form requires that the responses ‘are true and correct’ under penalty of imprisonment. Naturally, the privacy statement on the application also acknowledges that the responses can be shared with other departments in the government, including Homeland Security. If this proposal passes, then US citizens will have a nearly insurmountable hurdle to obtain a passport and be able to leave the country at will…

The administration of this blog asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted prior to this excerpt. Also, it is advisable to click upon the hyperlinks contained within this quotation in order to understand this situation in context.

Each year, many Americans traveling abroad, or those Americans resident abroad, renew their passport at an American Citizen Services section of a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad. It has always been this blogger’s opinion that personnel of the Department of State who handle such matters do so in an efficient and courteous manner. Meanwhile, many United States Citizens opt to seek passport renewal in the USA. This blogger has undertaken both endeavors and in each case the officers involved processed the request quickly and with little difficulty. Although it remains to be seen how the proposed questionnaire would actually impact the processing of passport issuance requests one can hope that the process will not become overly cumbersome.

In news pertaining to the struggle for LGBT Equality, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that a woman in the sovereign State of New York is challenging the legal status and Constitutionality of the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). In order to provide the reader with some relevant insight it is necessary to quote directly from an article by Mark Hamblett for the New York Law Journal posted on Law.com:

Challengers to the federal Defense of Marriage Act insist that every justification offered by Congress for defining marriage exclusively as between a man and a woman is contrary to logic and the law. In summary judgment papers filed in the Southern District of New York, lawyers for Edith Schlain Windsor argue that there is no good reason for treating her marriage to the late Thea Clara Spyer any differently than a heterosexual union. Read Ms. Windsor’s motion and memorandum. Ms. Windsor’s lawyers call the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) a radical measure and a clear violation of the right to equal protection of the laws under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “DOMA is a sweeping statute that rewrites over one thousand federal laws and overturns the federal government’s long-standing practice of deferring to state determinations of marital status,” the lawyers claim in a memorandum asking Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV for summary judgment in the case of Windsor v. United States, 10-cv-8435. “Throughout history, the federal government has never married people, leaving that to the states…”

This blogger asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read about this case in detail.

Those unfamiliar with the current predicament of the LGBT community should note that in immigration matters same sex bi-national couples, even those who have entered into a same sex marriage in one of the sovereign American States which legalize and/or solemnize such unions, are unable to petition for the same immigration benefits as their different-sex counterparts. In order to attempt to remedy this particular discrepancy Representative Jerrold Nadler recently introduced legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). The Respect for Marriage Act was also introduced by Representative Nadler in order to remedy the issue of “certainty” in such cases. As of the time of this writing, neither of these bills has seen enactment although there has been recent news that the Senate Judiciary Committee may be holding hearings pertaining to the Respect for Marriage Act soon. On a related note, the Reuniting Families Act, which apparently includes UAFA-like language, was lately introduced by Representative Mike Honda although passage of this legislation remains to be seen.

There is certainly an “equal protection” component to any argument against DOMA, but relatively few commentators seem to take note of the fact that the way DOMA is currently enforced may also violate notions of States’ Rights. Generally, matters pertaining to the prerogatives of the Several States are debated by the United States Congress before enactment of legislation which maintains interstate compliance with the provisions of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. In this case, Congress has arguably abrogated the notion of Full Faith and Credit inherent in the provisions of the Full Faith and Credit Clause since section 3 of DOMA effectively renders the prerogatives of the sovereign States ineffective when it comes to the issue of same sex marriage.

The issues associated with DOMA have yet to be fully resolved, but it seems likely that these matters may remain contentious both inside the Courtrooms of America and elsewhere.

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