Author Archives: Sharma-Crawford

My case is just like my friend’s……………No, no it isn’t. 5 immigration myths busted!

We see clients all day long, some have complicated problems, some are less difficult. Yet, what we see are that there are lots of myths about immigration processes. These common myths must be busted. While there are more than we can count, we thought we would start with 5.

  1. “Just explain it to me and I will explain it to them (whoever that is: friend, spouse, child)”In the game of telephone, you played as a child, by the time the message got to the last person, it was almost always distorted. The same is true with the law. It is not possible for you to ask questions about a case for someone else. This is because every person hears things a little differently and what makes sense to one person may not make sense to another. Immigration law is complicated.  It is also very much individualized. Every person must understand their role, the expectations and the issues in their case. Just like you could not go to the doctor for someone else’s ailments, you can’t get a legal solution for someone else either.
  2. “I took care of everything in my criminal case, so it doesn’t matter.”  We say this all the time, if you are not a citizen of the United States, it all matters. Although criminal cases are separate from immigration ones, the two are closely intertwined. What is done in one case will impact what occurs in the other. Always keep all criminal documents and papers; keep all immigration documents and papers as well. It does not matter if it was years ago, a month ago or just yesterday, it is very important for your immigration attorney to be fully aware of what occurred in your criminal case. If you paid a fine, were arrested, went to jail, paid a bond or simply got a ticket, always tell your immigration attorney of these things. They will want to know. 
  3. “My neighbor said they can help me fill out the forms, will you look at them for me?”  Remember when the teacher would not accept homework your best friend did for you? Most immigration attorneys will not simply review your forms.  They want to be able to review your case fully and not just review the documents. This is because attorneys don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s work especially when they have no control over it.  For example, if you leave their office and change something, there is no way for the attorney to make sure the change was correct. It’s just too risky and the only way to protect you and the attorney is simply for them not to review other people’s work. Think of it like this, would you ever let your friend, who is not even a doctor, operate on you? No? It is the same thing. 
  4. “According to the internet…” The internet can be a good thing.  It can help give you get quick general information. But, not everything you read on the internet is true. Think of all the allegations of “fake news” that have come up in the last few years. In the same way, unless the information is from a trusted source, it should not simply be accepted as true. 
  5. “My case is just like my friend’s”. This one is that comes up all the time. We can assure you that your case and your friend’s case is probably nothing alike. This is because while cases may look similar, a detailed look will reveal their differences. The problem, of course, is that the friend is not the one in the office. This means there is no way to get the required information necessary to help explain the differences in each case. Just like not each snowflake is unique, even though it is difficult to tell without a magnifying glass, each case is also one of a kind. 

If you are not making your Immigration case a priority, you aren’t paying attention


You count on us to tell you the truth and to level with you. You have come to rely on our straight talk and no-nonsense advice. And you know that we will tell you the truth even when the truth is difficult to hear. But it is necessary if you have any hope of conquering the complex road of the US immigration system. So you must hear what is about to be said.

It has been a long year. A very long year, indeed. And it isn’t even over yet. And even with the start of the next year, things are unlikely to get easier. This administration promised, ran on and delivered an anti-immigration agenda. The year has left immigration attorneys and civil rights advocates exhausted and outraged time after time. With a never-ending assault on the rule of law, the use of reason and the need for humanity in decision making, nearly a year later, the climate in the US has become increasingly charged.

Despite this as a backdrop, we continue to see people who are unwilling to face the reality or the gravity of the situation. This is a mistake.

As immigration attorneys, we can only do what the law allows, in a manner it allows. But, we cannot do it alone. All too often we see people who, despite being told what all they must do in order to succeed in their case, put other things as a priority over their case. The fact is, if you are not making your immigration case a priority, you aren’t paying attention. If you are not making your immigration case a priority, you are placing your ability to remain in the US in jeopardy. This is a dangerous way to approach your immigration case especially when it is your life.

During the course of the year, we have faced those who are angered by the need to make their immigration case a priority or are perplexed about why we push for evidence, push for cooperation or demand that keen attention is paid to information sought from them. But, these are all things that require careful attention. There is no time for delay.

It is certainly an overwhelming time. Each day the news is filled with yet another way the immigration system is being used to create a challenging environment for immigrants. The only way to find a path is through the noise that is the current climate. Stay attentive to your case and what needs to be done. This is not the time for procrastination. This is time to gather your evidence and your courage and help fight for your future in the United States.

How you can help us, help you: Wise words from our star Administrative Assistants

Everyone gets stressed by having to go to a professional’s office. Doctors, lawyers, counselors all are places where people go when they are in crisis. Medical issues, psychological and relationship issues, and legal issues can have a debilitating effect on a person’s life. A question was posed, though, that which of these professions are the most stressful for the provider? The answer to that question may come by way of a very simple understanding.

Visiting a doctor’s office in pain, may allow for the prescription of medicines to help alleviate the pain. But, the person who came for treatment leaves with his or her pain when they leave. But, people who come to a lawyer’s office often leave their troubles with the lawyer and the lawyer’s assistants. They are able to return back to their lives, with some sense of calm that their legal problems are being dealt with.

Imagine an office full of files, each representing someone’s legal problems. Each demands attention, demands answers and demands assurances. We have always said that we, at Sharma-Crawford Attorney’s at Law and The Clinic have the most caring, diligent and loyal administrative assistants (AA) there are. They are as fearless as the attorneys. We sat down with them to ask them what they consider are top ways you can help in the resolution of your legal case.  Here are their top suggestions:

  1. Please provide your full name. This means all names. First, middle, last, second last, nickname, alias, etc. If we can’t find you in our system, it takes longer to get anything done.
  2. If you have a case for you and a spouse, pick one of you to call us, and then communicate with one another. You have one case; we have many so please pick a spokesperson for the family. We want to answer all your questions and make sure every case gets our full attention. This helps us balance both these issues.
  3. If necessary, take notes during your appointment. Immigration law is complex. Write the answers to your questions down because we understand that there is a lot of information given and it can be overwhelming. When you call and say “what did the lawyer tell me”, we don’t know where to start.
  4. Please know which attorney you are working with and the type of case you have. Sometimes it isn’t your lawyer’s assistant who picks up the phone, so if you say, “I have the man attorney”, that just narrows it down to 50%. If you call and say, “its about my case”, and we ask more questions, we really are trying to help.
  5. If you came in for a consultation but have not hired our office to do anything else, we are waiting on you to decide what you would like to do. If you are hiring our office, everyone must sign the representation agreement before you are considered a client. Till then, you are responsible for your case and must make sure all deadlines are met.
  6. We know you are often panicked and overwhelmed when you call. But, we are not going to be able to give you legal advice. The attorneys will also not give you advice without talking to you directly and looking at all of your documents. So, please understand when we stop you from explaining your entire case. You’ll have to do it all over again when you come for your appointment, so it is best to just tell the attorneys. If you need an appointment, we can totally help you with that.
  7. We know you are anxious about your case. We want to make sure we are fully focused on your case when we are working on something. Our office will always send you client copies of everything for your records. If you would like us to let you know when something specific is done, let us know. We promise to let you as soon as we are done with it.
  8. Sometimes we have to leave you a voice message when we call you. Could we ask you to please check it before you call us? It may either have the answers you need or the name of the person who called you. This helps us make sure you get to the right person, right away.  
  9. We all want to make sure that every visit to our office is pleasant and quick. Please bring all your documents when you come in for a consultation. We know how frustrating it can be when appointments have to be rescheduled because of missing documents, but we don’t want to take any chances.  We think your case should not be based on just a guess.
  10. Did you know that the USCIS Website provided updates on your case? It is even possible to sign up for instant notifications that allow you to know what occurred, even before we know!
  11. We understand that when you move, your lawyer’s office is the last thing on your mind. But, we need to know when you change contact information. It is really important because it allows us to keep you updated on your case without delay. It also helps us to let the Court and USCIS know where you are, so you don’t miss anything.
  12. Our office works really hard to make sure you always understand what is being done on your case. But it can get confusing because some of the processes are really long. If you are confused or just forgot what needed to happen, just come in and talk to the attorneys or us. We always say in our office “knowledge is power”.
  13. We know you are scared and your friends are trying to help, but your cases are not the same. It never happens like that. And while there is a lot of good information on the internet, there is also a LOT of bad information.
  14. We promise we will never tell you something that is not true, we only ask that you do the same for us.
  15. We know doing forms is no fun. It is like sitting at the airport waiting for your flight, but that flight is important, right? Really important. But you don’t want to wait all day and then get on the wrong plane, so please, before signing forms, check them all carefully for any changes or errors.
  16. Dealing with the federal government is frustrating. Trust us, we know. But we don’t know why dreamstime_xs_52767940they do what they do or exactly how long they are going to take to do it. If we knew that answer, it would make our jobs so much easier!
  17. Did you know our office has an app?  You can download it for free.  It has all kinds of cool and helpful links to help you stay informed.  You should try it!
  18. Speaking of, we also have a very active Facebook page.  We use our page to keep folks informed, share victories and stories and sometimes, include something just to make you laugh.  Laughter is great for stress. We love it when you make us laugh and we try to do the same.  Staying well is always something we strive to achieve and encourage. But, please understand if we don’t answer case specific questions on FB.  We don’t want to share your information with everyone, so just give us a call instead.
  19. Believe it or, while we love what we do, when we go home, we like to take a break from it.  It helps us stay balanced.  So, if you try and friend us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., we will probably not accept.  We are not trying to be mean, we just want to help us keep our work and home lives separate. Plus, do you really want us to see what all you have been doing?!
  20. Everyone in our office is passionate about the work we do and the people we help. We work hard and we play hard. But most of all, we’re glad you’re here.

 

Building Safer Communities Through Mutual Trust, U and L.E.O.

In many places in the world, the police and the public are anything but friends. Each remains suspicious of the other. These fears and mistrust often come packed in the bags of immigrants and take up residence in their new homes in the US.

It may have been to help bridge an understanding, that the US Congress authorized certain visas to help make communities safer while building a relationship between a vulnerable society and those who swear to protect it.

With the creation of the U visa, which was first included in the 2000 Violence Against Women’s Act, Congress hoped that by taking away the fear of deportation, those who had been wronged would courageously join with law enforcement in the pursuit of justice. So keen was Congress in making communities safer and trust greater, that they allowed great latitude in the U visa program. In so doing, Congress recognized that law enforcement included not only the police, but also the courts, and the various governmental agencies that are responsible for protecting individuals. This meant that the foster care system, the Department of Labor as well as local, state, and federal prosecutors could also participate in the process of trust building. The compact being that victims of crime and law enforcement would become each other’s ally. With trust and truth as cornerstones, communities would mend broken alliances and create a safe-haven.

A key component of the U visa is a law-enforcement certification. This certification verifies for USCIS that the victim and law enforcement are actively furthering the visa’s purpose. By issuing the certification, law enforcement tells USCIS that there has been a recognized crime against a noncitizen and that the person has cooperated with them in the investigation, detention or prosecution of that offense. Since state laws differ, Congress created categories of offenses which are recognized for U visa cases. This method allows states to include a broad range of offenses which have no real one to one comparison under federal law. Why would Congress do this? Because it understood that each crime is different and that all crimes are based on the facts and individual state laws. By using this method of characterization, it allowed for crime victims to be treated with greater care.

Even though these visas were created in 2000, the rules by which they would be evaluated did not come about until 2008. This caused a bit of a problem because it meant that those who were victimized before USCIS set out all of the rules, were at risk of not being able to apply of this protection. Congress of course did not want such a unintended result. The way this type of result was avoided was by not placing date restrictions on the issuance of the certification. What that allows is that even if the offense occurred years before, if the victimized individual met all the other criteria, they could still ask USCIS to review their applications for eligibility.

There are ground rules for eligibility . Victims of certain offenses must stand with law enforcement, show that the injury (mental, physical, emotional or psychological) was substantial and come clean about any and all past indiscretions, including prior criminal conduct and prior immigration violations. Armed with all of the factors, USCIS would then evaluate the applications to decide if the person should be granted a U visa.

  • Have a certification from law enforcement (or another certifying agency) that establishes that that you have been helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation, detection or prosecution of one of the U visa crime categories
  • Show that you have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse or injury as the result of the offense
  • Continue to cooperate with law enforcement, as requested, in the investigation, detection, or prosecution of the offense
  • Show that you are deserving of a waiver of any ground of inadmissibility based on humanitarian and public interest grounds

Much like all other immigration visas, U visas have recently come under greater scrutiny. This is because there are always those who try and use the system to take advantage of others or people who, desperate to find a solution to their immigration limbo, try to stretch the system to include things it clearly does not. But the truth is, this kind of behavior is more harmful than not. It does exactly what the U visa was not designed to do, create rather than defeat, mistrust. A result that threatens the existence of the U visa process itself. Seeking the help of a competent immigration attorney can help avoid such a tragic occurrence.

Congress’ intent to build relationships are compromised by not only those who try to manipulate the system, but it is also equally threatened by law enforcement that fails to recognize the power that issuing valid certifications creates. There are some agencies that refuse to issue the certification because they feel that they are somehow helping someone who is not lawfully in the U.S. The truth is law enforcement is losing an opportunity when they refuse to participate in the certification process. This is because the communities they swore to serve and protect continue to feel like they can not trust the police for the fear that their immigration status would become an issue. The Department of Homeland Security is so committed to ensuring the success of the U visa program, that they have have established special offices that help law enforcement overcome their concerns with the process and help educate them about the reason U visas can help heal not only the victim, but also the community.

Trust creates trust and mistrust creates mistrust. That is just how things always turn out. With gun violence and police altercations in the daily news, something is going to have to help turn the conversations around. U visas can go a long toward rebuilding trust on both sides. And that is a win-win for everyone.

When Opportunity Knocks, Answer the Door

For the last 10 years, the people have waited. Waited for Congress to provide a solution for the millions in need of immigration reform. Families have waited. Businesses have waited. And yet, still, nothing. It is unlikely that relief is coming any time soon.

The reality is that there is no simple solution to the immigration law controversy. The world is facing a refugee crisis that includes millions of people who cannot return home. Gangs, poverty, extremists and corruption become inescapable shadows for a people searching for a safe haven. Despite the humanitarian emergency, countries struggle to find answers.

In the US, immigration has always been an issue that is used by politicians to divide. Each generation of immigrants that arrives, rushes to try and pull the bridge up behind them. Despite being a nation of immigrants, the US is at constant war with its identity. The reasons behind this disharmony are deeply rooted and complicated.  And yet, when opportunity knocks, even ever so softly, so many fail to answer the door.

In 2012, frustrated with yet another stalled Immigration bill, the President mandated that certain people who were brought to the US as children, if they met the criteria, be shielded from the threat of deportation. This relief, commonly referred to “DACA”, guaranteed work authorization and an opportunity for a stable life. With the ability to obtain work, a social security card and a driver’s license, it gave DACA eligible individuals their identity.

Over half a million people came out of the shadows into the light. Contributing to the economy and their communities, they finally had a tangible glimmer of hope. And yet, so many, many more, simply did not apply. It makes little sense.

Sometimes opportunity only knocks once. The next election is about 13 months away and as the clock ticks down the Obama Presidency, the future has never been so uncertain. With so many unknowns, those who remain DACA eligible but still have not applied, need to act quickly. Those who remain unsure or unconvinced, need to seek out the help of an immigration lawyer or a competent immigration law firm and seek answers.  Time is running out.  When opportunity knocks, open the door. Opportunity may just be about to leave.