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.

 

The Border Security Myth: A Kansas City Attorney’s Take

The stories below are based off real client experiences. However, all names and specific details have been altered as a matter of privacy and confidentiality.

Republican politicians continually state that the U.S. needs to secure the U.S.-Mexican border before Congress can pass any other immigration reforms. This statement may rile up conservative supporters but it does not have much basis in reality.

There are more border patrol agents and miles of fence at the border than ever before in U.S. history. Overall, apprehensions and deportations at the border are higher. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are effectively securing the border. This should not be a hurdle in comprehensive reform. In fact, further security measures without reforms may hurt the U.S. and immigrants alike.

The militarization of the border, without any meaningful immigration reform, has led to several unintended consequences. First, it has forced people attempting to enter the U.S. without authorization to resort to drastic and often life-threatening alternatives. These people are forced to trek through rough desert terrain to cross the border. Many others are forced to use smugglers who may have no concern for immigrants’ health or safety.

Additionally, due to the increased security and the danger of entering the U.S., many people are forced to remain in the U.S. rather than return to Mexico. It’s important to understand the motivations for Mexican and Central American migration to the U.S. The motivations are overwhelmingly economical or relate to a fear of their home country.  Migrants have families and few opportunities for employment. There only hope of providing for and protecting their family is to migrate to the U.S.

Take for example, Oscar. He lived in rural southern Mexico. His family owned a small batch of land for farming. The family barely grew enough crops to feed the family. There was rarely enough to sell. Oscar lived in a one room house with his wife and two children. The house had dirt floors, and his family had limited access to running water. He had nothing to support his family. He has little education because he was forced to help his family at the farm growing up. He could not find jobs elsewhere in Mexico because of his poor education and his status. He had no business connections and no transferable work skills. So he traveled to the U.S. Were he met a cousin, who helped find a job for him in the agricultural industry. Oscar sent money back to his family for support. He wanted to visit them, but he knew the dangers of crossing back to the U.S. and the likelihood of getting stuck in the same Mexican poverty as before. So he stayed. Eventually, his family joined him in the U.S. and stayed also.

The U.S. does not need more border security, it needs smarter border security and comprehensive reform. It needs to consider the motivations for migration, like Oscar’s, and encourage lawful immigration through expansion of temporary worker visa program and other programs. It also needs better training for its border agents.

Instead of actually addressing the real issues, Republicans in Congress recently introduced a border bill increasing the amount of fencing along the border and setting priority deadlines to increase security. The director of the Department of Homeland Security called these priorities “unworkable” and “not a serious effort at legislating border security.” Furthermore, we are about two weeks away from a potential DHS shutdown, which would force the agency charged with securing our borders to operate without sufficient funding. Congress is playing politics rather than debating the issues and passing comprehensive reform that would go a long way in resolving some of the most pressing immigration issues.


 

 

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. If you are in removal proceedings or need legal advice on your immigration case, please contact an immigration attorney.

Judge Sends a Message With Withholding of Removal Ruling

Sharma-Crawford, a firm specializing in immigration law, recently won a significant victory in a pro bono withholding of removal case. When the judge granted our client’s withholding of removal, he also sent a message to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that it should protect its named witnesses in federal criminal cases.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates like any other law enforcement agency in that it uses informants to substantiate cases. In exchange for their testimony, informants or witnesses are offered work cards in order to remain in the U.S. The relationship between informants and Immigration is much like at-will employment. The work cards represent the informant’s pay, and once their “job” of providing testimony is done, so is the benefit of their work card.

In this case, the client was a named witness for the DHS in a federal criminal case. Because he was a named witness, he received threats against this life and his family was victimized in their home country. In spite of these conditions and despite the fact they had promised the informant more work cards; DHS failed to act when the client attempted to reenter the U.S. with expired documents and was turned away.

Long story short, the judge was aghast at this lack of witness protection and sent a message via his withholding of removal. A withholding of removal is when an immigrant is ordered removed from the U.S. but that order is withheld because he or she would be persecuted in their home country. The message to DHS was that this client was their informant, he was in danger and they have a responsibility to protect him even after the federal case ended.

Our client is able to remain in the U.S. now with a work card, renewable annually. As his immigration lawyers, we were able to convince the judge that he fell into one of the five groups eligible for asylum (race, religion, nationality, political opinion and group membership) and his fear of persecution in his home country was reasonable. The client was considered part of a social group (informants) and in danger of persecution since he was a named witness.

This case was victorious and significant for two reasons. One, the judge did the “right” thing in withholding our client’s removal. More than likely, the ruling saved his life. Two, our client supplied his immigration lawyer with the relevant information we required to represent him. He did so simply, honestly and without exaggeration. His statements remained unchanged the first time and every time after that including at trial.

Considering the real risk for retaliation against witnesses, the judge’s response and actions are encouraging. DHS should heed this recent ruling by following through on its promises of work cards, and thus protection, since these immigrants have little else by way of defense.

ICE has never made an official admission of using undocumented immigrants as informants. Yet it’s common practice. These informants give authorities information they need to build and prosecute criminal cases from human and drug trafficking to arms smuggling and money laundering.

All the while immigrant informants are putting their lives at risk in hopes of being rewarded with legal status—that is rarely granted. The number of illegal informants is unknown, but believed far higher than the number of visas that lead to a green card. When law enforcement agencies are using undocumented immigrants to build their cases and make communities safer, shouldn’t those informants earn the right to live within them versus being sent back to their home countries where they’ll be in jeopardy?

Sharma-Crawford, Attorneys at Law is a firm deeply experienced in the complexities of immigration law. Whether you are facing criminal or civil litigation in state, federal or immigration court – the caring professionals at Sharma-Crawford can help you navigate through the complex legal system. For more information, please call (913) 385-9821 or visit www.Sharma-Crawford.com. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements. The information contained in this article is general information and should not be considered legal counsel.

Gearing up for impact on young illegal immigrants seeking work permits under new policy change

Michael and Rekha Sharma-Crawford expect their office phones to begin ringing today – and for weeks to come. Their Kansas City immigration law firm has been affected by almost every administration and court decision regarding immigration legislation over the past nine years. Today’s announcement by the Obama Administration and the Department of Homeland Security is significant.

“Politics aside, decisions like this and changes in policy stir up questions and activity throughout the immigrant community,” said Michael Sharma-Crawford. “Today we must understand the Administration’s policy announcement and advise a large segment of the Kansas City community on how this might impact individuals and families for years to come.”

According to today’s announcement, the Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives.

The policy change, announced today by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants nationwide and a large Kansas and Missouri population who have lived in fear of deportation.

According to early reading of the Administration’s policy, illegal immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16, are currently  younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years, with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.

“Regardless of how politics impacts this decision in the weeks and months to follow, we do know that many lives in our local Kansas City immigrant community are significantly affected by today’s decision,” added Sharma-Crawford.