“Ultimately, America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity.”—Robert Kennedy
January 20, 2017 was the day I opened the doors of Rasoul Law Office. It was not a coincidence that it was also the day of the inauguration of Donald Trump. When I made the decision to start my own practice, I knew that I was entering a challenging time in my life and practice. Being primarily an immigration Attorney during these past four years was something I would not wish on anyone.
In general, attorneys choose to focus their practice on a limited scope of legal fields to minimize the relevant new laws, decisions, and policies they need to keep up with. This strategy did not work for those practicing immigration law in the United States during the Trump presidency. We woke up every day not knowing what new orders and changes were to be issued to make the lives of immigrants and their families more difficult.
The Trump administration, through the President, Attorney General, Homeland Security, and many other appointees, found joy in their continuous assaults on immigrants and the immigration system in its entirety. Attorney Generals Sessions and then Barr certified cases to themselves on regular basis and re-defined longstanding laws and policies as they wish. They were the Judge and Prosecutor at the same time!
On some days, I lost hope and contemplated changing the focus of my practice. I couldn’t handle seeing families being torn apart and spending fortunes in attempts to simply try to keep their home together. Somehow, I managed to pull myself together and fight vigorously for my clients and their families.
During the past four years, with the remarkable help of my assistants, we were able to represent hundreds of immigrants and unite many families. We were able to defeat the numerous travel bans in many cases and bring spouses, children, and parents of US Citizens to join them in the United States. We successfully helped many individuals in obtaining legal status and becoming lawful permanent residents. And best of all, we witnessed many of our clients take the oath of allegiance and become citizens of the United States of America.
I would like to thank each and every person who has placed their faith in me and my office. I am thankful for all my wonderful clients and their families for allowing me to be part of their life. I believe that this country has a deep, rich history of immigration. Immigrants come to the United States hoping to live the American dream. They bring with them their education, skills, culture, beliefs, and contribute significantly to this country. I believe that this tradition should be encouraged and supported.
As I celebrate this milestone in my life, the country celebrates a new beginning. We celebrate the end of a dark time that has impacted many lives. We can proudly stand up as Americans and tell the world that America welcomes immigrants from all backgrounds and cultures. The fight for equality and justice did not end, it is just beginning. At Rasoul Law office, we will always be part of this fight, the good fight.
Last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced a controversial new screening process that will apply to those seeking to enter the US or applying for adjustment of status (Green Card Applications). The Public Charge Rule seeks to bar aliens (Non US Citizens) who are likely to become dependent on public services, known as a public charge, from establishing residence in the US.
DHS defines a public charge as an alien who receives one or more public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period. These services include: income from Social Security, food stamps, housing assistance, and most forms of Medicaid. While an alien’s potential reliance on these services is the primary factor considered, DHS will also look at the applicant’s age, health, financial status, education, and other similar factors.
Of course, there are many exceptions to this rule. This rule will not affect refugees, asylees, and other humanitarian-based programs. Exceptions will also be made for those receiving certain Medicaid benefits, including pregnant women and individuals under 21, as well as those who served in the Armed Forces.
Current lawful permanent residents may not be affected by this rule at this time. However, if a green card holder leaves the US for more than 6 months, they may be subject to the Public Charge Rule upon reentry.
The Public Charge Rule will take effect October 15, 2019. It will only be applied to all applications filed on and after this date.
January 20, 2019, marks the second anniversary of my private law practice. My office opened its doors on a historic, and deeply divisive, day — the day of President Trump’s inauguration.
Like most Americans, it was difficult for me to comprehend how Trump could be our new president. I was certain that his term in office would be challenging for so many in the United States and around the world. I was also certain that my clients, friends, family, and community would become a target of Trump’s new administration. These certainties compelled me to open my new practice and to serve those in communities hardest hit by Trump’s pledged agenda.
My intuition was correct. After just seven days in office, Trump signed an executive order with the first version of his Muslim ban. This executive order attempted to prohibit immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States. This ban directly impacted many of my clients.
The first iteration of the ban was, for the most part, held unenforceable due to hard work of attorneys and activists across the country who immediately challenged the executive order. However, the practice of immigration law has changed dramatically during Trump’s presidency.
While the actual laws and regulations remain the same, the enforcement and interpretation of the laws have changed. This lack of consistency resulted in neither immigration attorneys nor immigration officers knowing how the law will be applied. It is difficult for immigration attorneys to provide clients with clear answers to many of their pressing concerns.
This uncertainty is compounded by the introduction of new requirements in the immigration process. For example, a new form known as Form DS-5535 (Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants), was introduced as a method to comply with the President’s demand for what he called “extreme vetting” of most immigrants. The form asks for the following:
- Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel;
- Address history and Employment history during the last fifteen years;
- All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant (even expired or lost passports!);
- Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
- Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last fifteen years; and
- Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last fifteen years.
Traditionally, the Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asked for most of this information but for the prior five years. This new form expands the timeframe to fifteen years.
Once this form is requested by the Consular Officer (at the embassy handling the case), the applicant must complete it and return it to the embassy. Most embassies are refusing to accept delivery of this document in person from applicants at their interviews, and insist on email delivery.
Further complicating the process, even if an applicant can find and provide all the information requested, applications are often subjected to “Administrative Processing.” This additional processing can drag on for months, even years, without the applicant receiving a decision on their case.
Our immigration system is, in large part, based on promoting unification of families. However, the current policies significantly inhibit the unification process. Applying for a spouse, fiancé, child, or parent is an unnecessarily exhaustive process. Traditionally, it took five to eight months to bring your fiancé from abroad. Nowadays it could exceed a year and sometimes even much longer.
Another area of immediate concern is the immigration court system. The immigration court system has been flawed for a long time, but under President Trump’s administration, the problems are exacerbated.
Immigration courts are controlled by the Department of Justice. For the past two years, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wielded his incredible power over immigration courts in unprecedented ways. He plucked cases from the courts to decide himself, he emphasized quantity over quality in performance reviews, and as of October 1, he even imposed case closing quotas on immigration judges. Even after the resignation of AG Sessions, the DOJ will likely continue in the same direction.
The new policies implemented in immigration courts are in no way resolving the backlog of cases in these courts or providing individuals with their right to due process. Judges are no longer able to terminate cases if a respondent has a readily available relief they could seek, as they traditionally did. Releasing people on bond is extremely difficult and even impossible in some courts. Asylum seekers must meet a much higher standard of proof than the law requires. Hostility to immigrants is evident on all levels of the process.
As an attorney, I see the harm these policies are causing American families. Everyone deserves a fair day in court. That’s why I am calling on MEMBERS OF CONGRESS to support the creation of an independent immigration court system. Immigration cases are often life-or-death matters. The current application of the immigration laws is a grave and unacceptable injustice.
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In partnership with the Riverview International Center, Rasoul Law Office has launched a Free General Advice Legal Clinic. The first legal clinic started on November 16, 2017, and continues on the Third Thursday of each month since then.
The Clinic was created to serve the residents of Riverview Drive, the surrounding area, as well as anyone in need of legal advice. Riverview Drive and the surrounding area are known for their diverse community with a significant number of new immigrants from all around the world. The Riverview International Center (RIC) is a non-profit resource center created to assist with some of the basic needs of both new and established immigrants and refugees in the Riverview Drive neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio.
At our clinic each month, we meet with individuals in need of legal advice. Each individual is required to complete an intake form which includes contact information, summary of legal issue, and income information. The intake form must be submitted to RIC prior to the clinic Thursday. Once the forms are reviewed by our office, we schedule everyone at different times between 6-8pm at the next clinic.
The service provided at the clinic is limited to general advice on how to deal with matter or how to resolve it. If the matter needs legal action, we may accept their case at our office on a pro-bono basis or with a reduced fee, or refer them to another office who may better serve them. During the past few months, we have meet with many people with all kinds of issues including immigration, landlord-tenant, personal injury, and domestic relations.
Our next event will be an exceptional one. We are collaborating with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and The Vineyard Community Center for a Naturalization clinic on March 7, 2018. At the March 7th clinic, volunteers will be screening clients for Naturalization eligibility, assisting eligible individuals with the preliminary questionnaires, and scheduling clients for the follow-up N-400 clinic on Saturday, March 24th.
We hope to continue our services at RIC and to expand them in the near future. We would like to invite you to support the Riverview International Center to allow them to continue the amazing services they are currently providing to their community. You can learn more about RIC and contribute to them at the following website: https://www.riverviewinternationalcenter.org/giving/
January 20, 2018, marked the first anniversary at my New Location. My new office opened its doors on a historic, if deeply divisive, day — the day of President Trump’s inauguration. Although I started my law practice on November 16, 2015, I consider January 20, 2017 to be a significant day in my legal career.
Like most Americans, it was difficult for me to comprehend how Trump could be our new president. I was certain that his term in office would be challenging for so many in the United States and around the world. I was also certain that my clients, friends, family, and community would become a target of the Trump’s new administration. These certainties compelled me to open my new practice and to serve those in the community who would be hardest hit by Trump’s pledged agenda.
My intuition was correct. After just seven days in office, Trump signed an executive order with the first version of his Muslim ban. He attempted to ban immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States. This executive order directly targeted the majority of my clients and friends.
Luckily, the ban was, for the most part, unenforceable due to hard work of attorneys and activists across the country who immediately challenged the executive order. However, the practice of immigration law has changed dramatically during Trump’s presidency. While the actual laws and regulations remain the same, the enforcement and interpretation of the laws have changed.
Working in such an environment is stressful. However, watching our current president and his administration promote an anti-immigrant agenda gives me the determination to work harder to help my clients fight against these discriminatory policies.
I take every client’s case as a personal case. I build relationships with each client and their families throughout the long immigration process. I believe that this country has a deep, rich history of immigration. Immigrants come to the United States hoping to live the American dream. They bring with them their education, skills, culture, beliefs, and contribute significantly to this country. I believe that this tradition should be encouraged and supported.
The only thing Trump and I have in common is the date that we both moved into our new offices. I will continue to support immigrants and will continue to resist Trump’s oppressive policies.
On March 6th, 2017, President Donald Trump signed a new Executive order “PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES”. The order Revokes (Cancels) and Replaces the previous order signed on January 27, 2017. The following points are a brief summary of the new order:
I. The Ban
1. The order applies to nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. (Note that although Iraq has been taken off the list, Iraqi Nationals will be subject to additional scrutiny).
2. Entry of Nationals of the six countries listed above will be suspended for 90 days. (See the exceptions below).
3. Travel, and decisions on applications, for Refugee status will be suspended for 120 days. (Note that no indefinite suspension for Syrian refugees is mentioned).
4. The number of Refugees to be admitted into the US in 2017 will be limited to 50,000 refugees.
5. The priority or exception given to Christian Minorities in Muslim Majority countries has been completely removed from this order.
II. Who does it apply to?
Applies only to Foreign Nationals from the 6 listed countries who:
a. Are outside the United States on the effective date of this order;
b. Did not have a valid visa on January 27, 2017; and
c. Do not have a valid visa on the effective date of this order.
It also applies to Refugees applying to come from the listed countries and have not been approved or scheduled to travel to the United states yet.
The Order lists many very broad discretionary exceptions, and waivers, which are granted to the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, Counselors, and CBP Officers. However, the following are more specific exceptions to which the ban does not apply to.
A. The Immigrant and non-immigrant ban:
1. Any lawful permanent resident of the United States (Green Card Holders);
2. Foreign Nationals already in the United States;
3. Foreign Nationals who have an Advanced Parole or similar documents;
4. Dual Nationals with one nationality from a listed country and another nationality from a non-listed country;
5. Diplomates; and
6. Foreign nationals who have been already granted asylum, refugees already admitted to the US, or any individual who has been granted withholding of removal, advance parole, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.
B. The Refugees Ban:
The Refugees ban does not apply to:
1. Refugee applicants who, before the effective date of this order, have been formally scheduled for transit (travel) by the Department of State.
While applying or implementing the Order, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security are directed to the following:
1. Providing an opportunity for individuals to claim a fear of persecution or torture, such as the credible fear determination for aliens;
2. No immigrant or nonimmigrant visa issued before the effective date of this order shall be revoked;
3. Any individual whose visa was marked revoked or marked canceled as a result of Executive Order 13769 shall be entitled to a travel document confirming that the individual is permitted to travel to the United States and seek entry;
4. The order shall not apply to an individual who has been granted asylum, to a refugee who has already been admitted to the United States, or to an individual granted withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture; and
5. The order shall not be construed to limit the ability of an individual to seek asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture, consistent with the laws of the United States.
V. Effective Date
The order is effective at 12:01 a.m., Eastern Time on March 16, 2017.
Friday, January 27, 2017, Trump signed an Executive Order aimed directly against Muslims and Refugees. The following points are a quick summary of this order:
1. Suspends the refugee program for 120 days and suspends the Syrian refugee program indefinitely;
2. Caps refugee resettlement numbers at 50,000 for FY 2017;
3 . Suspends immigrant and nonimmigrant entry for people from predominantly Muslim countries for a minimum of 90 days while the government undertakes a review of visa issuance and immigration benefits processes;
4. Requires in-person interviews for nonimmigrant visa applicants;
5. Establishes requirements for “extreme vetting”;
6. Prioritizes refugees whose claims are based on religious persecution but only if the person’s religion is a minority in their country of origin;
7. Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to expedite the completion of an entry-exit biometric system.
We will post more on this and explain how it could affect you and your family within the coming days.
Q: Does the Immigration Ban Apply to US Citizens or Permanent Residents (Green Card Holder)?
US Citizens – The ban does not apply to US Citizens who come from the listed countries. However, it does affect them by denying, or significantly delaying, the process of reuniting with their family members and loved ones who were waiting to get their immigrant or nonimmigrant visas. If you are a US citizen who recently got married or engaged to someone from any of the listed countries, or have recently petitioned for your mother or father to come join you in the US, then your application will be delayed due to this order.
Permanent Residents (Green Card Holder) – The ban should not apply to Green Card Holders who come from the listed countries. Green Card Holders are not aliens; they have been investigated at many stages and went through many steps before being admitted to the United States. They are eligible to become Citizens after 5 years (or in some cases 3 years) of receiving the GC. Of the Over 500,000 GC Holders who come from the 7 listed countries, many have been eligible to apply for citizenship years ago but never did.
To get back to the question addressed, there have been many cases reported of GC holders coming from the 7 listed countries being denied entry into the US at the border or faced significant delays and questioning. Some have been even refused to board on planes coming to the US because they are nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, or Sudan. Meanwhile, some GC holders coming from these same countries reported that they were able to enter the US without a problem.
Therefore, there is no definite answer to assure GC Holders. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed to Reuters on Saturday morning that it was applying the ban to Green Card Holders. However, an administration official confirmed Saturday afternoon that they are making a “case-by-case” decision in regard to Green Card Holders. Even government officials are unable to fully explain if ban does or does not apply to Permanent Residents!
I would strongly advise all Green Card Holders from these countries not to travel outside of the United States at this time. Until things clear up, it is advised that you remain in the US and avoid international travel. If you are a green card holder who is eligible to apply for Citizenship, do not delay your application anymore. Even if you are not from the listed countries, under this administration, you cannot predict what comes next! Consult with an Attorney to discuss your eligibility and the process of applying for your citizenship.
Who else does the Order affect?
It basically affects everyone from the 7 named countries. Nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan are all affected by this order even if they carry a second citizenship! Dual citizens with at least one citizenship from any of the listed countries, who happen to also be citizens of any other country around the world (Other than the US), are banned from traveling to, or entering, the US. To make it simpler, if you are a Canadian Citizen who also carries Syrian or Iraqi Citizenship, you may be banned from entering the US for the next 90 days!
On February 3, 2017, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting the federal government from enforcing parts of the travel ban including:
1. Sections 3(c) – 90-day travel ban on “immigrants and nonimmigrants” from the 7 designated countries;
2. Section 5(a) – 120-day ban on U.S. refugee program;
3. Section 5(b) – prioritization of certain refugee claims (giving a priority to minorities in Muslim majority countries) ;
4. Section 5(c) – indefinite suspension of Syrian refugee admissions; and
5. Section 5(e) – case-by-case refugee admissions.
The Court order applies nationwide and to all U.S. land and air ports of entry are prohibited from enforcing these portions of the EO until further order from the court.
On January 27th, 2017, the Department of State announced that it was provisionally revoking all visas that have been previously issued to citizens from the named countries. However, on February 4, 2017, and in compliance to the court order:
1. Department of State: DOS has confirmed that assuming there are no other issues in the case, provisionally revoked visas have been reversed and are once again valid for travel.
2. Customs and Boarder Protection: All CBP Field Offices have been instructed to immediately resume inspection of travelers under standard policies and procedures. All airlines and terminal operators have been notified to permit boarding of all passengers without regard to nationality.
3. Physically Revoked Visas: CBP confirmed that individuals who arrived last weekend and had their visas physically cancelled as a result of the Executive Order will not need to reapply for a new visa and absent any other admissibility issues will receive an I-193 waiver (Application for Waiver of Passport and/or Visa) upon arrival to the U.S. For those traveling by air, airlines have been instructed to contact CBP to receive authorization to permit boarding.
4. US Citizenship and Immigration Services: USCIS will continue to adjudicate applications and petitions filed for or on behalf of individuals in the United States regardless of their country of origin, and applications and petitions of lawful permanent residents outside the U.S. USCIS will also continue to adjudicate applications and petitions for individuals outside the U.S. whose approval does not directly confer travel authorization. Applications to adjust status also continue to be adjudicated, according to existing policies and procedures, for applicants who are nationals of countries designated in the Jan. 27, 2017 Executive Order.
The Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit declined, on February 5th, 2017, to grant an emergency stay of the court order and refused to quickly reinstate the travel ban. However, the court will hear the full case and may make a decision on the matter by Monday, February 6th, 2017.
Last, as of February 2nd, 2017, the Department of State confirmed that there is no information that supports the widely spread rumor of plans to expand the travel ban to include additional countries.