Immigration Law

Category • Immigration Law Blog

Credit Building Tips for Los Angeles Residents

Whether you are a recent immigrant to the United States or you have been here for a long time, you can take steps to build positive credit. Having a high credit score will help you with your financial decisions in the future, whether you need to take out a loan to go to college or apply for a mortgage to purchase a home.

Many individuals, both immigrants and native-born Americans alike, do not know how to build their credit. If you are not sure where to start with building your credit, apply the following tips to your everyday life.

Consider a Secured Credit Card

If you do not have sufficient credit to qualify for an unsecured credit card, apply for a secured credit card. A secured credit card is a credit card that an applicant can obtain by putting down a sum of money as collateral with the lender. That sum of money then becomes his or her credit limit. For example, you can apply for a secured credit card with a $500 credit limit with the bank by giving the bank $500 in cash to use as collateral. Because of this collateral, anybody can open a secured credit card and begin building positive credit.

Pay your Bills on Time

Your rent, your utility bills, your credit card bills, and any other bills you have need to be paid on or before their due dates. This is key to building and maintaining positive credit. With credit card bills, it is possible to pay less than what is due, known as the “minimum payment.” This amount is printed on your credit card bill, but do not let yourself get into the habit of only paying the minimum payment each month – allowing your debt to accrue will actually cost you more money in the long run because you will need to pay interest on the balance you carry on your credit card.

Pay your Bills in Full

This goes with the issue above – not only should your credit card bills be paid on time, they should be paid in full. Alongside the issue of having to pay interest on debt accrued, you can also lose track of how much you owe to your lender and reach the point of “maxing out” your credit card.

Become an Authorized User on Another Person’s Card

If possible, you can also build your own credit score by becoming an authorized user on somebody else’s card. This other party could be your spouse or another relative, such as a parent or a sibling. Establish an agreement with this other party beforehand. As an authorized user of their credit card, you are not legally obligated to pay for the charges you make – they are. Discuss how you will reimburse him or her before you become an authorized user.

Work with a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney

Having a strong credit score can help you immensely when you need to take big steps with your finances. For guidance with the legal issues that can accompany these steps or other types of help during the immigration process, contact immigration attorney Joshua L. Goldstein at The Law Offices of Joshua L.Goldstein, P.C. today to set up your legal consultation.

Using FOIA to your Advantage

In the United States, you have the right to request important information from the federal government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As an individual working through the process of becoming an American citizen, you could be required to use this right at some point, especially if you run into legal issues when applying for a work visa or green card. This is because it is possible that there is background information about you in your immigration record that somehow complicates matters like this. Find out what information is available to the federal government by filing a FOIA request with the aid of an experienced Los Angeles immigration attorney. If the United States federal government has information about you that it can potentially use against you, you have a right to know about it.

How to Seek Information Under FOIA

Your immigration file contains information that can be of significant value to you. However, you can also potentially run into issues with obtaining this information if you came to the country before 1982 or if the information in your record has been redacted, or blacked out, because it contains the names of government officials or individuals other than yourself.

Before you start working with an attorney or contacting government agencies, determine which information you need. This will determine the agency with which you file your request and how you file it.

Once you determine the information you need, or if you determine that you need to see your entire immigration file, you or your attorney will make a formal request to the correct agency. This might be the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Along with your request, you will need to provide your reason for seeking the information. Your attorney can help you craft this statement and, if necessary, request that the officials handling the request expedite it if you are in a situation where your life, health, or safety is at risk.

Generally, a FOIA request takes five to six weeks to complete, sometimes up to 80 days. When you request that your case be expedited, you can expect to receive your file within 20 days to one month. If you are in need of more immediate information, your attorney can provide a detailed statement of how your life, health, safety, or liberty is at risk to have the request handled in an even quicker manner.

Work with a Los Angeles Immigration Attorney

If you need to file a FOIA request, work with an experienced immigration attorney who can guide you through the steps you need to take and help you understand the information you receive as a result of your request. To start working with immigration attorney Joshua L. Goldstein, schedule your legal consultation with The Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C., today.

DAPA hits the Supreme Court: an immigration lawyer’s analysis

For immigration lawyers and millions of people in the U.S. hoping and dreaming for DAPA and other immigration options, this summer’s expected Supreme Court decision will be profoundly life-changing.

Background on the DAPA case

In 2013, the Senate passed S.744, a bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that would have taken steps toward fixing a number of problems with the current immigration system. But Republicans in the House of Representatives killed this bill.

In response, on November 20, 2014, President Obama issued his Immigration Accountability Executive Action. The goal of this was to provide common sense fixes to certain problems and inspire Congress to take more sweeping action.

This executive action included an expansion of the previously implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the announcement of a new program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

These are both deferred action programs that provide eligible individuals with temporary administrative relief from deportation and permission to work.

Expanded DACA

The DACA expansion includes: the elimination of the upper age limit (meaning individuals born before June 15, 1981 who are otherwise eligible, could now apply); the change of entry date from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010; and an extended validity period. DACA grants will be for three years, instead of two.

DAPA

DAPA, the new program, is targeted at immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and similarly provides a 3-year period of relief from deportation along with permission to work.

To be eligible for DACA, applicants must:

  • Have lived continuously in the U.S. since January 1, 2010;
  • Have been present in the U.S. on November 20, 2014;
  • As of November 20, 2014, had a son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • Not have had lawful immigration status on November 20, 2014 or at the time of application for DAPA; and
  • Not have been convicted of certain crimes.

According to the Brookings Institute, 4 millions people may be eligible for DAPA.

Republican launch partisan lawsuit against DAPA

Republicans in Texas and 25 other states brought a challenge to this executive order in federal court, specifically seeking to block the expansion of DACA and the implementation of DAPA. The Republican-led states argued that the President’s exercise of discretion was an unconstitutional overreach.

Then, on February 13, 2016, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away unexpectedly. With his passing, there are now only 8 justices on the Supreme Court. And Republicans in the Senate have refused to hold hearings and vote on any Obama nominee to replace Scalia.

Possible outcomes of DAPA case

A loss for immigrants

The worst outcome would be a 5-3 decision striking DAPA as an an unconstitutional use of executive authority. Such a decision would have implications far beyond the death of DAPA.

A loss in this case could prevent or limit future presidents from taking action on immigration matters. This outcome would mean that, having blocked legislative action, Republicans would have killed executive action as well. Immigration gridlock would continue for the foreseeable future.

A tied decision would be a loss

With 8 sitting justices, a tie is a theoretical possibility. When a Supreme Court case is decided with a tie, the lower court’s decision stands, but no precedent is set.

In the DAPA case, a tie would reaffirm the conservative Fifth Circuit’s decision, allowing a nationwide injunction on DAPA, but the expansion of DACA to remain in place.

A win for immigrants

The Supreme Court could affirm the legal validity of DAPA. If so, millions of people could begin filing DAPA application.

This is the outcome that the American Immigration Council predicts and the one that I’m hoping for. In this view, the Republican-led states lack standing and the Executive branch has wide discretion to implement and enforce immigration laws. This would also allow future presidents to take executive action on immigration and other contexts.

Immigration Lawyer ready to help with DAPA

Our office will be keeping a close eye on what happens with DAPA. We are hopeful for a positive result, and as soon as we have more information, we will provide it to you on our website and through our newsletter.

Should the Supreme Court uphold executive action on immigration, we will be here to help you prepare and file expanded DACA, as well as DAPA, applications. Come see us to discuss your immigration options. Meanwhile, let’s keep our fingers crossed!

2016: The Year Ahead in Immigration Law

Presidential Election

We’re in an election year and this election will have a big impact on immigration policy. The presidential campaigns are already going strong, and they’ve been pretty unusual and unpredictable so far.

On the Republican side, immigration has become a central issue in their campaigns. A number of the candidates have been speaking to and validating one of the worst characteristics in the American people – xenophobia. The messaging has gone past the point of offensive – it’s become racist.

Donald Trump has called for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S.; has said Mexicans coming into the U.S. are rapists, criminals and drug dealers; has indicated that he would deport the over 11 million undocumented people in the U.S.; has plans to end birthright citizenship; and has stated he wants to build a “real wall” to keep out immigrants on the U.S.-Mexican border. While Ted Cruz doesn’t go quite as far as Trump in his rhetoric, he supported Trump’s plan to stop all Muslims from entering the U.S.; wants to ban non-Christian Syrian refugees; also wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border; supports the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants; and has stated he would triple border protection, among other things. Instead of reaching out to immigrants and seeing their potential to add to and improve the United States, the Republican party candidates talk about immigrants using words of prejudice and paranoia.

On the democratic side, the two main candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both support the rights of immigrants as well as the idea of Comprehensive Immigration Reform with a path to citizenship. They’ve spoken out against the hate that the Republican candidates have been selling. They have reaffirmed their support of President Obama’s executive action on immigration reform and have each taken a stand against the recent deportation raids conducted by the Obama administration.

he next President will impact the immigration system in a number of ways – he or she will affect what happens with Comprehensive Immigration Reform, detention centers for immigrant mothers and children, deportation raids, discretionary relief policies, and enforcement priorities. So, the question is, will the American people elect a President who glorifies hate and intolerance, or will the country choose a candidate who will defend the rights of immigrants?

Recently, with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, the Presidential election has taken on even more importance for immigration. There is now a vacant Supreme Court seat. President Obama will try to nominate a candidate in the remaining months that he is in office, but he is already getting a large amount of pushback from Republicans. Republicans are urging the Senate to delay the consideration and confirmation of any Supreme Court nominee until the next President is in office. With many important Supreme Court cases in the pipeline, including United States v. Texas (the case that will determine the legitimacy of Obama’s executive action on immigration), the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice is critical. We’ll provide more updates and information on the United States v. Texas case and Justice Scalia’s potential replacements in our next newsletter!

L.A. Religious Groups Reach Out to Immigrants

In many religions, such as Catholicism, offering sanctuary to those in need is a key tenet. Now, religious groups throughout the United States are offering aid and sanctuary to recent immigrants from Central America. This is in response to the current wave of anti-undocumented immigrant sentiment sweeping through the United States accompanied by federal raids conducted by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) meant to crack down on undocumented immigrant populations inside the United States.

These raids often result in individuals being swiftly deported without proper trials or legal representation. Thus far, 120 people have been ordered to leave the United States in these federal raids. This type of raid and deportation can be terrifying and can break a family apart. If you are a recent immigrant or a family member of somebody who has recently come to the United States, it is important that you know your rights regarding deportation. Work with an experienced Los Angeles immigration attorney to ensure that you fully understand these rights and can protect yourself if issues related to staying in the country arise.

The Scope of America’s Undocumented Immigrant Population

Since 2014, more than 100,000 people from Central America have entered the United States. These individuals come here for a variety of reasons, such as the following:

  • Escaping violence;
  • Leaving communities and nations corrupt with drug trafficking;
  • Seeking better economic opportunities for their families; and
  • Coming to be with family members who have already entered the United States.

How Do Religious Groups Help Immigrants?

Religious groups in Los Angeles and throughout the United States have a long history of backing progressive immigration law reform and providing aid for individuals and families who come to this country fleeing violence and seeking more stable lives. An example of this is the Sanctuary Movement, through which a network of United States border area churches offered safe places for refugees fleeing wars and oppressive regimes in South and Central America in the 1980s. This movement eventually led to pressure on the Reagan administration to pass the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which granted new rights to America’s immigrant population.

Today, churches and other faith centers in Los Angeles are working similarly to pass pro-immigrant legislation like the DREAM Act. Even groups that traditionally back conservative legislation, like evangelical Christian groups, support such acts in the name of moral righteousness. Some of the ways these groups help the people they work with, aside from supporting progressive legislation, include welcoming them into their congregations, providing food, clothing, and basic necessities for them, and aiding them with assimilation to life in America.

Work with an Experienced Los Angeles Immigration Attorney

When you need help with one of the many legal issues that recent and not-so-recent immigrants face, seek guidance from an experienced immigration attorney. At The Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C., we are dedicated to working with recent immigrants to smooth out the naturalization process and resolve any issues they face. Contact our firm today to set up your initial legal consultation.

Ted Cruz and Immigration: What to Expect if He Wins the Election

If there is one topic that Ted Cruz has flip-flopped on, it is that of immigration. Despite his extremely conservative ways, immigration is one issue that Mr. Cruz has always held a softer position on. In fact, the Texan has been a long-time advocate for expanding avenues for legal immigration into the United States, particularly for high-skilled workers.

But his once open stance on legal immigration into the U.S., including making more visas available for eligible immigrants, may have come to an end; Ted Cruz is now pushing for a halt on immigration, legal and otherwise.

Once an Advocate for Legal Immigration

Ted Cruz has been one of the few conservative republicans who has continuously advocated for immigrants’ rights over the course of his tenure. While never once using the word “amnesty,” Cruz’s political history includes him continuously saying that he wanted to expand legal immigration, and he even told reporters, quoted by CNN News, that he thinks “legal immigration is a fundamental pillar of our country,” and that he believes we should remain a nation that “”doesn’t just welcome, but celebrates legal immigrants around this table.” In the past, Cruz has also supported expansion of temporary guest workers permitted to come into the United States, as well as expansion of the number of green cards available.

Cruz Makes a Shift

While Cruz may have once been a proponent for bringing immigrants into the country, those views seem to have been tabled for now. In November, Cruz issued his immigration plan, which is even more conservative than legislation that has been proposed—and that Cruz has stood up against—in the past. To be sure, Cruz’s plan would:

  • Halt legal immigration until the rate of unemployment in the United States decreases;
  • End birthright citizenship – those born in the United States would no longer be considered U.S. citizens;
  • Suspend the H-1B visa program (visas for foreign workers) for 180 days with the intent of investigating allegations of abuse within the program.

The plan, to put it simply, is not one that lends much hope to immigrants—both documented and otherwise—living within the country, nor immigrants hoping to make the journey to the U.S.

How an Immigration Attorney Can Help You

If you are an undocumented immigrant currently living within the United States, you may have fears and questions about what your future holds, and what the future of U.S. immigration policy is. While both are unclear, the immigrations attorneys at the Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C. can advocate for you and for your right to remain within the country. For a case consultation where we can discuss your immigration status and how your right to remain here may be protected, call us today at 323-484-907.

Californians View Immigrants As a Positive Force on Society

The state of California has one of the biggest immigrant populations in the county. In fact, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, California has more immigrants than any other state, and is the home of more than 10 million immigrants. Of these immigrants, about 47 percent are naturalized citizens, and 26 percent have some sort of legal status. This means that 27 percent of immigrants in California, or 2.7 million people, are within the state illegally.

Continue reading “Californians View Immigrants As a Positive Force on Society”

Donald Trump Calls for a Ban on Immigration to the U.S. For All Muslims

Donald Trump recently made a statement that has shocked even conservatives, including his republican running opponents. His claim that all Muslims should be temporarily banned from entering or immigrating the U.S., due to the fact that “our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” is not only disturbing, but also telling of the deep racism and fear that is associated with beliefs about immigrants.

Continue reading “Donald Trump Calls for a Ban on Immigration to the U.S. For All Muslims”

Refugee vs. Immigrant: Differences & Similarities

In recent months, the topic of refugee rights has appeared in the news many times. There is misinformation being circulated about the legal definition of a refugee, and about the requirements they must comply with in order to be granted admission to the United States. Many are under the impression that a refugee must simply fit the requirements for any immigrant, and this is not the case. It is imperative to understand the differences, so that you apply for the status that works best for you.

What Is A Refugee?

United States immigration law defines a refugee in the same manner as the 1951 United Nations Convention & Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (usually referred to as the Geneva Convention). According to the convention, a refugee is someone who is “unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” In order to apply for refugee status, a person must be outside the United States, and meet all other admission criteria – in other words, they must be able to be found admissible even if they were not a potential refugee.

These requirements, contrary to what many might think, actually make it more difficult in many respects to gain admittance to the United States. Showing a well-founded fear of persecution is quite difficult, especially when coming from countries where records are not kept or have been destroyed. In order to establish a pattern of persecution or the likely possibility of future persecution, one cannot simply testify to a few isolated occurrences or a general climate of terror; one must be able to cite specifics, with corroboration.

After Admission

The other question that many people have regarding refugee status is whether or not they receive ‘special treatment’ once they are admitted to the United States. The answer is technically yes, at least by California law, but there are practical considerations underlying each type of assistance many refugees are able to receive.

For example, if a refugee is able to obtain status in the U.S., they are then able to work, without having to apply for an Employment Authorization Document. It is reasonable to assume that the overwhelming majority of refugees had to flee their homes with very few assets, and thus, the ability to work and provide for one’s family is more integral to them than it is to many immigrants, who may arrive with assets and other comforts. Opponents of this measure argue that it means fewer jobs for Americans, but only 1 percent of refugees at any given time are eligible to resettle, and of that number, fewer even try to enter the United States.

Another example is training in English as a second language (ESL). The California Refugee Resettlement Program provides English language training to refugees, though a portion of it is financed with money from the federal Refugee Social Services program, rather than the state’s coffers. The rationale is that while many immigrants may arrive with their families or friends, refugees likely have no support network in which to learn English. English language skills are also very important in many fields, which increases employment prospects.

An Immigration Attorney Can Help

Immigration law can be quite complex, and very often, the help of a professional can make a difference between confusion and confidence.The Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C. is an immigration law firm with offices in Boston and Los Angeles. We have years of experience navigating difficult immigration and refugee rights cases. Contact us today for a initial consultation.