"If you are in need of an above the edge immigration lawyer, I can only recommend Grace Alano. I had worked with three different immigration lawyers on three different visa typs -all successfully-, before Grace Alano was recommended to me. Grace Alano was very considerate and truly accurate in the
way she dealt with my then green card process. Her thoughtfulness as well as her calmness in a process of such magnitude for a client involved was the icing on the cake. Grace, the Oscar goes to you. Without a doubt! Thank you very much und vielen Dank." FB
"If you need an immigration lawyer, Grace is someone I wholeheartedly trust for competence, compassion, and getting the job done! Plus, she's a sincere, a very nice lady. She has been working in my case for many years untill i got my Green Card, She is great in keep following
"I can't even begin to thank Grace Alano for her outstanding and timely work on my case.  I had a very convoluted case and required very personal attention, which is what Ms Alano can do very well.
I was greeted very warmly for a one-on-one consult in her office.  She would follow up on all the developments of my case within a couple of hours (max).  She managed the communication with all other lawyers involved in the case very very well.  She was always available (during reasonable
In the end, she prepared an beautiful brief to be sent back to US CIS, which came back with a my status granted back to me!!!! (after almost 9 months of being out of status).
Due to the extremely complicated nature of my case, Ms Alano did something which impressed me.  She hired a colleague of hers (the attorney fees I paid were just for Ms Alano), so that my case can have a second pair of eyes in preparing, reviewing, collecting all cases' precedents,
"Throughout my immigration case it was clear my husband and I were in capable hands. We came through the experience with our sanity intact; Grace Alano's patience and wisdom made every step of the way easier." DA
“I had a complex and difficult case.  Attorney Grace Alano explored all my options, got second opinions and fought for me.  Her suggestions worked and I won my case.  I am so grateful to her.”  MT

The ImmiGRAtion Blog

Underwater Dreams Airs Today

Sunday, 20 July 2014 7:01

Photo from www.underwaterdreamsfilm.com

Photo from www.underwaterdreamsfilm.com

Underwater Dreams airs on Mun2 and KSTS Telemundo today and tomorrow.  Watch this movie!  You won’t regret it. It is on at 1:00 p.m. on Telemundo today. This is a condensed version of the documentary film about undocumented high school teens in Arizona who give a team from MIT a run for their money in an underwater robotics competition. It’s inspiring, heartwarming and FUNNY. I saw it earlier this week because I was invited by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, which is allied with comprehensive immigration reform and wants to continue to attract more tech companies and innovation to San Francisco. How many brilliant minds are being held back because they can’t go to school or get an ID? Undocumented students generally pay out-of-state or international student tuition rates in college. When they apply for jobs, they don’t have social security numbers and IDs. Yet they’ve been here since they can remember.  These are issues that most Americans don’t even think of, but are everyday obstacles that have a heavy impact in a person’s life.  The film is written and directed by Mary Mazzio, an Olympic athlete (rowing), attorney and now, filmmaker.  One of the producers is Jeb Bush, Jr.  Interestingly, one of the creators of the Apple earbud is also in the movie.  The story is also being made into a film by Lionsgate Pictures, and should come out next year.  If you have time today on your Sunday afternoon, please watch or DVR it. I think that you will find it entertaining and insightful.

By Grace Alano.  Grace Alano is an immigration attorney at The Law Offices of Grace R. Alano in San Francisco, CA. Find Grace Alano on Google+

What Happens When a Person is Detained by Homeland Security?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014 7:32

This morning, undocumented journalist, filmmaker, and activist Jose Antonio Vargas was detained by the Department of Homeland Security at McAllen-Miller International Airport in Texas.  He has been in McAllen Texas with a film crew interviewing children and families who have been detained at the border after escaping the drug cartel and gang violence in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America.  Via Twitter (@joseiswriting), Vargas compared the Texas border to a militarized zone.  He revealed that the city has checkpoints around a certain radius, including a checkpoint at the airport.  Those who are undocumented are effectively trapped within a certain radius.  The use of the words “militarized” and “checkpoints” reminds me of asylum clients from Myanmar (Burma) and the West Bank describing their countries, not the U.S.

 

Vargas’s high profile and public support protect him, unlike the average person.  It is unknown how the events will play out today.  Could he be kept and questioned for a few hours and released on his own recognizance?  Will there be phone calls on his behalf from prominent people urging DHS to release him and reminding them of the public relations backlash it can face if it chooses to continue to detain him and prosecute him?  No doubt he also has an excellent immigration attorney or team as well.  I am hopeful that the government will exercise its discretion and that he will be released.

 

What normally happens when someone is detained by DHS?  Vargas’s scenario is unusual as he has been detained traveling within the U.S.  Interstate travel is a fundamental right under the constitution, and that is why there are no checkpoints between U.S. states, for example.  People may be detained at the airport after travel abroad, or of course, after an arrest outside of the airport for various reasons. Usually by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or “ICE” after being processed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).   At the airport, a person who is a lawful permanent resident can be detained because CBP sees that he or she has a conviction for an aggravated felony.  Outside of the airport, a person could be at the right place at the wrong time and be detained for being undocumented, or be arrested after a traffic infraction and turned over to ICE.

 

The average person could face a number of scenarios.  He could be released on his own recognizance.  Perhaps he has a U.S. citizen spouse and will apply for permanent residence based on that marriage.  He may be released after paying bond to ICE.  ICE may or may not choose to issue a Notice to Appear (NTA) in the Immigration Court for removal proceedings.  He may be detained and issued an NTA, and may then have a bond hearing before an immigration judge.  The judge would want to determine that he is not a danger to the community, has ties to the community, is not a flight risk and will appear at all immigration court hearings.  If the person is subject to mandatory detention for a particularly violent or serious crime, he may not be released on bond at all.

 

Once in the Immigration Court, the Respondent, as he will now be called, either himself or through an attorney, will have to inform the judge of the relief that may be available to him.  Unlike criminal proceedings, immigration proceedings are under administrative law, and it is not required that the government provide him with an attorney.  He will apply for some sort of defensive form of relief such as cancellation of removal, political asylum, a U visa, or adjustment of status.  If there is no relief available, he may be able to take an order of voluntary departure rather than an order of removal.  The problem with voluntary departure is, how does one return?  Will this person face a 10-year bar to returning for being an overstay?

 

Another option is for the government to exercise prosecutorial discretion and terminate proceedings, which is what the government should do if Vargas’s case were to go that far, for whatever reason (and it shouldn’t, as there would be too much backlash and political pressure in his case).  He is not high priority for deportation in the sense that he has no criminal convictions and is not a threat to national security.  He has resided in the U.S. for a long time and since he was a minor.  His services as a journalist and filmmaker are also important national contributions and are a significant equity.  Negative factors are that he doesn’t have any immediate relief available and has previously claimed to be a U.S. citizen, which is unfortunately a huge transgression in U.S. immigration and nationality law for which punishment is severe (including the inability to apply for permanent residence if he ever marries a U.S. citizen in the future).  However, the government would weigh the totality of the circumstances and make an individual determination.

 

For now, I am anxiously awaiting the news of Vargas’s release.  Tonight, friends in New York City are holding a vigil for him at Union Square Park.  Across the country, people are standing in solidarity with him, and with the refugee children of Central America whose plight he was documenting.

 
UPDATE: Mr. Vargas was released on his own recognizance and issued a Notice to Appear in immigration court.
 

By Grace Alano.  Grace Alano is an immigration attorney at The Law Offices of Grace R. Alano in San Francisco, CA. Find Grace Alano on Google+

 

The Central American Child Refugee Crisis in Brief

Sunday, 13 July 2014 1:37

[Image: Twitter/JeffreyGuterman]

[Image:
Twitter/JeffreyGuterman]

There is a humanitarian crisis happening at the Southwest border that has caused the White House to seek nearly 4 billion in emergency funding.  The U.S. has been experiencing an influx of thousands of young Central American children showing up at the border to escape gang and cartel violence.  This has been going on since prior to 2011, with numbers steadily increasing since then.  52,193 “unaccompanied minor children” were apprehended at the border between October 1, 2013 and June 15, 2014 alone.

 

The majority of these children are coming from the Northern Triangle region of Central America, which is comprised of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico (listed in order of greatest numbers of children). Honduras alone as a homicide rate of 90.4 per 100,000 people, as compared to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, where the homicide rate is 28.3 per 100,000 people.

 

Upon being detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or sometimes turning themselves in to CBP, children are currently being detained in facilities that look and feel like prisons.  Children as young as eight months old are wearing prison uniforms, have restricted movement, and are threatened with separation from their parents if they misbehave.  Contrast this to Belgium, where there are open facilities for migrant families seeking asylum, where they can come and go with certain restrictions.  Ideally, the U.S. government should seek the latter type of system, and work with religious and humanitarian organizations to provide alternative housing for these children and families.  Other U.S. immigration programs that allow respondents to leave detention with monitoring have proven to be successful, with a high rate (96%) appearing for immigration court proceedings.  Alternative programs are less expensive than detention, more humane, and can prevent further behavioral and psychological problems in the future.

 

The government is deploying immigration judges, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) attorneys, and asylum officers to the border to process the childrens’ cases as fairly and quickly as possible, and initiating a public affairs campaign in Spanish in Central America about the dangers of the journey to the United States.

 

Possible forms of immigration protections and relief for the children include political asylum, special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS), and visas for victims of trafficking.  The U.S. has entered into treaties with other countries, including the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.  The U.S. also follows the international law principle of non-refoulement, and will not return people to countries where they will be persecuted or tortured.   International law is part of U.S. law per the Supreme Court as held in the famous case of the Paquete-Habana and must be followed.

 

In addition to the government trying to come up with humane solutions to this refugee crisis, private citizens, nonprofit groups, and religious organizations should also work together to help organize housing for volunteers, donations, and put into fruition any other ideas that can help.

 

Ultimately, as a moral issue, these children should not be sent back.  Journalists have been reminding us of the history of the St. Louis, a ship carrying Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Germany.  The U.S. was reluctant to accept them because it was seen as an immigration issue.  The ship was returned to Europe, with some countries accepting some refugees.  About a third of the passengers eventually died in the concentration camps.

 
A brief video about the Central American refugee crisis can be found here.
 
By Grace Alano.  Grace Alano is an immigration attorney at The Law Offices of Grace R. Alano in San Francisco, CA. Find Grace Alano on Google+

 

 

 

The Uber Wedding Has Arrived in Time for Pride Weekend

Friday, 27 June 2014 4:53

Uber weddingI was just remarking yesterday about how fantastic it is to live and work in San Francisco.  We have so many apps and companies at our fingertips that help us live better.  For example, Google Shopping Express, which will deliver products from Target and other stores the same day for free, or Sprig, which delivers hot, healthy meals in about 10 minutes.  One friend said she ordered from Sprig when she was upstairs in her loft and when she went downstairs the delivery person was at her door.  She swears that they employ fairies.  A big source of relief in the past year or two has been Uber.  It is an app for your smartphone that locates the closest driver.  You just keep a credit card on file.  I have been trying to get my 79-year-old auntie in Los Angeles to get a smartphone so that she can use Uber.  She is currently either driven around by an errand guy or a limo company and can spend 20 minutes trying to arrange a ride.

 

This Saturday, in honor of Pride, Uber is offering free wedding packages.  What a brilliant marketing idea by Uber and the participating vendors.  You just select “Uber wedding” on the app menu tomorrow during a certain time period.  Of course, you will need to have whatever documentation you will need for the wedding license ready.  And, obviously, I would never want to encourage anyone to spontaneously get married, as that can lead to, as a family law lawyer friend calls it, a “not-so-spontaneous divorce.”  It can also affect how a foreign national who is married to a U.S. citizen might be able to immigrate (so you might want to talk to me first before marrying, as I am an immigration attorney).  But for the couple who was planning to get married at City Hall this summer and who is able to get a spot, this could be a great thing.

 

The Uber wedding ceremony takes about an hour and includes flowers, candles and cake from local San Francisco companies Bloom That, Bella J and Susie Cakes.  There’s even a toast.  But – get this – a honeymoon is included (Hotel Tonight arranging accommodations and Alaska Airlines providing transportation).

 

Why am I blogging about this?  Well, as mentioned, I am an immigration attorney and most of my cases are marriage to U.S. citizen green card and fiancée visa cases.  I’ve also officiated a cousin’s wedding.  Basically – I see lots and lots of weddings and I love them and the happy energy couples bring into my office.

 

Is this marketing idea crazy or indeed brilliant?  Is it crazy to sign up for it?  Time will tell.  Is it a great service if you are able to book a wedding before they run out?  Or will things be a hot, chaotic mess tomorrow or turn out sub-par?  I think a lot probably depends on the couple.

 

By Grace Alano.  Grace Alano is an immigration attorney at The Law Offices of Grace R. Alano in San Francisco, CA. Find Grace Alano on Google+