Lawyers Dedicated to Serving the Immigrant Community
In This Issue
Happy 2010! by W. John Yahya Vandenberg, Esq.
Dealing with Our “Illegal” Immigrant Problem by Umar Abdur Rahman, Esq.
The Basics of Federal Employment Discrimination Law by Antonio J. Gil, Esq.
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We hope this newsletter finds you and your families healthy and prosperous. The coming New Year looks to be full of challenge and hope.
For employers, the year appears to hold opportunities to hire more qualified immigrant workers, yet doing so will come at a price: more attention to detail and documentation will be necessary. In 2009, H-1B professional worker visas were available until Mid-December, as predicted in our previous newsletter. We expect the same next year, and applications for Fiscal Year 2011 can be submitted as early as April 1, 2010. The challenge is that, due to the recession, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (“USCIS”) is scrutinizing applications for new workers and investors. Employers themselves are also coming under scrutiny. On November 14, 2009, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) announced the issuance of 1,000 Notices of Inspection to employers across the country, essentially auditing their employment records to ensure both documentation and wage compliance. While employers can and should benefit from skilled and motivated immigrant workers, in 2010 it will be more important than ever to ensure that all documentation complies with the law.
Immigrants who may be out of status or undocumented hope for a new law and are waiting to see how such a law would be applied to them.
Since the Obama administration is poised to finish health care reform, the next legislative task at hand will likely be immigration reform. A comprehensive bill has already been introduced in Congress and we have great hope that reform will be completed soon.
On the ground, we are also seeing small yet significant changes in detention policies. ICE has announced that it will now generally release asylum seekers if they have a credible fear of return. And it appears that ICE, at least in Philadelphia and Delaware, is also relaxing its detention standards. This month several Hogan & Vandenberg clients were offered a bond instead of immediate detention, allowing the immigrants to return to their families the same day they were detained.
We are extremely pleased to share some of our successes in 2009 that not only provided relief and brighter futures for our clients but also received extensive media coverage. Gisell Torres, a 22-year old Rutgers college graduate, was a client of ours that was threatened with deportation to Peru this year because of something her parents did to protect her, though she never violated any immigration laws herself. We successfully, with the help of NJ Senator Menendez and Reporter Monica Yant Kinney, won her a one year reprieve. You can learn more about her case by reading this Philadelphia Inquirer article.
Another 2009 success story involves the Fathi family. Mr. and Mrs. Fathi were threatened with deportation back to Algeria despite the fact that their 8 year old U.S. citizen son suffers from Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, a condition which would severely worsen if little Mohamed were to return to Algeria with his parents. Again, with the help of Senator Menendez and Reporter Michael Matza, we were able to successfully win this deserving family a one year reprieve. To read more about this heart-wrenching case with many humanitarian aspects involved, please read Michael Matza’s Inquirer article.
Finally, one of our own hopes has been realized. We are very pleased to announce the opening of a new office in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Hogan and Vandenberg is now the only immigration-focused law firm in Allentown. While many attorneys dabble, at Hogan & Vandenberg we feel that the nation’s immigration laws are far too complex to be a part-time affair. We take pride in our deep understanding of immigration law, which literally changes every day. If you live in or near the Lehigh Valley, come visit us. For the month of January, there is no fee for an initial consultation, and we are accepting walk-in appointments on Wednesdays.
Dealing with Our “Illegal” Immigrant Problem
A few times a month, we try to meet with different immigrant communities in the Delaware Valley to learn first hand about their problems. It is hard to forget the day we went to the African business district on Baltimore Avenue. We entered a little mini market that was noticeably quiet. A middle aged woman from West Africa was the store’s namesake and owner.
After greeting us and telling us about her business, this affable woman changed to a more serious tone and gave an impassioned speech. She told us how many of her customers were in a state of despair, thinking they may never be more than “untouchables” in this country, subject to arrest and possible deportation for the slightest encounter with law enforcement.
She implored us to reach out to lawmakers and encourage them to find a way for these people to get legal status instead of watching them live in a state of perpetual fear. We were deeply touched by her eloquent case for immigration reform.
The opposing view is palpable throughout the country and can be found by tuning in to media outlets like Fox News. The fundamental problem with this approach is that it ignores the humanity of immigrants without status. Those who advocate this position have a fixation with these immigrants’ overstaying of a visa or their entry without inspection.
These opponents of immigration reform ignore our country’s historical discrimination against the migration of certain races. These naysayers also fail to see the circumstances of immigrants without status that caused them to seek refuge in this country. Before we cast stones at those who have come here illegally, we must understand the conditions that they faced in their home countries. It is important to understand the background of people instead of creating subjective categories that simply denigrate the human spirit. It is much easier to deport and tear up a family of “aliens” and “illegals” than it is to do such an act to your fellow “human.”
At the end of the day, regardless of how people have come to this country, there are anywhere between 12-20 million people in this country with no status. Many of the people that are placed in this category have been here since they were infants. Many are at the top of their class but are unable to attend the best colleges in this country because of their status. Many are scared to go to hospitals or report crimes committed against them due to fear of being removed from this country. No person with a sense of justice should tolerate such inequality. The conditions in this country for people without status should remind us of Jim Crow and the years of civil rights abuses that were experienced by African-Americans. Commemorating past civil rights icons is of little value if we fail to fight for the civil rights of those who are the “untouchables” of today. While no sensible person can advocate open borders, we must find an equitable solution for people living in our midst without lawful status. Preventing decent people from becoming full fledged members of society serves no one’s interest.
There are certainly divergent opinions on how to deal with illegal immigration, but little controversy would exist if we all thought and reflected about our shared humanity.
Philadelphia Office Attorneys and Staff
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Hogan & Vandenberg LLC is a medium-sized immigration firm with three locations, one serving Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA, one in Wilmington, DE and a new office in Allentown, PA. The firm consists of four attorneys and a team of paralegals and is led by two partners, Rick Hogan (Wilmington) and John Yahya Vandenberg (Philadelphia & Allentown). Our legal team has helped thousands of individuals, institutions and businesses strategize, address and resolve issues regarding immigration as well as other areas of law, including commercial, criminal, discrimination, and landlord-tenant. The consultation fees are reasonable and will be credited to the client if the firm is hired. The firm’s diverse and highly qualified legal team is dedicated to serving our clients and earning their trust.
For the entire month of January at the new office in Allentown, there will be no consultation fees charged to the client and no appointments will be necessary on “Walk-In Wednesdays” between 9am and 6pm.