Author: Anastasia Tonello

Walking the Talk – Why AILA Moved the 2018 AC Out of Texas

Faced with the reality of SB-4’s ugly shadow hanging over Texas, AILA has made the decision to move its Annual Conference (AC) in 2018, originally scheduled to take place in Texas, to another state.  As a member of AILA’s Executive Committee, I worked with my colleagues on the Board of Governors to review our options to determine how best to “walk the talk” of AILA’s mission.  If we as an organization are committed to promoting fair and just immigration laws, how then should we respond when the state where we were to hold our premier event of the year...

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5 Questions and Answers about the EB-5 Program

It’s pretty rare that an investor visa gets press attention from all over the world. But this is exactly what happened when reports surfaced of Jared Kushner’s sister promoting the EB-5 visa in China. What I saw repeatedly in coverage was confusion about the EB-5 program, what it is designed to do, and how the Kushner family might be involved. First, what is an EB-5 visa? It is an employment-based immigrant category that enables foreign nationals to qualify for green cards based on investment and employment creation in the United States. To be granted an EB-5 visa, a foreign...

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Kids These Days

A child can be sweet, mad, smart, hilarious, whiny, silly, or sad. A child can be an angel, a terror, a silly goose, Captain America, Wonder Woman, a kitty cat, or a Tyrannosaurus Rex. A child cannot be an immigration lawyer. And yet… In immigration courts across the United States, every single day, children and other incredibly vulnerable individuals are left without counsel. If they cannot afford one, or don’t luck out with pro bono assistance, they are left to face immigration judges on their own.  They are denied a most basic premise of our constitution — due process...

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Seeing the Forest for the Trees in the Immigration Debate

U.S. immigration law is a myriad of statutes, regulations, policies, memos, practices and procedures which span a wide variety of practice areas. The immigration debate playing out in the media is largely focused on the refugee, humanitarian, and family-based areas of immigration law. But this is only part of the picture. Immigration law also includes employment- and investment-based immigrants, seasonal/agricultural workers, the transfer and employment of high-skilled and professional workers, and short- and long-term visas for executives of global organizations, actors, athletes, and entrepreneurs. This dichotomy of the perception of immigration law is not unique to the U.S. The Guardian recently examined this issue in the U.K., suggesting the main divide is whether someone is an expat or an immigrant; and concluded that the distinction is based on race. Looking at the issue in Hong Kong, a Wall Street Journal blog attributes the divide to differences in social class, country of origin, and economic status. In the U.S., the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report entitled The Integration of Immigrants into American Society, a comprehensive look at US immigration, which, probably most accurately, points to status in understanding this divide. Legal status, or more acutely, the lack of legal status limits opportunities of integration, access to social services, housing, education, and employment. The key difference in the perception of immigration may therefore be an effect...

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From Systems to Substance, Digital Innovation is Welcome News for Immigration

Last week, the Office of Management and Budget released a plan for modernizing and streamlining the legal immigration system.   Much of the focus was on the potential positive impact of digital innovation.  Recommendations included the creation of a cross-agency digital services team to support the implementation of the modernized immigrant visa project.  This team would be charged with improving the visa applicant experience and increasing efficiencies in the adjudication process through digitization.  The plan rightly points out that “currently, the immigration application and adjudication process is mostly paper-based, requiring documents to change hands and locations among various federal actors at least six times for some petitions.”  Or in many cases, the same information must be sent separately, and in different formats, to several agencies, several times.  Take for example the H-1B nonimmigrant visa category for specialty occupations.  This category alone requires coordination between the Department of Labor (DOL), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Department of State (DOS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The DOL piece of the puzzle, the Labor Condition Application (LCA), has had an electronic option since 2002 and is today entirely online.  An employer may submit an LCA, post notice of filing and receive approval of certification from DOL without a single piece of paper.  However, the five-page LCA, once certified, must be printed out, signed and sent to one of USCIS’s Service...

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