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News From CLINIC's Case Files: Issue Three

by Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.'s Division of Public Education and Advocacy

The following are examples of vulnerable immigrants and developments that negatively impact the population served by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. ("CLINIC's") affiliate agencies. These examples represent a sampling of problematic cases and issues from across the country.

April 2004: Issue Three

1. Conditional Permanent Resident Unable to Obtain Evidence of Extended Status
Mrs. C and her son received conditional permanent residence through Mrs. C's marriage to her U.S. citizen spouse. (Conditional permanent residence is granted when a couple has been married for less than two years at the time of adjustment of status).

In the spring of 2003, Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia filed an I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence for Mrs. C and her son. Because conditional resident children may be included on the principal applicant's I-751 petition, only one I-751 form was filed. Once the application was filed, USCIS sent Mrs. C a receipt confirming the filing of her petition and extending her conditional residence. The receipt notice does not list Mrs. C's son as a derivative beneficiary on the petition, and as a result, he has no proof of extended conditional residence.

Mrs. C's son recently turned 18 and wants to join the Marines. In order to do so, he must provide proof of his lawful resident status.

Mrs. C and her son went to the USCIS Philadelphia office with an officer from the Marines. They brought their passports, the son's birth certificate, his conditional resident green card, a copy of the I-751 application listing him as a derivative beneficiary, and Mrs. C's receipt notice showing her conditional residence extension. The USCIS officer refused to stamp the son's passport with evidence of extended conditional resident status. The officer stated that the Vermont Service Center (VSC) was responsible for providing such evidence.

Catholic Social Services contacted the VSC and inquired about obtaining a separate receipt notice for the son. The VSC stated that it did not issue separate receipt notices for I-751 derivative beneficiaries.

Upon calling the USCIS customer service number, Catholic Social Services was told that the family should take the exact same documentation that they had already provided to the local district office, and that the district office “should stamp the son's passport with proof of extended conditional residence.”

Despite the fact that Mrs. C and her son complied with these instructions, the local district office refused to provide the son with proof of his extended conditional residence. Mrs. C and her son became so frustrated with USCIS that they have given up their efforts to obtain evidence of extended conditional residence for the son, and are waiting for the I-751 approval. One year after it was filed, the I-751 application remains pending. The Marines will not accept the son until he can prove his residency, and he remains unable to provide current evidence of his LPR status for work, higher education and financial aid.

2. USCIS Officers Give Asylee Erroneous Information
Ms. M., a derivative asylee, received an incorrect I-94 at the NYC port of entry. Ms. M's I-94 was incorrectly issued with an expiration date of one year. This is inconsistent with section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which states that asylee status is granted for an indefinite period of time. Before her I-94 was due to expire, Ms. M attempted to obtain a corrected I-94 from the Philadelphia USCIS District Office. The USCIS officer informed Ms. M that since she had already filed an application for adjustment of status, she could not be issued a new I-94 card reflecting her asylee status. The information provided by the officer was incorrect. Ms. M needs an accurate I-94 in order to obtain a Pennsylvania Driver's License or State Identification Card.

On 12/18/03 and again on 3/1/04 letters regarding Ms. M's situation were sent to officials at the Philadelphia USCIS District Office, including the interim district director. USCIS has not responded to these letters. This issue was recently raised at a meeting with USCIS Headquarters. USCIS officials stated that asylees are entitled to I-94s throughout the pendency of their applications for adjustment of status (which can last for more than 13 years due to the current asylee adjustment backlog) and that the local USCIS officer gave incorrect information.

3. N-600 Problems and Processing Delays in Seattle, WA

a. N-600 Delay Causes High School Graduate to Put College Plans on Hold
MM filed an N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, in November 2002. Certificates of Citizenship are provided to certain children who reside in the United States and derive U.S. citizenship through their parents, or who are born outside the United States to U.S. citizens. In September 2003, MM's caseworker sent an inquiry regarding the case to the Seattle USCIS District Office. MM was particularly eager to obtain proof of his U.S. citizenship so that he could complete an application for financial assistance in order to attend college. After no response was received from USCIS, in March 2004, a second inquiry was made.

b. N-600 Processing Lasts More than 1.5 Years, Case Inquiries Go Unanswered
The following individual and three families are clients of the Refugee Assistance Program of Seattle, WA. NMJ filed an N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship on October 1, 2002. Despite two inquiries into the status of the application, (one in December 2003 and one in February 2004) the case remains pending and no responses to the inquiries had been received.

Family AB filed N-600 applications for four children on the same date in October 2002. One of the four children has received a certificate of citizenship, but her three siblings have not. Inquiries were made to USCIS in September and October 2003. USCIS has not responded to the inquiries and the three children remain without their proof of U.S. citizenship.

Family M filed three N-600 applications for three children on the same date in October 2002. Two of the children have received their citizenship certificates, but one has not. Three inquiries have been made to USCIS, all of which have gone unanswered.

Family N filed two N-600 applications in September 2002. One child has received her certificate but the other has not. Despite two inquiries made to USCIS, no response has been received and the case remains pending.

c. USCIS Requests Additional Evidence for N-600 Applicant Already Approved
In February 2003, family AS simultaneously filed N-600 applications for multiple family members. All children except “child A” have received their citizenship certificates. After most of the certificates had been issued, a USCIS officer called the family's home and requested a photo and birth certificate of child “S”, who had already received her certificate. Child “A” remains without a certificate. In January 2004, an inquiry was made to USCIS to clear up confusion. To date, USCIS has not responded to the inquiry and child “A” has yet to receive a certificate of citizenship.

4. Successful I-485 Filing Requires Three Trips to USCIS. After One Year and Two More Trips to USCIS, Green Card Finally Arrives.
Mrs. X, a U.S. citizen, filed an I-130 immigrant visa petition for her husband, Mr. X. In May 2003, after receiving the I-130 approval notice, and gathering the necessary documentation for his I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status, Mr. X filed the I-485 with the Boston USCIS office.

Mr. X was eligible to adjust his status to that of a lawful permanent resident (LPR) under former section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). INA § 245(i) allows applicants, such as Mr. X, who began the immigrant visa process prior to April 30, 2001, and who entered the country without inspection, to pay a $1,000 penalty and, in return, to receive permanent residence without traveling abroad to obtain residence through a U.S. Consulate.

Mr. X resides in Springfield, MA, which is a one and a half hour drive from the Boston USCIS office. The Boston office is open between 7am and 2pm, and a line starts forming around 5am where clients wait to receive a “number” to be served. Only a certain number of applicants are serviced each day. Once all of the day's allotted numbers are distributed, the remaining applicants are turned away. The first time that Mr. X attempted to file his adjustment of status application at the Boston USCIS office, he forgot his passport, and was unable to be seen. The second time that he made the trip to the office, Mr. X got in line early in the morning, but the numbers ran out at 8am before he received one. Finally, on his 3rd trip, Mr. X made arrangements to spend the prior night in Boston in order to arrive at the office as early as possible in the morning. This time, (in May 2003), he obtained a number and filed his adjustment application. When he was at the office, he also received his employment authorization card.

During this trip, Mr. X submitted a money order covering the $1,000 penalty fee required to adjust status under INA § 245(i) as well as the I-485 filing fee. He was not provided with a receipt for the filing fees and was told that he would “receive a receipt in the mail”. Mr. X never received such a receipt.

In November 2003, Mr. X attended an interview regarding the adjudication of his I-485 application at the Boston USCIS office. At that time, USCIS gave Mr. X a letter informing him that they did not have record of payment of his I-485 application fee. Shortly thereafter, he returned to the Boston USCIS Office and presented a copy of the money order that he submitted with his application, as well as the original money order receipt. Upon presentation of this evidence, Mr. X understood that from USCIS that the problem was resolved. However, not until April 2004 did he receive his green card in the mail.

5. 8 Months and Counting: Family of Asylees Continues to Wait for I-94s
A family of asylees (who were granted asylum by the Immigration Judge in Philadelphia in February 2003) took I-102 applications to obtain I-94s to the Philadelphia USCIS District Office in August of 2003. USCIS local district offices are supposed to immediately issue I-94s to individuals who are granted asylum by an Immigration Judge. In this case, the USCIS did not issue the I-94s. Instead, the officer accepted the I-102 applications and informed the family that she would be sending them to Dover, DE, and that they would receive the I-94s in the mail in three weeks. It has been nearly 8 months and the family still does not have their I-94s. In addition, since no I-102 filing fee was required, the family has no fee receipt for these applications. Several inquiries at the local USCIS office regarding these applications have gone unanswered. USCIS Headquarters is currently looking into the case.

6. Permanent Bar to Admission Devastates Oregon Family
Mrs. R, a national of Mexico, resides in Oregon with her three U.S. citizen children and LPR spouse. She has lived in the United States since January of 1990 and has no criminal record. Her husband filed an I- 130 immigrant visa petition for her in April of 1997. The petition was approved and Mrs. R is waiting for a visa to become available. Each year, there are more visa applicants than actual visas available under the law. As a result, a significant visa backlog exists in several of the family-based immigrant visa preference categories. Currently, there is a seven-year backlog in Mrs. R's preference category, that of spouses of lawful permanent residents from Mexico.

In 2002, Mrs. R received a V non-immigrant visa and employment authorization allowing her to work and reside in the United States while waiting for her immigrant visa. In 2003, Mrs. R's father passed away in Mexico. Upon his death, Mrs. R returned to Mexico. Although she had a valid V-visa, it did not enable her to travel outside the United States and return without triggering a bar to admission for departing the country after accruing undocumented presence. For this reason, when Mrs. R was ready to return to the United States, she attempted to do so without inspection.

When Mrs. R attempted to re-enter the United States, she was apprehended by the Border Patrol and returned to Mexico. Later, Mrs. R successfully re-entered the country without inspection. Although Mrs. R is in the United States with her family, once an immigrant visa becomes available to her, she will not be able to adjust her status and become a lawful permanent resident. Because Mrs. R had been unlawfully present in the United States for more than one year, left the United States, and then attempted to illegally re-enter (and later did illegally enter the United States), she is inadmissible under INA § 212(a)(9)(C)(i). There is only one exception that exists to this harsh and potentially permanent bar. To be eligible for the exception, Mrs. R would have to depart the United States again and remain outside the United States for 10 years. For Mrs. R, ten years of separation from her children and spouse is unthinkable. After 10 years, she could ask the Attorney General for permission to reapply for admission. If granted, Mrs. R could then proceed with the immigrant visa process.

7. CBP Fails to Comply with Border Security Act, EADs Not Issued to Refugees at Points-of-Entry
On February 24th and 27th 2003 Department of State (DOS) chartered planes carrying 150-200 Somali Bantu refugees arrived in Newark, NJ and New York City, NY. Upon arrival at the POE, CBP was unable to issue Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) to all of these individuals in a timely fashion (Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has stated that they can only issue up to 35 EADs at one time) and directed the refugees to their local USCIS district office to obtain the EAD. Some USCIS local district offices have refused to issue EADs to these individuals.

For example, a refugee caseworker with Catholic Charities of Dallas, TX took a group of 7 refugees who entered the United States on February 24th and 27th on DOS-chartered flights to the Dallas USCIS District Office to obtain their EADs. After waiting in line for one hour the caseworker obtained a number and waited for another hour until his number was called. At the “window,” the officer told the caseworker to send the EAD applications to the Nebraska Service Center. The caseworker explained that the refugees had arrived on a DOS chartered plane, and presented the USCIS officer with a copy of the special EAD processing instructions governing their cases. The instructions specifically stated that the EAD applications were to be processed by the local district office and not the Nebraska Service Center. The officer repeated that the applications had to be filed at the Nebraska Service Center. The caseworker asked to speak with a supervisor and explained the situation again. The supervisor asked the caseworker to wait (one hour) while she contacted Washington, D.C., Nebraska, and Mesquite, TX. She returned and told the caseworker that no one at these offices knew what she was talking about. She told the caseworker that he should file the applications with the Nebraska Service Center, and that if he left the applications with her, she would deny them.

When this example was brought to the attention of officials at USCIS Headquarters, USCIS stated that the local USCIS officer was wrong and should have issued the EADs at the district office. USCIS Headquarters stated that they would re-post an existing memo to the field regarding this process.

8. 7-Year SSI Cap Continues to Cause Hardship for Elderly Refugees
In December 1995, at age 62, Mr. H came to the United States as a refugee. Shortly after his arrival he began working for an assembly company in Tucson, AZ. He worked at the company until it closed in 1999. At that time, he applied for SSI benefits. He began receiving SSI benefits in 2000. In 2002, his SSI benefits were terminated because he had lived in the United States for 7 years. Mr. H's wife arrived in the United States as a refugee in March 2000. She began receiving SSI in April 2001. Currently, Mr. and Mrs. H's only source of income is Mrs. H's SSI benefits. They are barely able to afford food and shelter and do not have enough money to buy clothes and shoes or meet other personal needs. Mr. H tried to learn English so that he could become a U.S. citizen. In Vietnam, he received no schooling after 5th grade. He has extreme difficulty remembering anything that he learned more than one hour ago and most likely will never acquire the level of English needed to pass the citizenship test.

About The Author

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.'s ("CLINIC") Division of Public Education and Advocacy plans to circulate a compilation of its current cases on a bimonthly basis, in an effort to regularly document and report on problematic developments facing the population served by its network. CLINIC believes that documentation and media coverage of the human impact of our nation's immigration laws and policies are crucial to advocacy efforts to create a more just immigration system. CLINIC relies heavily on the case examples that it receives from its affiliate agencies in order to effectively advocate with officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Please contact Vanessa Waldref at or (202) 635-5812 with your examples of backlogs, poor customer service, and other problem cases.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.