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10 Practice Pointers On Tsunami-Related Immigration Relief

by Angelo Paparelli

On January 10, 2005, the US Department of Homeland Security announced temporary relief measure for nationals of countries affected by the Asian tsunami, including:

  • Burma (Myanmar)
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Somalia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
DHS has announced "temporary relief measures" that are now available to those individuals who (as a result of the destruction and humanitarian crisis in Southeast Asia):
  1. Are unable to return to their home country or
  2. Are currently traveling in the United States.
USCIS will expedite the processing of certain immigration applications, including:
  • requests for advance parole, and
  • relative I-130 petitions for minor children from the affected areas.
USCIS may also extend the period of parole for individuals who have already been paroled into the United States. USCIS will also "more readily approve" applications from visitors from the tsunami-affected countries who are requesting a change or extension of their nonimmigrant status. However, standard security checks will remain in place under expedited procedures.

Beginning January 7, 2005, individuals from either Sri Lanka or Maldives who are under a final order of removal will be granted a stay of removal for 90 days. This temporary suspension is specific to these two countries due to the massive infrastructure damage. The stay is automatic. No request or petition is necessary, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE will also consider stay of removal requests from "non-criminal aliens" from countries other than Sri Lanka and Maldives who were adversely affected by the earthquake and tsunami, and temporarily suspend the deportation of any individual presently in the U.S. who would be returned to an area severely affected by the tsunami. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and ICE caution, however, that decisions will be made on a "case-by-case basis and based on specific circumstances."

Where appropriate and authorized by law, nonimmigrant visitors and aliens who are granted a stay of removal may be eligible to apply for or receive employment authorization so that they may financially support themselves, or potentially help the rebuilding effort by sending remittances to their home country. DHS will liaise with other branches of the federal government to monitor developments and conditions closely in the Tsunami-affected region to "determine the need for additional action."

10 Practice Pointers To Prepare An Effective Petition

  1. Use your immigration case-management software to do search queries on country of citizenship and country of residence to see who will most likely be helped.
  2. Consider requesting relief for aliens hailing from or living elsewhere outside the United States whose families may have been traveling in the Tsunami-affected countries and can show Tsunami-induced hardship.
  3. Consider whether you can establish not only direct suffering to the client, client's family or area of client's residence but adverse consequences that are indirect.
  4. Consider whether you can establish that, even if client does not reside in the Tsunami-affected areas, the added infrastructure demand placed on the ravaged country would only add to the country's burden, and that the client should therefore be allowed to remain in the United States.
  5. Consider whether you can establish that an approval of your immigration benefits request can enhance the ability of the client to remit funding to the Tsunami-affected countries (if alien is in a work-authorized status)
  6. Flag your cases (Forms, Letters and Envelopes) and emblazon them with: "EXPEDITE REQUEST - TSUNAMI-RELATED HUMANITARIAN RELIEF REQUESTED PER 1/10/05 USCIS HEADQUARTERS POLICY STATEMENT"
  7. Download the USCIS press release, print it in color and attach it as a cover sheet or an early page in your packet. If available, print pictures (in color) of the damage to the individual's area of residence.
  8. If your alien client has overstayed, reference the regulations granting authority for forgiveness for untimely filing: 8 CFR § 214.1(c)(4) (extension of status), and § 248.1(b) (change of status), and emphasize the hardship to the individual or the Tsunami-affected country of nationality or residence if the USCIS were to refuse to approve the application.
  9. Cite Legacy INS Commissioner Meissner's Nov. 17, 2000 Policy Statement on prosecutorial discretion - which remains in effect - and argue the positive factors in your case warranting the exercise of compassionate and favorable discretion.
  10. Act like a lawyer and submit detailed supporting evidence, e.g., affidavits, letters, medical reports, statements from mental health professionals, sociologists, academics with specific country expertise, U.S. Department of State on Country-Conditions Reports on Human Rights Practices, e.g., Burma, website reports from humanitarian relief organizations, etc., to bolster your request.

About The Author

Angelo Paparelli is a State Bar of California “Certified Specialist” in Immigration and Nationality Law, and Managing Partner of Paparelli & Partners LLP, an Irvine, California firm of nine lawyers practicing exclusively in the field of U.S. immigration and nationality law. He is a nationally recognized speaker, published author and leading expert on cutting-edge business-related immigration issues. Mr. Paparelli also publishes an immigration public policy blog,, dedicated to educating the media, academia and the public on solutions to America’s dysfunctional immigration system.

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