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  Immigration - Legal News


The California Supreme Court on Thursday made it easier for some immigrant children who are abused or abandoned by a parent to seek a U.S. visa to avoid deportation in a ruling that advocates said would help thousands of children.

State judges cannot require that children drag an absentee parent living abroad into court in their visa application process, the justices said in a unanimous decision. Immigration rights advocates had warned that such a requirement would make it nearly impossible for the children to fight deportation. That's because courts in California cannot establish authority over a foreign citizen and the parent may want nothing to do with a child claiming abuse, and would refuse to participate in a court proceeding in the U.S., immigration groups said.

The ruling overturned a lower court decision. The California Supreme Court said it was sufficient to adequately notify the absent parent of the court proceedings, but that parent did not have to be a party to the case.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in court documents that the case had implications for a "substantial portion" of the thousands of children who have fled to the U.S. from Central America and Mexico and settled in California. Kristen Jackson, an attorney for the plaintiff in the case, estimated the ruling would affect thousands of children.


Immigration courts from Boston to Los Angeles have been experiencing fallout from a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that has caused some deportation orders to be tossed and cases thrown out, bringing more chaos to a system that was already besieged by ballooning dockets and lengthy backlogs.

The little-known ruling addressed what might seem like a narrow procedural issue over how to properly provide notices to immigrants to appear in court for deportation proceedings. But it is having broader implications in immigration courts that are in charge of deciding whether hundreds of thousands of people should be allowed to stay in the United States.

Since the decision was issued in June, immigration attorneys have been asking judges to throw out their clients' cases. Some immigration judges have refused to issue deportation orders for immigrants. And in a recent case in Washington state, a Mexican farmworker had an indictment for illegally re-entering the country tossed out.

It isn't clear how many people's immigration cases could be affected. Some immigration judges have denied attorneys' requests, but others in states including Tennessee, New Jersey and California have granted them.

"The potential consequences of the decision are massive," said Jeremy McKinney, an immigration attorney in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The Supreme Court's 8-1 decision focused on the case of a Brazilian handyman seeking to apply for a special green card given to immigrants who have been in the country at least 10 years, have good moral character and whose American relatives would suffer if they were deported.



U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw appeared conflicted in early May on whether to stop families from being separated at the border. He challenged the Trump administration to explain how families were getting a fair hearing guaranteed by the Constitution, but also expressed reluctance to get too deeply involved with immigration enforcement.

"There are so many (enforcement) decisions that have to be made, and each one is individual," he said in his calm, almost monotone voice. "How can the court issue such a blanket, overarching order telling the attorney general, either release or detain (families) together?"

Sabraw showed how more than seven weeks later in a blistering opinion faulting the administration and its "zero tolerance" policy for a "crisis" of its own making. He went well beyond the American Civil Liberties Union's initial request to halt family separation — which President Donald Trump effectively did on his own amid a backlash — by imposing a deadline of this Thursday to reunify more than 2,500 children with their families.

Unyielding insistence on meeting his deadline, displayed in a string of hearings he ordered for updates, has made the San Diego jurist a central figure in a drama that has captivated international audiences with emotional accounts of toddlers and teens being torn from their parents.

Circumstances changed dramatically after the ACLU sued the government in March on behalf of a Congolese woman and a Brazilian woman who were split from their children. Three days after the May hearing, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero tolerance policy on illegal entry was in full effect, leading to the separation of more than 2,300 children in five weeks.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began issuing redesigned Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization today, following a successful pilot in four USCIS field offices and one service center. The redesign of these eight certificates is one of the many ways USCIS is working to combat fraud and safeguard the legal immigration system.

We piloted the new certificate design at the Norfolk, Tampa, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Sacramento Field Offices, as well as at the Nebraska Service Center.

The certificates of naturalization are:  

   N-550, issued to an individual who obtains U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process;
   N-578, issued to a naturalized U.S. citizen to obtain recognition as a United States citizen by a foreign state; and
   N-570, issued when the original Certificate of Naturalization is lost, mutilated, or contains errors.

A Certificate of Citizenship is issued to an individual who obtains U.S. citizenship other than through birth in the United States or through naturalization. The various types of Certificates of Citizenship are:

   N-560A, issued to an applicant who derived citizenship after birth;
   N-560AB, issued to an applicant who acquired citizenship at birth;
   N-645 and N-645A, issued to the family of an individual who served honorably in the U.S. armed forces during a designated period of hostility and died as a result of injury or disease incurred in or aggravated by that service. Form N-645 is issued if the decedent was a male, and the N-645A if the decedent was a female.
   Form N-561, issued to replace a Certificate of Citizenship when the original certificate is lost, mutilated, or contains errors.

The redesigned certificates of citizenship and naturalization feature a large, central image against a complex patterned background, which helps deter the alteration of personal data. Each certificate possesses a unique image only visible under ultraviolet light and attempts to alter it will be evident. Posthumous Certificates of Naturalization and the Special Certificate of Citizenship each bear a different image, yet feature the same fraud-deterrent security features.


U.S. border authorities cannot search the cellphones of travelers without having some reason to believe a particular traveler has committed a crime, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled in the case of a Turkish national who was arrested at Dulles International Airport after agents found firearm parts in his luggage.

A lower court judge refused to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless search of Hamza Kolsuz's phone.

The 4th Circuit upheld that ruling and found that a forensic search of electronic devices requires "individualized suspicion" of wrongdoing. The court said agents had that suspicion because Kolsuz had made two previous attempts to smuggle weapons parts out of the U.S.

The Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement to obtain warrants based on probable cause. But courts have made an exception for searches at airports and U.S. ports of entry, finding that the government can conduct warrantless border searches to protect national security, prevent transnational crime and enforce immigration and customs laws.

The American Civil Liberties had urged the 4th Circuit to find that the government should be required to obtain a warrant or at least a determination of probable cause that evidence of a crime is contained on electronic devices before agents can search them at airports.


Arkansas officials asked the state's highest court on Monday to allow them to enforce a voter ID law in the May 22 primary despite a judge blocking the measure and calling it unconstitutional.

Secretary of State Mark Martin asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to put on hold a Pulaski County judge's ruling preventing the state from enforcing the 2017 law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. Martin asked the high court for a ruling by noon Friday, noting that early voting for the primary begins May 7.

"Here, the trial court has changed the rules in the middle of the election," Martin's filing said. "An immediate stay is necessary; any further delay will harm the state."

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray sided with a Little Rock voter who sued the state and had argued the law enacted last year circumvents a 2014 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that struck down a previous voter ID measure.

An attorney for the Little Rock voter said he hoped the court would not halt the ruling, noting evidence that nearly 1,000 votes weren't counted in the 2014 primary because of the previous voter ID law that was struck down later that year.

"We want the votes of Arkansans to count and would hope that the Circuit Court's decision would be in effect during the upcoming primary," attorney Jeff Priebe said in an email.

Martin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge last week appealed Gray's ruling, but the court earlier Monday set a schedule for filing briefs that wouldn't begin until June.

The revived voter ID law would require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. It's aimed at addressing an argument by some state Supreme Court justices that the 2013 law didn't receive enough votes in the Legislature to be enacted. The court's majority ruled the law violated the Arkansas Constitution by adding a new requirement to vote.



A federal court in Washington has told the Trump administration that the government can't interfere with the ability of pregnant immigrant teens being held in federal custody to obtain abortions.

A judge issued an order Friday evening barring the government from "interfering with or obstructing" pregnant minors' access to abortion counseling or abortions, among other things, while a lawsuit proceeds. The order covers pregnant minors being held in federal custody after entering the country illegally.

Lawyers for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for sheltering children who illegally enter the country unaccompanied by a parent, have said the department has a policy of "refusing to facilitate" abortions. And the director of the office that oversees the shelters has said he believes teens in his agency's care have no constitutional right to abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit on behalf of the minors, which the judge overseeing the case also Friday allowed to go forward as a class action lawsuit.

"We have been able to secure justice for these young pregnant women in government custody who will no longer be subject to the government's policy of coercion and obstruction while the case continues," said ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri after the judge's order became public.

The government can appeal the judge's order. A Department of Justice spokesman didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Friday evening.

The health department said in a statement Saturday that it "strongly maintains that taxpayers are not responsible for facilitating the abortion of unaccompanied minors who entered the country illegally and are currently in the government's care." It said it is "working closely with the Justice Department to review the court's order and determine next steps."

The ACLU and Trump administration have been sparring for months over the government's policy. In a high-profile case last year, the ACLU represented a teen who entered the U.S. illegally in September and learned while in federal custody in Texas that she was pregnant.

The teen, referred to in court paperwork as Jane Doe, obtained a state court order permitting her to have an abortion and secured private funding to pay for it, but federal officials refused to transport her or temporarily release her so that others could take her to get the procedure.

The teen was ultimately able to get an abortion in October as a result of the lawsuit, but the Trump administration has accused the ACLU of misleading the government during the case, a charge the ACLU has denied.

The ACLU has since represented several other teens who have sought abortions while in custody, but the organization doesn't know of any others actively seeking abortions, Amiri said Friday night. The judge's ord

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