Speak up, be heard, and demand change with Congress!

Attorney Foley with Congressman Stephen Lynch at a New England Council meeting.

I was able to catch up with Congressman Stephen Lynch of South Boston at a recent New England Council meeting in Boston.  Always quick with a joke, Congressman Lynch said “the presidency is supposed to age the occupant of the office, not us!”  He talked about the “frustration of Washington” where everything ended in a battle based on political party lines and “nothing gets done.”

I updated the Congressman on a couple of immigration matters in his district and invited him to an upcoming immigration forum at the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton which is part of his district.  I asked about the possibility of immigration reform under the Trump administration and Congressman Lynch said “I don’t see it but it’s early (in the administration) yet.”  He talked about areas, like infrastructure improvement where there could be agreement with the Trump administration “to get something done.”

I told the Congressman that the phones in our law office were ringing off the hook and that people with immigration issues were scared.  I also told the Congressman that in many cases there was little that I or any immigration lawyer could do to help.  Congressman Lynch said it was the same in his office and that “these are indeed scary times.” 

U.S. immigration law is federal law, as opposed to state or local law, so making changes to it must be done on the federal level by the U.S. Congress.  For that reason, I believe it is important to continue to meet with and encourage our Congressional delegation to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.  The only way forward is to speak up, to be heard, to demand change.

If you or a family member has immigration issues, let me know if I can help.  Email me at John@FoleyLawOffices.com or call me at (617) 973-6448 for a quick chat.

I look forward to speaking with you.

John Foley

Foley Law Offices, P.C.     

UPDATE: An Overview of President Trump’s Executive Orders

Since his inauguration on January 20, 2017, President Trump has signed a handful of Executive Orders causing several drastic changes in immigration law. These orders have created a great deal of concern and confusion in both the interpretation and enforcements of the orders for immigration attorneys and the federal agencies. Find below a list of President Trump’s Executive Orders and how they may impact you.

Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program was the most significantly impacted as this order suspends the program for 120 days and decreases the number of allowed by more than half. Additionally, all Syrian refugees have been indefinitely banned from resettling in the U.S. Other individuals, excluding green card holders, seeking immigration benefits from seven designated countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – are prohibited from entry. The order allows for an exception for the admission of individual refugees on a case-by-case basis, particularly where the person is a religious minority in his or her country.
The order also discontinues the Visa Waiver Interview Program for individuals who are citizens of a visa-waiver country but have visited the above mentioned countries. Foreign nationals who have traveled to the seven countries named must now attend interviews at the Consulate before entering the U.S. For example, if you are an Irish citizen, you are eligible for the visa waiver program, however if you have visited Libya, you will no longer be allowed to register for the visa-waiver and must schedule an appointment at the Consulate in Dublin to obtain permission to enter the country.

On February 3, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Western Division of Washington issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the government from enforcing the following sections of the order:

  • Entry into the U.S. cannot be prohibited where a person has a current, validly-issued visa;
  •  Admission of refugees cannot be prohibited;
  • Processing of refugee claims and admission of refugees cannot be prioritized based on religion; and
  • Syrian refugees cannot be prohibited from being admitted to the U.S.

The government filed for a stay of the restraining order with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, the Court denied the government’s request. It is excepted the government will appeal the ruling to the U?S.  Supreme Court.

Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States

This order poses very significant implications for non-citizens who have ever been arrested. The order expands the definition of a “criminal alien” and sets forth new removal priorities for noncitizens. These priorities include individuals with:

  • Criminal convictions;
  • Unresolved criminal charges;
  • Committed acts that constitute an offense;
  • Engaged in fraud;
  • Abused public benefits;
  • Are present in the U.S. with a deportation order; and
  • Pose a risk to public safety or national security.

Further, President Trump’s order facilitates cooperation between the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The order allows state authorities to execute functions normally performed by federal immigration officers. In addition, cities that refuse to cooperate with the federal government may be denied federal grants if the city refuses to enforce immigration laws.

Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements
Through this order, President Trump aims to “secure” the southern border through the construction of a wall and an increase in detention facilities. This order terminates President Obama’s policy of “catch and release,” where individuals caught at the border with unlawful immigration status were released from detention while waiting for a hearing with an immigration judge. Under the Obama administration, the government lacked resources to detain individuals for a lengthy period of time, as the process from apprehension to an order of deportation may take years. Lastly, this order expands agreements between federal and state/local law enforcement agencies to assist in federal immigration enforcement functions. As of February 10, 2017, Congress has not yet funded these efforts.
Congress and the courts are making attempts to challenge the enforcement of these executive orders through Congress and in courts around the country. We will continue to monitor these orders and provide any updates. Should you have any questions about the new executive orders and their impact on your immigration status, please contact Attorney Nicole Fink at: Nicole@foleylawoffices.com.

Restrictions Announced to Visa Waiver (ESTA) Program

Foreign-PassportOn Monday, December 7th, the House of Representatives passed a bill (407 to 19) to impose changes and further restrictions on the Visa Waiver (ESTA) Program. In light of the recent Paris and San Bernardino, California attacks, the U.S. Congress has taken a proactive stance to increase the protection of our borders.

The Visa Waiver Program (VW)  allows citizens of participating countries* to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less when they meet certain requirements. Travelers must be eligible to use the VWP and have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel. The new regulations seek to bar citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran and the Sudan, or those who have visited certain countries in the last five years, from traveling to the United States without a visa.

Investigators have determined that the extremists responsible for the November 13th attacks in Paris were not citizens of Syrian but rather held European passports. As such, entry into the United States would not have required them to first obtain a visa or subject them to the significant security screening that refugees face. Aside from extensive background checks, refugees and visa-holders must also attend several in-person interviews prior to being granted approval for entry into the U.S.

While some see the heightened scrutiny and restrictions placed on the VWP program as a valiant effort to tighten our national security, others view the changes as a threat to tourism and the economy. Foreign tourists are estimated to spend as much as $100 billion a year, and advocates fear that the constraints will deter tourists from traveling to the U.S. and threaten our reciprocity between European and other friendly countries. New measures must be careful to strike the proper balance between economics and national security.

*There are currently 38 visa waiver eligible countries: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom

Attorney Foley Speaks on Irish-US Relations at Irish Network’s 2015 Annual Conference

000b57cf-642Foley Law Offices was delighted to be able to participate in the Irish Network’s 2015 National Conference held at the Seaport Hotel in Boston last week.

Our primary attorney, John Foley, shared a panel on the New Global Irish Diaspora with IN-Boston President Sean Moynihan, Ronnie Millar, the Executive Director of the Irish International Immigration Center and Louise Corrigan, the President of IN-Dublin. While there continues to be significant interest in any form of US immigration legislation, Foley regrettably had to report that there was, “no good news.” The new Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, has reportedly said this Congress will not consider comprehensive immigration relief.

After apologizing for being the bearer of bad news, Foley was able to provide an update on House Resolution 3730 which would allow Irish citizens to use any E-3 visas not used by Australian nationals. The bill is in the House Judiciary Committee and it would allow Irish nationals with a high school education or its equivalent to live and work in the US for two years at a time.

While this does nothing to help the vast majority of Irish looking to live and work in the US, and nothing to help the thousands of undocumented Irish currently living in the US, it could offer an avenue of relief for some Irish nationals seeking opportunities here. Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson said she was optimistic HR 3730 could be part of a much larger end of the year piece of legislation. Attorney Foley inquired as to whether the House Hispanic Coalition would block the Irish legislation, to which Ambassador Anderson responded she was optimistic that would not happen and there would be some measure of relief for the Irish.

IN-USA is the national umbrella organization integrating the Irish Networks that exist in various cities across the United States. It allows members of the networks to connect with their peers and to develop relationships that will foster success in their business, economic, cultural and athletic ventures. There are currently nineteen (19) chapters throughout the US with a total of over 3500 members.

While local support for immigration reform is strong, Attorney Foley explained to the conference that US immigration is federal law and, if there is to be change, it must come from the US Congress. With that in mind, our office sent letters to all of the Massachusetts members of the US House of Representatives asking that they support HR 3730.

Photo: Irish Network Ambassador Anne Anderson at the 2015 annual conference

Boehner Talks Immigration Reform in Ireland

Boehner & Kenny Photo by: Photocall Ireland

Boehner & Kenny Photo by: Photocall Ireland

House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) traveled to Ireland last week to meet with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, for talks about US-Ireland links. They discussed the Irish economic recovery, immigration reform including the plight of the undocumented Irish in the US, and the situation in the North. While many republicans have argued against moving forward with immigration reform, Boehner has expressed an interest in taking up the highly controversial issue.

During his travels, Mr. Boehner addressed an audience in Dublin and spoke of his commitment to immigration reform. Mr. Boehner discussed the many stories told to him by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, describing how America’s broken immigration system has forced Irish immigrants to attend funerals by phone. Although Mr. Boehner expressed his determination to overcome resistance to immigration reform, his Office noted that Boehner never pinned immigration reform as a top priority for this trip to Ireland.

During remarks made after the US-Irish talks, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Flanagan described it as a valuable exchange of ideas, and noted the long and successful history of cooperation between Ireland and the US on international issues. Flanagan reaffirmed the Irish Government’s commitment to work closely with the Speaker as part of its active engagement on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

Seven other members of Congress accompanied Mr. Boehner on his visit to Ireland, just days ahead of Independence Day. The U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley, was also in attendance. Mr. Kenny praised the ambassador for his work in “building the links” between Ireland and the United States.

Foley Law Offices takes immigration reform issues seriously. Many of our clients come from Irish descent and have felt the repercussions of the failure to fix our immigration policies. If you have questions or concerns about your immigration situation, please call Foley Law Offices at (617) 973-6448 and speak with an immigration attorney today.

The Future of Immigration Reform

transpacific

The United States is currently in negotiation to sign a trade agreement with eleven countries, including Mexico and Canada to Vietnam and Malaysia. President Obama’s all-encompassing international regulatory agreement, labeled the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), seeks to regulate everything from the environment and energy to minimum wages, food and, most notably,immigration. If approved, immigration law would no longer be subject to Congressional oversight, but rather be controlled under international law. The administration has requested that Congress give President Obama the power to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is still under consideration.

The terms of the TPP require that all laws in the United States, both on state and federal levels, conform to the regulations that the President has described as “rules for the world’s economy.” Although described as a trade agreement, an entire chapter of the TPP is devoted to immigration law, and a representative has confirmed a key feature will be labor mobility. At a summit in March 2015, Obama announced that, “My administration is going to reform the L-1B visa category, which allows corporations to temporarily move workers from a foreign office to a U.S. office in a faster, simpler way. This could benefit hundreds of thousands of nonimmigrant workers and their employers.”

The details of the TransPacific Partnership have been kept secret at this point, with limited access granted to high-level governmental employees; however, this does not leave onlookers entirely in the dark when postulating what the new agreement might discuss. Because every free trade agreement to take effect since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has discussed the movement of workers, with each new agreement providing for the expansion of the type and quantity of workers, it is safe to assume that TPP will do the same.

The 2011 trade agreement between United States and Korea gives an idea of what could be contained in the new agreement. The agreement with Korea established a visa waiver program that gave foreign businesses as much as five years to bring an unlimited number of employees into the U.S. The agreement also provided for unlimited extensions. Using the Korean agreement as precedent, it is likely the TPP will lift restrictions on residency or nationality requirements for workers entering the nation. Immigration provisions of trade agreements similar to the TPP typically permit companies to hire employees anywhere in the world, prohibiting Congress from limiting the number of worker visas. Should the TPP provide enforce similar regulations, the agreement could very well bring the U.S. a step closer to an “open border” policy.

Immigration Reform Takes a Big Hit in Court

immigrants-1000-ffccccccWhite-3333-0.20.3-1On Tuesday, May 26th, a United States federal appeals court upheld an injunction preventing President Obama’s proposed immigration programs from going into effect. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the order must stay in place. Immigration reform was expected to be a key aspect of Obama’s second Presidential term, but the ruling makes it likely the reform will not begin, if it happens at all, until after he leaves office.

After Congress failed to pass an immigration bill, President Obama ordered the implementation of a new program that would allow parents of U.S. citizens or legal resident children to apply for temporary deportation relief and work permits. President Obama also announced the expansion of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals); a program which grants work permits to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The President’s executive actions would shield an estimated 5 million immigrants from deportation

Shortly after the program was announced, a hold was placed on the programs after Texas and 25 other states filed a lawsuit challenging the President’s actions. The legal challenge claims the President’s action was unconstitutional and exceeded his constitutional authority. The White House said the action was essential to fix a “broken immigration system”.

The latest decision keeps immigration plans on hold while the states’ legal challenge proceeds. It is not clear yet whether the Obama administration will appeal. The Justice Department is now evaluating its next steps. Foley Law Offices fully supports the President’s plan and would still like to see comprehensive immigration reform. The President’s executive action offers an avenue of relief and gives individuals an opportunity to work legally, earn a legal wage and contribute to the United States by paying taxes.

Foley Law Offices is closely following the situation and remains hopeful the federal court will offer a path for many of our clients to live and work in the U.S. If you have questions or concerns about your immigration situation, call Foley Law Offices at (617) 973-6448 and speak with an immigration attorney.

Attorney Foley Attends Lecture on Tax Law and Immigration Reform

Congressman-Rich-Neal

Congressman Richard Neal gave a lecture at Nutter, McClennon & Fish LLP. in Boston’s Seaport District on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Foley Law Offices’ primary attorney, John Foley, was amongst the notable attendees. In the wake of immigration reform and tax season, Nutter’s choice in selecting Congressman Neal as a guest speaker was ideal.

The Congressman spoke of the intransience in Congress and the frustration of identifying issues without being able to resolve them. He expressed a need for immigration reform; without a fresh flow of immigrant workers, our economy would come to a halt. “All you need to do is go into a restaurant kitchen or an office building at night to see the changing demographics of America. Congress needs to recognize this and take action.”

Congressman Neal was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts and now represents the First Congressional District of Massachusetts in the United States Congress. Richard Neal was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1988. He is a senior member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures. He also serves on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade. He has a long legislative history of fighting to preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security.

Congressman Neal is also the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Congressional Committee For Irish Affairs. Attorney Foley plans to host him at the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton, Massachusetts this fall where Congressman Neal will discuss the role of Irish-America and the ongoing struggle for peace and justice in Northern Ireland.

Pentagon Plans to Expand MAVNI Program to Recruit Immigrants

Navy-Flag

In a recent statement, the Pentagon announced plans to expand its MAVNI program (Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program). The program, known as MAVNI, is only open to those with critical skills in specific medical fields or who are experts in certain foreign languages. Recruits are normally awarded U.S. citizenship by the end of their 10-week basic training, entirely bypassing the permanent residence process.

When it began in 2008, it granted authority for the armed forces to recruit up to 1,500 immigrants who possessed specialized skills. The Pentagon’s most recent guidelines about the program increase that figure to 3,000 recruits for fiscal year 2015 and 5,000 in 2016, according to the New York Times.

Once implemented, the expansion will directly impact the Navy, who relies heavily on MAVNI recruitment. Of the currently authorized 1,500 recruits, the Army has been allocated 1,300 slots. In 2013, Military.com reported that the Air Force recruited just two people under the program, both brought in for their linguistic skills. The Navy recruited one doctor in 2009.

This is hardly the first major development to occur since MAVNI’s creation. Back in September, the Pentagon opened the program to undocumented migrants who had been granted deportation protection under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Prior to 2014, MAVNI was available only to Legal Permanent Residents living in the United States.

Department of Defense (DOD) spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, told Fox News Latino, that undocumented immigrants who want to join the military under MAVNI must demonstrate “expertise in a field that the DOD considers vital to the national interest.” Finals details are still being hammered out regarding the screening process and candidate selection process.

We have talked with Foley Law clients with family members in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in the hope of introducing them to the MAVNI program. If you know of anyone overseas with the language skills necessary for this program, please feel free to contact Jessica Lang, Esq. at Jessica@FoleyLawOffices.com for more information.

Immigration Reform, Asylum and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Hot Topics at Legal Luncheon

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Picured: Attorney John Foley and Congressman Michael Capuano discussing immigration reform, asylum and temporary protected status (TPS) at a luncheon hosted by Nutter, McClennon and Fish LLP in May 2015.

Congressman Michael Capuano is serving his ninth term as a Representative in Congress for Massachusetts’ Seventh District. Prior to serving in Congress, Mike was the Mayor of Somerville, MA, a position once served in by his father. He was born in Somerville to Andrew Capuano of Somerville and Rita Garvey Capuano of Allston-Brighton and Dorchester. He graduated from Somerville High School, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College in 1973, and a law degree from Boston College Law School in 1977. He passed the Massachusetts Bar in 1977.

Mike co-founded and co-chairs the Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan. He has emerged as a leading Congressional voice, traveling to the region, securing $50 million for peacekeepers and advocating for a strong response to the humanitarian crises there.

FullSizeRender-3Congressman Capuano had also been influential in advocating for the rights of young immigrants. He filed The Best Return on America’s Investment Now Act (BRAIN) to encourage highly educated foreign students to remain in the United States. BRAIN seeks to amend the Employment Based Visa (EB) program to create a new category for persons who have earned Doctorate Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in the United States.

To learn more about Congressman Michael Capuano, please visit: http://capuano.house.gov