I have an Immigration Marriage Interview in New York City, but I am currently separated

Does this sound familiar to you?

Statistics show that an overwhelming number of marriages end in divorce. The reasons are many. Sometimes its financial reasons that cause marital issues and other times it’s just because the couple has grown apart. Sometimes . . . the in-laws are even blamed.

The purpose of this piece is to provide some guidance to an individual that filed for a green card (lawful permanent residence) or also called adjustment of status, but is now separated from the U.S. citizen spouse. What can such an individual do? They now have a green card interview and don’t know what to do? Is there anything that can be done?

This is a loaded question. I understand. There may be ways for an individual to continue on the road to a green card without the assistance of the U.S. citizen spouse. The law does allow some individuals who have been mistreated by their U.S. citizen spouses to be able to file a self-petition and continue to try to get a green card on their own. Immigration (USCIS) refers to “extreme cruelty” as the standard. Now, what do I mean by “extreme cruelty”? My belief is that there is no clear cut definition of this term. In some cases, a pattern of emotional or mental abuse is sufficient. Obviously any physical abuse should immediately qualify. The more important question my clients often ask me is how do they prove it? I ask them what do you mean by proof? It’s rare that a person has a video of the abuser performing such acts. The more common way is by putting forth credible believable evidence. Yes, at times even a mere credible sworn statement by the applicant can suffice if detailed enough and bolstered by other evidence. Do not assume that there is no way of proving “extreme cruelty”. The earlier you consult with an attorney the better your chances of making the situation worse than it has become.

Speak to any attorney. All may not be lost. The fact that you are now no longer with your U.S. citizen spouse does not necessarily mean you can no longer get a green card. 


I have a Deportation case in NYC . . . What can I do?

Okay, so you have been placed into deportation proceedings (also known as removal proceedings) in NYC. So, what can you do? What choices and/or options do you have? We are obviously presuming that you do not want to go back to your country of origin or cannot go back.

You may have some relief available in front of the immigration judge in NYC. I can tell you from over a decade of experience handling immigration cases in many states, that the Immigration Courts in NYC have some of the fairest Immigration Judges in the country. I’m always confronted with questions such as “How is my Immigration Judge?” This is actually a very good question. What I can tell you is that if you have a deportation and/or removal case in front of the Immigration Courts in NYC located at 26 Federal Plaza, NY, NY, you likely have an Immigration Judge that will be intelligent, fair and unbiased. The Immigration Judges in NYC will give a person a fighting chance to present their case and try to defend oneself from deportations or removal out of the country.

What this means is that whether you have an asylum application in NYC or are in removal proceedings due to a criminal convictions in NYC, you will have a meaningful opportunity to present your case. In fact, NYC is at the forefront of administratively closing and/or terminating deportation/removal cases. This is commonly referred to as “prosecutorial discretion”.

In any event, if there is ever a good place to be placed in removal proceedings (wait . . . did I just say that? . . . Is there ever a good place to be in removal proceedings? . . . Perhaps, there is . . .), I would say NYC is probably the best place. 


Will I get arrested if I go to the Immigration Court or Office in New York City?

Many people wonder whether they would be arrested if they go to their immigration interview or court hearing in New York City. This has been asked so many times that until recently I felt comfortable advising my clients that they would not be arrested. However, as is the case with most things in life, there are exceptions.

Just this week, I had a client who had a pending deportation/removal case before the Immigration Court in New York City. This was actually the second time my client and I were in Court on this case. So, it is obvious that my client had no intention to hide or run away from the immigration authorities. But, guess what happened? After our Court hearing the attorney for the government advised the Judge and me that there were Immigration Officers from DHS (Immigration Customs Enforcement – “ICE”) waiting
for my client. I was obviously shocked, surprised and angry at the same time. Why in the world did the government attorney not tell me beforehand? Did they really think that had the government attorney told me, I would have told my client to make a run for it? I was simply disgusted by this tactic used by my government – no . . . by our government.

This is just an example of how the government continues to abuse our immigration laws and waste taxpayers money. It is a despicable act. My client, who is represented by a lawyer, was taken into custody for no logical reason. He does not pose a threat and certainly is not a flight risk since he showed up to Court several times. Luckily for him, he had a lawyer that accompanied him to the hearing. So, we will feverishly work to attempt to get him released from custody immediately.

Now, this article is not mean to scare you to not show up to a scheduled hearing. That would be stupid and would probably put you in worse position. In fact, the series of events that befell this client is actually very rare. The point of me telling the story is simple. If you have fears, do not go to Court without a lawyer. The fact that my client had a lawyer actually had a great impact. I was able to speak with the Immigration Officer in order to speed up his processing. Furthermore, the government was aware that he had a lawyer, and as such should not question my client outside my presence. 


Applying for Asylum in New York City

From the many types of clients that appear in my office, some of the saddest stories are probably from clients that are seeking asylum in the United States. It is true that every personal story has its own tragedies. However, most of the individuals I meet seeking asylum have lived through some horrific events unlike most.

These cases should be taken extremely serious as someone’s life is likely at stake. Returning an asylum seeker back to the country that they are scared to return to is something that I just can’t live with. It is because of this, that I feel that I have a great obligation to try to protect my client and their family.

Look, the fact is that an asylum case is not an easy case. The asylum office of the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service and/or the Immigration Court will want you to prove your case. So, how do you prove your asylum case? What if you don’t have any documents to prove that you are subject to persecution? These are great questions. You should know that it is actually rare that a client comes into my office with all the proofs in hand. In some cases, the client was so fearful that the client literally left with nothing but the clothes on his back. The law does allow a fact finder to approve a case without
any evidence in the form of supporting documents. In some cases, the testimony of the asylum seeker may be enough.

An asylum seeker should always proceed with caution when filing for asylum. Some mistakes may not be fixable. This is why someone should always proceed with the advice of a licensed and experienced attorney. Yes, it will costs money but I assure you, if things go bad during your asylum process because of ignorance of the law, it will cost you much much more to try to fix the problem, if it is at all even possible. Remember the best investment is investing in yourself and your family.


I received a Notice to Appear from the Immigration Court located at 26 Federal Plaza, New York, NY . . . What can I do and can I stop the deportation?

Well, the very first thing you shouldn’t do is ignore it!!!!!!! This is a very important document which basically demands that you show up in Immigration Court in New York City and defend yourself from deportation. Essentially, Immigration (DHS) is trying
to deport you out of the country. So, the earlier you get started with preparing your defense, the greater the likelihood of success in stopping the deportation. All too often clients seem to think that if they delay a case, it might go away. This is exactly what you
shouldn’t do. In fact, ignoring a Notice to Appear can have irreparable consequences. Think of a deportation case as being somewhat similar to a criminal case. Would you ignore a court date in a criminal case?

Be proactive!!!! Don’t just be defensive. Go on the offense . . . Just because you are fighting a very powerful government agency doesn’t mean the odds are against you. There are many times that Immigration (DHS) even makes mistakes. Yes, this happens.
Remember, behind DHS are real people.

Do you need a lawyer? Well, ask yourself whether you would defend yourself in a criminal case. If the answer is heck no, you are on the right track.

The lesson to be learned is the quicker you react and are prepared, the more the likelihood that you will have a positive outcome in your deportation case.


Drug Conviction causing arrest and detention by Immigration at the Monmouth County Jail

By now, it is almost becoming routine for individuals in New York and New Jersey with drug related arrests and/or convictions to be detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Monmouth County Jail located at 1 Waterworks Road, Freehold, NJ 07728. Something tells me that the street name (“Waterworks Road”) may not entirely be a coincidence. If you have a loved one being detained there by ICE or DHS, you know exactly what I’m
talking about. It’s enough to bring anyone to tears. The last time I was there to visit a client, it actually took me close to an hour to locate my client. The warden and the deputies could not locate my client by name, nor could the ICE representative. Now, I asked myself, if I had such a difficult time just locating my client’s whereabouts, how helpless do the family members of the immigrant feel? Needless to say, I did not give up. I knew my client was being detained there and I was not going to allow anyone to tell me he was not there, especially when I drove all the way down from New York City. After much persistence, we were able to locate my client. This did teach me a valuable lesson about persistence. There are times when you feel like giving up, but things that are really valuable are never easy to achieve or gain.

In any event, let me continue with my story. I finally found my client, who by the way was scheduled to appear at the Immigration Court in New York City located at 201 Varick Street, New York, NY. I sat down and spoke with him at length and reminded him that his family and friends were very concerned and had hired me on his behalf. My client turned out to be a very charming and intelligent individual who happened to have gotten himself into trouble in the 1990’s. He had been arrested and convicted
of various drug related convictions. You may have heard that drug convictions in the immigration and deportation context is likely one of the worst types of convictions for immigration purposes. Rarely will you find anyone, including the Judge, that would be sympathetic to your case. What made this case worse was that there were actually drug related convictions that my client did not even remember which came to light after we appeared in Court. With that many serious convictions, the Court took the position that my client could not be released on bond and was subject to mandatory detention. Well, we did certainly argued that he was eligible for bond. Most importantly however, we never stopped fighting and moving forward. We reached out to the Department of Homeland Security lawyer (DHS) and attempted to convince them to consider dismissing or terminating the deportation case due to major equities in my clients case, including his full rehabilitation and strong family ties in the United States. We were delighted when we heard from DHS who informed us that they would consider a request to terminate the deportation case. The morale of the story is that you have to keep fighting even against hope and all odds.


Immigration Jail in Newark, New Jersey (Essex County Jail)

During my last blog, I wrote about how a New York City resident can be held in the Essex County Jail in Newark , New Jersey even though the person resides in New York City. Perhaps, he has a criminal record or maybe he entered the U.S. illegally or violated his status.

I want to take some time to now discuss what happens and what can be done about it. For example, where and when will he appear before an Immigration Judge? Will the Immigration Court be in New York City? Will that Immigration Court be in Newark, New Jersey? . . . in Elizabeth, New Jersey? In addition, what will determine whether he can be released from Immigration detention? How much bond will be
required? Can the loved one get out at all? Well, if the Department of Homeland Security, the Deportation Officer, or any other branch of the DHS refuse to release him, then the recourse is to request bond by filing the appropriate paperwork. In addition, it is very important to remember that hiring a lawyer immediately has many benefits. Did you know that Immigration could drag their feet and delay the case by not presenting the case in front of an Immigration Judge? Yes . . . this happens quite often. Also, did you know that in some cases Immigration (DHS) can also move your loved one across the country without letting you know about it? All of a sudden, your loved one who lived in New York City and was held by Immigration in New Jersey is transported to Florida or Texas. This happens all too often. What can your lawyer do about it? The first thing you lawyer should do is to stop Immigration from being able to move your loved one elsewhere. But,
you lawyer will need to act fast without any unnecessary delay. Then, the lawyer should try to obtain his release.

Let me tell you something, I have been to the Jail in New Jersey where Immigration detainees are held. Let me assure you, as bad as it may be, it is nowhere near as bad as other places your loved one can end up. Stop Immigration from treating unfair treatment. If you lived in New York City your entire life and have family here, the person should not be moved thousands of miles away and cause unnecessary
separation. But, remember, the law is not entirely unfair. There are provisions in the law that one can utilize to help them attempt to gain release from detention. If you are unfamiliar with them, find an attorney who can help you. You will likely have one chance to do that.

Often times, people tell me that they can’t afford to hire a lawyer. The truth is that a person can’t afford not to hire a lawyer. Undoing something that was done wrong is much more difficult and will surely cost more. Hiring a lawyer may not always achieve the result you are looking for, but at least you will have a fair shot. Never forget, Immigration always has lawyers in Court representing them, so should you.


Arrested by Immigration in New York City

So, after many years of being in the United States, a family or close friends has been arrested by immigration, also known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

You now find out that the person has been brought to federal plaza and then the person’s whereabouts become unknown. Tracking the detention facility where the person is held can sometimes be a challenge. For example, it is quite normal that a person arrested in New York is sent to the Essex County Jail in Newark, New Jersey.

What can you do if this happens to a family member? Well, you have to act fast in order to minimize the strain and mental anguish suffered by both the person arrested, as well as the family members or friends. Let’s face it, when a person is arrested or detained by immigration, it affects everyone. In the case of a family unit, the arrest by immigration will certainly affect the spouse and the children. These can be in the form of emotional distress as well as financial hardships. All too often I have clients that contact me to tell me their spouse who is the only working family member has been arrested by immigration. In these types of cases, you have to be quick to act by trying to get the person released. You will have to try to convince immigration or a judge that the person should be released. This may be a traumatic experience for you but the decisions you make early on may impact the case permanently. You have rights! Know them and use them!

Does this sound familiar to you?
I probably get about 2-3 phone calls per day about these types of issues. The reasons for denial range from people not showing up for their immigration interview in New York City or Long Island, to denials based on marriage interviews and denials of employment based cases. One of the first things I tell clients is that they need to make sure that they know exactly why their case was denied. All too often, people are unaware of why exactly their case was denied. I’ll give you an example. Today, I just met with a young gentleman who called me just yesterday. On the telephone, he told me that his case was denied because Immigration did not believe their marriage was real. Not surprisingly, his English was not perfect. So, I immediately informed him that I would need to see the denial and did not necessarily want to take his word for it. I encouraged him to come to our New York office for a free consultation.

Well . . . today I met with this gentleman and looked at his Immigration denial. I was not surprised that the denial was not exactly as the gentleman understood it to be. In fact, the denial was based on the wife not showing up to a second interview. So, I informed him that all was not lost and that there could be something we can do. I explained that we could re-file his case. He then informed me that his wife would not help him because she has been very abusive towards him. This abuse took many forms, including emotional, mental, financial and physical abuse. When I heard what this gentleman had to suffer during his marriage, I was shocked. I then explained to him that there was a special law that would allow an abused spouse to self-petition for a green card without the cooperation or assistance of the U.S. citizen spouse. He was very surprised to hear that.

The point I am trying to make is that never assume facts based on what someone tells you. As a lawyer, we have an obligation and a duty to conduct our own investigation into facts and try to find out exactly what is going on. Had this gentleman not went to see a lawyer, it is possible that he would be never have
known his rights.


My green card application was denied in New York City . . . What can I do?

Does this sound familiar to you?

I probably get about 2-3 phone calls per day about these types of issues. The reasons for denial range from people not showing up for their immigration interview in New York City or Long Island, to denials based on marriage interviews and denials of employment based cases.

One of the first things I tell clients is that they need to make sure that they know exactly why their case was denied. All too often, people are unaware of why exactly their case was denied. I’ll give you an example. Today, I just met with a young gentleman who called me just yesterday. On the telephone, he told me that his case was denied because Immigration did not believe their marriage was real. Not surprisingly, his English was not perfect. So, I immediately informed him that I would need to see the denial and did not necessarily want to take his word for it. I encouraged him to come to our New York office for a free consultation.

Well . . . today I met with this gentleman and looked at his Immigration denial. I was not surprised that the denial was not exactly as the gentleman understood it to be. In fact, the denial was based on the wife not showing up to a second interview. So, I informed him that all was not lost and that there could be something we can do. I explained that we could re-file his case. He then informed me that his wife would not help him because she has been very abusive towards him. This abuse took many forms, including emotional, mental, financial and physical abuse. When I heard what this gentleman had to suffer during his marriage, I was shocked. I then explained to him that there was a special law that would allow an abused spouse to self-petition for a green card without the cooperation or assistance of the U.S. citizen spouse. He was very surprised to hear that.

The point I am trying to make is that never assume facts based on what someone tells you. As a lawyer, we have an obligation and a duty to conduct our own investigation into facts and try to find out exactly what is going on. Had this gentleman not went to see a lawyer, it is possible that he would be never have known his rights.