Latino Immigration Law Resources

Energy of a Nation
www.energyofanation.org

This site administered by the Advocates for Human Rights is a great resource for Minnesota immigrants, citizens, educators, policy makers, and students interested in educating themselves about immigrants, immigration policy, and how they can advocate for fair and compassionate policy. A few great tools on the website include:

National Immigrant Justice Center
www.immigrantjustice.org

The National Immigrant Justice Center provides up-to-date information on current issues such as immigration enforcement and human rights, detention and due process, LBGT aslyee rights, and Know Your Rights information. Here is a quick guide to their site:

Resources for Immigrants:

Resources for Policy Makers

Immigration Policy Center (IPC)
www.immigrationpolicy.org

The Immigration Policy Center is a division of the American Immigration Law Foundation. The site includes special reports, fact checks, policy briefs, and research papers regarding the following topics:


National Immigration Forum
www.immigrationforum.org

The National Immigration Forum “advocates and builds public support for public policies that welcome immigrants and refugees and are fair to and supportive of newcomers to our country.” This site has many great publications, policy papers, and background information, as well as ideas for local communities on how to welcome and integrate new arrivals.

Resources for immigration debate topics:

Resources for communities:
Community success stories for integrating new arrivals
Resources for Local Governments/Communities
Resources for New Immigrant States

Migration Policy Institute
www.migrationpolicy.org

The Migration Policy Institute is the source for demographic information about immigration in your area and in the entire United States. The MPI complies data for migration on a global scale, allowing you to understand US immigration from a global perspective. They also provide resources for immigration integration policy

Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants in the United States:

AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association)
www.aila.org

The AILA website provides some excellent tools for immigration policy advocacy. This is a great place to start to learn about current legislation and how people who represent you vote on immigration-related bills.

Shusterman’s Immigration Update and Bender’s Immigration Bulletin are geared to the legal community and provide updates about immigration procedure, policy, and RSS newsfeeds.

RSS Newsfeed with dozens of immigration-related news articles

Bender’s Immigration Bulletin
www.bibdaily.com

Shusterman’s Immigration Update
www.shusterman.com

USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Service)
www.uscis.gov

In 2003 the INS ceased to exist, and its functions were taken over by the newly created USCIS, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. The USCIS website has general information about the immigration system, how to apply for immigration benefits, and how to contact immigration field offices or speak with a USCIS representative.

I am a US Citizen. How do I…

I am a permanent resident. How do I…

I am a refugee or asylee. How do I…

General Information

Miscellaneous Documents

Basic Information on:

  • Citizenship and Naturalization

English Spanish Oromo Swahili

  • Deportation

English Spanish Oromo Hmong Somali

  • Domestic Violence and Immigration Status

English Spanish Oromo Swahili

  • Informational Flyer Regarding U-Visa for Immigrant Victims of Violence and Domestic Violence

English Spanish Tagalog Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese Somali Hmong

  • Family Reunification

English Spanish Hmong Oromo Somali

  • Marrying a US Citizen

English Spanish

  • How to Become a US Citizen

English Spanish

Legal Resources from Minnesota Legal Services Coalition

The following topics are covered by this website. Most of the documents are available in Spanish; several of the documents are available in many languages.

  • Housing
  • Abuse, Violence & Crime Victims’ Rights
  • Consumer and Debt
  • Disability
  • Education
  • Family Law
  • Farm
  • Health Care
  • Housing
  • Individual Rights
  • Migrant Workers
  • Native Americans
  • Public Benefits
  • Seniors
  • Taxes
  • The Legal System
  • Veterans
  • Work

The following taken in its entirety from a post over at citizenorange.com:

“””Damn Mexicans had a post up a while back mentioning that people had been asking about where to find immigration information online. In belated response, I’m including below some resources, many of which I use on a regular basis in my work. I can’t say much about message boards since I don’t visit most of them—from what I’ve seen, there is a little good information and a lot of bad. Also, some of them have been overrun by trolls.

I’ll try to update this list below when new resources come to light (please send me any links I might have missed through the contact button on the sidebar or in comments below), and perhaps we can link to the list somewhere on the sidebar if people find it useful.

Please see the Important Note at the bottom of the page—in short, this is not intended to be a DIY guide, and you really should seek the assistance of an experienced attorney for any significant immigration matter.

Finding Legal Assistance

EOIR (U.S. Dept. of Justice) List of Low-cost Legal Service Providers (by state): A good starting point for low-cost legal assistance.

Lawhelp.org: Comprehensive internet database of low-cost legal services providers by state and locality.

LIRS: The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) has a list of local affiliates around the country that provide low-cost legal services.

National Immigration Project (NIP) of the National Lawyers Guild: List of attorney members of the NIP by state (NIP says it has not evaluated these attorneys and assumes no liability for their services.)

Catholic Charities: Most Catholic dioceses offer some services to migrants, although not all offer legal services to undocumented migrants. Check this site to find the closest Catholic Charities or related organization.

AILA Lawyer Search: These will be AILA members—primarily private attorneys, though also some attorneys at nonprofit agencies. As always, proceed with reasonable caution, though at least there won’t be bogus notarios or “travel agents” listed here.

IRAC: Located in Alexandria, VA, the Immigrant and Refugee Appellate Center (IRAC) represents immigrants in appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) or federal court.

Government resources

USCIS

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website is notoriously difficult to navigate or to Google, often fraught with link rot, but nonetheless has a lot of essential information. I’ll try to check on these links from time to time, but if they rot, look for them on the USCIS main page.

Forms page: All the USCIS forms are available here. Don’t let anyone ever charge you for a blank form—they’re available for free online or at the local USCIS office.

Also, USCIS has some applications that can be completed online like change of address forms, work permit applications, or replacement green card applications. (Note: Exercise caution in applying for work permits and seek legal advice before applying if possible. A favorite practice of USCIS is to keep the fee and deny the application if there is the slightest error in categorization or concern about eligibility.) USCIS has said that it wants to move towards online applications for all its forms in the next few years.

Adjudicator’s Field Manual: Contains details about USCIS procedures that are not always found in the statutes or regulations. Immigration officers are supposed to follow these rules when they interview people for green cards or citizenship.

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA): Core body of statutes that comprise immigration law in the U.S.

Code of Federal Regulations, Title 8: Regulations based on the INA that are promulgated by the government. These contain more detailed information about immigration policies and procedures. An easier version to navigate is here.

Processing times: You can check on posted processing times for different immigration forms based on which Service Center they were sent to. These times fluctuate and represent an estimate rather than a firm commitment by the government to process papers within a certain timeframe.

Online Case Status Check: If you have filed forms with USCIS, you can check on the status of the case by entering in the 13-digit receipt number found on notices received from USCIS. But USCIS often fails to update information in the online system, making this about as useful as the 800 number, which is to say not very.

National Customer Service Center (NCSC): 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833). Calling this official information phone line can be an exercise in futility even for experienced attorneys—it seems designed to screen out the majority of callers before they can get any information, and then to give those who do get through as little information as possible. However, sometimes it is a required first step in getting information about a stalled case, followed by an InfoPass appointment. Realize that when you call, you will not be talking to a USCIS officer, but instead to a contract worker who doesn’t have access to much more information than you do on your own from the USCIS website. All they can usually do is make an informational inquiry to an actual USCIS officer that may or may not result in concrete action. So try the number, but manage your expectations.

InfoPass Appointments: Use this online form to schedule an informational appointment at your local immigration office and avoid part (but not all) of the wait time. Be forewarned that many InfoPass officers will do their best to get you to go away so they can move on to the next person in line. Be persistent. Seek legal advice before going to an InfoPass appointment if you have an outstanding order of deportation or removal—if you do, ICE may be waiting for you there.

“How Do I?” Fact Sheets: Useful fact sheets.

Affirmative Asylum Manual (pdf): Comprehensive description of the asylum process.

Know Your Rights Page: This page contains some useful pointers (scroll down to the bottom of the page) about how to avoid getting duped by notarios or unscrupulous attorneys, who can be your worst enemy. It also contains a link to the EOIR list of low-cost legal representation linked to above.

Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants (pdf): Helpful information for Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs).

Guide to Naturalization (pdf): Useful information for applicants for citizenship.

Naturalization Self Test: Practice for the Civics and History Exam.

Civics and History Exam study resources: Note that the new version of the naturalization civics and history exam will be implemented later this year (2008). Check here to see which version you will be eligible to take.

Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) – The Immigration Courts

EOIR Main page

List of Immigration Courts and Judges (by state)

List of Immigration Court Forms: (Note the separate list of USCIS forms above.)

EOIR Hotline – 800-898-7180: This is an automated number to obtain basic case information for immigrants in removal proceedings. Callers won’t have to (or be able to) talk to a live operator. Call the hotline to get information about the next scheduled hearing in a case, the name of the judge, case processing information, and the result of any previous proceedings or appeals for a particular individual. Make sure to have the A# (alien registration number) of the person you are calling about handy. This hotline is essential for anyone who is now or has ever been in removal (deportation) proceedings. Also en español.

EOIR is releasing a uniform court procedures manual in July that will hopefully make immigration proceedings more predictable and efficient.

State Department

State Department main page for immigrants. This includes information about different types of visas, general visa application requirements, and country-specific documentary requirements for consular processing cases (that is, cases where U.S. family members have petitioned to bring in relatives who are currently outside the U.S.) You’ll find yourself interacting with the State Department if you or your family member are outside the U.S. and need to come in.

Visa Bulletin: Can be difficult to interpret, but includes information about wait times for different categories of family-sponsored and employer-sponsored green cards. Updated monthly.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Essential for any application for asylum, withholding of removal, or relief under the Convention Against Torture.

Part 9 of the Foreign Affairs Manual (9 FAM): Procedural guidelines for consular officers at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Title 22 (“Foreign Relations/DOS”) of the Code of Federal Regulations: Regulations governing cases processed at consulates and embassies abroad.

List of U.S. Embassy Websites: U.S. embassies often have local procedures for obtaining visitor visas or other visas to enter the U.S. Much of that information is available on the country-specific embassy website.

Resources from Pro-migrant Organizations

Immigration Equality: This site is an easily navigable treasure trove of useful information—including the most comprehensive and best-organized asylum primer on the web. It is geared towards LGBT asylum-seekers, but includes detailed information essential for any asylum-seeker. The site also includes comprehensive resources on HIV and LGBT immigration basics.

There is also a comprehensive plain-English glossary of immigration terms and list of nonimmigrant and employment-based visas.

NIF Community Resource Bank: The National Immigration Forum (NIF) has compiled a useful list of information, organizations, and other resources, including tips on obtaining legal assistance.

AILA: The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website wide-ranging information geared towards immigration lawyers. Some of it may be restricted to AILA members, though, including the one immigration message board on the internet that I usually trust (sorry!).

NYSDA: The NY State Defenders Association (NYSDA) Immigrant Defense Project has some useful materials for immigrants caught up in the criminal justice system, including these guides (much of this information relates to federal law and is applicable around the country, not just in NY/NJ):

Deportation 101: Detention, Deportation, and the Criminal Justice System. (pdf)

Removal Defense Checklist in Criminal Charge Cases (pdf)

Immigration Consequences of Convictions Summary Checklist (No immigrant—permanent resident or otherwise—should make decisions in any criminal case, no matter how unimportant the charge may seem, without being aware of the potential immigration consequences.)

Immigration OnPoint: The Immigration Policy Center, a division of the American Immigration Law Foundation (AILF), has established a new information clearinghouse with some valuable primers on issues like how to immigrate to the U.S. legally and what the 3 and 10-year bars mean.

NILC Immigration Law Resources: The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) has some useful resources available on immigration law and policy, including this guide for immigrants in detention and their families written by Bryan Lonegan, formerly of Legal Aid in New York City. (pdf)

ILW: Search articles for specific topics in immigration law.

List of consular officers (pdf) at the State Department to contact if your consular processing case is stuck.

NCLR Immigration Fact Sheets: The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has some basic overviews of immigration law in English and Spanish, as well as information about pending policy issues.

NYIC: The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) has a FAQ relating to immigration and public benefits. They also list the number to the New York Immigration Hotline for general immigration information. There are a variety of languages spoken: (Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) (800) 566-7636

AILF Practice Advisories: AILF has a series of legal practice advisories more suited for lawyers than laypeople, but the advisories could be helpful to people who are now or have been in removal proceedings.

Duke from Migra Matters has a useful list of immigration resources, including an extensive list of websites of pro-migrant nonprofit organizations.

Raids Resources

If you are in the New York/New Jersey area and experience an immigration raid by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), you can call the Rapid Response Network Hotline (1-800-308-0878) to talk to someone in Spanish or English about how to defend and preserve your rights. Note: This number is to be used for emergencies only, not for routine immigration inquiries, and should only be used at the time of contact with ICE. For routine informational inquiries, use the NY Immigration hotline (212) 419-3737 in NJ or, in New York, (800) 566-7636. Also, please limit use to residents of NY and NJ. More info here. For information on your rights ahead of time, check out the AFSC resources directly below:

AFSC: American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has an invaluable set of resources for how to protect yourself in the event of a raid. In particular, the illustrated guide from CASA de Maryland, in English and Spanish, is excellent.

Private Law Firms

Much of this information will be geared toward employment-based immigration, but Shusterman’s page in particular is fairly comprehensive.

Shusterman

Cyrus Mehta

Fragomen

Chang and Boos

Other Resources

TRAC Individual Judge Reports: This website from Syracuse University compiles data on asylum decisions for immigration judges around the country for 2001-2006. Rates of asylum denials are included for each judge for whom data exists. This is helpful not only for asylum seekers but for anyone in removal proceedings, since a given judge’s asylum denial rate will often (though not always) shed light on his/her overall attitude towards immigrants. Unfortunately, with the discretion and lack of due process inherent in the current system, winning or losing a case can depend almost entirely on the outlook and political opinions of the immigration judge. Knowing the name of your judge is therefore essential—you can find this out for someone in removal proceedings by calling the EOIR hotline referenced above: 800-898-7180.

And, of course, check out the bloggers listed in the blogroll to the right for updates on immigration law and migrant advocacy efforts.

Important Note: This page is not intended to serve as a do-it-yourself guide, but instead to help inform migrants and their families about U.S. immigration law. In almost any interaction with USCIS or the State Department, and certainly with something as complicated as a spousal green card application, you are more likely to avoid pitfalls (and there are lots) by seeking competent legal advice before you start the process. Attempting to do things on your own can lead to deportation, exclusion, and separation of families. No matter how sympathetic your personal circumstances, realize now that the laws are extremely unfavorable to immigrants and chances of obtaining personal exceptions to the rules are very low.

If you are in removal proceedings in immigration court, you must seek the aid of a competent attorney. Failure to do so can lead to dire consequences, including permanent deportation.

I wish we had a legal system that was more user-friendly and didn’t result in perverse incentives for attorneys (i.e., the more complicated the system is, the more essential attorneys are and the higher the fees they can charge), but to paraphrase the great Donald Rumsfeld, you go to court with the system you have, not the one you want.”””

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