Immigration Law News

12.2020

Applications for the Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund are due by December 6, 2020.

If you are an immigrant experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 and you are not eligible for federal financial relief or state unemployment insurance, you may be able to receive financial assistance through the Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund. The fund provides qualifying applicants with a one-time direct payment of $1,000, up to $3,000 per household. The application is available online, and you can call 1-844-724-3737 to receive help filling it out. Applications must be received by December 6, 2020.

For other forms of assistance offered through Seattle, King County, Washington state, the federal government, and community programs, please review these COVID-19 Resources, which are updated regularly.

11.2020

After two appeals, the Fourth Circuit confirms that written death threats count as persecution in an asylum claim.

Individuals may be granted asylum if they demonstrate, among other factors, that they entered the U.S. to escape past persecution. In one recent case, Rodriguez Bedoya et al v. Barr, an immigration judge found that death threats delivered in writing did not count as persecution for purposes of proving asylum eligibility. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) upheld that decision, but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed it and sent it back to the BIA to correct its earlier analysis.

The petitioner, Mr. Rodriguez Bedoya, had retired from the Columbian police force. Before retiring, he had spent 20 years investigating and fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC). Soon after his retirement, a stranger slipped a note under his door with the FARC logo. The note contained a threat to his life. Over the next few months, he continued to receive similar threatening notes and text messages from an unknown number. When the threats escalated to include his children and indicated the senders would take action that month, Mr. Rodriguez Bedoya and his family fled to the U.S. and petitioned for asylum.

The immigration court denied the petition, finding that Mr. Rodriguez Bedoya had not suffered past persecution. The judge viewed each threat Mr. Rodriguez Bedoya had received as an isolated incident rather than a systemic chain of events. In addition, the judge found the threats innocuous because no one in the FARC approached Mr. Rodriguez Bedoya or his family directly or caused them physical harm. Mr. Rodriguez Bedoya appealed the decision to the BIA; the BIA agreed with the immigration judge.

Mr. Rodriguez Bedoya appealed again, this time to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. That Court is bound by BIA decisions unless they are “manifestly contrary” to law and an “abuse of discretion.” In this case, the Fourth Circuit found that the BIA failed to meet those thresholds. That is because prior case law makes clear that written death threats count as persecution. In fact, case law recognizes that written, home-delivered death threats can be even more menacing than verbal threats because they indicate the senders know where their target lives. Further, case law does not require that the petitioner receive death threats in person or face physical harm; death threats on their own constitute persecution in an asylum claim. The Fourth Circuit reversed the BIA decision and ordered it to decide the case again, this time applying the proper legal standard as to the meaning of persecution.

Petitioners should not have to bear the expense and delay of multiple appeals to have their cases decided by the correct legal standard, but sometimes they are left with no choice. Hopefully immigration courts and the BIA will operate more fairly under a new administration.

11.2020

President-elect Joe Biden plans to name Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of Homeland Security, the office charged with running the country’s immigration policy. Mr. Mayorkas would be the first Latino to manage this department. He is a Cuban-born immigrant whose family fled the Castro revolution; he served as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during President Obama’s first term. Read more here.

11.2020

Many thanks to Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) for suing the U.S. government over its draconian ‘blank space policy’ in which, without notice to the public, it started denying certain immigration applications that contain any blank spaces in the forms.

Here are two examples of how inane this policy is: (1) An unmarried applicant checks on the form that they are unmarried and proceeds to leave their spouse’s name blank. Their application gets denied because the government says they didn’t complete the form. In some cases the filing deadline passes before the applicant receives notice of the denial, meaning they may not be able to refile. (2) An applicant with no middle name writes “None” in the middle name space so their application will not get rejected. The government processes their application with the name “First None Last.” The middle name “None” doesn’t match their identity documents (passport/birth certificate) so they are suspected of fraud.

Here is a copy of NWIRP’s complaint. Hopefully the court will order the government to do away with this terrible policy.

11.2020

DACA is alive and well! Chad Wolf, who tried to dismantle it, was unlawfully appointed and did not have the power to do that. Read more here.

07.2019

Here is an article about an immigration judge who ruled against every single asylum seeker from 2011 to 2018. She has since retired but there are still immigration judges with denial rates above 90% in asylum cases.

07.2019

Some great news for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) cases that have been pending far too long!