USCIS is a federal agency that processes applications for immigration benefits nationally. While each state has its own District Office, where many family-based adjustment and citizenship cases are adjudicated locally, the process typically starts by mailing in an application to a designated lockbox facility or Service Center. (In New Jersey, the USCIS District Office is located at 970 Broad Street in Newark, with a Sub-Office located in Mount Laurel.) In addition to the National Benefits Center, there are actually four major immigration "Regional Service Centers" which handle a wide variety of immigration applications. These four service centers serve different geographic locations and sometimes handle different types of locations, so it is absolutely critical that applicants read the most recent instructions to the forms if an immigration attorney is not professionally preparing them. The four Service Centers are the Vermont Service Center; the California Service Center; the Texas Service Center; and the Nebraska Service Center. Most readers of our New Jersey Immigration Lawyers Blog will probably have already heard of the Vermont Service Center ("VSC"), which services New Jersey for many different types of applications. The Vermont Service Center is located at 75 Lower Welden Street, St. Albans, Vermont 05479. People should be aware that as much as one would like to, one cannot just call up or make an InfoPass Appointment to directly visit the Vermont Service Center. If you are experiencing an unusual delay or particular problem with an application located at a Service Center, you might want to call the USCIS Customer Service Number at 1-800-375-5283; write directly to the Service Center; or better yet, retain an experienced attorney to perform an attorney inquiry.
One of the most common forms that our clients in New Jersey often get confused with is the Affidavit of Support. The confusion is understandable. Actually, there are two Affidavits of Support: the I-134 and I-864. Both are intended to assure the government that a foreign national will not become a "public charge," or someone who will become primarily dependent on the US government for subsistence and support. (Usually, this means receiving cash assistance for income maintenance such as welfare and food stamps, or depending on programs intended to support individuals institutionalized for long-term care, such as Medicaid.) The I-134 is normally submitted in connection with non-immigrant visa applications, such as visitor's visas (B1/B2 visas) or fiancé visas (K-1). On the other hand, the I-864 is typically submitted for applications in which someone is seeking permanent residence such as immediate relatives of US Citizens and other family-based immigrants. Of the two, the I-864 is by far the more complicated and exhaustive. However, they are both contracts with the United States Government in which the sponsor is agreeing to be jointly and severally liable to repay certain benefits that the traveling applicant may receive.
An extremely beneficial information session for those interested in learning more about the procedure for the re-designation of Haiti Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is being held by the U.S.C.I.S. Newark Field Office on Friday, June 24th, at 10:00 am, at the Hispanic Affairs and Resource Center of Monmouth County, located in Asbury Park, NJ. As reported earlier in this blog, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced an extension of Haitian TPS for qualifying Haitians until January 2013.
According to The New York Times, Massachusetts is now the third state to withdraw from "Secure Communities," an information sharing program designed to identify and remove deportable immigrants by sharing fingerprint information. An individual booked in a county jail, for example, would not only have his/her fingerprints checked against the FBI database but also against DHS's system for any immigration violations. State officials questioned whether the program could deliver on its purported objective of improving public safety by removing aliens convicted of serious crimes. Citing fears that the program may have the unintended effect of deterring the reporting of crimes and impeding cooperation with law enforcement, law enforcement officials considered the program overbroad. Conflicting statements issued by Department of Homeland Security officials also contributed to confusion over program implementation and even whether participation was optional. (Apparently, participation is mandatory and is supposed to be effective in all jurisdictions by 2013.)
Many New Jersey residents have heard about immigration's 287g program but are often surprised to learn or find out too late that our own state has a working partnership with ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The 287(g) program is essentially a partnership between ICE and state and local government, under which the Department of Homeland Security delegates limited immigration authorities and powers to local and state law enforcement. In fact, the Hudson County Department of Corrections and the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office in Freehold, New Jersey, both have Memorandums of Agreement to this effect. What does this mean practically? It means that ICE is able to spread its dragnet considerably further, in effect turning designated local and state enforcement officers into de facto immigration agents vested with powers and duties to investigate and act upon a suspect's immigration status. It is much more likely now that if an alien is incarcerated or put into a county jail in Freehold or somewhere in Hudson county, a corrections officer will inquire into his/her immigration status and possibly file paperwork to initiate that person's removal.
Just last week, USCIS announced a major initiative to deal with immigration fraud. Aimed at combating immigration scams by people who are not authorized to dispense legal advice, USCIS in connection with ICE, DOJ, and FTC, has launched a new media blitz to educate and inform the public about who is allowed to prepare immigration forms and what types of scams are out there.
In the vast majority of cases, an individual will require a visa to enter the United States, unless he or she is from a country that is visa exempt or part of the Visa Waiver program. But did you know that in limited cases and under very extraordinary circumstances, a person may be paroled into the country without a visa? Humanitarian Parole is special permission given by USCIS to allow someone who might otherwise not be allowed to enter the US, an opportunity to come here for a specific period of time due to a compelling or extraordinary circumstance. The form is filed on Form I-131, and must address what urgent humanitarian circumstances or situation warrants a grant of parole. Humanitarian Parole was a hot topic last January of 2010 when New Jersey's own Frank Lautenberg urged the Department of Homeland Security to extend parole to Haitian orphans affected by the earthquake who had family members in the US willing to look after them.
New Jersey Polish-Americans hope that a pending bill working its way through Congress finds President Barack Obama's approval pen, the Bergen Record recently reported.
A very interesting article was posted last Thursday by The Star Ledger discussing the new US Census figures. Of particular interest to New Jerseyans interested in immigration issues is the fact that this State saw a remarkable jump in its Mexican population, which has increased by an astounding 115,000 people since 2000. In Passaic County, nearly one out of every three people identify themselves as Mexican. The article also reports that New Brunswick, Lakewood, and Paterson experienced noticeable increases in their Hispanic population and that overall, New Jersey's Hispanic population rose by forty percent! The article also confirmed what many of us immigration practitioners in Central Jersey already know: that Middlesex County remains home to New Jersey's largest population of Asian Indians, with Edison, South Brunswick, Woodbridge, Piscataway, and Jersey City being very popular cities.