Renee J. Tello Legal Blog

Friday, January 13, 2012

Free Consultation Saturdays!

For a limited-time only we will be offering free 30 minute consultations on Saturdays.  This promotion will begin next Saturday January 21st, 2012.

We will be offering these free consultations at our new Queens office at 229-10B Merrick Boulevard during the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.   Consultations will be conducted on a first-come first-serve basis.  No appointments will be available or necessary for this promotion.

Offer only applies to in-person consultations at our Queens office on Saturdays.




Monday, January 2, 2012

The Law Office of Renee J. Tello, PLLC is expanding with a new office and more practice areas.

Happy New Year!

We would like to thank our family, friends and clients for all of their support during the past year.

With the new year comes many new beginnings for The Law Office of Renee J Tello, PLLC.  First, we are expanding our practice areas beyond immigration law to include Bankruptcy, Family and Real Estate law.  Second, we are opening a new office in Queens, NY. 

Our new office location will be: 229-10B Merrick Blvd. in Laurelton, NY.

With these changes it is our hope that we can better serve the needs of our clients.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Prosecutorial Discretion- Don’t Be Fooled It’s NOT Amnesty

Recently I received a call from a prospective client inquiring about the new “backdoor amnesty” program.  Although no amnesty legislation has passed in recent years, I knew what he was incorrectly characterizing as amnesty.  The client was referring to President Obama’s new policy on prosecutorial discretion. It’s important to note at the outset that prosecutorial discretion does not provide any immigration status in the United States.  There is no application process or filing fees associated with requesting prosecutorial discretion. In the immigration context prosecutorial discretion refers to an agency or agency official’s discretion to either administratively close or not pursue a removal proceeding. Advocates for persons in or facing removal proceedings can request that prosecutorial discretion be exercised if the person qualifies.

At any rate let’s get into exactly what's causing all the confusion.  In August 2011, the Obama administration announced that the government will begin implementing the prosecutorial discretion memo that was issued on June 17th, 2011 by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director, John Morton. If you’re interested you may read the memo in its entirety here.  In an effort to efficiently utilize the government’s limited resources Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will develop a criteria to determine which cases are can be categorized as “low priority” and should be considered for administrative closure.  These criteria could consider positive factors such as:

  • Circumstances of arrival – especially if the person came to the US as a child
  • Pursuit of education – if they have graduated from high school in the United States and/or are pursuing higher education
  • U.S. Military service
  • Ties to the U.S., including family relationships
  • Pregnant or nursing women
  • Age, especially for minors and the elderly
  • If the person is a primary caretaker of another person with a severe illness or disability
  • Persons who are likely to be granted temporary or permanent status because they are an asylum seeker, victim of domestic violence, human trafficking, or other crime

Before contacting DHS or ICE regarding prosecutorial discretion you should consult with a qualified immigration attorney to discuss whether prosecutorial discretion is available to you. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) published an excellent advisory warning immigrants about what this new policy is and is not.  You may read that advisory here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Call for Change in the Political Dialogue on Immigration

This weekend I watched Karan Johar’s movie, "My Name is Khan", and the theme of the movie inspired me to comment on the political state of immigration the U.S. today.

 "My Name is Khan" follows a Muslim immigrant, Rizwan Khan, on his journey across the United States to meet the President on his press tour.  On Rizwan’s journey the audience learns of his life, the people in it, and how he began his quest to meet the President.  We find out that Rizvan has Aspergers Syndrome, a developmental disorder, and see the contrast of his life in San Francisco pre and post 9/11.  The movie chronicles how Muslims and those mistakenly perceived as Muslims were victimized after 9/11 because they were all stereotyped as terrorists.  Rizvan wanted to meet the President to simply tell him “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”

The hostility faced by the immigrants in this movie reminded me of the hostility in the tone of the political conversation, or lack thereof, on immigration reform.  It is the general consensus that comprehensive immigration reform is necessary.  As we’ve heard it from the President, and many other commentators, “our immigration system is broken.”  Ok great, now we all agree, however, practical solutions to solve the actually problems in the system are seldom agreed upon.  In today’s political landscape any conversation about immigration reform that does not include deporting all undocumented persons is deemed amnesty and unacceptable.  For instance, the DREAM Act was passed by the House and came up for a vote in the Senate on December 18th, however, it failed since they could not get enough bi-partisan support to reach the 60 votes necessary.

Many who opposed the DREAM Act termed it “backdoor amnesty,” but we cannot fix the immigration system by deporting all undocumented persons.  Estimates show that there are approximately 11 million undocumented individuals currently in the U.S. The cost associated with finding and deporting all of those individuals would be astronomical and wholly inefficient.  However, politicians don’t seem to want to explore other options.  The DREAM Act would not have fixed the U.S. immigration system; however, it would have been a fair and just start.  It would have been a way to give immigration status to productive and intelligent young people whose parents chose to bring them to the U.S. illegally.  It would also have been a way to help reduce the U.S. deficit using the revenue gained from the penalties attached to the DREAM Act.

 Today’s political dialogue on immigration ignores the fact that America is a nation built by immigrants who bring much needed innovation to every aspect of American society.  For instance, Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish immigrant, created and operated the Carnegie Steel Company, one of the largest businesses in the world in the late 1800s and later founded Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Jerry Yang the Taiwanese co-founder of Yahoo; Levi Strauss the German founder of Levi Strauss & Company; or Andrew Grove, the Hungarian founder of Intel Corp.  Let’s also not forget Albert Einstein a German-born immigrant recognized as a genius worldwide and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics or Yo-Yo Ma, French immigrant and one of the most highly revered cellists of the 20th and 21st century.  The list of exceptional and innovative immigrants to the United States is long and can continue for pages. Politicians and the general public need to recognize that immigrants are the people who help to bring culture, innovation and economic growth to this country. Our politicians need to change the dialogue and our immigration system to open our doors to the talented and innovative immigrant pool rather than continue with the current hostile closed door immigration policy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Holidays from The Law Office of Renee J. Tello, PLLC!

The past six (6) months have been a time of growth for our office. I would like to take the time to thank all of our clients and supporters! It is with your continued support that we will continue to grow while providing quality immigration services.

With the new year approaching it is a time for resolutions. As such, we resolve to provide access to more immigration news, updates and insights through our website, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook; but also through exciting new mediums like newsletters, video posts and pod casts.

We hope you will let us know what topics you would like covered in the new year. Post a comment on this blog to give us your much appreciated input!

We wish you and your families a Happy and Healthy New Year!



Friday, December 10, 2010

Immigration Reform: DREAM Act Still Kicking!

On Wednesday December 8th, 2010 the U.S. House of Representatives (House) passed their version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act).  Originally introduced in 2001, the DREAM Act addresses the plight of young undocumented immigrants who grew up in the United States after being brought here as children by their parent(s).  The DREAM Act would reward these young people with permanent residence provided they attend college or serve at least two years in the military.

The DREAM Act was scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Thursday December 9th; however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed the vote until next week.  According to the Immigration Policy Center, the reasoning behind this decision is to bring the House version of the DREAM Act (H.R. 6497) for a vote is to speed up the process of getting the bill passed and signed into law.  The Senate has its own version of the DREAM Act which they voted to eliminate in favor of the House version. The Immigration Policy Center explains in its December 9th blog Still DREAMing: DREAM Act not Dead:

“As Senator Reid stated on the floor, his intention is to bring up the House version of DREAM which, if passed by the Senate, could go directly to the President’s desk. This avoids any need to reconcile the two versions of the bill, which is a positive for supporters of the bill, as there is precious little time remaining in the legislative session.”

Immigrant advocates, like the Immigration Policy Center see the postponement of the vote as a positive move that would benefit from the momentum created by the passage of the bill in the House.  However, many commentators remain doubtful that the bill will pass.  For instance, the Caucus, The Politics and Government Blog of the Times, highlights the difficulty that passing the DREAM Act would entail:

“Were the Senate able to win approval of the bill, it would go straight to President Obama in the final days of the 111th Congress and represent a significant win for advocates of immigration law reform.

But that outcome seems doubtful since Senate Republicans have taken a hard line against the bill...”

Republican naysayers claim that the DREAM Act is nothing short of “backdoor amnesty program” that encourages illegal immigration.  However, they fail to acknowledge that passage of this bill would not only help the U.S. deal with the undocumented population, but also benefit the U.S. economy. The DREAM Act would help to give approximately 65,000 undocumented students a path to citizenship.  In addition, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the DREAM Act would reduce deficits by about $2.2 billion and increase revenues by $1.7 billion over the 2011-2020 period.  

We must wait until next week to see if there will be enough Republican votes for the DREAM Act to pass in the Senate.  In the House Republican support for the measure was scarce; in fact of the 216 votes to pass the bill in the House, there were only 8 Republican votes.  This does not inspire me with confidence that the DREAM Act will get the bi-partisan support necessary for it to pass in the Senate.  However, I remain hopeful that this legislation will pass. I remain hopeful that our politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, will do what is right for these students and the U.S. economy.  Senator Durbin commenting on the upcoming Senate vote said it best:

“It will be a hard process and a difficult road for them to follow, but in the name of justice, in the name of fairness, give these young people a chance…”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dispelling the Invitation Letter Myth - Three Ways to Get a B-1/B2 Visitor Visa

Many clients that approach me for assistance in applying for a Visitor Visa identify upfront that they have an invitation letter.  They say this with an air of confidence that implies that they somehow have an ace in the hole.  Contrary to this seemingly widespread belief, that the invitation letter is a golden ticket, the invitation letter is likely the least important piece of evidence necessary for applying for a Visitor Visa.  In this blog I will explore the three main criteria that must be met in order to obtain a Visitor Visa to the United States.  Of course, generally all visa applicants must be admissible to the U.S. (i.e. not have certain serious health or criminal issues), however, that’s a different blog for a different day.  To follow are the three specific elements necessary for a B Visitor Visa application:

1. Purpose

B visas are issued to allow foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for very specific purposes.  The Visitor Visa is classified into two sub-categories the B-1 Business Visitor Visa and the B-2 Visitor Visa.  The B-1 Business Visitor Visa permits foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for the purpose of business (i.e. business meetings, contract negotiations, seminars, conferences etc.).  The B-1 visa does not permit the visa holder to work in the U.S. or earn any remuneration in the U.S. for activities undertaken while on the B-1 visa. The B-2 Visitor Visa allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for the purpose of medical treatment or pleasure (i.e. surgery, visiting friends/family, sightseeing, attending a wedding etc.).  The B visa applicant must provide evidence establishing that the purpose of their trip falls within one of the previously described purposes.  Such evidence would be an invitation letter, wedding invitation, itinerary of events, letter from business associate, letter from hospital etc.).  This is usually the easiest element for visa applicants to satisfy.

2. Temporary Intent

B visa applicants must also demonstrate that they only have the intent to remain in the U.S. temporarily.  In simple terms, temporary intent refers to an applicant’s intent to return home upon the expiration of their short stay in the U.S.  The Department of State/U.S. Consulates are very focused on ensuring that B visa applicants are not going to use their B visa, if granted, as a means of entering the U.S. and over-staying.  As such, each B visa applicant must demonstrate that they have very strong ties to their home country that will ensure that they return there.  Evidence of strong ties include: long-term employment, ownership of real estate, marriage, children etc.  If an applicant is not able to demonstrate strong ties through concrete evidence the B-visa application will be denied.  This is the element that most B visa applicants fail to satisfy which results in the denial of their applications. 

 3. Financial resources

Finally, all B visa applicants must demonstrate that they have the financial resources to carry out the purpose of their trip.  For instance, if the applicant’s purpose is to obtain medical treatment, they must demonstrate that they have the funds necessary to pay for the medical treatment they intend to receive.  In addition, an applicant must be able to demonstrate that they have funds to pay for air-fare, accommodations and costs of tourism if that is the purpose of their trip.  Applicants must submit evidence of bank statements, employment letters or an invitation letter etc.  The invitation letter could be used help satisfy this element if the applicant intends to stay with a friend or family member or if a family member or friend will be covering the cost of the trip.

In sum, the invitation letter may be helpful to establish purpose of trip and/or financial resources.  However, establishing temporary intent or strong ties are really the main criterion that must be met in order to have a successful B visa application; and an invitation letter cannot help an applicant with this element of the visa application.  As such, simply submitting an invitation letter in support of a Visitor Visa application will not be sufficient to obtain a visa approval.  Applicants should ensure that they focus on providing concrete evidence of all three of the elements, with particular focus on temporary intent element, in order to have a successful B visa application.

For further assistance in applying for a Visitor Visa please contact The Law Office of Renee J. Tello, PLLC.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Five Ways to Obtain a Green Card through a Family Relationship

One of the most coveted U.S. immigration benefits is obtaining an I-551 permanent resident card or green card. Individuals with a green card are permitted to work and live in the United States permanently provided they abide by U.S. laws. One pathway to obtain U.S. permanent residence is through a familial relationship with a green card holder or U.S. citizen.  To follow are five different categories of family relationships that can lead to permanent residence:

1. Immediate Relatives
Foreign nationals who are the children, spouses or parents of a U.S. citizen are considered “immediate relatives.”  However, under immigration regulations to qualify as a child, one must be unmarried and under the age of 21 at the time of filing the application.  “Immediate relatives” are not subject to the long wait times that other green card applicants face, since they are not subject to the numerical limitations as the family preference categories.
2. Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens
Persons who are adult (i.e. over the age of 21) sons or daughters of U.S. citizens fall under the first preference family category.  Preference categories include family relationships that are not classified as “Immediate Relatives” and thus are subject have annual numerical limits. An immigrant visa becomes available for an applicant when the priority date (the date the Form I-130 was filed) becomes current.  The distinction between the first preference category and the immediate relative is that the child has reached the age of 21 prior to the filing of the application for permanent residence.
3. Spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents/green card holders
Relatives of green card holders can also gain permanent residence through that relationship. Spouses and unmarried children of green card holders who are under the age of 21 fall under preference category 2A; while unmarried adult (over 21) sons and daughters of green card holders fall under the preference category 2B.
If the permanent resident obtains U.S. citizenship while the green card application is pending, the application can be upgraded to the relevant category as determined by the beneficiary’s relationship to the sponsor.
4. Married Children of U.S. citizens
Unfortunately, married children of U.S. citizens fall all the way to the third preference category.  In this category the age of the beneficiary (i.e. the foreign relative) does not matter, if they are married, they fall under this category.
5. Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens
U.S. citizens over the age of 21 can sponsor their siblings for a green card provided they can demonstrate that they have one or two of the same parents.
Generally, to qualify for a green card under any of these categories the sponsor must provide evidence of their relationship to the beneficiary in the form of a marriage or birth certificate.  Also, it is important to note that the processing times vary greatly and generally gets progressively longer with each of the higher categories.  
For specific guidance on whether you qualify for a green card, contact us today.  


Friday, August 20, 2010

Four Reasons to Apply for U.S. Citizenship Now

Recently I met a gentleman who has been a permanent resident in the United States for over 20 years and has never applied for U.S. citizenship.  This meeting inspired me to write a blog entry on some the benefits of U.S. citizenship.  Generally, to qualify for U.S. citizenship through naturalization an individual must be 18 years of age or older, be of good moral character, and have maintained continuous permanent residence in the U.S. for at least five (5) years.  Green card holders who gained permanent residence through marriage, who are still married to the sponsoring spouse, may apply for citizenship after three (3) years.

Today I will address four key reasons why legal permanent residents or green card holders that qualify for U.S. citizenship, should apply for it pronto.
1.  U.S. citizens have the right to vote and green card holders do not
Permanent residence in the United States has many benefits, however, voting in local or federal elections are not one of them.  In order for immigrants to have a voice in the U.S. elections they must be U.S. citizens.   For instance recently, the new Arizona SB1070 law has propelled immigration into the forefront of the political dialogue.  However, green card holders who live in the U.S. permanently cannot effect change of this or any other laws that may affect their lives unless they take the next step and become naturalized U.S. citizens.
2.  U.S. citizens can travel without restriction
The I-551 permanent residence card (or green card) only permits green card holders to re-enter the United States after travel of less than one year.  In fact, green card holders who intend to remain outside of the U.S. for more that one year must obtain a re-entry permit prior to traveling.  The re-entry permit is a travel document that puts the immigration service on notice that, although the green card holder will be travelling outside the U.S. for more that one year, they do not intend to abandon their permanent residence status in the U.S.  Generally, U.S. citizens do not have travel restrictions and can live wherever they like without relinquishing their U.S. citizenship.
3.  A green card can be revoked for certain reasons
Once granted a green card does permit the green card holder to live and work permanently in the United States.  However, it is not an unfettered benefit, in other words it can be taken away for several reasons.  To follow are two general reasons why a green card holder may lose their permanent residence status:
a. Certain criminal convictions
These criminal convictions fall under many categories,including but not limited to, aggravated felonies, crimes associated with controlled substances, and crimes against the person i.e. assault, battery, domestic violence etc.
b. Abandoning their permanent residence status
Generally, this means that the green card holder has remained outside of the U.S. continuously for more than one year.  However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can view continuous presence outside the U.S. for less than one year as abandonment if the person lives and works abroad.
4. Depending on the laws of your home country you may be able to maintain dual citizenship
Generally, a U.S. citizen is not precluded from maintaining dual citizenship provided that the other country recognizes dual citizenship as well.   In other words if the other country does not require the person to relinquish their U.S. citizenship the U.S. will allow the person to maintain dual citizenship.  Further, the U.S. does not require a U.S. citizen to relinquish citizenship that he/she gained citizenship to another country based on their parents’ citizenship.
For information on how to apply for U.S. citizenship click here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Graham goes too far pushing for repeal of ‘birthright citizenship’

The topic of “birthright citizenship” for children of undocumented persons was propelled into the immigration debate in recent weeks by Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.).  Senator Graham announced on a Fox News program that he would introduce a bill that would amend the 14th amendment to take away “birthright citizenship” from children born in the United States to undocumented persons. Senator Graham elaborated on his reasoning saying:

“Birthright citizenship I think is a mistake ... People come here to have babies…That shouldn't be the case. That attracts people here for all the wrong reasons.”
The 14th Amendment was adopted on July 9, 1868 and it established that any person born in the United States, including African Americans, were citizens of the United States.  Section 1 of the 14th amendment specifically provides that:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 
Senator Graham’s proposal has instigated much controversy but has garnered only limited support.  Senator McCain (R-Ariz.) and other Republicans have said they would support hearings on the issue, but have refrained from supporting the proposal outright.  In a surprising twist former CNN correspondent Lou Dobbs, a staunch supporter of immigration enforcement, has come out against proposal saying:
“The idea that anchor babies somehow require changing the 14th Amendment, I part ways with the Senators on that because I believe the 14th Amendment, particularly in its due process and equal protection clauses, is so important… It lays the foundation for the entire Bill of Rights being applied to the states.”
Amending the constitution to address an immigration issue is ineffective and simply ridiculous for many reasons. First, it attacks a fundamental principle that has long been upheld by the Supreme Court.  Second, instead of deterring persons from entering the U.S. without authorization it would only create a new class of undocumented persons.  Thus, creating an additional logistical nightmare for the Department of Homeland Security to deal with, when they can hardly deal with the logistics of our current undocumented immigrant population.  Further, the 14th amendment provides valuable rights to all U.S. citizens, if we start chipping away at it whenever we feel so inclined, which class of individuals will be next?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) summed it up nicely when commenting on Republican support for the repeal saying:
"They've either taken leave of their senses or their principles."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Leaked USCIS Memo: No Back-door Amnesty Despite Republican Claims

Recently an internal United States and Citizenship Services (USCIS) draft memo was leaked to the public by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).  The draft memo written by USCIS officials was addressed to USCIS Director Alejandro N. Mayorkas and outlined administrative alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Upon learning of the memo, Republicans voiced their opposition to the memo insisting that the Obama administration was attempting to circumvent Congress and grant amnesty to all undocumented persons in the U.S.  Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said in a statement:

“The document provides an additional basis for our concerns that the administration will go to great lengths to circumvent Congress and unilaterally execute a back-door amnesty plan,”

In response to the Republican outrage to the USCIS memo, USCIS spokesperson Christopher Bentley issued a statement saying:

“As a matter of good government, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will discuss just about every issue that comes within the purview of the immigration system…Internal memoranda help us do the thinking that leads to important changes; some of them are adopted and others are rejected. Our goal is to implement policies wisely and well to strengthen all aspects of our mission.

To be clear, DHS will not grant deferred action or humanitarian parole to the nation’s entire illegal immigrant population…”

Despite Republican claims to the contrary, the memo does not propose to grant amnesty to all undocumented persons.  Instead the memo proposes to:

  • Provide individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) with a pathway to legal residency;
  • Expand the use of parole for humanitarian relief and public interest;
  • Decrease the stringent standards for extreme hardship;
  • Protected spouses and children of members of the military from being deported;
  • Possibly deferring the deportations of DREAM Act youth and long-time non-criminal residents of the United States; and
  • Several other measures aimed at helping skilled and educated nonimmigrants remain in the United States. 

These very specific measures would in reality only benefit very small subsets of the immigrant population.  In addition, the memo simply allows the USCIS to exercise its discretion as an administrative agency.  Moreover, USCIS, like other law enforcement agencies, is entitled to exercise prosecutorial discretion.  In fact, in a November 2000 memo, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner Debra Meissner outlined INS’s authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion.  Therefore, USCIS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are well within their discretion to decide whom they will deport/prosecute.

The leaked USCIS memo brings us back to the core problem; that is we need Congress to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  According to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), 45 states introduced 1,180 bills and resolutions relating to immigrants and refugees in the first quarter of 2010 alone.  In fact, as of March 31, the NCSL estimated that 34 state legislatures had passed 71 laws and adopted 87 resolutions, and 37 bills were pending signatures on governors' desks.  Both the USCIS memo and these States’ legislation demonstrate a deep seated concern over the lack of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  However, Congress has not acted and none of the Republicans protesting this leaked USCIS memo are taking any concrete steps to get Comprehensive Immigration Reform passed.



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