Are you in the waiting process for a U-Visa?

The US Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) has been experiencing delays in processing many types of applications and petitions for immigration benefits, and those delays come in different steps in the process. We’d like to share some helpful information that can help you understand the process better, and where you might be in the process.



The number of U-Visa applications have gone up year after year, and by the latest estimate, it may take 2.5 years for an immigration officer to fully review a U-visa case for the first time. Given the fact that these numbers continue to grow, these lengthy processing times will only continue to grow.


The U-Visa Waitlist was created, to organize the growing list of applications. By law, the USCIS grants only 10,000 U-visas per year. This is known as the U-Visa “cap”, since there is a limit on how many visas are available per year. The USCIS continues to review applications, however, even after the cap is met.

If your application has been reviewed, but the cap is met for that year, you will be placed on the U-Visa Waitlist, which is an I-918 receipt notice. If you have not received that notice, that means your application has still not been reviewed.


Once on the waitlist, the USCIS will grant Deferred Action Status. That means you may be granted a work permit, based on the year of your deferred action status. These permits can last up to 2 years, and can be renewed.

The receipt notice, received after your application is filed, will include the filing date. Your attorney may inquire about the status of your application, if it is in the USCIS’s posted processing time. To see if your application has started its processing, the USCIS posts the current status of all applications, based on the filing date. Follow the link below, to see the posted processing times for initial application review.

Note: This post reflects public information, and should not be taken as legal advice. Only contracted, certified attorneys may make professional recommendations on your specific case or circumstance.

Getting ready for a court hearing, or trial

Being in a courtroom, in front of a judge, can be very stressful. Here are some tips from us, to help make the most of your appearance.


Tips for Courtroom Behavior

  • Be in the courtroom at least fifteen minutes before the trial is set to start. NEVER BE LATE.

  • Your witnesses must be ready to go when they call your case for trial. If you do not need a witness for several hours, make sure they are available within ten to fifteen minutes with a quick phone call.

  • Plan to be at court all morning. Your case might not be the first one called.

  • Do not bring your children. If your children will be speaking to the judge, they should wait outside the courtroom during the trial.

  • You may bring a friend for moral support. That person must not speak once they call your case.

  • Go into the courtroom and sit quietly to wait for them to call your case.

  • In the courtroom, do not: chew gum, eat, drink, read a newspaper, sleep, wear a hat, listen to earphones, use a cell phone, camera, or camera phone, or carry a weapon.

  • Go over your paperwork before the hearing. Know your papers. If you or one of your witnesses has filed a declaration in the case, the person's testimony must be the same as what they said in the declaration. You may use written notes or an outline during the hearing.  

  • Stand when the judge enters the courtroom. Listen to the court staff. They may announce other times when you need to stand.

When it is your turn to go before the judge:

  • When it is time for your hearing, the clerk or judge will probably read all the cases scheduled for hearing at that time. When they call your name, you must answer and, if asked, tell the judge whether your case is agreed, a default, or if there will be argument.

  • When they call your case for hearing, walk to the table or podium for lawyers in front of the judge. Stand facing the judge. The judge will tell the parties when to speak. Speak only to the judge and only when it is your turn.

  • Opening and closing statements: You get to address the judge at both the start and end of the trial. You should summarize what you want and why. Be brief. Be clear. Be as specific as you can.

  • Listen carefully.

  • Do not interrupt or speak to the other party, even if they interrupt or speak to you.  You want to appear polite and reasonable. Staying calm even when the other party is rude or lies will impress the judge. You will get your turn to prove the other party wrong.

  • If you need to explain something the other party said, wait your turn to speak or ask to speak again.

  • When you talk to the judge, start by saying "Your Honor."

  • Speak loudly and clearly so the judge can hear you. Use words, phrases and terms you understand.  Keep your hands away from your mouth. Control your emotions. Stay calm.

  • Do not ramble when giving evidence to support your side of the story. You may have no more than five minutes to speak. Call the court clerk to find out the time limits for your county before you work on what you want to say.

  • Stick to the FACTS.

  • Do not talk about issues that do not support your case.

  • Try not to use first names in addressing anyone in the courtroom.

  • Only one person can speak at a time. A court reporter is taking down everything said in the courtroom. S/he can only record one speaker at a time.

  • The judge will ask questions. If you do not understand the question, say so.  Do not answer until you fully understand the question.

  • Take your time when answering questions. Give the question as much thought as you need to understand it and come up with your answer. Explain your answer if needed.

  • It is okay to admit that you do not know the answer to a question.

  • If you are stating dates, times and places, be exact. If you cannot be exact, say that you are only estimating.

  • Be polite. 

  • If the other party objects to something, do not interrupt until s/he states why. The court will then allow you to respond. Then the court will rule on the objection. Do not speak to the other party during objections.

  • Do not laugh or talk about the case in the hallway or restrooms of the courthouse. The judge, other party or his/her lawyer or witnesses may see or hear you.

When the judge makes a decision:

  • Control your emotions.

  • Do not express either gratitude or disagreement. Do not make faces. 

  • Stay polite to the judge after the ruling. Ask the judge whether you or the other side should write the court order. (The judge will not write the order.)  The judge must sign the order before it becomes effective.

  • Before you leave court, make sure you understand what happens next. Do you need to come back for another court hearing? Do you need to do a written legal argument or proposed court order? Do you need to do anything else? Will the judge make an order as a result of the hearing? Sometimes orders are written up right away - as you wait. Or the judge may think about the case and write an order later and send it in the mail. Politely ask if you do not understand what will happen next.

  • Do not announce in court that you plan to appeal. It is your right to appeal. But your decision to appeal does not matter to the trial court.

Major policy change - Defining a "Public Charge'

Highlight from USA TODAY, Oct 9th, Alan Gomez

The Trump administration is proposing a massive overhaul of federal regulations that would dramatically change the way the U.S. decides which immigrants are deemed a "public charge."


That new definition – if it goes into effect – would impact the applications of hundreds of thousands of immigrants trying to become legal permanent residents, the first step toward eventually becoming a U.S. citizen.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirsten Nielsen said in statement that the administration was enforcing a longstanding federal law that requires immigrants to the U.S. "show they can support themselves financially."

"This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers," she said.

Critics of the proposal say it goes way too far, punishing poorer legal immigrants for receiving even small amounts of government aid just when they need it the most.

Read the full article, at

The policy is not yet in effect, and currently being deliberated. Affected individuals can share their opinions and concerns on many public forums, in support, or in opposition to the policy. The administration is required to review public comment on changes like this one.

Possibility of filing after the one-year deadline

Any person entering the US to seek asylum must apply for the relief within 1 year of entry to the US. If they don’t, they often lose the opportunity to apply for the relief from removal. Many applicants are not aware of the one-year deadline because the immigration authorities don’t inform them about it upon detaining them or releasing them from custody.

This decision makes thousands of applicants eligible for asylum despite the fact that they may have missed the one-year deadline to file their applications.

On March 29, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued an important decision, Mendez Rojas v. Johnson, 2018 WL 1532715 (W.D. Wash. Mar. 29, 2018), concerning the one-year asylum applications deadlines that must be provided to asylum seekers. The Court said that all individuals who are released or will be released from the custody of the Department of Homeland Security after they have been found to have a credible fear of persecution, whether they are in removal proceedings or not and who never received the 1 year asylum application deadline notice from the DHS and who either filed their asylum applications after the 1 year deadline or have not yet filed the asylum application yet must be deemed to have applied for asylum timely.

The Court also said that all individuals who are released or will be released from DHS custody, who express a fear of return to their country of origin, are issued a Notice to Appear, who either filed their asylum applications after the 1 year deadline or have not yet filed the asylum application yet whether they are in removal proceedings or not and did not receive notice from DHS of the one-year deadline to file an application for asylum must also be deemed to have filed their applications for asylum timely.

This decision makes thousands of applicants eligible for asylum despite the fact that they may have missed the one-year deadline to file their applications.


Questions? Call today.


How to Get Your Immigration Bond Money Back

In order to be released from immigration detention, many people are required to post a bond. The purpose of posting a bond is to ensure that the bonded individual will appear at all future immigration court hearings.


1. Can ICE Keep My Money Forever?

Sometimes. If the person who was bonded out fails to attend their immigration court hearings, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) may consider the bond to be “breached.”  ICE will send an ICE Form I-323, Notice of Immigration Bond Breached to the obligor. If this happens, the obligor will not receive their money back. If interest accrued on the bond, ICE will return the interest to the obligor.


2. Who is the Obligor?

The obligor is the person or company that paid the bond for the detained individual. After paying the bond, the obligor received Form I-305 (Receipt). It is extremely important that they keep these original documents, as they are needed to eventually get the money back. Just like the bonded person, an obligor must update ICE anytime they move.


3. Who Gets the Money Back?

Typically, the obligor gets the bond money back, since they are the person or company that paid for the bond. In some cases, an obligor may have designated an “Attorney in Fact” to receive the bond money. In this instance, the Attorney in Fact will receive the bond money at the end of the process.


4. When Do I Get My Money Back?

At the completion of the immigration proceedings – either when the bonded person is granted a form of relief and is legally able to remain in the United States, or when they depart the United States by order of the Immigration Judge.

When proceedings are complete, ICE will cancel the bond. It will then notify the Debt Bond Management Center. After this, the Debt Management Center will notify the obligor by sending them Form I-391. It may take more than 6-8 weeks after the departure or grant of relief for the obligor to be notified.

When the obligor receives Form I-391, they need to send it with their original Form I-305 and a cover letter requesting their refund to:  

Debt Management Center
Attention: Bond Unit
P.O. Box 5000
Williston, VT 05495-5000

It’s important to know that the entire process may take several months before the obligor receives their money back.


5. What if I Lost My Receipt Form I-305?

If the obligor lost the original Receipt Form I-305, all hope is not lost. It’s possible to still receive the money back by taking a few more steps. The obligor should complete Form I-395, Affidavit in Lieu of Lost Receipt of United States ICE for Collateral Accepted as Security, as a substitute. You can find this, and other forms, here:

If you need to talk to someone about the specifics of your bond, you may want to call the Financial Operations of the DHS Debt Management Center at (802) 288-7600 and select option 2 to speak with someone.


More Questions?

If you have more questions, please come see our office with any questions other you may have. Our office is located at: 200 University Avenue W., Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103. We can be reached by phone at: (651) 771-0019.

New USCIS Policy on Notices to Appear

On June 28, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its policy on Notices to Appear (NTA). An NTA is a document placing an individual in deportation proceedings and instructing him or her to appear before an immigration judge.


Under the new policy, USCIS can issues NTAs in a wider range of cases. The policy requires that USCIS issue an NTA in the following category of cases:

  • Cases in which, upon the denial of an application or petition, an applicant is unlawfully present in the United States.
  • Cases where fraud or misrepresentation is substantiated, and/or where an applicant abused any program related to the receipt of public benefits. USCIS will issue an NTA even if the case is denied for reasons other than fraud.[2]
  • Criminal cases where an applicant is convicted of or charged with a criminal offense, or has committed acts that are chargeable as a criminal offense, even if the criminal conduct was not the basis for the denial or the ground of removability. USCIS may refer cases involving serious criminal activity to ICE before adjudication of an immigration benefit request pending before USCIS without issuing an NTA.[3]
  • Cases in which USCIS denies a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, on good moral character grounds because of a criminal offense.[4]

This policy has not been implemented yet.[5] Any news of the date of implementation should be posted on Once implemented, this policy will have the effect of increasing individuals in deportation proceedings and increasing the immigration court docket.

Need More Information?

Preference Categories for Family Petitions - What are They?


When a family relative files an I-130 family-based petition for you, the petition will fall under one of two categories:

(1) Immediate relative; or

(2) Preference based petition.

While the content of this short article explains preference-based petitions, we will briefly review immediate relative petitions.


Visas are available in limited categories except for immediate relatives such as a spouses, parents or children (over 21). Those individuals who have an immediate visa available to them are the following:

  • Spouses of US citizens
  • Unmarried children under 21 of US citizens
  • Parent of US citizens where child is over 21.
  • Widowers of US citizens when the petition was filed before the petitioner died.

If the family petition filed for you does not fall into one of the categories listed above, you are likely considered a preference petition beneficiary. Preference based petitions are different in that a visa is not immediately available to you and you must wait a period of time before there is a visa becomes current. Your visa becomes current when your priority date becomes available on the Visa Bulletin.

A priority date is a fixed date that is listed on your form I-797 Notice of Action. It’s the green form that comes in the mail stating your I-130 petition has been approved. A small box on the top left of the form will state “priority date”. 

After you find your priority date, you will want to know if it is current. This is highly important, as some immigrants may wait for years before their date becomes current. Your priority date will depend on the availability of visas, as well as country limitations and the number of visas that the government allocates for your preference category. A visa must be available to you before you can become a legal permanent resident.

Once you have located your priority date, you will want to know where you are in the visa line. You can find that information on the visa bulletin:

When you click on the current month, you will see two charts:

  • Final action dates,
  • and Dates of Filing.

It’s important that you work with your attorney and read the details of that chart before you select the chart to base your priority date on.

If you have figured out what your priority date is, and you know what your preference category is, then you will know if your priority date is current. It is current if your date exactly matches, or the date on the visa bulletin is after your priority date. If it is current, you should consult with an attorney in order to file your I-485 application to become a legal permanent resident.

For example, if the visa bulletin shows 01JUN2018 for Mexico for the F1 preference category (Children over 21 of US citizens), and your priority date is June 1, 2018 or earlier, then your visa is current. Once you know that a visa is available to you, you must capture it or risk visa retrogression or losing it.

Finally, once you know that your priority date is current, you can proceed with the next steps in your application.

It is important to remember that while you have a current visa priority date and the visa is now available, you may still need to seek a waiver for being inadmissible. For example, if you entered without inspection, you will want to file an unlawful presence waiver. It’s best that you consult with an attorney before proceeding with the next steps.

Questions? We can help.

Stopping Deportation by Applying for Cancellation of Removal

If you are in deportation proceedings, you may be eligible for a form of relief called Cancellation of Removal. Cancellation of removal is available to both green card holders who are in deportation proceedings and those who do not have any lawful status. Form EOIR 42-A is an application for cancellation of removal for certain permanent residents. Form EOIR 42-B is an application for cancellation of removal for certain nonpermanent residents.


Permanent Residents

Who qualifies for Cancellation of Removal for Certain Permanent Residents?

  • You have been a permanent resident for at least five years;

  • You have continuously resided in the United States for 7 years after admission in any status;

  • You have not been convicted of an aggravated felony

Nonpermanent Residents

Who qualifies for Cancellation of Removal for Certain Nonpermanent Residents?

  • You have been continuously physically present in the United States for at least 10 years immediately preceding the date of application. The 10 years stop running when you are given a valid Notice to Appear by the government;[1]

  • You had good moral character during such period;

  • You have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses;

  • Your removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to your U.S. citizen or LPR spouse, parent, or child.

If you are a green card holder or do not have any lawful status and are in removal proceedings but meet the requirements above, you may be able to stop your deportation by applying for cancellation of removal. If you do not have an attorney, you can ask the judge for an application.

[1] In Pereira v. Sessions, 585 U.S. __, 138 S. Ct. 2105 (2018), the Supreme Court held that a putative notice to appear that does not specify the time and place of removal proceedings does not meet the statutory definition of a Notice to Appear under 8 U.S.C. § 1229(a) and, therefore, does not stop the running of the 10 years required to qualify for cancellation of removal.


More Questions?

Looking to Obtain Asylum in the US? This law just made it more difficult.

On June 11, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided Matter of A-B-, a case negatively affecting those applying for asylum based on domestic violence or gang violence. Immigration courts and immigration officers are required to abide by the decision in Matter of A-B-. Under the new law, claims based on domestic violence or gang violence will generally not qualify for asylum. Matter of A-B- overturned the decision Matter of A-R-C-G-, which recognized domestic violence as a ground for asylum.


On July 11, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued new guidance for immigration officers who are deciding asylum and refugee claims. The guidance informs immigration officers that in accordance with Matter of A-B-, claims based on fear of domestic or gang violence will not establish the basis for asylum.

The guidance also reminds officers that they are not required to grant asylum if an applicant is eligible—that asylum is a discretionary form of relief. Even if an asylum seeker meets the requirements for asylum, the guidance notes, officers can still choose to deny asylum. The guidance informs officers that they should consider relevant factors in deciding whether to grant or deny asylum, including:

  • whether the asylum seeker entered the U.S. illegally;
  • whether the asylum seeker passed through other countries or arrived directly to the U.S.;
  • whether he or she made any attempts to seek asylum before coming to the United States;
  • the length of time the asylum seeker remained in a third country; and his or her living conditions, safety, and potential for long-term residency there.

The guidance informs officers that few gang and domestic violence based claims will merit a grant of asylum or refugee status. While the current law makes it harder for those fleeing domestic violence or gang violence to obtain asylum in the United States, not all claims based on those grounds will be rejected.

More Questions? We can help.

For more information, call our office today to schedule an appointment with an attorney. We can be reached from 8:30 - 5:30 Monday through Friday at 651-771-0019.

Five Tips for an Interview with USCIS

Perhaps you applied for residency through a spouse, are applying for asylum, or are ready to become a naturalized United States citizen. Whatever the case may be, you will likely have an interview with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).

Below are five tips to make your interview easier!


1. Practice, Practice, Practice

Most applicants feel some type of anxiety, stress or nervousness about their interview. While it is normal to feel that way, one of the best ways to overcome those feelings is to know what to expect. By practicing for the interview, you will likely feel more relaxed and prepared.

If you hired an attorney to help you with your application, it may be a good idea to reach out to them and set up a time to practice. However, even if you hired an attorney, you are responsible for knowing all of the information that you submitted. This means you should review every single question and answer, as well as any evidence you submitted to support your application. It’s possible that some of the answers have changed since you submitted the application, for example, if you moved, this is fine. It’s important to be ready to update the immigration officer at your interview.

If you are applying for naturalization, it’s extremely important to study and practice the civics exam questions.

If you are a Spanish speaker, some great resources are available here:

By reviewing your application, and practicing answering questions, you may feel more at ease and less stress during the actual interview.


2. Listen to the Question Being Asked

While it sounds simple, applicants often struggle with answering the question directly. Oftentimes, an applicant will answer with irrelevant information with the actual answer somewhere inside. Below is an example of not answering the question directly:

Q: “Where do you live?”
A: “Well, I used to live at 123 Grove St., before that I lived at 123 State St., and now I just moved to 123 University St. about a month ago”

In order to answer the question directly, an applicant must listen to the entire question being asked of them. Then, take a moment to think about the answer to that question only. If the immigration officer wants to know more than your answer, they will ask you another question. Below is an example of answering the question directly:

Q: “Where do you live?”
A: “I live at 123 University Street.”


3. Answer Honestly

Sometimes, an immigration officer may ask you a question to which you may not know or remember the answer. In these situations, it’s extremely important to answer honestly, rather than to lie or guess. If you do not remember the answer, such as the date of something, it is best to say “I do not remember.” The officer may ask you for an estimate, which you should answer if you do have an estimate. Again, if you do not remember an estimate, answer “I do not remember.”

If you do not understand the question, it’s best to say “I don’t understand.” The immigration officer will rephrase the question until you understand what they are asking. If you understand the question, but do not know the answer, it’s best to reply “I do not know. In addition to honesty, it is extremely important to always answer the immigration officer’s questions respectfully. Being rude will likely only hurt your case.


4. Be Timely

You should have an interview notice with the date, location and time on it. The time listed is when you should be prepared to be sitting in the interview. This means you should get to the interview at least thirty minutes early, depending on the location, to have enough time to go through security and check in. If you are late, it is possible that you will miss your interview, and your application may be denied.


5. Dress Appropriately

Your interview is your chance to make a great impression on the immigration officer. This is an important and formal interview, so we advise you dress nicely if you are able. For example, wear clothing you would wear to a job interview. 

More Questions?

These five tips are an overview on preparing for an interview with USCIS. If you have more questions, please come see our office with any questions other you may have. Our office is located at: 200 University Avenue W., Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103. We can be reached by phone at: (651) 771-0019.

President Trump’s Travel Ban Allowed by Supreme Court in Trump v. Hawaii

What is the travel ban?

On September 24, 2017, President Trump signed the third version of the travel ban, which bars most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea from entering the United States, along with some groups of people from Venezuela.[1]


What did the Supreme Court say in Trump v. Hawaii?

In Trump v. Hawaii, the Supreme Court said that the President has broad discretion to suspend the entry of aliens in to the United States, citing the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. Section 1152(a)(1)(A). The Supreme court said that Trump lawfully exercised his discretion in signing the travel ban.


What does it mean that citizens of the above listed countries will be barred from entering?

In most cases, citizens of the countries will not be able to come to United States to live permanently and many will not be able to come to the U.S. to work, study or vacation.[3]


What has been the effect of the travel ban so far?

Fewer visas have been issued to citizens of those countries affected by the ban, and the number of refugees has dropped to the lowest ever in history. [4]


Did all the Supreme Court Justices agree to the decision?

No. It was 5-4 decision. Five justices agreed that the travel ban was legal, and four disagreed with the majority opinion. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision was “motivated by hostility and animus toward the Muslim faith” and she accused the majority of “ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.”[5]


Did anything good come out of the Supreme Court’s case?

Yes! The Supreme Court overruled Korematsu v. United States, a case in which the Supreme Court upheld the forcible internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.[6] Justice Sotomayor compared Korematsu v. United States with Trump v. Hawaii, saying there are “stark parallels” between the reasoning used in both cases. Sotomayor stated that, “As here, the exclusion order was rooted in dangerous stereotypes about a particular group’s supposed inability to assimilate and desire to harm the United States.”[7]


Have more questions?

If you have more questions, please reach out to our office for more information. Our legal team will be more than happy to help! Call today to schedule a consultation.








Executive Order on Family Separation Explained

On June 20, 2018, President Trump signed an executive order titled “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation.” Below is a brief overview and insight into why the order was likely created, what it does, and the challenges we still face.


1. Why Did President Trump Create this Executive Order?

President Trump likely created this executive order in response to the overwhelming public and political backlash over the separation of families at the southern United States border.

In March 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that “There have been at least 429 cases of immigrant parents being separated from their children in the past two years.”[1] The New York Times notes that according to a spokesperson from the Department of Homeland Security, from April 19 to May 31, 1,995 children “were separated from 1,940 adults.”[2]

The outstanding public and political reaction, condemning such policies are likely what prompted President Trump to create this executive order.

2. What Does the Order Say? 

The order from the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) explains that the Trump Administration is firmly committed to immigration prosecution, but also to family unity throughout the process. To read the exact order, click here.

3. What Does it Do?

The order directs DHS to detain family units without separating children from parents, “where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.” It also orders the Department of Justice to file a request to modify the Flores settlement.[3]

The order also requires Homeland Security Secretary to maintain custody of detained families during criminal proceedings and as their asylum claims are adjudicated. In order to house families in detention, the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the heads of other agencies are ordered to find or construct facilities. Last, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is ordered to prioritize the adjudication of cases involving detained families.

4. What Challenges are Still Present?

The order does not discuss what will happen to the thousands of children and parents that have already been separated. It also doesn’t force the government to stop separating families. The language saying the DHS will detain “alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources,” creates possible loopholes for DHS to continue separating families. Additionally, the order encourages prosecution of anyone crossing the border illegally and the detention of families, which means detention of children.  

5. How Can You Help?

To help end the separation and detention of families, check out our blog post with tips compiled by local attorneys! Learn more here.


Have You or Someone You Know Been Affected by Separation of Families at the Border?

If you, or someone you know, has been affected by separation of families at the border recently or in the past, we encourage you to contact our office as soon as possible. Our office is located at: 200 University Avenue W., Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103.

We can be reached by phone at: (651) 771-0019.

[1] MS. L V. ICE - MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION, American Civil Liberties Union (Mar. 9, 2018),

[2] Julie Hirschfield Davis, Separated at the Border From Their Parents: In Six Weeks, 1,995 Children, The New York Times (June 15, 2018),  

[3] The Flores Settlement is a 1997 case which required the government keep unaccompanied minors in the least restrictive setting and limit their time in detention. This was later modified to explain that children should not be held in detention for more than 20 days.

How to Help Children and Families Separated at the Border

With recent information breaking about children being held away from their parents at the border, many of us are left asking, "How can I help?" A group of local attorneys has compiled a list of ways you can make in impact.

Scroll to find out ways you can help immigrant children today.

children at the border.jpg

Contact the White House

Contact the White House with the message that separating children from parents at the border is inhumane and unacceptable. Urge the White House to terminate this policy immediately.

Call your Member of Congress

Call your Member of Congress and tell them that you oppose families being separated at the border. Ask them to conduct oversight on CBP, ICE and Health and Human Services (HHS - the agency housing minors) - hearings, write letters to the agencies asking questions.

You can also ask them to have meetings with community members so they know what is going on.  Demand to know where these children are being transported.  Congress tallies who calls about which issues so your repeated calls about this issue will elevate it on their radar.



Tell your friends and family to do the same, especially if they reside in states with strong Republican congressional leadership.

Contact Churches

Contact your churches and urge church leadership to make public pronouncements denouncing this policy and calling on the government to end it

Letter to the Editor

Write a letter to the editor and/or editorial for publication in any newspaper that prints an article about the family separation policy

Peaceful Protest

Get involved in a peaceful protest. For example, there is one happening in Duluth on Wednesday, June 20th.

Make a Donation

Advocates for Human Rights

(runs a 1-800 number for detained mothers being released from custody, provides legal representation to asylum-seekers and children seeking immigration status in the United States):


Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota

(runs a detention hotline for detained immigrants in Minnesota, was able to add two attorneys to their deportation defense capacity because of your donations):


American Civil Liberties Union

Donate to the American Civil Liberties Union to champion federal litigation to prevent the federal government from violating the constitutional rights of anyone in the United States


Child at border.jpg

Make a Donation (continued)

Groups in El Paso/Tornillo that are actively assisting families in the area:


You can help DMRS ( who is providing direct legal services to the immigrant children separated from their families. They need in order of priority:


Volunteer attorneys and people to help coordinate services for these children. If interested, email

Las Americas

You can help Las Americas ( who is providing legal services to the asylum-seeking parents being separated from their families. They need in order of priority:


Volunteer attorneys, contact Linda Rivas <>

Annunciation House

You can help Annunciation House ( which receives immigrants after they are released from ICE custody and provides housing and legal services. They need in order of priority:


There are lots of needs for the house ( but currently they are especially interested in receiving fresh produce.

The Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee

You can help the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee ( which is helping pay immigration bonds to get detained people out and able to reunite with family, avoid bail bond lenders and improve their chances in immigration court.

You can donate to the Fianza Fund at

Al Otro Lado

You can help Al Otro Lado,

Al Otro is bearing witness to asylum-seekers presenting themselves at ports of entry (Tijuana, Mexico) and documenting how Customs & Border Patrol illegally states "there is no asylum anymore" and "we are at capacity" forcing them to wait outside for many days without food, water or shelter. The aim—it seems—is to push asylum-seekers to try to enter without inspection, which then leads to the DOJ criminal misdemeanor prosecutions that the DOJ claims creates "unaccompanied minors".



Advocates for Human Rights needs all types of volunteers, seeing increased caseload of labor trafficking victims and asylum seekers: Click Here to Learn More

Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota needs all types of volunteers: Click Here to Learn More

Additional ideas

An article on what people can do:
"How you can help fight family separation at the border"  

AILA National’s advocacy advisory (i.e., writing members of Congress):
National Advocacy Advisory

AILA’s call for volunteers:
Click here to help


Have More Questions?

Contreras & Metelska, PA is a law firm serving the immigrant community in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area. Because we believe the world should be a more just place, we are here to take on your case with persistence and dedication.

Call today to see how we can help.

Five Facts You Need to Know About Voluntary Departure

Alternative to Deportation: 
Voluntary Departure


1. What is voluntary departure?

Voluntary departure occurs when you leave the U.S. on your own using your own money if no form of relief from removal is available to you (such as asylum or cancellation of removal). You must request the immigration judge or the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to grant you voluntary departure.


2. How is voluntary departure different from deportation?

Deportation occurs when DHS removes you from the United States to the country of your citizenship, whether you want to be removed or not, whereas voluntary departure occurs when you receive permission to leave on your own.

Voluntary departure is generally a better option than being removed; however, both an order of deportation and voluntary departure have consequences on your ability to return to the U.S.


3. What are the consequences of being deported versus taking voluntary departure?

Consequences of being deported if you were arrested AT arrival to the U.S.

There are different consequences depending on if the DHS arrested you at your arrival in the U.S. or after your arrival in the U.S.

If DHS arrested you at a land border checkpoint as you were trying to enter the United States, or at an international airport or seaport, and you are removed from the United States, you cannot return to the United States for the following time periods without advanced consent from DHS:

  • If this is your first removal: you cannot return for 5 years.
  • If you have been removed in the past: you cannot return for 20 years.
  • If you have been convicted of an aggravated felony: you are barred from ever returning.


Consequences of being deported if you were arrested AFTER arrival in the U.S.

If DHS arrested you inside the United States after you entered the country and you are removed, there are different time periods in which you cannot lawfully return to the United States unless you get advance consent from DHS:

  • If this is your first removal: you cannot return for 10 years.
  • If you have been removed in the past: you cannot return 20 years.
  • If you have been convicted of an aggravated felony: you are barred from ever returning.


Consequences of Leaving the U.S. under Voluntary Departure After Living in the U.S. Unlawfully for More than 180 Days But Less than One Year

You cannot return lawfully to the United States for three years without the advance consent of DHS if:

  • You have been continuously in the U.S. unlawfully for more than 180 days but less than a year and;
  • You get voluntary departure from DHS or you leave voluntarily on your own and;
  • Your voluntary departure happens before you receive the paper with your charges called a “Notice to Appear” and before your court hearings with the Immigration Judge. Note: if you have been in the U.S. unlawfully for over 180 days but less than a year and you get voluntary departure from the judge, this three year bar to returning to the U.S. does not apply.


Consequences of Leaving the U.S. Under Voluntary Departure After Living in the U.S. Unlawfully For One Year or More

You cannot return to the United States lawfully for ten years if:

  • You leave under an order of voluntary departure from either DHS or the Judge or you leave voluntarily on your own; and
  • Your departure happens prior to being placed in immigration proceedings or while in immigration proceedings; and
  • You have been in the United States continuously for 1 year or more unlawfully.


4. Can anyone ask for voluntary departure?

No. Not everyone qualifies. If DHS has charged you as an aggravated felon and the Immigration Judge agrees that the charge is correct, you will not be eligible to apply for voluntary departure.


5. How can I ask for voluntary departure and who can I ask?

You do not need to submit any papers or forms to request voluntary departure. Before you even see a judge, you can request voluntary departure from DHS. You may also request voluntary departure at your hearing before the judge.


Who will pay for my flight back?

If you are granted voluntary departure you must pay for your own flight back to your country of citizenship.


Have more questions?

Call our office to schedule a consult with one of our experienced attorneys. Our office is located at: 200 University Avenue W., Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103. We can be reached by phone at: (651) 771-0019.

The First Step to a U Visa: The Certification

If you have been the victim of a crime in the United States, it is possible that you may be eligible to apply for a U Visa. A U Visa can allow temporary immigration status including a work permit, temporary immigration status for qualifying family members of the victim and/or permanent resident status in the United States.

The first step to applying for a U Visa is to a get a U Visa Certification.
Below are five tips for getting the U Visa Certification signed.


1. Does the Victim of Any Crime Qualify?  

No. In order to get a U Visa certification signed, the person must have been the victim of a qualifying crime. Currently, some of the qualifying crimes include: domestic violence, felonious assault, kidnapping, rape, and sexual assault. These are just some of the qualifying crimes, so it is important to speak with a lawyer to see if your situation qualifies. 


2. What if I Was the Victim of a Crime A Long Time Ago?

There is no requirement that a person need to have been the victim of a crime recently. As long as the person was the victim of a qualifying crime, there’s a police report relating to the incident, and the victim was helpful or willing to be helpful, the person is likely eligible.


3. What if I Did Not Report the Crime to the Police?  

To be eligible for a U Visa Certification, the crime must have been reported. If the crime has not been reported, it is still possible to report the crime after it happened. You should consult with an attorney on whether this is a good idea for your particular situation.


4. Who Signs the U Visa Certification?

The following law enforcement authorities are eligible to sign the U Visa Certification:

  • Any Federal, state, or local law enforcement authority (including prosecutors and judges) that has responsibility for the detection, investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of qualifying criminal activity.
  • If more than one qualifying law enforcement authority is involved in the case, any of them may complete the certification.
  • Law enforcement authorities with criminal investigative jurisdiction such as child protective services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor may also complete the certification.


5. What Does the Certifier Look for When Deciding Whether or Not to Sign?  

Factors a certified may look to when deciding to sign may be: is the person a victim of a qualifying crime or criminal activity; do they have information about the crime or criminal activity; and are or were they likely to be helpful in the detection or investigation of the qualifying crime or criminal activity, or the prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of the perpetrator.


Have More Questions?

Schedule a consult at our office to discover if you may be eligible, and to begin the U Visa Certification process. Our office is located at: 200 University Avenue W., Suite 200, St. Paul, MN 55103. We can be reached by phone at: (651) 771-0019.

Here Comes the Bride/Groom, Marriage in Minnesota Approved by ICE

Did you know that it is possible to marry your partner while he/she is in ICE detention in Minnesota?  The detainee, his attorney, or someone acting on his behalf can request permission from ICE to marry. ICE can approve or deny the request. ICE will look at the individual facts of each request before deciding whether to approve or deny a request.

Marriage Blog.png

How can a detainee make a request to marry?

The person acting on behalf of the detainee can make a request by either dropping off the request to 1 Federal Drive, Suite 1850, Fort Snelling, MN 55111 or faxing it to (612) 843-8771. The request must be in writing and should be addressed to Officer Eric O'Denius.


What should the request state?

The request must: (1) specifically express that the detainee is legally eligible to be married in the state where the detainee is being held; and (2) include the intended spouse’s written affirmation of his/her intent to marry the detainee. The request should also include a copy of a valid marriage license from the State of Minnesota. Each county may have different rules for obtaining a marriage license.  There are specific rules one must follow for individuals with a criminal history.


Who will pay for expenses relating to the marriage?

The detainee or person acting on his/her behalf must bear the expenses of the wedding. ICE will not pay for any costs, such as the costs of obtaining a marriage license or the cost of hiring an official to perform the marriage.


Will ICE provide an official to perform the wedding?

No. The detainee, his attorney, or someone acting on behalf of the detainee will have to arrange for an official to perform the wedding.


Where can the wedding take place?

In most cases, the marriage will occur at,

1 Federal Drive,
Suite 1850,
Fort Snelling, MN 55111


Who can come to the wedding?

At the discretion of the Field Office Director, Peter Berg, the following individuals can be present: two witnesses, an officiant, the attorney, and the interpreter.


What can be brought to the wedding?

A valid marriage license, identification, and a ring for the non-detained partner. Anything given to the detainee will be taken from him/her and stored in their property.


Can we videotape the wedding and take pictures?

No videotaping is allowed. At the discretion of the Field Office Director, one photograph is allowed.  


Can I kiss my partner at any point?

At the discretion of the ICE officer, the couple may be allowed one kiss.


Can my detained partner and I choose the date of the wedding?

No. Once the request is sent to the Field Office Director, the date is coordinated with the ICE officer.


My detained partner’s request to marry was denied. What can we do?

The person acting on behalf of the detainee can request the Field Office Director to reconsider the denial of the request to marry. 


The 10 Things You Need to Know about Paying Bond in Minnesota

You or someone you know has been granted a bond – congrats!  It can be important to get the detained person out of immigration detention as quickly as possible. However, figuring out how to actually pay the bond can be difficult. Below are answers to commonly asked questions regarding how to pay an immigration bond, specifically in Minnesota.

1. Who Can Pay the Bond?

In order to pay a bond, the person must be a Lawful Permanent Resident or U.S. citizen. It’s recommended that they speak English in order to read the bond contract. 

2. Can Someone Help Me Pay the Bond?

There are various companies that assist people in paying a bond, and likely charge a fee for this service. It is important to understand the terms of the agreement with any bond company you may choose to hire. A local example is as follows:

Federal Immigration Bonding
612-388-1356 (Twin Cities)

3. Where Do I Pay?

The address to pay a bond in Minnesota is as follows:

Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Bldg.,
1 Federal Drive, Suite 1601
Fort Snelling, MN 55111

The office is open Monday to Friday.

4. When Can I Pay?

Currently, the bond office is open from 7:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. It’s recommended to get to the office as early as you can, because the process of paying a bond can take 2-3 hours, sometimes even longer.  

5. How Can I Pay?

Bonds must be paid with either a money order from a U.S. post office or a cashier’s check. The money order or cashier’s check should be made payable to: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

You cannot pay with a personal check or money order that is not from a U.S. post office. The payor will need to know the detained person’s full name, as well as their Alien (“A”) Number.

6. What Should I Bring?

In addition to bringing the payment, the person paying must bring a valid form of government-issued identification, as well as their social security card.  The person paying must also know the address of where the person detained will live after release.

7. Where Does the Detained Person Get Released?

When the bond is paid and processed, if the person is at a local jail (Sherburne, Carver, Freeborn), they will go to the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building in Fort Snelling, MN to be released. They will be released in the same building that you pay the bond. If the person is not at a local jail, you will need to communicate with Immigration to figure out where the detained person will be released.

8. Who Can Pick the Detained Person Up?

Because the detained person will be released at Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building, which is a federal building and requires government-issued identification for entrance, it is advised that only people with lawful status pick up the detained person.

9. What Should Be My Next Step? 

The payor, as well as the person to be released, must follow instructions from the immigration officer instructions. The person to be released may be required to do ISAP (a form of electronic monitoring).

10. See How We Can Help!

Come see our office to discover possible immigration options going forward, or with any questions other you may have.


Inclusive in Every Way

An excerpt from Mayor Jacob Frey's
2018 State of the City Address

When Blas was fifteen-years-old, his parents returned to Mexico. Before they left, they asked then-officer Giovanni Veliz to look out for their son. Lieutenant Veliz did more than that. He mentored Blas and made sure that he finished his education at Washburn High. He stepped up, the way good neighbors do, and helped a young man who needed it. Lieutenant Veliz made sure Blas felt a part of the community … that he was included.

“An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation,” wrote civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson. “Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others.”

Lieutenant Veliz demonstrated the type of compassion that our city must be defined by – precisely at this moment in time, so blatantly tarred by a lack of compassion in our national politics.

New Americans are not simply residents in the City of Minneapolis. They are our brothers and sisters. They are our shopkeepers, workers, CEOs, and artists. For many of us, they are the loves of our life. Our entire society and everything we believe rests on standing up for them right now. They matter. They count. But the Trump Administration (and I promise that’s the only time you’ll hear the name) insists on pretending they don’t.

Not since 1950 has a citizenship question appeared on the U.S. Census. In 2020 it appears that it will be asked again. That’s because the citizenship question flies in the face of the Constitution and is indeed an extension of concerted, racist efforts to take power away from welcoming communities like ours. And getting the Census right is about getting government right. An accurate count lays the foundation for a strong and healthy democracy. Cities also depend on census data for delivering good services that help improve people’s lives.

Here in Minnesota over $1,500 per person is allocated by the federal government each year. That money goes toward everything from housing to healthcare. Through our Census 2020 Initiative, the City is partnering with trusted nonprofit and diverse community leaders to help fight back against intimidation and fear, and keep our participation in the Census strong. Council Vice-President Andrea Jenkins along with Council Members Alondra Cano and Abdi Warsame are helping spearhead that work, and I trust that these efforts will only gain momentum as we make our way toward 2020.

Immigrants and new Americans have rights. We need to make sure they know what those rights are. Sworn officers throughout the United States are required to plainly state the rights provided to those being detained in the form of Miranda. I believe that those who are undocumented should be aware of their rights with the same level of clarity. That’s why today we are announcing that Minneapolis police cars will soon be outfitted with language from our City Attorney’s Office outlining those rights. We will be installing placards with language – in both English and Spanish – detailing a person’s rights as far as they relate to ICE. We will not let the lack of compassion demonstrated at the highest levels of our government prevent us from doing right by our immigrant community.

So I’m committed to partnering with my colleagues on the Council to implement a Municipal ID – one that would benefit and help protect Minneapolis’ immigrant, trans, and non-gender conforming communities. We need everyone in our city to feel safe, valued, and loved – and to have the tools they need to succeed.

*To read the full State of the City Address, click here

Don't Fall for Scam Calls & Emails Posing as IRS

Types of Scams

Scammers and cyberthieves continue to use the IRS as bait. The most common tax scams are phone calls and emails from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. Scammers use the IRS name, logo, fake employee names and badge numbers to try to steal money and identities from taxpayers.

Taxpayers need to be wary of phone calls or automated messages from someone who claims to be from the IRS. Often, these criminals will say taxpayers owe money and demand payment right away. Other times, scammers will lie to taxpayers and say they’re due a refund. The thieves ask for bank account information over the phone. The IRS warns taxpayers not to fall for these scams.

Below are several tips that will help filers avoid becoming a scam victim.


IRS employees will not:

  • Call demanding an immediate payment. The IRS won’t call taxpayers if they owe taxes without first sending a bill in the mail.
  • Demand payment without allowing taxpayers to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Demand that taxpayers pay their taxes in a specific way, such as with a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to contact local police or similar agencies to arrest taxpayers for non-payment of taxes.
  • Threaten legal action, such as a lawsuit.

If taxpayers don’t owe or don’t think they owe any tax, and they receive an inquiry like this, they should:

  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident.
  • Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your report.

In most cases, an IRS phishing scam is an unsolicited, fake email that claims to come from the IRS. Some emails link to sham websites that look real. The scammers’ goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. If the thieves get what they’re after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and identity.


What to Do If You Receive a Phishing Email

For those taxpayers who get a phishing email, the IRS offers this advice:

  • Don’t reply to the message.
  • Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
  • Forward the email to Then delete it.
  • Don’t open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.

More information:
Report Phishing

Share this tip on social media -- #IRSTaxTip: Don’t Fall for Scam Calls and Emails Posing as IRS.