“Public charge” is a rule that immigration can use to deny an application for permanent residence (“Green card”) OR certain other visas to enter the USA from abroad.

Public charge DOES NOT APPLY TO: U.S. citizens or applicants, asylees or refugees, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, TPS or DACA, VAWA, U or T visas or green cards based on these visas, or green card renewals. The public charge rule considers all of the applicants circumstances such as income, employment, health, education or skills, family situation and the family/sponsor income, and whether a person (not a family member) has used certain public benefit programs.



Do you already have a green card?

Public charge does not apply. But, if you plan to leave the country for more than 6 months, it is a good idea to talk with an immigration attorney. The public charge test is not part of the U.S. citizenship application.


Are you applying for: Citizenship, Green Card renewal, DACA renewal, U or T Visa , Asylum or Refugee status, TPS, VAWA, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, Green Card based on U/T/SIJ, VAWA?

Public charge does not apply to you for these applications. You may use any benefits for which you qualify, now or in the future.


Do you or your family plan to apply for a green card or visa from inside the U.S.?

The new public charge test may apply. You should talk with a qualified immigration lawyer who understands the new rule to see if it applies to you or your family. There are many benefits’ programs that will not affect applications.


Does your family plan to apply for a green card or visa from outside the U.S? States?

U.S. consular offices in other countries use different rules. Before making a decision about your case or about public benefit, talk to a qualified attorney about this.


AS OF OCTOBER 15, 2019: Receipt of these benefits will be considered:

· Cash benefits (SSI, MFIP, General Assistance)

· SNAP/Food stamps/EBT

 · Medicaid with some exceptions

 · Federal public housing/Section 8

AND Immigration officials will more closely look at your other circumstances listed on the front of the brochure.


The New Rule DOES NOT apply to these programs:

**These programs are safe to get if eligible.

 ·  WIC


·  MinnesotaCare

 ·  Medicare

·  Emergency Medical Assistance (EMA)

 ·  Medicaid for children under 21, pregnant women

 ·  Child care

·  Head Start

 ·  Food banks

·  Shelters

·  Energy Assistance

 ·  Unemployment

·  Workers’ Compensation

 ·  Veterans benefits

·  Adoption

 ·  Foster care

·  School meals

 ·  EITC

 ·  Immunizations

 ·  Public health testing/ treatment for communicable diseases


Beginning October 15, 2019, the Government will apply this new rule, but the old rule applies to requests pending or submitted before that date.




With the elections coming up you might be wondering how you can participate and contribute to your cause. It is important to know in which ways you are able to contribute your time during this campaign season.

The federal law has rules and regulations about who can and cannot donate and contribute to political campaigns in the United States on the federal, state, or local level. Only citizens of the United States and Legal Permanent Residents are allowed to donate money to a political party or campaign, as well as work for them.

Unfortunately, even if you have legal status of some sort like DACA, a U-Visa,  or have granted asylum, for example, and wish to donate money or work for compensation for a political campaign, you are not able. This does not mean you can’t help out, you are more than welcome to volunteer for no compensation for whatever campaign you had in mind, you just cannot be compensated or give money to the campaign.

There can be no money to or from a political party or campaign if you are a foreign national. A “foreign national” includes: foreign citizens (not ones that also have U.S citizenship), immigrants who are not lawfully admitted for permanent residence, foreign governments, foreign political parties, foreign corporations, foreign associations, and foreign partnerships.

 If any individual just listed above gives money to or receives money from a political party or campaign they are subject to FEC enforcement action, criminal prosecution, or both as well as the political party or campaign in question. So remember for your safety, unless you are a United States Citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident of the United States, there should never be an exchange of money between you and a political campaign and/or party.

Readers should consult the Federal Election Campaign Act and Commission regulations, advisory opinions, and relevant case law for additional information.


1.      Check online through the ICE Online Detainee Locator System

If your friend of family member detained by ICE is 18 years of age or older, you may be able to find where he or she is detained online at You can either search for the person by entering his/her A-number and country of birth or if you do not know the A-number, you can search using the detained person’s first name, last name, country of birth, and date of birth. ICE policy requires the Online Detainee Locator System to be updated within eight hours of release, removal, or transfer of detainees. Keep in mind that ICE may not have entered the name correctly in the system, in which case it may be difficult to find through the Online Detainee Locator System.

2.      Contact local ICE office where friend or family member was arrested

If you cannot find your friend or family member online, try calling the local ICE office where your friend or family member was arrested.  You can find the address and phone number of ICE offices throughout the United States at the following link:

3.      Call ICE Detention Facilities

If you cannot find your friend or family member online or through the local ICE office, you can try directly calling ICE detention facilities. You can search for ICE detention facilities through the following link:


It is important to know that any unaccompanied minor child who is taken for immigration enforcement purposes anywhere in the U.S. is not kept under the custody of ICE. They are instead held under the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The contact information for the Office of Refugee Resettlement is as follows: (800) 203-7001 and

Immigration Court Roadmap

Road-map to an

Immigration Court’s Decision.


What happens first?

The first hearing in removal proceedings is called a “master calendar hearing,” or “MCH.” The MCH is typically short, lasting about 15 minutes. The issues reviewed, however, are incredibly important

During the initial hearing, you (and the ICE attorney) can address any issues in your case. For example, you could be seeking a relatively minor request to change venue to another court location if you reside somewhere far from the court. You could also make a serious challenge against the initial accusations to try to stop proceedings entirely.

Immigration judges have the authority to “continue” (postpone) proceedings, or reschedule the MCH for a later date, if certain issues need time to resolve. For example, immigration judges are usually willing to allow extra time to pursue legal counsel. In some cases, the respondent might have a pending immigration petition, which might allow relief from the removal proceedings; immigration judges are sometimes willing to allow time for these petitions to complete processing. Your case could be continued for a short time or a very long time, even years.

If your case contains no further initial issues to review, and if you, the ICE lawyer, and the court view your case as ready to proceed, and the court will schedule your individual hearing. You will receive written notice of the date, time, and place of your individual hearing from the court clerk at the end of your master calendar hearing. You could be waiting months or even years for your individual hearing, depending on how busy the court is.


What’s Next? Individual hearings

Individual hearings are what they seem: The court focuses on you, yourr individual case to determine whether you are eligible for any forms of relief from removal and ultimately, whether you will be allowed to stay in the U.S. or not.

Because individual hearings give full attention to a specific case, they typically take much longer than the 15-minute MCH. The immigration court will schedule the individual hearing for a four-hour block, either in the court’s morning or afternoon session. During the hearing, the court will hear testimony and review evidence presented by the respondent and by the government lawyer. Each party is given opportunities to make final legal arguments as to why the respondent should or should not be removed from the United States.

In some cases, the testimony and evidence can take much longer than four hours, and other related issues can pop up that delay proceedings. In such cases, the court is required to continue the individual hearing to a later date. Of course, such a rescheduling is subject to the court’s schedule and to the availability of the participants. If your case requires a large amount of evidence and testimony, your individual hearing might take years to resolve.

Once all of the evidence has been presented, witnesses have testified, and the legal arguments have been made, the immigration judge will decide whether you should be removed from the United States. In most cases, the judge will announce the decision immediately in open court. In rare cases, the judge will choose to continue proceedings in order to craft a written decision. In either case, your hearings will have reached an end. However, this is not necessarily the end.


How do I fight a court’s decision?

Either you, or the government, can challenge an immigration judge’s decision. This can be done through a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider made to the immigration court, or through an appeal directly to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

Motions to reopen a case are generally filed when one or both of the parties to a case have new facts to present that were not previously available but are relevant to the case. A motion to reopen must usually be filed within 90 days of an immigration judge’s final decision, but some exceptions do exist.

Motions to reconsider are sought usually when either party believes that the court interpreted the law incorrectly. Motions to reconsider must usually be filed within 30 days of the court’s decision, but, again, exceptions can apply.

You may also lodge an appeal directly with the BIA, so long as your appeal is filed within 30 days of the court’s decision. The BIA is a body of people within the EOIR that reviews decisions of the immigration courts. Although the BIA is not required to decide appeals within a certain time frame, the BIA strives to issue decisions as efficiently as possible. The BIA states that it generally seeks to adjudicate cases in no more than 180 days.

If you received an unfavorable decision in your case and want to fight on, or if the government seeks to appeal a decision in your favor, you could be facing six months or more of time added to your case. There are also possible routes to appeal BIA decisions through the federal appellate courts, which could add considerable time and expense to your case. Definitely consult an immigration attorney if you are considering the long appeals process.

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.