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Am I Legal When Immigration Courts Are Shutting Down?

In this video, immigration attorney, Andres Mejer, explains how the shut downs in the US are impacting immigration. This includes information about people who have gotten a visa overseas, those whose visas might be expiring here in the US, and more

Transcript (Transcripción):

Andres Mejer Welcome to the English version for Para Ser Legal to be legal. Today, we’re continuing our coverage of current virus, but specifically what happens if you have a visa to come into United States? But now you can’t get here. What happens if you are here but now you can’t go back home? What if you’re here and the U.S. government wants to deport you, but your court date? Well, the courts are closed. What if you have an appointment with immigration and now you can’t get there because you’re not feeling well or the office is closed?

Andres Mejer So welcome to Para Ser Legal. My name is Andrés Mejer. Please subscribe to a channel tune in every week. Share this with your friends. We do our best to keep you guys informed if you’re interested in immigration. This is the place to be. What if you have a visa to come to United States? You’ve been working on this for a year now. You spent a fortune or your employer has, you know, you started the process. It got approved. You got it. You got an interview to go to the embassy and all of a sudden embassies closed. What do you do now? You don’t know if it’s close. Well, let me tell you, it’s close. Guaranteed. Department of State has suspended routine of visa service to all US embassies and consulates as of March 20th, 2020.

Andres Mejer Yes, we’re in 2020. Now, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency visa services. See the website for the embassy or consulate. For more information. If you’re a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, the embassy or consulate is still available for you. In particular, if you are a U.S. citizen now, if you paid a fee for an appointment that has been canceled. Don’t worry about it.  It’ll still be valid for a year. Make sure you’re in touch with the embassy or the consulate so you don’t lose the time and money spent. They will send you a new date. Obviously, don’t take a chance. Be in touch with them. Email them, call them, pester them. It is what it is. They are very difficult to get a hold up. If you have an attorney, contact him or her. Let them worry about it because it really is a pain in the butt. If you send an email, I say please don’t have that me for two weeks. Well, you may want to contact before then. You may not want to wait. You will get a new date on it is for Express. You know, it’s these are unusual circumstances. Problems happen, but it isn’t like you cancel date. They agreed and then they denied you for not showing up. That has happened. Just document everything you do. Keep a copy of everything just in case.

Andres Mejer What happens if you’re ready in the United States with a visa. But now you can’t get back to your country. So if you came with a visa waiver on their visa waiver program or you applied for ESTA, you and you entered the US through either JFK or Newark Airport, but now you can’t leave because of the coronavirus.

Andres Mejer So understand the circumstance that we’re talking about. Visa waiver. So we’re talking about a situation where you’re a citizen of the United Kingdom or Spain, Germany, France, Europe. You’re in a particular country where you can enter that states automatically for 90 days just by showing your passport. You need to. It speeds up the process. It makes it easier for you. And you could do certain things electronically. But at the end of the day, you’re a visa waiver country and you have a BWP visa waiver visa. It means you didn’t go and apply for a visa, get approved, get interviewed and came in, no. You present your passport. You came in automatically for 90 days. Well, now you’re supposed to leave. And guess what? Airports closed down. You know, just or there’s no flights out or your country is quarantined and you can’t fly in for whatever the reason you’re 90 days is coming up and you’re still here. What do you do? You contact deferred inspection office at JFK. Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and you request what’s called satisfactory departure.

Andres Mejer It’s good for 30 days. The number to call is 7 1 8 years. yes it’s Brooklyn 7 1 8 5 5 3 3 6 8 3. That number against 7 1 8 5 5 3 3 6 8 3. At the moment, only these two airports have confirmed they will adjudicate these requests. I would call them first and ask them what to do even if you entered from a different airport. That’s what I would do. Alternatively, you can call. You can contact the effort that you entered and you can ask them for the deferred inspection unit from USCCB, Peace and Peace, Customs, Border Patrol. I still would call JFK, but. That’s just me. I know them more. I mean, the I mean, the area if I’m in Los Angeles, I would know. I don’t have any contacts over there firsthand from experience, but I’m sure they would be helpful. Well, I know if anybody’s being helpful in these times, but I would like to say I would like to think that these can be understanding. So here’s what’s going to happen. You call them. They’re gonna ask you for your name, your date of birth, your passport number. You may also need to have your original departure itinerary. Remember when you came in, you came in with a round trip ticket. You left England, you came to the U.S. on February 12th. You were expected to leave on April 1st. That was your that’s your itinerary that you had a return ticket. Well, now we’re approaching April 1st and everything is closed What do you do? This is what you’re doing. And that’s a situation that we’re talking about. So you can request satisfactory departure if you have to leave within 14 days from when you contact the department. If you entered on March 20th and you’re scheduled to leave in June, don’t call them on March 24th.

Andres Mejer Wait. A lot can happen. So, yes, you need to be. You need to be about to depart two weeks before now if your period haven’t mission has already expired. Mean they gave you nine days and you already past those 90 days. Your case is going to be decided on a case by case basis. Basically, you have to be reasonable. You know, how long is the closure going to last if it last three months? Well, then we understand why you might be three months late. Because if you’re supposed to call and leave within 14 days, how do you do that? If you still don’t have you can’t get a ticket for departure? It’s kind of a catch 22. This is really an unusual situation. Just be reasonable. Any questions? You can always give us a call. We’re here for you now.

Andres Mejer What happens if you’re in the United States and you’re applying for a change of status or you’re applying to extend a status because the Corona virus, let’s say you were here as a tourist. I’m sorry, you here as a student. And now all of a sudden school is closed. What happened to your visa? Well, so you don’t want to take a chance and you can’t go back. So you file to change to a tourist or your extending you’re going from a J-1 to a tourist or you’re going from H1B to some H2B to something else. There’s a lot of potential circumstances here. But for simplicity’s sake, you want to change your status or you want to extend your status. What do you do? Well, you need to document the efforts that you made to leave on time. So provide a copy of your original travel itinerary. And what kept you from leaving on time?

Andres Mejer Well, you know, the airport closed down my flight, contacting me, canceling my flight and advising me that there are no flights available. Well, what were those e-mails? What was those correspondence? What was the text messages? What dates were you supposed to leave? A printout from the airport Web site or the USCIS Web site or the travel up the airline showing you that they were closed. That’s proof you need to show extraordinary circumstance, the fact that the airports are closed and flights are canceled. We’ll meet that standard. But you’ll need to show that you acted reasonably and promptly after the emergency ended. If the emergency ends on April 1st and you know you don’t do anything until September, you’re going to have a hard time showing that you were reasonable. Now, if you were sick and you were in a coma, you were in a hospital, go to three months. That is perfectly understandable. Again, what’s reasonable under the circumstances that you experienced? You just need to show that you were diligent. Let’s go back to the situation where you were a student. Let’s say you came here with financial aid. You came here with a scholarship. Everything was paid for. You didn’t have to go through anything out of pocket. And let’s say your family, you don’t come from a family of needs. Now you’re here. Airport’s closed. You can’t go back home. The school is closed for the remainder of the year. Remember the school where your housing was paid, your food was paid and you had limited employment, so you had some income. Now the school closes at U.S. All of that. What do you do? That’s a pretty severe economic hardship. You can apply for employment authorization because of unforeseen circumstances.

Andres Mejer For example, loss of financial aid or on campus employment. That’s the example I just gave you. Another one is substantial change in currency value.

Andres Mejer Let’s say you had money and it was in pesos. And now it used to be 19 passes to the dollar. But today it’s forty nine pencils to the dollar. That’s a huge difference. If if yesterday you had one hundred dollars, today you got 30. Holy crap. As for employment authorization or another example, substantial increase in tuition or living costs? Well, everything’s paid for on campus. But schools closed and they can’t you can’t stay there. Now you have to pay your own living expenses. Unexpected changes in financial support from your source of support.

Andres Mejer So imagine you’re a student. Your parents are supporting you and they live in Italy or China. They’re now not working. Their resources are gone to crap. The stock market is try’s has crashed. So maybe the value of their finances has completely changed. They can’t support you now. Me and you’re stuck here. That’s an unexpected change. Maybe you have medical bills or other substantial and unexpected expense. It needs to be reasonable. It needs to make sense. It can just be. Hey, I on work watterson’s. No, it’s I need work authorization because of the following things that I could not have anticipated. I couldn’t have expected that I would be kicked out of school, that the campus would close, that I wouldn’t have my financial aid, I wouldn’t have my job, and I wouldn’t have any way to go back for my country, to my parents, to my home where I could be taken care of because I can’t board a plane because the airport’s closed. I never thought that that would happen. Who could have thought that that would happen? I just got back from spring break and all of a sudden I’m stuck here. I you know, I’ve worked for months to save, to fly back. How am I going to pay to fly back? And the day I arrived or a week later, whatever it is, again, it has to be substantial and it has to be unexpected.

Andres Mejer What to do if you’re in deportation proceedings for tropes of the conversation? We’re talking about someone who was who was in proceedings and not presently detained, because if you’re detained, the courts are still open for anybody else. Most courts are closed until April 10th. I say most because not all of them are close. I know it’s ridiculous. And maybe by tomorrow they’ll all close. But so far, the list of immigration courts that closed nationwide now include Atlanta, West Peachtree, Charlotte, Houston, south guest and a road. Louisville, Memphis. New York City. The Broadway office. New York City. Federal Plaza. And Newark. Sacramento and Los Angeles. Olive Street. Immigration Court. So all of those are presently closed until April 10th. But this changes every day. So please call your attorney. For Paul, the automated system. It’s in English and Spanish. Just dial 1 800 8 9 8 7 1 8 0 toll free. That number again is 1 800 8 9 8 7 1 8 0. You can call the number to obtain case status information 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Andres Mejer What kind of information? Remember, it’s an automated system. You’re talking to a lay person and sometimes you can have to call multiple times because there are errors. There are issues. It’s an old system. It’s not new. And, well, it’s not always going very well maintained.

Andres Mejer So what information can you find your next hearing date, time and location? Now, understand, if you have a date during the time that it’s closed, it’s not going to show you the next one that will be updated once the port reopens. So don’t be surprised if you had a court date and now all of a sudden it says that you have no court date. It doesn’t mean your deportation is over. No. It just means you will have a court date.

Andres Mejer You can also find the immigration judge’s decision, outcome and date. Assuming Wade decision would mean you had a trial and maybe you lost or maybe a judge ordered your deportation, you had no idea. For whatever reason, if there was a decision, it’ll tell you there and it will give you any appellate information, assuming it hadn’t passed. So how do you access the information again? The number is 1 800 8 9 8 7 1 8 0 U.S. The a number begins with the letter 8. And it’s followed by eight or nine digit number. This number is ICE. All the department of homeland security and EOIR documents. That’s basically if you have an immigration document, it will have your A number on it. Check to see if your court is open. If it’s closed, you will get rescheduled in the mail. If you don’t have a court date, check each week until you do. That way you don’t miss anything. If you move, make sure or if you have. You’re supposed to fill out a form within five days of moving and notify the court of your new address. It’s form e o i r 33. Oh, I ask asked for executive office immigration review. So EOIR 33. Is the form you need to fill out to change your address.

Andres Mejer You’ve got to do a duplicate one you sent to the court, the other one you sent to the government’s attorney. It’s called the Office of Chief Counsel. Use this time to get a good immigration attorney. If you have counsel and you’re not happy with him or her, well, you can get a second opinion. Hopefully you are happy with him or her. Hopefully here she is doing a good job and is important to you. What’s going on? If you don’t have an attorney, what are you waiting for? You know, deep, deep. You have a I think results show more than 12 times approval rate with an attorney than without, some ridiculous number. Point is, no attorney, your chance of success is law with an attorney. You have a much higher success. But obviously there’s a difference between them, between attorneys. Not all attorneys are created equally.

Andres Mejer What to do if you have an appointee with immigration? So as of March 18th, USCIS has stopped in-person services at least until April 1st. Listen, folks, something’s opened up April 6. Something’s opened up April 10, something’s opened up April 1st. I don’t know that anything is going to open up right now. The way things are, you know, again, last Monday, we had 4000 cases this week, were at 45000 cases today and climbing. If by next week at one hundred thousand or some crazy number like that, I don’t see the torts or the agency’s reopening yet. I don’t see that happening. What’s the justification? How can you say we’re safe? No one’s getting sick when the numbers keep from going up and everybody, you know, is getting sick.

Andres Mejer I know we’ve heard that there was judges in new work that were exposed to a government attorney has tested positive for the Corona virus. There’s conversation that there’s certain DHS individuals that have also have tested positive. So. It remains to be seen what will happen, but the information that we have is following March 18th and until April 1st, USCIS will continue to perform duties that don’t involved in contact with the public. So if you filed an application, they will review it. You know, they’re looking for ways to find that you lied to you in. They’re trying to put you in deportation proceedings. All that stuff is going to happen now. They’re just not going to meet with you. An interview now yet. So USCIS will provide emergency services for limited situations. You need to contact your local USCIS office to find out how they can help you.

Andres Mejer It’s USCIS DOT GOV Backslash Contact Center. Go to that Web site and you will it it lists all of the field offices for USCIS. Find the one that’s closest to you. If you’re in New Jersey or New York area, you have choices. But if you’re in the middle of the country, in mid mid-west, you know, you may not even have an office in your state. So check before you go, because it may not be an hour’s drive. It may be a four or five or six hour drive. Check first if you have an appointment. During the closure, you will be automatically reschedule. Now, it could be a fingerprint appointment. It could be Green Card appointment. Naturalization asylum oath or ceremony for citizenship. Could be any one of those. You should get a new notice in the mail. But hey, government screws up way too often for my taste. I’m sure in 95 percent of situations they do a good job, but you don’t want to be one of those 5 percent. So because the government makes mistakes. Look at the notice that they said you at the bottom portion. It includes instructions for how to request your appointment being reschedule. I would follow those instructions and I would request a new date even though USCIS is closed. Don’t wait for them to notify you. You make the request. This protects you, but made sure you filed the request before this scheduled appointment or immediately thereafter. Let’s say you could say this and I was waiting to see if you reopen. It was for April 2nd. You said you’re going to reopen April 1st. You didn’t reopen April 1st. So on April 2nd, I sent you the request to God and afterwards. Okay, that makes sense. Now, if you had an appointment on March 24th. Don’t send your request for a new date in September. Not rational. Does it make sense? You waited too long. The point is to protect you because immigration makes mistakes. So keep a copy of your record. I have seen situations where filed documents requesting the germy because travel arrangements form for it for my client. The supervisor agrees says yes, we have a stand ready to reschedule and all of a sudden you get a notice in the mail. You failed to appear. Or how about they request more information? You provide the information, but then they deny your case for not having responded, even though you have proof that you did respond and you responded timely.

Andres Mejer Mistakes happen. It’s a reality. So we at Andres Mejer Law We prepare for the worst, but we hope for the best. So we work very hard to protect our clients. That’s what I’m suggesting that you do. This is what I would do if I was representing you. If you’re feeling sick, don’t take any chances. Even if USCIS has reopened, make a request for an adjournment explaining your symptoms and why you can’t make it since better safe than sorry.

Andres Mejer What if you don’t know your immigration status? What do you do? Well, we can help you. We are still open on a limited basis. Give us a call. Let’s talk about your individual case. Don’t wait until you find yourself in ICE custody. Guess ISIS still working. They don’t read it. They don’t stop. So even though people are sick, I assume they will be, you know, curtailing their hair removal process. They say that they are. But at the same token, they say that did not say Trump. On Monday, they say one thing. On Tuesday, say something else. You’re like, wait, what were you were you being honest on Monday or being honest on Tuesday? Who knows? So that’s the situation we find ourselves. It would be nice if you would be humane. You would think. ICE would not be going out round people up and then putting them in a detention center where they can get sick. I would think I would hope ICE isn’t doing that. So don’t wait until you find yourself in ICE custody. Find out your options to day.

Andres Mejer Thank you very much. Please subscribe to our channel. Share it with your friends and family. If you’re interested in integration, let others know because we believe that an informed client is the best client. And we work. really hard to make sure you get the best available information. Stay tuned. Until next time.