Immediate relief is now available to tens of thousands of V2-Visa holders who were wrongfully denied employment authorization and as a result, lost employment and educational opportunities, the right to freely travel and re-enter the United States, obtain a driver’s license, a Social Security card and other benefits that come with proof of legal status.
The Department of Homeland Security under George Bush aggressively sought to roll-back immigration benefits granted by Congress. Reeves & Associates would not accept an illegal interpretation of an issue that many immigration practitioner’s took for granted, that a child who has come to the United States in “V-visa” status would lose his visa at age 21 and be sent home. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal has upheld Reeves position and has declared the age-out provisions invalid and contrary to the law.
The “V-visa” was created by Congress as part of the LIFE Act. Under this Visa program spouses and children under the age of 21 of Legal Permanent Residents are eligible for a V-Visa, if their immigrant visa was filed before December 21, 2000 and they have been waiting over three years for processing by the foreign embassy.
Thousands of wives and children of legal permanent residents are kept separated because they are required to wait for their visa category a wait of well over four years in 2A status. Then they must overcome backlogs and delay at the consulate or embassy. Worse, children who reach the age of 21 “Age-Out” fall into F-2B visa category status resulting in delays of ten years of more.
When the Immigration Service drafted regulations for the V-visa, it inserted a provision, regulation 8 C.F.R. 214.15(g) which stated children who reach the age of 21 lose their V-visa status, their work authorization and are eligible for removal (deportation) or refused re-entry into the United States if they traveled in V-visa status. This would doom many immigrants to ten years or more of separation from their families in F-2b status. USCIS inserted this back-door provision even though the statute specified other grounds for termination. The statute clearly said that loss of the immigrant petition was a legitimate basis for termination, not an increase in age.
Robert Dupont, of Reeves & Associates went to court with three individuals, who had been refused their work authorization. When the Reeves office demanded that the USCIS issue work authorization the service then stated that these three individuals, one from Pakistan and two from the Philippines, were no longer in V-visa status. This was a veiled threat from the USCIS essentially saying, “you are out of status and we can put you into removal proceedings for deportation.” Reeves & Associates would not back down and challenged at the District Court level the regulations used to “age-out” these V-visa holders. When the District Court refused to strike down the regulation, DuPont then took this case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Judge Reinhardt at oral argument chastised the Immigration Service asking “what possible public policy reason” could the service have for bringing immigrants to the United States in the name of family re-unification and then sending them right back home. The Court cited in its decision the words of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy who stated “This would let all immigrants who have a legal right to seek permanent resident status to stay in this country with their family while they await a decision” The Ninth Circuit declared the Service’s regulation to be “illogical” “contrary to Congressional intent” and “frustrate congressional policy”.
With this decision, V-visa holders who have been refused work authorization are entitled to renew their demand for the right to work in V-visa status. Once persons have their work authorization they will be able to In addition any V-visa holders who traveled and were refused entry to the United States are entitled to be admitted to the United States in their V-visa status. Any persons who have been deported due to their no longer being in V-visa status, are entitled to have their case re-opened with the immigration court. Further persons who have left the United States after being told by the USCIS they are no longer in status should be re-admitted to the United States either on their V-visa or with a parole visa.
Reeves & Associates is also exploring the issue of recovery of airline fees and damages to persons unjustly removed from the United States using this code section.
It is gratifying to obtain justice for those persons who have been wrongfully denied immigrant benefits. However the issue of restrictive regulations, or unlawful policies by the Immigration service is not limited to the V-visa. At Reeves we are challenging a number of improper policies and regulations issued by the Service which deny benefits. Currently we are litigating issues dealing with the Child Status Protection Act and the refusal of the Manila and other consulates to re-classify persons in F-1 status back to F-2b status so they can immediately immigrate to the United States. We are also challenging USCIS efforts to “re-open” Las Vegas divorces for persons who are obtaining legal permanent residency based on a subsequent marriage, which will be the subject of an upcoming articles.
It is not enough to know the law and provide guidance to our clients. Reeves & Associates continues to fight for immigrant’s rights in the courts.
By: Attys. Robert L. Reeves and Robert J. Dupont