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Office Happenings

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Seventh Circuit Addresses Section 13 Adjustment of Status and Material Support to a Terrorist Group

The Seventh Circuit has determined that review of a section 13 adjustment of status application - available to certain foreign officials performing diplomatic and semi-diplomatic duties - is exclusively with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  As such, the denial of such an application is reviewable only by the Administrative Appeals Office, and not the Board of Immigration Appeals.  The court also determined that providing interpretation services to the leader of a terrorist organization constitutes the provision of material support to that organization.

The full text of Jabateh v. Lynch can be found here:

http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Submit=Display&Path=Y2017/D01-05/C:16-1112:J:Bauer:aut:T:fnOp:N:1890317:S:0

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Return to Tijuana

On Friday, I drove to Tijuana with several colleagues to volunteer at a migrant shelter.  We did consultations with families and individuals.  Some have been deported in the past, some are fleeing persecution and seeking entry to the United States for the first time.  For many who were planning to turn themselves in at the border to request asylum, I had to explain the likelihood that they could be detained for months or years in an immigration detention center.  Their courage was inspiring - so committed were they to making their plea to the U.S. government for safety and asylum, that they were prepared to endure the hardship of detention.  It was my honor to have been a part of this wonderful group of volunteers.

 

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Dilley Blog - Day 4

I am learning new and unexpected skills during my time in Dilley.  For example, today I drafted my first civil rights complaint, to be filed with the Department of Homeland Security.  Tomorrow I will begin outlining requests for re-interviews for women who were found to not have a credible fear of persecution during their initial interviews with the Asylum Office, but who were later identified by lawyers as having viable asylum claims.  The goal is for experienced asylum attorneys to outline the legal and factual arguments ("mentor outlines") supporting the asylum claim, and for newer attorneys and law students to turn those outlines into formal requests for re-interviews.  I'll be drafting the first mentor outlines tomorrow, which will hopefully serve as a template for the remote teams working on these requests.  As my time in Dilley draws to a close, I am sad to realize that family detention exists, and is likely to continue existing into the foreseeable future. But I'm also hopeful that the members of the CARA Pro Bono Project and the volunteers who come to Dilley each week will fight back against this injustice, and will assist these women and children - who have already suffered horrendous and unspeakable violence - to apply for the protection that they so desperately need.

 

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Dilley Blog - Day 3

The prevalence of gender-based violence in Central America is beyond shocking.  What is even more shocking is the acceptability of this violence.  The number of women we interview who believe that domestic violence and sexual assault is normal is staggering.  Many do not even think to tell the asylum officers conducting their credible fear interviews about this widespread violence, committed with impunity.  I only hope that the work we do will help some of these women to find a better, safer life.

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Dilley Blog Day 2

Today was my second day volunteering in the detention center.  I accompanied a client to her re-interview with the asylum office.  The asylum office had originally found that she did not have a credible fear of persecution or torture, and an Immigration Judge affirmed that finding.  After her interview, she learned of new threats to her safety in her home country from her family.  As a result, the asylum office agreed to interview her again, and to consider this new information.  It was an emotional experience.  My client was traumatized by her experiences, and her young child cried when she left him to attend the interview.  It's heartbreaking to watch the children in the detention center suffer, but it was reassuring to observe the professional and compassionate manner in which our asylum officer conducted the interview.  Though I firmly believe that a detention center is not an appropriate place for children and that the concept of family detention is inherently unjust, I have hope that the hard work of volunteers and the compassion of some government officials can still bring about a just result for these women and their children.

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Dilley Blog Day 1 - Advocating for Vulnerable Mothers and Children

I am spending one week volunteering with mothers and children who are being held in an immigration detention center while they seek asylum.  Today was my first day on the ground in Dilley, Texas.  I met with several mothers who are at different stages of their proceedings.  I found myself remarkably frustrated at how poorly gender-based asylum claims have progressed.  While the law recognizes domestic violence claims, threats of sexual assault from non-relatives, absent other factors, are often insufficient to make out an asylum claim.  Women seeking such horrifying harm should qualify for protection under our asylum laws.  

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AILA Conference - Friday and Saturday

The last two days of the AILA conference were as educational and informative as the first two days.  On Friday, I attended sessions on employment-based immigration (specifically, how to file successful H-1B for high skilled workers and L-1 petitions for managers, executives, and employees with specialized knowledge).  I also attended the AILA Southern California Chapter reception, giving me a chance to catch up with some of my local colleagues, as well as meet new members of our chapter.  On Saturday, I attended sessions on building a case for extreme hardship in waiver applications, dealing with ethical dilemmas, immigrating the children and spouses of asylees, requesting immigration status for the same-sex partners of LGBT asylees, and litigating Special Immigrant Juvenile status cases in state court and before the immigration agencies for abandoned, abused, and neglected children.  

Another great, informative conference!  I look forward to next year's conference in New Orleans!

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American Immigration Lawyers Association Conference - Thursday

The conference officially kicked off this morning.  Many of the attendees were disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision this morning in United States v. Texas, where a divided court allowed the injunction of President Obama's executive action on immigration to remain in place.  However, I was excited about the Supreme Court's decision in Mathis v. United States, which directly impacted the panel I sat on this afternoon discussing the modified categorical approach.  I also attended panels on the categorical approach and on new case law from the Board of Immigration Appeals and the federal circuit courts.  I'm looking forward to attending some of the conference's social events tonight to see colleagues from around the country.  

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American Immigration Lawyers Association Conference

I arrived in Las Vegas today for the annual American Immigration Lawyers Association conference.  Though the conference officially kicks off tomorrow, there are some very interesting roundtable discussions tonight on federal litigation.  I'm looking forward to brushing up on my habeas and mandamus litigation practice!

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Lobbying Congress for More Sensible and Humane Immigration Laws

On April 7, 2016, I traveled with 350 other immigration attorneys to Washington, DC to meet with our elected representatives and discuss how to repair our broken immigration system.  I participated in three meetings on Capitol Hill, where I urged Congressional staffers to understand the need for more sensible and humane immigration laws.

Here is a link to a video containing interviews with immigration lawyers who participated in National Day of Action.  I am the third person shown on the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4478t1gSN8

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Happy New Year! We've moved!

Our office has moved! Don't worry - we didn't go far - just a few miles into downtown Los Angeles! The new office is located at 811 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1737, Los Angeles, CA 90017.  Come visit soon!

Happy New Year!

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Happy Anniversary!

The Law Office of Sabrina Damast is celebrating an anniversary this week!  One year ago, the office opened its doors.  In the last year, I have had the privilege to represent dozens of clients in all manner of immigration cases, including asylum, waivers, appeals, and employment-based immigration cases.  It has been an amazing year, and I cannot wait to see what Year 2 has in store.  Thank you to all of the clients and families who have put their trust in me to help them navigate the complex world of immigration law.

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AILA Conference 2015

I've been a bit behind in my journal posts because I've been in Maryland for 5 days attending the annual American Immigration Lawyers Association conference.  I had the chance to see old friends, learn about updates in immigration law and practice, and meet new colleagues from all over the world.  It was a fantastic opportunity to brainstorm cases with colleagues.  I had a fantastic amount of fun, but I now face the task of catching up on at least half a dozen cases that came out while I was gone.

Stay tuned for some updates!

 

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We're Expanding!

I'm pleased to announce that as of May 26, 2015, I have been admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.  Our nation's highest court has recently taken a more active interest in immigration law.  As such, I have decided to expand my practice to include writs of certiorari to the Supreme Court.  Drawing on my expertise in immigration law, I hope to give my clients one more opportunity to have their cases heard and to have their rights vindicated.  

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AILA National Day of Action

Yesterday was the American Immigration Lawyers Association National Day of Action. Immigration attorneys from across the country (including me) gathered in Washington, D.C. to meet with their congressional representatives and discuss immigration law and policy.  My Southern California colleagues and I met with aides for more than half a dozen Southern California representatives and both senators from our state.  We spoke to them about the benefits of the pending I-Squared bill (introduced by two Republican senators) which would, among other things, raise the number of H-1B visas available.  We also expressed the concerns that many immigration attorneys have about the ambiguous terminology used in the November 2014 enforcement priority memo and the lack of uniformity in the way the memo has been interpreted.  We discussed the horrors of family detention and the waste of valuable judicial and economic resources that have been expended by classifying unaccompanied minors as an enforcement priority.  One concrete example we discussed several times is that this prioritization has forced the asylum offices to allocate a large number of their interviews to the minors, forcing tens of thousands of other applicants (including 14,000 cases in the Southern California area) to wait in a backlog of unadjudicated applications. 

I was pleased at the interest some of the representatives (both Democrat and Republican) showed in our concerns, and I was interested to hear from the congressional staffers what immigration issues were of greatest interest to them and the representatives and senators for whom they work.  I hope we continue to cultivate these relationships with the local district offices, and perhaps we can again build momentum for immigration reform.

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Return to Tijuana

Yesterday, I returned to Tijuana for my second visit to Casa Del Migrante, a shelter that helps recent deportees with no place to go when they arrive in Mexico.  Along with 25 other attorneys, I helped screen more than 80 people for immigration relief.  Buried among many sad stories of families torn apart and lives turned upside down, we found two potential derivative U.S. citizens, as well several people who likely qualify for U visas or may be eligible for humanitarian parole. The work is heart wrenching - it's impossible to imagine the true consequences of deportation until you sit down with someone and see the tears well up in their eyes as they talk about the relatives still in the United States, desperately trying to find a way to cope with the financial and emotional loss of a loved one.  But despite the emotional toll it can take, it's good work.  These people need to understand their legal status, even if the only advice an attorney can give is that they have to stay outside the United States for an extended period of time (often 10 years) before they can start the process of legally immigrating.  Some of them don't even have that option.  My hat is off to my good friend and colleague, Nora Phillips, who organizes these trips, and who is working on a starting a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing legal assistance to deportees.  There is still much work to be done, and she's leading the crusade to do it.  

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Sabrina Becomes a College Professor..Again!

From time to time I blog about fun experiences I have as an attorney.  Last week, I was a guest lecturer for a Civil Rights course at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.  I gave the students some background information on the current Central American refugee crisis.  We talked about the difficulties that unaccompanied minors face in the court system (especially if they don't have an attorney) and the family detention nightmare.  I showed them youtube clips of attorneys who volunteered their time in Artesia, New Mexico, and we brainstormed how non-lawyers could organize in a meaningful way to help these families.  It was a ton of fun for me, and I hope as much for the students, too!

 

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I'm in the Los Angeles Times!

As I've posted about a couple of times, I've been working with a church group that cares deeply about immigrants' rights.  They are particularly passionate about protecting the rights of child refugees.  The group, called the Guardian Angels, was featured in the Los Angeles Times today.  A picture of me training some of their church volunteers is included with the print copy of the newspaper.  The article is on pages B-1 and B-5 of the LA Times. 

A link to the online article is here: http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-guardian-angels-20150217-story.html

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