Shock and surprise: in Baltimore, Maryland, city officials aren’t trying to kick out illegal immigrants; they’re trying to get them to stay. Baltimore has been in decline, both economically and demographically, since the 1970s. Once a pillar of manufacturing in the U.S., especially in steel, Baltimore was ravaged by racial tensions and overseas competition from lower-wage countries. The middle class fled to the suburbs, manufacturing jobs dried up, and the city’s population took a nosedive.
For Baltimore, “the 2010 census was a tipping point. Most cities that grew had Hispanics and, to a lesser degree, Asians to thank. Cities with few immigrants lost political power and federal money as district lines and funding formulas changed to reflect new census numbers.” Seeing the decline, Baltimore’s mayor has been pushing aggressively to attract immigrants by broadening eligibility for social programs, providing more Spanish language services, and barring the city’s police from asking about immigration status.
Baltimore’s Hispanic population has grown, although Hispanics are still a small percentage of the city’s residents (4%). Interestingly, these immigrant-friendly policies are also attracting non-Hispanic immigrants from China, Africa and the Middle East, who are creating a cultural hodgepodge in the city’s neighborhoods.
- “Convenience stores advertise Corona and Modelo beers. Restaurants featuring Mexican and Honduran fare stand beside diners serving up Coney dogs. A storefront church, Jesus de Vida, occupies a building next to the Madina Grocery and Halal Meats, which is run by a Chinese couple.”
For many of America’s cities, which are engaged in a desperate struggle to remain solvent, luring fresh immigrants is an easy to create growth, especially compared to the much higher cost of trying to attract settled residents of other cities. Given that immigration from Mexico has “dwindled to essentially zero”, even this low-hanging fruit is sure to be gone soon.
The Law Office of Amira Al-Alami
There was a very interesting story two years ago that got almost no attention in American society. In a suicidal mission, a 53 year old computer software engineer crashed his private plane into an IRS field office in Austin, Texas. He killed two people and injured a dozen others. Andrew Joseph Stack III was a middle-aged white man who was fantastically ignorant of why taxes exist (for the economically inclined, see Public Goods).
What’s particularly revealing about this incident is that, of the few people who knew of the story, almost none labeled the man a terrorist, despite his use of violence against innocents as a form of political protest. Before him there was of course, Timothy McVeigh, a United States Army veteran and security guard who detonated a truck bomb in front of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. This incident, commonly referred to as the Oklahoma City Bombing, killed 168 people and injured over 800. Why’d he do it? Because he was pissed off about how the Waco fiasco with David Koresh had been handled by the federal government.
As in the case of the recent Colorado shooter, there was an intense focus on the psychology of the individual; why did he do it?
There’s a subtle racism at work here, in which white people must have an understandable motive for employing violence; criminals from minority backgrounds on the other hand, especially Arabs and Muslims, are often assumed to have an innate predisposition towards violence.
The common response I’ve heard to this criticism is that there have been a lot more Arabs and Muslims committing acts of terrorism than white people. I think there’s truth in this, but I would attribute it to historical and political reasons rather than cultural and religious ones. It’s also important to remember that Western (and especially American) violence in the forms of bullets, bombs, grenades, missiles, and drone strikes have directly or indirectly killed a thousand times more civilians in the past decade than any number of terrorist attacks (see Iraq Body Count for example).
There were two very good examples of Americans’ blinkered views towards violence and terrorism last week. Four top officials of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s cabinet were killed by a bomb (or a suicide bomber; it’s unclear right now) at national security headquarters. Regardless of the crimes committed by the victims, assassinating government officials seems to be a pretty obvious act of terrorism. But the reaction in the media was muted, and in some cases, favorable towards the bombing. A few days later, a suicide bomber killed six people on a bus in Bulgaria, an act which was loudly (and correctly) condemned as a terrorist act.
It all strongly suggests that it’s only considered terrorism when it’s done by someone you don’t like, or better yet, by those you don’t care to understand. After all, Islam is the devil’s playground…..or is it an idle mind? I simply can’t recall.
The Law Office of Amira Al-Alami
“After consulting with an immigration attorney who did not give me much hope, a friend of mine recommended that I speak to attorney, Amira Al-Alami. My friend spoke very highly about her and assured me that she would be able to help me with my immigration case.
When I went to her law office, Amira’s staff treated me very well, and when I spoke with her personally, she made me feel confident that I was in the right hands. I knew that my case was not going to be easy to resolve since my wife and I had been previously caught trying to enter the United States illegally. Additionally, I have a criminal record, and that alone made me extremely worried that one wrong decision could land me in removal proceedings. Not wanting to take any chances, Amira requested both my wife’s and my immigration history from USCIS before filing anything on our behalves. From that point on, we felt like Amira and her staff took my wife and I by the hand until we obtained our greencards.
The day of our adjustment of status interviews I felt extremely nervous. I remember looking at my attorney and hearing her say, ‘everything is going to be just fine.’ When the officer informed us that our greencards had been approved, I felt like the happiest man in the world. All of this is thanks to my attorney, Amira Al-Alami.
After being outside of Mexico for so many years, I was finally able to return to see my parents. Upon returning to the U.S. I had an unpleasant encounter with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at the airport due to my previous criminal history. I was interrogated and held for close to 8 hours. As soon as I was released, I contacted Amira and informed her of what had happened. She contacted CBP headquarters in Washington, D.C. to address what had happened to me. I am happy to say that the issues that I had were resolved, and I have been traveling in and out of the United States without incident ever since.
I have recommended Amira Al-Alami to all of my work colleagues, family and friends as we say in Mexico, ‘con ojos cerrados.’ I’m happy to say that I am not the only success story who has come out of Amira’s office. I know a large number of people who she has helped.
It is with this brief note that my family and I would like to express our sincerest appreciation for everything you’ve done.”
—Gerardo Herrera and Family
“When I had my first consultation with Attorney Amira, I felt very comfortable with her. She was very honest about the possibilities of USCIS denying my case, but she also told me that there was a chance that it would be approved. I felt that this attorney was going to fight for me and that I would be in good hands with her. My wife felt the same way. Amira’s staff made my adjustment of status process very pleasant and smooth. I honestly felt like I was being treated like family.
The other thing that I really loved about Amira is that she really cares. I had financial difficulties at the time, which I explained to Amira. She gave me easy installments to pay for her legal fees, which was extremely helpful because I thought that I would have to pay for everything upfront.
During my ‘greencard’ interview, I felt that my lawyer was in control and very prepared. This made me feel very confident and certain that my case would be approved.
Today, I am a lawful permanent resident of this country, and I can honestly say that it is because of Amira Al-Alami. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
(Courtesy Maggie Hyde/MEDILL)
The next time you find yourself in North Hollywood, Pacoima, Sun Valley or pretty much anywhere in Los Angeles, keep an eye out for one of the ubiquitous black vending boxes housing copies of the popular Spanish-language weekly classifieds, El Clasificado. El Clasificado is essentially a service directory for local immigrants, featuring listings for insurance companies, travel agencies, dentists, childcare, and yes, immigration lawyers. The deals are fantastic. One ad posted by “Calitino Immigration Services” offers to help you obtain citizenship for a paltry $99. They’ll even come to your house to fill out the forms for you!
Isn’t this too good to be true? (Short answer: yes.) Calitino Immigration Services is actually one of many scam immigration agencies preying on the American Hispanic community. Popularly known as notarios, these fraudsters charge hundreds, and often thousands, of dollars to offer faulty immigration advice and services to unsuspecting individuals.
By law, only licensed attorneys and individuals accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) are authorized to provide immigration services including: 1) legal consultations, 2) form preparation, and 3) court representation. Notarios have no formal legal education or training. They’re as qualified to provide immigration advice as my left foot. And my left foot isn’t very smart.
Why Notarios Are Awful, Awful People
The problem with notarios isn’t just that they defraud poor immigrants out of thousands of dollars. Their actions often destroy peoples’ lives. Take the case of Cesar Silva for example. An undocumented Mexican immigrant who entered the United States in 1989, Cesar saw a notario agency’s ad in a local publication in 1996. In Cesar’s first and only consultation with the agency, a notario claimed that he could help Cesar obtain legal status “in just a few months.”
After charging him $8,000, the agency filed an application for Cesar “under an asylum provision that was in place for Nicaraguans.” Except that Cesar is actually from Mexico, and thus was clearly ineligible for a Nicaraguan immigration benefit. This proved to be no obstacle for the notario agency, which filed Cesar’s asylum application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Shortly after receiving his application, USCIS (obviously) denied Cesar asylum and presented him with a deportation hearing notice. Cesar was arrested in 2012, and is currently in “immigration limbo”; he won’t be deported, but he also won’t be able to obtain legal status.
A Pattern of Fraud
Cesar’s case is extremely common among victims of notarios. Since they don’t have proper legal education and training, notarios often file incomplete or late forms; submit applications on behalf of their clients for immigration benefits they don’t qualify for; and promise immigration benefits that don’t even exist. When undocumented immigrants apply for immigration benefits they are ineligible for, they commit the real-life equivalent of standing outside a USCIS field office in Arizona, in mid-day, waving a giant Mexican flag. USCIS immediately reports these individuals to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The consequences of notario fraud can be deeply tragic. The New York Times featured a 2009 story about the self-proclaimed pastor of a small Pentecostal church who defrauded more than one hundred Ecuadorean immigrants of roughly $1,000,000. For $8,000 per individual, the “pastor”, Gregorio Gonzalez, claimed he would help immigrants obtain green cards in one month.
- “But as the months wore on, and some people began to demand their money back, Mr. Gonzalez’s language turned sinister, the immigrants said: he threatened to call the authorities and have them deported. Several months ago, they said, Mr. Gonzalez stopped answering their phone calls and closed the church…Many of the immigrants say they find themselves in deep financial holes at a time when work is scarce…
“We’re simple people,” said [a woman], tears spilling from her eyes. “They gave us the word of God.”
For more information on notario fraud and other immigration scams, visit the USCIS website’s section on how to “Avoid Scams” and find legitimate and competent legal representation.
Also, please see the Immigration Fact Sheet (link found below) on “Who Can Represent Aliens in Immigration Proceedings” provided by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). http://www.justice.gov/eoir/statspub/raroster_files/WhoCanRepresentAliensFactSheet10022009.pdf
Mohammad Alhinnawi and Amira Al-Alami for
The Law Office of Amira Al-Alami
Sarah Glynn at the Center for American Progress gives a rundown of the “Top 5 Economic Benefits” of the President’s recent policy directive halting the deportation/removal of young undocumented immigrants. They are:
- greater economic growth for Americans;
- an increase in wages for native-born workers;
- a better educated workforce;
- increased federal revenues;
- and the filling of positions that lack qualified or willing native-born workers, such as surgeons and agricultural laborers.
The least intuitive of these seems to be the idea that immigrants increase wages for other workers. On the face of it, adding more people to compete for a limited number of positions should reduce the wages that employers offer. But in the case of low-skill positions, legal status for immigrants means that employers are forced to pay immigrants a minimum wage, which increases wages for all workers in that position.
- “When undocumented immigrants are granted work authorization, it raises the ‘wage floor’ for all workers by preventing employers from deleveraging native workers’ wages with undocumented and therefore exploitable wages.”
I think many opponents of freer immigration misunderstand how economic growth works, viewing the U.S. economy as a pie of a fixed size with a certain number of jobs, rather than understanding that over time, immigrants actually make the pie bigger.
The Law Office of Amira Al-Alami
Largely in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on the Arizona immigration law, the California state Senate passed the TRUST Act on Thursday. It still has two more stages to final approval (Senate + Legislative approval + Governor’s signature = new law), but given the bill’s strong support among immigration groups and the California public, it’s very likely to become official sometime this month.
The Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona’s immigration law, but the widely despised provision authorizing officers to check the immigration status of any detainee, remains standing. The TRUST Act affects immigration detainers, which are “requests from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to hold a particular inmate beyond his or her date of release to facilitate federal authorities’ ability to take custody.”
Cooperation between local authorities and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) led to a record number of deportations last year. The TRUST Act would take aim at this, ordering that:
- “state and county jails [can] only honor immigration detainers lodged against inmates convicted of a felony classified as “serious” or “violent” under California law. Federal immigration authorities would still be notified of inmates arrested for other offenses, but would have to be present when they posted bond or were otherwise released from custody.”
In other words, if ICE wants to deport a detained non-violent immigration offender, they have to show up in person on the day of release to apprehend them. Without the help of law enforcement in keeping people jailed for extra periods of time, ICE does not have the resources to round up so many people for deportation.
The Law Office of Amira Al-Alami
For the first time in its history, the American Bar Association has released detailed data about how law school graduates have been doing in the job market. And it’s not pretty. The average law school graduate has about a 50-50 chance of landing full-time employment as an attorney.
Law schools have been facing greater scrutiny in the past few years, particularly since the recession hit in 2008. Stories of unemployment among graduates have been spreading, even triggering a string of lawsuits against schools like Southwestern and Whittier College for allegedly misleading their students about post-graduation job prospects.
The lawsuits haven’t succeeded (so far), but the complaints behind them are mostly true. The way law schools have presented job statistics up until now is to count any kind of employment in their figures. Meaning that a graduate working at McDonald’s is considered to be as fully employed as another graduate working as the Attorney General of the United States.
This newly released data actually distinguishes between employment at jobs requiring a law degree, jobs preferring a law degree, and jobs where a law degree is not needed. The new data shows that:
- “17% of [Whittier College’s] 2011 graduates were in full-time long-term legal jobs nine months after commencement…Compare that to its class of 2010 figures in U.S. News & World Report annual law-school rankings…[where it reported that] 85.5% of its 2010 graduates were employed nine months after commencement.”
Unsurprisingly, the top-ranked schools (Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, NYU, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Virginia, etc.) “sent graduates into long-term legal jobs in high numbers.” The old joke about there being too many lawyers isn’t really a joke anymore.
The Law Office of Amira Al-Alami
Fresh on the heels of this week’s immigration ruling, the Supreme Court issued another huge decision yesterday, ruling that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. The heart of the controversy over the ACA is whether the government could mandate that individuals purchase health insurance and fine them for not doing so.
The ‘individual mandate’ is absolutely essential to making health insurance reform work. Health insurance suffers from a self-selection effect commonly known as the ‘death spiral’. People who need health insurance the most will tend to purchase policies, while younger, healthier people will tend not to. Private insurance companies end up with huge numbers of sick people which usually leads to bankruptcy. This is why private insurance companies won’t insure people with preexisting conditions.
The individual mandate forces everyone to purchase health insurance so that, on average, the extra cost of treating the ill will be cancelled out by the savings from not having to treat healthier individuals. Without a mandate that forces everyone to buy health insurance policies, there’s no way to achieve universal coverage for all Americans through a private health insurance system.
Undocumented immigrants won’t receive the benefits of the ACA, but millions of other immigrants will:
- Close to two million Latinos in California will be covered under the Affordable Care Act either through Medi-Cal expansion or through the Health Exchange. It’s really the most important [sector] for a couple of reasons — because that’s the population that’s going to pay the most out-of-pocket for health services, medications and other services, and also because it’s the largest uninsured population that we have in California.
The Law Office of Amira Al-Alami