As mentioned it seems that the battle for the TVU victims is gathering momentum. Check the NDTV.com article below
Read more at: http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/hope-for-indians-at-tri-valley-hillary-promises-help-85212?cp
All the TVU students need to keep supporting the cause. Make sure you are not being “duped” to pay a lot of money to lawyers who will not be able to do much at this point. My friend John Vandenberg wrote an email to this point:
“Two issues have come up recently, and I hope that I can clarify them for you and your colleagues. The first issue is that TVU victims are starting to tell each other that their cases are hopeless, and that they should just pack up and go back “honorably.” The second issue is that false rumors are going around about whether students can afford a lawyer or not.
Are TVU victims in a hopeless situation? NO. And anyone who insists so certainly shouldn’t call themselves a lawyer (or a friend). While every case is different, I see (and have seen) that TVU victims have many defenses available to them. I am guardedly optimistic that the I-20’s are going to start coming this week, and with I-20’s comes the ability to file for reinstatement. I am also optimistic that the vast majority of TVU victims were bona fide honest students, and with that proof (and believe me, I have noted that TVU victims keep good electronic records!), it gives a good lawyer grounds for advocacy with the ICE attorneys before the Immigration Court. Of the NTA’s I have seen, I have noticed that they are, for lack of a better word, sloppy. TVU victims lucked out, in that not many schools have been busted like this, and so there are advantages as ICE itself tries to figure out how to get rid of 1500 students. So that sloppy NTA is vulnerable to challenge and even dismissal. Even if the student does depart on voluntary departure, they can seek to re-enter by obtaining an I-20 and applying again for a student visa. Again, records will be key. Other options may be marriage to a US citizen (make it real, my friends, don’t even think about a fake marriage), seeking asylum if they are afraid of returning to the home country, or perhaps qualifying for a number of other statuses depending on the individual facts of their case. And there may even be room for class action litigation in this case, to ask a federal judge to force ICE to allow students to transfer, because they violated students’ right to due process when they terminated everyone’s F1 student status en masse on January 18. There is A LOT that a good and experienced immigration attorney can do, and these are just preliminary ideas. Knowing each client’s individual facts may bring to light other forms of relief.
Can you afford a lawyer? YES. There are rumors floating around about an attorney costing $7-10k, or $400 per hour. I spoke to one TVU victim yesterday who said that they along with 5 other students paid a lawyer $500 apiece for a 10 minutes of worthless chatter, and he had no solutions. Let’s get this straight: you can afford an attorney, and a good one. (BTW, I am attaching an article I wrote for a local magazine below about whether you need a lawyer and tips on how to find a good one). For those of you are wondering, here is my price sheet for dealing with Tri-Valley victims’ cases:
– Consultation: $100 (no time limit, call-backs/follow-ups incur no extra charges)
– Interview with ICE: if you are contacted by ICE to come in for an interview, I charge a flat fee of $500 to prepare you and represent you at the interview. If you live outside of the Philadelphia/Wilmington/South Jersey area, I will also charge you travel costs;
– If you are issued an NTA, I will ask for a $1500 retainer fee, that I will draw down by my hourly rate of $200 per hour as I use it. Funds are kept in an escrow (trust) account and, if unused, are returned at the end of the case. You will be responsible for adding additional funds to the retainer if I exhaust the initial $1500.
– If you get an RFE on something you filed yourself (like a change of status back to H-4, or H-1B), I will charge you the same retainer, or we can do a flat fee of $1250; you choose. Personally, I wish you would just let me file it so I can control for as much as possible, and make a strong initial argument.
– If you get an I-20, I’ll ask for a $1500 retainer to prepare the argument for reinstatement plus supporting documentation, and answer any RFE.
So now you can decide if you can afford it or not. I would also like to point out that if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, the South Asian Law Caucus is ready to provide free or low-cost attorneys to TVU victims who cannot afford an attorney on their own. On Friday I talked to attorney Anoop Prasad. You can find his info here: http://www.asianlawcaucus.org/alc/about/staff/anoop-prasad/. He said that only 5 TVU victims had contacted him. That’s amazing. If you are around the Bay Area, contact Anoop and see what he can do for you. He works for a non-profit, so you can be sure that any advice he gives you will not be towards making him any wealthier. He is doing what he does for the good of the community. By the way, if you do contact Anoop, please tell him John Vandenberg sent you (firstname.lastname@example.org). TVU victims have no excuse for not having a lawyer in this matter.
In conclusion, there is hope for TVU students. I can’t tell you how frustrated I become by reading terrible so-called “advice” from non-lawyers, and how exasperated I become when TVU students call me frightened to death and ready to leave behind their education and career hopes and dreams due to fear-mongering and misinformation. TVU victims deserve – and I believe can afford – good legal representation, whether through contacting good quality, affordable immigration attorneys or well-run non-profits like the Asian Law Caucus. Stop stressing, talk to a good attorney to get a candid and accurate assessment of your options, and make a rational decision about your next steps. Every single TVU victim is highly educated; please use your best judgment in this situation and not succumb to rumor and panic.
I hope you find this email helpful. If I can be of service to you, please contact me directly. And thank you to all of you who keep me updated about new developments in this matter. It helps me to properly analyze what is happening nationwide and give my clients the best advice possible. If you hear of any TVU victim who gets an I-20 from a new school, please let me know (and I’ll want to make sure it is verified, not just a rumor, by talking to the person or seeing a copy of the I-20 with the person’s personal information blacked out). And if you hear of any TVU victim getting a visit from ICE or receiving an NTA in the mail after calling the SEVP Response Center number, I’d be very, very interested in that, too.
John Vandenberg, Esq.
DISCLAIMER: This information is intended for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. Legal advice depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each individual’s situation. Those seeking specific legal advice or assistance should contact an attorney.
Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer?
By W. John Vandenberg, Esq.
I am often asked this question, and my answer is the same: “Yes. A good one!” The immigration process is one of the most important tasks you will undertake in your lifetime. A skillful, trustworthy immigration attorney can make the difference in whether you remain in the United States to pursue your career or studies, or go to jail or even be forced to return to your home country. In my experience, there are five common questions immigrants ask me about immigration attorneys, and I am including them here with my answers:
Can’t I do the forms on my own? Yes. In fact, you can get all the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (“USCIS”) form for free on-line at www.uscis.gov, or you can contact their National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283. But knowing which forms to use and which documents to include requires knowledge that must come from USCIS or an attorney. And the questions asked on each form are very important; if you make a mistake, USCIS could reject the form, deny your benefit, or even charge you with lying and put you in deportation proceedings! A skilled immigration attorney has filed every form many times, and understands the immigration laws and processes. He or she can save you time and money by getting everything done correctly the first time, and representing you through the process with their personal knowledge. Also, if the process does not go as expected, an experienced immigration attorney will stand by you and work to solve difficulties that sometimes arise.
Can’t I use an Immigration Consultant or Notario? No. Only the USCIS or an attorney can advise you about immigration laws. It is illegal for a person who is not a licensed attorney to charge you for immigration advice, or to represent you at the USCIS or immigration court. Often, the “immigration consultants” or “notaries” charge more for their services than real attorneys, because they know they won’t be in business long. One immigrant I know paid an “immigration consultant” $500 dollars for immigration forms, which are available for free! And since the “immigration consultants” do not know the law, they make big mistakes and often ask immigrants to lie. Don’t be a victim!
Can I afford an immigration attorney? Yes! Immigration attorneys are like doctors: they charge for skill and experience. You are a consumer, and you have the right to ask attorneys how much they will charge for your case. Often, the more expertise and success an immigration attorney has, the more they will charge. You can also ask an attorney if they offer a payment plan. If you don’t work or have very little income, you can still afford a lawyer. There are non-profits who can assist you if you meet their low income eligibility requirements, such as Nationalities Service Center, HIAS, and Catholic Social Services. You deserve an immigration attorney. Your future in the United States depends on their skill and expertise, and you can afford it.
How do I find a good Immigration Attorney? Good attorneys have good reputations, and they take their practice seriously. Some of the questions you should ask are:
– Are you a licensed member of the Bar? Attorneys must be licensed to practice law in the United States. You can’t practice law with only a law degree (a “J.D.”), or just a foreign law degree. To be an attorney, you must pass the Bar Exam and renew your license yearly in your state.
– Are you active in your local chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association? You can find out if they are a member by going online to www.aila.org. AILA membership is an indication that the attorney keeps up to date with immigration law.
– Do you have a good reputation in the community, and have good references from current and former clients? This is one of the best sources of information.
– Do you focus on immigration law? It is almost impossible to be a top notch immigration lawyer and be an expert in other areas of law as well. It is wise to use an attorney who focuses on immigration law. Consult with a potential attorney, or several, until you are satisfied that the attorney is qualified and trustworthy.
Won’t USCIS be suspicious because I am using a lawyer? No. In some countries, if a person needs a lawyer, people assume that he must have done something very bad! This is not the case with USCIS. In fact, a knowledgeable immigration attorney makes sure that all necessary documents are filed, and discusses difficult issues with the USCIS officer in an up-front manner. In that way, a good immigration attorney creates, and protects, his or her reputation for trustworthiness, which is good for clients. However, do not trust any attorney who says he or she has “friends” in USCIS who can “help out.” At best, it is a lie, and at worst, it is illegal.
In sum, immigration laws and processes are complex. Failure to follow these laws and understand the subtleties of the immigration procedures can mean being put in jail or being deported. Cutting corners or lying does not pay in immigration, and USCIS punishes immigrants who do not tell the truth. Protect yourself, and your future, with a good immigration attorney. Of course, if you have questions about immigration, we would be very happy to earn your trust.
W. John Yahya Vandenberg, Esq.
Innovative Legal Solutions for Immigrants and Global Businesses
11 Bala Avenue
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004