Friday, January 29, 2010

NYC Real Estate Lobby Coup at Justice Department



"Residential real estate brokers were 'going berserk.'"

"Commercial brokers feared they would not be able to lease office space."


"U.S. Drops Plan for a 9/11 Trial in New York," New York Times (January 29, 2009).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

USCIS Says Marriage Does Not Require Sex

No doubt couples across the country are heaving a sigh of relief now that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reaffirmed in a recent case that a marriage can be for real without sex.

This came to my attention when an immigration attorney in Arkansas, Mariana Romero-Collins, wrote last July to ask about a client who had been applying for a green card through her husband, a US citizen. He became abusive and they divorced. She wanted to change the status of her request for residency following the divorce.

The problem was that during the initial interview the USCIS agent had inquired about whether the marriage had been "consummated." This was for the purpose of determining whether it was a bona fide marriage. The answer was no.

As usual, a complicated back story: the husband was in his late fifties and had various medical conditions making sex a challenge.

Also, a pet was involved.

Collins-Romero writes:
[United States citizen's] dog slept in the bed (which really shocked this Peruvian lady who had never seen a dog sleep in bed with it's owners). I know you might be [a] dog lover and have dogs sleep in bed with you, but that is out of the question for me too.
(For the record, me too.)

In the event, Collins-Romero used a Board of Immigration Appeals decision to successfully argue that their marriage, with its initial bout of romance and later squabbles and unhappiness, was bona fide despite no sex. The decision she used is In the Matter of Peterson, Interim Decision #1845 and it was decided in 1968. (Thanks to Dan Kowalski for the link!)

Many practitioners will know that the major criterion for establishing a bona fide marriage is the "intent to have a life together as man and wife," a rule that manages to be simultaneously anachronistic (the asymmetrical man and wife), vague, and tautological (what is living as a man and a wife other than living in a marriage?).

Collins-Romero wrote on Friday of the recent decision: "[W]e had so much evidence about the length of their correspondence by email (3 years) before she came to the U.S., his sending her love letters, pictures
of him having traveled to Peru and stayed with her & her family, etc." During the new interview, "whether or not the marriage was consummated never even came up."

If you want to read more, the USCIS Adjudicator's Field Manual provides revealing insights into this country's marriage laws and intuitions. Based on this and other sources UCLA Professor Juliet Williams has written a terrific paper on the concept of a sham marriage. You can read that here.

UPDATE: evening 1/10/10 Dan Kowalski just forwarded information that if the marriage is by proxy and not in person then sex, or at least the opportunity for sex, is required.

In other words, if the marriage occurs with both parties physically present, phone sex is okay. If it is phone-marriage, sex in person is required. Here are the links he sent: http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=67108/. http://webb.senate.gov/newsroom/pressreleases/2009-10-13-01.cfm/

UPDATE: 1/12/10 Mariana Collins-Romero sent me an email today: "
the IJ terminated proceedings in her case yesterday due to CIS approval of the 751. it was definitely an interesting case and a learning experience."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Neighbors Visit ICE Office in Grand Junction, Colorado


This is Koinonia Church in Grand Junction, Colorado, where people met after visiting a nearby ICE subfield office.

On Monday I received a memorandum from someone who had read "America's Secret ICE Castles" on the Nation website, downloaded the list of ICE subfield offices I obtained through a FOIA request, and paid a visit to their office in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Here's what they reported.

As Cold as ICE: A visit to the Grand Junction ICE Offices

On December 31, 2009 at approximately 2:00 pm, eight representatives of area Faith-based organizations (Hispanic Affairs Project, Grand Valley Peace & Justice and Koinonia Church) visited a facility operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at 571 S. Commercial Drive in Grand Junction. The facility had heretofore been unknown in our community. Our visit was in response to an article in the 1/4/2010 issue of The Nation by Jacqueline Stevens talking about “hidden” detention centers located nationwide.

The brown block building in the industrial section of Grand Junction is non-descript with no signs identifying it as government office or ICE facility.

[A member of the group later reported that in response to a query from the Red Cross, ICE stated that the facility lacked a sign because of "budget cutbacks."]

Here's an image of the Grand Junction ICE office:

This is how it was described by a member of the 12/31 group that visited: "This is the ICE facility we visited 12-31-09. In the right corner is the Office, but we did not have permission to go inside. In the left side, is where the ICE Van are coming in. The whole area is restricted perimeter and not sign is around there. I entered in the parking lot there, but they asked me to put out the car, because no particular vehiculo can be there. Just video camaras around there bring out more scare in this place."

The memorandum continues:

When we arrived we rang the doorbell and an ICE officer who was outside came and asked what we wanted. We introduced ourselves and our purpose and he responded that the building was just a “booking center” and that they never held people in the facility...

The memorandum concludes:

Our group left the parking lot (where these conversations had taken place), and followed up with a brief discussion at Koinonia Church where the following questions and observations were noted:

  1. KM said the facility is not a detention facility, but if people are being held for up to ten hours then they are being detained. The question arises as to adequacy of facilities such as bathrooms, chairs, cots, etc. These are health and safety issues that need to be addressed for the comfort and safety of detainees.

  2. In addition to physical facilities there is also the question of services. If detainees are being transported and processed over lengthy time spans what provisions are made for adequate nutrition, medical care for fragile individuals, etc.?

  3. KM said that phone privileges were available at the local jails. If a person is detained in Meeker, transported to GJ, processed, and then transported to the local jail it could conceivably take 24 to 36 hours for this process to occur. In the meantime family members and friends would be out of touch with the detainee and the detainee would have no ability to make contact.

  4. The fact that ICE has no publicly accessible and up-to-date list of detainees means it is impossible to track the location of people. At the same time these people are being removed from the location of their resources and documentation and as The Nation rightly notes are unable to mount any kind of defense to their detention.

We agreed on the following actions in response to the visit:

1) We would contact the ACLU to investigate.

2) We would make appointments with John Salazar and Mike Bennett’s local offices to bring this to their attention.

3) We would contact Ja[c]queline Stevens, the journalist who wrote the piece in The Nation to let her know of our experience and that ICE claims her story is not based on facts.

You can find the complete memorandum here.

The Nation article "America's Secret ICE Castles" consists almost exclusively of statements from government officials, government documents, immigration attorneys, and people who were mistreated in ICE facilities. ICE has a record of denying facts in plain sight, to wit ICE spinmeister Richard Rocha saying ICE does not detain US citizens despite copious evidence that ICE detains US citizens every day.

If ICE has specific evidence of misstatements, what is it? The only way for ICE to falsify the article's claims is by providing a real-time database for locating people in their custody, listing these offices on the ICE website, posting signs, and respecting the rule of law in all their facilities.

Finally, this coalition did something pretty great. I wrote the member who sent this to me:

i think you understand that simply by knocking on their door you and your group have made a big difference to the culture of that subfield office. december 31, 2009 was the first day they knew that you knew they were there and might at any time stop by. bravo!
As my colleague Bonnie Honig writes in her recently published book Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy (Princeton, 2009), democracy means the competing and elusive possibilities of rationality, equality, majority rule, and rights in a system that may not make a lot of sense and be unfair, not despondency because the government is breaking the law.

Or, as Gandhi put it, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Democratic politics in the United States sometimes makes this difficult but it is always a possibility.

Finally, I was on the Leonard Lopate show today -- he's on New York's public radio station WNYC. You can listen to it here. (The station is across the street from the Varick Detention Center, also unmarked as to this function, though it posts signs indicating the presence of other federal agencies.)

 
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