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Normally in U.S. immigration law, falsely claiming to be a U.S. Citizen and voting in U.S. elections will keep you from ever getting any sort of status in the U.S. especially if you know for a fact you are not a citizen. But what do you do if you came here as a small child, think of yourself as American and have been here for over 50 years albeit without legal status. PB&L lawyer Dagmar Butte faced this problem with a lovely woman whom we will call “Jane” who was of retirement age and desperately wanted to regularize her status. If there ever was someone deserving of remaining in the U.S. it was this woman who had devoted her life to her children, her community and her church. The answer lay in a little used part of U.S. law called “Registry” which allows persons who have been continuously resident in the U.S. since on or before January 1, 1972 to get permanent residence unless they have committed certain disqualifying acts. The challenge was two-fold: proving her presence in the U.S. all those years and figuring out whether all those years of faithfully voting in U.S. elections was a disqualifying act. The first challenge was solved by a shoebox filled with memorabilia from her life in America – these items had been well loved and now they were going to help Jane stay in the U.S. The second challenge was less clear since Registry applicants must be of “good moral character” at the time of application and past bad moral acts such as unlawful voting can be considered. Dagmar and Jane prepared for a rigorous interview and gathered all sorts of evidence to show Jane was a pillar of her community admired by all who knew her. Dagmar had a legal memo ready to go explaining why Jane had good moral character and the past acts did not disqualify her. Jane was terrified of being forced to return to a country she knew nothing of and leaving the only home she had ever known. When it was time for the interview, the very sympathetic USCIS Officer took the case under advisement because she too was not absolutely certain of the good moral character question. Then Dagmar looked in one more place, the USCIS Adjudicators’ Field Manual, which said that False Claims in and of themselves did not mean a person had bad moral character. The Manual is not law, but it is guidance for the Officers so she sent a print out of that section of the Manual to the officer who approved the case the next day. Jane cried with relief and said, for the first time in decades, she felt truly free and able to have a real life. The USCIS Officer later commented on how good it felt to be able to approve Jane’s case and Jane continues to volunteer in her community and church to this day.

What do you do when you know you are an American citizen and must prove it to get your Medicare benefits, but you have no real proof and everyone who has direct personal knowledge of whether you are a citizen has long since died? Why you go to PB&L, of course, where the lawyers leave no stone unturned to help you prove what you’ve known all along – you really are an American. The client was born right after World War II in Europe and his father was an American who worked for the U.S. government. His mother was European and when the father’s work was done, the entire family returned to the U.S. and carried on their lives the way any other American family did and, in time, the parents divorced, then they passed away as did some of the client’s siblings and only he and one sibling remained. The issue had never arisen in the past because the client lived in a rural area and had never traveled outside the U.S. but now it was urgent. His lawyer, Dagmar Butte, helped him identify potential evidence to prove his status including ordering his mother’s immigration file, getting his father’s service record, getting his sibling’s immigration files when they successfully applied for certificates of citizenship, getting his old school records and gathering affidavits from anyone who remembered anything about the events in the 1940s and 1950s surrounding his entry into the U.S. Had his American father properly registered his birth and provided him or even his mother with the necessary documents when he was a child, none of this would have been necessary but perseverance paid off in the end. No single piece of evidence proved his case and much of it was only unearthed after a lot of digging and reading through old handwritten letters on crumbling paper but in the end, after putting all of the pieces together, the client received his certificate of citizenship and the benefits he had earned by working hard his entire life.

PB&L partner, Jim Lane, assisted Coulson Aviation USA Inc. in bringing in its new specialized firefighting aircraft, the C-130Q, along with its dedicated pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers to help fight the forest fires that ravaged the state of Idaho. For over thirteen years, Jim and PB&L has had the pleasure of representing the Coulson Group of companies in their immigration legal work in the United States. The company, through its U.S. subsidiary, Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc., has been a leader in fire suppression activities in the U.S. forests and has played a major role in heli-logging through the western U.S. One of their fixed wing aircraft, the Martin Mars, flying boat is a converted naval aircraft with the largest payload capacity in the industry for fighting forest fires. With the addition of its newest aircraft, the C-130Q, the company will now have the capacity to deliver 3,500 gallons of fire retardant in a single flight, with the aircraft’s Aero Union RDS1constant flow tank system allowing controlled delivery to the critical areas.

The high cost of these aircraft has mandated that they be used internationally, where ever the need arises, and through NAFTA these aircraft and others in Coulson’s fleet have been used in both Canada and U.S. operations. However, there is no provision to allow crews from one of the NAFTA partners to work in the other’s country without complying with the immigration work laws of the receiving country. Jim and PB&L has been working closely with Coulson to facilitate the transfer of key personnel to the Coulson (USA) subsidiary to ensure that the necessary crews are available. The new C-130Q, as the only large turboprop air tanker contracted by the U.S. Forest Service, will lead the way forward as a world class firefighting tool.

US immigration law allows for granting of lawful permanent residence status to a foreign national who can prove extraordinary ability in a specified field and who is coming to the United States to continue work in that field. Sustained national or international acclaim must be established proving that the foreign national is one of a select few recognized as being at the very top of his or her field. This can be established by showing either that, (1) the foreign national has received a major internationally recognized award, similar to that of a Nobel Prize; or (2) that the foreign national meets at least three of ten requirements, including:

  • Evidence of receipt of lesser nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence;
  • Evidence of membership in associations in the field which demand outstanding achievement of their members;
  • Evidence of published material about the foreign national in professional or major trade publications or other major media;
  • Evidence that the foreign national has been asked to judge the work of others, either individually or on a panel;
  • Evidence of your original scientific, scholarly, artistic, athletic, or business-related contributions of major significance to the field;
  • Evidence of authorship of scholarly articles in professional or major trade publications or other major media;
  • Evidence that work has been displayed at artistic exhibitions or showcases, or as applicable to the foreign national’s field;
  • Evidence of performance of a leading or critical role in distinguished organizations;
  • Evidence that the foreign national commands a high salary or other significantly high remuneration in relation to others in the field;
  • Evidence of commercial successes in the performing arts, or in an applicable field.

PB&L partner, Gretel Ness, recently had the opportunity to convince USCIS that the CEO of a company did have extraordinary ability in business. Though the USCIS acknowledged that the CEO had proven extraordinary ability in the past, it wanted evidence that the CEO was sustaining the acclaim and issued a Notice of Intent to Deny the petition. Gretel was able to successfully address each and every concern raised by USCIS and prove that the CEO did sustain not only national, but international acclaim as well, with voluminous documentation of his extraordinary achievements, acumen, and business savvy. As CEO of the company, it was critical that the extraordinary ability petition be approved by USCIS since the petition was a first step towards lawful permanent residence status for this high level executive whose leadership and vision serves as a vital component for continued success of the company.

Lulu is a 54-year old mentally handicapped national of the Philippines with an IQ below the one percentile who has been living in an adult group home facility in Oregon for the past decade. Apart from the residents of the group home and her now deceased mother, the only other family Lulu has known are her grown siblings residing throughout the U.S. and who are already either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Lulu’s father passed away a long time ago when Lulu was only one year of age. In November 2007, Lulu’s siblings retained PB&L partner, Gretel Ness, to assist in resolving Lulu’s immigration status. Although Lulu’s mother had petitioned Lulu back in 1992, because of the immigrant visa quotas applicable to adult children of U.S. citizens, Lulu could not immediately legalize her immigration status and had to wait more than ten years before a visa number would become available for her. Unfortunately, by the time an immigrant visa number did become available, Lulu’s mother and immigration petitioner had already passed away, succumbing at age 85 to congestive heart failure. Under the U.S. immigration system, Lulu’s mother’s petition was automatically revoked upon her death. As a result, even after waiting for more than a decade to finally be able to legalize her immigration status, Lulu and her family found themselves with yet another hurdle to overcome while still grieving the death of their mother.

Gretel immediately sought to get the mother’s previously approved petition reinstated by USCIS based on humanitarian grounds. A special section of the law allows for the exercise of discretion by USCIS in revalidating a previously approved petition on humanitarian grounds despite the automatic revocation due to the death of the petitioner. Indeed, it was Lulu’s mother’s dying wish that her sole remaining child – the one with the most needs, clearly incapable of taking care of herself and comprehending the importance of having legal status in the U.S. – finally receive lawful permanent resident status. There was nothing and no one remaining in the Philippines for Lulu should she ever be forced to return to her native land. In July 2008, Gretel submitted a request to USCIS for revalidation of the petition based on humanitarian grounds. Inconceivably, the USCIS denied the request finding that “the beneficiary would not suffer significant hardship” if she were removed and forced to return to her native Philippines. Gretel and Lulu’s family refused to accept the USCIS decision as final, and tenaciously pursued reconsideration of the denial decision thereafter. Taking an aggressive approach, Gretel filed Lulu’s application for adjustment of status along with the motion to reopen and reconsider. The conservative, safer approach would have been to wait to determine whether the request for revalidation would be approved first. But since Gretel’s strategy was to force USCIS to actually see Lulu as a person and have them meet her face to face in the context of an adjustment interview at the local USCIS office in Portland, the only way to ensure this would happen was to take the more aggressive approach and concurrently file the adjustment application with the motion. Finally, after several tense months of waiting, the USCIS agreed to schedule a local office interview where a USCIS adjudicator met Lulu in person, one of Lulu’s U.S. citizen siblings and Gretel. Consistent with Gretel’s gut feeling, after the interview the USCIS adjudicator quickly recognized the merit of Lulu’s case, overturned the previous denial and issued a favorable decision.