Executive Action Updates

Executive Action on Immigration

The future looked bright for more than 4 million immigrants and their families when President Obama issued his executive action on immigration in late 2014.Immigration

The action was designed to help immigrant children and their parents who had been in the country for several years without violating laws.

Unfortunately, those opposing the President’s executive immigration action sought and obtained an injunction in federal court putting it on hold.

In May, an appellate court upheld the injunction which means the executive action is indefinitely stalled. President Obama has vowed to continue to work on immigration reform.

To read more about the executive action, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website at www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction.

Immigration Laws Are Complex

If you have had any dealings with United States’s immigration laws, you understand there are few areas of US law more difficult to understand and successfully navigate. The rules are extensive and subject to a variety of interpretations that depend on the facts and circumstances of each case, as well as the immigration officer, government officials and administrative judge handling each case.

Because immigration laws are so complex, you need an experienced immigration lawyer who understands the complexities and subtle nuances of the law and how to effectively advocate for you.

Safeguard your right to stay in the United States or your ability to bring your family to the United States by working with the immigration law firm of Brownstein and Nguyen of Atlanta.

Experienced Immigration Attorneys

Brownstein and Nguyen will fight to ensure you are able to stay and work in the United States. For over 20 years, we have successfully handled immigration cases in Georgia and throughout the United States. Brownstein and Nguyen has helped thousands of clients desiring to enter, reside and stay in the United States.

Trust us with your immigration needs

We can help you with any of these immigration issues:

Visas (Fiancee, Spouses, Minor Children)
Family Immigration (Green Cards)
Employment/Investor Visas
Immigration from Vietnam

Call us today for a consultation, or fill out the simple contact form at the right. We look forward to helping you.

Asylum and the Waiting Game

The Wasthington Post shared that Vive La Casa, a temporary shelter for those seeking asylum, was on the verge of closing its doors as it struggled with debt. Fortunately, a local community health center was able to step in and take over services at the converted schoolhouse in Buffalo, NY with the help of a generous grant. While this may not mean much in the day to day life of average citizens, the services and shelter provided mean the world to immigrants seeking asylum or refugee status in Canada and the United States.


The shelter acts as a temporary holding place for visitors from Ethiopia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Haiti, and other places who pass through the doors and hope for the chance of a better life. They may wait anywhere from a few days to a few weeks while paperwork is processed in their asylum case. Each morning Shelly Schratz, acting director of the shelter, knows the air is heavy with anticipation as those waiting look upon a list and eagerly search for their names.

That list, containing two-10 names, is scrutinized by all temporary residents in the shelter as they wait to see if it will be their day. They know that a name appearing on the list means they are one step closer to their road to freedom.

Of the morning ritual, Schratz shares, “I remember when I was in high school and I tried out for a play and I remember running to see if I had made the list, or the athletes running to see if they made the football team,” she said, “and I think to myself, oh my God, we take life for granted. There’s these people here and all they want is their name on that list, because it’s their life,” she said. “That list means, ‘we have a chance at our life.’”

While the Washington Post article concerns Vive La Casa in Buffalo, NY, the road to freedom is never easy one when seeking asylum anywhere in the United States. If you are in the Atlanta area and are waiting for your journey to begin, or have already started the process of seeking asylum, we encourage you to take the next step. Often, that next step involves having legal expertise and support on your side. Contact the immigration law offices of Brownstein & Nguyen for legal assistance with asylum and refugee situations.

Employment and Investment Visas

The White House has been working on immigration initiatives, including the DACA program enacted in 2012, since President Obama was first elected in 2008. The DACA program, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, has already helped countless individuals who came to the United States as minors remain united with their families. The latest expansion of DACA, currently on hold pending a court challenge, will have an impact on potentially millions of immigrants looking to make a better life in America. Thousands of other hopeful immigrants seek to bring their valuable talents and human resources to our country through viable work visas or green cards.

Employment Visas

Work VisasMark Zuckerberg and other tech titans appear have keen interest in different aspects of immigration policy as it applies to work visas. These influential business leaders are people to pay attention to because they are leading the charge to open up the number of employment visas for skilled workers to come to the United States. Zuckerberg and others founded a political action committee in support of immigration, and have been supportive of President Obama’s recent executive order pushing new immigration guidelines.


There are opponents to the expansion of employment visas, including some legislators who have also voiced harsh criticisms of President Obama’s executive actions. For example, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) has expressed concern over the number of work visas carved out for the nation of Ireland within a recent Senate bill, particularly when it comes to “lower skilled” workers. There are provisions within immigration reform legislation that limits the number of work visas within a particular city, if unemployment within the community hits 8.5% or higher. Provisions protecting the unemployed that were put in place by the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 appear to conflict with President Obama’s executive order in many ways.


A number of evaluations have been performed concerning how DACA might impact the fiscal picture of the United States. There are those who believe that millions of jobs will be created once 8 million immigrants ultimately receive legal status. The immigration issue and President Obama’s executive orders will clearly have an impact on the direction and future of our country, and the debates will likely continue for many years to come.

Contact the Atlanta immigration offices of Brownstein & Nguyen for expert help with employment visas and investment visas and other immigration questions and assistance.

3 Things to Know About Asylum

Asylum can be claimed by an individual arriving in the United States who seeks refuge from their home country and fears for their life if they return home. Asylum isn’t an easy case to file or prove. The petitioner must present evidence to an immigration court of actual persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Here are three basic things to know about asylum if one is considering pursuing this option.

When to apply

Typically asylum can be applied for upon entry to the U.S. and for period of up to one year after arrival in the country. In certain cases involving changes in one’s home country, such as a political revolution or military coup against the government or extremist violence against religious or ethnic groups, individuals may file for asylum even if they have been in the U.S. longer than a year. In addition, one may be allowed to file after a year if extraordinary circumstances such as an illness or medical problem prevented an earlier filing. Even if a person entered the U.S. unlawfully, they may still file for asylum if the conditions are satisfied.

Passports and Visas Atlanta

Complete correct form

It is essential that the correct form be filled out. CIS Form I-589, which requires no filing fee, must be properly and completely filled out by the petitioner or her attorney and timely submitted to the correct government office. It can take up to 180 days for the application to be received and processed by Homeland Security, after which the applicant is scheduled for an interview with an asylum officer or immigration judge depending on the specific situation. An immigration judge will interview an individual who is already in removal proceedings. If one is not in removal proceedings, however, the interview should be granted with an  immigration officer.

What to do if denied

If an application for asylum is denied by the judge or immigration officer, then an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals may be filed within the appeal period. Reapplication may also be permitted if there are changes in one’s circumstances since the time of original filing.

Regardless of the situation, and whether or not this is the first attempt at filing for asylum, it is helpful to have experts on your side. Atlanta immigration attorneys Brownstein & Nguyen have decades of experience helping clients in the metro Atlanta area and nationwide with their immigration needs, including asylum petitions. Contact us today with any questions you might have regarding the process and your rights.

What You Need to Know About Executive Action Changes to DACA and DAPA

President Obama announced executive actions implementing important changes to U.S. immigration laws on November 20, 2014. These changes include the expansion of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the establishment of DAPA – Deferred Action for Parental Accountability. More announcements concerning these changes are expected in February 2015 for DACA and May 2015 for DAPA.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

United States Capitol

Image via Flickr

The executive actions include an expansion of the existing DACA program that was established in June 2012. Under the expanded program, the Department of Homeland Security will expand DACA eligibility for people who came into the U.S. as children, commonly referred to as DREAMers.

The expanded pool gives eligibility to those individuals who entered the United States on or before January 1, 2010, were under 16 years of age at the time of entry, and have remained continuously within the country since then. Initially, DACA required that applicants be under the age of thirty-one years at the application time, but under the revised program there is no age limit. Unlike the initial program which offered a two year deferred action, the expanded DACA program grants a three year deferred action to eligible persons. This means first-time DACA applicants, as well as those renewing their status, will be granted a three-year deferred action as well as a work authorization.

DACA targets approximately 300,000 individuals who are potentially eligible for the program. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will start receiving and acting on new DACA applications 90 days after the President’s announcement, or sometime in February 2015.

Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will establish a new program targeting the parents of U.S. citizens who do not have legal status (the parents). The DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, program will grant deferred action to eligible parents of United States citizens or parents of lawful permanent residents (LPRs). This will cover children born on or before November 20, 2014.

Individuals eligible for the DAPA program must demonstrate that they have been living within the U.S. since before 2010 and have remained continuously in the country since that date, including on November 20, 2014 and through the date of their application. The DAPA program will grant successful applicants deferred action for a period of three years, just like the expanded DACA program.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) believes there is an immigrant population of over four million people who are eligible for this program. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will start accepting DAPA applications about 180 days from the President’s November announcement, or sometime in May 2015.

Do you believe you are eligible for either the DACA or the DAPA program? If so, it is important to start gathering the necessary documents required for the respective program so that you will be ready when the time comes. You will need required documents to establish your:

  1. Identity
  2. Relationship to a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or a U.S. citizen
  3. Continuous stay within the country for the last five or more years.

In addition to these documents, keep in mind that an experienced immigration lawyer on your side is extremely important. The requirements and procedures for DACA and DAPA are complicated, and having proper legal guidance could mean the difference between a successful application and rejection. Atlanta immigration attorneys Brownstein & Nguyen are experienced in immigration law, and have a proven track record of making a difference for those treading their way through the U.S. immigration system and paperwork. Contact them today for assistance with your immigration needs in the Atlanta area.

Immigration from Vietnam

Atlanta has the the 10th largest concentration of Vietnamese immigrants in the United States. The Vietnamese population is spread throughout Atlanta and Dekalb, Gwinnett, Cobb and Clayton counties, including communities like Chamblee, Doraville, Norcross, Lawrenceville, Smyrna, Marietta, Riverdale, Forest Park and Jonesboro.

According to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., there have been three main waves of immigration from Vietnam since 1975. The first wave was mainly individuals and families targeted by communist forces, including military personnel and professionals associated with the United States or South Vietnamese government who evacuated Vietnam in 1975 with U.S. assistance. The second wave came in the late 1970s, as people fled continued persecution and poor conditions by boat in a search for freedom. The third wave took place in the 80s and 90s as political prisoners and children of U.S. servicemen and Vietnamese mothers made their way to the United States through special relief programs.

Atlanta Vietnamese ImmigrationCurrently, many of the families and individuals seeking legal immigration status from Vietnam within the United States do so by applying for a green card. In addition, many seeking to relocate permanently from Vietnam are able to obtain a family sponsored green card to reunite with family already in America.

The metropolitan Atlanta area has a lot to offer Vietnamese immigrants today, owing in part to the concentration of Vietnamese living here and social adjustment centers like the offices of Boat People SOS (BPSOS). With relatives nearby and support services such as English as Second Language (ESL) classes, the Health Awareness Prevention Program (HAPP), and women’s groups, the case for immigration from Vietnam to Georgia and Atlanta is even stronger.

At Brownstein & Nguyen, we have assisted thousands of families and individuals over the years to obtain lawful permanent residence (LPR) status. Experienced Atlanta immigration attorney Tien Nguyen is familiar and experienced with green card and visa applications and the processes involved in seeing them through the system successfully. If you are seeking to reunify your Vietnamese family in the Atlanta area, you can count on the premier immigration services of Brownstein & Nguyen.

Immigration Reform Updates

On Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, President Obama addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House. The subject – immigration reform. In a bold and controversial move, the President announced executive actions that represent an important policy change on deportation and provided temporary relief to undocumented, law-abiding immigrants who meet certain requirements.

News“You can come out of the shadows,” President Obama said to millions of immigrants currently without papers but who are committed to ‘playing by the rules’ if given the chance. These immigrants include parents of U.S. Citizens, those who have been in the U.S. for five or more years, those willing to pay taxes and – should future measures permit – those willing to pursue a legitimate path to citizenship.

The immigration reforms will afford eligible immigrants a chance for deferred deportation, providing much needed relief for up to 5 million including for many the ability work legally. Under a ‘felons, not families’ policy, new measures will shift the emphasis of deportation efforts away from routine round-ups of undocumented immigrants and instead focus on identifying criminals and security threats. An additional 20,000 border patrol agents would be introduced, along with a crackdown on companies employing undocumented workers.

summary by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services details the initiatives enacted under the announced executive actions, which include:

  • Broadening the eligibility criteria for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include those under 16 who have been in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010, as well as extending relief and employment authorization under the program to three years
  • The introduction of a Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program, which would allow parents of U.S. citizens and other lawful permanent residents present in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010 the same period of deferment and employment authorization
  • Making spouses and children of lawful permanent residents and children of U.S. citizens eligible for provisional waivers.
  • Simplifying the legal immigration process to continue to aid in job creation and economic recovery
  • Promoting and improving both citizen education and public awareness for lawful permanent residents

President Obama’s address began with a famous line of scripture: “We shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.” At its core, the executive actions aim to promote a process by which those already in this country who follow the law and contribute to society are legally recognized. The executive actions do not grant permanent legal status or citizenship to anyone.

Those who qualify for deferred deportation and are permitted to work will receive Social Security cards, provided they meet certain conditions: that they pay a fine for illegally entering the country, pay taxes, learn English and are willing to ‘go to the back of the line’. Underlying the reforms is a move to promote accountability on the part of immigrants, as well as providing the means by which this accountability may be honored and enforced.

For millions in limbo as Congress and the White House battled over immigration reform for the past 6 years, the new measures are nothing less than a “massive breakthrough for the immigration rights movement” according to Deepak Bhargava, director of the Center for Community, in an article in The New York Times. Aimed at directly supporting ‘hard working parents’ and those with families, the initiatives honor the American culture of inclusion and a society built on the energy, hard work and innovation of foreign entrepreneurs and immigrants.

For more information about immigration issues, please feel free to read through the information found in our Immigration Practice pages. If you, a loved one or someone you know might be eligible for deferred action or has a question regarding the latest executive actions on immigration, please contact the Atlanta immigration specialists at Brownstein & Nguyen.

Hanging by a Moment


One freedom the Escalante children enjoy is the ability to play soccer in the park.

Yesser, Marialinda, and Yuri Escalante love life in the United States! From success in school, to playing a pick-up game of soccer at the local park, these three Guatemalan children want to live life to the fullest while they can. After all, they are hanging on by a moment, holding onto hope that they will be allowed to legally stay in the United States. They are currently awaiting a Feb. 17, 2015 hearing in the U.S. Immigration Court in Cleveland, Ohio.

While only time can tell what the outcome for the Escalante family will be, at least they know they have a fighting chance. According to the Transaction Records Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, 47% of unaccompanied minors represented by a lawyer during immigration proceedings have been allowed to stay in the United States. In contrast, only 10% of unaccompanied minors without a lawyer have been granted the right to stay. The Escalante family has hope thanks to the legal help they are getting through the Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio.

The legal process of gaining asylum, work permits, and other visas to legally stay in the United States can be overwhelming. While navigating the immigration system can sometimes seem like an impossible hurdle, freedom from extreme poverty, political oppression and physical peril like that faced by the Escalante family in Guatemala make the fight worthwhile. While the Escalante children have legal representation, not all unaccompanied minors are as fortunate.

In Atlanta, immigration lawyers Brownstein & Nguyen have helped countless individuals over the years with their immigration needs. If you or a family member are pursuing a green card, fiance or fiancee visa, or a visa for a spouse or minor child, contact our legal team for help. Our years of experience and knowledge have helped guide clients successfully through the immigration process.

Immigration Removal & Post-Conviction Relief

Criminal convictions, no matter how old, can be problematic for those seeking relief under U.S. immigration laws. Many criminal offenses charged as misdemeanors under state law are considered an “aggravated felony” for immigration purposes. Non-citizen immigrants, or “aliens,” charged by the government as having one or more aggravated felony convictions may be deemed “removable” and put into removal or deportation proceedings. Often, the way in which a sentence was written triggers removability under the Immigration & Naturalization Act (INA).

immigration arrestIn 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment requires that a defendant in a criminal proceeding be correctly advised of the immigration consequences of a guilty plea. Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 346. The actual advice given varies with the particular circumstances of each case. However, following Padilla the Georgia Supreme Court ruled recently that where “the law is clear and deportation is mandatory…an attorney has a duty to accurately advise his client of that fact.” Encarnacion v. State (Sept. 22, 2014). The failure to do can present a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel – a potential ground for overturning a conviction based on a guilty plea.

For an immigrant facing removal based on a criminal conviction or guilty plea, there are several possible avenues of post-conviction relief. If the person pled guilty without adequate advice from counsel concerning immigration consequences (as in Mr. Encarnacion’s case), grounds may exist to seek to overturn the conviction through a habeas corpus petition filed with the state court. For the best chance of success, a habeas petition should be prepared and filed by an attorney experienced in post-conviction relief matters.

If a misdemeanor conviction is considered an aggravated felony under the INA due solely to the way the sentence was written, post-conviction relief in the form of sentence correction or clarification could be available. The attorney representing a person needing such relief would first obtain a complete copy of the court’s file in the criminal case, and then file a motion for clarification to ensure that the sentence intended by the court and actually completed by the defendant did not meet the criteria for an aggravated felony under immigration law. Often, relief from the sentencing court can be obtained by counsel first seeking the consent of the state’s prosecuting attorney’s office.

Finally, if neither of these avenues for relief is available one could petition for a pardon if the legal requirements for doing so are met. In Georgia, to apply for a pardon a defendant must have (1) completed all sentence(s) imposed at least five years prior to applying, including the payment of all fines, (2) lived a law-abiding life since the completion of the sentence(s), and (3) have no pending charges. Again, someone seeking relief in the form of a pardon is well-advised to seek the help of qualified and experienced legal counsel.

The Atlanta GA immigration attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen have over 20 years of experience in immigration law, including representing clients in removal proceedings and seeking post-conviction relief for those who qualify. If you or a loved one is currently facing removal based on a prior criminal conviction, contact us today for help.

Do Immigrant Children Deserve Due Process?

Due process is the bedrock of our legal system in the United States. Based on the guiding principle that every free person is entitled to adequate notice of a charge or grievance and a fair opportunity to be heard, due process encompasses fairness in both legal proceedings (procedural due process) and the application of laws (substantive due process). So important is due process to our democratic system that it is embodied in the 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In the eyes of the law, children are persons entitled to due process. Thus, one would expect that children appearing in our courts would receive due process including proper advance notice of a hearing and the right to a lawyer or attorney if they are accused of a crime or unlawful behavior. But is this true when we are talking about unaccompanied immigrant children? Recent evidence from Atlanta immigration courtrooms suggests not, as case after case involving unrepresented minors is heard at a remarkably fast pace.

Busy Court JudgeIn the last eighteen months, there has been a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the United States from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Many of these children work alongside their families to scrape together every last cent to pay their way across the border in search for freedom from oppression and the promise of a better life. With their home countries being torn apart by gang violence and poverty, the hope of reuniting with family members is what keeps many of them going.

Where do unaccompanied minor immigrants go?

Upon crossing the border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) turns unaccompanied minors over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. It is up to the Office of Refugee Resettlement to locate a parent, relative, friend of the family, or sponsor to help care for the minor until the time of their deportation proceedings.

What’s the connection with Atlanta?

While the surge of unaccompanied minors has made national headlines, it is very present here in Georgia and Atlanta. Over 1,400 unaccompanied minors have landed in the metro Atlanta area while awaiting their fate. The immigration courts seem to be pushing these cases through the courts at an alarming rate. In many cases, unaccompanied immigrant children are not represented and complex cases can get dismissed in the midst. Non-profit immigration lawyers who are willing to donate their time try and help unaccompanied children with valid legal grounds to stay. However, if cases are pushed through the courts at break-neck speed and legal counsel is not available or cannot devote the necessary time to dig deeper into individual cases, many children will fall through the cracks and be returned to the same terrible conditions they fled from.

At Brownstein & Nguyen we do not claim to have all of the answers regarding the current immigration situations. We do however, have years of experience as Atlanta immigration lawyers to offer unaccompanied children and their families seeking answers and representation. The immigration attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen have successfully made a difference in the lives of countless individuals needing help with immigration law cases over the years. Contact our Atlanta immigration law offices today.