Thursday, May 31, 2012

First Steps as a U.S. Citizen: Part II

Obtain a Certificate of Citizenship for Your Child
If you have a child who is a lawful permanent resident under the age of 18 on the day you naturalize, he or she may have automatically acquired U.S. citizenship. To obtain evidence of your child’s acquired U.S. citizenship status, you may apply for a U.S. passport from the U.S. Department of State or for a Certificate of Citizenship using Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship, from USCIS.

Sponsor Family Members to Come to the United States
As a citizen of the United States, you may petition for certain relatives to become lawful permanent
residents by obtaining what is often referred to as a “Green Card.” To do so, you need to sponsor your
relative and be able to prove that you have enough income or assets to support your relative(s) in the
United States.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

USCIS Pairs with Smithsonian Museum to Create Citizenship Preparation Tool

On May 25, 2012 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History launched "Preparing for the Oath: U.S. History and Civics for Citizenship," a Web-based learning tool designed to help immigrants prepare for the civics portion of the naturalization test. This interactive resource features videos and multimedia activities that showcase artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution’s collections and exhibitions.

Preparing for the Oath is an invaluable addition to the citizenship preparation materials we offer to aspiring citizens,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “Using the Smithsonian Institution's extensive collection, this online tool will help individuals learn about the founding principles of American democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a meaningful way.”

Designed as a self-study tool to prepare for the civics portion of the naturalization test, Preparing for the Oath is based on the 100 civics questions and answers from which USCIS draws when administering the test. Preparing for the Oath is organized into themes related to U.S. history, government and civics, with a short video and self-test on the content of each civics question. Many questions prompt users to explore an artifact from the Smithsonian collection; others have accompanying interactive learning activities. A section for teachers provides materials and strategies to use Preparing for the Oathin a classroom setting.

Preparing for the Oath was launched during a special naturalization ceremony on May 25, at the National Museum of American History, featuring keynote remarks from former Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine K. Albright. USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas administered the Oath of Allegiance to 12 new citizens from 12 countries, including three members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“The naturalization ceremony and release of Preparing for the Oath highlight the strong partnership between USCIS and the Smithsonian. During the past four years, the two entities have worked together to provide immigrants, adult educators and the public with a better understanding of American history and the naturalization process,” said Marc Pachter, interim director of the museum.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Members of Illegal Maryland Document Mill Plead Guilty

All members of a Maryland document mill, including eight Mexican nationals and a Honduran national, pleaded guilty to manufacturing and selling thousands of fake government identification documents, following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

"Document fraud poses a severe threat to national security and puts the security of our communities at risk because it creates a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States," said HSI Baltimore Special Agent in Charge William Winter. "This investigation resulted in the dismantlement of a document fraud criminal organization based out of Maryland and the arrest of its leaders. Homeland Security Investigations will move aggressively to investigate and bring to justice those who potentially compromise the integrity of America's legal immigration system."

Between May 14 and May 24, five defendants, all of whom lived in Baltimore, pleaded guilty. They include Cristian Fuentes-Valle, aka "Honduras," 34; Ivan Altamirano-Perez, aka "Elmer," 32; Miguel Reyes-Ontiveros, 41; Daniel Cruz-Martinez, aka "Danny," 23; and Roberto Moralez-Perez, aka "Piza," 26.

According to the plea agreements and other court documents, the responsibility for manufacturing the identity documents – including permanent resident cards and social security cards – rotated among various individuals. From June 2008 through May 2010, Ivan Altamirano-Perez and his brother, Roberto Morales-Perez, shared the territory and took turns receiving the income from manufacturing the identity documents. Beginning in May 2010 and continuing until their arrests, Altamirano-Perez and Morales-Perez shared the territory and manufacturing rights and profits with Miguel Reyes-Ontiveros. Collectively, they were known as the "Broadway Mill Operators." The location of the manufacturing operation, aka the "mill," was changed frequently to avoid detection.

When the Broadway Mill Operators were not engaged in manufacturing the documents, they sold documents themselves or assisted by collecting orders from salesmen and delivering documents back to the salesmen once they had been manufactured. The Broadway Mill Operators used a group of at least 10 individuals, who sold and distributed the identity documents manufactured by the Broadway Mill Operators.

The salesmen included: Adrian Badillo-Carrasco, aka "Rana," 36; Alejandrino Candia-Galindo, aka "Paisa and Omar," 27; Saul Sanchez Galvin, aka "Chino, Morro and Doblon," 27; Juan Merlin-Gonzalez, 35; Cristian Fuentes-Valle, aka "Honduras," 34; and Daniel Cruz-Martinez, aka "Danny," 23.

According to their plea agreements, the salesmen solicited individuals in the 200 block of South Broadway in Baltimore, which is known as the "Broadway Territory," to purchase fake identification documents, either in person or by distributing business cards. When a person seeking to purchase counterfeit identity documents was identified, the salesman would negotiate a price, obtain a picture and the necessary information to create the identification card. The salesman would then call whichever of the Broadway Mill Operators was working that week to pick up the order. Later, the completed identity document would be dropped off for the salesman, who would contact the customer and give him/her the identity documents in exchange for money, which usually cost between $130 and $160.

According to the plea agreements and other court documents, the defendants manufactured and transferred thousands of fraudulent identification documents for which they are alleged to have received approximately $1.68 million.

On Feb. 15, a defendant in a related case, Victor Lopez Escamilla, was convicted by a jury of manufacturing and trafficking in counterfeit identity documents, social security number cards and immigration identity documents. He was sentenced to 97 months in prison.

Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with identification documents and a maximum of 10 years in prison for fraud and misuse of immigration documents. In addition, Altamirano-Perez, Morales-Perez and Reyes-Ontiveros each face a maximum of five years in prison for social security fraud and Altamirano-Perez faces a maximum of 15 years in prison for identification document fraud. The defendants, all of whom are in the U.S. illegally, face removal or removal proceedings upon the completion of their sentences.

U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr., has scheduled sentencing for Reyes-Ontiveros July 19; for Roberto Morales-Perez Aug. 23 and for Altamirano-Perez Aug. 21. Sentencing for Badillo-Carrasco is scheduled July 17; for Candia-Galindo July 26; for Merlin-Gonzalez Aug. 14; for Cruz-Martinez Aug. 22; for Sanchez-Galvin Aug. 28 and for Fuentes-Valle Sept. 5.

The investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore and the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the State Department Diplomatic Security Service, Washington Field Office; the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, Investigation and Security Services Division; and the Baltimore County Police Department.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tamera L. Fine and Judson T. Mihok.

Friday, May 25, 2012

USCIS Announces Transfer of Records to National Archives

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced May 22 the transfer of approximately 44,000 additional alien registration records, known as “A-Files,” to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

USCIS transferred the historical records from its San Bruno Federal Records Center to the permanent custody of the National Archives Pacific Region facility in San Bruno, Calif. It is anticipated that the transferred files will be available to the public beginning today. This is the fourth in a series of immigration file transfers initiated in June 2009, when USCIS and NARA formalized a schedule to relocate eligible A-Files for permanent preservation in the National Archives.

“It is imperative that we protect and treasure America’s immigration history,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “The very fabric of our nation can be found in these files and we are pleased to work with our partners at NARA to ensure their preservation and access for future generations.”

The United States Government first began keeping the individual case files in 1944 to document the interactions between individual aliens and the U.S. government. A-Files are unique because they contain not only demographic information, but in many cases also include a number of other personal and historical documents, such as photographs, foreign birth certificates, marriage licenses and interview transcripts.

The A-Files being moved to the National Archives Pacific Region facility represent immigrants born between the 1860s and 1910. The top three countries of origin represented are Japan (42 percent), the Philippines (34 percent) and China (6 percent). A number of other countries are represented in the A-Files, including Mexico, Portugal and Canada.

In keeping with the 2009 schedule, A-Files located at the San Bruno Federal Records Center will be added to the holdings of the National Archives Pacific Region in San Bruno; all other A-Files will be transferred to the National Archives in Kansas City, Mo. as they become eligible.

USCIS currently maintains approximately 59 million A-Files. In addition to the A-Files that have been transferred to San Bruno, about 477,000 have been transferred to the permanent custody of the National Archives in Kansas City. About 90 percent of those files represent immigrants who came to the United States before 1960.

Once the A-Files are in NARA custody, they will be available to the public in National Archives research rooms and indexed in NARA’s online Archival Research Catalog Copies of the A-Files can also be requested by mail.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

USCIS Announces More Efficient Filing of Certain Waivers of Inadmissibility

Beginning June 4, 2012, individuals abroad who have applied for certain visas and have been found ineligible by a U.S. Consular Officer, will be able to mail requests to waive certain grounds of inadmissibility directly to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Lockbox facility. This change affects where individuals abroad, who have been found inadmissible for an immigrant visa or a nonimmigrant K or V visa, must send their waiver applications.

Currently, applicants experience processing times from one-month to more than a year depending on their filing location. This centralization will provide customers with faster and more efficient application processing and consistent adjudication. It is part of a broader agency effort to transition to domestic filing and adjudication; it does not reflect a change in policy or the standards by which the applications are adjudicated. Individuals filing waiver applications with a USCIS Lockbox will now be able to track the status of their case online.

The change affects filings for:

*               Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility

*               Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal

*               Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion (if filed after a denial of a Form I-601 or Form-212)

Applicants who mail their waiver request forms should use the address provided in the revised form instructions on the USCIS website. Applicants who wish to receive an email or text message when USCIS has received their waiver request may attach Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, to their application.

During a limited six-month transition period, immigrant visa waiver applicants in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, will have the option to either mail their waiver applications to the USCIS Lockbox in the United States or file in-person at the USCIS office in Ciudad Juarez. USCIS is aware of the pending caseload for applicants in Ciudad Juarez and is taking proactive steps to work through these cases. USCIS will significantly increase the number of officers assigned to adjudicate the residual cases filed before June 4, and those filed during the interim six-month transition period. USCIS has already begun to test this process and has transferred applications from Ciudad Juarez to other USCIS offices in the United States.

This change is separate and distinct from the provisional waiver proposal published in the Federal Register on Mar. 30, 2012.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

USCIS Launches ELIS Electronic Filing System

On May 22, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched the first phase of its electronic immigration benefits system, known as USCIS ELIS. The system has been created to modernize the process for filing and adjudicating immigration benefits.

“Today marks a significant milestone in our agency’s history,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “We have launched the foundation for the web-based future of our agency and our immigration benefits system. USCIS ELIS will transform how we interact with our customers and how we manage the 6-7 million applications we receive each year.”

This initial launch brings the agency closer to realizing the future of immigration services. Beginning the May 22, individuals can establish a USCIS ELIS account and apply online to extend or change their nonimmigrant status for certain visa types. Eligible individuals include foreign citizens who travel to the United States temporarily to study, conduct business, receive medical treatment, or visit on vacation. USCIS ELIS will also enable USCIS officers to review and adjudicate online filings from multiple agency locations across the country.

Historically, USCIS customers have had to apply for most benefits by mail and USCIS employees then review paper files and ship documents between offices to complete their adjudication. The launch on May 22 signifies an important step forward and is the first of several releases. Future releases will add form types and functions to the system, gradually expanding to cover filing and adjudication for all USCIS immigration benefits.

This important transition for America’s immigration benefits system will take time and continued dedication to fully implement. Following this first release, USCIS anticipates making adjustments and improvements in response to user feedback. This process will enable USCIS to continually enhance the user experience for both customers and USCIS employees. It will also allow the agency to smooth the transition to electronic filing over time, mindful of those individuals without computer access and the agency’s commitment to serve our diverse customer base.

Benefits of using USCIS ELIS include filing applications and paying fees online, shorter processing times, and the ability to update user profiles, receive notices, and respond to requests electronically. The system also includes tools to combat fraud and identify national security concerns.

Mayorkas attributed the successful launch to the steadfast dedication of the USCIS workforce. “USCIS employees believe in the transformation of our agency from a paper-based to an online environment. It is through their vision, unwavering commitment, and hard work that we have reached this important milestone,” Mayorkas said.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First Steps as a U.S. Citizen: Part I

Apply for a U.S. Passport

Now that you are a U.S. citizen, you can apply for a U.S. passport from the U.S. Department of State. You will need to submit your original Form N-550, Certificate of Naturalization, when applying for your U.S. passport. You may also apply for a U.S. passport for any children under the age of 18 who automatically acquired citizenship based on your naturalization.

Update Your Social Security Record

You will need to visit Social Security so they can update your Social Security record. Wait at least 10 days after your ceremony before doing so and be prepared to show them your Certificate of Naturalization or your U.S. passport. It is important that your Social Security record is accurate because you will need your Social Security Number (SSN) to

get a job, collect Social Security benefits, and receive other government services. When you are hired for a job, your employer can enter your SSN into a Department of Homeland Security Internet program, E-Verify, to determine your eligibility to work in the United States. If your record has not been updated, this may impact your work eligibility.

Register to Vote

As a new U.S. citizen, you may register to vote. You can register to vote by applying in person, by mail, at public assistance offices, or when you apply for or renew your driver’s license.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Man Pleads Guilty to Visa Fraud

A Florida man pleaded guilty Wednesday, May 16, to conspiracy to commit visa fraud, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Mississippi Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General.

Michael Lombardi, 41, was the owner of U.S. Opportunities, a business that provides temporary foreign workers to U.S. companies. He admitted that, from January 2009 through April 2010, he fraudulently obtained temporary work visas under the H-2B visa program for foreign workers from the Philippines and placed them with U.S. companies not authorized to employ them. Some of those foreign workers were employed by companies in Mississippi. Lombardi was arrested Sept. 30 for conspiring to commit visa fraud, fraud in foreign labor contracting and false statements.

"Visa fraud takes jobs away from U.S. citizens and others who are legally allowed to work in this country. Through cases like this one, HSI is helping to protect our economy and preserve job opportunities from being lost due to fraud," said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans. Parmer oversees HSI activities in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee.

Lombardi will be sentenced Aug. 6 and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Annette Williams.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cuban National Deported to Spain for Drug Trafficking

A Cuban national, wanted on drug trafficking charges in Spain, was deported and turned over to Spanish officials May 12. He was escorted to Madrid Airport by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), and turned over to Spanish law enforcement authorities upon arrival.

Pedro Manuel Ortega-Fouz, 38, who also holds permanent residency in Spain, was wanted in Spain for drug trafficking in connection with an international drug trafficking ring. He was ordered removed from the U.S. in 2009.

"Ortega-Fouz's removal to Spain again demonstrates ERO's commitment to removing criminal aliens from the United States," said John Tsoukaris, field office director for ERO Newark. "ERO works closely with our local and international law enforcement partners to identify, locate and deport aliens who are wanted in their home countries."

Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 335 foreign fugitives from the United States who were being sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. ERO works with ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Office of International Affairs, foreign consular offices in the United States, and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the country.

The removal was coordinated with HSI's Office of International Affairs, Consulate General of Spain, U.S. Department of Justice, ICE's Office of Congressional Relations and the U.S. National Central Bureau of Interpol.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Couple Indicted for Human Trafficking, Alien Harboring

A Mexican couple was indicted Tuesday, May 15, for conspiring to harbor aliens and alien harboring, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation is being led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol.

Vicente Ortiz-Soto and Marcial Salas-Gardunio, both 23 and Mexican nationals, were indicted on charges of conspiracy to harbor aliens and alien harboring. The indictment returned May 15 alleges local law enforcement officers, working alongside federal authorities, were sent to a residence in Edinburg, Texas, May 2, after a 911 caller indicated he was being held against his will in an alien stash house.

According to court documents, upon arrival at the scene, authorities discovered more than 100 undocumented aliens of various countries of origin located in three separate buildings on the property. One building was chain-locked and several undocumented aliens who were locked inside the building were treated for injuries.

Statements taken from the undocumented aliens indicated they were allegedly threatened by Salas-Gardunio that they would be beaten or killed if they did not remain quiet. Additionally, witnesses indicated Salas-Gardunio stated "Welcome to Hell" when undocumented aliens arrived at the residence.

HSI arrested the couple May 2 without incident. Both will remain in federal custody without bond pending trial. A date for their arraignment on the formal charges alleged in the indictment will be set by the court in the near future.

If convicted, Ortiz-Soto and Salas-Gardunio could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cory J. H. Crenshaw, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.

The public is reminded that an indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. The defendants are presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

USCIS Establishes Precedent Decision Regarding P-3 Nonimmigrant Visas

On May 15, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) issued a binding precedent decision addressing the term “culturally unique” and its significance in the adjudication of petitions for performing artists and entertainers.

In the case at issue, the Skirball Cultural Center filed a P-3 nonimmigrant petition on behalf of a musical group from Argentina that was denied a performing artists’ visa for failing to establish that the group’s performance was “culturally unique” as required for this visa classification. Due to the unusually complex and novel issue and the likelihood that the same issue could arise in future decisions, the decision was recommended for review.

USCIS’s AAO approved the petition after its review of the entire record, which included expert written testimony and corroborating evidence on behalf of the musical group. The regulatory definition of “culturally unique” requires USCIS to make a case-by-case factual determination. The decision clarifies that a “culturally unique” style of art or entertainment is not limited to traditional art forms, but may include artistic expression that is deemed to be a hybrid or fusion of more than one culture or region.

Precedent decisions support USCIS’s commitment to consistency in the administration of immigration benefits. This is the third precedent decision issued since late 2010. Selected and designated as precedent by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with the Attorney General’s concurrence, precedent decisions are administrative decisions that are legally binding on DHS components responsible for enforcing immigration laws in all proceedings involving the same issue.

The Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) publishes precedent decisions in bound volumes titled, “Administrative Decisions Under Immigration and Nationality Laws of the United States.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sponsoring an Employee for Permanent Resident Status: An Introduction

As an employer (or prospective employer), if you want to sponsor a foreign national to become a permanent resident based on a permanent job offer, you and the foreign national need to go through a multi-step process.

In most cases, the process begins when the employer obtains an approved Labor Certification Application (LCA) from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). After the LCA has been approved by the DOL, the employer continues the process by filing Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on behalf of the foreign national with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If prior DOL certification is not required, the sponsoring process will start when you file a Form I-140 with USCIS. Form I-140 is available on the USCIS at Sometimes, as discussed below, the foreign national can combine the Form I-140 with a permanent resident application. For information on all of the filing requirements and fees for a labor certification request with DOL, please visit that agency’s website at

Friday, May 11, 2012

Texas Man Sentenced for Immigration Fraud Scheme, Has Citizenship Revoked

A Plano, Texas, man was sentenced to three years in prison for his involvement in a health care fraud conspiracy and providing false information to obtain citizenship, announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. SaldaƱa of the Northern District of Texas. The immigration case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Okey F. Nwagbara, 45, was sentenced May 7 by U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay to 36 months in federal prison following his guilty pleas in January. In addition, at sentencing, Judge Lindsay revoked Nwagbara's citizenship, cancelling his Certificate of Naturalization issued in January 2008 and ordered that the certificate be immediately surrendered to USCIS.

Nwagbara was the owner and operator of Advanced MedEquip and Supplies, Ltd. (Advanced), a durable medical equipment company located in Richardson, Texas. In pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, Nwagbara admitted that he paid kickbacks to co-conspirator Jerry Bullard, who worked in the durable medical equipment department of Medistat Group Associates, Inc. (Medistat). The kickbacks were paid to direct business to Advanced and to sign durable medical equipment orders for Advanced. Medistat is an association of health care providers located in Desoto, Texas.

Bullard pleaded guilty in mid-February 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

In pleading guilty to one count of making a false statement in an immigration document and one count of unlawful procurement of naturalization, Nwagbara admitted that he falsely provided information to USCIS on his naturalization application. He admitted that his assertion that he had been living with and married to an individual for three years was false and intentionally misleading and made solely for the purpose of procuring U.S. citizenship.

The health care fraud case was investigated by the Dallas Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) Strike Force, which includes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General, the FBI and the Texas Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Elliott and Mindy Sauter, Northern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

20 Ways to Help and Prevent International Human Trafficking

20 Ways to Help Victims of Human Trafficking

After first learning about human trafficking, many people want to help in some way but do not know how. Here are just a few ideas for your consideration.

1.                               Learn human trafficking red flags and ask follow up questions so that you can detect a potential trafficking situation.

2.                               In the United States, report your suspicions to law enforcement at 911, Department of Justice at 1-888-428-7581, and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888. Victims, including undocumented individuals, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.

3.                               Be a conscientious consumer. Make socially responsible investments. Let your favorite retailers know that you support their efforts to maintain a slavery free supply chain. Encourage your company or your employer to take steps to investigate and eliminate human trafficking throughout its supply chain and to publish the information for consumer awareness.

4.                               Hire trafficking survivors.

5.                               Volunteer your professional services to help an anti-trafficking organization that need help from lawyers, doctors, dentists, counselors, translators and interpreters, graphic designers, public relations and media professionals, event planners, and accountants.

6.                               Donate funds or needed items to an anti-trafficking organization.

7.                               Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.

8.                               Join or start a grassroots human trafficking coalition.

9.                               Encourage your local schools to include modern slavery in their curriculum. As a parent, educator, or school personnel, be aware of how traffickers target school-aged children.

10.                            Meet with and write to your local, state and federal government representatives to let them know that you care about combating human trafficking in your community.

11.                            Create and distribute public awareness materials such as t-shirts, posters, and public service announcements for radio. Or distribute already existing materials available from the Department of Health and Human Services or Department of Homeland Security.

12.                            Host an awareness event to watch and discuss a recent human trafficking documentary. On a larger scale, host a human trafficking film festival. Several noteworthy films and documentaries have been produced in the last several years that bring attention to the plight of victims worldwide.

13.                            Write a letter to the editor for your local paper about human trafficking in your community.

14.                            Incorporate human trafficking information into your professional associations’ conferences, trainings, manuals, and other materials as relevant.

15.                            STUDENTS: Join or establish a university club to raise awareness about human trafficking throughout the local community and identify victims. Request that human trafficking be an issue included in such university courses as health, migration, human rights, social work, and crime. Increase scholarship about human trafficking by publishing an article, teaching a class, or hosting a symposium.

16.                            COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS: ensure that your staff is able to identify and assist trafficked persons.

17.                            LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS: join or start a local human trafficking task force.

18.                            MENTAL HEALTH OR MEDICAL PROVIDERS: extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims assisted by nearby anti-trafficking organizations.

19.                            IMMIGRATION ATTORNEYS: learn about and offer to human trafficking victims the immigration benefits for which they are eligible.

20.                            EMPLOYMENT LAW ATTORNEYS: look for signs of human trafficking among your clients.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Missouri Woman Pleads Guilty in $5 Million Illegal Document Conspiracy

A Missouri woman pleaded guilty in federal court Monday, May 7, to her role in a more than $5 million conspiracy that utilized the Missouri Department of Revenue license office in St. Joseph to provide more than 3,500 fraudulent identity documents to illegal aliens across the United States.

The guilty plea resulted from an investigation conducted by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations; the Buchanan County (Mo.) Sheriff's Department; the St. Joseph (Mo.) Police Department; the Platte County (Mo.) Sheriff's Department; the Missouri State Highway Patrol; the Missouri Department of Revenue Investigation Bureau; the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Christina Michelle Gonzalez, 23, of St. Joseph, Mo., pleaded guilty May 7 before U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to the charges contained in a Jan. 10 federal indictment.

By pleading guilty, Gonzalez admitted to participating in a conspiracy from November 2009 to January 2012 to transport illegal aliens, unlawfully produce identification documents, unlawfully transfer another person's identification, and commit Social Security fraud.

During the conspiracy, thousands of illegal aliens traveled from across the United States to obtain either a Missouri driver's or non-driver's license at the St. Joseph license office by using unlawfully obtained birth certificates and Social Security cards. It is estimated that more than 3,500 licenses were issued to illegal aliens by the Department of Revenue license office in St. Joseph. The state licenses could then be used by the illegal aliens to remain unlawfully in the United States, to unlawfully obtain employment and for other unlawful purposes.

Gonzalez admitted that she accompanied illegal aliens to the St. Joseph license office, under the guise of being a translator, in order to assist them with obtaining a Missouri driver's or non-driver's license. Those licenses used the names of persons who were listed on unlawfully obtained birth certificates and Social Security cards.

Gonzalez instructed and assisted the illegal aliens to practice memorizing the information on the birth certificates and Social Security cards and to practice signing the name on those documents so that the signatures would be similar. She also assisted the illegal aliens to prepare for potential questions from the license office employees.

Gonzalez assisted the illegal aliens who did not live in Missouri by providing them with a Missouri residential address to use in order to obtain the Missouri driver's or non-driver's license.

The illegal aliens were usually charged between $1,500 and $1,600 for the document sets and the Missouri driver's and non-driver's licenses. Gonzalez collected money from the illegal aliens, which she paid to her co-conspirators. It is estimated that more than $5,250,000 in gross proceeds was paid by illegal aliens to members of this conspiracy.

Under federal statutes, Gonzalez is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a pre-sentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jess E. Michaelsen, Western District of Missouri, is prosecuting the case.

Monday, May 7, 2012

4 Mexican Nationals Rescued from Human Smugglers

Four Mexican nationals, including three suspected torture victims, were rescued from a human smuggling drop house Wednesday, May 2, by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assigned to the Phoenix Border Enforcement Security Task Force Drop House Response Group, with support from the Phoenix Police Department.

Following their rescue Wednesday, May 2, three of the hostages told HSI investigators their captors had beaten, sexually assaulted and attacked them with a stun gun. One man had been stabbed.

The four were freed after HSI special agents developed information that suspected human smugglers were operating out of a residence located near 83rd Avenue and Osborn. Based upon that information, investigators initiated surveillance of the house and subsequently observed a vehicle enter its garage only to leave a short time later. Special agents stopped the vehicle, discovered $7,200 in the vehicle, and apprehended two suspected smugglers and two recently smuggled Mexican nationals. Shortly after the vehicle stop, agents observed three other men leave the residence on bicycle and on foot. All three were identified as suspected smugglers and apprehended.

When HSI special agents and Phoenix Police Department officers entered the residence, they discovered four male Mexican nationals in a bedroom. Two of the men were bound with rope around their ankles and a third man had been stabbed recently on his upper back. All three had other visible injuries consistent with being physically abused. The fourth man appeared physically unharmed.

The stabbing victim was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and later released to authorities. The other three men were evaluated and treated as needed by the Phoenix Fire Department at the scene. All four of the men are now in ICE custody and receiving victim services.

"Tragically, this case shows yet again the brutality of the human smuggling trade," said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of HSI Arizona. "To the smugglers, these human beings are nothing more than a business commodity. They have no qualms about using ruthless violence in an effort to collect their smuggling fees. HSI is fully committed to disrupting this violent activity and dismantling the criminal organizations involved."

The five suspected smugglers, all of whom are Mexican nationals, were arrested by the Phoenix Police Department and booked into the Maricopa County Jail Thursday on kidnapping, aggravated assault, sexual assault and extortion charges. They are expected to make their initial court appearance late Thursday. The five may also face future federal charges.

The investigation is ongoing.

HSI established the Drop House Response Group in September 2009 to identify, target and dismantle the infrastructure used by human smuggling organizations operating in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fact Sheet: Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers

Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers

Reminder: This proposed process is not in effect.

What USCIS Proposes

On March 30, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register requesting public comment on its plan to create an alternative process for certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to apply for and receive a provisional waiver of the unlawful presence ground of inadmissibility while still in the United States, if they can demonstrate that being separated from their U.S. citizen spouse or parent would cause that U.S. citizen relative extreme hardship. The goal of the proposed process change is to reduce the time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives while those family members go through the consular process overseas to obtain an immigrant visa.

Why USCIS Proposed It

Currently, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who have accrued a certain period of unlawful presence in the United States are barred from returning to the United States for as long as 3 or 10 years if they leave the country. Immediate relatives can obtain a waiver of the unlawful presence bar if they show that a U.S. citizen spouse or parent will experience extreme hardship if they are required to remain outside the United States. The immediate relative also would have to show that they warrant a favorable exercise of discretion. But in order to obtain the waiver, these individuals must depart the United States and wait abroad while the waiver is processed.

Under the current process, therefore, U.S. citizens suffer unnecessarily long periods of separation while family members go through consular processing overseas to obtain an immigrant visa. The proposed process change lessens the length of separation by reducing inefficiencies in the current immigrant visa process. USCIS believes that this proposed change will streamline the immigrant visa process for immediate relatives whose only ground of inadmissibility is unlawful presence. USCIS plans to adjudicate the provisional waiver application in the United States before the immediate relative departs for his or her immigrant visa interview, which will reduce the length of time immediate relatives must spend abroad for consular processing.

What the Proposed Process Would Do

Under the proposed process, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who would need a waiver of unlawful presence in order to obtain an immigrant visa could file a new Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, before leaving the United States to obtain an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. All individuals eligible for this streamlined process are still required to depart the United States and must meet all legal requirements for issuance of an immigrant visa and admission to the United States.

An individual may seek a provisional unlawful presence waiver if he or she:

  • Is physically present in the United States;
  • Is at least 17 years of age;
  • Is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant visa petition (I-130) classifying him or her as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen;
  • Is actively pursuing the immigrant visa process and has already paid the Department of State immigrant visa processing fee;
  • Is not subject to any other grounds of inadmissibility other than unlawful presence; and
  • Can demonstrate that the refusal of admission would result in extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen spouse or parent.

An immediate relative would not be eligible for the proposed process if he or she:

  • Has an application already pending with USCIS for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident;
  • Is subject to a final order of removal or reinstatement of a prior removal order;
  • May be found inadmissible at the time of the consular interview for reasons other than unlawful presence; or
  • Has already been scheduled for an immigrant visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Allowing immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to receive provisional waivers in the United States before departure for their immigrant visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate means that:

  • Immigrant visa processing times will improve because of greater capacity in the United States and fewer case transfers between USCIS and the Department of State;
  • Immigrant visas will be issued without unnecessary delay (if the individual is otherwise eligible); and
  • The period of separation and hardship many U.S. citizens would face due to prolonged separation from their family members will be minimized.

Next Steps

This new process will be implemented only after USCIS publishes a final rule in the Federal Register with an effective date. USCIS will consider all comments received as part of the proposed rulemaking process before publishing the final rule. The current waiver process remains in place and will continue to remain for those who may not be eligible for a provisional waiver.

DO NOT file an application or request a provisional waiver at this time. Any applications filed with USCIS based on this NPRM will be rejected and the application package returned to the applicant, including any fees, until the final rule is issued and the change becomes effective.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Former ICE Intelligence Director Pleads Guilty to Fraud

The former acting director of intelligence for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pleaded guilty to defrauding the government of more than $180,000 in a scheme involving fraudulent travel vouchers, and time and attendance claims.

James M. Woosley, 48, formerly of Tucson, Ariz., pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of conversion of government money. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson scheduled sentencing for July 13, 2012. Under federal guidelines, Woosley faces a likely sentence of 18 to 27 months in prison as well as a potential fine. In addition, as part of his plea agreement, he agreed to forfeiture of the money he wrongfully obtained.

Four others earlier pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme: Ahmed Adil Abdallat, 64, a former ICE supervisory intelligence research specialist, pleaded guilty in October 2011; William J. Korn, 53, a former ICE intelligence research specialist, pleaded guilty in December 2011; Stephen E. Henderson, 61, a former contractor doing work for ICE, pleaded guilty in January 2012; and Lateisha M. Rollerson, 38, a former assistant to Woosley, pleaded guilty in March 2012. Abdallat pleaded guilty in the Western District of Texas, and the others pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia.

All told, the actions of the various defendants cost ICE more than $600,000.

"Today James Woosley became the fifth – and highest-ranking – individual to plead guilty as part of a series of fraud schemes among rogue employees and contractors at ICE," said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., District of Columbia. "He abused his sensitive position of trust to fleece the government by submitting phony paperwork for and taking kickbacks from subordinates who were also on the take. This ongoing investigation demonstrates our dedication to protecting the taxpayer from corrupt government employees and contractors."

"Criminal acts within the Department of Homeland Security represent a threat to our nation and undermine the honest and hard-working employees who strive to maintain the integrity of the department," said U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Inspector General Charles K. Edwards. "OIG takes all allegations of employee wrongdoing very seriously. Those who choose to break the law will be pursued aggressively."

"Today, Mr. Woosley admitted to a scheme in which he spent years defrauding the government," said James W. McJunkin, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office. "This plea should serve as a reminder to all who serve in positions of public trust – if you use those positions for personal gain, you will be held accountable."

"Today's plea reflects the outstanding law enforcement cooperation in a case that unmasked the illicit acts of a senior ICE official," said Paul E. Layman, deputy division director of ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility. "This case was an egregious breach of the public's trust and is atypical of the integrity displayed by ICE employees on a daily basis. ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility will continue to ensure that the employees of the agency are held to the highest standards of professional conduct. Guarding against illegal or unethical behavior is not an option; it is an obligation we have to the people we serve."

According to the government's evidence, with which Woosley agreed, from in or about May 2008 until in or about January 2011, Woosley participated in fraudulent activity involving travel vouchers, and time and attendance claims. In addition, from June 2008 until in or about February 2011, Woosley was aware of or willfully overlooked fraudulent activity of ICE employees under his supervision or contract employees.

The other employees included Rollerson, who he met in or about 2007, while he was deputy director for ICE's Office of Intelligence. Woosley and Rollerson developed a close, personal relationship. In or about May 2008, Rollerson was hired as an intelligence reports writer for a company that did contract work for ICE. Later that year, she was hired by ICE as an intelligence research specialist. This placed her first in the chain of command under Woosley, and she later became Woosley's personal assistant. Rollerson's official duty station was in Washington, D.C., and she lived in Virginia, often with Woosley. Rollerson helped Woosley and the other participants with the paperwork to support the fraudulent payments they later received.

Woosley admitted obtaining money in various ways:

·                             Between approximately May 2008 and January 2011, Woosley submitted or caused to be submitted approximately 13 fraudulent travel vouchers to ICE, at a cost of $50,637. As Woosley's assistant, Rollerson created all but one of the travel vouchers, as well as fraudulent documents to support the claimed expenses. She often accompanied him on the trips.

·                             Between approximately November 2009 and January 2011, Woosley submitted or caused to be submitted time and attendance claims for his pay for work he was supposed to be doing while he was on travel. Because he was not actually on travel or working, he was not entitled to the payments of approximately $27,230.

·                             Starting in 2008, Woosley took a share of the fraudulent proceeds obtained by others in a scheme involving travel vouchers. For example, Henderson, an ICE contractor who was detailed on temporary duty to Washington, D.C., kicked back $5,000 to Woosley that was used to purchase a boat. Henderson also lived with Woosley and used some fraudulent proceeds to pay rent. Abdallat wrote checks to Rollerson and others for the benefit of Woosley and Rollerson totaling about $58,550. Korn kicked back about $30,648 to the benefit of Woosley and Rollerson. Finally, an unnamed contract employee gave $15,940 in fraudulent travel voucher funds to Woosley, which Woosley used for a real estate investment.

This case was investigated by the DHS Office of Inspector General, the FBI's Washington Field Office and the ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility.

In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Machen, Acting Inspector General Edwards, Assistant Director McJunkin and Deputy Division Director Layman praised the investigative agents from the respective agencies for their hard work in this matter. They also acknowledged the efforts of former Legal Assistant Jared Forney, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Butler and Allison Barlotta, who are handling this prosecution, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Sroka and Emily Scruggs, who are handling the asset forfeiture.