Learn About Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

If you were brought into the country by your parents as a child, and are attending school or have graduated from school (or obtained your GED), you may be eligible for protection from deportation and a work permit under the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program. Like Temporary Protected Status, this program does not offer permanent status, but provides protection, work authorization, and does not conflict with obtaining other immigration benefits in the future.

DACA helps to incorporate young adult immigrants into daily American life, making it easier to obtain a credit card, attend college, open a bank account, or get a driver’s license. With the ability to do these things that many U.S. citizens take for granted, these young immigrants are better able to contribute back to the economy of the United States, benefiting all.

DACA is not available to everyone. It only applies to those who came to the U.S. as children, are between the ages of 13 and 30 as of June 12, 2015, have obtained or are obtaining their education, or have served in the military, and have resided and been continuously present in the United States from June 25, 2007 until present, with certain minor breaks in presence permitted.

Even if you have a criminal record, you may still be eligible for DACA, depending on the nature of the charges made against you, especially if those charges are later re-opened and reduced or dismissed.
President Obama announced an extension to the DACA program, to lift the age requirement and update the entry date from June 2007 to January 2010. These changes are the subject of litigation and have not yet gone into effect.

If you think you might be eligible for DACA benefits, or would like to know more about the program, call the Affordable Law Group at 617-971-8295 to schedule a time to talk with our Immigration Attorney, or e-mail sidra@affordablelawma.com.

Learn About Temporary Protected Status

If you have come to the United States due to environmental disasters or civil war in your home country, you may be eligible to request temporary protected status but are unsure what that means, or how to request it.

Temporary protected status (TPS) can allow people from designated countries to safely remain in the United States and receive permission to work. Persons with TPS can also request travel documents so they can visit their home country or travel elsewhere outside the United States.

Countries are designated for TPS by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Secretary may designate an entire country to be eligible for TPS if the country is in the midst of a civil war or has just gone through a large environmental disaster. There are 13 countries currently designated: Yemen, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Nicaragua, Nepal, Liberia, Honduras, Haiti, Guinea, El Salvador.

After designation, there is a set time in which people from that country, who are already in the United States, may request TPS and a work permit. Only people in the United States on the date set by the Secretary of Homeland Security may request TPS. In addition, persons who do not file for initial TPS promptly may not be permitted to file late, even if they were in the United States on the right date.

Because TPS is not permanent, people given TPS must renew it periodically. The expiration date is marked on the card issued to all TPS recipients. If you have TPS, you should file your renewal in advance of the expiration date on your card.

While TPS does not grant permanent residency status, it does not stop you from taking steps to achieve permanent residency. TPS does not prevent someone from applying for other visas, or a green card based on a marriage to a U.S. citizen, or other immigration benefits.

If your home country has been designated for TPS, call the Affordable Law Group at 617-971-8295 to schedule a time to talk with our Immigration Attorney, or e-mail.

Prosecutorial Discretion 101

Prosecutorial Discretion 101
By: Rhoda Agyeman, Legal Clerk at Affordable Law Group

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is an agency of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). ICE is primarily responsible for enforcing federal laws relating to border control, customs, trade and immigration. This government agency is also responsible for arresting and removing aliens who present a danger to national security or individuals who enter the United States illegally. There are various options of relief for individuals facing deportation, including prosecutorial discretion.

What is Prosecutorial Discretion?

Prosecutorial discretion is essentially the power an ICE or Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official has to prosecute or decline to prosecute an ongoing case. In essence, the ICE official has the option to proceed with removal of an individual who has violated an immigration law or is a threat to national security. The authority also gives the official the opportunity to decline to prosecute the individual and grant an administrative closing of the individual’s case.


How Does Prosecutorial Discretion Work?

After an individual receives a Notice to Appear, (a document that informs an individual charged with an immigration violation that removal proceedings have been initiated) ICE can exercise its discretion – of its own initiative or upon request – to determine whether to proceed with pursuing removal of the individual. Given that it is unlikely that ICE can remove all persons illegally present in the country, there are several factors that are considered in determining whether to grant prosecutorial discretion. Such factors include:

 The individual’s pursuit of education in the United States;
 The circumstances of the person’s arrival in the country;
 The person’s length of presence in the United States;
 Whether the individual has any immediate relatives who have served in the armed forces;
 The individual’s contributions to the community;
 Whether the person has a United States citizen or permanent resident spouse, child, or parent;
 The individual’s age;
 The likelihood for the individual to be granted temporary or personal relief from removal.

The decision to prosecute or decline prosecution is based on a priority system determined by the Department of Homeland Security. DHS and ICE seek to focus their resources on individuals that fall within the “highest priority” category. This category includes individuals who pose a threat to public safety such as criminal aliens and national security threats, as well as, repeat immigration law violators and recent border entrants. By focusing on the “highest priority” cases, ICE can close less important cases and save time and resources for more important matters. This discretion means ICE can choose to deport one undocumented immigrant and not the other; prosecutorial discretion works on a case-by-case basis. If the immigration official decides not to enforce removal proceedings on the individual, it is considered a favorable decision and allows the person to remain in the United States.

Key Facts

 Prosecutorial Discretion applies to individuals who are in removal proceedings (deportation)
 Prosecutorial Discretion does NOT provide the individual with any immigration benefits.
 There is NO work authorization granted through prosecutorial discretion.
 Prosecutorial Discretion does NOT provide an individual with permanent lawful status.
 Individuals who are denied a request for prosecutorial discretion CANNOT appeal the decision.
 Prosecutorial Discretion DOES NOT apply to recent border crossers or individuals arrested at the border.

Prosecutorial Discretion is one of many options of relief within the immigration process. It is a possible option with its benefits and disadvantages. The decision to seek prosecutorial discretion is crucial and should not be made without full and adequate knowledge of the law. This is a very complicated area of law; therefore, it is strongly recommended that questions and concerns about the process are directed to an experienced immigration attorney.

To schedule a free phone consultation with Affordable Law Group on immigration or another legal matter, please call 617-971-8295 or email office@affordablelawma.com.

Consumer Finacnial Protection Bureau-Rebuilding Your Credit Score

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – REBUILDING YOUR CREDIT SCORE
Rhoda Agyeman

After the market crash of 2008 and the recent recession, consumers are strongly encouraged to possess some knowledge of the economic system to enable them to practice financial responsibility. Knowledge about topics like checking accounts to more complex issues such as banking regulation laws, are necessary to promote good financial practices. This need to educate and protect consumers was the motivation for the development of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, established in 2011 under the Obama administration, is an independent government agency focused on consumer finance markets. The agency seeks to enable consumers to take control of their economic lives through education of relevant guidelines and laws. CFPB also protects consumers by supervising the conducts of credit unions, banks, and other financial institutions to ensure compliance with regulatory guidelines. Essentially, the goal of CFPB is to make the world of consumer finance as simple and transparent as possible for anyone; from first time checking account owners to first-time home-buyers. Information relating to nearly all financial issues may be found on the agency site: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/. To promote the use of this beneficial resource, CFPB provides information in various languages including: Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, and Haitian Creole, to name a few. Assistance can also be received in over 180 languages by contacting the bureau at (855) 411-2372.

The website provides information covering a wide range of topics including strategies on rebuilding credit score. A credit score is a number that is used to predict how likely you are to pay back a loan on time. Credit scores typically range from 300 – 850. A number closer to 850, usually makes it easier to qualify for loans and often results in better interest rates. Credit scores are vital in today’s economy; some ways to get and maintain a good credit score include:
→ paying bills on time
→ Not using too much of the credit available
→ ordering credit reports yearly and disputing any errors

For more information on credit score or how to maintain a good score, see
http://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/315/what-is-my-credit-score.html

While maintaining a good credit score is important, various circumstances can ruin a good credit. In the event a consumer has an unfavorable score, the following tips may be beneficial in rebuilding good credit:
● Be proactive in dealing with creditors
→ Rather than receiving numerous phone calls from creditors, contact them and inform them of your situation to set-up a plan that is more convenient for you. (ex: a payment plan)

● Avoid paying upfront fees to “repair” your negative credit history
→ Stay away from companies or websites that promise to “fix” your credit score by paying a fee. The FTC states that such companies may result in consumers finding themselves in trouble by committing illegal conduct based on the advice of these companies.

● Tell the credit report companies any inaccurate information on your credit report
→ In a letter, provide the credit reporting company with any information you believe may be incorrect. The companies are required to investigate legitimate claims within 30 days. If an error is found, the credit reporting company must make the correction in your file. Include copies of documents to support your claims.
See: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0058-credit-repair-how-help-yourself#diy for more information

● Seek credit counseling from legitimate sources such as nonprofit organizations
→ Find legitimate credit counseling organizations that can advise you and assist you in managing debts, and developing a budget, as well as provide educational resources. Possible places to consider include universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service
A list of approved agencies can be found at: http://www.justice.gov/ust/list-credit-counseling-agencies-approved-pursuant-11-usc-111

Successful and ineffective financial strategies for rebuilding credit and other financial related topics are also discussed on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau site. To better serve you, the consumer, the CFPB website encourages the use of online forums where consumers can post real-life experiences. Stories about financial products or services and comments regarding recent regulation developments are welcomed in an effort to promote openness and gain insight on the issues affecting consumers. CFPB furthers its mission of serving consumers by reading the submitted stories and assisting where possible.
See: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/your-story/ Many consumers have had both negative and positive financial experiences; to learn what to avoid and ways to improve, it helps to share and read the responses of others.

Massachusetts’ Rules on Spanking: The Parental Privilege Defense

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Massachusetts’ Rules on Spanking: The Parental Privilege Defense
By Amanda Castro, Esq.

A recent Supreme Judicial Court decision allows parents to use reasonable force in disciplining their children without being charged criminally. The Court ruled in Commonwealth v. Dorvil that the physical force used in disciplining a child must be “reasonably related to the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare” of that child.

This decision arose from a case in which a Father was convicted of assault for publicly spanking his toddler. The SJC overturned that conviction and alluded to spanking being “widely regarded as permissible and warranted” in parenting. In one poll where viewers were asked whether spanking their children is a disciplinary method they would use, 76% answered yes compared to 24% who said no.

The Court, however, gave priority to the child’s safety when balancing between parental rights and protecting children against abuse in cases where it is difficult to distinguish between the two. The highest Court in the state found that public spanking where the child was not injured did not toe this line and was clearly not abuse.

Child advocates across the state are expressing concern over this decision, objecting to the idea that spanking can safeguard or promote the welfare of the child. The advocates note that research shows spanking has long-term negative psychological effects on children. School officials and other mandated reporters say when it comes to reporting abuse, they are not in a position to determine a parent’s intent or reasonableness in spanking a child.

The Court came down on the other side, finding that spanking when preventing or punishing misconduct can be reasonably related to promoting that child’s welfare. However, the Court did set some boundaries stating that the force used must not cause or create the risk of causing injury beyond fleeting pain or minor, temporary marks.

Many teachers, social workers, and concerned citizens hope that the Massachusetts State Legislature will draft legislation that clearly outlines what constitutes child abuse and prohibits parents from physically assaulting their children. As of this recent decision, when it comes to parenting, Mothers, Fathers, and guardians are privileged in spanking their children to a “reasonable” degree.

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