Pro Bono CLE: Immigrant Children and Tennessee Family Courts

A live broadcast CLE Friday at several Baker Donelson offices will train non-immigration-law practitioners on how to aid eligible unaccompanied children with obtaining predicate state court orders for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Immigrant Children and Tennessee Family Courts: Challenges and Avenues for Relief is scheduled from noon - 2 p.m. EDT and approved for two hours of CLE credit. The course is free if you agree to take a case pro-bono. You may choose the location you want to attend through the online registration.

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Judge Asked to Issue Warrant in International Custody Dispute

A pair of Memphis attorneys have asked Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan to issue an arrest warrant for an undocumented immigrant, who is currently missing with her son. The request is on behalf of the boy’s father. Varlan last month ordered the mother, who was living illegally in Knoxville, to return the boy to Mexico in a rare case brought under The Hague Convention of 1980 International Child Abduction Remedies Act. Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel

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JFON to Host Seminar May 19 in Nashville

Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors will host a seminar in Nashville for lawyers and paralegals who want to help unaccompanied immigrant children remain in the United States. The seminar is planned for May 19, 2-5 p.m. at Casa Azafran, 2195 Nolensville Pike. Online pre-registration for the course is required. The event is free, but contributions are welcome. 

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House Approves Call to Sue Over Refugee Resettlement

The state House approved a measure (SJR 0467) last night that would order Attorney General Herbert Slately to sue the federal government over a refugee resettlement program. The Senate previously approved the measure and must now sign off on a change that would allow a private law firm to sue on behalf of the state before the measure becomes law, The Associated Press reports. “The passage of this resolution, and the litigation that will follow, puts Tennessee on the wrong side of history,” said Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. 

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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Fundraiser to Benefit Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors

Bone McAllester Norton will host a fundraiser on April 21 for Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors to support humanitarian immigration legal services for undocumented immigrants in Middle Tennessee. Funds will help protect victims of war, trafficking and abuse. The event, sponsored by Sherrard and Roe PLC, is scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m. at Bone McAllester Norton, located at Nashville City Center, 511 Union St., Suite #1600. A $50 contribution is suggested.

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Spanish for Lawyers Series Available Online

The Tennessee Bar Association and the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute offer the Spanish for Lawyers Series, which focuses on communication skills for lawyers with Spanish-speaking clients. The online CLE courses include Basic Skills and Introductions, The Law Office and Client Interview, and Criminal Law. Each course offers one hour of dual credit.

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House Committee Approves Refugee Act Lawsuit

The House State Government Committee yesterday approved a resolution (SJR 0467) that would require Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement. The resolution includes a provision that would allow the legislature to hire outside counsel. Proponents of the measure argue “the government failed to consult with Tennessee on the continued placement of refugees,” according to The Tennessean. The Senate last month approved the resolution. It now heads to the House finance committee.

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Register for the Upcoming TBA Immigration Law Seminar

TBA Immigration Law Section CLE, which will address the latest developments in immigration law, will be April 15 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. 

Speakers include:

  • Catherine Chargualaf, Assistant Field Office Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Removal Operations;
  • Lynuel Dennis, Field Office Director DHS/USCIS; and
  • Judge Rebecca Holt, Memphis Immigration Court.  

Topics include the following:

  • Nuts and Bolts of Immigration Court Practice
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

To register today for the program, please click on the link below:

Immigration Law Seminar 2016

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DHS’s Proposed New Employment-Case Processing

*By Brittany Thomas Faith

In December 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed regulation covering employment-based green card processing, non-immigrant work visas and employment authorization documents (EADs). DHS provided a 60-day comment period beginning on Dec. 31, 2015. The comment deadline ended on Feb. 29, 2016, and, as of the time of this writing, the final regulation has not been published.

The lengthy regulation will affect a large number of the U.S. skilled immigrant workers. DHS states that the proposed amendments would provide various benefits to participants in those programs, including: “improved processes for U.S. employers seeking to sponsor and retain immigrant and nonimmigrant workers, greater stability and job flexibility for such workers, and increased transparency and consistency in the application of agency policy related to affected classifications.”

Most of the “updates” in this proposed rule are clarifications or a continuation of previously articulated guidance in agency memoranda and precedent decisions which stem from the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21) and the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA). In codifying these memoranda and decisions, the proposed regulation would enhance uniformity within the agency and provide a primary repository of governing rules for the regulated community. In addition, the proposed regulation clarifies several interpretive questions raised by AC21 and ACWIA.

DHS intends for these changes to improve the ability of “U.S. employers to hire and retain high-skilled workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and are waiting to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs), while increasing the ability of such workers to seek promotions, accept lateral positions with current employers, change employers, or pursue other employment options.”

There are a few announcements from DHS which will affect the employment-based permanent residence process and H-1B work visa category if this rule becomes final in its current state. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, all of these proposals cannot be addressed; however, here is a sampling of some of the proposed changes:

  1. The proposed rule makes changes to the EAD application process. The 90-day requirement for adjudicating petitions would be scrapped “in light of national security and fraud concerns.” This change is not surprising given the current delays. USCIS is softening this change by providing for the automatic extension of employment authorization for timely filed I-765 renewal applications.
  2. The proposed regulation also addresses ongoing H-1B issues, including when a position requires a license to perform the position’s duties.  The proposed rule would allow the employer to petition for an unlicensed worker, by demonstrating that the worker had applied for the appropriate license, but was unable to obtain it because the issuing authority requires a social security number or employment authorization. Also, this requirement will be deemed satisfied if the worker will be working in a state that allows workers to work under the supervision of a licensed senior or supervisory personnel.
  3. To enhance job portability for certain high-skilled nonimmigrants, DHS proposes to establish a one-time grace period of up to 60 days whenever employment ends for individuals holding E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, or TN nonimmigrant status. There is currently no grace period. This proposal would allow these high-skilled workers flexibility to pursue new employment with another employer assuming they would still qualify for their current employer-sponsored nonimmigrant classification or another classification.

Overall, the regulation mostly turns policy into official, binding regulation and aids both employers and employees in their immigration processes. Most practitioners won’t think of this proposed regulation as earth-shattering news. Of course, this doesn’t stop media commenters from misreading the regulation and stroking anti-immigration fever. For more information on that, please see Greg Siskind’s recent blog. To read the proposed regulation in its entirety, please see the Federal Register’s website.


*Brittany Thomas Faith joined Grant, Konvalinka & Harrison PC in 2012 and focuses her practice on immigration. She received her bachelor of arts from Pennsylvania State University in 2009, and her law degree from the University of Tennessee in 2012 where she was director of the College of Law's Pro Bono Program. Before coming to GKH, Brittany worked at several immigration non-profits and created the College of Law's Immigration Alternative Spring Break Program. She may be reached at or (423) 756-8400.

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The Final STEM OPT Rule

*By Greg Siskind

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a regulation that covers one of President Obama’s more significant employment-based executive action proposals. This followed the issuance of a proposed rule in October 2015 that was responding to a federal judge’s order striking down the existing F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) 17-month extended EAD program for people with degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields because of a lack of notice and commenting opportunity in the issuance of the 2008 interim rule. The judge gave the government until February 2016 to have a replacement rule in place and, after receiving an extension, USCIS has issued its final rule. The rule makes various changes to the F-1 STEM OPT program and includes formal rulemaking for the cap-gap program, but there are very few changes from the proposed rule.

Here are the most important takeaways from the final rule:

  1. The rule is effective May 10, 2016. 17-month OPT extensions will be accepted through May 9. Applicants with cases still pending on that date will receive an RFE essentially giving the applicants a chance to amend their applications to comply with the new rules including submitting a training plan on the new Form I-983. Adjudications from May 10 onward will apply the new rules. Any 17-month EAD issued prior to May 10 will remain valid until expired or revoked.
  2. The new rule expands the 17-month extension, beyond the 12 months open to most F-1 students, to 24 months of additional OPT.
  3. Employers still have to participate in E-Verify.
  4. A double major qualifies as long as one of the majors was in a STEM field.
  5. A STEM OPT job must be for at least 20 hours per week.
  6. If a student uses the STEM OPT 24-month period and then enrolls in a new higher level STEM program, the student would be entitled to a new 24-month STEM extension (plus the 12 months of regular OPT).
  7. The rule defines which STEM categories qualify based on the Department of Education’s CIP taxonomy and includes groups containing mathematics, natural sciences, engineering/engineering technologies and computer/information systems and related fields. Health and social sciences are not included. DHS will publish a list of accepted STEM fields on the SEVIS web page at and also update the Federal Register when the list changes.
  8. Employers will need to implement formal training plans for STEM OPT employees (using form I-983). Employers must also have a process in place for evaluating the OPT employee on an annual basis to demonstrate that the student is making progress toward his training objectives. And there is a formal process for modifying the training plan that involves both the employer and student signing a modified plan and submitting it to the DSO. Existing training plans can be used as long as they conform to OPT rules.
  9. The training plan must (1) identify the goals for the STEM practical training opportunity, including specific knowledge, skills, or techniques that will be imparted to the student; (2) explain how those goals will be achieved through the work-based learning opportunity with the employer; (3) describe a performance evaluation process; and (4) describe methods of oversight and supervision.
  10. STEM OPT extensions are available to people in non-STEM programs if the F-1 student earned an earlier STEM degree from an accredited, SEVIS-enrolled U.S. institution (determined at the time the extension is filed) within the past 10 years (even in a status other than F-1). The new position must be in the same STEM-related field. For example, if a person gets an MBA after getting a STEM degree and then works for a company where the STEM background is needed, this might be eligible for STEM OPT.
  11. U.S. worker protections are now included in the program and the employer must sign an attestation covering the following: a) the employer has the resources and personnel available to provide training, b) the employer is forbidden from replacing a full- or part-time, temporary or permanent U.S. worker as a result of hiring a STEM OPT worker (unless for cause), and c) the training must be in the student’s field.
  12. Only accredited schools may participate in the STEM OPT program and DHS (through ICE) has the discretion to conduct on-site inspections at employer work sites to determine compliance. DHS will give 48 hours’ notice of a visit unless it is investigating a complaint or suspected violation.
  13. Students currently are allowed to be unemployed for 90 days during the initial 12-month OPT and up to 30 days during the STEM extension. The new rule would allow up to 60 days in the STEM extension period.
  14. The existing school reporting requirement and the cap-gap extension program remains.
  15. F-1 students currently in STEM OPT would be able to request extensions for the additional 7 months as long as they apply within 120 days of the end of their 17-month period and the employer meets the new employer requirements.
  16. The government intends for the rule to be finalized before May 10, 2016, to meet the judge’s deadline in the STEM OPT litigation. If DHS is unable to issue a final rule by then, it may end up returning applications and asking people to refile.
  17. The rule requires that the terms and conditions of an employer’s STEM practical training opportunity – including duties, hours and wages – be commensurate with similarly situated U.S. workers either in the company or, if there are no others, in the same geographic area of employment. Using Department of Labor wage data is one way to demonstrate this. Employers will be required to provide wage information to DHS in the training plan.
  18. DHS is working on a new technology that would allow students to update some of their own information themselves in SEVIS.
  19. The rule authorizes a recurring evaluation process allowing ICE to monitor student progress during the OPT period consistent with the training plan.
  20. New compliance requirements include: 1) STEM OPT employers must have an Employer ID Number; and 2) EAD applications must be submitted within 60 days of the DSO entering the student information in SEVIS (versus 30 days under the current rule).


*Greg Siskind is a founding partner of Siskind Susser PC – Immigration Lawyers and has been practicing law since 1990. He began practicing law after receiving his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University in 1986 and his law degree from the University of Chicago in 1990. He is the author of several books including the annually published J-1 Visa Guidebook, the American Bar Association’s Lawyers Guide to Marketing on the Internet and SHRM’s Employer’s Immigration Compliance Desk Reference. Greg may be reached at or (901) 682-6455.

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The Scary ICE Raids

*By Marlee Deck

Beginning on Jan. 2, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began detaining undocumented immigrants through the use of selected raids. The raids target adults and children who were apprehended at the border on or after Jan. 1, 2014, have been issued final orders of removal by an immigration judge, and have no pending claim for asylum, or other humanitarian relief under U.S. state law, including appeals of immigration court decisions.

Additionally, ICE began conducting “Operation Border Guardian” on Jan. 23, 2016, by taking 336 people into custody. The focus of the latter operation is the same as the raids except it more specifically targets individuals who were unaccompanied minors when arriving after Jan. 1, 2014 but are now over 18 years of age. [i] So far the areas of focus have been Georgia, Texas, North Carolina and Louisiana -- jurisdictions with high concentrations of Central Americans. To date, Tennessee has not experienced any raids. However, DHS Secretary has stated that the department’s efforts to detain and deport immigrants who have apparently exhausted all legal remedies will continue.

On Jan. 2 and 3, 2016, 121 immigrants were rounded up and transported to Dilley Texas Detention Center. Virtually all of the detainees were women and children. Following the raids, CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project filed emergency stays with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) for 12 families who were detained during the raids. Of the 12 families for whom the CARA Project secured stays, eight of them were detained until early February and four of them remain in detention. Many of the detainees from the ICE raids were transferred to a facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania, whose license was recently revoked by the state. CARA Project Managing Attorney, Katie Shepherd, stated that ICE executed a transfer of one of the mothers knowing full well that a pro-bono attorney from out of town was on the way to meet her at Dilley Detention Center. [ii] Advocates who toured the Berks Detention Center were appalled by what they saw and learned from the detainees. Children at the center were not allowed to sleep with their parents and individuals were awoken from their sleep every 15 minutes each night with flashlights. This is actual torture. [iii]

The ICE raids have serious implications on the constitutional rights of those impacted. Immigration advocates have been expressing deep concern for the due process rights of undocumented immigrants in expedited removal proceedings, which has intensified since the raids. It is established law that immigrants within the United States have a right to due process under the Constitution, even if they are here unlawfully or temporarily immigrants also have a right, under the 4th Amendment, to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, regardless of their immigration status. The DHS Form I-200 “Warrant for Arrest of Alien” or Form I-205 “Warrant for Removal/Deportation” authorizes the ICE agent to take into custody and/or deport the individual named on the form. However, neither of these forms give an ICE agent permission to search the individual’s home. To do so, requires consent or an order signed by a judge.

While DHS states that its target during the raids are individuals who have exhausted their legal remedies, many of the individuals who fall under this category were denied due process in their initial apprehension, detention, and/or removal proceedings, before the ICE raids. The findings of the CARA Project during their interviews with the 12 detained families adds credibility to these concerns about the due process violations of individuals who were ordered removed. In their interviews with detainees, they discovered each mother for whom the CARA Project filed an appeal had been denied due process in at least one way, including: insufficient time for attorney preparation for individuals in expedited proceedings; lack of information on what the process was and what their legal obligations and rights were; immigration officials pressuring them to sign legal documents they did not understand; and arrest and detention after they had complied with ICE Orders of Supervision and Immigration Court appearances. [iv] Reports in recent years, including one published by Human Rights Watch in 2014, reveal that immigration officials, at the border and in detention centers, actively discourage immigrants who have expressed fear of returning home from seeking relief, and fail to adequately screen for fear, during apprehension and detention. [v]

Furthermore, the huge disparity in asylum outcomes across immigration courts in the United States suggest a lack of due process in court proceedings as well. For example, in 2014, the asylum application grant rate was 1 percent in Atlanta Immigration Court while it was 84 percent in New York City Immigration Court. [vi] It begs the question whether the inconsistencies are based the merits of the cases, or rather judges’ political leanings. Of note, in a recent BIA decision, Matter of Y-S-L-C, wherein a 15-year-old Guatemalan boy was denied withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), the BIA remanded the case for assignment to a new judge, because the original judge’s line of questioning amounted to bullying. In its decision, the BIA stated: “Courts have stressed that a respondent in immigration proceedings should expect dignity, respect, courtesy, and fairness in a hearing before an Immigration Judge. Conduct by an Immigration Judge that can be perceived as bullying or hostile can have a chilling effect on a respondent’s testimony and thereby limit his or her ability to fully develop the facts of the claim.” [vii]

Aside from the arrests during the ICE raids of individuals with final orders of deportation who were not afforded due process in their original detention and removal proceedings, there are reports of collateral arrests during the raids of individuals who had orders of supervision with ICE at the time of their arrest, which suggests that these individuals had pending cases. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights conducted an investigation that revealed many of the raids were conducted without warrants; ICE agents entered without obtaining lawful consent and in many cases used threats, deception and aggression; ICE agents denied the women access to their attorneys until they were already at the detention facility; they were not informed of pro bono attorneys available at the detention center; the women were coerced and pressured to sign documents in English that they did not understand; many of the women who were arrested were under current orders of supervision with ICE and had complied with all with their regular ICE check-ins; ICE focused their raid efforts in jurisdictions that were known to have weak due process protections for immigrants; and ICE has refused to release children and mothers from detention. [viii]

Countless advocates, legal service providers, and politicians have criticized DHS for the recent raids and its overall policies regarding recent immigrants who are seeking humanitarian relief. Many of them have offered recommendations to improve access to justice and the due process rights of immigrants. Before the raids, on Dec. 24, 2015, a joint letter from five immigration organizations was addressed to DHS urging them to cease due process violations of immigrants and pointing out that, since the Oct. 23, 2015, deadline set by U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee for the federal government to comply with her order regarding the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, the government has instead implemented a deportation strategy that continues to violate the agreement and interfere with due process. [ix] After the raids, on Jan. 6, 2015, AILA and American Immigration Council sent a letter to DHS Secretary criticizing the raids and requesting a meeting to discuss how to guarantee due process for those fleeing extreme violence. [x] On Jan. 22, 2016, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights also issued a letter to President Obama and DHS Secretary requesting an immediate end of the raids, stating that, “The Commission has examined the issue of access to counsel for families in detention and found that the lack of, or obstruction to access to legal counsel afforded to these refugees in their initial, underlying proceedings brings into question the enforceability of the orders of deportation upon which the present ICE raids are based.” [xi]

Democratic members of Congress, including House Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., have pushed back against the raids and prior deportation strategies, such as expedited removal proceedings. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are calling on President Obama to offer affected families temporary legal protection. “We have a refugee crisis, not an immigration problem,” said Gutierrez. [xii] El Salvador and Honduras are currently designated as having Temporary Protected Status (TPS). However, this remedy is not available to recent arrivals. TPS, if it were available, would in some cases be a more appropriate form of relief than asylum. While it is true that some individuals in these regions are particularly susceptible to violence and targeted by gangs because of their membership in a particular group, many are not. The governments in these regions are so entangled with the cartels who reign, that criminal organizations have essentially become a de facto government, leaving the countries in a state very similar to civil war. It has been under these same conditions that the U.S. has extended TPS, though not because of gang violence specifically. Some claim that the influx of Central American immigrants is due to a weak border and deportation strategies. However, experts, like Marc Rosenblum with the Migration Policy Institute and Adriana Beltrán with the Washington Office on Latin America, say that the continued influx of immigrants from Central America is due to the fact that violence and corruption which has caused immigrants to flee has persisted and in some cases gotten worse. [xiii]

Despite all of this, DHS Secretary stated in a press release dated March 9, 2016, that their deportation strategy would continue. Johnson stated DHS is working closely with the Department of Justice in order to increase access to legal representation for unaccompanied children during immigration proceedings. He states that DHS requested over $17 million as part of the president’s 2017 fiscal budget to help expand legal representation for vulnerable communities, including $2 million for Justice AmeriCorps. He further stated that, in partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and non-governmental organizations in the region, they are working to expand its Refugee Admissions Program to help vulnerable individuals in Central America. It is yet to be seen whether there is actually enough political will or resources to follow through with plans to increase access to counsel. Additionally, since Johnson said that DHS is continuing with its deportation efforts based on existing priorities and strategies, it seems apparent that any increase in access to legal counsel would not prevent more individuals from being taken into custody through raids.

In the meantime, immigration attorneys can help their clients avoid being taken into custody during a raid by informing them of their constitutional rights and how to exercise them. Attorneys can even order cards from the Immigration Legal Recourse Center with a statement in Spanish and English that the client does not wish to say or sign anything and is exercising his/her 4th and 5th Amendment rights. To order, email with your name, name of the organization, your address, the number of cards, whether you would like the cards in Spanish or English only, and specify if the cards will be distributed in a different county than your address. You can also help clients by providing them with copies of all USCIS application receipt notices and immigration judges’ orders. It might even be helpful to provide them with a one pager on why they are not a priority.


*Marlee Deck of Deck Legal PLLC is a solo practitioner, who is a passionate advocate for social justice. Marlee earned her law degree from City University of New York School of Law, where she worked in the International Women's Human Rights Clinic. She was born in Mexico City to a family rich in cultural diversity and was raised in Nashville, Tennessee. Marlee may be reached at (615) 645-4708 or

[i] Statement by Secretary Jeh Johnson on Southwest Border Security, DHS (March 9, 2016).

[ii] Eight of Twelve Families Targeted by ICE Have Been Released: Remaining Mothers and Children Still Unjustly Incarcerated, AILA, AIC, CLINIC (February 9, 2016).

[iii] A Visit to Berks Family Detention Center Makes Clear Why They Lost Their License, American Immigration Council (February 22, 2016).

[iv] CARA: 33 Mothers and Children Protected from Immediate Deportation, AILA Doc No. 16011330 (January 13, 2016).

[v] You Don’t Have Any Rights Here: US Border Screening and Returns of Central Americans to Risk Serious Harm, Human Rights Watch (October 16, 2014).

[vi] FY 2014 Statistics Yearbook, Executive Office of Immigration Review, Office of Planning, Analysis, and Technology (March 2015).

[vii] Matter of Y-S-L-C, 26 I&N Dec. 688, 690 (BIA 2015) (citing Cham v. Att’y Gen. of U.S., 445 F.3d 683, 690−92 (3d Cir. 2006) (stating that such terms are “not merely advisory or aspirational” and that an alien is “entitled, as a matter of due process, to a full and fair hearing on his application”); and Wang v. Att’y Gen. of U.S., 423 F.3d 260, 271 (3d Cir. 2005)).

[viii] Families in Fear: The Atlanta Immigration Raids, Southern Poverty Law Center (January 28, 2016).

[ix] Denial of Due Process to Incarcerated Immigrant Families Worsens in Spite of Court Ruling, AILA, CLINIC, AIC, Human Rights First, RAICES, AILA Doc. No. 15122451 (December 24, 2015).

[x] After Successfully Delaying the Deportations of Four Central American Families, Groups Demand Meeting with DHS Secretary Johnson, AILA Doc No. 16010608 (January 6, 2016).

[xi] US CCR Letter to US President and DHS Secretary, AILA Doc. No. 16012215 (January 22, 2016).

[xii] Deportation Raids Continue Despite Outcry, Washington Post (January 8, 2016).

[xiii] Central American Moms and Kids Are Still Coming to the U.S. Because It’s Still Unsafe at Home, Huffington Post (December 16, 2015).

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Letter from the Editor

I would like to thank Marlee Deck, Brittany Thomas Faith and Greg Siskind for their timely and worthwhile articles in this issue. I am always looking for writers; so, if you would like to write an article, please feel free to contact me. You may have noticed Yvette Sebelist and I started our own firm, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC; thus, I may be contacted at or 615-345-0266. I am also “Of Counsel” to Siskind Susser on employer immigration compliance matters; thus, I still may be reached at

Bruce Buchanan

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Mid-South Immigration Advocates Receives 2 Major Grants

The Commercial Appeal highlights the work of Mid-South Immigration Advocates, a non-profit organization that received two major grants this week to continue representing children in immigration cases. Nationwide, 80 percent of the children who went to immigration court without an attorney were deported. "It's our obligation to make sure children are protected from abuse, neglect and persecution" said attorney Sally Joyner. "We legally can't turn them away."

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Appeals Court: Overturning Convictions in Sex-Trafficking Case Correct

In an opinion released today, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Judge William Haynes acted correctly in 2012 when overturning the convictions of three men accused of being in a Somali gang and running a prostitution ring. The appeals court also said the case was based on a false story and "a person who had been diagnosed as insane," according to The Tennessean. The ruling could impact around 20 other cases.

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Senate OKs Push for Refugee Act Suit

Despite opposition from protestors, the state Senate on Monday approved a resolution (SJR 0467) requiring Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government over a federal refugee resettlement program. The move comes after Gov. Bill Haslam last week expressed “concerns” over the need for the measure, the Associated Press reports. Sponsor Sen. Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, argued the state has a right to control its own money. He said the General Assembly will hire its own lawyer if Slatery declines to get involved. Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, voted against the measure, saying, "(It) is misguided and really betrays the values of who we are." 

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Senate Resolution Orders AG to Sue Feds Over Refugee Act

The Tennessean reports the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee today approved a Republican-backed resolution that orders Attorney General Hebert Slatery to sue the federal government for noncompliance of the Refugee Act of 1980. Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said the federal government has required the state to participate in the refugee resettlement program, even after the state opted out of the program in 2008. Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, expressed concerns that the resolution might have a “chilling effect” on the state’s refugee community.

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Supreme Court Will Review Obama Immigration Actions

The U.S. Supreme Court will review President Obama’s executive immigration actions from 2014, CBS News reports. Tennessee and 25 other states challenged the legality of the actions that were aimed to block millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in November 2015 in favor of the states; the Obama administration appealed the decision. The case will be argued in April and decided by late June.

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REMINDER: Seminar on Immigration Enforcement & Removal Processes Scheduled in Chattanooga

Attorney Terrence L. Olsen and Supervisory Detention & Deportation Officer John Bobo will present a seminar on immigration enforcement & removal processes on Feb. 9, 11 a.m. – noon. Bobo will discuss the current Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants. The event will be held in Chattanooga at Olsen Law Firm, located in The James Building, 735 Broad Street, Suite 708. 

Below are brief summaries of the two speakers:

  • Terrence L. Olsen of Olsen Law Firm is an attorney in Chattanooga who practices immigration and nationality law exclusively. He was chair of the Immigration Section of the Tennessee Bar Association from 2009 thru 2011, and 2013 through 2014.
  • Officer John Bobo of ICE-ERO-New Orleans Field Office is the Supervisory Detention and Deportation Officer for Chattanooga and Knoxville.

This seminar is open to all attorneys interested in hearing about the current immigration issues one can encounter daily in the practice of immigration law, and throughout 2016. If you plan to attend, email Olsen by Feb. 3. 

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Judge Critiques 'Multiple Conflicts of Interest' in Refugee Case

The reopening of a case of a refugee convicted for child neglect has drawn critique from Nashville Criminal Court Judge Cheryl Blackburn. According to The Tennessean, Blackburn said “that the state did not fulfill its role to defend convictions because prosecutors agreed with defense attorneys that the case should be reopened even before going before a judge.” Blackburn also cited multiple conflicts of interest among prosecutors and defense attorneys.

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Attorney Says Refugee Was 'Steamrolled by the System'

Immigrant advocates say the reopened case of a Burmese refugee exposes a lack of legal education for immigrants, The Tennessean reports. Sawng Hing, who was sentenced in 2012 for child abuse charges, received incorrect interpretations during her hearing because her language of Matu-Chin is so rare. The inaccuracy resulted in Hing being taken to federal prison facing deportation. "Nashville has one of the fastest-growing immigrant populations in the country," said Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. "What that means is for local institutions it can be a challenge to keep up." 

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Federal Authorities Involved in Abduction Case in Knox County

The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Marshals Service are involved in a federal case in Knox County involving a Mexican child living in Knoxville. Eugenio Garduno Guevara had been searching for his son since the mother and boy disappeared from Mexico in 2013. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports attorney Tom Slaughter filed a petition in May 2015 in Knox County Juvenile Court seeking to establish custody of the boy by the mother and listing the pair in Knoxville. The State Department then served notice on the court on behalf of the father’s claims. The U.S. Marshals Service was brought in to track the mother down and serve her with all court records filed in the case thus far.

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Major Court Decisions Expected in 2016

Abortion, affirmative action and immigration are among major decisions expected from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, according to the Tribune Washington Bureau. “In several cases, conservatives are hoping the high court will shift current law to the right or block President Barack Obama’s policies, while liberals are defending the status quo,” the author writes.

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Tennessee AG: State Can’t Refuse Syrian Refugees

In an opinion released today, state Attorney General Herbert Slatery says that the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution prevents Tennessee from refusing entry of Syrian refugees. He also found that any law or rules the state may enact to limit resettlement would be pre-empted by federal law. However, he found that nothing prevents the state from communicating its preferences and concerns about the refugee resettlement program to the federal government. The opinion was requested by Nashville state Reps. John Ray Clemmons and Jason Powell, and House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart. The Tennessean has the story.

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Joint Hearing to Discuss Refugee Resettlement

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports State House and Senate committees will hold a joint hearing next month on refugee resettlement in Tennessee. "The attack in Paris serves as another wake-up call that ISIS is serious about embedding the enemy in our communities. This comes on the heels of the terrorist attack in our state this summer. While we want to act humanely in our efforts to help those who legitimately need assistance, we owe it to our citizens to place their safety as our highest priority," Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, said.

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