It would seem the Washington Times front page story may have gotten the top management at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) upset enough to order the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work on immediately putting ICIE out of commission, despite the harm such an action will cause upon those ICIE is helping.
The threat is nothing less than reporting ICIE to the Bar of Texas for practicing law without a license. Why DHS would want to focus on ICIE when the agency has hundreds of immigration attorney complaints to investigate, and even more fraud cases to investigate in every state of the Union, is truly amazing. To make ICIE the center of attention (given our record), and the fact that there has never been a complaint filed by a foreign national against ICIE, appears to be nothing less than a self-serving measure by DHS to avoid well deserved criticism.
The ICIE organization has kept several thousand family members together and suffered only three setbacks in over 370-plus contacts with the various agencies we deal with. The matters that cross our desk are extremely complicated and require a multidisciplinary approach that must include plenty of “out of the box thinking” to figure out what happened to the foreign national, and whether the foreign national received fair treatment. DHS fails to recognize that ICIE is dealing with more nationals than we are dealing with foreign nationals, as 78% of the immediate family members are children that are United States Citizens.
ICIE maintains that we are in full compliance with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) as to the “intent of Congress” and the rules that were enacted two years later (8 CFR). The Act clearly permits citizens to get directly involved in helping foreign nationals when specific conditions are met. In the opinion of ICIE, DHS does not like the opinions I advocate, and instead of trying to understand them, they prefer to shut ICIE down.
My initial response will be to proceed with extreme caution, as I hardly consider myself a criminal, and there are too many foreign nationals depending upon us to do anything stupid. I will say that if DHS thinks “they can bully me like I see foreign nationals in Dallas, TX bullied they have picked on the wrong guy to dance with. After all, I do not know how to Texas Two Step, nor do I know the Washington Hop Scotch.” I am of the opinion that the “cease and desist” letter, coupled with the verbal threat made against me, is a violation of my First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights.
There are four conditions that ICIE must meet to help foreign nationals. The first condition is that any person that wants to assist a foreign national must be doing so on an “individual case basis” and be a “reputable individual” of “good moral character,” with the foreign national having full knowledge of these facts. USCIS conceded I likely would have no problem with this provision, although heretofore I have been told this provision meant I was only allowed to help someone once in my entire lifetime.
The second condition is that ICIE can get no “remuneration (better known as money) either directly or indirectly” from the work being done, and that a disclosure form must be turned in every time contact or a “notice of appearance” is declared with either DHS or DOJ. Recently, there was a mix-up in the office and the declaration form was not attached to several “notices of appearance” sent to USCIS even though the exhibits submitted contained the declaration. Let me make it perfectly clear that my organization has never collected one penny from a foreign national or received a contribution.
The third provision states that in order to assist a foreign national, there must be a “pre-existing relationship or connection” between the foreign national and the person wanting to help. The provision continues to say that if the foreign national cannot obtain legal assistance this requirement may be waived. USCIS states that ICIE operates outside of this requirement without providing ICIE with one ounce of proof that this is true. On the other-hand, ICIE argues that it can not find one BIA or Court cite on the matter making the contention of USCIS no different than that of ICIE; a matter of first impression. In addition to the language related to the need for a “pre-existing relationship or connection,” the rules list examples of some of the types of relationships that qualify. In no way does the rule limit the examples to being the only relationships that qualify.
When a foreign national comes to see ICIE, we are looking for a very specific type of matter to assist with. The matters that concern ICIE involve Constitutional Law and “Extreme Family Separation.” ICIE will spend hundreds of hours on some matters before making a conclusion. The facts we gather before contacting an authority is staggering, unless the situation is an emergency. ICIE can safely state that by the time ICIE makes first contact with an authority, we know more about the foreign national than the rules ever contemplated. Many of our contacts are to correct errors in fact that DHS or DOJ believe to be true about the foreign national. The information that we gather is such that we would be considered an “intimate friend” by all standards of society.
As mentioned, the requirement of a pre-existing relationship can be waived if the foreign national is unable to obtain counsel. The handouts used by the various agencies are flawed in that no non-profit will generally assist a foreign national with a criminal record. Individual attorneys on the list have no desire to spend the hundreds of hours required to figure out the type of matter ICIE gets involved in. ICIE feels that since there are provisions for some sort of assistance and DHS now desires to deny this assistance to the foreign nationals, this would appear to be a clear-cut violation of the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
The last provision is the hardest of the four for ICIE to pass. According to the last provision, ICIE cannot make an appearance before an agency if ICIE “regularly engages in the immigration and naturalization practice or preparation, or holds ourselves out to the public as qualified to do so.” ICIE is first and foremost an organization that advocates and strives to improve the immigration system of the United States. ICIE goes to great lengths to make certain we do not “regularly engage in “immigration and naturalization preparation” as shown by the fact that given our success record ICIE does not really get involved in that many matters. ICIE estimates that the ratio for accepting a matter to take on versus directing the matter elsewhere, is four to five hundred rejections to one acceptance. This high rejection rate is due to the strict discipline of sticking to our mission statement, no matter how heartfelt the matter before us may be.
As stated above, we only take on matters that involve Constitutional Law or “Extreme Family Separation” which is strictly a humanitarian concern on the part of ICIE for our fellow man. Our matter load is such that ICIE in no way encourages people to see us. In many cases, we call the matters we see “walking miracles,” for the foreign national really was in need of a “resort of last hope.” Since ICIE feels it is in full compliance with the four provisions of the INA of 1952, DHS knows that there is an absolute requirement that we represent the foreign national as if we were an attorney or accredited or we can face the same sanctions. Is this not a catch 22 for ICIE to be in? We get threatened for trying to be up-to-date on the law, yet we are required by the same law to do exactly that.
It would seem DHS would want ICIE to err on the side of caution and do the latter. What DHS does not know is that ICIE does in fact consult with immigration and criminal attorneys on a regular basis and for a reduced rate. These attorneys want nothing to do with the matters but also do not want to see us take a position that is not lawful. For DHS to suggest that ICIE engages in the practice of law is just plain silly and a fabrication of the facts. ICIE will help a foreign national get an immigration form correct that an immigration attorney has filled out wrong in the past, but we are merely filling in the blanks and informing the foreign national of the documents he needs to gather for submission.
The only reason ICIE uses a “notice of appearance” is to make sure there is complete transparency in our actions. ICIE wants DHS to know exactly what is going on. Surely, such an action should not deserve punishment, but praise. What we do is hardly engaging regularly in “immigration and naturalization preparation.” ICIE would also note that there are a large number of forms that ICIE is permitted to get involved and help a foreign national with. In the final analysis, the first words out of my mouth when I meet a foreign national, a person asking an immigration question, or a member of the press, is “I am not an attorney nor is anyone at ICIE accredited,” and that I am merely expressing my opinion as a citizen under the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Any impression the public may hold about ICIE is strictly based on their own conclusions that are out of my reach.
Let me repeat: any opinion I may have is an expression of my “Freedom of Speech” rights granted me under the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. I am of the firm belief that the most noble exercise of this right is when a citizen stands tall and advocates for those that find themselves in a position of being hopelessly muted by their situation. DHS has also crossed the line and violated the Fifth Amendment Right of the Bill of Rights because DHS does not have the power to, in any way, restrict me from exercising a right granted in the Bill of Rights. This is a clear “Due Process of Law” violation. Finally, I submit that DHS has failed to consider the language of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights as it pertains to the separation of powers between the States and the Union. Nowhere in the laws of the State of Texas can I find a provision similar to 8 CFR 292.1(a)(3)(i-iv) or any restriction on the part of a Citizen of Texas to refrain from helping a foreign national with an immigration problem.
The State of Texas is a “border state” and is well aware of the need to exercise caution in getting in the middle of matters like ICIE gets involved with. I am also struck by the fact the Constitution of the United States does not have a single provision where a person must be an attorney to hold offices like the Supreme Court Justice, Federal Circuit Judge, District Court Judge, Senator, Congressman, Vice President, Cabinet Member and President and yet DHS proposes to use the Bar of Texas to silence me. Our mission is worthy, and our cause is truly a missionary one, that has been blessed with tremendous success. In the final analysis: There is right, there is wrong, and there is the right thing to do. ICIE is always about doing the right thing.
Written By: Ralph Isenberg, Founder