October 13, 2014

EBOLA AND INADMISSIBILITY

By Cyrus D. Mehta and David A. Isaacson

The United States has started Ebola screenings at 5 major airports.  Will these screenings really be effective, or are they being implemented by the administration to demonstrate that it is doing something to assuage public fears?  The administration has also been criticized by Republican leaders who are pushing to restrict, if not completely block off, air travel from West Africa. The tragic death of Thomas Duncan in Dallas from Ebola who had flown into the United States from Liberia has further exacerbated these fears. 
While the airport screenings would apply to all travelers from affected West African countries, including U.S. citizens, non-citizens would certainly be more vulnerable. The fears stemming from the Ebola epidemic are redolent of an earlier time when immigrants who travelled to the shores of the United States were processed at Ellis Island and excluded for a host of diseases, notably including the eye infection trachoma. A Marine General recently warned about hordes of Ebola infected immigrants running for the U.S. border, stoking similar fears today. Anti-immigrant groups are using Ebola, along with ISIS, to further their argument that immigrants are dangerous to the United States, and several Republican politicians including former Massachusetts Senator and current New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown, North Carolina Senate candidate Thom Tillis, and Senator Rand Paul, have cited Ebola to support increased border security along the U.S.-Mexico border
Pursuant to section 212(a)(1)(A)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), aliens who are determined to have a communicable disease of public health significance are ineligible to receive visas and ineligible to be admitted in the United States. By regulation, under 42 CFR 34.2, the term “communicable disease of public health significance” includes “quarantinable communicable diseases as listed in a Presidential Executive Order,” a list which has included Ebola and other viral hemorrhagic fevers since President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13295 in 2003. Under the authority of INA section 232, 8 U.S.C. 1222, aliens arriving in the United States may be subjected to detention and physical and mental examination to determine whether they are afflicted with a condition that would render them inadmissible, such as Ebola. 
Interestingly, however, under INA 232(b) and 42 CFR 34.8, an applicant for admission who was suspected of having Ebola and found inadmissible on that basis, who disputed the finding, could appeal to a board of medical officers. Presumably, even if one has been quarantined after showing signs of being infected but has recovered, he or she ought to be admitted into the United States.  And since INA §212(a)(1) is not among the grounds which can be a basis for expedited removal under INA §235, 8 U.S.C. §1225, this would presumably all take place, even for a nonimmigrant, in the context of regular removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge, unless DHS felt it could argue with a straight face that the nonimmigrant also fell under INA §212(a)(6)(C) or §212(a)(7) and was thus amenable to expedited removal.  The nonimmigrant might, for example, be said to have lied to a consular officer or DHS officer about their illness and thus become inadmissible under INA §212(a)(6)(C)(i). 
A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), on the other hand, at least if returning from a trip of less than 180 days and not having committed any crimes or taken any other actions which would otherwise cause them to be treated as an applicant for admission, would not be regarding as seeking admission to the United States, pursuant to INA section 101(a)(13)(C), 8 U.S.C. §1101(13)(C). That is, the LPR would be considered rather as if he or she had never left the United States at all, because under section 101(a)(13)(C), becoming medically inadmissible under section 212(a)(1) doesn’t cause an LPR to be regarded as seeking admission in the way that certain criminal conduct does. So the LPR would be allowed in, if perhaps under quarantine, not necessarily because he or she were admissible but because admissibility is irrelevant for someone who is not an applicant for admission. There does not appear to be any provision in INA section 237, regarding deportability, which would relate to those who become afflicted with contagious diseases after already having been admitted.
An LPR who had been out of the United States for more than 180 days could potentially be in a more troubling situation. Under INA §101(a)(13)(C)(ii), an LPR who “has been absent from the United States for a continuous period in excess of 180 days” is not entitled to the statutory protection against being regarding as seeking admission, so such an LPR could be found inadmissible under INA 212(a)(1)(A)(i) if infected with Ebola. And although a waiver of such inadmissibility is available pursuant to section 212(g)(1) of the INA, that section requires for a waiver of 212(a)(1)(A)(i) inadmissibility that the waiver applicant have a qualifying relative of one of various sorts, unless he or she is a VAWA self-petitioner.  So an LPR absent from the United States for more than 180 days who does not have a spouse, parent (if the LPR is unmarried), son, or daughter who is either a U.S. citizen, or an LPR, or someone who has been issued an immigrant visa, might not be allowed back into the United States after being infected with Ebola, having become an inadmissible applicant for admission and being ineligible for a 212(g)(1) waiver.  
We wonder whether such a loss of LPR status due to an infection would be constitutional, but we know that according to the Supreme Court, long-term absences from the United States can strip returning residents of some of their constitutional protections. The regrettable decision in Shaughnessy v. Mezei, 345 U.S. 2006 (1953), which upheld the refusal to admit a returning resident without a hearing and his resulting indefinite detention on Ellis Island, has never been overturned (though its practical effect with regard to the permissible length of detention under current statutes was limited by Clark v. Martinez, 543 U.S. 371 (2005)), and Mr. Mezei had lived in the U.S., apparently lawfully although before the INA of 1952 was enacted and the modern LPR status created, for many years before his 19-month absence. An LPR who is absent from the United States for more than 180 days and becomes infected with Ebola in the meantime may be at risk of becoming the modern Mezei. At the very least, however, the government should be held to the burden of showing such an LPR’s alleged medical inadmissibility by clear, convincing, and unequivocal evidence, as in Woodby v. INS, 385 U.S. 276 (1966), just as LPRs alleged to be inadmissible on other bases have been found entitled to the protection of the Woodby standard in such cases as Ward v. Holder, 733 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 2013). (The BIA in Matter of Rivens, 25 I&N Dec. 623 (BIA 2011), has acknowledged that clear and convincing evidence is required to declare an LPR an applicant for admission under INA §101(a)(13)(C), although it reserved judgment on the question whether there is a difference for these purposes between clear and convincing evidence as mentioned in INA §240(c)(3)(A) and clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence as mentioned in Woodby.)

As a practical matter, it is unlikely that any non-citizen found to be infected with Ebola would be turned away on the next flight home, or even paroled into the US for a removal proceeding, as this would expose others to the Ebola virus.  He or she would be quarantined in a hospital and treated in the United States. If this person fully recovers, he or she should be found admissible.  Otherwise, this person will unfortunately under the current state of medical advances in the treatment of Ebola most likely not be alive.
While the United States should not be nonchalant about the spread of deadly infectious diseases such as Ebola, the question is whether screenings at airports are the right way to deal with the problem? Ebola can incubate in a person for up to 21 days before an infected person shows symptoms, as was the case with Mr. Duncan. It has recently come to light that Mr. Duncan’s treatment was less than satisfactory as he was discharged from the hospital when he had a high fever.  There are very few passengers who fly into the United States each day from the three countries that are at the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Blocking off flights from these countries, due to political grandstanding, will hurt these countries’ economies even further, and will have an adverse impact on trade and investment. This will further hinder their efforts to stem Ebola, and one way to stem an epidemic is to keep people working and normal. In addition, perceived fears about who has Ebola can result in racial profiling of people of certain nationalities, resulting in wrongful denial of visas or admission into the United States. 
As a recent editorial in the Washington Post aptly stated, “The answer to Ebola is fighting it there, at the source, not at the U.S. border. No one is protected when a public health emergency is used for political grandstanding.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden sensibly told reporters, “Though we might wish we can seal ourselves off from the world, there are Americans who have the right of return and many other people that have the right to enter this country.”  As The Economist noted in its recent article on the topic that Dr. Frieden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the infectious diseases component of the National Institutes of Health, have explained, “quarantining West Africa would be unwise.  It would weaken governments, trap Americans and spur travellers to move in roundabout ways that make them harder to track.” If the administration believes that screening those who arrive in the United States for Ebola symptoms may be a helpful component of a broader anti-Ebola strategy, it should not taken too far. We must also be careful not to exclude from the United States people who show no real signs of being infected, and accord those who do appear to have been infected full due process to either contest or overcome inadmissibility.


October 6, 2014

KERRY V. DIN: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE SUPREME COURT TO RECONSIDER THE DOCTRINE OF CONSULAR NON-REVIEWABILITY

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
President Abraham Lincoln, Second Annual Message (December 1, 1862)
Not since the landmark case of Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 ( 1972) has the Supreme Court revisited the well-settled doctrine of consular nonreviewability. That may be about to change as the Supreme Court has agreed to hear Kerry v. Din, Docket No. 13-1402. The vehicle for this doctrinal review is not the complaint of the unadmitted alien but that of the American citizens  the abridgement of whose constitutional rights provides the standing  to find out what happened and why. Indeed, it is precisely when denial of a visa impinges upon the free and full exercise of such constitutional freedoms that the courts have recognized a meaningful but limited exception to consular non reviewability.  Bustamanate v. Mukasey, 531 F. 3d 1059 (9th Cir. 2013).
It so often happens that a spouse or parent of a US citizen is denied an immigrant visa at a US consulate on opaque grounds. Although the I-130 petition was carefully reviewed and approved, the consular officer can use any number of grounds under INA section 212 to deny an application for an immigrant visa, thus causing the permanent separation of the relative with the US citizen. Worse still, the consul need not cite the factual basis for the denial and can only refer to the statutory provision. Take for example the “Security and related grounds” of inadmissibility under INA section 212(a)(3), which provide:
(A) In general – Any alien who a consular officer or the Attorney General knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, seeks to enter the United States to engage solely, principally, or incidentally in – 
(i) Any activity
(I) To violate any law of the United States relating to espionage or sabotage or  
(II) To violate or evade any law prohibiting the export from the United States of goods, technology, or sensitive information, 
(ii) any other unlawful activity; or
(iii) any activity a purpose of which is the opposition to, or the control or overthrow of, the government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means is inadmissible
A consul can merely cite “section 212(a)(3)” when denying an applicant seeking an immigrant visa based on an I-130 petition filed by a US citizen relative. It is impossible to know whether this individual was denied the immigrant visa because the consul had reasonable grounds to believe that he or she was seeking to enter the United States to violate a law relating to espionage or prohibiting the export of some sensitive technology or some other unlawful activity. This individual in any event would find it difficult to contest the denial under the plenary power doctrine, which upholds the power of Congress to establish rules for the admission or exclusion of aliens. Given the absence of a factual basis, it would be even more difficult for this individual to challenge the denial even informally with a consular officer if no factual basis has been provided under section 212(a)(3). The absence of such disclosure seems in direct contradiction of the State Department regulation requiring consular officials in the event of an immigrant visa denial to “inform the applicant of the provision of law or implementing regulation under which administrative relief is available.” 22 C.F.R. section 42.81(b). It is worth noting that this minimum level of disclosure does not prevent a more complete explanation to the visa applicant or the US citizen petitioner.
As noted above, despite the existence of the doctrine of consular non-reviewability, a visa applicant may still seek review under limited circumstances when the denial implicates the constitutional rights of citizens. Under such circumstances, a consular officer must give a facially legitimate and bona fide reason for the denial. See Kleindienst v. Mandel, supra. The level of review in Kliendienst v. Mandel was highly constrained, and the Court refused to look behind the consular officer’s denial on the ground that Mandel espoused the doctrines of world communism. That in itself was sufficient under the facially legitimate and bona fide test. The US interest in Kliendienst v. Mandel that triggered this limited judicial review were the First Amendment rights of  US citizen professors who had invited Mandel to the United States to receive information and ideas from him.  The facts as recited by the consular officer need not necessarily be true, but, for consular non-reviewability to shield it from further challenge, they must be stated with sufficient specificity and the consul must have a good faith belief in their veracity.
Despite the highly constrained review of the facially legitimate and bona fide test, an Islamic scholar was able to demonstrate that the consul was unable to meet this test in denying him a nonimmigrant visa under the terrorism ground of inadmissibility pursuant to INA 212(a)(3)(B)(i)(1). See American Academy of Religion v. Napolitano, 573 F.3d 115 (2d Cir. 2009). There the Second Circuit acknowledged that there was little guidance regarding the application of the facially legitimate and bona fide standard, and described it as “the identification of both a properly construed statute that provides a ground of exclusion and the consular officer’s assurance that he or she ‘knows or has reason to believe’ that the visa applicant has done something fitting within the proscribed category constitutes a facially legitimate reason.” Id. at 126.    
The limited exception to the consular non-reviewability doctrine has also been extended to citizen’s who have a protected liberty interest in marriage that entitles them to seek review of the denial of a spouse’s visa. See Bustamante v. Mukasey, supra. Though not mentioned by the Ninth Circuit, it is perhaps not too large of a doctrinal enlargement to argue that the protection of such a liberty interest flows naturally from the recognition by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967),  that the freedom to marry is a fundamental constitutional right. Surely, the opportunity to live together in marital union in the United States with their spouse is an integral exercise of such freedom by the US citizen visa petitioner. The same high value attached to immediate relative relationships should apply to visa applications by parents of US citizens. While the need to preserve the integrity of the marital union would not manifest itself under such slightly variant facts, the importance of facilitating the migration of older parents to live with their adult US citizen children should be given the same substantial deference. Nor should the wisdom of modifying the consular non-reviewability doctrine not enrich consideration of visa applications advanced by children, whether as immediate relatives, family first preference unmarried adult children or family third preference married adult sons or daughters of US citizens. A disciplined invocation of narrowly drawn statutory provisions and logical, if concise, factual summations brought in good faith are in the manifest interests of the consular corps and those it serves. 
Indeed, when a consular denial recites a broad ground of inadmissibility that contains numerous categories of proscribed conduct such as in INA §212(a)(3)(B), the denial does not meet the facially legitimate and bona fide standard as all that the denial does is to cite a 1,000 word statute without providing a factual basis. See Din v. Kerry, 718 F.3d 856 (9th Cir. 2013). In Din v. Kerry, the applicant whose visa was denied, Mr. Berashk was an Afghan citizen who married Ms. Din, a US citizen. Mr. Berashk had previously worked for the Afghan Ministry of Social Welfare from 1992 to 2003, and the Afghan Ministry of Education from 2003 to present. Since the Taliban ruled Afghanistan for some of the period during his employment with the Afghan government, his visa was initially denied because of INA section 212(a), without citing anything more specific. After contacting the Consulate for clarification, Mr. Berashk was told that his visa was denied under the terrorism related inadmissibility grounds in INA section 212(a)(3)(B). This provision exceeds 1000 words. No factual basis was provided to support the denial.  Therefore, the Ninth Circuit held that the government had not offered a facially legitimate and bona fide reason for the visa denial. The government must cite to a ground narrow enough to allow us to determine that it has been “properly construed” under the test set forth in American Academy, supra
The government appealed the Ninth Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on October 2, 2014. See Kerry v. Din, Docket No. 13-1402. We fail to understand why the government chose to appeal this decision, which essentially upheld the highly constrained review of the facially legitimate and bona fide test set forth in Kleindienst v. Mandel. The Ninth Circuit insisted on the consul providing some factual basis for the denial rather than merely citing a broad statutory provision, but it did not articulate a test beyond what was established in Kleindienst v. Mandel, and further explained in Academy of Religion. As the provisions of inadmissibility get more verbose in INA 212, the applicant who is being denied a visa ought to know the factual basis so that he or she can endeavor to overcome it by trying to submit rebuttal evidence. The dissenting opinion in Din v. Kerry broadly upheld plenary power, and the nation’s desire to keep out persons who are connected with terrorist activities. It held that the citation of the statute, however broad, constituted a facially legitimate and bona fide ground.  In a post 9/11 world, while there are obvious security concerns, the government cannot be allowed to loosely cite terrorism related grounds, without further explanation, that would lead to the permanent separation of a spouse from a US citizen. 
It would be a set back if the Supreme Court reversed the limited review afforded to an applicant for a visa, especially when there is a legitimate US interest involved, by allowing the consul to broadly cite the statutory provision, or worse still, only INA section 212(a) as a basis for denial. While it is disappointing that the Obama administration chose to appeal the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Din v. Kerry, it is hoped that the Supreme Court affirm the limited ability for an individual to seek review of a visa denial that would affect a US interest, such as a spouse, a group of US citizen academics who would otherwise be denied the ability to hear and debate his or her views, or even a US employer who has sponsored a foreign worker for a work visa or for permanent residency. The liberty interest of a US citizen spouse who awaits marital reunion with keen anticipation should be deserving of the same minimal due process that an academic conference would trigger.  The issue is not the need to give due deference to consular visa denials but to put the consul to a minimal burden of proof where the reason for the denial is identified and the facts sustaining it are articulated with sufficient particularity to allow for intelligent review and reasonable challenge. Just as the Obama Administration wisely declined to defend DOMA even before the Supreme Court cast it aside, in wise recognition of its obvious constitutional infirmity, so a willingness to relax the doctrine of consular non-reviewability should inform the Administration’s posture in this litigation and future cases like it.   This may no longer be possible now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case. Doubtless, however, this will not be the last time that the need for relaxation of the consular non-reviewability doctrine will present itself.  When this happens, we urge that the Administration then in power adopt a more enlightened attitude. A compassionate nation deserves no less.
(Guest writer Gary Endelman is the Senior Counsel at FosterQuan)

September 29, 2014

WOULD THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM GROUND OF INADMISSIBILITY STILL APPLY TO INDIAN PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI?

By Cyrus D. Mehta

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been welcomed by the Indian diaspora without reservations in the United States. This is his first trip to the United States after his tourist/business was revoked on May 18, 2005 under Section 212(a)(2)(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Under INA Section 212(a)(2)(G), any alien who while serving as a foreign government official and who was responsible for or directly carried out particular violations of religious freedom is inadmissible. At that time, Mr. Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat state and was not eligible for the A-1 diplomatic visa. In May 2014, Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won an outright majority in the Indian Parliament, and as the party’s leader, he became India’s Prime Minister. 
Mr. Modi, as India’s Prime Minister, has presently come to the United States under the A-1 visa, which is granted to diplomats, including heads of state. The A-1 visa overcomes grounds of inadmissibility pursuant to INA Section 102, including the religious freedom ground, but that is only when a person is admitted on the A-1 visa. If Mr. Modi ceases to be a head of state, and does not qualify for an A-1 visa as a diplomatic official under any other capacity, the Section 212(a)(2)(G) ground of inadmissibility may still apply with respect to a new tourist/business visa application that he may apply for, unless it is determined that the factual basis for the prior finding of inadmissibility have changed. The U.S. State Department may also reconsider a prior revocation of a visa, which it has not done so until now with respect to Mr. Modi’s revocation. 
The article that I co-wrote with Elizabeth Reichard on March 25, 2005, appended below, discusses how the religious freedom ground of inadmissibility was applied to Mr. Modi. Following the publication of this 2005 article, however, in December 2010, a special investigative team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India found “no substantial incriminating evidence” that Chief Minister Modi had let the rioters rampage against the Muslims in February 2002. A local court in India subsequently upheld the closure of the SIT in December 2013, although appeals from victims to reopen proceedings remain pending.  The Gujarat High Court has continued to criticize Chief Minister Modi for “inaction and negligence” during the violence. House Resolution 417 passed in the US Congress in 2013 continues to support the visa ban. Questions still linger about Mr. Modi’s passive role during the riots. 
So long as Mr. Modi enters on an A-1 visa, all grounds of inadmissibility will remain inapplicable. The President still has authority under INA Section 212(f) of any foreign national whom the President deems will be detrimental to the national interest, but it is readily obvious that this provision was not considered with respect to Mr. Modi’s present visit to the United States. Indeed, Mr. Modi is scheduled to have meetings with President Obama and other top US officials, and has also met with leading US industry executives. Mr. Modi also enjoys broad based support from many in the Indian-American community. The question is whether Section 212(a)(2)(G) will trigger if Mr. Modi applied for another nonimmigrant visa in the future? The United States has not officially declared that this inadmissibility ground will not be applied and has never reconsidered the prior revocation. A new visa application would have to be considered in light of the set of facts that apply at that time. The fact that Mr. Modi has been admitted on an A-1 visa to the United States does not in any way mean that the prior visa ban has been rescinded or will not apply in the future.

Published March 25, 2005 on  www.cyrusmehta.com  
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM INADMISSIBILITY GROUND INVOKED FOR THE FIRST TIME AGAINST NARENDRA MODI
by
Cyrus D. Mehta* Elizabeth T. Reichard**
On March 18, 2005, the U.S. Department of State issued a decision to deny a visa to the democratically elected Chief Minister of Gujarat, India, Narendra Modi. Mr. Modi, an important figure in the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is one of the most divisive politicians in India – loved by Hindu nationalists and despised by others who uphold India’s secular ideals. The decision to deny his visa was largely based on his alleged role in the riots that occurred in Gujarat between February and May of 2002. The riots were spawned after an attack by Muslims on a train in Godhra that resulted in the deaths of 58 Hindus.1 Hindu mobs responded to this attack through violent riots, resulting in the deaths of some 2,000 Muslims and the displacement of some 100,000 Muslims.2
It has been alleged that the riots were supported and possibly encouraged by Mr. Modi, his government and the police in Gujarat. Many have asserted that Mr. Modi personally instructed police officers to allow “peaceful” reactions to the train attack.3 As a result of this instruction, police officials told victims of the riots that they had not been instructed to help them.4 In spite of these allegations, however, Mr. Modi has never been indicted or convicted for his involvement or encouragement in the Gujarat riots. India’s National Human Rights Commission implicated Mr. Modi’s government, but not him specifically, holding that there “there was a comprehensive failure on the part of the State Government to control the persistent violation of the rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the State.5 It further indicated that the government’s response to the violence was “often abysmal or even non-existent, pointing to the gross negligence in certain instances or, worse still, as was widely believed, a complicity that was tacit if not explicit.”6 The Indian Supreme Court has also implicated Mr. Modi’s government by transferring criminal prosecutions of persons connected to the riots out of courts in Gujarat.
Still, even with these findings, Mr. Modi has never been officially charged for his role in the riots. The closest documents assigning him blame are the U.S. Department of State’s 2002 Report on Human Rights Practices and International Religious Freedom Report.7 Both reports specifically mention the allegations brought against Mr. Modi in the Gujarat riots, and it was these reports that could have served as the basis for the denial of Mr. Modi’s admission to the United States.
I. Analysis of Section 212(a)(2)(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 
Mr. Modi sought admission to the United States after having received an invitation as the keynote speaker for an event organized by the Asian-American Hotel Owners' Association (AAHOA) as well as other meetings organized by the Indian-American community in the U.S. He hoped to enter the country on either a diplomatic visa or his already issued B1/B2 tourist/business visa. The diplomatic visa was denied because according to INA §101(a)(15)(A), such visas are granted to those coming to the U.S. for official government business. A speech for the AAHOA does not qualify as official government business. This decision has not been met with controversy. The decision to deny his B1/B2 visa is actually what has attracted so much publicity in recent days. This denial was based on §212(a)(2)(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Section §212(a)(2)(G) of the INA, which was first enacted in 1998, has never been invoked against a public official prior to the decision to revoke Mr. Modi’s visa. It maintains that an individual is inadmissible to the United States if “while serving as a foreign government official, was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedoms.” Violations of religious freedoms are defined by the International Religious Freedom Act, as any of the following acts committed on account of an individual’s religious belief or practice: “detention, interrogation, imposition of an onerous financial penalty, forced labor, forced mass resettlement, imprisonment, forced religious conversion, beating, torture, mutilation, rape, enslavement, murder and execution.”8 
Prior to December 17, 2004, there was a two year statute of limitations attached to this ground of inadmissibility. So, for example, had Narendra Modi sought admission to the U.S. in November 2004, he would not have been denied a visa under §212(a)(2)(G) because the alleged violations of religious freedom were committed more than two years prior to admission. The Office of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who introduced the amendment to remove the statute of limitation, prepared a section-by-section analysis of law.9 The analysis rationalized the removal of the statute of limitations because it was “not consistent with the strong stance of the United States to promote religious freedom throughout the world. Individuals who have commit[] particularly severe violations of religious freedom should be held accountable for their actions and should not be admissible to the United States regardless of when the conduct occurred.”10
Under this new broader statute, Mr. Modi was found inadmissible for being a government official responsible for violations of religious freedom. It is likely that the violations referred to are the murders, beatings and mass relocations of Muslims in Gujarat during the riots. The decision has been met with a tremendous amount backlash. Critics claim that the decision is baseless because Mr. Modi was never officially charged for violations of religious freedom. While it is true that Mr. Modi has never been officially charged for these acts; in the view of the authors, it was reasonable for the State Department to deny the visa because it was based on ample evidence against Mr. Modi. U.S. law allows the State Department to make a finding of inadmissibility based on a reasonable belief and without there being an actual conviction on the individual’s record. For example, a person can be found inadmissible if the consular officer knows or has reason to believe that the individual was a trafficker of controlled substances.11The consulate has no duty to provide due process for a visa applicant who desires entry to the U.S. It also is not required to conduct a “pseudo” hearing to determine if the act was actually committed. U.S. consulates all over the world deny thousands of visas every day, without giving the applicants due process rights or opportunities to contest the denials.
II. Factual Basis for Inadmissibility Finding 
Critics of the decision should note that any finding of inadmissibility under this ground cannot be made in haste. According to the Foreign Affairs Manual, consular officers must seek an advisory opinion if they “reasonably believe” the applicant was responsible for severe violations of religious freedom.12  The advisory opinion will be drafted by the country desk and any relevant offices at the State Department, assessing whether the individual in question was responsible for the violations. In other words, a visa denial on this basis involves a great deal of research and takes into account multiple factors. It is not based upon an actual conviction or admission, but rather an in depth assessment of the situation, resulting in a reasonable belief that the action was committed. 
In this case, such a reasonable belief existed. According to Len Scensy, Deputy Director, Office of Public Diplomacy, State Department Bureau of South Asian Affairs, the decision was made after looking at the law, the findings of the Indian Human Rights Commission, and the U.S. State Department Reports. Mr. Scensy in an interview with News India Times, indicated that these reports “say the same thing.” They are consistent with each other and take into consideration the overwhelming number of allegations against Modi. Therefore, it is safe to assume that it was reasonable to believe that Mr. Modi was responsible for the violations of religious freedom against Muslims in Gujarat. Mr. Modi was explicitly implicated in U.S. reports on the riots and while the Indian Human Rights Commission never explicitly named him, it did indicate that his government had tacit complicity if not explicit involvement in the violence.13
III. Consequences of the Decision 
The decision to deny Mr. Modi a visa is not without its consequences. This was the first time §212(a)(2)(G) has been invoked by the State Department, and it is likely that it will use it again against other government officials, former and present, who seek entry to the U.S. So, for example, in the case of India, former Congress party officials implicated in the killings of Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 may find themselves inadmissible to the United States on this ground.
A decision under §212(a)(2)(G) is final and there is no room for appeal in a U.S. Court. Government officials found subject to this ground may find themselves permanently inadmissible to the U.S. The only possibility they have for admission is a discretionary waiver, granted by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, under §212(d)(3). Such a waiver, however, may cause these officials further difficulties as the Secretary can prescribe conditions to the admission. For example, he/she may require an admission to the crimes committed. Such an admission is clearly deadly as it would open the floodgates to both criminal and civil liability under domestic and international law.
________________________________________
Cyrus D. Mehta's current profile can be found at http://www.cyrusmehta.com/Sub.aspx?MainIdx=ocyrus200591701543&SubIdx=ocyrus200591721646) and 
Elizabeth T. Reichard's current profile can be found at http://www.fragomen.com/ourprofessionals/reichard-elizabeth/.  (The old profiles as existed in the original article have been deleted). 
1U.S. DEPT. OF STATE, INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT: INDIA (2002); U.S. DEPT. OF STATE, COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES: INDIA (2002).
2 Id. 
3 Id 
4 Id
5 National Human Rights Commission, Order on Gujarat, *64 (31 May 2002).
Id. at 24. 
7 Supra note 1.
8 22 USC §6402.
Office of Sen. Patrick Leahy, Anti-Atrocity Alien Deportation Act of 2003: Section-By-Section Analysis, available at  http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200303/032603b.html.
10The December 17, 2004 amendment also removed a provision which made the spouse and children of a government official inadmissible under this ground.
11 INA §212(a)(2)(C)(ii).
12 9 FAM 40.26 N2.1.
13 Supra  note 5, at 24.


September 22, 2014

IMPACT OF EB-5 RETROGRESSION ON THE REGIONAL CENTER LOAN MODEL

By Cyrus D. Mehta

In light of the retrogression in the employment-based fifth preference (EB-5) for China, which is predicted to occur as early as May 2015, the delays will once again impede much needed investment into the United States, which in turn will also dampen job creation. The negative effects of priority date retrogression in family and employment-based preferences have already had an adverse impact on families, who are unable to unite, and employers, who cannot employ a much needed worker even after the labor market has been unsuccessfully tested for qualified US workers. Due to retrogression, children may be less likely to be able to seek the protection of the Child Status Protection Act from aging out. 
The China EB-5 retrogression will result in other unique problems not experienced in other immigrant visa preference categories. Most EB-5 regional center investments are based on a loan rather than an equity model. EB-5 investors invest into the new commercial enterprise (NCE) of a regional center. The NCE in turn invests in a project or a business, known as the job creating enterprise (JCE). The JCE is a project that will result in at least 10 indirect jobs per EB-5 investor, such as a hotel or assisted living home or some other business operation. The NCE’s investment in the JCE can either be through an equity investment or a loan. The loan model is more favored than the equity model in EB-5 projects. Although a direct loan by an EB-5 investor is disallowed, as the investment is not at risk if the loan is guaranteed to be paid back, the EB-5 investor makes an equity investment in the NCE as a limited partner, which in turn loans the investors’ aggregated funds to the JCE. Thus, the EB-5 investor still has an equity interest in the NCE, while the NCE makes a loan to the JCE. The loan model has been permitted by the USCIS as the EB-5 investor is really buying an equity interest in the NCE while the NCE makes a loan of the aggregated investors’ capital to the JCE. 
When the NCE makes a loan to the JCE, there is an agreement for the JCE to pay back the loan to the NCE. If the time frame is 5 years or more, this period would cover the point of time when the investor obtains conditional residence, and two years later, when the investor applies for removal of conditional residence. With the EB-5 quota retrogression, these two events will be stretched out even further in time, and it is likely that by the time that the investor applies for removal of conditional residence, it may be beyond five years from the date of the initial adjudication of the Form I-526 application. Would the USCIS now take the position that the investment is no longer at risk if the JCE pays back the loan to the NCE before the investor has removed the conditions on residence? If retrogression becomes even more severe, like the India and China EB-2 for example, the JCE may have paid the loan back at the time that the investor makes the initial application for conditional residence. 
Although the USCIS has not yet addressed this issue, it can be argued that the JCE is paying back the loan to the NCE, and not to the investor, and this did not alter the investment, which was always at risk. The investor is not being paid back on a guaranteed basis, and this arrangement is distinguishable from the facts in Matter of Izummi, 22 I&N Dec. 169 (AAO, July 13, 1998). There, the investors were promised that the NCE would repurchase their interests at a fixed price after six years, and such an investment was not considered “at risk.”  Here, the JCE is paying back the loan to the NCE, and the decision to repay the investor is entirely in the discretion of the general partner of the NCE. The investor is clearly not the beneficiary of the repayment of the loan; rather it is the NCE. The NCE can use the repaid loan for other purposes rather than repay the investors. 
In light of the crushing backlogs in the EB-2 and EB-3 preferences, Gary Endelman and this author have proposed various ameliorative solutions through administrative fixes, including not counting derivatives separately from the principal beneficiary, and these should apply with equal force to prospective EB-5 backlogs too. The Obama administration has been actively considered administrative fixes in the face of Congressional inaction to expand visa numbers and reform the broken immigration system, and it is urged that the administration also broadly interpret the “at risk” element of the investment so as to relieve EB-5 investors from uncertainty if the loan of the JCE is paid back to the NCE. Even if the JCE has paid back the loan to the NCE, the investor’s investment was always at risk at the time of the project’s inception, and at the time of filing the initial I-526 application. It is this point of time that ought to be considered when adjudicating EB-5 applications, in the case of potential crushing EB-5 China retrogression, and the administration has ample flexibility to maintain that the capital was “at risk” despite the JCE repaying the loan to the NCE prior to the investor either obtaining conditional residence or filing an application to remove conditional residence. After all, the requirement that the capital be “at risk” is found in the regulation and not the INA at 8 CFR 204.6(j)(2), and it only applies at the point of filing the I-526 application. Moreover, in a similar context where the EB-5 financing replaces bridge financing, the jobs were created at the point of bridge financing and not when the EB-5 capital replaced bridge financing. According to the May 2013 EB-5 Policy Memo, the use of bridge financing is permitted and is given credit for purposes of job creation so long as replacement financing, even if it was not EB-5 financing,  was  contemplated. Therefore, in the context of bridge financing, the length of time when the investment remains at risk, or when the investment creates the requisite number of jobs is irrelevant. What should really count is that the investment was “at risk” at some point of time and that investment did result in job creation at some point in time, although it can be legitimately argued that the investment still remains at risk even if the loan has been repaid to the NCE and not to the investor.   Similarly, the requirement that the investment have been sustained under INA 216A(d)(1)(A)(ii) throughout the conditional residency period be broadly construed so long as the repaid loan is still in the NCE and the investor has not been repaid. 
The ethical risks in representing a client have been further exacerbated by the prospect of EB-5 quota retrogression. There is also more cause for conflicts of interest if the same attorney who represents the NCE and/or project also represents the EB-5 investor, given that the repayment of the loan, which will benefit the JCE, may adversely affect the investor if the investment is no longer considered “at risk” or continue to be “sustained.” There is no prohibition under ABA Model Rule 1.7 for an attorney to take on multiple clients where there is a potential conflict of interest, if the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client;  the representation is not prohibited by law;  the representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal; and  each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing. The attorney representing both the investor and the NCE/JCE has to be mindful about the conditions pursuant to Rule 1.7 when undertaking or continuing the joint representation. In the event that the attorney faces an irreconcilable conflict, it may be incumbent upon the attorney from withdrawing representation of both clients. In some situations, an attorney may be able to represent one client and withdraw from the other one when the conflict was not foreseeable and was “thrust upon” the attorney. See e.g. New York City Bar Formal Opinion 2005-05. NYC Bar Op. 2005-5, which also discusses how other jurisdictions have dealt with “thrust upon” conflicts,  characterizes such a conflict  between two clients that 1) did not exist at the time either representation commenced, but arose only during the ongoing representation of both clients, where 2) the conflict was not reasonably foreseeable at the outset of the representation, 3) the conflict arose through no fault of the lawyer, and 4) the conflict is of a type that is capable of being waived. NYC Bar Op. 200505 further requires the lawyer to apply a balancing test in deciding whether to withdraw from the representation of one client and continue representation, with the other client. The opinion requires the lawyer to factor in whether there would be any prejudice that will be caused to the client due to confidences being placed at risk, and whether representation of one client over the other would give an unfair advantage to the client. A lawyer may wish to carefully use the “thrust upon” conflict doctrine if the conflict regarding the repayment of the loan was not foreseen prior to the announcement of the EB-5 quota retrogression, and the lawyer needs to decide whether to withdraw from representing both parties or one party. 
Finally, the immigration attorney when performing due diligence of an EB-5 regional center and project needs to also factor in the timing of the repayment of the loan and the delays caused by EB-5 retrogression. While most immigration attorneys should provide only immigration related due diligence rather than investment advice,  investment advice may wittingly or unwittingly be factored  into  the  general advice the attorney  may provide when assessing the viability of an EB-5 project on behalf of an investor client. While it is always advisable for an immigration attorney to limit his or her representation to immigration advice,  and refer the investment advice out to another qualified professional who is a registered investment adviser or broker dealer, Section 202(a)(11) the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 does indeed carve out an exception for attorneys, accountants, engineers and teachers so long as the investment advice provided is incidental to their profession. According to an advisory by the Stroock law firm, the factors that will be considered are whether the professional holds himself or herself out as an investment adviser, whether the advice is reasonably related to the professional services, and whether the charge for advisory services is based on the same factors that determine the professional’s usual charge.

September 15, 2014

THE FAMILY THAT IS COUNTED TOGETHER STAYS TOGETHER: HOW TO ELIMINATE IMMIGRANT VISA BACKLOGS

By Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta

There is nothing in the Immigration and Nationality Act that requires each derivative family member to be counted on an individual basis against the worldwide and country caps.  That being so, President Obama tomorrow can issue an executive order providing that this long-established practice be stopped.  That single stroke of the pen would revolutionize United States immigration policy and, at long last, restore balance and fairness to a dysfunctional immigration system badly in need of both. If all members of a family are counted together as one unit, rather than as separate and distinct individuals, systemic visa retrogression will quickly become a thing of the past.

We proposed this idea in our 2010 article The Tyranny of Priority Dates  long before it achieved the intellectual acceptance in many quarters that it now enjoys. We are pleased to now find that President Obama is considering this proposal as part of the package of administrative reform measures he will unveil before the end of this year. That this is so suggests the broad possibilities for change when the vigorous and disciplined exercise of executive initiative allows genuine progress to overcome the paralysis of political stalemate.

We know of no explicit authorization for derivative family members to be counted under either the Employment Based or Family Based preference in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The treatment of family members is covered by an explicit section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Section 203(d). Let us examine what INA §203(d) says:
A spouse of child defined in subparagraphs (A), (B), (C), (D), or (E) of section 1101(b) of this title shall, if not otherwise entitled to an immigrant status and the immediate issuance of a visa under subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this section, be entitled to the same status, and the same order of consideration provided in the respective subsection, if accompanying or following to join, the spouse or parent.

The EB and FB numbers ought not to be held hostage to the number of family members each principal beneficiary brings with him or her. Nor should family members be held hostage to the quotas. We have often seen the principal beneficiary being granted permanent residency, but the derivative family members being left out, when there were not sufficient visa numbers under the preference category during that given year. If all family members are counted as one unit, such needless separation of family members will never happen again.  Should only the principal become a permanent resident while everyone else waits till next year? What if visa retrogression sets in and the family has to wait, maybe for years? This does not make sense. Is there not sufficient ambiguity in INA §203(d) to argue that family members should not be counted against the cap? We do not contend that they should be completely exempted from being counted. As stated in INA §203(d), family members should be given the “same status and the same order of consideration” as the principal. Hence, if there is no visa number for the principal, the rest of the family does not get in. If, on the other hand, there is a single remaining visa number for the principal, the family members, however many there are, ought to be “entitled to the same status, and the same order of consideration as the principal.” Viewed in this way, INA §203(d) operates in harmony with all other limits on permanent migration found in INA both on an overall and a per country basis.

There is no regulation in 8 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) that truly interprets INA § 203(d). Even the Department of State’s regulation at 22 CFR §42.32 fails to illuminate the scope or purpose of INA 203(d). It does nothing more than parrot INA § 203(d). The authors recall the Supreme Court’s decision in Gonzales v Oregon, 546 US 243, 257 (2006) reminding us that a parroting regulation does not deserve deference:
Simply put, the existence of a parroting regulation does not change the fact that the question here is not the meaning of the regulation but the meaning of the statute. An agency does not acquire special authority to interpret its own words when, instead of using its expertise and experience to formulate a regulation, it has elected merely to paraphrase the statutory language.

It is certainly true that family members are not exempted from being counted under INA § 201(b) as are immediate relatives of US citizens, special immigrants, or those fortunate enough to merit cancellation of their removal. Yet, we note that the title in INA §201(b) refers to “Aliens Not Subject to Direct Numerical Limitations.” What does this curious phrase mean? Each of the listed exemptions in INA §201(b) are outside the normal preference categories. That is why they are not subject to direct counting. By contrast, the INA § 203(d) derivatives are wholly within the preference system, bound fast by its stubborn limitations. They are not independent of all numerical constraints, only from direct ones. It is the principal alien through whom they derive their claim who is and has been counted. When viewed from this perspective, there is nothing inconsistent between saying in INA §203(d) that derivatives should not be independently assessed against the EB or FB cap despite their omission from INA §201(b) that lists only non-preference category exemptions.

We do not claim that derivative beneficiaries are exempt from numerical limits. As noted above, they are indeed subject in the sense that the principal alien is subject by virtue of being subsumed within the numerical limit that applies to this principal alien. Hence, if no EB or FB numbers were available to the principal alien, the derivatives would not be able to immigrate either. If they were exempt altogether, this would not matter. There is, then, a profound difference between not being counted at all, for which we do not contend, and being counted as an integral family unit rather than as individuals. For this reason, INA §201(b) simply does not apply. We seek through the simple mechanism of an Executive Order not an exemption from numerical limits but a different way of counting them.

We are properly reminded that INA §§201(a)(1) and 201(a)(2) mandate that “family sponsored” and “employment based immigrants” are subject to worldwide limits. Does this not cover spouses and children? True enough but all is not lost. While the term “immigrant” under INA §101(a)(15) includes spouse and children, they were included because, in concert with their principal alien family member, they intended to stay permanently in this their adopted home. No one ever contended they were or are non-immigrants. However, this does not mean that such family derivatives are either “employment based” or “family sponsored” immigrants. No petitioner has filed either an I-140 or I-130 on their behalf. Their claim to immigrant status is wholly a creature of statute, deriving entirely from INA §203(d) which does not make them independently subject to any quota.

INA §203(d) must be understood to operate in harmony with other provisions of the INA. Surely, if Congress had meant to deduct derivative beneficiaries, it would have plainly said so somewhere in the INA. The Immigration Act of 1990 when modifying INA §§201(a)(1) and 201(a)(2) specifically only referred to family sponsored and employment-based immigrants in §203(a) and §203(b) respectively in the worldwide cap. This was a marked change from prior law when all immigrants save for immediate relatives and special immigrants, but including derivative family members, had been counted. In this sense, the interpretation of INA §203(d) for which we contend should be informed by the same broad, remedial spirit that characterizes IMMACT 90’s basic approach to numerical limitation of immigration to the United States As already noted, these immigrants ought to only be the principal beneficiaries of I-130 and I-140 petitions. Derivative family, of course, are not the beneficiaries of such sponsorship. At no point did Congress do so. Under the theory of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that Congress had not authorized such deduction. Surely, if this was not the case, Congress would have made its intent part of the INA.  If the Executive Branch wanted to reinterpret §203(d), there is sufficient ambiguity in the provision for it do so without the need for Congress to sanction it. A government agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous statute is entitled to deference under Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984)—often abbreviated as “Chevron deference”.  When a statute is ambiguous in this way, the Supreme Court has made clear in National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. v. Brand X Internet Services, 545 U.S. 967 (2005), the agency may reconsider its interpretation even after the courts have approved of it.  Brand X can be used as a force for good.  Thus, when a provision is ambiguous such as INA Section 203(d), the government agencies charged with its enforcement may reasonably interpret it in the manner that we suggest.

Skeptics who contend that the INA as written mandates individual counting of all family members point to two provisions of the INA, §§202(a)(2) and 202(b). Neither is the problem that supporters of the status quo imagine.  Let’s consider §202(a)(2) first. In relevant part, it teaches that not more than 7% of the total number of family and employment-based immigrant visas arising under INA §203(b) may be allocated to the natives of any single foreign state. Eagle eyed readers will readily notice that this does not apply to derivative family members whose entitlement comes from INA §203(d) with no mention of §203(b). Also, but no less importantly, INA §202(a)(2) is concerned solely with overall per country limits. There is no reason why the number of immigrant visas cannot stay within the 7% cap while all members of a family are counted as one unit. There is no reason why monitoring of the per country family or employment  cap should require individual counting of family members. The per country cap is, by its own terms, limited to the named beneficiaries of I-130 and  I-140 petitions and there is no express or implied authority for any executive interpretation that imposes a restriction that Congress has not seen fit to impose.

What about cross-chargeability under INA §202(b)? Even if §202(b) has language regarding preventing the separation of the family, it does not mean that the derivatives have to be counted separately. If an Indian-born beneficiary of an EB-2 I-140 is married to a Canadian born spouse, the Indian born beneficiary can cross charge to the EB-2 worldwide rather than EB-2 India. When the Indian cross charges, the entire family is counted as one unit under the EB-2 worldwide by virtue of being cross charged to Canada. Such an interpretation can be supported under Chevron and Brand X, especially the gloss given to Chevron by the Supreme Court in the recent Supreme Court decision in Scialabba v. de Osorio involving an interpretation of the provision of the Child Status Protection Act.  Justice Kagan’s plurality opinion, though seeking to clarify the Child Status Protection Act, applies with no less force to our subject: “This is the kind of case that Chevron was built for. Whatever Congress might have meant… it failed to speak clearly.” Kagan slip op. at 33. Once again, as with the per country EB cap, the concept of cross-chargeability is a remedial mechanism that seeks to promote and preserve family unity, precisely the same policy goal for which we contend.

Our proposal falls squarely within the mainstream of the American political tradition, animated by the spirit of audacious incrementalism that has consistently characterized successful reform initiatives. Since the Congress will not expand the immigrant quotas themselves, unless we are willing to watch the slow death of the priority date system in silence, the President must act on his own. Doing so will double or triple the number of available green cards without the creation of a single new visa. The waiting lines will vanish or be drastically reduced.  As Rabbi Hillel asked in Ethics of the Fathers, if not now, when?

(Guest writer Gary Endelman is the Senior Counsel at Fosterquan)