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Undocumented Housekeeper Who Worked at Trump Property Could Face Deportation

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An undocumented immigrant who worked for years at President Trump’s luxury golf resort in New Jersey and later revealed that he employed many immigrants who are in the country illegally has been placed in deportation proceedings. Victorina Morales, 47, worked for more than five years as a housekeeper at the club in Bedminster, N.J., using,

An undocumented immigrant who worked for years at President Trump’s luxury golf resort in New Jersey and later revealed that he employed many immigrants who are in the country illegally has been placed in deportation proceedings.

Victorina Morales, 47, worked for more than five years as a housekeeper at the club in Bedminster, N.J., using counterfeit identification that she said her supervisors knew to be falsified. Her revelations, first disclosed by The New York Times in December 2018, prompted undocumented workers at several Trump properties to come forward.

Dozens of others were fired in ensuing months by the Trump Organization, which owns and operates golf resorts in several states, after the company began investigating employee records.

Ms. Morales, a Guatemalan immigrant, was notified by the federal authorities this week that she had been placed in removal proceedings that could result in deportation. She can remain in the country only if an immigration judge approves her petition for asylum.

In a letter reviewed by The Times, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said that the agency had not approved her initial application for asylum because she had not proved that “extraordinary circumstances” had prevented her from making an asylum claim within a year of arriving in the country, as required.

Ms. Morales, who witnessed her father being murdered, crossed the border illegally in 1999. She filed the asylum application jointly with her husband late in 2018, and the latest decision applied to both of them.

The immigration agency emphasized that it was not denying her asylum application but was instead referring her case to the immigration courts for removal proceedings, where a judge will review her asylum status.

Because of the backlog in immigration cases, Ms. Morales almost certainly will be allowed to remain in the United States for several years while her case is under review. She was not available for an interview on Thursday.

Anibal Morales, her lawyer, said that the agency’s ruling this week “is a serious legal matter, and my concern right now is for the safety and well-being of my client.” He said that he would have no other comment.

After Ms. Morales arrived in New Jersey, she worked at warehouses packing consumer goods, such as soap and baby diapers. She was hired at the Trump property in 2013.

During her time at the golf resort, she said, she often cleaned Mr. Trump’s personal quarters and had several personal interactions with him. She said he had praised her for her meticulous cleaning and work ethic, at times dispensing large tips to her.

But Ms. Morales said that she had been hurt by Mr. Trump’s disparaging public comments after he took office about Latin American immigrants, equating them with violent criminals.

It was that, she said, along with what she said were abusive remarks from a supervisor at work about her intelligence and her immigration status, that made her decide that she could no longer keep silent.

“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” she said at the time.

Ms. Morales was trained by Sandra Diaz, a native of Costa Rica who is now a legal resident of the United States. Ms. Diaz also came forward admitting that she had been in the country without legal permission while employed at Bedminster.

Trump Organization executives have said that they had no way of knowing that the workers had presented false employment documents, and Mr. Trump has said that he was also unaware that his properties had hired undocumented immigrants.

During the presidential campaign, when the Trump International Hotel opened in Washington, Mr. Trump boasted that he used an electronic employment system, E-Verify, to check that only those legally authorized to work there had been hired.

“We didn’t have one illegal immigrant on the job,” Trump said then.

But throughout his campaign and after he became president, Ms. Morales had been reporting for work at his golf course. A fellow employee drove her and other undocumented workers to the resort each day, she said, because it was known that they could not legally obtain driver’s licenses.

After coming forward, Ms. Morales shot to fame. In February last year, she was among 20 immigrants, many of them facing possible deportation, on the list of those seated in the secure gallery for the annual State of the Union address. In December, she visited Las Vegas and received a hug from Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. At a campaign event, she brandished a copy of a certificate of service that she had received from the White House Communications Agency.

After applying for asylum, Ms. Morales received a work permit, which enabled her to secure a housekeeping job as a legal worker at a hotel in Manhattan. She lost that job because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among nearly 50 undocumented workers identified as having worked at Trump properties since Ms. Morales’s revelations, none are known to have been deported.

Source: Undocumented Housekeeper Who Worked at Trump Property Could Face Deportation

Victorina Morales photographed at her home in Bound Brook, New Jersey in 2018.Credit…Christopher Gregory for The New York Times

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The Green Card Process Through the Lens of a DMV Visit

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As an immigration attorney, I try to provide clients with a basic, yet insightful, understanding of various aspects of a complex immigration system. It’s not always easy, but I often find analogies to something commonplace can be helpful.  One analogy I’ve found to work well to explain the green card process beyond describing its mere,

As an immigration attorney, I try to provide clients with a basic, yet insightful, understanding of various aspects of a complex immigration system. It’s not always easy, but I often find analogies to something commonplace can be helpful.  One analogy I’ve found to work well to explain the green card process beyond describing its mere sequence of form filings likens the process to a visit to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.

In my practice area of business immigration law, green card processes are mostly employment-based and involve the successive filing of a labor certification application, immigrant petition, and adjustment of status application (with the first not always required and the latter two sometimes eligible for concurrent filing). So I’ll refer to these types of filings in describing the analogy here.  But variations of the analogy may be equally applicable to other types of green card processes, such as those in which the aspiring permanent resident will apply for an immigrant visa overseas rather than adjustment of status within the United States, as well as those based on family relationships and those available to asylees and refugees.

The trappings of a visit to the DMV, no matter the state, may be familiar to you: the issuance of a waiting number determining your place in a queue, followed by a long wait for your number to be called at one of several counters to file required paperwork, followed yet again by a lengthy wait for your paperwork to be processed, and eventually – hopefully – approved without issue.  The counter at which you’ll be called, and the length of the corresponding queue (or maybe in some fortunate instances, the absence of one altogether), often depends on specific factors, such as the type of service you’re seeking.

Just as you’re issued a waiting number upon entry into a DMV office, aspiring permanent residents are issued a priority date when the first major filing in their green card process (either the labor certification application or immigrant petition) is submitted.  The priority date is the date this first filing is submitted and determines, once the immigrant petition is approved, the aspiring permanent resident’s place in any existing queue to apply for adjustment of status.

Similar to how you wait at the DMV for your number to be called to file your paperwork at the appropriate counter, aspiring permanent residents face varying wait times for their priority date to be “called” at a designated “counter” to apply for adjustment of status.  The “counter” in the green card process at which aspiring permanent residents must apply for adjustment of status is based on a combination of two main factors: their immigrant classification (which, when speaking with clients, I refer to as their “green card category”) and their country of chargeability (which I refer to as their country of birth).  Aside from some significant exceptions outside of the employment-based green card process,[1] the law limits the supply of green cards available each fiscal year.  Because the law allocates this limited supply based on a combination of both immigrant classification and country of chargeability, queues form at “counters” where the demand for green cards exceeds the available supply.  And the more severely demand exceeds supply, the longer the queue will be. This analogy helps to show why EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in India and China are often confronted with waits lasting many years for their priority date to be “called” at their designated counters,[2] while EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in most other countries often face no such queue.  In technical terms, the existence of a queue at a given “counter” means the availability of green cards associated with that counter’s classification and chargeability combination is “retrogressed.”  If there’s no queue, green card availability at that counter is “current.”

A visit to the DMV often entails a wait of several hours sitting and keeping watch of your designated counter at it serves the visitors who arrived before you until your own number is finally called.  Likewise, many aspiring permanent residents monitor the often plodding, month-to-month movement of “cut-off dates” in the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ monthly Visa Bulletins for the designated “counter” at which they must apply for adjustment of status.[3]  The Visa Bulletin for a given month contains various charts showing whether a queue for filing an adjustment of status application exists for any classification and chargeability combination, and if so, how long the queue is.  Combinations for which there is no queue are assigned a “C” notation, indicating that green card availability is current and that the adjustment of status application can thus be filed at any time that month, including in concurrence with an immigrant petition if it has not already been approved, and assuming any prerequisite labor certification has been granted. Combinations for which there is a queue, and for which green card availability is thus retrogressed, are denoted by a “cut-off date,” with older dates reflecting longer queues.  Aspiring permanent residents seeking to adjust status at a “counter” at which green card availability is retrogressed can track their place in the queue by comparing their priority date with the applicable cut-off date each month.  Priority dates that fall before the applicable cut-off date in a given month are those that have been “called,” indicating that much like counters at which green card availability is current, an adjustment of status application can be filed at any time that month, including in concurrence with an immigrant petition if it has not already been approved, and assuming again that any prerequisite labor certification has been granted.

Like processing of paperwork filed at a counter at the DMV, processing of an adjustment of status application may take a long time.  But eventually – hopefully – the application is approved without issue.  And unlike a visit to the DMV, having qualified counsel during the green card process can make all the difference in one’s chance of success.

[1] For example, “immediate relatives” (spouses and children of US citizens, and parents of US citizens if the citizen is at least 21 years old) are exempt from annual numerical limits on green card availability. INA 201(b)(2)(A)(i).
[2] Aspiring permanent residents for whom the queue for applying for adjustment of status involves a wait of several years, such as EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants born in India and China, commonly change jobs or employers in the course of their wait. Such a change can require a restart of the green card process since employment-based green card processes are generally job and employer specific.  But to allow aspiring permanents residents who change jobs or employers to keep their place in queue, the law permits them to retain their priority date under certain conditions if they are the beneficiary of a previously approved EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant petition, and likewise become the beneficiary of an approved EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant petition based on their new job or employer. 8 CFR 204.5(e). 
[3] US Citizenship and Immigration Service also publishes monthly updates indicating whether to use the Visa Bulletin’s Dates for Filing charts or its Final Action Dates charts, to determine whether an adjustment of status application may be filed.

Source: The Green Card Process Through the Lens of a DMV Visit

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