Houston, we have a problem.

Sunday, November 24th, 2013
By: Jonathan MontagJ.D.

When I first started practicing immigration law, I would advise clients who were not U.S. citizens or permanent residents not to fly into the United States at Detroit. The officers, I was told, were treating people unfairly though I had no first-hand knowledge of problems there. Then, one day, I got a call from a gentleman who had come to see me about an investor visa, an E-2, to invest in an enterprise in La Jolla, California. He told me that he was going back to his home in Old Europe (he did not say Old Europe, I am paraphrasing) to straighten out his affairs and then would be back in the U.S. to start his business and his visa application. He was at the airport in Detroit, found inadmissible, and was being returned to his home country. He apparently did not parse the difference between E-2 intent to reside in the U.S.  with the permanent resident intent to reside in the U.S. adequately, which rendered him inadmissible.1 Then, I stopped hearing about Detroit.

Now, I am hearing about Houston. Three times in one week, people came in with horror stories from Houston. A young man turned around after being falsely accused of immigration violations during his last visit, a young man detained for three hours and accused of every crime under the sun and then released after his luggage was fine-combed. A foreign spouse turned around while coming to visit the spouse’s permanent resident spouse who petitioned for the foreign spouse. The petition would not be current until long after the foreign spouse had to return home (and the permanent resident spouse was not remotely eligible to naturalize).2

Report your own Houston horror story in the comments section.3 Maybe it will catch someone’s eye. Posted November 24, 2013.

1 A person who has an “immigrant intent” entering as a nonimmigrant ordinarily cannot enter the United States. INA § 214(b). Yes, they can read your mind.

2 People immigrating as spouses of permanent residents must be in lawful status to adjust their status to permanent resident. Thus, if this lady overstayed her period of stay, she could not become a permanent resident here, would have to leave, and could trigger a bar to coming back by leaving. Spouses of citizens can adjust status even if they are not in status – overstayed their visas (as long as they entered the country with inspection). If her spouse was imminently going to become a citizen, then she could overstay and soon thereafter apply for permanent residence. As noted, this was not the case.

3 I guess we are casting stones at the CBP operation in Houston. I realize it is dangerous to cast stones at CBP as they shoot back.



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