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Neelam Ihsanullah, a guest contributor to our blog, is an immigration attorney licensed in Pennsylvania and California. You can contact her directly at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued guidance on the vaccination requirements for foreign nationals applying for adjustment of status in the United States. This document clarifies the new approach utilized by the Centers for Disease Control in determining which vaccines are required as part of the mandatory immigrant medical examination.

Today I had a final hearing for a man who was granted cancellation of removal as a permanent resident (“green card” holder).  This is great, I am extremely happy for him, his wife, and four children.  However, he was detained for the last two months while we filed the required paperwork, had him fingerprinted, etc.  The government didn’t contest the grant of relief, so I won’t brag about my terrific lawyering skills (I will save that for later), but instead I am writing to talk about this type of relief and the problems that it creates, as well as some potential remedies.

On October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law (Public Law 111-83), a major change in the way widows are treated in the immigration process. Brent Renison, an American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) member and founder of Surviving Spouses Against Deportation (www.ssad.org), has been the primary advocate on behalf victims of the widow penalty, and he deserves the praises and gratitude of everyone who benefits from this new law.

As same-sex couples and their advocates continue to fight for equal rights, they should not forget those with foreign spouses, or the plight of foreign same-sex couples wishing to come to the United States together as spouses. When a United States citizen wants to marry a foreigner, or when a foreign couple want to come to the United States for school, work, or any other purpose, they have a huge hurdle to jump, because the immigration authorities use the federal definition of marriage, which is between one man and one woman.  At least, that’s how it is today... but change is still in the air, and when that change comes, immigrants and their United States spouses can benefit as long as the immigration aspects of the equal rights struggle are not overlooked.

As attorneys, we have an obligation to perform services in the public interest free of charge (Pro Bono) from time to time, and to dedicate ourselves to the idea that the most vulnerable in society need to be protected, even when they cannot afford it.  The phrase Pro Bono Publico normally shortened to Pro Bono means “for the public good.”


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