Laraine E. Schwartz | West New York Immigration Law, Real Estate Law and Family Law

Temporary Protective Status for Haitians

Temporary Protective Status for Haitians by Laraine Schwartz

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing 300,000 people. Because of the devastation, 50,000 Haitians residing in the United States were provided Temporary Protective Status (TPS)—a designation that comes with certain privileges granted by the United States Customs and Immigrations Service (USCIS). 

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AILA Lobby Day 2017

AILA Lobby Day 2017 by Laraine Schwartz

It was with a heavy heart that I had to miss the annual American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) Lobby Day this year. Having attended for two years in a row, I know the impact my colleagues at AILA have when meeting with representatives and senators—and how fulfilling the day can be to all the participants. 

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What to Do If ICE (Immigration Agents) Comes to Your Home

What to Do If ICE (Immigration Agents) Comes to Your Home by Laraine Schwartz

Frequently, and most recently, immigrants have been relating that they are fearful about what to do if ICE goes to their home. In this blog, I share advice from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about what to do if ICE knocks on your door. 

  • If any officers come to your door, keep the door closed and ask if they are from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or if they are immigration agents. If they are, ask them why they are there. Although opening the door does not give the agents permission to come inside, it still is safer to speak to ICE through the door. If the agents do not speak your language, you can ask for an interpreter. 
  • If the agents want to come in, ask them if they have a warrant signed by a judge. If they do not have one, you may refuse to open the door or to let them in. An administrative warrant of removal from immigration authorities is not enough. An administrative warrant is one that was issued by DHS or ICE and signed by a DHS or ICE employee. 
  • If the agents say they have a warrant, ask them to slip it under the door so you can see for yourself what kind of warrant it is. Look at the top of the warrant to see if it was issued by a court; look at the signature line to see if it was signed by a judge. 
  • Even if the agents have a warrant signed by a judge, you don’t have to open the door unless the warrant names a person in your home and/or specifies areas to be searched at your address. 
  • In all other cases, keep the door closed and say, “I do not consent to your entry.” 
  • If the agents ignore you and force their way in, do not try to resist. If you want to exercise your rights, say: “I do not consent to your entry or to your search of these premises. I am exercising my right to remain silent. I want to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.” Everyone in the home is also entitled to exercise the right to remain silent. 
  • Do not lie or show false documents. Do not sign any papers without speaking to a lawyer. 

If you need more information about what to do if ICE comes to your home, contact me or an experienced immigration attorney.

Larraine Schwartz, Divorce and Your Children

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.
Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law,
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Fighting for Light in a Time of Darkness

Fighting For Light in a Time of Darkness by Laraine Schwartz

The fallout from President Trump’s recent Executive Orders is overwhelming. The travel ban set forth by the administration is stalled in the courts, but according to numerous White House staffers, a new Executive Order will be issued soon.

The medical industry is one of the sectors that will suffer along with the individuals denied access to a safe haven from their war-torn homes.

A recent article in Scientific American interviewed both attending and resident physicians from all around the world and stated the argument that, without immigrants, the United States will continue to have a shortage of doctors.

  • The United States is currently experiencing a deficit of 8,200 primary care doctors and 2,800 psychiatrists. 
  • By 2025, The American Association of Medical Colleges estimates that deficit will be 94,000.
  • 8,400 doctors currently practicing in the United States are from just two of the seven affected countries that were in the old order and will reportedly be in the new order—Iran and Syria.

Fortunately, advocacy groups, including American Immigration Lawyers Association, (AILA), are at the ready to ensure that America has the workforce it needs to thrive.

Unfortunately, not all immigrants leave their home country by choice. Instead, they are forced to leave as their cities are ravaged by war—and their lives and homes destroyed. Of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been displaced thus far, 51% are children. This is why President Trump’s restrictions on accepting refugees, in addition to the travel ban, is an outrage that must be addressed immediately.

The attorneys at AILA will stand with immigrants and refugees alike, not just for the future but because of the past. The irony of President Trump celebrating Holocaust Remembrance Day while turning away refugees was not lost on anyone. For survivors and their relatives, it was a heartbreaking reminder of a time when the United States turned a cold shoulder to Jews fleeing certain death in the Old World. For the present day refugees from the Middle East and Northern Africa, these egregious orders must be challenged.

I encourage you to GET INVOLVED! Remember: Congress controls the purse strings and enacts the laws.

Larraine Schwartz, Divorce and Your Children

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.
Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law,
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The Future of Immigration Reform in the United States

The Future of Immigration Reform in the United States by Laraine Schwartz

It is with great difficulty that I write this blog after the election of November 8th. What we were told was good news for many Americans who felt left out of the economic recovery, is causing considerable anxiety in the immigration community. And rightly so.

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Democratic National Convention Highlights Continued Fears of DACA Recipients

Democratic National Convention Highlights Continued Fears of DACA Recipients by Laraine Schwartz

Due to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Astrid temporarily has received protection from being deported, but her father is still facing a pending deportation order. As she said in her speech to the DNC, her “family isn’t just talking about the fear of deportation, they are living it.” 

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U.S. Supreme Court Effectively Blocks Obama’s Immigration Orders

U.S. Supreme Court Effectively Blocks Obama’s Immigration Orders by Laraine Schwartz

The United States Supreme Court recently issued a ruling in the controversial United States v. Texas case. The Court split 4-4, declining to hear further on the case and sending the case back to the lower court, the very same court which blocked the President’s immigration Executive Actions, and thus their ruling will remain in place for the time being. Once there is a full nine-member Supreme Court, perhaps the matter will be brought back. Or hopefully, a new administration and new Congress will implement Global Immigration Reform once and for all!

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Homelessness: America’s Home-grown Humanitarian Crisis

Homelessness: America’s Home-grown Humanitarian Crisis by Laraine Schwartz

As an attorney who performs transactions for people buying and selling their homes or commercial properties, I am extremely conscious of the many homeless people in the area. The official numbers say that there are 900 families in Jersey City who don’t know where they will sleep on any given night — but many advocates contend that this is a gross underestimate because many people fall under the radar, if not under the tressels.

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Say “no” to Fear and Hatred and “yes to America”

Say No To Fear And Hatred And Yes America by Laraine E. SchwartzWinograd and Schwartz, PC, would like to wish each of you a peaceful and healthy holiday season. These are certainly troubling times. As Americans, we value the power of the vote – democracy at work. This year’s presidential race is proving a challenge to the mind and our country. Along with the repercussions of Citizens United, money in politics has taken on a new meaning. And with his own bankroll of his campaign, Donald Trump has taken center stage and chosen to advocate banning Muslims from entering the country. As outrageous as this sounds to many of us, he is reaching people’s fears, ignorance and disdain for differences, and this brings us great concern.

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An Important Announcement About Changes To Immigration Procedures

Two New Announcements That Change Immigration Law Procedures By Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.There are two important new developments in the field of immigration law:

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has started to allow naturalization applicants to pay with credit cards, instead of having to pay the full application processing fee upfront.

The N-400 is the only form that can be paid for by credit card, and applicants may pay using Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover, as well as gift cards with any of these 4 logos appearing on them. Continue reading

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The Right Side of History

The Right Side of History By Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.The images pouring out of the Middle East right now are heartbreaking.

Men, women and children are fleeing war by piling into rafts that are not seaworthy and often sink. For a brief moment, it looked like the world was waking up to the reality of this nightmare when little Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body was photographed face-down and sinking into the sands of a Turkish beach. Aylan had been the victim of a capsized raft. Gone, too, were his mother and brother, leaving his father as the only member of his family left alive. Continue reading

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Are You Eligible to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Are You Eligible to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy? by Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.What do you have to do to qualify for bankruptcy?

To be eligible to file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you must meet several criteria. Your income cannot be over a certain amount, depending on your place of residence and other specifics in the statutorily determined  “means test.” You will be denied if you have previously filed bankruptcy within the past eight years.

In order for a bankruptcy lawyer to determine your eligibility, she will need to closely examine the following: Continue reading

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DAPA and DACA Arguments Heard by the Fifth Circuit

DAPA and DACA Arguments Heard by the Fifth CircuitOn July 10th, President Barack Obama’s Executive Orders on deferred action for undocumented immigrants were argued before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Both Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, (DAPA) are being challenged by a group of 26 states that assert Obama overstepped his authority with these Executive Orders.

In February 2015, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Texas issued a preliminary injunction preventing the administration from starting the programs’ implementation.

In May, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit denied the administration’s request to lift Hanen’s stay after hearing oral argument from both sides. The arguments heard on July 10th represent the latest development in this ongoing court case.

The extended DACA and new DAPA programs Obama ordered would provide temporary relief from the threat of deportation for an estimated 4.9 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

The programs would, among other features, offer 3-year work permits to undocumented parents of citizens and other legal residents, as well as those who entered the country prior to age 16 (“the Dreamers”). These immigrants would not include recent arrivals or those with serious criminal records.

A major dispute at issue in the case is whether states have “legal standing” to challenge the federal government regarding the country’s immigration policies, as this has long been considered the domain of the federal government.

With this in mind, attorneys for the Obama administration have argued that the federal government alone sets immigration policy, and that the president acted properly and within his authority when creating DAPA and DACA.

Legal counsel from the State of Texas countered that states like his do in fact have the requisite standing to challenge the laws, since they would would face numerous costs associated with these programs, including the cost of issuing millions of new driver’s licenses.

The judges in the Fifth Circuit are expected to rule within the next several months. When they do, the “losing” side will likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will have the final word on this important matter.

Larraine Schwartz, Lobbying for Immigration Reform

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.
Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law,

laraine@winogradandschwartz.com

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What If Marriage Equality Becomes a Reality?

What If Marriage Equality Becomes a Reality By Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.Awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision, one cannot help but wonder: What if gay and lesbian couples will soon have the right to marry in all 50 states?

Hopefully, a few weeks from now, the following best case scenario will become a reality: Continue reading

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US Appeals Court Rules against Obama’s Executive Order

US Appeals Ct. Rules against Obama's Executive Order By Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) established by President Obama’s Executive Order last November remains on temporary hold.

The ruling, which halted Obama’s immigration program, was filed by a Federal court judge in the Southern District of Texas in February. The Texas court’s ruling was based on a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas and 25 other states. It opposed the President’s executive action which would have granted work permits and protection from deportation to millions of immigrants who have United States Citizen children. Continue reading

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Wondering How Those Religious Freedom Lawsuits Will Turn Out? Here’s the Federal Court System in 512 Words

Wondering How Those Religious Freedom Lawsuits Will Turn Out? Here's the Federal Court System in 512 Words  By Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.As the marriage equality tsunami swept through the federal judiciary last year, it certainly was confusing every time a ruling was announced. Sixth Circuit, 1st District appellate, State Courts. This year the stage is set for even more people to be confused as the various “religious freedom” or “right to discriminate” laws percolate through the legal system.

Below is a simplified guide to the maze of our federal judiciary:

It’s not who you sue, but why you are suing

There are 2 separate issues when challenging a law: What types of cases a jury decides and which cases only a judge can decide. This has to do with what type of relief a plaintiff requests.

  • If a plaintiff requests damages in the form of money or the return of some type of property, the remedy is considered “legal”, and a jury is available as the finder of fact. (or a judge in certain circumstances)

  • If the plaintiff asks for a non-monetary form of relief, like an injunction or declaratory judgment (like declaring a law unconstitutional), the claim is considered to be one of “equity”, and only a judge can rule on it.

If a party files a challenge to a law passed by a state, claiming that the new law violates the “state” constitution, then it has to follow the state’s specific rules as to where to file first and how.

Each state has its own regulations for how a plaintiff can file these challenges. In some states, the party needs to start with the state’s own highest court, while in other states the appeal can only be filed in the capital city.

Note: If the claim is that a state law violates state constitution, then the state’s highest court has the final word on the challenge. If the claim is that the state enacted a law which violates the federal Constitution, it is a different issue.

There are 94 federal judicial districts, including at least one district in each state. The party starts its challenge by filing in one of these 94 courts, the one in which the alleged violation of the Constitution has occurred. The judicial districts are organized into 12 regional circuits, each of which has its own Court of Appeals. A Court of Appeals hears from all of the district courts located within its circuit. You file in your closest federal judicial court, and if you lose you can appeal to the Court of Appeals that covers your district.

Finally, if the party that began its challenge in state court loses again, it can obtain a writ of certiori to the US Supreme Court, which has final say on all constitutional questions in the United States.

With both sides of the “religious liberties” issue unwilling to compromise, it is likely that court cases will wind their way up through the state courts, into the federal districts, and ultimately to the Supreme Court of the United States.

In the meantime, oral argument for the landmark case that would bring marriage equality to all 50 states has been heard April 28 and will be decided this June! Stay tuned…

Larraine Schwartz, Lobbying for Immigration Reform

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, www.winogradandschwartz.comLaraine@winogradandschwartz.com
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What Your Immigration Attorney Needs to Know About You

What Your Immigration Attorney Needs to Know About YouWhen you meet with your immigration attorney, you will be asked to provide certain information. Although some questions may seem intrusive and unnecessary, full disclosure of your criminal history and past immigration history is essential.  Continue reading

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Before April 1 Is the Time to Appeal Your Property Taxes

Before April 1 is the Time to Appeal Your Property Taxes by Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.Think you are paying too much for property taxes? The good news is that you may be able to obtain a reduction.

There are ways to have your property taxes lowered, but there are strict deadlines and other requirements to do so. Here is what you need to know:  Continue reading

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What Happens When You Apply for a Mortgage?

What Happens When You Apply for a Mortgage? by Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.When applying for a mortgage, what does “pre-approval” mean?

To begin the process of purchasing a home with a mortgage, the lender will typically provide a pre-approval letter before looking deeper into your financial situation. You first submit a short application to ascertain if you have sufficient funds to meet your monthly expenses including the mortgage, insurance and taxes, as well as other monthly charges.

When applying for the mortgage the following will be requested:   Continue reading

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Busting the Myth: Marrying a U.S. Citizen Does Not Make You a Citizen

Busting the Myth: Marrying a U.S. Citizen Does Not Make You a Citizen by Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.If you entered the United States legally but have overstayed your visa, you may be able to have your status adjusted and become a green card holder by having your citizen-spouse sponsor you. Here are some of the things you should know about the process:

  • You may apply for Legal Permanent Residence (Green Card) based on your marriage to a U.S. Citizen and be approved on a conditional basis for 2 years. The condition is that you must still be married or that the marriage is proved again to be legitimate two years after the first Green Card is provided. IMPORTANT: At least 90 days before the conditional residency expires, you must file application I-751 to have the condition removed. If you miss this crucial deadline and this 2-year period ends, your status automatically expires and you become subject to removal. Both you and your spouse must sign the I-751 form. If you have since divorced, you may file a waiver of your ex-spouse’s signing requirement, but it must be proved that your marriage was a legitimate marriage.  Continue reading

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Who’s Eligible for Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration?

Who's Eligible for Obama's Executive Order on Immigration? by Laraine Schwartz Esq.Recently, President Obama courageously took action, after Congress refused to do so, in an effort to effect meaningful immigration reform.

The president was forced to act by Executive Order. We hope this will push the House of Representatives to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that will affect more people and will not be subject to reversal by another President’s Executive Order. The Executive Order is granting deferred action, a long-standing administrative mechanism used for decades to enable certain individuals to obtain certain privileges and rights without the possibility of deportation. The deferred action means the person’s removal will be deferred.

The order is limited to an estimated 5 million of the approximate 12 million undocumented or out of status immigrants in this country. Continue reading

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Introducing a New Member of the Team

Introducing a New Member of the Team by Laraine Schwartz Esq.I am proud to announce the addition of attorney Antonio Gonzalez, Of Counsel, to Winograd and Schwartz, P.C.

Antonio has a history of success working on family and criminal matters including representation of domestic violence matters and all municipal court cases, as well as a variety of both plaintiff and defense litigation. Continue reading

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Who’s eligible for Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration?

 Who’s eligible for Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration? | Laraine SchwartzThursday night, President Obama courageously took action after the Congress refused to do so, in an effort to effect meaningful immigration reform.

The next day, November 21st, I was interviewed about this by The Jersey Journal; click here to read that article.

The president was forced to act by Executive Order. We hope this will push the House of Representatives to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that will affect more people and will not be subject to reversal by another President’s Executive Order. The Executive Order is granting deferred action, a long-standing administrative mechanism used for decades to enable certain individuals to obtain certain privileges and rights without the possibility of deportation. The deferred action means the person’s removal will be deferred.

The order is limited to an estimated 5 million of the approximate 12 million undocumented or out of status immigrants in this country.

 What determines eligibility? Continue reading

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Is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy the Right Way to Solve Your Financial Woes?

Is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy the Right Way to Solve Your Financial Woes? by Laraine Schwartz Esq.If you find yourself falling far behind on paying your debts, bankruptcy is one possible solution to consider. The long time solution of bankruptcy has always been available to help someone in economic trouble obtain a fresh start on their financial life. By filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, an individual is allowed to keep certain property, which is considered “exempt.” If your assets qualify for these  exemptions, after Chapter 7 is filed and discharged you will be able to retain title or ownership of these properties.

The value of property that can be claimed as exempt varies from state to state. Some states mandate their own exemption lists, while others allow you a choice between the state exemptions and the federal exemption limits. Continue reading

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The President’s Immigration Plan: DACA for Adults?

The President's Immigration Plan: DACA for Adults? by Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.Despite the Democrats’ loss of the Senate, the President has announced he will press on with his plan to issue an executive order regarding immigration. He had previously delayed taking action during the influx of immigrants from Latin America this summer – as we waited for time to pass and people continued to live in the United States without permission to work.

The plan has been rumored to consist of a “deferred action for adults” type of law which would allow many immigrants who reside in the United States without permission currently to gain some tangible form of legal status. As with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), there would be specific standards each applicant must meet, such as proving residence in the U.S.for a certain minimum amount of time and no criminal history. Continue reading

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So You Want to Be a U.S. Citizen?

So You Want to Be a U.S. Citizen? by Laraine Schwartz Esq.Naturalization is the process by which a Permanent Legal Resident (green card holder) may  become a citizen of the United States.

If you are a green card holder and you are interested in applying for citizenship, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have held your green card for at least 5 years (unless you are married to a United States citizen — see below).

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The First “No” Since Windsor

The First "No" Since Windsor by Laraine Schwartz, Esq.Advocates for same sex marriage may be running into the first sign of resistance from local and state courts. The recent decision in Borman v. Piles-Borman, written by 9th Circuit Judge Russell Simmons, held that Tennessee does not have to recognize the marriage of two male Tennessee residents who had legally tied the knot in Iowa.

This decision seems to fly in the face of the dozens of other decisions which recently have been handed down all over the country. Since the Supreme Court issued its decision in United States v. Windsor last year, courts in many states have been giving same sex couples reason to celebrate. Windsor held that any federal ban on gay marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. While the Court did not specifically address whether state laws banning gay marriage are permissible, courts in different parts of the country have been “reading the tea leaves,” and, as a result, 25 different courts have struck down state laws which banned gay marriage in the 14 months since Windsor was decided.

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A New Obstacle Placed in the Way to Marriage Equality?

A New Obstacle Placed in the Way to Marriage Equality? by Laraine Schwartz, Esq.On August 20, 2014 the Supreme Court of The United States rained on the wedding day plans of thousands of people from Virginia.

Each Supreme Court Justice handles emergency appeals from a certain geographical part of the United States. Virginia is under the jurisdiction of the Chief Justice John Roberts. After a lower court had ruled Virginia’s marriage equality ban to be unconstitutional – and did not delay the enforcement of its ruling – Chief Justice Roberts was petitioned to put a stay on the ruling, which he did on Wednesday.

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Which Investor Visa Is the Better Fit for You?

Which Investor Visa Is the Better Fit for You? - Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq. For those foreign nationals looking to come to the United States, an investor visa may be an option worth considering. The most popular of these are the E-2 visa and the EB-5 visa. Each come with their own pros and cons, and anyone contemplating such a decision should carefully consider these.

Benefits of the E-2 visa:

  • Allows foreign investors from all eligible countries to establish a business in the U.S. and to move here to oversee its operations. Continue reading
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Unaccompanied Minors Crossing the US-Mexico Border

Unaccompanied Minors Crossing the US-Mexico Border - Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq. “I just hate how all these illegal kids are coming over the border. They should send them all back.”

I was dumbfounded, recently, when approached by an acquaintance who said these very words to me. Besides the fact that I cringe when hearing human beings referred to as ‘illegal,’ the woman I was talking to was an immigrant herself. She was fortunate to be an adult when she fled persecution in Russia, coming to this country only after paying fees and waiting 3 months – “Why”, she asks, “should someone else be allowed to skip the burden I endured?”

I explained that it is not as if these children are coming here to shirk their household chores. Perhaps they are not being systematically targeted or persecuted because of their race or religion, but they are subjected to indiscriminate gang violence, intense poverty and malnutrition – and hence a shorter average life span. Maybe we can all agree that mothers sending their unaccompanied children to our borders is a frightening idea, but it is certainly understandable.
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How Temporary Protected Status Can Stop Immigrants from Being Forced to Return to War Zones or Disaster Areas

How Temporary Protected Status Can Stop Immigrants from Being Forced to Return to War Zones or Disaster Areas - Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.  Immigrants in the United States, who are unable to return to their home countries due to unsafe conditions there, may apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) if their country has been designated for TPS by the Secretary of Homeland Security. Countries approved for this status include those experiencing ongoing armed conflicts, environmental or natural disasters (such as hurricanes or earthquakes), or outbreaks of serious disease.

TPS beneficiaries may temporarily remain in the United States and may obtain work authorizations. However, TPS does not lead to permanent resident status, so when a country’s TPS designation is ended, this nation’s beneficiaries revert to the same immigration status they held before it was implemented. Accordingly, if an immigrant did not have lawful residency status prior to receiving TPS, and did not obtain lawful status through other means during the designation, the immigrant will revert to unlawful status and may have to return home.

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Will Ohio Be the Next State to Endorse Marriage Equality?

Will Ohio Be The Next State To Endorse Marriage Equality? - Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.On April 14th, U.S. District Judge Timothy Black issued a much-anticipated ruling requiring Ohio to legally recognize all marriages that have been validly performed in other states. The case stems from a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the state’s 2004 voter-approved gay marriage ban.

“Ohio’s bans that have been relied upon to deny legal recognition to same-sex marriages validly entered in other states … violate the rights secured by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,”
–  District Judge Timothy Black.

However, the decision does not mean Ohio must now allow same-sex couples to marry, as the judge considered this question to be outside of the immediate scope of the current lawsuit. Continue reading

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What Is the HUD-1 Settlement Statement and How Is It about to Change?

If you’ve ever bought or sold a house, you’ve likely seen the HUD-1 Statement. This form is used by all parties, their lawyers, lenders, real estate agents and title company to itemize all charges imposed upon a borrower and a seller in a real estate transaction. It gives each party a complete list of the incoming and outgoing funds.

The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) requires that the form be used in all transactions which involve federally-regulated mortgage loans. In New Jersey, we use the HUD-1 for every real estate transaction and for years fondly referred to it as the RESPA.

However, after ALL OF THESE YEARS, the HUD-1 is about to change. As a result of the national housing crisis of the past few years, with partial blame on mortgage lenders and banks providing mortgages to those who could not afford the loan or did not understand all of the facts and figures of the loan, Congress has passed the Dodd-Frank Act. This Act mandates that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) create a new federal disclosure form that will do a better job ensuring that consumers are able to make fully informed decisions when shopping for a home mortgage.

The CFPB has decided on a new Closing Disclosure Form that will replace the HUD-1 to be used commencing August 1, 2015. The key difference is that the new form will be formatted so that it is clearer for buyers to discern the amount of loan principal and interest rate that will be due, and most importantly, they will be able to see upfront exactly how much money they will owe each month.

Additionally, the CFPB has promulgated a new requirement that this Disclosure Form be provided to consumers at least 3 business days before the date of the closing, in the hope that this will allow consumers extra time to fully understand the future monthly costs of their mortgage and to avoid the pressure of seeing and digesting the terms at the closing table.

If you are in the market for selling your house or buying a new one, you should consult an experienced attorney with knowledge of these matters to help explain the new form and guide you through all the other details of the closing process.

Larraine Schwartz, Lobbying for Immigration Reform

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.
Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, PC
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The New Mississippi Anti-Gay Bill You Haven’t Heard About (This One Was Actually Signed Into Law)

The New Mississippi Anti-Gay Bill You Haven't Heard About (This One Was Actually Signed Into Law)	By Laraine SchwartzMost Americans are aware of the recent controversy in the state of Arizona, in which the legislature passed a bill which would have given business owners the right to refuse service to gays and lesbians on religious grounds. After facing intense pressure from opponents of the bill, including Arizona’s two Republican Senators, Governor Jan Brewer ultimately vetoed the measure.

What most people don’t know is that a bill very similar to the one debated in Arizona was quietly proposed in the state of Mississippi. And while the Arizona law was eventually vetoed, the Mississippi bill was just signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant.

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The Basics of Employment-Based U.S. Visas

The Basics of Employment-Based U.S. Visas By Laraine SchwartzEach year, nearly 150,000 employment-based immigrant visas are issued to qualified applicants, pursuant to U.S. immigration law. Employment-based immigration is divided into five separate categories, each with its own specific requirements and annual limits.

These categories are:

1st Preference – Priority Workers: Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities (EB-1)  Continue reading

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Home Inspections 101

Home Inspections 101 By Laraine SchwartzThe process of buying a home is not yet as green as we would like —  i.e. not friendly to trees. At the end of the deal, hundreds of pages have been read, discussed, signed and filed.

In New Jersey, after both parties have signed the Contract of Sale and after the attorney review period has concluded, the buyer typically has 10 to 14 days to obtain a professional home inspection. It is strongly recommended that the buyer have a certified professional perform the inspection on the house, condo or co-op. The inspector will evaluate the structure with “a fine-tooth comb” to investigate if there are major or structural issues that need to be remedied. As a professional they will inspect deeper and more thoroughly than a layperson. Continue reading

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The Visa Bulletin – What You Need to Know and How to Understand Priority Dates When Filing Immigration Petitions for Your Relatives

The Visa Bulletin – What You Need to Know and How to Understand Priority Dates When Filing Immigration Petitions for Your Relatives By Laraine SchwartzCurrently the United States has a complex system in place to control our rate of permanent legal immigration. Even before we implement Comprehensive Immigration Reform (ever the optimist), for many years there have been annual limits on the total number of immigrants processed, as well as allotments per visa category and country. Congress determines the number of immigrants allowed to enter the U.S. for each category and country. Most categories have annual limits, with a few exceptions.

For example, there are no numerical limits in the Immediate Relative category that includes the parents, spouse and minor, unmarried children of U.S. citizens. 

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The How-To Guide to Consular Processing When Seeking a Family-Based Immigrant Visa

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.Immigration law is a maze to follow. For foreign nationals who are seeking a visa based on their family ties in the U.S., here is a brief overview of what you and your family need to know.

First, in order to be able to legally sponsor a relative of yours to immigrate to the United States, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be either a United States Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States and provide documentation proving your status.
  • You must have a qualifying family relationship with the applicant seeking a visa. Qualifying relationship will be either spouse, parent or U.S. son or daughter over 21, petitioning for their parent.     Continue reading
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Victory!

Victory!  By Laraine SchwartzMany couples will be celebrating this holiday season, as partners in legally recognized relationships.

After the misleadingly titled federal “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) was overturned on June 26, 2013, I was contacted by several couples wishing to file for their binational spouses. Some of these couples have waited as much as 20 years for official recognition of their relationships and the same rights as opposite-sex couples, including immigration rights.

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Use and Occupancy Agreements: Advantageous?

Use and Occupancy Agreements: Advantageous? By Laraine SchwartzOne of the questions I am frequently asked by real estate clients is, “What if I am unable to close on the sale of my current home and the purchase of my new home on the same day?” or “What if I need additional time to move after selling my home?”

These concerns usually fall into two types of circumstances:

  • Scenario A: A buyer is purchasing a home but due to unforeseen circumstances is unable to close the deal until some point in the near future. While it may make sense for the seller to allow the buyer to move into the property early and live there until the date of the closing, we need to look more closely at the issues that may arise.
  • Scenario B: A person switching homes has already closed on both sale and purchase but needs additional time to move from one home to the other.   Continue reading
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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving by Laraine SchwartzIn 1620, a group of people from England decided to come to the New World to avoid religious persecution, setting the tone for future immigration. A few years later, the first Jews arrived in New Amsterdam for the same reason, followed by countless religious minorities.

America is a beacon for those seeking religious freedoms, as people are free to participate in cultural and religious celebrations that they hold dear, without fear of persecution. So many have made America their home in the name of freedom. Whatever celebration you participate in, be it Channukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or other festivity, be grateful and give thanks for the freedom you have to do so as an American citizen.

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Overstayed a Visa? An I-601 Waiver Could Be Your Solution

Overstayed A Visa? An I-601 Waiver Could Be Your Solution By Laraine SchwartzImmigrants unlawfully residing in the U.S. because they have overstayed a visa are at risk of being deported if their violations are discovered. Unfortunately, once an immigrant is in this position, even leaving voluntarily can prove disastrous. Those who depart the United States after accruing over 6 months of “unlawful presence” in the U.S. are ineligible to re-enter the country for 3 years. And for those immigrants who leave after having overstayed for 12 months or more, the penalties are even more severe: they are ineligible to re-enter the U.S. for 10 full years.

For undocumented immigrants living with close relatives in the U.S., this leaves few good options. One potential solution, if there is a valid visa otherwise available to the foreign national,  is to file an I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. If approved, this will provide a way for an immigrant to be allowed to legally remain in the country. The I-601 waiver allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. if they have a qualifying relative who will suffer extreme hardship if the foreign national is forced to leave, and again, they must have a valid visa available to them.

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Another Chance for Real Immigration Reform?

Another Chance for Real Immigration Reform? By Laraine SchwartzNow that the government is up and running once again, President Obama has signaled that he plans to vigorously renew his push for immigration reform. A bipartisan group of Senators was successful in obtaining the passage of a comprehensive bill in June, but the House of Representatives has refused to put this bill to a vote. Instead the Republican-led House wants to focus on piecemeal immigration bills, taking up one issue at a time.

Many people in the Immigration community feel that the actual purpose of voting on smaller bills is to avoid having to engage in real reform; a significant number of House Republicans are against providing any path to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. unlawfully.

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Finally! Gay Marriage in New Jersey

Finally! Gay Marriage in New Jersey by Laraine SchwartzIn late June 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down key portions of the law named the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The law unjustly required the federal government to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender individuals by denying them the right to marry and thus further denying over 1,000 different benefits available only to heterosexual people.

The ramifications from the Court’s ruling were vast. Suddenly individuals who were married in states permitting marriage for same-sex couples were able to:

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Can You Refinance Your Home?

Can You Refinance Your Home? by Laraine SchwartzEveryone wants to save money.  Refinancing your home may be a good start. Given that we are still in a period of relatively low interest rates, you may be able to realize significant savings.

Refinancing your property while interest rates are low can save you money by locking in the low rates over a fixed period of time, 15, 20 or 30 years. The fixed rates provide another bonus, as when the economy rebounds, you would be in a better position to have affordable monthly payments.

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The ABCs of the USCIS

The ABCs of the USCIS by Laraine SchwartzNavigating through America’s immigration laws and the different agencies responsible for enforcing them can be a daunting task. Here are some of the most important and commonly used abbreviations you are likely to encounter.

USCIS: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services – This department was formerly known as The Immigration and Naturalization Service. It is a component of the Department of Homeland Security and oversees all U.S. stateside immigration matters.

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The 3 Year/10 Year Immigration Bar and Why it Needs to Be Repealed

In 1996, Congress passed theThe 3 Year/10 Year Immigration Bar and Why it Needs to Be Repealed   by Laraine Schwartz Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) which contained a number of provisions intended to strengthen the nation’s immigration laws, including what has come to be known as the 3 year/10 year bar. This provision:

  • Bars re-entry into the U.S. for 3 years for anyone who was found to have been in the country illegally for a duration of between 6 months – 1 year;
  • Makes it unlawful for someone who has stayed in our country illegally for 1 full year or more to re-enter the U.S. for at least 10 years.

The Act’s stated purpose is to punish immigrants who did not “play by the rules,” but a serious side effect is that it has caused a great deal of hardship to people who are here trying to find steady work and keep their families together.

Here are some facts to consider when revisiting the wisdom of the 3 year/10 year bar:

  • Most of the out-of-status individuals penalized by this law entered the U.S. legally on a visa, but overstayed their visa. This is most often due to their desire to continue living in the U.S. because of  the opportunities offered them and their families – or fear of returning to their countries of origin. But by overstaying their visas by only six months, individuals will not be allowed back for at least 3 years if they leave the United States. Oftentimes I have clients that have not seen their parents or grandparents still living in their home country. Many years may pass and they do not have the option to return, even to visit the sick and dying. The client must choose to stay in the United States where their present family resides, and must suffer what no one should have to go through: the inability to visit their loved ones far away.
  • The Act provides incentives that can actually weaken Immigration laws. For example, an immigrant who has overstayed his or her visa by more than a year has more of an incentive to stay in the U.S. than to return “home” and wait 10 years to return – especially if he or she has a family here.
  • A waiver of the 3 or 10 year bar is available only when extreme hardship can be established. The waiver process is an uncertain, sometimes unfair one, and the adjudication itself can take several months.

The 3 year/10 year bar is a provision which separates families and sends a message to out-of-status workers that they had better stay where they are or face dire consequences. The provision is punitive and unfair, and after 17 years it is time to repeal it.

Larraine Schwartz, Lobbying for Immigration Reform

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.
Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, PC
www.winogradandschwartz.com
Laraine@winogradandschwartz.com
Tel. (201) 770-9990
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DOMA Overturned

Laraine Schwartz of Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law PC (winogradandschwartz.com) discusses the effect on immigration issues with the recent overturning of DOMA.I had the privilege to attend the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) National Conference on Immigration in San Francisco the last week of June. Timing is everything. I awoke at 7 a.m. Pacific Time, 10 a.m. on the East Coast, the exact time that the United States Supreme Court released their Opinion to overturn a crucial provision of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), ending the blatant discrimination we have come to live with against LGBT peoples. This major civil rights event shall be forevermore a turning point in our country and a starting point to eradicate the bigotry and hatred that has existed for much too long.

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House GOP Tries to Put a New Stumbling Block in Front of Immigration Reform

Laraine Schwartz of www.winogradandschwartz.com explains some of the obstacles in the way of undocumented immigrants to begin the path to American citizenship.The United States Senate is currently debating the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill crafted by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight”, and we still hope the measure will pass the chamber with the support of most Democrats and a fair number of Republicans. Now, in what appears to be an attempt to delay or stall momentum for the bill, some Republican Congressmen are trying to tie immigration reform to the President’s “Obamacare” healthcare overhaul.

When discussing immigration reform, both parties have long agreed that undocumented immigrants would not be given the same federal subsidies that citizens will receive to help them purchase affordable health care. As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stated recently, “we have said since day one . . . that undocumented people will not have access to subsidies in the Affordable Care Act.” So if both sides have already agreed that undocumented immigrants will not be given these benefits, what is the issue being raised?   Continue reading

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New Study: Immigrants Are Actually Paying For The U.S. Medicare Program

Laraine Schwartz of Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, P.C. (www.winogradandschwartz.com) shares a new study that shows that immigrant workers are actually funding a significant portion of Medicare.Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform often complain that undocumented immigrants are entering the United States and living off of government programs that “hard-working, tax-paying Americans” fund. A new study disproves this notion, showing that immigrant workers are paying more into Medicare than they take out, helping to keep the financially beleaguered program solvent.

The release of the study, which was conducted by Harvard Medical School and published in the June issue of the journal Health Affairs, comes amid the debate in Washington over the proposed bipartisan immigration reform bill, which includes a pathway to citizenship for those currently living in the U.S. out of status. The key findings of the study show that:

  • In 2009, immigrants contributed $33 billion to the Medicare trust fund, and received just $19 billion of its expenditures. That is a net gain for the treasury of $14 billion. Continue reading

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Remedying Discrimination Against Binational Same Sex Couples

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.  |  LGBT Immigration UpdateThis Week, by a vote of 13-5, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan immigration reform bill sponsored by the Senate’s “Gang of Eight”, but human rights advocates suffered a major disappointment when amendments that would have ended discrimination against  binational same sex partners were scrapped by Democrats at the last minute.

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont withdrew amendments he had submitted that would have incorporated the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) into the immigration reform bill. The purpose of UAFA is to eliminate discrimination against same sex partners by permitting them to sponsor their partners for United States citizenship in the same way that heterosexual married couples are legally permitted.  Democratic Senators have stated that they want to include the new protections in the comprehensive bill but were told by their Republican counterparts that doing so would guarantee blanket opposition by Senate Republicans, killing any chance of passing immigration reform this session.

Under the current laws, U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents can sponsor their spouses for immigration purposes. However same sex partners, even if legally married, are ineligible for this form of sponsorship and, as a consequence, thousands of gay and lesbian couples are either torn apart or forced to live together in the U.S. illegally, under constant fear of deportation.

To be considered a “permanent partner” under UAFA, an individual must be over 18 years old and

  • be in a committed, intimate relationship with another individual 18 years of age or older in which both parties intend a lifelong commitment;

  • is financially interdependent with that other individual;

  • is not married to or in a permanent partnership with anyone other than that other individual;

  • is unable to contract with that other individual a marriage cognizable under this Act;

  • is not a first, second, or third degree blood relation of that other individual.

Critics of UAFA claim that it will open the door to an increased level of fraud perpetrated by individuals looking to stay in the United States. This criticism does not stand up to scrutiny.  Under the Act, a same sex couple would have the same burden of proof as any married couple to document that their relationship is genuine. The same enforcement procedures that are currently used to authenticate whether married couples are committing fraud would be applied to same sex couples. There is no credible reason to believe that the bill will cause an increase in fraudulent applications. In fact, it seems the only reason to oppose this legislation is to continue the discrimination.

Democrats wrestled with whether or not to include the amendments in the final bill, but decided that getting a bill without UAFA protections through committee was preferable to not getting any bill passed at all.

While compromise is standard operating procedure in Washington, blatant discrimination is no longer tolerable.  We must ensure that Democrats in the Senate bring the amendments up again before the full Senate votes on the immigration plan. The passage of the added UAFA provisions may now be a longshot from a political standpoint, but protecting the rights of thousands of same sex partners is more important than political gamesmanship.

It is time to stop the discrimination against same sex couples that is currently a part of our nation’s immigration policy.

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Lobbying for Immigration Reform: Impressions from Washington D.C.

Here are my first thoughts and impressions of my recent trip to Washington D.C. to advocate in favor of immigration reform. We must keep fighting for the rights of law-abiding immigrants in this country to have a roadmap to citizenship.

I met up with the 400+ individuals from all over the country that were taking part in this educational effort. There were 30 of us representing New Jersey – and I am proud to say we were one of the largest contingencies from any state.

We divided up into two separate groups: North New Jersey and South New Jersey before walking over to the Congressional office buildings.  We met with several representatives and their staffers. It seemed that the sheer number of us both overwhelmed and impressed the representatives we visited. We had come to deliver a message and we were not to be ignored.  They appeared to have been ready for two or three of us, not fifteen at one time. We filled the entire space of their offices, standing room included.

We spoke on many aspects and repeated one major concern: Productive members of our society deserve a means to obtain work authorization and eventual United States Citizenship.

After an extensive meeting with Senator Mendendez’ Staff  (The Senator from New Jersey is one of “the Gang of Eight” who worked on the first draft of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform) lobbying concluded and the American Immigration Lawyers, from the entire country regrouped as an audience to listen to several eloquent speakers, including Colin Powell, sponsored by the American Immigration Council. The group honored Cristeta Comerford, The White House Executive Chef. She is an immigrant from the Philippines and is the first woman and the first immigrant to ever hold her esteemed position. We also honored a child who was a  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient as well as another immigrant who had suffered abuse in his home country and in the United States, but was granted a green card through a Special Immigration petition and action through our court system. These individuals presented moving stories and showed perseverance, true grit and hard work in their determination to obtain legalized immigration status in the United States. Their stories summarized why we were lobbying, for millions of people without a voice, without the “luck” to be recognized in the United States.

Larraine Schwartz, Lobbying for Immigration ReformLaraine E. Schwartz, Esq.Winograd
and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, PC
www.winogradandschwartz.com
lschwartz5300@aol.com
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Creating The New Roadmap to American Citizenship

Laraine Schwartz, Roadmap to American Citizenship

The United States may have finally reached a turning point in its approach to immigration policy. Presently Senators, known as the Gang of Eight from both political parties, appear to have negotiated a bill to allow, amongst other important items,  undocumented immigrants living in the United States an opportunity to obtain permission to work in this country and hopefully to someday gain United States Citizenship. The bill is currently in the Judiciary Committee and I am extremely hopeful that the bill will be brought before the entire Senate for a vote by June. The House of Representatives is likewise currently working on a bill, behind closed doors, so no further information is available as to its contents but it appears that it will be similar to the Senate bill.

As an attorney specializing in immigration law and a longtime advocate of granting undocumented immigrants legal status, I was excited to attend a full day of lobbying in the Congress in Washington, DC, on behalf of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. My colleagues and clients and I sought to strengthen already existing support and to persuade those who were willing to listen to our clients’ concerns.

As the bill is worked on in the committees, our focus continues to seek the following:

  • A Roadmap must be created to allow all undocumented immigrants already in the United States to become citizens. This is one of the most fundamental issues facing our country and the most important part the immigration debate. While it is fair for the government to impose reasonable fines on those who have entered the country through unlawful means, these aspiring citizens deserve the right, as all previous generations of immigrants to this country have enjoyed, to one day become full citizens and participate completely in the American Dream.

  • Deportations need to stop right now. Every single day, an average of least a thousand immigrants are deported from the United States. These deportations break up and destroy families, causing unnecessary hardship and pain to those forced out of the country and their relatives left here without them.

  • Those facing deportation for alleged criminality deserve due process. In the terms of the immigration plans being currently considered by Congress, those immigrants found to have criminal histories or determined to pose a threat to national security will be excluded from the opportunities of gaining citizenship. While public safety is always of primary concern, it is important to see that those accused receive a truly fair and impartial hearing before being deported or denied opportunities.

  • Marriage Equality in Immigration. Lesbian and Gay couples who have married in good faith deserve to be afforded the same opportunities as other bona fide marriages, and to petition their spouse for Legal Permanent Residence.

I will update soon to report how this bill is progressing!  

Larraine Schwartz, Divorce and Your ChildrenLaraine E. Schwartz, Esq.Winograd
and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, PC
www.winogradandschwartz.com
lschwartz5300@aol.com

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Divorce and Your Children

When a family is faced with the difficult task of going through a divorce, it is important to avoid getting swept up in the multitude of minor details that come with it – especially at the expense of the things that really matter, like the kids.

A large part of looking out for the best interest of the child means establishing a less adversarial relationship from the beginning between the divorcing parties. Reality will necessitate Mom and Dad having a relationship as their children grow older, and all of the decisions and events in their lives will bring the parents back to the same page. Prior to the final divorce, being as amiable as possible sets the stage for a productive negotiation, as well, allowing the parties to formulate decisions driven less by passion and more by reason.

Once the divorce is finalized, many parents are uncertain how they should proceed with their lives at the same time as they seek to address possible feelings of abandonment in their children. Each parent should look into strategies to ease the child’s fears, including:
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Lesbian, Gay and Binational Immigration

Laraine Schwartz, Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, PC , Gay and Binational ImmigrationSpecial immigration rights are available! Heterosexual married couples are free to enjoy a select group of rights that are available only to heterosexual married couples. That is because, although marriage equality has been passed in 20% of the states, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the federal government from recognizing such marriage equality.

Since the nation’s immigration policy takes into account the marital status of potential immigrants, DOMA has had an especially chilling effect on the lives of binational gay and lesbian couples. President Obama has indicated that he stands for all families by refusing to defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the Supreme Court. If that fails, he has vowed to remedy the plight of binational gay and lesbian couples by addressing it in his plan for comprehensive immigration reform.

The President’s allies in Congress were listening. In February,Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced legislation to allow same-sex couples to petition for Permanent Residence, also known as obtaining a Green Card, based on a valid relationship between the two.

In a recent Senate hearing, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano answered questions from the committee about the impact of the proposed legislation. Specifically, Leahy asked Napolitano about the perception that allowing same-sex couples to sponsor their spouses for permanent residence will increase the amount of immigration fraud.

Napolitano replied that detecting fraud, even among heterosexual marriages, was her agency’s number one concern. She voiced doubt that the sexes of the individuals that make up a couple could make any difference on the quality of work performed by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Committee also heard from award-winning Filipino journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who resides in the United State out of status. Vargas spoke to the pain that so many gays and lesbians endure when they are forced out of, or refused entry to, this country, even though they may be in a committed long term relationship.

The best case scenario for American democracy and the rights of all women and men would be the utter rejection of DOMA by the Supreme Court. Even if that does not happen, there is another chance for change when the Court rules on the constitutionality of California’s ban on marriage equality.

If, against all odds, the Court is not ready to grant marriage equality to all Americans, then the comprehensive immigration reform that is so desperately needed will, hopefully, address the hardship and plight of gay and lesbian couples.

We have decades of experience crafting advanced directives, Wills and durable powers of attorney.   Make sure you protect yourself and your loved ones, no matter what state you find yourself travelling through.  Contact us today or call  (201) 770-9990.

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.
Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, PC

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Valentine’s Day is for Everyone

Laraine Schwartz, Esq. Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, PC, Marriage EqualityNew Jersey is not just geographically close to New York and New England, we share the same ideas about social and economic justice as our sister states to the North and East, yet frustratingly, we do not yet have marriage equality in our state.

That’s right. In New Jersey, lesbian and gay people do not have the freedom to marry who they love.

In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of equal protection under the law for all citizens, including gays and lesbians. Unfortunately, they were not bold enough to affirm the rights of lesbians and gays when it came to the “marriage.” word. In a move criticized by many, including the New Jersey Bar Association, the New Jersey Supreme Court instead left the name issue up to “the crucible of the democratic process.”

The legislature, aware of its newfound crucible status, decided to take the politically safer road and continue to segregate lesbian and gay relationships, calling their newly granted unions “civil unions.”

The entire canon of New Jersey law had to be rewritten with a gender-neutral voice and all references to marriage were amended to include civil unions. The unfortunate truth, however, is that the private sector does not always honor the civil union as being the same as marriage, which means some employers continue to deny insurance and other benefits to their gay and lesbian employees.

On the federal level, New Jerseyans are no better or worse off than anyone in America. The law with the misleading title, “Defense of Marriage Act”, or DOMA, prohibits lesbian and gay couples – even if they have been lawfully married in one of the states now honoring marriage equality from filing taxes jointly or transferring survivor Social Security benefits to a bereaved spouse – as well as being denied well over 1,000 other benefits.

There is a court case on the horizon that many hope will end with a ruling that establishes marriage equality in New Jersey. This case, brought by Garden State Equality on behalf of seven lesbian and gay couples in civil unions, challenges whether the legislature followed the court’s equality requirement when it passed the Civil Union Act in 2011.

In the meanwhile we continue to encourage everybody to designate their Powers of Attorney, sign their Living Wills and record their Last Will and Testament to guarantee their rights if they travel out of state and as fully as they may at this juncture. We await the changes that we know will soon arrive, where everyone can enjoy marriage equality and the civil rights we all deserve.

Here at Winograd and Schwartz, we not only specialize in Real Estate, Bankruptcy, Divorce and Immigration Law, we can also assist in drawing up wills and putting your Powers of Attorney in place. Call us today to see how we can help.

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.

Winograd and Schwartz Attorneys at Law, PC

(201) 770-9990

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Condos and Co-ops, Oh My!

Laraine Schwartz, Winograd and Schwartz, Condos and Co ops Oh MyRecently, speaking with a colleague, he confessed he did not know the difference between a condominium and a co-op. I thought while I explaining to him I would share with you, too!

Condominiums

A condominium is created as a unit in a group of more than one unit/apartments that have come together under a not-for-profit association (Condominium Association) and registered with the government. In the case of New Jersey, the Master Deed and By-Laws for under 10 units and additionally, a Public Offering Statement for those numbering 10 and over are among the documents filed with the Department of Community Affairs and the county register.

Once the Condominium Association has been incorporated in the state, and the Master Deed recorded with the county, the units may be sold to individual buyers. At time of purchase, each unit owner receives an individual deed which is then recorded with the County Register.

The Condominium Association is then formed with a Board of Directors/Officers to run the day-to-day and year-to-year operations of the condominium. The unit owners own everything inside the four walls of their individual unit, and share the common areas such as the hallway, roof, basement and backyard with the other owners of the units in the building.

In addition, a unit may be granted exclusive limited rights to a particular common area. For instance, a penthouse may purchase the roof rights or a ground floor unit may be granted exclusive use of the deck or backyard. In such cases the unit owner is responsible for the maintenance and control of their specific limited element.

The unit owner is responsible to pay to the Condo Association a monthly maintenance fee, based on their percentage ownership of the building. This will include the the costs of upkeep of the common area as well general expenses including insurance, common utilities and management. Property taxes are paid by each individual unit owner.

Unlike a co-op, discussed below, the Board of the Condo Association does not have any determine approval of sales and purchases of the units.

Co-ops

Cooperative Apartments are similar yet different from the condominium.. Originally Co-ops began in New York City as a natural flow from Wall Street, the entire building is incorporated and people purchase stock in the cooperative corporation rather than buying the actual property.

As shareholders in a corporation, co-op owners obtain a stock certificate and a proprietary lease instead of a Deed. The Shareholder/unit owner thus has a percentage share of the entire corporation by virtue of their purchased stock. The maintenance, which will also include their share of the property taxes for the entire building, is paid monthly by the unit owner and again is based on the owner’s percentage share of the corporation.

The cooperative board meets regularly to determine acceptance or rejection of potential purchasers of a unit. They may not arbitrarily discriminate against a potential buyer, but usually base their approval/disapproval decision on an extensive application and factors such as income, assets and debt to ensure that the potential buyer will be able to afford the monthly costs of the unit.

Buying, selling and choosing an apartment to own may be an overwhelming experience. At Winograd and Schwartz we have the experience to help you decide. Contact us today!

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What is the difference between a foreclosure and a short sale?

What is the difference between a foreclosure and a short sale?Foreclosure occurs when the mortgage lender/bank sues the property owner for failure to pay their home loan, and if the bank prevails, they will then own the property and can sell it at a Sheriff’s sale. Short sales are where the owner of the property is selling the property to a buyer for an amount of money that the seller’s mortgage lender will accept, even though it is less than what is owed on the home loan. The bank takes a loss but does not own the property as in foreclosure.

While a short sale can make the best of a bad situation, it also carries a potential negative impact on the seller’s credit report. Additionally, the  difference between the remaining balance on the mortgage and the fair market value of the home can sometimes be classified as income for the seller, depending on the bank and how they pursue it.

In order for a short sale to happen, the bank which originated the first mortgage has to approve the short sale contract and other documentation from the seller. There are a number of supporting documents that have to be provided by the seller, including but not limited to:

  • Hardship letter
  • Financial budget
  • Assets and liabilities
  • Tax returns
  • Pay stubs

From the buyer’s perspective, Continue reading

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Notarios: Practicing Law Without A License

What is a Notario?

“Notario” is a term for attorney in Latin America. Unfortunately, oftentimes people here in the United States are deceived into thinking that a “Notario” is an attorney authorized by law to practice in the State- while in fact, he or she may be only a person hanging out a shingle saying “I can file your immigration forms” without any authority to do so. What these “Notarios” are actually doing is practicing law without a license.

Laraine Schwartz  |  Notarios: Practicing Law without a License

It is a felony to practice law without a license in the State of New Jersey. This has drawn the ire of the legal and law enforcement communities in New Jersey for quite some time, and we have been working for years to put these people out of business. To that end, the New Jersey legislature passed a law stating it is a felony to practice law without a license. And the Notarios are in fact acting as if they are attorneys offering advice and filling out and filing forms for immigration matters.

Often times, these “Notarios” do permanent harm to an applicant’s chance of obtaining Legal Permanent Residence or citizenship in the United States. When submitting paperwork for immigration needs, one must ensure that all requirements are evaluated and documents in order – if a “Notario” fails to conduct the required level of due diligence when preparing and filing the paperwork, the applicant is subjected to potential jeopardy that can not easily be remedied.

But a good “Notario” will save me money, right? Continue reading

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Post-Election Reflections

Earlier this month, the presidential election showed an outpouring of support for President Obama and his stand on immigration. It is important to remember all of  the people who voted were, by definition, United States Citizens. The demographics of our nation are Laraine Schwartz, Esq.  |  Winograd and Schwartz  |  Post-Election Reflectionsshifting and this election showed our voters to be an enlightened group who understand the immigration issues, many of whom are recent descendants of immigrants.

News, talk radio and the blogosphere are full of speculation as to what the election “really” means, both as a snapshot of our current situation and what might happen for immigrants in the future.

Shifting demographics

Much has been said about the changing cultural tides of our country since the election. This change is partly due to the fact that over the years new immigrants who originally arrived in New Jersey or New York have begun moving throughout the United States. They are relocating where there are jobs, where there is more space, more housing and opportunities. Just as in the past the descendants of immigrants pioneered the West, these people are “new” pioneers, settling down to make up the fabric of America – through the work they do and the relationships they build.

Is DACA safe?

DACA (acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is the two-year Executive Order signed by President Obama, effective August 15, 2012. With the President’s re-eIection, we do not expect that it will be rescinded before expiration in 2014. We are hopeful that a major immigration overhaul bill including the DREAM Act (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) will be passed by Congress and signed into law prior to August 2014.

Alternatives to the DREAM Act

Continue reading

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What is Naturalization?

Naturalization is the process by which someone applies to become a United States Citizen. There are several criteria that must be met:

  • You must be able to speak and understand English.
  • You have to be over 18 years old.
  • You are required to have maintained a Green Card or legal Permanent Residence for at least five years unless you obtained your Green Card through marriage to a United States Citizen, in which case the requirement is only three years.
  • You must pass a test on American history and civics.

English Competency

Competency in English is required throughout the interview process, starting with being able to understand and respond to the interviewer’s questions in English.  There is also aLaraine E. Schwartz, Esq.  |  What is Naturalization? written test where you will answer questions on civics and history.  There is a bank of 100 questions and ten are chosen at random for each test.  You must answer six of those ten questions correctly.  If you are over 50 and have lived in the United States for over 20 years as a Legal Permanent Resident, or if you are over 55 years and have 15 years as a Legal Permanent Resident, then the English portion of the test may be waived. Unless you have a proven disability, the civics portion of the test may not be waived.

How difficult is the civics section of the test?

There are some tricky questions.  You will need to know details such as how many people Continue reading

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What is the difference between the DREAM Act and DACA?

Laraine Schwartz, Esq. | What is the Difference Between the DREAM Act and DACA?The DREAM Act is potential legislation that must be passed by Congress and signed by the President into Law whereas DACA is an Executive Order recently signed by President Obama in June 2012.

The DREAM Act (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) has been stalemated in Congress for quite some time, which is why the President has attempted to address some of these issues through his Executive Order. Both measures are designed to enable people illegally residing in the United States to obtain their work authorizations, Social Security number, and driver’s license.  Only the DREAM Act as previously written would enable a green card to be obtained.

DACA (acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), signed on June 15 of this year, states that the government will not deport those who meet certain criteria, including but not limited to:

  • Children who arrived here before the age of 16 and are under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012
  • Individuals who are in school or possess a high school diploma
  • Applicants who have lived here for at least five years
  • People who have not committed serious crimes

Meeting these criteria will allow undocumented residents to obtain a driver’s license and Social Security number and a two-year work authorization. They will be permitted to renew  the employment authorization at the end of those two years…hopefully. In two years, there might be a new president that decides he does not want to renew DACA. Other potential challenges loom at the state level, where seven governors have already said that they will refuse to issue driver’s licenses under DACA. New Jersey and New York are not included in those seven states.

The first step for people seeking protection under DACA is to gather their materials:

  • Proof of attending High School including diplomas, transcripts and a letter from the school
  • Medical records
  • Bank records
  • Tax records
  • Rental lease
  • Bills proving residence in the U.S. for the last five years – specifically between June 2007 and June 2012.
  • Birth certificate and passport to show proof of age.

Over the next two years DACA ensures that there will be no further penalty or removal from the U.S. despite the fact that a green card will not be provided. DACA is new and we all wait to see how the process will unfold.  It is an opportunity for people to move on with their lives and live and work in this country for a temporary period of time, very much like the Temporary Protected Status that is granted to people from disaster-stricken countries.

It is my hope that DACA is the opening of the door to the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would be a more permanent and secure solution.  Americans hopefully will see that allowing other people the dignity and permission to stay here, work, pay taxes and join the military will not interfere with their own livelihood.  DACA and eventually the Dream Act will enable people to reach their potential living in the U.S.

What paperwork are you missing to take advantage of DACA?

Schedule a consultation today to see how we can help!

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.

Winograd and Schwartz

Attorneys at Law, PC

440 60th Street, Suite 206

West New York, NJ 07093

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