Roundup of updates on immigration
US IMMIGRATION NOTES - Atty. Marco F.G. Tomakin (The Freeman) - May 7, 2017 - 12:00am

This week, the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to repeal some provisions of the Obamacare. Immigrant advocates criticized the approved bill as discriminatory against immigrants as some of its provisions exclude many immigrants from availing of tax credits that make healthcare affordable. One very contentious item widely condemned by critics of the bill is that it allows the states the option of not covering people with pre-existing conditions. While this bill still has to go to the US Senate for its counterpart measure, we will have to be very vigilant on the provisions of what eventually will be the new healthcare law to be signed by President Trump.

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Recently, the US Department of  Homeland Security launched a new office under the auspices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office or VOICE is mandated to assist victims of crimes committed by criminal aliens. The key objectives of VOICE include use of a victim-centered approach to acknowledge and support victims and their families; promote awareness of available services to crime victims and build collaborative partnerships with community stakeholders assisting victims.

The VOICE provides assistance to victims of criminal aliens by making sure that ICE community relations officers are available to help victims understand the immigration enforcement and removal process and making sure that resources are available to these victims through coordination with victim assistance specialists. An automated custody status information is also available to help victims track the immigration custody status of illegal alien perpetrators and victims would also have access to releasable criminal and immigration history of  their offenders. This new office can be reached at their toll-free hotline number 1-855-48VOICE or 1-855-488-6423.

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On May 1, USCIS began issuing the new and redesigned Permanent Resident Card (greencard) and Employment Authorization Document (work permit card). The new cards use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant features that make them more secure and counterfeit resistant. If you were issued a greencard or EAD card before May 1, or even after May 1 but still with the old design (as USCIS will exhaust all available old stock cards), those cards still remain valid up to their expiry date.

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Scammers are once again striking vulnerable immigrants by making telephone calls and identifying themselves as employees of the USCIS. This time they have been getting creative by making it appear that they are calling from an official hotline number from the Office of  Inspector General of  the Department of  Homeland Security (1-800-323-8603). The immigrants are then tricked into believing that they have been victims of identity theft and that they need the immigrants' identity information. So make sure that when you receive this kind of calls, put down the phone immediately. Remember not to divulge your personal information such as your name, date of birth, and social security number to anyone for any reason by phone or by email. Report this kind of scam immediately to appropriate law enforcement agencies.

mtomakin@gmail.com

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