Seattle Federal Court Finds USCIS and Department of State Manipulated the Record and Abused the Judicial Process in J-1 Waiver Litigation, and Awards Bad Faith Attorney’s Fees

In a recent federal court case in Seattle, District Judge Ricardo Martinez harshly criticized the USCIS and State Department for manipulating the record and consistently making misrepresentations to the court about the evidence that it considered in a J-1 waiver adjudication. The court awarded over $50,000 in attorney’s fees to Linda Guerra and her husband as a result of the bad faith conduct of USCIS and the Department of State in litigation over the adjudication by CIS and State of her application for a waiver of the J-1 foreign residence requirement. Guerra et al v. USA, No. 09-CV-01027 RSM (W.D. Wash., Oct. 21, 2014).

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Seattle Times article by former GHP client: My journey from an undocumented immigrant to Harvard Medical School

By Carlos Estrada Alamo

The Seattle Times:

AFTER years of delay, President Obama has finally acted on immigration reform. This is a watershed moment in my life and the life of my community in Seattle. These days I am studying for a doctor of medicine degree at Harvard Medical School, after graduating from the University of Washington in 2011. But I grew up undocumented in Seattle.

I was 5 years old when my family embarked on a journey from Mexico to the “land of opportunity.” They chose Seattle because we had relatives in the area. We eventually settled in the Delridge neighborhood near White Center.

Despite my parents’ numerous attempts to obtain a green card, they found no viable option. With their choice to remain and endure came a sense of fear and uncertainty as “illegal aliens,” a status that marred our every connection with the world. Despite working six days a week in low-paying jobs offering no benefits, my parents had trouble providing for my family. At school I was perpetually aware of the consequences of having my illegal status revealed. I was plagued by nightmares of being caught and deported. This was my childhood.

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Senator Patty Murray makes the case for immigration reform, highlighting the case of one of GHP’s clients, Benjamin Nunez:

In my home state of Washington, I’ve heard from hundreds of families and businesses who have been directly impacted by our broken system.“Businesses like the West Sound Lumber Company on Orcas Island – a small sawmill owned by the Helsell family for more than four decades. “West Sound Lumber is only able to keep its doors open because of a young man,Benjamin Nunez-Marquez, who goes by Ben.

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The power of one little story among 11.7 million undocumented immigrants

A few weeks ago, the Western Washington Society of Professional Journalists chapter (of which I am a board member) hosted its annual awards gala to honor some of the Northwest’s best journalists.

This year, the board selected Danny Westneat as Journalist of the Year. In his speech that night, Danny questioned his role in the Northwest media ecosystem: He hadn’t, he said, uncovered any major government corruption this year or gone undercover to reveal abuse at any giant, overstepping corporations. Read more

Seattle Times Editorial: Benjamin Nuñez-Marquez’ deportation highlights need for immigration reform

BENJAMIN Nuñez-Marquez’s deportation, scheduled for April 29, underscores the urgent need for Congress to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.

An operator at a sawmill on Orcas Island immigrated to the U.S. illegally, but he has proved himself an irreplaceable worker and trusted neighbor. Hundreds of local residents and at least four Democratic members of Washington’s congressional delegation have organized efforts to help him stay.

As The Seattle Times’ Lornet Turnbull reported last week, Nuñez was driving a sick neighbor to the hospital in 2008 when the U.S. Border Patrol performed a random check and detained him.

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Orcas Island tries to protect skilled immigrant facing deportation

Robert Gibbs was quoted on the following Seattle Times article.

By Lornet Turnbull

Seattle Times

People on Orcas Island are uniting around the sole operator of a small family-run sawmill there, saying his scheduled deportation to Mexico this month could force that business closed and harm the region’s economy.

Owners of West Sound Lumber, where Benjamin Nuñez-Marquez has milled native timber for 15 years, have told immigration authorities that in two years of trying they’ve been unable to find anyone to replace him.

Jack Helsell, 90, who designed and built the operation four decades ago, said those with the knowledge and skill to run the mill’s antique circular saw are well into their 70s now and can’t be expected to work that hard.

And his family, Helsell said, can’t afford to upgrade.

“I didn’t realize how rare he was,” Helsell said of his sawyer. “What we found from all the advertising is that nobody could or wanted to do that job.”

The San Juan Builders Association has written the federal government on Nuñez’s behalf, as has the San Juan County Economic Development Council, which said his deportation, “would adversely affect the economy here as well as the livelihood of many Orcas Island business owners and residents.”

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Federal Court Rules Immigrant Detainees Must Be Given Bond Hearings

March 12, 2014


Matt Adams, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, 206-957-8611,
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, 212-549-2666;

SEATTLE – A federal court ruled late yesterday that a class of immigrants detained at the Tacoma-based Northwest Detention Center must be given bond hearings. The court’s decision comes at the same time that hundreds of immigrant detainees are participating in a hunger strike at the facility. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones also denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought on behalf of immigrant detainees by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union, with co-counsel from the Seattle law firm Gibbs Houston Pauw.

Robert Pauw said: “It makes no sense for ICE to lock up – without bond – people who have been living peacefully and productively in our community.  That is just what this administration has been doing.  Hopefully the court’s ruling will put an end to this inhumane practice.”

“The court’s ruling recognizes what is at stake, the anguish and hardship caused by being locked up for months,” said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “A bond hearing is not a free ticket out of jail. But at least a person has the right to present their case. That is all they are seeking, a fair shot.”

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Detained immigrants must have bond hearings, judge rules

The Seattle Times

A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. government cannot keep certain immigrants locked up at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma without granting them a bond hearing.

The Department of Homeland Security routinely detain immigrants it apprehends for months, sometimes years –in one case a decade — after those people have resolved their criminal cases in state court and are released back into their communities.

While immigration officials begin proceedings to deport them, they are unjustly denied a hearing before an immigration judge who could determine whether they present a flight risk or a danger to the community, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones ruled late Tuesday.

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Reminder: Deadline for Requesting Reopening of DOMA-Based Denials Is March 31, 2014

Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its decision in United States v. Windsor, striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional, USCIS issues a series of FAQs explaining how the change in law would impact future applications and petitions for immigration benefits based on marriages between same-sex couples, as well as the treatment of cases that were denied prior to the change in law.

AILA Liaison reminds members of the March 31, 2014 deadline for requesting that USCIS reopen a petition or application based on a marriage between same-sex couples that was denied prior to February 23, 2011. To request reopening, send an e-mail to USCIS at and note that you believe the petition was denied on the basis of DOMA section 3.

Scholarships for DREAMERS

On Tuesday, February 4, 2014, “TheDream.US” announced the creation of a scholarship program for Dreamers – students who have grown up in the United States without immigration documents.  The program was launched by Carlos Gutierrez, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush, Henry Munoz III, the finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee, and Donald Graham, CEO of the Graham Holdings Company.  The program has other high-profile supporters including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, actor and director Diego Luno, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

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