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Thank You Colleen and Welcome Francisco!

Externship Program with Lewis and Clark Law School

Our firm has been happily participating in the Lewis and Clark Law School’s externship program since this past summer. Our first extern was Colleen Munoz, a second year law student and highly experienced paralegal. Many of our clients got to experience first-hand how Colleen approached cases with awe-inspiring professionalism, stunning discipline, exacting rigor, and supernatural enthusiasm. She is an all-star and it’s no surprise that Colleen excelled as a division one college athlete and team captain of her lacrosse team!

Love is the Answer

Colleen has started up her classes again and while we are sad to see her go, we are grateful that we had the chance to work together for quite a few months. We’re glad she had a great experience with our law firm as well and while she was saying nice things about us today we realized we should simply have her record these thoughts for posterity to enjoy. As business guru Simon Sinek has said, “Clients won’t love your company unless your employees love your company first.” In the spirit of that important goal, here is Colleen sharing her experience with Passage Immigration Law. We all expect to see Colleen achieve great things in the future – keep your eye out for her!

Click here to watch Colleen speak about her experience at Passage.

Superstar Paralegal Joins Passage Immigration Law

We are thrilled to share that just this week we brought on board a highly accomplished paralegal named Francisco “Bonecrusher” Juarez. (Actually, we just made up the “Bonecrusher” part.) But already on a daily basis Francisco has been smashing through government barriers and producing pristine paperwork like the immigration surgeon he is. He does it all with a big smile on his face and is a true pleasure to work with.

Small Law Firm with Big Selection of Language Options

Francisco also speaks fluent Spanish and so many of our clients and their family members are already enjoying this. In fact, our law firm proudly speaks a number of languages well. In addition to Francisco, attorney Erin and paralegal Alison both speak excellent Spanish. Ahmed speaks superb Arabic (which is not bad for a skateboarder who grew up in California). Julia speaks Korean and French, and Erick speaks average French and 3rd grade level Hungarian. Thanks to his bilingual kids, Erick’s Hungarian vocabulary features lots of animals and toys.

Giving Thanks

We are grateful to work with wonderful clients who appreciate our efforts dealing with a frustrating immigration system. When we look back on our careers a few decades from now, we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that we helped families and businesses navigate a confusing, byzantine immigration maze. Let us know what your questions are and we’ll find the answers for you. We are thankful for you!

One of the best parts about living in the 21st century is that the pool of potential soulmates is wider than ever before. Just as the most qualified person to work for your company may be located in Uzbekistan, the person who is best suited to be your spouse could very well be on the other side of the globe.

Thankfully, true love is no longer held back by geographic boundaries due to the power of video calls and jet airplanes. However, we are simultaneously experiencing a rise in nationalism around the world and governments are making it harder than ever for international couples to be together through tightened immigration policies. This is a tragedy and a huge source of stress for couples the world over. Our founding attorney, Erick, married his Hungarian wife Agi back in 2001 and knows personally how traumatic it is to be separated from the love of your life.

But even when USCIS and the U.S. State Department are dragging their feet and making our lives more difficult, we are confident that true love shall prevail if we persevere through the immigration process. International couples can and should expect a happy ending!

A new USCIS policy requires medical exam results be submitted within 60 days of their completion.

As most of our clients know, anyone applying for permanent residency will need to visit a USCIS-approved physician. During this visit, the doctor will fill out Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination record, and place it in a sealed envelope. This envelope is then submitted to USCIS along with the rest of a green card application.

As of November 1, 2018, Form I-693 must be submitted to USCIS within 60 days of the date it is signed. In other words, it’s important your case is filed in 60 days or less from the date of your medical exam. Otherwise the form becomes invalid.

If you’ve completed the exam but cannot file your petition within 60 days, reach out to your physician and ask them to resign the form before submission. Otherwise you may have to complete the exam all over again.

Beginning in October 2018, USCIS may start removal proceedings on individuals who submit an application for a visa status or permanent residency in the United States but get the application denied.   This would only apply to those applicants who no longer have a valid visa status at the time of the denial decision from the USCIS.

Typically, an applicant who files a timely and non-frivolous application to the USCIS to seek an immigration benefit such as change or extension of a visa status will be considered to be in lawful status even if the underlying visa has expired before the USCIS makes a final decision on the application.  Previously, it has been the long-standing policy of the USCIS to consider itself as a service center and not an enforcement agency, and it would not initiate any removal proceedings except for certain rare cases. Therefore, if an application gets denied by the USCIS, the applicant could still remain in the United States and decide the next appropriate course of action such as filing an appeal or seeking another visa status.

However, with this new USCIS policy, applicants may face the harsh consequence of having to deal with lengthy removal proceedings at the immigration court when they all but complied with the immigration law which permits them to legally stay in the U.S. while waiting for the lengthy adjudication process of their application.  With increasing delays of USCIS processing time, it is now imperative to carefully plan ahead the appropriate strategy to maintain one’s valid visa status while the application is pending.

A new USCIS policy allows immigration officials to deny an application, petition, or request without first issuing a request for evidence (RFE).

According to Lee Francis Cissna, who is the Director of USCIS, the policy restores “full discretion to our immigration officers to deny incomplete and ineligible applications and petitions submitted for immigration benefits.”

In the past, applicants would receive an RFE if their submission packet was missing necessary supporting documents or included any errors. Although sometimes annoying, RFEs served as a second chance for applicants whose cases might otherwise be refused.

As of September 11, 2018, immigration officials can deny any application, petition, or request without first issuing an RFE if they are missing necessary documents or include errors.

It is more important than ever to make sure that your case is strong as possible before submission.

Why A Great Song From a Kids Movie Shows Us the Way Forward on Immigration

My three kids loved the movie Zootopia and my wife and I also thought it was fantastic. The story features an eager young bunny protagonist named Judy Hopps who is committed to being an excellent police officer despite being smaller than most other animals. The movie touches upon important themes about diversity and inclusiveness – how it’s all too easy to instinctively blame others who are different from you when things go wrong.

Zootopia also has a superb theme song called “Try Everything” that has been viewed over 500 million times on Youtube! The song is great in that it makes you want to get up and dance immediately. But after investigating the background of the song, I realized the best part about “Try Everything” comes from understanding the international resources that went into creating it.

Here is what is fascinating about the global nature of creating great art these days: “Try Everything” is part of an American movie that was released by Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2016. The song was actually written however by an Australian singer named Sia, along with two Norwegians named Tor and Mikkel. Finally, the song was sung by Colombian superstar Shakira.

What the creation of this song makes very clear is that the world’s best art results from the world’s most talented people coming together to collaborate. Similarly, the world is better off as a whole when talented people from across the world are able to travel to achieve their full potential and bring great things into the world.

At Passage Immigration we have the privilege of helping bring talented individuals from across the globe to the U.S. to contribute, achieve and put their skills to the best use possible.

Here is the video of “Try Anything” to get you inspired. Enjoy!

Click here to watch the video.

With holiday season quickly approaching, we’re often asked how to protect data and devices while traveling internationally. If traveling wasn’t already an exhausting process, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has reported a five-fold increase in the number of electronic media searches at the border. No matter your profession or status, electronic devices these days contain private and sensitive information, such as credit card details, health records, private conversations, and much more. Before you pack your bags, we have five simple but effective tips to protect your devices and at your data privacy while in air or on the road.

Keep Copies of Your Important Documents

There is nothing more stressful than getting to the airport and realizing you misplaced your wallet. With that in mind, we can not stress enough the importance of making copies of documents while traveling. It is even more difficult when you realize you are now without your passport, credit cards, health insurance card, and/or driver’s license. Make copies and keep them in a safe place separate from your wallet. You can travel more enjoyably knowing that you have backups with you in case your belongings get lost or stolen.

Limit Your Devices

This may seem like common sense, but the fewer devices you keep with you while traveling, the less likelihood you have of having your privacy breached. Before your trip, evaluate what devices you truly need to bring with you. Whether it is limiting your smart devices (phone, laptop, or tablet), or only bringing devices that contain little to none of your private account information, you will find traveling safely a lot easier.

Set Up Two-Factor Authentication

Two-Factor Authentication, otherwise known as 2FA, is a multi-layer security system for your devices and your apps. While the traditional form of authentication (username and password) is what we typically believe to be secure, reports have found that this may not be enough anymore to protect your privacy and data. If you own an iPhone or have a gMail account, you may have noticed that you are already participating in 2FA. To find Two-Factor Authentication for more of your devices or accounts (such as Outlook, Facebook, Instagram and more), we recommend using Authy, which provides guides for the aforementioned accounts and more.

Download a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN secures your device’s internet connection to guarantee that all of the data you’re sending and receiving is encrypted and secure from prying eyes. It is able to do this by setting up a network of devices which are linked together over a public network, most commonly the internet. There are a number of options in terms of VPN’s to download. Performing an internet search to decide which one best fits your needs will be incredibly useful in the long run.

Know Your Rights (At the U.S. Border)

Even with all these tips provided, agents may still ask travelers to unlock their devices, provide their device passwords, or disclose their social media information. This is unfortunately a no-win situation. If you, the traveler, agree then the agents can look through and copy your digital information. If you decline, then the agents can potentially seize your devices and escalate the encounter.

Border agents cannot deny a U.S. citizen admission into the country. However, if a foreign visitor refuses to allow a search, an agent may deny them entry. If a lawful permanent resident declines, agents may raise complicated questions about their continued status as a resident. Your response to this dilemma may vary, but all travelers should stay calm and respectful, should not lie to border agents or physically stop them, and should plan ahead of time. Try to document or politely ask for the names, badge numbers, and agencies of the government officers you interact with.

Flex Your Attorney-Client Privilege

Creating a folder on your device labeled “Attorney Conversations” that contains your privileged information, documents, and records can assure you an extra layer of security. This is because all communication between an attorney and their client is “privileged,” or protected from nosey border agents.

As always, let us know if you have any questions or concerns about how to protect your privacy at the border! Our number is (503) 427-8243.

A hope renewed


By the terms of an agreement reached between the Trump administration, the ACLU, and other legal teams representing families separated at the border, some of the parents formerly prevented from doing so will likely be able to re-apply for asylum. The agreement must be approved by the presiding federal judge.

According to the ACLU, “The cases of parents who are still in the United States and who have been ordered deported will be reviewed to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution. They will be able to consult with lawyers and present new or additional information in their asylum cases.”

For those who were deported, the new agreement may open a way for them to return and also re-submit asylum applications: “The government has maintained that parents who have already been deported are not eligible for asylum, but the settlement may create the possibility that some deported parents will be able to return to the U.S.”

Learn more here.

Another possibility


Three Texas lawmakers have proposed another way of addressing “unauthorized border crossings.” According to reporter Roque Planas,“Veronica Escobar, gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who’s running for Senate, all called for some form of decriminalization.”

The cost savings, as well as the prospect of a more direct approach to immigration reform than the end of ICE, are among the factors at issues in these proposals.
Escobar, a candidate for congress, who “arrived at the conclusion that immigration violations should be decriminalized from a human rights perspective,” also focused on the cost of the current Trump administration policy: “When we treat asylum-seekers like criminals, the next step is we have to jail them, we have to incarcerate them,” which is “incredibly costly.”

Valdez, who has served as both Dallas County Sheriff and Customs agent argues that
“The majority of people are not coming in to do harm. … We still have to have some kind of checking and verifying, but I don’t think coming in here undocumented should be a criminal issue.”

For his part, O’Rourke, who is running against incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz, calls attention to the desperate situation of Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty in their own countries “who do what I think any human would do, which is to request asylum in between ports of entry.” O’Rourke speaks for all three lawmakers when he says “We should not criminalize that.”

Learn more here.

Thanks to Professor Nancy Casciato for writing this blog post.

The Power of Discovering Your Life Purpose

Life is short. This sad truth was reinforced recently when I read that Martin Luther King Jr (one of my heroes) was killed when he was only 39 years old. It’s remarkable, however, what he was able to accomplish without ever crossing into his forties. Dr. King made such a huge impact on the world because he clearly understood his life purpose and acted with urgency and great courage. Each of us should do our best to figure out our own key purpose or cause here on earth. This will enable us to avoid wasting our most precious resource – time – and will allow us to leave a powerful legacy once we’re gone.

The Benefits of Knowing “Why”

I’m almost finished with an excellent book called “The Power of Why” by Simon Sinek. He clearly lays out how identifying your own key purpose, cause or belief will dramatically change the way you think and live. Most of us have an intuitive sense of why we chose a certain career, studied a particular subject, or chose to move to a particular place. It’s often challenging to pinpoint our own personal “why,” but it’s extremely useful because it allows us to focus and assess when we get off track. Knowing what is your deepest motivation or fundamental purpose also provides an enormous amount of energy when circumstances are tough.

Our “Why”

Here in this post I want to share the fundamental purpose – the “why” – behind Passage Immigration and my motivation for founding this law firm. Although the precise words may change as I crystallize my thinking further, a good summary of our core purpose is to help people “Live Globally.” To break this down, to “Live Globally” consists of two key concepts.

First, to “Live Globally” means that it should be possible in this world to live in the place where you can fulfill your highest potential. If an incredibly brilliant mathematics student happens to have been born in a developing country, our world would be better off if we found a way to help this student reach her full potential through studying with other world class mathematicians somewhere in the world with the resources necessary to help her reach her full potential. But note that the benefit of living globally doesn’t always have to mean moving from a place with a lower standard of living to a higher one. The best experiences of my own life (and for many of my friends and colleagues) involved living in a country with a lower standard of living than the U.S. We were able to grow and serve and contribute in a much more meaningful way than if we never left the U.S.

Second, to “Live Globally” also means to possess a state of mind that considers the entire world. For those of us who experience international travel or moving to a different country, we know that life is immeasurably richer, more enjoyable, and genuinely fascinating as a result. As St. Augustine said, “Life is a book and those who don’t travel read only the first page.”  In addition, our world has enormous challenges and our actions have big repercussions across the globe. We need to think about how we are helping or hurting others and future generations by our actions.

What is Your “Why”

Have you identified your own fundamental cause, purpose, or belief? What is your “why” that gives you the motivation to keep going when times are inevitably tough? We are incredibly grateful for our clients, friends, and colleagues who are supporting us as Passage Immigration Law seeks to live out our fundamental purpose: Living Globally.

Thankfully, nothing is more satisfying than helping others, and we look forward to helping you and others reach your full potential.

What about ICE?

Nancy Casciato

July 26, 2018

July 20, “ICE Capades,” This American Life.

This story brings undocumented men and women together with an unlikely champion, an ICE official who pursued the unscrupulous person who promised green cards, then stole their money.  For a reminder that everyone from ICE agents to asylum seekers is a human being with a heart, a mind, and a choice to make, this story is a must-listen.

July 25, “What Would Happen if We #AbolishICE?” Crooked Conversations.

Finally, for an informative explanation that charts the formation of ICE in the wake of 9/11, as well as a detailed discussion of its current practices and consequences, this conversation between Crooked Media’s Julissa Arce and UCLA Law professor Hiroshi Motomura offers welcome and necessary clarity.  This comprehensive discussion of the various agencies involved in U. S. immigration dispels confusion by providing history and context for our current moment.

. . . And a taste of hope

The new PBS Series “No Passport Required” (OPB, Tuesdays, 9:00pm) follows New York chef Marcus Samuelsson as he travels around the country to taste the way immigrants expand the nation’s cultural palate and enrich us from the inside out.  In the most recent episode, the irrepressible Swedish-African Samuelsson, himself an immigrant, visits the vibrant Vietnamese community that flourishes on the edge of New Orleans.  As a second generation of young cooks, inspired by their parents’ example and by the promise of America, bring Vietnamese customs and flavors into the heart of this city celebrated for its merging of culinary wonders, they are creating what one established New Orleans chef calls “the new Creole.”

Immigration has been in the news a lot this week, so we’re reaching out to share some important updates.

Families will no longer be separated at the border, but will they be reunified?

President Trump issued an executive order on June 20 to halt the separation of families at the border. More than 2,300 children were separated from their parents after entering the US in May and June. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration enforcement, announced it would reunite families that are subject to deportation. However, there is no official plan in place to reunify families in the process of claiming asylum.

Supreme Court rules to uphold travel ban

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s ban on travel from seven predominately Muslim countries. Justice Sonia Sotomayor compared the court’s decision to the 1944 decision that allowed the US government to detain thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

You can learn more about the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the travel ban here, and you can learn about the decision to detain Japanese-Americans here.

USCIS will begin processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests online

USCIS has launched a new system that will (hopefully) allow users to submit, manage, and receive FOIA requests online. Previously, FOIA requests had to be made by mail, fax, or email, and the results were mailed back on a CD.

Protests sweep the country

In the wake of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policies, groups of protestors have converged at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in Portland, OR, and elsewhere in the U.S. Colleen discusses these protests in depth here.


We’re here for you

All of us at Passage have a personal connection to the immigration process. Our mission is to help families, individuals, and businesses feel safe and secure. Let us know if there is anything we can do for you or your community.

Nancy Casciato

June 22, 2018

There is no specific road map to guide the implementation of President Trump’s executive order reversing the policy of separating parents and children at the border, so advocates for these parents and children must grapple with a level of confusion that Jack Healy, reporting in a front-page story in the NYTimes (“Rules Shifted, But Reunions Are Uncertain,” 6/22/2018),  explains this way:  “Across the country, immigration lawyers said they were slogging through confusion, bureaucracy and secrecy as they tried to locate children,” and “many were tapping private social media networks to find social workers who might know their clients’ children.”  Their search for information about the location of separated children and their parents resulted in “asking colleagues in other cities to search immigration court dockets for the name of a child’s parent” and “preparing legal complaints to force the release of children being held by the government.”  As Healy’s report suggests, the big picture of this crisis continues to be that there is no big picture; because the Trump policy to separate children from their parents was put into practice without a plan to track the whereabouts of either group, and because there remains confusion within the Trump Administration itself about the meaning and the way forward when it come to the new executive order, the reuniting of these families remains, at best, precarious.

In addition to this report, one might also glean a better understanding of the scope of the project to bring parents and children back together by listening to this interview by NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly with John Sandweg, who served as acting director of ICE under the Obama administration: