2021 AILA Conference Day 2 Session 5: CBP Open Forum
2021 AILA Conference Customs & Border Protection Open Forum:
In this video, Attorney Joseph reviews the questions that were asked of the national CBP representatives during the CBP Open Forum. He also gives praise to the CBP officers, especially at LAX airport, for stepping up during the pandemic when the Department of State was shut down.
If you are a OPT student or an lawful permanent resident (LPR) that’s been stuck abroad because of the pandemic, get answers to your questions here. Learn more by watching the full video.
Full Video Transcript
Hi everyone, this is Joseph. I just finished watching the US Customs and Border Protection Agency’s Open Forum (CBP’s Open Forum), so I couldn’t wait to see what the directors have to say, and it was so good. Can’t wait to share them with you. Let’s get started.
[Tsang Intro Splash]
[0:18] First and foremost, and this is probably the biggest change, it’s that CBP is no longer perceived as the bad guys. Just as what the pharmaceutical industry has done to reshape themselves during the pandemic, them being the saviors of mankind, that as opposed to drugging up mankind and just profiting off of all of us. Well, now CBP officers they really, really saved the day. Let me explain.
[0:45] A few years ago, the tension between CBP officers, the immigration officers at the airport and at the land border, their relationship with AILA attorneys, with immigration attorneys, with the public could not get any worse. It was as bad as it can be because AILA, the Immigration Attorney Association, we ended up suing them because of a FOIA thing, and of course, they didn’t have a great relationship with the public to start, and so it just completely fell apart. Years and years and years of diplomacy, working together, meeting every month with different agencies across the United States, every chapter, those communications came to an end. And meeting after meeting, we invited them to come to speak to us, they refused, and it was just terrible up till this past year.
Sidebar: the LAX CBP officers have kept a really good relationship with SoCal chapter, and we continue to say in good communication even during that very tense time, but we’ll get back to that in a bit.
[1:44] So, what changed this past year? Well, as you know, the consulates all across the world, they shut down. They couldn’t interview people, they couldn’t give visas. There were travel bans, there were bans on H visas and L visas for all sorts of different reasons, and immigrant visas were canceled. All sorts of problems created the situation where the consulates, the Department of State as an arm of the U.S. government, couldn’t function. But major industries still needed to go on, people still needed to fly into the U.S. to get their work done. Well, what can they do? They couldn’t get their visas, or if they have a special emergency situation that they needed to apply for a waiver to come into the U.S, and the consulates are not open, they couldn’t get the visa. How then can they enter the U.S?
[2:39] Well the gatekeepers, the CBP officers at the airport, on the northern border, on the southern border, they were the only hope. And they stepped up to the challenge. People from all over the world, with all their special needs and circumstances, brought their needs to the CBP officers, and they reviewed it and they permitted people to come in on different visas as well.
Let’s talk about the LAX [Airport] specifically because it was mentioned. Let’s say you’re a movie star and you needed to fly to the U.S. to film the next big show for Netflix or for Disney. Well, you couldn’t get the appropriate O visa up because the consulates are closed. What do you do? LAX have allowed people to fly to their port, review their document, and allow them in on an O visa without getting the O visa. They [CBP officers] were basically able to step up to what the Department of State and the consulates were supposed to do but couldn’t because of all sorts of reasons, and they were able to allow them in on the appropriate… It’s like mom and dad not being able to be around because of all sorts of reasons and your older sibling able to step up to the plate and take care of you. They win the gold prize.
[3:53] During the open forum, all the CBP officers were just sharing all the things that they were doing to help America get back to its place and help the whole global economy continue to work. It’s absolutely remarkable. If you want to see an agency really stepping up to the challenge during this pandemic, a book needs to be written, but you can also download this from AILA agora or AILA University or wherever you get your podcast. But this has been an amazing forum. Now, during the open forum, this was our opportunity as AILA attorneys to also bring up some key issues that we needed clarification from the CBP officers that we otherwise couldn’t. And now, on public display, they were able to clarify.
[4:33] One of the questions was OPT students that traveled abroad during the pandemic and worked remotely. Are they or are they not international students, and how do they get back in? A lot of people right during this past year, they had to leave or they wanted to leave the U.S. because the U.S. had a raging pandemic, and they were still legitimately working remotely. This had never existed in the history of immigration. What are they considered when they try to come back and what documents do they need? The CBP officers at the national level explained, “Well, bring their OPT card and prove that you’ve been working, and that will be okay.” So, that was a breath of relief to a lot of the practitioners and I’m sure to all the international students around the world who left the U.S. and are planning on coming back. They are still considered international students.
[5:27] Another key issue was regarding lawful permanent residents who have not been in the U.S. for over a year. What do we do? Right? So, by law, if you are a lawful permanent resident, if you are a green card holder, and you left the U.S. for over a year, technically, CBP officer, they have the discretionary authority to challenge whether or not you have abandoned your green card. And if so, then they can confiscate your green card and you have to win it back in court. So, what is the official policy by the CBP officers? Right? We want to know. Now, of course, this past year, a lot of people have been outside of the U.S. for over a year, some have been over… outside of the U.S. for over two years or three years. What is USCIS or what is the CBP officers’ policy? And we were waiting to hear them talk about it.
[6:19] In addressing this problem, the CBP officers cautioned everybody who’s entering to prepare their documents well. Prepare your tax returns. Prepare your residency in the U.S, what ties do you have here, as if you’re applying for a B1 visa, right? Show your home ties to this country so the officer could see it and just immediately believe that this is your home. Prepare documentation to show why you have been abroad temporarily and why you couldn’t come back, canceled plane tickets, all of these documents that they want to see because they want to let you in. They’re not here to try to reject you. They cautioned and they encouraged us, and they thanked AILA for providing such useful information regarding the airlines, regarding how people can come back in. And because CBP, they couldn’t, they didn’t, it was not their place to advise the whole world, all the LPRs across the world, and how to get back in the country. It was the AILA attorneys gathering all this resource, talking to CBP officers, preparing everything and telling the clients and helping them get on the plane and get back into the U.S.
[7:29] One of the most beautiful things about this relationship between CBP officers, U.S. AILA attorneys, and the consulate officers and exchanging tactics, how do we help these lawful permanent residents abroad come home? They’ve been trying to come home but the airlines rejected them, they couldn’t get a ticket, how do they get a boarding foil so that they can board the plane so that they can come back in, what are the documents that CBP officers need and request so that they can enter the U.S. smoothly? CBP officers have to face thousands of people flying in, and if they don’t have the documentation, how are the CBP officers supposed to decide who’s supposed to be lawfully in? Who are they supposed to confiscate their green card? And so getting this information out, dismissing the fear, preparing the clients well, everybody is on the same page and seeing this relationship blossom in this time of trial, that’s just beautiful. Considering just a few years ago, the tension and the relationship was at its worst.
[8:34] During this open forum, the CBP officers offered so much good advice and resources on how to deal with particular problems with the airlines, for example. So much resources. And also, if you’re having a problem with Global Entry, they talked about that. They talked about the CBP app that everybody should download. And also, if you have a problem that you need to redress, the redress program, how to deal with the northern border, the southern border, and the different airports, and what airports are able to do. So much good information from the CBP national level. This was provided, and this opportunity was made possible because of AILA. So, your sponsorship, your subscription to AILA, your membership fees made this happen. So, thank you, AILA members. And if you are the public, well, you should want to thank AILA, but second, you can also get this particular recording off of AILA agora, I believe, and you just have to pay a little bit more, I think, and you can also hear everything. So, there was so much good information here, and that wraps up this video. This is the last session for day two. I’m pretty exhausted, quite honestly, but it’s okay. I’m gonna push through. There’s day three and day four.
If you like what I’m doing and you want to encourage me, please hit that like button, subscribe, and I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.