Immigration lawyer says shorter wait time for petitions is ‘logical, reasonable’

Lawyers Alan Lubiner (right) and Dennis Ortiguera of Lubiner & Schmidt

Lawyers Alan Lubiner (right) and Dennis Ortiguera of Lubiner & Schmidt

By Cristina DC Pastor

“It’s crazy to separate husbands and wives.”

That was lawyer Alan Lubiner arguing for changes he would like to see in a new immigration reform law widely speculated to pass Congress within a year.

A partner at Lubiner & Schmidt in Cranford, New Jersey and the author of two popular books on U.S. citizenship and immigration, Lubiner said cutting short the amount of time a green card holder can petition for his or her spouse is one way Congress can fix the broken immigration system.

“What we’d like to see is if they (lawmakers) can change the Family Second Preference Visa so that people with green cards can bring their spouses immediately,” he told The FilAm. “A wait of three to five years is ridiculous.”

Spouses separated by immigration is just one in a stream of heartbreaking stories Lubiner has seen in his five years as an immigration officer and attorney for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and later as a private practitioner for more than 30 years.

Family reunification is easily one of the compelling arguments immigrants from China, India, Mexico and the Philippines despair against immigration, a provision that came about because of the heavy demand for visas from the four countries.

“At the time the government was trying to establish a system that would be fair to the whole world so the government established a quota system to be fair to the world,” he explained.

Unfortunately, the quota system has been applied to employment-based petitions as well. Employers who want to hire skilled foreign workers need to wait anywhere from five to 10 years for the sponsored person to be allowed to work legally in the U.S.

Said Lubiner, “I don’t think it’s fair, from a business standpoint, to make an employer wait.” America, he quickly added, was built on the skills and talents that immigrant people bring.

“That’s what makes the country strong and great,” he said.

In essence, a “logical” immigration reform law is something Lubiner said he would like to see lawmakers craft. While increased border security and increased enforcement are vital, he said the system should likewise be fair to employers and green card holders as well as the people who are being petitioned.

Lubiner, a graduate of the Brooklyn Law School, founded the firm in 1981 after he left the INS as an immigration officer and attorney. Lubiner & Schmidt, located in the affluent neighborhood of Cranford in central New Jersey, is a full-service company that handles immigration, securities litigation, collections, criminal defense, and real estate, just to name a few of its areas of specialization. It has a staff of nine lawyers. A Jesuit-educated Filipino, Dennis Ortiguera (Juris Doctor degree from Ateneo de Manila and Master of Laws from Fordham Law School), is involved mostly with immigration. Before joining the firm in 2005, he worked with Abad Constancio & Mallonga in New York concentrating on family-based and business immigration.

For some Filipinos debating the wisdom of hiring the best immigration lawyer, sometimes, the deal-breaker of a question comes up: ‘Pinoy’ o ‘Puti’?

Much of the argument for either is anecdotal, implying that a Filipino lawyer exhibits empathy because he speaks the native language, while an American lawyer is king in the courtroom. Nothing in science suggests an American lawyer is awkward with Filipinos or that a Filipino lawyer isn’t as creative and argumentative. Lubiner brushed aside the common biases.

“Ideally it shouldn’t matter,” he said. “It would be good for any lawyer to be of service to the Filipino community whether he’s Filipino, American or Mexican.”

The firm gets a “fair amount” of young immigrants seeking assistance with their status under the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals executive order. These are young students who have never been in trouble with the law and who all of a sudden find themselves facing criminal prosecution.

“One of the most important part of our job is putting their mind at ease and letting them know we’re not going to get them into trouble,” he said. “We impress upon them that they have to be truthful and forthcoming so that if there is a problem we know about it ahead of time and we can solve it.”

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