The Immigration Mastermind

Carlos Batara


The Immigration Mastermind is a podcast for immigrants and their families that shares tips, insights, and tidbits to help guide the quest for permanent residence and citizenship in the United States. The podcast strives to build knowledge, while dispelling myths in short bite-sized, easy-to-understand snippets of pull-no-punches information.

Designed for both immigrant families who have already started the immigration process and those just starting to think about their journey, the Immigration Mastermind provides a mix of expert tips about legal rules, insights about breaking news, and tidbits to help immigrants and their families to keep their chin up, even when the road to success seems to be a never-ending road.

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133 episodes

The Truth About Cultural Ghettos

“Is immigration causing cultural ghettos in cities?” That was a question recently asked by a New York-based reporter. She added, “And should we be worried?” Not in my view. Cultural enclaves, in many ways, are natural.  When immigrants first arrive in the country, whether they speak English fluently or not -- feel more at home in the company of fellow countrymen.  This does not mean such areas should be viewed as an aberration, or as an unhealthy development. Rather, they should be seen as not as a blemish on our country, but as a positive indicator of an increasingly diverse populace. Related Podcasts: (Episode 119: The Social Significance Of Grocery Store Ethnic Food Aisles) (Episode 66: Unclaimed Immigrant Income Taxes) Recommended Links For More Information: (How The Emergence Of Ethnic Foods Mirrors Growing Multiculturalism) (Four Insights About The Economic Contributions Of Immigrants In The U.S.)

Oct 11
Green Card Tips For Couples Before Marriage

When it comes to important decisions, most people fall into one of two camps. Some folks worry about their problems, over and over again, before they take steps forward. Others discard their initial reservations and move quickly ahead, and only second-guess their choice afterwards. For immigrants seeking permanent residence through marriage to a United States citizen, the first course of action is far more preferable. After all, there are rules and regulations that such couples must meet in order to be successful.  And some may affect a couple’s eligibility, good and bad, for permanent resident benefits. Recommended Links For More Information: After The Love Bug Strikes: Three Green Card Options For Couples (Before Marriage) (Don't Make These 8 Marriage Green Card Mistakes) (Green Card Marriage: Three Options For Permanent Resident Success After The Love Bug Strikes)

Oct 06
U.S. National Parks Of Immigration Distinction

A few weeks, I came across an article entitled “7 National Park Sites That Tell The Story Of Immigration.”  Published by The National Parks Conservation Association (known as the NCPA), a non-profit organization founded in 1919, the article listed seven national parks, whose history reflect the highs and lows of the U.S. immigration experience. It’s often said that the United States is a country of immigrants.  Our nation’s national park history, good and bad, is a testimonial to that history. Recommended Links For More Information: (Filipino Immigrants Lawyer Services: How To Move To The United States From The Philippines) (Dare To Dream Of Things That Never Were - And Ask Why Not?)

Oct 04
Covid Medical Exemptions For Immigrants

There are many requirements when immigrants seek to become lawful permanent residents of the United States.  Taking a medical exam is one such requirement. The purpose of the exam is to ensure public safety.  On October 1, 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine was added to that list. Objections to this action, as one might expect, quickly arose. The vast majority assert it violates their religious freedom.  Yet, when I question them to gauge their chances for success, the responses of most cast doubt about their sincerity.    Recommended Links For More Information: (Immigrants Who Give More To Others Than They Ask For In Return) (COVID-19 Has Changed Immigration Interviews. What You Need To Know)

Sep 29
Bridging The Divide: African Immigrants In Black America

Over 12% of America’s Black population have been born outside the United States.      By 2060, it’s projected about 33% of the U.S. Black population will be foreign-born individuals. However, the integration between Black Immigrants living in the U.S. and U.S. born Black Americans has not been the smoothest of sailings.  Can the sources of this division be overcome? Recommended Links For More Information: (African Immigrants: Three Keys To Win The Support Of Black America) (No Room For Segregation In The House Of Immigration Reform)

May 12
What To Say To Anti-Immigrant Family Members

I’ve heard this story over and over again.  From clients, from work colleagues, from social media acquaintances. It goes like this: “My brothers, my sisters, my parents won’t talk to me because my husband is illegal.”  So how should you deal with those family members? Recommended Links For More Information: (For Immigrants, Fighting Hate With Hate Is Not The Answer) (The Battle To Correct False Labels About Immigrants)

May 10
VAWA For Immigrant Males

Are immigrant males ever the victim of domestic violence? Sure they are. Are there any programs to help protect them? Yes. It’s called the Violence Against Women Act. Most folks think VAWA as a female-only immigration program. It’s not. Recommended Links For More Information: (Violence Against Women Act Immigration Attorney) (How An Immigrant Child Won Here VAWA Case At Immigration Court)

May 05
Stokes Interviews: Why Marriage Interview Preparation Is Crucial

Do you have a marriage permanent residence interview coming up? Are you worried? You should be. Have you spent time thinking about what questions you and your spouse might be asked? For failing to prepare, as Benjamin Franklin once noted, is preparing to fail. Recommended Links For More Information: (Stokes Interview: How To Avoid Green Card Marriage Fraud Suspicions) (The USCIS Fraud Checklist: Green Card Applicants Under Review)

May 03
The Plight Of U.S. Citizen Spouses Of Immigrants

Are U.S. citizens are the most neglected constituency in the immigration reform debate? As strange as that contention sounds, it’s an opinion held by several U.S. citizens who are married to immigrants. For good reason. The number of native-born and naturalized spouses married to immigrants is far larger than any other immigration constituency. Yet, U.S. citizen spouses are minimized – and are often invisible - in immigration reform discourse. Recommended Links For More Information: (Mixed-Status Immigrant Families: Are U.S. Spouses The Key To Reform?) (What Happens To U.S. Citizen Children Forced To Relocate With Deported Immigrant Parents?)

Apr 28
Why Immigrants Must Avoid Hostile Divorces

For immigrants, a divorce is not always the worst aspect of divorces. In many instances, a divorce has no impact on current immigration status or future immigration applications for benefits. Yet, navigating the issues of family court proceedings is often like tip-toeing through a field of landmines. One misstep and permanent residency or citizenship dreams are shattered. Most immigrants in family court, however, are unaware of what is at stake. Anything you say or write, anything your spouse says or writes, or anything the judge makes a factual finding about, could be utilized by immigration officals to deny immigration benefits and lead to deportation. Recommended Links For More Information: (What Every Immigrant Needs To Know About Hostile Divorce Cases) (How Divorce Affects Your Marriage Green Card Case)

Apr 26
The Immigration Danger Of False Friends

In their quest to become lawful permanent residents and citizens, immigrants to the United States face many obstacles. Most are aware of the challenges posed by the government’s strict requirements for winning legalization. But few recognize another type of danger. Being defrauded by false friends. No immigrant community is immune. Recommended Links For More Information: (Immigration Fraud Scam: False Friends) (Immigration Fraud Scam: Insider Connections )

Apr 21
Deported Woman Walking

It was one of the worst experiences in my professional life.  I was asked by an immigration client to escort his wife to the border. She was leaving the country per court deportation order. Her husband told me, “I cannot say good-bye.  Will you please say it for me?” I agreed.  Her defeat, after all, was my defeat.  She knew, I knew she might never see her family in person again.  That moment has never left my soul. Recommended Links For More Information: (What Happens To U.S. Citizen Children Forced To Relocate With Deported Immigrant Parents?) (The Absence Of Neutrality At Immigration Court)

Apr 19
The Utah Compact: Searching For Immigration Middle Ground

Can a middle ground be found for immigration reform? For without it, are any immigration policy changes possible? It’s true, of course, that immigration discussions often resemble a modern day Hatfield – McCoy feud. Most mainstream media accounts paint immigration discourse as a picture of two warring tribes. And on the surface, the art of diplomacy seems permanently lost in Congress. Yet, compromise is, in fact, possible. One state has staked out a claim to establishing that middle ground. Recommended Links For More Information: (Is The Utah Compact The Beginning Of An Immigration Reform Solution?) (The Anti-Immigrant Propaganda War) (The Battle To Correct False Labels About Immigrants)

Feb 15
Visa Waiver Program: When Love Doesn’t Make A Difference

Love happens. More often than not, it happens unexpectedly. And for immigrants who have entered the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, unexpectedly falling in love can lead to deportation – and permanent separation from the persons they love. Recommended Links For More Information: (ICE Cold Heart: The Danger Of Love Under The Visa Waiver Program) (Cuban Adjustment Act Immigrant Wins Permanent Residence Despite Overstaying Visa Waiver Program Visit) (What Is The Cuban Adjustment Act?)

Jan 27
The Social Significance Of Grocery Store Ethnic Food Aisles

The New York Times recently asked, “Why Do American Grocery Stores Have An Ethnic Aisle?” At first glance, the question seems simplistic. One might even ask, “What’s the big deal? They’re just grocery aisles.” But, in actuality, the question reflects issues larger than food aisles. The question reflects a changing country. The question reflects diversifying taste buds, diversifying food preferences, diversifying cultural influences. Recommended Links For More Information: (How The Emergence Of Ethnic Foods Mirrors Growing Multiculturalism) (The Misguided Notion Of Reverse Brain Drain) (Is A Global Community In The United States Still Possible?)

Jan 12
The Raul Rodriguez Story: Undocumented Immigrant, Exemplary Immigration Officer

Imagine living in the United States for 48 years thinking you’re a U.S. citizen . . . and then the carpet is pulled from you. Imagine serving in the U.S. Navy for seven years believing you’re a U.S. citizen . . . only to find out two decades later, after receiving an honorable discharge, you were not born in the United States. Imagine being a Customs and Border Patrol officer for 18 years, preventing undocumented immigrants from entering the United States . . . who suddenly learns that he is like them, an immigrant without legal documents. That’s the story of Raul Rodriguez, now 53, who despite having won agency awards for exemplary service, is facing deportation and permanent separation from his U.S. citizen wife and children. Recommended Links For More Information: (Citizenship And Midwives: A Government Witch Hunt?) (Fraudulent Midwife Citizenship Birth Registrations: The Devastating Impact On Children Of Immigrants) (U.S. Citizenship And Mexican Midwives: A Failure Of Due Process In South Texas)

Jan 04
Undocumented Immigrants: A Few Statistics

here are a lot of misconceptions about undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Dispelling these false beliefs is important if sensible and comprehensive immigration reform is ever to be achieved. For instance: According to recent studies by the Pew Research Center, the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. has dropped over the past decade. Even though undocumented immigrant workers make up a large share of some occupations, U.S. born workers are the majority in all fields of employment. Recommended Links For More Information: (Immigrant Families: Why Citizen Spouses Are The Key To Reform) (How To Understand Visa Preference Categories: Green Cards From Abroad)

Aug 20, 2021
An Emerging New Pattern Of Brazilian Immigration

Over the course of the past few months, the number of undocumented Brazilians trying to enter the United States has greatly increased.  According to the Border Patrol, the number of Brazilians apprehended at border crossings increased by 18,000 – a 600% increase – in 2020.  Just in the San Diego region, the total has grown by a 1200 percent increase during the first half of 2021.  These figures show an emerging new pattern. In general, Brazil has not been a country where its citizens have emigrated elsewhere in large numbers.  Historically, Brazilians living in the United States without permission entered with valid tourist and student visas. Recommended Links For More Information: (Planning Ahead Prevents Deportation Of Brazilian Immigrant Scholar) (Brazilian Immigrants In The United States)

Aug 17, 2021
New Biometrics Rules: A Trap For Unwary Immigrants

I often cringe when I hear that immigrants are going to handle their cases on their own, without a lawyer. I’ve seen far too many instances where pro per applicants – that is, immigrants acting as their own attorneys – made simple mistakes that could have and should have been avoided. In some instances, when careless mistakes are made, a do-over is possible.  Other times, the problem is more serious.  It destroys their cases altogether. A recent USCIS announcement, seemingly innocent, rekindled my worries for such “independent” applicants of immigration benefits. The announcement pertained to biometrics appointments – appointments where an immigrant’s fingerprints and photographs are taken when they apply for green cards, citizenship, and other benefits. On the surface, the announcement is not earth-shattering. However, the changes pose a real danger for unsuspecting immigrants.   Recommended Links For More Information: (Immigrants Without Lawyers: Five Common Pro Per Mistakes) (The Impact Of Avoidable Actions: Small Mistakes, Huge Consequences)

Aug 13, 2021
Green Card Consular Processing For Marriages

Quite often immigrants want to know, “What’s consular processing?” In many cases, the question is followed up with another question.  “What’s the difference between consular processing or adjusting status in the United States?” In a nutshell, the inquiry is focused on where the interview for permanent residence will take place.  In the U.S. or in an immigrant’s country of birth? The most typical situation in which these questions are asked – pertain to a U.S. citizen - who wants to help his or her immigrant spouse win a green card.  The U.S. citizen spouse may have heard about the adjustment process from a neighbor, or friend, or family member who sponsored a loved one for immigration benefits. That person’s husband or wife was allowed to attend their interview inside the United States without leaving the country. The U.S. citizen does not understand why his or her spouse has to leave the U.S. to attend an interview abroad. Recommended Links For More Information: (Consular Processing For Permanent Residence Through Marriage) (How To Understand Visa Preference Categories: Green Cards From Abroad)

Aug 10, 2021
Factors Of Prosecutorial Discretion

In a previous episode, I talked about the (return of prosecutorial discretion) at immigration court. This is the discretion given to an immigration officer to decide whether or not to enforce the law against a person. If the judge declines to pursue removal actions against an immigrant, he or she has favorably exercised prosecutorial discretion. It does not mean the immigrant is permanently freed from prosecution. It only puts the case on hold. Usually, this action is taken when the judge has reviewed the immigrant’s file and feels the immigrant has a good chance to win their case outside the court system. Here are 10 key factors the judge is likely to explore. Recommended Links For More Information: (Judicial Battle Over Discretion And Due Process At Immigration Court) Deportation And Removal Defense

Aug 06, 2021
Cross-Chargeability: A Little Known Green Card Provision

Immigration clients often want to know if there are any ways to speed up the green card process for family members. Well, there is a provision known as cross-chargeability, not commonly known, which can sometimes help immigrants move to the finish line a little faster. In general, when an immigrant seeks to immigrate, the visa is "charged" to the country of the immigrant's birth. But there are situations when the visa might be charged to the country of birth of the immigrant applicant’s spouse, who is a family dependent listed on the immigrant's petition. Recommended Links For More Information: (How Cross-Chargeability Rules Can Speed Up Your Green Card Process) (Down The Green Card Rabbit Hole: A Journey To The Back Of The Line)

Aug 03, 2021
What Does Conversion Of Immigrant Petitions Mean?

The immigrant visa system puzzles many immigrant families. Confusion often increases when the relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary changes during the permanent residence process. For instance, take the visa processing situation of a daughter, 21 years or older, of a U.S. citizen, whose petition has been filed and is pending. As she waits for her green card interview, she decides to get married. Now, she is placed in a lower category, and her wait is extended, often by several years. Recommended Links For More Information: (Immigrant Relative Petitions And Family-Based Visas) (What Family Members And Relatives Can You Sponsor For A Green Card?)

Jul 30, 2021
Can Widows Of Deceased U.S. Citizens Win Permanent Residence?

Far too often, immigrants give up when their U.S. citizen spouse dies before they win a green card. However, in many situations, a widow can still win permanent residency after their husband or wife passes way. To do so, you would need to file a Widow’s Petition (or Widower’s Petitioner) Here are five requirements you need to know. Recommended Links For More Information: (Can I Still Become A Lawful Resident After My Sponsoring Spouse Dies?) (What You Need To Know About Remarriages And Green Cards)

Jul 27, 2021
5 Reasons Why Immigrants Are Successful

After helping immigrants for over three decades, I’ve been able to notice various traits that separate those who are successful from those who are not. In particular, there are five characteristics which most successful immigrants exemplify. They understand the grass is greener on this side. They miss their families and friends abroad, but they grasp their lives are on the upswing. And they know that wallowing in self-pity is a destructive emotion that undermines success. Recommended Links For More Information: (A Tribute To My Father: An Immigrant Success Story) (For Immigrants, Fighting Hate With Hate Is Not The Answer)

Jul 23, 2021
The Untold Story Of The Chinese And Black Slaves Alliance In The American South

Fear of Chinese immigrants has long existed in this country. Like many other immigrant groups, they survived by helping each other and being creative. Shortly before and after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, many Chinese immigrants survived by moving, of all places, to the American South. While there, a political and social alliance between the freed Black slaves and the Chinese based on a survival instinct was forged. Inter-racial marriages became common, totaling nearly one-third of all Chinese marriages in some parts of the South during this period. Recommended Links For More Information: (No Room For Segregation In The House Of Immigration Reform) (Meet The Mascogos: Early American Slaves Who Sought Refuge In Mexico)

Jul 20, 2021
Two Options For Immigrant Victims Of Domestic Abuse

Many immigrant victims of domestic violence and physical abuse feel trapped in their relationships. They fear that if they report their significant other to law enforcement agencies, they will wind up being deported. The worry that without their partner, no matter how badly they are mistreated and harmed, there is no path to permanent residence. They’re wrong. In particular, two paths protect them. The Violence Against Women Act. The U Visa program. The programs have vastly different rules. Yet, they are not exclusive. Recommended Links For More Information: (What Is The Violence Against Women Act?) (How USCIS Changes To U Visa USCIS Policies Will Help Immigrants)

Jul 16, 2021
The Return Of Prosecutorial Discretion

In recent years, the backlog of immigration court cases has increased to over 1 million. This means clients waiting for judges to decide whether they can continue living in the U.S. lawfully or not are often forced to wait 12, 18, 24 months from one hearing to the next. Despite the claims of immigration reform opponents, the problem is not related simply to the influx of migrants and refugees trying to enter the United States. An equal, if not bigger cause, has been government policies that stripped away the ability of immigration judges to exercise discretion regarding how to best handle deportation cases. Recommended Links For More Information: (One Million Backlogged Immigration Court Cases And Growing) (Judicial Battle Over Discretion And Due Process At Immigration Court)

Jul 13, 2021
Temporary Protected Status Defeat At The Supreme Court

For many years, immigrant advocates have asserted that a grant of Temporary Protected Status is equivalent to an inspection and admission at the border. Not so, said the Supreme Court. Because the equivalence argument failed, TPS beneficiaries lack the eligibility to seek adjustment of their status to permanent residence without leaving the United States. For many immigrants and their advocates, the reaction was as if the sky was falling. They claimed the hope of becoming a lawful permanent resident was now gone forever. But for many TPS immigrants, that’s simply not true.  Recommended Links For More Information: (Supreme Court Rules TPS Grant Is Not A Legal Admission. What's Next?) (TPS Green Card Pathfinder: 8 Ways How To Prevent Deportation)

Jul 06, 2021
New U Visa Procedures To Help Immigrant Victims Of Crime

In a policy shift designed to help immigrant victims of crimes, the Biden Administration has implemented new procedures for U Visas. These changes will speed up the granting of temporary work permits while applicants wait for the full process to be completed . . . . a process which often takes up to 27 years for some immigrants. The U Visa program was created to strengthen the law enforcement community’s ability to prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other violent crimes. Lacking employment authorization, the program has lacked the day-to-day stability to achieve its aims. Critics assert the changes will increase immigration fraud.   Recommended Links For More Information: (How USCIS Changes To U Visa Policies Will Help Immigrants) (Are U Visas No Longer Safe For Immigrant Victims Of Crime?)

Jul 02, 2021