Archive for June, 2011

Deportation of citizen’s same-sex partner canceled

June 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Deportation of citizen’s same-sex partner canceled

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Last updated: Thursday June 30, 2011, 6:13 PM


NEWARK — Immigration officials have called off the deportation of a Venezuelan man who legally married his same-sex partner in the United States, a move advocates hope will push the Obama administration to halt similar deportations and help repeal a federal law that recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman. In this photo taken August 2010, Josh Vandiver, left, and Henry Velandia toast during their wedding in Montville, CT. Velandia, 27, from Venezuela, faced deportation from the U.S., as the U.S. federal government does not recognize same sex marriage. In this photo taken August 2010, Josh Vandiver, left, and Henry Velandia toast during their wedding in Montville, CT. Velandia, 27, from Venezuela, faced deportation from the U.S., as the U.S. federal government does not recognize same sex marriage. Henry Velandia, a 27-year-old professional salsa dancer from Caracas, asked to remain in the United States as the spouse of U.S. citizen Josh Vandiver, a 30-year-old graduate student at Princeton University. They were legally wed in Connecticut but live in New Jersey, where same-sex marriage is not legal. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, Vandiver was not able to sponsor Velandia for a green card, as a heterosexual person could sponsor a spouse. Velandia’s visitor visa expired, and he was placed in deportation proceedings. The couple’s attorney, Lavi Soloway, the founder of a group aimed at stopping the deportation of gay and lesbian spouses of Americans, filed to have the order canceled. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in New Jersey notified the couple Wednesday that they were ending deportation proceedings against Velandia. “It’s an amazing relief to go from one day having your spouse being deported, to the next day looking forward to a life together as a married couple; building it, and planning it, just like any other married couple,” Vandiver said. The case has drawn attention to the complexities faced by many of the estimated 36,000 gay and lesbian couples of mixed nationality in the U.S. Soloway said that although the decision in Velandia’s case did not set a legal precedent, it was the first involving the spouse of a lesbian or gay American in which the Department of Homeland Security showed it has the discretion to evaluate the merits of each case and, when applicable, decline to pursue deportation. “The administration clearly believes it is discriminatory and unconstitutional to have a law that denies recognition to lawful marriages of gay and lesbian citizens,” Soloway said. “By extension, it’s unthinkable this administration would take the position that the spouse of a gay and lesbian American should be treated any differently than the spouse of a straight American citizen.” An email and phone message left Thursday afternoon for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in New Jersey had not been returned by early evening. President Barack Obama reiterated at a news conference Wednesday that he had instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the marriage act in court. He said he supported gay equality but repeated his position in support of civil unions instead of marriage, saying the definition of marriage was best left to states. Obama’s instruction to stop defending the marriage act factored into Velandia’s deportation case. In May, his case was adjourned by a Newark immigration judge, who said clarification was needed from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder after he intervened in a similar case. Holder had set aside a Board of Immigration Appeals ruling allowing the deportation to Ireland of Paul Wilson, a gay man illegally in the U.S. who entered a civil union in New Jersey with his male partner. In that case, the board had based its decision to deport on the Defense of Marriage Act. Holder asked the judges to determine whether Dorman could be considered a spouse under New Jersey law, and whether he would be a spouse under immigration law were it not for the Act, according to a copy of the decision. The board’s decision is pending. Supporters of the Defense of Marriage Act say that the administration’s actions send a confusing message, and that the debate over the law should not be conducted through executive branch nullification, but through regular channels. Some members of Congress want to repeal the law, and many advocates expect a federal court to invalidate it, although the process could take years. U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, who represents the central New Jersey district where Vandiver and Velandia live, wrote a letter in April asking the Obama administration to halt deportation proceedings against the same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens in light of Holder’s actions. Velandia told The Associated Press on Thursday that although he was elated his deportation had been halted, he remains in legal limbo because he cannot be sponsored for a green card by his spouse. “It’s basically given me my life back, being able to be with my husband after feeling so much tension over waiting to see what was going to happen with me,” Velandia said. “I’m just so happy they’ve given me the opportunity to stay with the person that I love.”

Bill Would Ease Evidentiary Standards For Grandparental, Sibling Visitation

June 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Bill Would Ease Evidentiary Standards For Grandparental, Sibling Visitation

New legislation is afoot that would lower the burden of proof for grandparents and siblings seeking visitation rights in contested cases.

David Gialanella


New legislation is afoot that would lower the burden of proof for grandparents and siblings seeking visitation rights in contested cases.

The bill, S-2975, introduced Monday, would alter the doctrine of Moriarty v. Bradt , 177 N.J. 84 (2003), which holds that grandparents may be awarded visitation regardless of parental objections if a threshold “potential for harm” standard — not set forth in the Grandparent Visitation Act, N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1 — is met by a preponderance of the evidence.

“This … standard places an onerous burden on an applicant to prove that the child would be specifically or concretely harmed if the court denies the order of visitation, especially if the applicant has been unable to establish a relationship with the child because the child’s parent refuses to allow visitation,” the bill’s statement reads.

Under the act, if an applicant for visitation was once the child’s full-time caregiver, that is deemed prima facie evidence that visitation is in the child’s best interest. The bill would also make that state of facts prima facie evidence of potential for harm if visitation is denied.

Four other instances would amount to prima facie evidence of both the best-interest and potential-for-harm standards: (1) if one or both parents is deceased; (2) if the parents are divorced; (3) if the applicant demonstrates a past or ongoing close relationship with the child; or (4) if the applicant has tried to establish a close relationship and the parents have refused to permit it.

In any of those instances, the court would be required to order at least one mediation session to attempt to resolve the conflict. After an evidentiary hearing, the court would decide the visitation request based on statutory factors that include the relationship between the child and applicant, the relationship between the parents or caretakers and the applicant and the time passed since the child’s last contact with the applicant.

However, “animosity between the child’s parent and the applicant shall not be a basis for the court to deny an order for visitation,” the bill says.

Weinberg says she undertook the legislation after her office was contacted by grandparents whose applications had been denied in court. The bill, drafted by the Office of Legislative Services, “seems to makes sense,” she says.

In Moriarty , the Court sought to repair New Jersey‘s visitation statute, enacted in 1971, so that it would pass the U.S. Supreme Court’s scrutiny. In Troxel v. Granville , 530 U.S. (2000), the U.S. Court struck down Washington State’s visitation statute as overbroad and held parental autonomy “to make decisions concerning the care, custody and control of their children” is protected under the 14th Amendment’s due process clause.

Justice Virginia Long noted that Troxel “stopped short of invalidating nonparental visitation statutes per se and declined to define the precise scope of the parental due process right in the visitation context.” The Moriarty Court thus added the potential-for-harm standard and found that two maternal grandparents who sought visitation with the children of their former son-in-law, who objected, met the standard by a preponderance of the evidence.

Justice Peter Verniero dissented in part, saying applicants should be held to a higher evidentiary standard, clear and convincing evidence.

Francis Donahue of Donahue, Hagan, Klein, Newsome, O’Donnell & Weisburg in Morristown, who represented the grandparents, Lynn Jack and Patricia Bradt, says Moriarty made the burden for nonparent visitation applicants too high, calling it “a classic case of success under a very strict standard.”

Donahue, who has not yet studied the Weinberg bill, says, “The problem with the existing law is … it’s very difficult to prove harm before the harm occurs. It becomes a heavy burden to get an expert to say … there’s an identifiable, significant harm.”

Hackensack lawyer Robert Corcoran, who represented the losing parent, Patrick Moriarty, at the Court, agrees that although the Bradts won, ” Moriarty made it more difficult for grandparents to get visitation.”

At the trial court level, “most of the judges I’ve seen are erring on the side of caution” and rejecting those applications, says Corcoran, who practice exclusively family law and represents both sides in parent-grandparent visitation disputes.

Corcoran says S-2975 poses constitutional concerns and could “open up the opportunity to take another bite at the apple” for losing visitation applicants. “If this law expands [ Moriarty ] … these people are going to come back with a change of circumstances,” he says.

Another family court practitioner, Woodbury solo Michael Pimpinelli, says he doubts the visitation law, as amended by S-2975 , would pass constitutional muster. “Any time you use the words ‘prima facie’ to ease the burden of the moving party, those are the words that would raise a Troxel red flag,” he says. “I think Moriarty is a stretch as it is.”

President Obama: Advancing Israel’s Security and Supporting Peace

June 3, 2011 1 comment

President Obama: Advancing Israel‘s Security and Supporting Peace

“For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure.  Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection.  And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”

“As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values.  Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.  And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.  But precisely because of our friendship, it’s important that we tell the truth:  The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”                                        

President Barack Obama
May 19, 2011

President Obama has worked closely with the Israelis and Palestinians to end the conflict.  He has stated frankly what everyone knows — a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples:  Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

  • President Obama believes that the core issues can only be negotiated and resolved in direct talks between the parties.  This means that Israel will have to agree for a deal to be reached.  The President has emphasized that no vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state.
  • President Obama said that “a peace agreement must be based on borders and security arrangements that do not leave Israel vulnerable.”
  • President Obama has said that the basis of the negotiations is clear — “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”   This territorial formula, which has been used in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for decades, means that the parties themselves will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967 to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.  This includes new demographic realities and the needs of both sides.  This formula of “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” is fully consistent with the positions of earlier U.S. Administrations, including the 2004 Bush-Sharon letters.
  • The President believes that every state has the right to self-defense, and that Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat.  He said that the security provisions of an agreement must be robust enough “to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security.”  He also said that the duration of the transition period must be agreed and of sufficient time for the security provisions to demonstrate their effectiveness.

President Obama has made clear that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Hamas, a terrorist group sworn to its destruction.

  • In his speeches in Cairo, at the United Nations, and elsewhere, the President has consistently demanded that Hamas accept Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to all existing agreements, before it can play a role in achieving Middle East peace.
  • The President has spoken out forcefully to condemn Hamas attacks against Israelis.  He has made clear that “it is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.  That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.”  At the United Nations, he emphasized that “the slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance — it’s injustice.”

President Obama has called on all sides, Arabs, Palestinians, and Israelis alike, to do their part to help achieve Middle East peace.

  • In Cairo, the President said that Arab states must recognize that they too have responsibilities to move towards peace, including by fostering a culture of peace.  He said clearly that “threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong,” and that denying the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.”
  • At the United Nations in 2010, the President said “I know many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians.  But these pledges of friendship must now be supported by deeds.”  He added that “those who long to see an independent Palestine must also stop trying to tear down Israel,“ and that “after 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate.
  • In his May 19, 2011 speech, President Obama emphasized that a peace agreement must meet the needs of both sides, including by:  ending the conflict and resolving all claims, achieving the goal of two states for two peoples with Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people, achieving secure and recognized borders for both sides, and devising robust security arrangements that will not leave Israel vulnerable.

President Obama has strongly opposed any effort to de-legitimize Israel or single it out in international forums.

  • This is why the Obama Administration withdrew from the Durban Review Conference when it advanced anti-Israel sentiment, stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself after the Goldstone Report, and vetoed the effort to insert the UN into matters that should be resolved between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • In Cairo and at the United Nations, the President made clear that Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.  In his May 19, 2001 speech, he said: “When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland.”

President Obama has strengthened Israel’s security in tangible and concrete ways.

  • Despite tough fiscal times, President Obama fought for and secured full funding for Israel in the FY 2011 appropriation bill, which includes $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing – the largest amount of funding for Israel in U.S. history.
  • President Obama then secured an additional $205 million to help produce an Israeli-developed short-range rocket defense system called Iron Dome, which has recently helped defend Israeli communities against rocket attacks.
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu told the AIPAC conference on May 23 that “Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel’s security. He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented… And he has backed those words with deeds.”
  • President Obama has expanded U.S.-Israeli security and military cooperation on security challenges ranging from counterterrorism to preventing arms smuggling to Gaza to missile defense.  In 2010, there were nearly 200 senior-level Department of Defense visitors to Israel, and Israeli officials visit the United States just as often.
  • The United States and Israel conducted their largest ever joint military exercise, Juniper Cobra, in October 2009.  Israeli forces now benefit from joint exercises and training opportunities, access to advanced U.S. military hardware, emergency stockpiles, and favorable terms for the acquisition of equipment.

President Obama has generated more international pressure on the Iranian regime than ever before.

  • President Obama has said that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  He has backed up this commitment with tangible steps to increase pressure substantially on the Iranian regime and raise the costs of its defiance of the international community.
  • With President Obama’s leadership, the United States gained the support of Russia, China and other nations to pass United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, creating the most comprehensive and biting international sanctions regime the Iranian government has ever faced.  This resolution imposes restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, ballistic missile program, conventional military exports to Iran, Iranian banks and financial transactions, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
  • The Obama Administration also worked with allies such as the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Canada, and others to adopt additional national measures to increase pressure on the Iranian regime, including in the financial, banking, insurance, transportation, and energy sectors.  Iran is now virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system.
  • In addition to multilateral sanctions, President Obama worked with Congress to pass the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, which strengthens existing U.S. sanctions, and makes it harder for the Iranian government to buy refined petroleum and the goods it needs to modernize its oil and gas sector.  Already close to $60 billion in energy-related projects in Iran have been put on hold or discontinued.
  • International companies are increasingly recognizing the risks of doing business with Iran and are abandoning existing business opportunities, declining to take advantage of new ones, and scaling back any existing relationships.  This trend has been replicated across a broad range of industries.  Examples of companies withdrawing from business with Iran include: Shell, Total, ENI, Statoil, Repsol, Lukoil, Kia, Toyota, Siemens, and foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms such as GE, Honeywell, and Caterpillar.

President Obama’s commitment to Israel

June 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Obama’s commitment to Israel

By Rahm Emanuel, Published: June 2

Days into my tenure as mayor of Chicago, with my focus on keeping our city’s streets safe, our schools strong and our finances stabilized, I expected my attention to be in the Midwest, not in the Middle East. But as an American and the son of an Israeli immigrant, I have a deep, abiding commitment to the survival, security and success of the state of Israel.

I am among the many who know that the Israeli people yearn for peace. They have taken risks for peace in spite of dangers. They will again, when they have a viable partner in the process and a region that recognizes a Jewish state of Israel with secure and defensible borders.

President Obama, like every student of the Middle East, understands that the shifting sands of demography in that volatile region are working against the two-state solution needed to end generations of bloodshed. The fragile stasis that exists today cannot hold.

Israel’s survival as a Jewish, democratic state is at stake because of many factors, including uncertainty brought by the Arab Spring, growth in the Palestinian population, unilateral efforts to create a recognized state of Palestine and technological advances in weaponry.

That is why, from his first days in office, the president has invested so much in encouraging meaningful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. His goal has been one shared by a succession of Israeli and American leaders: two nations, the Jewish state of Israel and Palestine for the Palestinian people, living side by side, in peace and security.

As I listened to the president’s speech on the Middle East, I heard him reaffirm his strong commitment to Israel’s safety, security and prosperity. He said the U.S. relationship with Israel is unshakable. He said that the conflict cannot be resolved through unilateral actions or a U.N. vote establishing a Palestinian state but only through negotiations between the parties.

The president said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a Palestinian Authority that embraces Hamas, a terrorist organization sworn to Israel’s destruction, and he reaffirmed his commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge. He said that an independent Palestine must be a non-militarized state and that Israel’s security should be demonstrated before phased Israeli withdrawals are completed. No peace can take place, he said, that does not provide Israel with the ability to defend itself.

One sentence that he uttered received the most attention: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

There, the president stated a concept that has been the basis of every serious attempt at resolution since the negotiations President Bill Clinton held at Camp David in 2000. He reminded us that every president and many Israeli elected leaders have recognized that the borders are one starting point for negotiations, not the end point.

That statement does not mean a return to 1967 borders. No workable solution envisions that. Land swaps offer the flexibility necessary to ensure secure and defensible borders and address the issue of settlements.

As the president said at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, “it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”

Those are the messages the president carried to our allies in Europe last week, as they contemplated events in the Middle East and the prospect of a U.N. resolution. At a time when Israel is increasingly isolated in the world, our president is fighting efforts to weaken and delegitimize the Jewish state in the international arena.

The president I know and worked for is deeply committed to the peace and security of a Jewish state of Israel. I have seen him make unprecedented commitments to guarantee the continued qualitative military edge essential to Israel’s security in a dangerous neighborhood.

I saw him withdraw the United States from the Durban II conference when it became clear the conference’s purpose would be to slander Israel. Through sanctions and other means, he has worked tirelessly to rally the world against Iran and deter its nuclear program, the single greatest threat to Israel. He stood up to the skewed Goldstone report and other efforts to undercut Israel at the United Nations. And he has spent time, effort and political currency to breathe life into a peace process that holds out the best hope for Israel’s long-term security.

No American president can or should attempt to dictate to our staunch ally Israel the terms of peace. Only Israel can determine that, a principle that the president also reaffirmed.

Israel needs a partner in the peace process. To be certain, if during the two years I served in the Obama White House the Palestinians had spent as much time working for peace as they did avoiding the table, the process would be much farther along.

As an American and a Jew, however, I am grateful that this president has not given up trying to find a path that would bring the parties back to the negotiating table. I applaud his continued effort to work on and invest himself in this increasingly vexing and dangerous conflict. All who care about a safe and secure Jewish state of Israel should as well.

The writer is mayor of Chicago and former chief of staff to President Obama.

Categories: Government

Wi-Fi Connection Laws

June 2, 2011 1 comment

What is “Wi-Fi”?

The term “Wi-Fi” generally refers to a router device that allows other devices to connect to the Internet through wireless network technology.  Some examples of devices that may be wi-fi enabled include personal computers, laptops, smartphones, video game console, and digital audio players such as an iPod.

Wi-fi networks have become commonplace in homes, workplaces, and businesses.  A public space where wi-fi access is made available to persons is known as a “hotspot”.

The main concern with wi-fi networks is that persons who use the network can access the computer files of other users on the same network.  This may lead to other computer issues such as hacking.  Also, any person can use a wi-fi network that is not secured with a password, even if they are not authorized by the owner, though this is considered illegal in most jurisidictions.

Is it Legal to “Piggyback” or use a Neighbor’s Unsecured Wi-Fi Connection?

Using another person’s unsecured wi-fi connection without their consent is known as “piggybacking” or “mooching”.  If a person’s wi-fi internet connection is not secured by a password, any person can usually connect to the account, even without the owner’s permission.  Piggybacking commonly occurs when a person uses their neighbor’s wi-fi without their permission, or when a person sitting in a car near a home accesses the resident’s wi-fi.

Piggybacking is illegal according to the laws of several states, and also according to federal laws such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.  For example, piggybacking is considered to be a Class A misdemeanor in the state of New York.

Many argue that the laws governing piggybacking are unclear, especially with regards to terms such as “access” and “authorization”.  However, there have already been many cases where a person was arrested on criminal charges for the unauthorized use of an unsecured wi-fi connection.  In the state of Florida, a defendant even faced felony charges for piggybacking.

Therefore, it is highly advisable not to use a wi-fi connection if you do not have the owner’s permission to use it.  While the laws still need some clarification, you could definitely face criminal consequences such as a fine or even jail time for piggybacking.  You should always obtain the owner’s consent before using any wi-fi connection.

Is it Legal for me to Share my Wi-fi with my Neighbor?

It might not be legal to share your wi-fi connection with a neighbor.  This depends on the wording that is found in your individual service contract with your internet provider.  Most wi-fi companies prohibit the shared usage of wi-fi for unsubscribed and non-paying users.  If this is the case, you could be in violation of contract laws if you share your wi-fi with a neighbor who is not authorized to use the services.

Wi-fi internet companies have acknowledged that they can recognize “inordinately high usage” of a single account, which usually happens due to illicit sharing.  Thus, your wi-fi provider will be able to monitor your account and can tell if you are in violation of policies.

On the other hand, some wi-fi contracts actually encourage the shared usage of the wi-fi connection.  It all depends on what type of contract you have with your wi-fi company.

Is it legal for me to use a public wi-fi hotspot without their permission?

Generally, no.  Public wi-fi hotspots allow a person to connect to a wi-fi network free of charge.  Hotspots are typically found at social locations such as a coffee shop or a restaurant.  Many businesses create a wi-fi hotspot, but they often restrict their network to certain terms of usage, including:

  • Restricting the time of day or the locations where the public internet may be accessed.
  • Limiting the amount of network bandwidth that may be used by an individual person.
  • Prohibiting inappropriate online activity, such as viewing or downloading illicit content.
  • Requiring the user to remain within a designated area within the business premises (i.e., you cannot sit in your car in the parking lot and use the wi-fi, even if the signal reaches you).
  • Some businesses require a person to patronize their business first before they can log on to the wi-fi network.

Again, it is important to obtain the wi-fi owner’s consent before using their connection.
Violations of wi-fi laws can lead to possible criminal consequences.

Do I need a Lawyer for Violations of Wi-Fi Laws?

Wireless Wi-Fi internet networks are a relatively new kind of technology.  Thus, the laws governing wi-fi usage are still being developed.  Furthermore, these laws may often be subject to change as the wi-fi technology advances.  You may wish to hire a lawyer if you have any questions regarding a violation of wi-fi laws.  Your attorney can explain the laws of your local jurisdiction to you.  Wi-fi, internet, and cyber crimes can often carry severe legal penalties with them.  A competent lawyer can help you defend your case in court.