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When the U.S. State Department offered and then reversed its offer for skilled foreign workers to apply for green cards earlier this month, the effect reverberated throughout immigration law practices across the country. The government’s surprise move has also spawned a class action lawsuit that is expected to be filed this week, in which at least one Pennsylvania law firm will have a connection. Ron Klasko, managing partner of immigration boutique Klasko Rulon Stock & Seltzer, said his firm would not be directly involved in the lawsuit, but would have an informal consulting role with the organization that is expected to file the suit, the American Immigration Law Foundation. Klasko Rulon, like other immigration practices throughout the state, has felt a direct impact since the U.S. Department of State rescinded its bulletin on July 2 that had alerted certain skilled workers that they could file for long-awaited green cards during the month of July. According to immigration attorneys, the State Department issued a bulletin on June 13 that gave the go-ahead for nearly all skilled foreign workers, many of them high-tech, previously deemed eligible for an employer-sponsored visa to now apply for green cards – an opening many had waited years for. The attorneys said their offices then scrambled to start filing on July 2 – the first day applications would be accepted – working nights and weekends only to be warned on June 29 that the State Department might change the bulletin. The department indeed reversed the bulletin on July 2, saying it had enough applications and that all of the about 140,000 employment-based green cards had been issued for the year. The move sparked outrage among the applicants, their attorneys and immigration rights groups last week, one of the results of which is the anticipated AILF class action. (A lawsuit has already been filed in Chicago, according to one attorney.) Immigrant workers and their employers had canceled vacations, gotten medical exams, and flown children back to the United States, among other things, to properly file their applications, the attorneys said. State department officials have said the department already had sufficient applications to fill the remaining green cards. Richard D. Steel of immigration boutique Steel Rudnick & Ruben described the government’s action as “disgraceful and cruel.” And both Klasko and Steel said separately that in their 30-plus years of immigration practice they had never seen anything like it. “We plan our immigration strategy based on visa bulletins, and we’ve always had the right and ability to rely on them,” Klasko said, adding later, “Now we’re in a situation where we were paid to do something and we did it but our clients are not getting anything out of it.” When asked for an analogy, Klasko likened the situation to the government declaring April 15 the deadline for tax filers, but then penalizing the April 15 filers by saying the deadline was retroactively changed to a month prior. Steel said he anticipated having clients involved in the AILF lawsuit, though he noted that if a class was indeed certified, it wouldn’t matter if the applicants formally joined the action. Craig Shagin, of immigration firm The Shagin Law Group in Harrisburg, said his firm would be interested in being involved in the class action. Shagin said the result of the government’s action was that frustrated companies were considering other options for housing their high-tech foreign workers. He said some of his business clients were talking about opening up in Canada because it was considered an easier country to work with on immigration. Klasko noted that the story is still unfolding and said he was expecting a Congressional inquiry. U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., last week sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff letters asking them to reconsider the July bulletin update, according to a press release issued by her office. For now, immigration practitioners said they would continue to advise their clients as how to proceed or join the anticipated class action.

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