March/April NINS-letter and news roundup

Greeting Friends of NINS!

We are going to start doing a monthly newsletter (NINS-letter if you will) which will include a profile and a  favorite recipe from a former “spice of the week”, as well as an immigration news roundup from the ever changing landscape which is compiled by our amazing lawyerboss extraordinaire Cassie! 

Spice of the week: Reem Assil

“If I was a spice, I would be Za’tar”- Reem Assil


Some Facts on Za’tar:

  • Za'atar as a prepared condiment is generally made with ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt, +/-sumac; it is commonly found throughout the middle east

  • Pliny the elder mentions the herb maron (as it was called then) as an ingredient of the royal perfume used by Parthian kings in the 1st century CE

  • According to the Pakistani Journal of Nutrition many people in the middle east believe that za’atar can be used to reduce and illuminate internal parasites

  • A traditional beverage in Oman is za’atar steeped in boiling water to make an herbal tea

  • Za’atar spice is not without controversy - read about the israeli-palestinian conflict through the lens of Za’tar in the @munchies 2015 article “za’atar is always served with politics” and in the article by Columbia University anthropology professor Brian Boyd “a political ecology of za’atar”

Reem (seen above) at the La Cocina women in Food event grew up in a Palestinian-Syrian household, was surrounded by the aromas and tastes of food from the homeland and the connections they evoked of her heritage, family, and community. 

Before dedicating herself to a culinary career, Reem worked for a decade as a community and labor organizer, and brings the warmth of community to all her events. 

She is a graduate of La Cocina, was a 2018 James Beard Semi-finalist for Best Chef West and was the SF chronicles 2017 Rising Star Chef. You can find her and her food in the bay area at Reems California and at her full service restaurant Dyafa.

See her full interview with NINS here:

Reems Recipe: Za’tar Man’oushe - click link to see the recipe


Immigration News Roundup

Cassandra Talley

H-1B Lottery Opens

Anyone involved in the H-1B visa process (yours truly) can attest to how complicated and frustrating the process can be. With an annual limit of just 85,000 visas the demand has, for the past several years, far outpaced the supply. The Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services is charged with administering the H-1B program and on April 1st they began accepting applications. In years past, if you submitted a qualified applicant with the correct supporting documentation, your application was typically approved outright. In what has been dubbed the “invisible wall” the Trump administration has begun issuing thousands of “Requests for Evidence” on these well-documented applications to presumably delay the process. This tactic seems to be working as this Fortune article details. Potential H-1B applicants are so apprehensive about the changing standards and the inconsistencies that we risk losing these highly skilled immigrants to Canada or other more immigration-friendly countries. And remember, these are folks with much-sought skills like doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, computer engineers, and teachers. These are the kind of skilled, ambitious immigrants we need in this country and these policies place undue burden on folks just trying to do the right thing. 

Courts Rule that Asylum Seekers Cannot Be Made to Wait in Mexico 

On April 8th an Federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to stop the Trump policy of making asylum seekers wait in Mexico. As usual, our president handled it admirably, tweeting, “A 9th Circuit Judge just ruled that Mexico is too dangerous for migrants. So unfair to the U.S. OUT OF CONTROL!” As a quick reminder, asylum is basically an application made by person who has suffered persecution or fear that they will be persecuted based upon their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. Keep in mind, our immigration laws clearly stipulate that an asylum seeker can enter the U.S. and claim asylum even if they are in the U.S. illegally. 

Outgoing Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had pledged to expand the program and, now that she’s out as Secretary and now the court has ruled, it’s unclear what the Trump Administration will do next. The fallout from the family separation policy has been so bad it’s pretty remarkable that our president is doubling down on his inhumane immigration policies.

Washington Post article 

Supreme Court Rules on Minor Immigration Provision with Major Impact

Only one word was at issue in this case but the way the Supreme Court has interpreted that one word has sent shockwaves through the immigration community. The phrase at issue? Let me enlighten you: it said federal authorities “shall take into custody any alien” convicted of certain crimes, some serious and some minor, “when the alien is released.” The key word is “when.” Immigration allies have contended that the word “when” means directly after the alien is released…but SCOTUS has disagreed. SCOTUS essentially ruled that federal immigration law states that immigrants facing deportation be detained if they had committed crimes, no matter how minor the crime and no matter how long ago the crime occurred. 

Let’s put this into a readily understandable situation: Let’s say you came to America fifty years ago as an infant and quickly became a lawful permanent resident. Let’s further say that you were convicted for possessing drugs a few times and for illegally owning a firearm as a prior felon. But, you turned your life around and, 11 years after finishing a six-month sentence for the gun conviction, you’ve had a family and some grandchildren and you’re living in the US as a productive green card holder. And, 11 years after serving your time and paying your debt to society, you answer a knock at your door and you’re taken into custody by immigration officials. You suddenly found yourself on the cusp of being deported to a country you haven’t seen since you were 16 months old. Moreover, you’re not even entitled to a bond hearing. 

This exact scenario is what happened to one of the litigants in this Supreme Court case. This man was living in the US as a green card holder (meaning he was in the US as a legal immigrant) and, long after this man served time for his crimes, he was subject to incarceration based upon the Supreme Court’s version of the word “when.” The consequences of this policy cannot be overstated, and I expect dozens of lawsuits in the future based upon this ruling. 

NYTIMES article 


  • H1B visas (“professional visas” that allow temporary status for highly skilled workers) are becoming more difficult to obtain due to the Trump administration requiring extra paperwork via requests for evidence.

  • Asylum is an application made by person who has suffered persecution or fear that they will be persecuted based upon their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.  A federal judge has ruled that asylum seekers cannot be made to wait in Mexico.

  • The supreme court  ruled that immigrants facing deportation be detained if they had committed crimes, no matter how minor the crime and no matter how long ago the crime occurred. 

vibha gupta