Category Archives: Advanced Legal Research

ALR Student’s Corner: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – An Overview of the Agency

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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States.  As a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, the USCIS was created to strengthen the security and integrity of the immigration system.  Its chief purpose is to administer the process of obtaining citizenship and/or naturalization.  Furthermore, this agency also attempts to assist and educate people on how to initiate the immigration process for themselves.

The USCIS’s official website, found at http://www.uscis.gov/, is designed for the following users:

  • Individuals who want to come to the United States,
  • Permanent residents who want to become U.S. Citizens,
  • S. Citizens who want to petition for a family member,
  • Employers who want to verify the immigration status of employees,
  • Attorneys who want to obtain forms, and
  • Individuals who want to learn about Immigration and Nationality laws.

The USCIS’s website is user-friendly, and it provides access to immigration laws, forms, and handbooks and manuals, and a means for users to set up appointments and check the status of their cases.  The following is a list of some of the content that the agency makes available to the public:

Everyone benefits from the information on http://www.uscis.gov/. The government wins because the electronic access to the information decreases its workload. The people win because, provided they have access to the Internet, they can fulfill many of the citizenship and naturalization requirements online, rather than wait in line and/or pay the expense to travel to the United States. Even lawyers can use this website to help their clients with immigration matters.

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How to search and locate information on the website:

The simplicity of uscis.gov allows even a computer-novice to quickly navigate through the website.   Below, I will demonstrate how to access the application for naturalization and how to make an appointment.

  1. Accessing the Application for Naturalization:
    • Step 1:  Access the Website:
    • Step 2:  Click on the tab that says “Forms”
    • Step 3:  Click on “Apply for Citizenship (Form N-400)” (left column)
    • Step 4:  Click on “Form N-400 (1.48 MB PDF)” (middle of the screen)
    • Step 5:  Follow the Instructions on http://www.uscis.gov/n-400
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  1. Making an Appointment:
    • Step 1:  Access the website
    • Step 2:  Click on the Calendar icon, entitled “Make an Appointment” (middle of the page)
    • Step 3:  Click on the link “Click here for English” or the language that you prefer (left side of page)
    • Step 4:  Click on the link “Make your appointment with INFOPASS”
    • Step 5:  Enter your Zip code or Country and click Continue
    • Step 6:  Select an Office and click on Continue
    • Step 7:  Select the kind of service you need and click Continue
    • Step 8:  Click Continue after you read the alternative options available
    • Step 9:  Enter your information and click Continue.

For more information please visit http://www.uscis.gov.

~ Luis Jimenez, L’15 ~

Class Advisor – Cory M. Lenz, Esq.

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ALR Student’s Corner: The United States Department of Health and Human Services: A User-Friendly Government Page for Everyone

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), found at www.hhs.gov, is a government agency that provides human services to protect the health of all Americans and enable them to help themselves.  Though the information and resources on the site can be helpful to specific groups of citizens, including the elderly, minors, and those with disabilities, it tries to reach a broader audience, such as those who have a general interest in the healthcare issues of children and families and other sub-issues, like human rights related to health care, and who work in the healthcare field.  The site is easily located through free search engines, such as Google, with the search terms “Human Services” or “Medicare.”

The HHS site offers information about healthcare policies and laws like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and provides links to its governing rules and those of its “sister” agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For example, the site offers a link to information about how a person can get the health insurance that is now required under the ACA.  By clicking “Learn More” and then selecting the appropriate state, the patron can proceed with the following three options: 1) find out if she qualifies for a special enrollment period to obtain coverage in the Marketplace, 2) find out if she is eligible for government healthcare through programs such as Medicaid and CHIP, or 3) start an application if she qualifies for either of the first two options.

The site delivers educational information through free apps.  One such app, the SAMHSA app, provides meaningful support for children who fall victim to bullying, parents who need ideas for starting a conversation with their children about bullying, and educators who want tips for preventing bullying at various ages in the classroom.  Additionally, the site provides educational information through blogs, which post Monday through Friday and cover such topics as the ACA, prevention of skin cancer, abuse of the elderly, and Medicare information for same-sex couples.

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Performing a search on the HHS site is simple.  For instance, to locate information and resources about smoking and its healthcare implications, I typed the search term “smoking” in the search bar at the top of the page and clicked on the magnifying glass icon to run the search.  This took me to a page of hyperlinked resources about smoking.  The link entitled “Drugs, Alcohol, and Smoking,” found at www.girlshealth.gov, used pictures of teenage girls and bright backgrounds and graphics in stereotypically “girl” colors, such as pink, light blue, green, and peach, to target young girls with a message about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

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The page included hyperlinks to information about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol on a young girl, tips on how to stay smoke-free, and information on stopping for girls who are already using drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.  Another link from my search about smoking and its healthcare implications redirected me to a CDC webpage that included additional links to brochures and facts sheets about second-hand smoke, its health effects, and ways to protect children from them.

The HHS is a government agency responsible for educating the masses about health, human rights in health, and other corollary issues, such as bullying and abuse, which affect all ages.  The website for the HHS is user-friendly and provides easy access to a wide variety of resources that can be instrumental in providing the masses with the knowledge necessary to promote health, prevent disease, and maintain a better quality of life.

~ Simone Hutton, L’14 ~

Class Advisor – Cory M. Lenz, Esq.

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ALR Student’s Corner: FAA.gov: Where Aviation and Oversight Intersect

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FAA.gov is the Federal Aviation Administration’s official website, at http://www.faa.gov/. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees and regulates the entire civil aviation industry across the United States. Its mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. Though the information on FAA.gov is tailored toward those either interested or already involved in aviation, the site is accessible to everyone and, thus, its plethora of information is a great benefit to a broad range of users, from the newly curious to the aviation expert.

General aviation and private pilots can benefit tremendously from the information that faa.gov provides. Private pilots and those involved in general aviation often do not have the corporate structure and training that commercial airline companies provide. For this reason, general aviation pilots have the need to access readily available information that large commercial or corporate fleets have housed and managed for their pilots and aircraft managers. The information that can be accessed by general aviation pilots on faa.gov varies includes the following: weather checks; certification of aircraft; FAA approved repair stations; pilot training, licensing and certification; airworthiness directives; recent rule changes; and airport closures and delays. Without this site, the general aviation pilot, who often only flies and maintains his or her aircraft on a part-time basis, would be hard pressed to access the information that is needed in order to safely fly and properly maintain aircraft.

Faa.gov is constructed with ease-of-navigation in mind. For instance, a private pilot, who owns a single engine aircraft and who has not flown in a few years, but wants to have his aircraft checked out via the annual inspection process, must find an FAA-approved repair station to perform this task. Otherwise, the inspection and/or repair of an aircraft cannot be properly updated in the aircraft’s log book by an FAA-approved maintenance technician. Without proper log book updates, the aircraft will be found un-airworthy by a FAA inspector during a ramp inspection at any random airport. The aircraft annual inspection process and logbook update requirement is common knowledge to those involved in general aviation and is part of the requirements for a private pilot’s license.

The faa.gov website is invaluable to the single engine aircraft owner who needs to find a FAA-approved repair station to conduct the annual inspection that deems his aircraft air-worthy. Once inside http://www.faa.gov/, the aircraft owner will see a row of clear and easy-to-read tabs across the top of the page.  Hovering the computer’s cursor over the “Aircraft” tab reveals a drop-down, at the bottom of which is a listing for “Repair Stations.” Clicking on “Repair Stations” takes the user to the “Repair Stations” page. From there, the user can click on “Find a Repair Station” to conduct a “Repair Station” search. To tailor the search, the user can input his geographical information and aircraft rating type and class to find the appropriate Repair Station for the aircraft.

Faa.gov covers hundreds of other topics and uses for civil aviation. Every aircraft registered in the United States is listed on the faa.gov website under the N-number inquiry. This listing provides the aircraft type and owner. Any airworthiness directives are listed, so that aircraft managers and owners can see if FAA-required modifications or repairs are needed for their aircraft. Under the “Regulations & Policies” tab, any “NOTAMs” (Notices to Airmen) are listed in order to notify pilots if a certain area of airspace is blocked for special training maneuvers or other needed uses. The “NOTAMs” can also be found under the “TFR” (Temporary Flight Restrictions) tab, along with a map depicting the geographical area affected and an airport affected list, as well. Flight schools for aspiring pilots, airport status, and delays are listed here for interested passengers. Additionally, a useful A-Z Index, across the top of the site just above the general search box, provides an alphabetical listing of the entire site’s information.  Check-out faa.gov and learn more about the oversight and protections the government provides to ensure safe air travel.

~ Chad Gant, L’16 ~

Class Advisor – Cory M. Lenz, Esq.

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ALR Student’s Corner: Department of Defense Website

The Department of Defense, located within the Pentagon, provides military forces needed to deter war and protect the security of the country. Ash Carter is the current Secretary of Defense and, as such, is responsible for overseeing the Department of Defense and advising the President of the United States on defense policy.

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The website of the Department of Defense supports its mission by “providing official, timely, and accurate information about defense policies, organization, functions, and operations.”  Defense.gov is also the single, unifying starting point for finding military information online.

The homepage features a “top news” column that deals with current news and events and a “Features” column that discusses departmental affairs.  The most recent features, at the time of access, included links to the following stories: 1) “Face of Defense,” about National Guard soldiers earning their Pathfinder badges, 2) “Warrior Games,” about the annual athletic competition between our military men and women, 3) “In the Spotlight,” about staff achievements within the Department of Defense,  4) “Science and Technology,” about scientific and technological advancements of the Department, and 5) “Suicide Prevention,” about this grave issue, which affects military men and women at a disproportionately greater rate.

Located at the bottom of the homepage are links to each respective branch of the military:  Joint Chiefs, Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, and the Coast Guard. At the top of the homepage, the DOD SITES tab takes the user to the “Popular DoD Resources” page, which provides links to resources and information within the following categories:

  • Most Requested Links
  • Careers & DoD
  • Publication, Policies & Forms
  • Education Resources
  • General Information
  • Pay & Benefits
  • Military Families
  • Business & DoD

There is also a traditional search box for resource and information queries. Though the website of the Department of Defense is tailored towards its staff and employees, as well as the members of the armed services, it is easily navigable and has been designed so that the resources and information are easily accessible by everyone.

~ Matthew Garcia, L’16 ~

Class Advisor – Cory M. Lenz, Esq.

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ALR Student’s Corner: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Website

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is an independent agency created by Congress, in response to the thousands of bank failures that occurred in the 1920s and early 1930s, to maintain stability and public confidence in the nation’s financial system. To advance this goal, the FDIC insures deposits in banks and thrift institutions for amounts up to $250,000; examines and supervises financial institutions for safety, soundness, and consumer protection; and manages receiverships when banks fail.  Since the start of FDIC insurance on January 1, 1934, no depositor has lost a single cent of insured funds as a result of a failure.

The President appoints and the Senate confirms a five-person Board of Directors at the FDIC – no more than three directors can be from the same political party – to manage the supervision of more than 4,500 banks and savings banks for operational safety and soundness.  This is more than half of the institutions in the banking system. Generally, banks can be chartered by the states or by the federal government, but banks chartered by states also have the choice of whether to join the Federal Reserve System. The FDIC is the primary federal regulator of banks that are chartered by the states, but they do not join the Federal Reserve System. In addition, the FDIC is the back-up authority for the remaining insured banks and thrift institutions.

When a bank or thrift institution fails, the FDIC responds immediately to protect insured depositors, which typically involves the chartering authority – the state regulator or Office of the Comptroller of the Currency – closing the troubled institution. The FDIC has several options for resolving institution failures; most commonly, it sells deposits and loans of the failed institution to other institutions, hence, the process of bank mergers and acquisitions. Most of the time, the transition for customers is relatively easy, since those of the failed institution automatically become customers of the assuming institution.

Every consumer who has established a deposit account with any insured banking institution will benefit from being up-to-date on the information provided by this website. The FDIC provides resources to educate and protect consumers, revitalize communities, and promote compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act and fair lending laws.  The website has a page dedicated to Consumer News & Information, which are free publications to help consumers be better informed. The Consumer Assistance Online Form gives consumers the opportunity to submit comments and bank complaints.  There is also a traditional search box for research queries of the website’s resources and information.

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The website makes navigating easy by providing a section dedicated specifically to first-time users. To access the First-Time Users webpage, click the link “Help for First Time Users” located under the “Quick Links” tab on the homepage.  The quick links to the most popular materials on the FDIC’s website make navigation seamless because they are categorized by “types of users” and customized to meet the needs of a particular user. Additionally, the main navigation drop-down tab, located on the homepage, provides links to materials in the following categories: Deposit Insurance, Consumer Protection, Industry Analysis, Regulation & Examinations, Asset Sales, News & Events, and About FDIC.  Below is a short description of the scope and purpose of each category:

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  • Deposit Insurance consists of information on insured institutions, deposit insurance coverage of individual accounts, and the deposit insurance premium system.
  • Consumer Protection includes resources that are used to educate and protect consumers, revitalize communities, and promote compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act and fair lending laws.
  • Industry Analysis offers financial information on specific banks, as well as analysis of the banking industry and economic trends.
  • Regulations & Examinations provides information on banking laws and regulations and applicable policies and procedures used by the FDIC in examining financial institutions.
  • Asset Sales involves information concerning loans, real estate, and other assets for sale by the FDIC in its role as receiver for failed institutions.
  • News & Events offers FDIC announcements and provides a schedule of FDIC-sponsored events.
  • About FDIC provides explanations of what the FDIC is and what it does, as well as the corporation’s plan and reports, current job openings, and business opportunities with the FDIC.

~ Courtney Clark, L’15 ~

Class Advisor – Cory M. Lenz, Esq.

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