2013 January Archive

President Obama outlines his Immigration Reform Proposal

By Peek & Toland on January 29, 2013

Today, President Obama outlined his immigration proposal in Las Vegas, Nevada in an effort to address the eleven million undocumented immigrants now living in the U.S. The President’s proposal arrives just one day after a Bipartisan immigration reform proposal was announced by U.S. Senate leaders.

President Obama outlined three main goals for his proposal:

  • Enforcement. The president stressed the need for greater security and enforcement of the U.S. borders and the need for greater enforcement of the Employment Verification system, E-verify. The President stressed that there needs to be greater penalties for companies that hire undocumented immigrants, so that “every business and worker is playing by the same rules.”
  • Clear Pathway to Citizenship. The President also stressed the need for a clear pathway for citizenship for law-abiding immigrants. President Obama also stated that those who are eligible for a clear pathway to citizenship must go through a background check, must pay taxes and penalties, and must learn English.
  • Reform Immigration System as a Whole. The President’s final point was the need to bring the U.S. Immigration System into the 21st century. President Obama specifically pointed out that U.S. citizens should not have to wait years to bring their families over to the U.S. and that foreign students studying in the U.S. who receive American degrees should be eligible to stay in the U.S. to work and live.

President Obama also made clear that he would give the U.S. Congress time to address their concerns and form their own immigration reform bill. However, President Obama firmly stated that if Congress cannot come to an agreement on an immigration reform bill, he will write his own bill addressing his goals and send it to Congress for a vote.

UPDATE: Read the White House Fact Sheet on President Obama’s Immigration Reform Proposal here.

President Obama's Immigration Reform Proposal

Posted in: Immigration Reform

Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

By Peek & Toland on January 28, 2013

Today U.S. Senators from both parties gathered to propose comprehensive immigration reform. The proposal includes endorsements from prominent Republican and Democratic leaders and arrives just one day before the President’s expected proposal on the same topic. Below is the outlined proposal. We have also included a PDF version for printing, here.

Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Senators Schumer, McCain, Durbin, Graham, Menendez, Rubio, Bennet, and Flake

Introduction

We recognize that our immigration system is broken. And while border security has improved significantly over the last two Administrations, we still don’t have a functioning immigration system. This has created a situation where up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows. Our legislation acknowledges these realities by finally committing the resources needed to secure the border modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are currently here. We will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited.

Four Basic Legislative Pillars:

  • Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
  • Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
  • Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,
  • Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

1) Creating a Path to Citizenship for Unauthorized Immigrants Already Here that is Contingent Upon Securing the Border and Combating Visa Overstays

a) Our legislation will provide a tough, fair, and practical roadmap to address the status of unauthorized immigrants in the United States that is contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays.

b) To fulfill the basic governmental function of securing our borders, we will continue the increased efforts of the Border Patrol by providing them with the latest technology, infrastructure, and personnel needed to prevent, detect, and apprehend every unauthorized entrant.

c) Additionally, our legislation will increase the number of unmanned aerial vehicles and surveillance equipment, improve radio interoperability and increase the number of agents at and between ports of entry. The purpose is to substantially lower the number of successful illegal border crossings while continuing to facilitate commerce.

d) We will strengthen prohibitions against racial profiling and inappropriate use of force, enhance the training of border patrol agents, increase oversight, and create a mechanism to ensure a meaningful opportunity for border communities to share input, including critiques.

e) Our legislation will require the completion of an entry-exit system that tracks whether all persons entering the United States on temporary visas via airports and seaports have left the country as required by law.

f) We recognize that Americans living along the Southwest border are key to recognizing and understanding when the border is truly secure. Our legislation will create a commission comprised of governors, attorneys general, and community leaders living along the Southwest border to monitor the progress of securing our border and to make a recommendation regarding when the bill’s security measures outlined in the legislation are completed.

g) While these security measures are being put into place, we will simultaneously require those who came or remained in the United States without our permission to register with the government. This will include passing a background check and settling their debt to society by paying a fine and back taxes, in order to earn probationary legal status, which will allow them to live and work legally in the United States. Individuals with a serious criminal background or others who pose a threat to our national security will be ineligible for legal status and subject to deportation. Illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes face immediate deportation.

h) We will demonstrate our commitment to securing our borders and combating visa overstays by requiring our proposed enforcement measures be complete before any immigrant on probationary status can earn a green card

i) Current restrictions preventing non-immigrants from accessing federal public benefits will also apply to lawful probationary immigrants.

j) Once the enforcement measures have been completed, individuals with probationary legal status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency. Those individuals who successfully complete these requirements can eventually earn a green card.

k) Individuals who are present without lawful status – not including people within the two categories identified below – will only receive a green card after every individual who is already waiting in line for a green card, at the time this legislation is enacted, has received their green card. Our purpose is to ensure that no one who has violated America’s immigration laws will receive preferential treatment as they relate to those individuals who have complied with the law.

l) Our legislation also recognizes that the circumstances and the conduct of people without lawful status are not the same, and cannot be addressed identically.

  • For instance, individuals who entered the United States as minor children did not knowingly choose to violate any immigration laws. Consequently, under our proposal these individuals will not face the same requirements as other individuals in order to earn a path to citizenship.
  • Similarly, individuals who have been working without legal status in the United States agricultural industry have been performing very important and difficult work to maintain America’s food supply while earning subsistence wages. Due to the utmost importance in our nation maintaining the safety of its food supply, agricultural workers who commit to the long term stability of our nation’s agricultural industries will be treated differently than the rest of the undocumented population because of the role they play in ensuring that Americans have safe and secure agricultural products to sell and consume. These individuals will earn a path to citizenship through a different process under our new agricultural worker program.

2) Improving our Legal Immigration System and Attracting the World’s Best and Brightest

a) The development of a rational legal immigration system is essential to ensuring America’s future economic prosperity. Our failure to act is perpetuating a broken system which sadly discourages the world’s best and brightest citizens from coming to the United States and remaining in our country to contribute to our economy. This failure makes a legal path to entry in the United States insurmountably difficult for well-meaning immigrants. This unarguably discourages innovation and economic growth. It has also created substantial visa backlogs which force families to live apart, which incentivizes illegal immigration.

b) Our new immigration system must be more focused on recognizing the important characteristics which will help build the American economy and strengthen American families. Additionally, we must reduce backlogs in the family and employment visa categories so that future immigrants view our future legal immigration system as the exclusive means for entry into the United States.

c) The United States must do a better job of attracting and keeping the world’s best and brightest. As such, our immigration proposal will award a green card to immigrants who have received a PhD or Master’s degree in science, technology, engineering, or math from an American university. It makes no sense to educate the world’s future innovators and entrepreneurs only to ultimately force them to leave our country at the moment they are most able to contribute to our economy.

3) Strong Employment Verification

a) We recognize that undocumented immigrants come to the United States almost exclusively for jobs. As such, dramatically reducing future illegal immigration can only be achieved by developing a tough, fair, effective and mandatory employment verification system. An employment verification system must hold employers accountable for knowingly hiring undocumented workers and make it more difficult for unauthorized immigrants to falsify documents to obtain employment. Employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers must face stiff fines and criminal penalties for egregious offenses.

b) We believe the federal government must provide U.S. employers with a fast and reliable method to confirm whether new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States. This is essential to ensure the effective enforcement of immigration laws.

c) Our proposal will create an effective employment verification system which prevents identity theft and ends the hiring of future unauthorized workers. We believe requiring prospective workers to demonstrate both legal status and identity, through non-forgeable electronic means prior to obtaining employment, is essential to an employee verification system; and,

d) The employee verification system in our proposal will be crafted with procedural safeguards to protect American workers, prevent identity theft, and provide due process protections.

4) Admitting New Workers and Protecting Workers’ Rights

a) The overwhelming majority of the 327,000 illegal entrants apprehended by CBP in FY2011 were seeking employment in the United States. We recognize that to prevent future waves of illegal immigration a humane and effective system needs to be created for these immigrant workers to enter the country and find employment without seeking the aid of human traffickers or drug cartels.

b) Our proposal will provide businesses with the ability to hire lower-skilled workers in a timely manner when Americans are unavailable or unwilling to fill those jobs.

c) Our legislation would:

  • Allow employers to hire immigrants if it can be demonstrated that they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position and the hiring of an immigrant will not displace American workers;
  • Create a workable program to meet the needs of America’s agricultural industry, including dairy to find agricultural workers when American workers are not available to fill open positions;
  • Allow more lower-skilled immigrants to come here when our economy is creating jobs, and fewer when our economy is not creating jobs;
  • Protect workers by ensuring strong labor protections; and,
  • Permit workers who have succeeded in the workplace and contributed to their communities over many years to earn green cards.

Posted in: Immigration Reform

Senate Leaders Propose Immigration Reform

By Peek & Toland on January 28, 2013

Today U.S. Senators announced a new proposal on immigration reform set to affect nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants current in the U.S. The new proposal was a bipartisan effort endorsed by Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

The immigration reform proposal is aimed at accomplishing four main goals, including:

  • Creating a  path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here, contingent upon securing the border and better tracking of people in the U.S. on visas;
  • Reforming the legal immigration system, including awarding green cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees in science, math, technology or engineering from an American university;
  • Creating an effective employment verification system to ensure that employers do not hire undocumented immigrants;
  • Allowing more low-skill workers into the country and allowing employers to hire immigrants if they can demonstrate they couldn’t recruit a U.S. citizen; and establishing an agricultural worker program.

Republican supporters, including Senator Rubio, have called for the completion of steps on border security and oversight of those currently in the U.S. on visas before taking major steps forward on a process for a path to citizenship. The proposal path to citizenship would allow those undocumented immigrants in the U.S. the ability to qualify for a probationary legal status that would allow those immigrants to live and work in the U.S., but not qualify for federal benefits before they have qualified for permanent residency.

The Senate also envisions the new proposal to include a more streamlined process toward citizenship for immigration brought to the U.S. as children by their parents, and for agricultural workers.

The Senate proposal is the most significant effort in years toward revamping the U.S.’s inefficient patchwork of immigration laws.

In the November elections the Republicans were defeated by Democrats who were believed to have won in large part due to the Latino vote. Latino voters voted for President Obama, a democrat, 71 percent to 27 percent for Mitt Romney, a republican. Thus, some Republican leaders have concluded that supporting immigration reform with a path to citizenship is a political imperative.

 

Posted in: Immigration Reform

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Supreme Court to hear case on DUI Forced Blood Draws

By Peek & Toland on January 9, 2013

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments today on whether a police officer must obtain a warrant before forcing a DWI or DUI suspect to a blood draw. Under current law, the Supreme Court has found that police officers are usually required to obtain a warrant for intrusions into the body, like blood draws. However, the Supreme Court has also stated that there are certain exceptions to this rule, including exigent circumstances, or emergencies. The current case before the Supreme Court has questioned how broad the definition of exigent circumstance may be.

In the facts of the current case, Tyler McNeely was driving 56 mph in a 45 mph zone at 2:00 A.M. in Missouri. McNeely was pulled over and the arresting officer administered four field sobriety tests all of which McNeely failed. When requested to take a breathalyzer test, McNeely refused. The officer then took McNeely to the hospital for a blood draw, where he refused again. Although the officer had been able to obtain search warrants in the past without difficulty, the officer did not attempt to get a search warrant. The officer ordered the blood draw without a warrant. The blood draw results indicated that McNeely’s blood alcohol level was above the legal limit. McNeely was charged with driving while under the influence.

In court, the trial court threw out the blood test because it was obtained without a warrant. The Missouri Supreme Court agreed, citing that there were no events that indicated exigent circumstances to interfere with obtaining the warrant. The Missouri Supreme Court pointed out that there was no accident to investigate, no injury requiring medical attention, and a judge was on call to review a warrant application quickly. Thus, the Missouri Supreme Court determined under those circumstances there was no reason the officer should not have obtained a warrant from a suspect who refused a blood draw.

The State of Missouri appealed the Missouri Supreme Court holding arguing that alcohol dissipates in the bloodstream over time and that alone constitutes an emergency situation that justifies a forced blood draw. The State argues that the best evidence of the crime is the suspect’s blood and by delaying the process of the blood draw for the purpose of a search warrant, the Court is allowing the best evidence of the crime to dissipate and be destroyed.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union, who represents McNeely, argues that alcohol dissipates over a matter of hours and there was no emergency that would have interfered with obtaining a warrant quickly.

Today the Supreme Court will hear both arguments and weigh in on the definition of exigent circumstances.

Posted in: DWI

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BREAKING NEWS: New Waiver Process!

By Peek & Toland on January 4, 2013

Wonderful news for all those immediate relatives who qualify for a waiver but have avoided pursuing one due to the long waits outside of the U.S. and the uncertainty of being away from your family for a long time! USCIS is going to publish today the implementation of a process which will allow immigrants who are classified as immediate relatives – spouses of US Citizens, Parents of US Citizens who are 21 or over, and Children under 21 yrs of of US Citizens – these immediate relatives will be able to file the paperwork for the waiver (perdon en espanol / pardon in Spanish) for unlawful presence. Up until now, this waiver could only be filed for once outside the U.S., and the processing wait times at embassies and consulates often took well over 6 months, and sometimes over 1 year to decide. Even then, sometimes the waiver was denied and the person left outside the U.S. with no way of coming back in until they wait 10 years.

Now this waiver is only for unlawful presence. You absolutely must make sure you qualify for it. Some people who have multiple entries into the U.S. will not qualify, nor will people with prior deportations. Also, if you need a waiver for criminal convictions, those waivers are still going to require to be processed at the consulate. I absolutely encourage anyone who think they may qualify to talk with a experienced Immigration attorney. The waiver process is not easy, and is much more complicated than merely filling out a form. With so much at stake, and the high cost of filing, you don’t want to risk a denial and the chance at being with your family ! This is the opportunity many have been waiting for, for over 10 years. You have been patient, now is the time to be thorough, and sure that it is done right.

We look forward to meeting with any and all of you who qualify and hopefully we will soon be celebrating your permanent residency!

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/01/03/2012-31268/provisional-unlawful-presence-waivers-of-inadmissibility-for-certain-immediate-relatives

Posted in: Stateside Waiver

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