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Monthly Archives: August 2016

How the EB-5 Investor Program is Fraught with Perils

By Peek & Toland on August 31, 2016

The EB-5 investor program remains troubled and controversial. In February, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss the problems and whether they could be fixed.

Put simply, too many potential overseas investors write six-figure checks only to lose their money and end up not even qualifying for green cards.

EB-5  visa program is fraught with perils

What Is the EB-5 Investor Program?

We explain the workings of the EB-5 Investor Program here on our website. The program allows job creators from overseas to visit the United States with the aim of investing in new, local businesses.

There are certain stipulations. To qualify for an EB-5 visa, your company must preserve at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers within two years.

Capital investors can also qualify. To meet this requirement you must invest more than $1 million of your own money. Capital investors can avoid the $1 million investment requirement if they invest at least $500,000 in a high-unemployment area or a specified rural area.

It sounds like a win-win, but the EB-5 program has made the wrong kinds of headlines over the last few years. The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has launched a series of investigations.

In December 2015, it announced widespread enforcement actions against lawyers across the United States who are charged with offering investments while not registered to act as brokers.

We are also seeing investors miss out on the opportunity to pump money into the U.S. economy, as well as losing their funds and the chance to work in the country. Indeed the Center for Immigration Studies reported that South Dakota lost $120 million in EB-5 funds.

There were numerous problems including high fees associated with the program. A massive beef slaughterhouse project funded by EB-5 money was one casualty. It went bankrupt denying scores of overseas investors from Asia of their money and their green cards

The system fails with an alarming regularity and overseas investors are often the victims. They fall foul of unscrupulous developers, promoters, officials and even white collar criminals. There is a need for more security and more protection for investors.

The program is so beset with pitfalls that The Seattle Times urged it to be scrapped in a June editorial.

It noted how American Life was recently fined $1.2 million for using unlicensed advisers to assist possible immigrants. Another EB-5 coordinator is facing a criminal investigation after claims that he defrauded Chinese investors.

The numerous pitfalls also call into the question the judgment of the legislators who appear to have failed to see how foreign investors, many of whom lack basic English skills, would have been taken advantage of.

Arguably, Congress should have realized that bureaucrats and securities law enforcers would not have been adequately equipped to promptly expose the abuses in the system.

If you are an overseas investor seeking to take advantage of the EB-5 program, it makes sense to hire experienced Austin immigration attorneys to ensure you don’t fall foul of the many potential pitfalls. You can contact us here for a consultation.

Posted in Visas

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Texas Company Managers Are Convicted of Unlawfully Hiring Undocumented Workers

By Peek & Toland on August 30, 2016

Two Salvadorian nationals in Texas have been convicted of unlawfully hiring undocumented workers for jobs at a waste disposal company.

The pair were convicted earlier this year of conspiring to employ undocumented workers and encouraging them to live in the United States.

A federal jury in Houston convicted Israel Arquimides Martinez, 44 and Rudy Alexander Martinez, 36, of a conspiracy to employ 10 or more undocumented workers over a year. At the conclusion of a two-week trial, both men were also convicted of inducing and encouraging the undocumented workers to reside in the United States as well as conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.

Two company managers were unlawfully hiring undocumented workers

The U.S. Department of Justice stated in a press release that the defendants worked in Houston for a waste disposal company. Rudy Martinez was a company’s commercial route manager, while Israel Martinez worked as the residential operations lead driver. A federal investigation found that from the end of July 30, 2008, until April 2012, the two men conspired to hire and continued to employ undocumented immigrants who they knew could not legally work in the U.S.

Our Austin-based criminal defense attorneys represent many clients who are charged with federal offenses such as immigration fraud and hiring undocumented workers. These offenses carry stiff penalties.

The Department of Justice recently increased fines for companies found to be hiring undocumented workers. However, the penalties are harsher when a firm is accused of employing 10 or more undocumented immigrants at one time.

Federal law says employers must only hire only U.S. citizens and aliens who are authorized to work in the United States. Prosecutors said Israel and Rudy Martinez hired manual laborers and paid little regard to the legality of their work status.  Even after internal audits were carried out, the DoJ alleged they failed to take corrective measures to make sure the employer was hiring workers who were authorized to work in the United States. Even after they received information from the immigrants themselves that they were undocumented, they continued to employ them, the DoJ stated.

Rudy and Israel Martinez encouraged the undocumented workers to obtain false documentation and assigned false identities to them. In some cases, they also provided them with employment documents related to the false identity the workers assumed so they could remain employed as helpers at the waste disposal company’s Houston location.

The men face up to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine conspiracy to encourage and induce the migrants to live in the United States. They could face a further $250,000 fine and five years in prison for unlawfully employing workers who lacked documentation. Their conviction for aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory sentence of two years to be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed.

This case highlights the dire consequences you can face for hiring undocumented workers. These cases are not always cut and dry, and there may be mitigating circumstances. If you are facing immigration offenses it’s important to hire a Texas family immigration and criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration, Uncategorized

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New ‘Hotel-Like’ Immigration Center is Proposed in Texas

By Peek & Toland on August 29, 2016

Detention centers for immigrants certainly have a bad rap in Texas, but one company is seeking to improve conditions by proposing a ‘Hotel-like” immigration center.

Federal immigration officials are pressing ahead with plans for the 500-bed family detention center which would house migrant women and children, the Guardian reports.

Opponents are unimpressed with the plan, pointing out a detention center is still a detention center, even if it’s more upscale.

Family immigration center idea is controversial

The Department of Homeland Security is moving ahead and requesting proposals for the facility close to the Mexican border.

The immigration center would be in Dimmit County, just under 50 miles from Mexico. Officials said in June they would consider a bid from a firm that is proposing the new center in a 27-acre former work camp for oil workers. It claims the conditions would be far better than two other family detention centers in Texas.

The family detention centers have proved to be controversial.

What Are Family Immigration Centers?

Texas currently has two family detention centers in Dilley and Karnes City. They have the capacity to hold more than 2,000 women and children who are awaiting immigration rulings.

Earlier this year, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Council submitted a rule to create a child care licensing category at the two family detention centers.

In May, a judge heard a legal challenge and refused to license the facilities as child care centers.

The Austin-based group Grassroots Leadership successfully won a temporary injunction that has stalled the award of a child care facility license to the immigration center in Dilley. The Karnes City center received a temporary license in April.

Our Texas family immigration attorneys remain concerned about the conditions at these facilities and their suitability to house women and children, notwithstanding the comparisons of the proposed new immigration center with a hotel.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission has highlighted complaints about inadequate medical care, low quality food and allegations of sexual abuse brought by detainees.

Stratton Oilfield Systems claimed its facility would offer a “community-based alternative,” that would allow children to attend schools and access social services in a home-like setting.

Cristina Parker, Immigration Programs Director for Grassroots Leadership, the organization that fought the childcare designations, said she objects to the idea of a detention center for families who have fled violence in their home countries, irrespective of conditions. She said any facility in which families are not free to leave is a prison.

The Obama administration’s ongoing use of family detention centers which house women and children has become one of the most controversial planks of its immigration policy.

If you or a loved one is being housed in a detention center or is facing deportation, it’s important to hire experienced Texas family immigration lawyers. Call us today for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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$900 Million Health Care Fraud Investigation Focuses on Texas and Florida

By Peek & Toland on August 26, 2016

Investigating health care fraud has been a priority of the Obama administration in recent years, and the busts appear to be getting bigger. Federal prosecutors say they have uncovered the largest healthcare fraud to date and it’s centered on Texas and Florida.

Last month, the Justice Department announced charges against hundreds of people across the United States who are accused of being part of a $900 million Medicare fraud.

A massive health care fraud was investigated in Texas

CNN described the bust as “the largest takedown in history,” in terms of the amount that the Department of Justice said was involved and the number of participants.

Investigators allege most of the cases in question entail separate fraudulent billings to Medicaid, Medicare or both systems for treatments that were not provided.

Over recent years health care fraud has become a leading white collar crime in Texas. We have seen the arrests of a considerable number of medical professionals.

The CNN report said a doctor in Texas was charged with involvement in schemes to bill Medicare for home health services that were not necessary and were not provided.

The Department of Justice said the fraud in Texas amounted to $193 million making it the biggest player in the alleged scheme after Florida where the feds claim the fraud ran to $237 million. Dallas and San Antonio were listed as hot spots in Texas.

The investigation was carried out by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force which forms part of a joint initiative between the Departments of Health and Human Service and Justice. It was set up in 2007.

CNN reported the strike force has carried out operations which have led to more than 1,000 people being charged with more than $3.5 billion in health care fraud.

Federal investigators have shown considerable zeal in pursuing health care fraud operations. When there is pressure to get results, medical professionals risk being erroneously being drawn into investigations and losing their reputations and livelihoods.

At Peek & Toland , we represent people who have been charged with white collar crimes. Although these are not offenses of violence, they carry harsh sentences and it’s vital to get experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Contact our Austin defense attorneys here or call (512) 474-4445.

 

Posted in Criminal Defense

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Fines Are Increased For Employers Who Hire Undocumented Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on August 25, 2016

Employers who unlawfully give jobs to undocumented immigrants will face increased fines under a new rule published by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The DoJ published a rule on June 30 that entails stiffer penalties for companies and individuals who unlawfully employ immigrants, as well as unfair employment practices linked to immigration. New fines for “so-called paperwork violations” for I-9 forms become effective on August 1.

Fines are increasing for unlawfully employing immigrants

Under the interim final rule as published in the Federal Register, the lowest penalty the DOJ can impose for the unlawful employment of immigrants would increase from $375 to $539. The maximum fine has increased from $3,200 to $4,313.

The DOJ rule will mean the maximum fine for “paperwork violations” related to I-9 forms will increase from a maximum of $1,100 to $2,156. The minimum penalty for each of these violations increases from $110 to $216.
If an employer receives three or more orders for violating the rules about unlawfully employing immigrants he or she faces a new maximum penalty of $21,563.

There are also increased fines for unfair immigration-related practices. Under the new rules, a first order related to discrimination against immigrants will increase from a maximum of $3,200 per person discriminated against to $3,563. The minimum penalty will go up from $375 to $445.

Fox News reported that the increased penalties have been welcomed by many small businesses which frequently lose business to bigger corporations that they claim hire illegal immigrants to work in fields such as laborers or as farmers.

Companies that hire undocumented immigrants can face stiff penalties. Earlier this year, the owners of a tortilla factory in Houston were arrested and hit with federal charges of hiring illegal immigrants to work in their facility.

Federal agents arrested the husband and wife owners of La Espiga de Oro tortilla factory, alleging that they “knowingly and repeatedly” hired immigrants who did not have the documentation to legally work in the United States.

The new hikes in fines do not include “harboring” of illegal immigrants or the employment of 10 or more undocumented immigrants at one time, offenses that can lead to sentences of up to 10 years in jail.

Before the mid-1980s, employers who hired undocumented workers faced few sanctions. Since 1986, employers have been under a duty to verify the immigrant status of all workers.

Who is Entitled to Work in the United States?

If you are considering new hires, it’s important to make sure they fit into one of these four classes of legal workers:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Noncitizen nationals
  • Green card holders, and
  • Aliens who are authorized to work.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services outlines exactly what documents you need to establish authorization to work in the United States on Form I-9.

Our Austin, Texas lawyers specialize in immigration cases, and can help you if you are experiencing difficulties about hiring or if you have been accused of hiring undocumented immigrants. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

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Nigerian Man Awaiting Deportation Sues Johnson County Jail

By Peek & Toland on August 24, 2016

A Nigerian national who was held in a Texas jail before being deported to his home country has filed a lawsuit against the facility operators, claiming authorities withheld treatment for his injuries.

The Dallas Morning News highlighted the disturbing case of the man from Justin who claimed he suffered bleeding ulcers and other medical problems when he was held in the Johnson County Jail.

Nigerian man sues Texas jail over treatment

As attorneys who help many immigrants fight against deportation in Texas, we were alarmed to read about the conditions Stephen Nwaogwugwu claimed he suffered at the jail.

The 56-year-old sued the operator of the Johnson County Jail. He was on probation for an obstruction of a roadway offense when he fell into the hands of the immigration authorities in January. He was deported to Nigeria.

The lawsuit stated Nwaogwugwu was suffering from no medical issues when he was incarcerated, but he subsequently developed ulcers and a condition called a rectal prolapse while he was being held in an immigration detention center at the Johnson County Jail. The center is run by a private company called LaSalle Southwest Corrections.

In the lawsuit that seeks $100,000 in damages, the Nigerian accused the jail of withholding medication and delaying treatment for his injuries. He said his condition deteriorated before he was deported to Nigeria in February where his condition was treated.

The Dallas Morning News report said Nwaogwugwu is married to a U.S. citizen.

Our Texas immigration attorneys regularly help permanent residents who face deportation being charged with a crime. See more details here.

Conditions at privately-run prisons have come under intense scrutiny over the last few months. Recently, a Mother Jones reporter went undercover at a privately-run jail in Louisiana.

If you are facing deportation, either as an undocumented migrant or a permanent resident, it’s important to get experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Our Austin-based immigration and criminal defense lawyers can help. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Jail Release

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Survey Finds Obama’s Immigration Actions Are Popular with Americans

By Peek & Toland on August 23, 2016

There has been much speculation about how popular President Obama’s immigration policy is with the general population. When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its verdict on the President’s flagship immigration actions, it was a disappointing blow to the administration.

But while the justices were split over the decision that could affect more than 4 million undocumented immigrants, there is evidence of support for the deferred action measures outlined by the president.

Obama's immigration policies are generally popular

The 4-4 ruling in June came seven months before the President’s term in office ends. It means immigration reform is practically dead in the water until a new president is elected and appoints a ninth Supreme Court judge.

The Supreme Court considered the case of United States. v. Texas, a lawsuit brought by 26 states against the contentious executive actions allowing certain undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S.

The two deferred actions in question were Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). They would give deferred action status to some undocumented parents who lived in the US since 2010 who have children and some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children. DACA was set up in 2012 but its expansion was discussed by the courts. The expansion would make an additional 270,000 people eligible for DACA.

You can read more about the programs here on our website.

Notwithstanding the opposition of states, the programs appear to be less contentious and popular with the general public.

Take the PRRI/RNS survey from a year ago that found 73 percent of Americans support DAPA. Although much has been made of the opposition of Republican-led states, 65 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats were supportive of DAPA.

Research Found the DREAM Act was Popular

Research also found that 66 percent of Americans backed the DREAM Act, a policy that would allow undocumented immigrants who arrived in America as children to obtain legal status by joining the military or attending a college. The DREAM Act has stalled in Congress.

Last year, a CNN poll also suggested the President’s flagship policy was popular. It found just a quarter of Americans thought Obama’s immigration policies went too far, while half of those who responded agreed with it. Another 22 percent said deferred action did not go far enough in reforming the immigration system.

However, the survey found a majority of the respondents – 56 percent – thought the President had gone too far in using executive action to override opposition.

We are concerned that the alternative to deferred action is families being broken apart by deportation. The fact that deferred action not been implemented has left the lives of millions of immigrants in limbo at a time when they could be making a valuable contribution to the economy of Texas.

If you or a loved one is facing possible deportation, we can help you. Call our experienced Texas cancellation of removal lawyers for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

 

Posted in Deferred Action, Immigration

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H-1B Visas Hike Has Not Hit Level of Requests

By Peek & Toland on August 22, 2016

India is one of the leading pools of overseas labor for U.S. companies that seek to bring skilled workers here on H-1B visas.

However, the Indian IT industry recently raised concerns about a recent hike in the H-1B visa fee.

An increase in the fees for certain for certain H-1B and L-1 petitioners was enacted in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 signed into law by President Obama last December. These petitioners have to submit an extra fee of $4,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $4,500 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions that were submitted post-December 18, 2015.

These additional fees apply to U.S. petitioners with 50 or more employees if more than 50 percent of those workers hold H-1B or L nonimmigrant status. Further details are provided here by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Economic Times, an Indian publication, noted the hike had raised fears in the Indian IT sector that fewer U.S. employers would want to hire skilled Indian workers.

Joseph M Pomper, Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs at the US Embassy, recently said this doubling of the fee had not dampened interest in the visas.

Hike in H1-B Visa Cost Has Not Deterred applicants

India has a massive outsourcing industry. The hike in visas is expected to tax it to the tune of about $400 million.

As well as the increase in the cost of H-1B visas, the fee for certain L1 visas, which are used for intra-company transfers, was raised to $4,500.

The scramble for visas this year suggested the hike has had little effect. Pomper said about 70 percent of all H-1B visas and 30 percent of L1 visas go to Indian companies. He said in the interview.

“The fact that more Indians happen to use that visa category is why they feel it more. It has not impacted H-1B or L1 applications at all.”

We note on our website that demand for these specialty occupation visas is growing all the time and demand outstrips supply. The statutory cap for the financial year 2017 was reached in just under a week in April.

We set out what you will need to do if you are applying for an H-1B visa here in this blog.

At Peek & Toland , we are familiar with the high competition for these skilled worker visas and all of the detailed requirements that you will need to complete. We can help you or your company to avoid the pitfalls. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 for a consultation.

Posted in Visas

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How to Obtain Citizenship Through Military Service

By Peek & Toland on August 19, 2016

If you are serving in the U.S. military special rules apply that can expedite your path to citizenship.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorizes U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to speed up the naturalization process for current members of the U.S. armed forces as well as those who were recently discharged.

How military service can expedite citizenship

On our website, we note that service personnel or those recently discharged who qualify for citizenship due to military services are exempt from certain naturalization requirements. They are detailed in Sections 328 and 329 of the INA. Even if you are serving overseas with the U.S. armed forces, you have access to all aspects of the naturalization process. Certain “command-sponsored” spouses have the same rights.

It’s worth noting that those who leave the service under conditions that are other than honorable after obtaining U.S. citizenship could have it revoked.

 

Which Military Services Benefit from Expedited Citizenship?

Qualifying military service generally includes:

1 – Army

2 – Navy

3 – Marine Corps

4 – Coast Guard

5 – National Guard

Qualifications

A member of the U.S. armed forces must meet certain requirements and qualifications to become a citizen of the United States. He or she must demonstrate:

  • Knowledge of the English language,
  • Good moral character,
  • Knowledge of history and U.S. government, and
  • Attachment to the United States of America by taking the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.

USCIS states that since the beginning of October 1, 2001, it has naturalized 109,321 members of the military. Of those 11,069 became U.S. citizens during naturalization ceremonies in 34 different foreign countries.

There are special provisions for those serving during war and peacetime.

Service during War

Under Section 329 of the INA, all noncitizens who have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces on or after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were to file immediately for citizenship. The order which was signed by President George W Bush in July 2002, also applies to veterans of specified previous conflicts.

Service During Peacetime

Members of the U.S. armed services who have been discharged are covered by Section 328 of the INA. Overseas nationals who served in the past may qualify for naturalization if they have:

  • Served honorably in the armed forces for a minimum of one year,
  • Obtained lawful permanent resident status in the U.S., and
  • Filed an application for citizenship while in the service or within six months of leaving.

America’s servicemen and women have shown great bravery in some of the harshest conditions as the United States has taken part in protracted conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. At Peek & Toland , we are happy to provide our nation’s service members with the all of the assistance they need to become citizens. Please contact us today so as we can help you and your family to take the next step.

Posted in Citizenship

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New Figures Point to Growth of Immigrant Population in the U.S.

By Peek & Toland on August 18, 2016

Immigrants make up a sizeable proportion of the population of the United States. New figures point to growth in the immigrant population to more than 42.2 million by 2014, comprising more than 13 percent of the overall population.

Statistics from the United States Census Bureau were contained in a recent report by the Migration Policy Institute. The most recent figures available about immigration found that from 2013 to 2014, the overseas-born population of the United States increased by 1 million or 2.5 percent.

New figures point to growth of immigrant population

When the US-born children of immigrants are factored into the equation, the growth number rises to 81 million people or 26 percent of the overall U.S. population.

The 1.3 million foreign-born individuals who arrived in the United States in 2014 was an increase from 1.2 million in 2013. Although immigration from Mexico and Central America is constantly in the headlines, India was the leading country of origin for new immigrants, with 147,500 arriving from the Asian country in 2014, followed by China with 131,800 arrivals, Mexico with 130,000, Canada with 41,200 immigrants, and the Philippines with 40,500.

The Census Bureau defines immigrants as people born outside the United States, who resided abroad one year earlier, including undocumented immigrants, lawful permanent residents, and temporary nonimmigrants.

How Many Immigrants Obtained Green Cards?

Census-derived data revealed 1,016,518 immigrants became lawful permanent residents in 2014. The number of new lawful permanent residents increased by 3 percent in 2014, although it remained lower than 2012 levels. Just over 40 percent were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. New arrivals made up about 47 percent (481,392) of those who received green cards in 2014. The others were status adjusters who were already living in the United States. Their green-card applications were approved in 2014.

There are a number of different routes to apply for a green card which our Texas permanent residency lawyers explain here.

A report released last year by the Pew Research Center said immigrants and their children will be the ones who are driving U.S. population growth over the next 50 years, transforming America into a country in which no ethnic group is in the majority.

Although Mexicans are often cited in the ongoing immigration debate, they will not make up the largest immigrant group in the future.

By the year 2055, there are projected to be more Asian immigrants living in the United States than Hispanic immigrants – 36 percent compared to 34 percent.

Our Austin immigration attorneys can cite many success stories about how we have helped people settle in the United States. Call us at (512) 474-4445 for assistance.

Posted in Immigration

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