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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Supreme Court Decision on Deferred Actions will Impact Temporary Work Permits in Texas

By Peek & Toland on August 17, 2016

One potentially detrimental impact on the economy of Texas of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in United States v. Texas is the way it has denied the state of thousands of new workers who might otherwise qualify for work permits.

The U.S. Supreme Court split 4-4 on President Obama’s deferred action proposal that would have allowed more than 4 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States. The policy is now unlikely to progress during his presidency.

Deferred action would have meant work permits for Texas immigrants

Deferred action would have meant more work permits for Texas immigrants

In a recent article in SETexas Record written before the court handed down its decision, Cornell Law School professor Stephen Yale-Loehr, said several hundred thousand people in Texas would be able to apply for temporary work permits if deferred action was backed by the justices.

Instead of being able to play a valuable part in Texas’s economy, these undocumented immigrants will now remain, in the words of Jose P. Garza, executive director of the Workers Defense Project, “living in the shadows.”

He said they would remain in constant fear of being separated from their families at any time and possibly deported.

Texas along with 25 other states filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas at the end of 2014 to block Obama’s proposed expansion of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Why New Work Permits Could Benefit the Texas Economy

The addition of hundreds of thousands of workers to the economy could boost areas with labor shortages.

The acute labor shortage in the building market was noted last year by the Houston Chronicle. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, many building workers left during the recession and are yet to return.

Almost half of the construction companies in Texas said they were losing their hourly craft workers to other local construction firms and 21 percent were losing them to different industries.

Although employers are barred by federal law from hiring people who are illegally in the country, undocumented immigrants can work for themselves or as independent contractors.

A report by the Public Policy Institute of California suggested increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants are opting to work for themselves. In Arizona alone, more than 25,000 undocumented migrants became self-employed in 2009. Texas has one of the largest populations of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

You can read more about the deferred action programs here on our website.  Our Texas immigration attorneys would be happy to deal with your questions or concerns. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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Supreme Court to Review No Bail Policy for Immigrants Awaiting Deportation

By Peek & Toland on August 16, 2016

The Supreme Court is to decide whether immigrants who have been held in detention for at least six months awaiting deportation proceedings should be granted bail hearings.

The case of Jennings v Rodriguez will be held during the next term of the Supreme Court, which gets underway in October.

No bail policy for immigrants awaiting deportation to be reviewed by the Supreme Court

The justices will consider a federal appeals court decision that held immigrants in custody were entitled to a bond hearing after six months as well as every six months afterward.

The case of Jennings v. Rodriguez is also likely to consider when immigrants accused of having ties to terrorism should be released if the authorities are facing difficulties deporting them.

In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that immigrants who are facing deportation from the country should usually be held no more than six months in custody. However, the justices alluded to special circumstances, such as when immigrants pose a perceived threat to national security when some immigrants could be incarcerated for longer terms.

As experienced Texas bond lawyers, Peek & Toland , have years of background in jail release issues which we combine with our immigration practice. It’s important to know your rights about how long you can be held in detention if you are facing deportation.

Civil Liberties Union Accuses Justice Department over Bail Information

The American Civil Liberties Union has accused the Justice Department of understating the time immigrants are held to bolster its case before a previous case more than a decade ago.

The Supreme Court case of Demore v. Kim in 2003, upheld by 5-4 the controversial government practice of holding immigrants without bail, even U.S. residents who hold green cards who face deportation if they commit a crime.

The majority opinion relied on figures that showed the average detention was 47 days, while about 15 percent of immigrants who appealed their deportation orders had been detained for more than four months.

The ACLU disputed the figures that were provided by the Executive Office for Immigration Review. It argued the real number was 65 days after filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

The forthcoming case is important because a system that can hold immigrants for months on end without a bond hearing is a demoralizing one for immigrant families. Clear rules are needed to prevent abuse.

Please contact us today to find out more about our legal services and how we can help immigrants who are facing deportation to fight for bail hearings as well as cancellation of removal.

 

Posted in Immigration, Jail Release, Uncategorized

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Immigration Lawyers Express Concern over Changes to E-Verify program

By Peek & Toland on August 15, 2016

Many companies use the E-Verify program to make sure prospective employees are eligible to work in the United States.

However, recent changes proposed to the system including the expansion of E-Verify to allow the reverification of existing workers have concerned lawyers.

E-Verify is an online system administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that compares a wide range of information on an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, as well as information on Social Security Administration and U.S. Department of Homeland Security records to confirm employment eligibility.

It’s used by more than 600,000 employers. USCIS boasts about its speed and accuracy. E-Verify is a free and fast online service that can quickly pull millions of government records and produce results in as little as three to five seconds.

In June 2016, USCIS announced a consultation on E-Verify including some of the key changes:

  • An employee may be able to receive emails about his or her case from the system.
  • The employer’s name will be added to email notices from the system to employees.
  • A process for reverification of employee work authorization for employees who have expiring temporary work authorization will be implemented.

The reverification provision has proved to be controversial with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which cited “legal and practical concerns.”

In a letter on June 20, AILA told USCIS it was disappointed that the agency had disagreed with its previous concerns.

Changes to E-Verify are concerning some lawyers

The immigration lawyers warned the expansion of E-Verify to include reverification of existing employees was no “simple revision” and amounted to a change in the mission of a congressionally supervised pilot program. AILA said E-Verify was specifically set up for the electronic verification of newly-hired employees.  It stated:

“The proposed reverification of existing employees exceeds the scope of what Congress authorized and appropriated for the E-Verify program.”

The letter said USCIS had many opportunities to inform Congress of its intent to expand E-Verify over the last few years and to add the reverification feature, but it had failed to obtain authorization for the major revision. They called for the rejection of the change.

Recently, Bloomberg noted many employers are only just starting to use the system. The article quoted a Seattle business owner who found almost 10 percent of his workforce was undocumented when he used the tool.

The prospect of losing workers who are undocumented has led some businesses to support deferred action, President Obama’s flagship immigration reform that has stalled in the courts.

Our experienced Austin immigration attorneys help many businesses with all aspects of immigration issues ranging from E-Verify to obtaining visas. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 for a consultation.

Posted in Immigration Reform

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Undocumented Youth from Central America Face Deportation

By Peek & Toland on August 11, 2016

Some of the saddest stories of deportation we see as Texas immigration attorneys concern those young people who arrive from Central America in the hope of a better life in the US only to be subsequently deported.

The wave of young people from Central America is a relatively new phenomenon. In 2014, violence and an upsurge of gang activity in countries like El Salvador and Honduras led to a migration of thousands of young people.

Young people from Central America face deportation

In a report, Center for American Progress noted how by July 2014, more than 57,000 children had arrived in the United States. It was a figure that was twice as high as the number of kids who reached the border in 2013. Many of them were alone.

The report noted that most of the unaccompanied children and families had started their long and dangerous journeys in part of Central America dubbed the “Northern Triangle,” where a combination of soaring levels of violence, gang activity, and poor economic conditions prevail.

Recently, the Citizen-Times described the plight of Elmer Reynoso-Reynoso, a former student from Asheville in North Carolina who was held in the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia

The report said he arrived in the United States two years ago as an unaccompanied minor. As many as 2,000 young people from Central America arrived in North Carolina alone around the same time.

Although the authorities said there is no reason to think Reynoso-Reynoso is a threat to public safety, and he recently became a father, he was picked up for missing a court hearing and hit with an order for removal.

Like many other migrants, he is in limbo. The backlog that’s faced by the immigration courts means it can take years to process the young people. Minors who have relatives in the United States are reunited with family while they wait for a hearing. Others are placed in detention centers and other temporary accommodations.

In 2015, along as many as 33,700 unaccompanied young people from Central America were placed in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Thousands of young people pay large sums of money and face many dangers to come to the U.S. However, they believe the risks are worth taking. The Citizen-Times interviewed Fatima Aguilar, Reynoso-Reynoso’s girlfriend, who is the mother of his child.

She made the hazardous journey from El Salvador as an unaccompanied minor at the age of 14 in 2014, facing severe heat under a car seat.

She said there are many more opportunities for Central American migrants in the United States.

Our Texas immigration attorneys have recorded a number of successes in cancellation of removal cases for immigrants from Latin America. In many cases, these migrants have few resources and can’t speak English.

Our bilingual attorneys can help you through every stage of fighting deportation. We realize it seems daunting at first, but we take over the burden of fighting your case. Call us today for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Immigration

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More than 300 immigrants arrested in six-month Midwestern Immigration sweep

By Peek & Toland on August 10, 2016

Hundreds of undocumented immigrants were arrested in a federal sweep operation in the Midwest that lasted a month and targeted those who ignored deportation orders.

The arrest of 331 undocumented migrants was reported by Fox News. The operation started on May 9 and was carried out in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

More than 300 arrests were made in immigration sweep

The sweep targeted two groups of migrants, namely:

1 – Migrants who had criminal convictions but reentered the country after being deported

2 – Migrants who had ignored deportation orders.

Many of those arrested were in the Chicago area. Media reports stated about 107 people were picked up in Chicago and 25 in the Indianapolis area.

Those who were arrested were accused of crimes ranging from domestic violence to fraud, robbery, drug offenses and weapons offenses.

Immigration officials described the operation as being consistent with the Homeland Security Department’s top priorities, which include finding, apprehending, detaining and deporting people who are deemed to be a threat to the safety of communities or are national security threats.

Earlier this year, immigration investigators picked up 121 undocumented immigrants in a series of raids in the southern states including Texas, reported the Washington Post.

The families were taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. They were living in Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia and were held at detention centers before being deported to Central America.

ICE declined to say how many of these migrants were children. Most of them were among 100,000 plus families of both adults and children who traveled north to the United States from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador since 2015.

The crackdown on illegal immigration began in the summer of 2014 and has led to about 14 flights a week taking people who have been apprehended back to Central America.

When immigrants are charged with crimes, they can often be at a disadvantage because of their unfamiliarity with the legal system and the language barrier. Our Austin family immigration lawyers have represented numerous migrants who have been charged with crimes and have achieved many success stories.

If you are facing deportation in Texas, you may have a valid case for cancellation of removal. Our attorneys can talk you through the process and help you out.

Please contact us today for a consultation by calling (512) 474-4445 or visit the contact us page on our website.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Uncategorized

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Court Extends the Liability for Family Immigration Sponsors

By Peek & Toland on August 9, 2016

When you sponsor someone to immigrate to this country you have to make a binding promise that they won’t end up being a burden on the state.

But what happens if the sponsor separates from the immigrant? This thorny issue came before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in June.

The case of Erler v Erler looked at the responsibility of sponsors

In the case of Erler v Erler, Yashar Erler, a wealthy realtor, sponsored his future wife, Ayla Erler. The sponsor must be able to show an income 125 percent above the federal poverty line on Form I-864 of the INA. Erler was worth more than $4.5 million, so the test was not an issue.

However, the Erlers later divorced. Under the terms of a prenuptial agreement, the wife received no support at all. She ended up living off the charity of her son who was earning less than $40,000 a year.

The court considered whether Mr. Erler was violating his support obligations. He argued he was not because the household his former wife was in was making about $40,000 which is above the poverty line.

However, the former wife argued she was alone in a “household of one” and living off hand-outs.

The district court ruled that the adult son constituted part of Ayla Erler’s household. However, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling, holding that Ayla’s household size comprised her alone. The justices said it could be problematic if other people were counted in the household.

The court decided that in the event of a separation or divorce between the sponsor and the immigrant, the sponsor’s duty of support is based on a household size equivalent to the number of sponsored immigrants who reside in the household rather than the total number of people living in it. In other words, the financial resources of Ayla Erler were the only factor to be taken into consideration and her son’s income did not count in the calculations.

The Ninth Circuit made it clear that under federal law neither a premarital agreement nor a divorce judgment may terminate an obligation of support contained in a Form I-864.  When a sponsor signs an affidavit to support a single intending immigrant, the sponsor would reasonably expect that, in the case of separation, that the obligation of support would be based on a household size of one.

However, if a sponsor agrees to support multiple immigrants his or her obligation of support would extend to all of them following a separation.

At Peek and Toland, PLLC, we advise and help those who are sponsoring spouses to come to the United States and the spouses themselves. You can see our green card resources here.

If you need help on issues about permanent residency contact us here, or call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Fiance Visas, Immigration

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How Supreme Court Stalemate over Obama’s Immigration Plan Affects Undocumented Immigrants in Texas

By Peek & Toland on August 8, 2016

President Obama’s flagship policy to allow almost 4 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States has ended in disappointment after the Supreme Court was deadlocked.

The court was split 4-4 on Obama’s executive actions on immigration, meaning the policy won’t proceed during the remainder of his presidency.

Supreme Court stalemate leaves immigrants in limbo

The one line ruling was greeted by CNN as “crushing blow to the White House.”

The President didn’t attempt to hide his disappointment over the ruling. He said.

“For more than two decades now our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken. And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn’t able to issue a decision today doesn’t just set the system back even further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be.”

The programs in question were DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

DAPA would confer deferred action status to certain classes of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and have kids.

DACA is aimed at non-citizens who arrived in the United States as children but remain undocumented. You can read more about the programs here.

What Effect Does the Supreme Court Deadlock Have on Undocumented Immigrants in Texas?

According to the Houston Chronicle, Texas has 1.5 undocumented immigrants which is the second highest number after California.

The ruling won’t mean drastic consequences such as deportation but it will continue the period of limbo faced by undocumented immigrants ever since the immigration reforms were first outlined by Obama in 2012.

Millions of undocumented immigrants had their applications for deferred action ready, only to enter a holding pattern as the issue became a political football and then a matter for the courts.

June’s ruling in United States v Texas was not a final ruling. Instead, it continued the injunction that prevents the deferred action programs from being implemented. The lives of about 4 million undocumented immigrants won’t be changed, and they will remain undocumented for the rest of Obama’s term.

The failure of the Supreme Court to make a decision means the case will now go back to the lower courts for further proceedings. It could also return to the Supreme Court, and the 2016 general election could determine whether the policy can be resurrected. If Hillary Clinton wins the election and appoints a Supreme Court justice, the fifth vote needed to allow the DAPA and DACA programs to take effect, would likely be secured.

A report on NBC said the deadlock in the Supreme Court could prove beneficial to undocumented immigrants because the implementation of DACA and DAPA would have been “an adrenaline shot to the arms” of the opponents of immigration and help supporters of Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee for President.

As Austin immigration attorneys who help undocumented immigrants, we can sympathize with those affected by this decision. However, the tie was not the worst possible outcome. If you are affected by DAPA or DACA, we can help you figure out the process. Contact us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Deferred Action

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Texans are Falling Foul of Open Carry Law Confusion

By Peek & Toland on August 5, 2016

The open carry of guns has been allowed in Texas since the beginning of the year, but the new law threatens confusion that could end up in arrests.

The enactment of the law meant that for the first time in more than 100 years, Texans were able to walk the streets or travel the state wearing their handguns holstered.

Open carry laws may cause confusion and criminalize people with guns

Although the law was controversial, it has not meant radical change for many Texans. However, an element of confusion about where it applies to threatens trouble with the law for some people who carry a gun. An article in McClatchy revealed more than 60 complaints have been filed with the attorney general’s office against venues that gun supporters say have unlawfully prevented them carrying their firearms.

In most cases, the office has decided signs that prevent open or concealed carry of firearms violate state law.

The article quoted Terry Holcomb, executive director of Texas Carry, who has been working with the attorney general on the issue.

He alluded to a certain degree of uncertainty that could land Texans with a criminal record. He said:

“Nobody wants to get arrested. We believe we can carry in certain places lawfully … but it’s a third-degree felony … everybody is unsure.”

Open Carry Laws Blurred Distinctions During Tragic March

A problem with the Open Carry law was graphically illustrated in July when a sniper killed five police officers in Dallas during a Black Lives Matter march. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said the Open Carry law had blurred the lines between suspects and marchers for the police and meant it was more difficult to identify the sniper, reported the New York TimesPolice gave media outlets a photograph of a suspect who turned out to be a legitimate marcher with a firearm at one point in the night.

Licensed Texans have been able to carry guns in government facilities, with the exceptions of court rooms and schools, for some time. There were no penalties for wrongly posted signs that banned guns until last year.

When laws are ambiguous, there’s always the danger of police incorrectly enforcing them.

The lack of a clear understanding about how to interpret the open carry law that increases the rights for almost a million active handgun license holders, could lead to wrongful arrests.

There have already been some instances of people being arrested for openly carrying guns. The site Open Carry Texas, points out citizens who are carrying firearms are only required to provide their identification and permit if they questioned by police.

Generally, you can carry a firearm in Texas as long as you are licensed to have a firearm in the state or another one with reciprocity. You cannot carry a firearm if you have been convicted of certain crimes and if you are under 18 you cannot carry a gun unless a parent is present.

See this information from our Austin gun offenses attorneys about firearms crimes in Texas.

The state of Texas enjoys plenty of freedom under the Second Amendment but there are stiff penalties for gun crimes if you are charged and some uncertainty about the interpretation of the open carry law. If you have been charged with a gun crime, call us now at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Uncategorized

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Texas Jail is Accused of Keeping Inmates Imprisoned Due to Poverty

By Peek & Toland on August 4, 2016

The Harris County Jail in Houston is the largest in Texas and the third largest in the country. A recent report suggests its population is over-inflated because it’s jailing people who are in a poverty trap.

A recent article in Think Progress makes for alarming reading. It details how the jail is the subject of a lawsuit brought by individuals who claim it is detaining people who are too poor to pay bail without bothering to assess whether they can afford it.

Poverty is keeping prisoners incarcerated in Houston

Poverty is keeping prisoners incarcerated in Houston

As Texas criminal defense attorneys who work hard for the jail release of our clients, we are alarmed to read about these potentially unconstitutional practices.

One of the inmates who filed a lawsuit against Harris County Jail is Maranda Lynn O’Donnell. Her crime was of a minor nature.  She was arrested for allegedly driving with an invalid license a few months ago. She said that arrest led her to be incarcerated for two days at the jail, removing her from her four-year-old daughter and her new job at a restaurant.

She would have been able to leave the jail immediately if she had more money. As it was, her poverty kept her behind bars, reported Think Progress. This was not an isolated case.

Poverty and the Harris County Jail

The article also cited the case of 26-year-old Robert Ryan Ford, a young man with no job and no bank account who was told he had to pay $5,000 to get out following his arrest on May 18.

The Think Progress article said as many as 77 percent of inmates are in the jail because they can’t afford to pay bail of $5,000 or even less. Alarmingly, in the six years from 2009 to 2015, 55 people died in the Harris County Jail because they could not afford bail.

Often those who remain inside have not considered hiring a bail bond lawyer. However, an attorney can be a key figure in securing your release.

Securing bail depends on factors including the severity of the crime, safety of victims and the community, and the ability of the accused to make the bail. It seems that defendants who are accused of relatively minor crimes and are not a danger to the public are being held for unacceptably long periods in the Harris County Jail.

If you are seeking a bail bond attorney in Houston, Austin or elsewhere in Texas, you should contact us today for a consultation.

Posted in Jail Release

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Seven Key Questions About Police Power of Search Under the Fourth Amendment

By Peek & Toland on August 3, 2016

An incident in which the FBI was found to have bugged a court in California raises some disturbing questions about the powers of police search under the Fourth Amendment.

In May, the East Bay Express reported how the FBI hid surveillance devices around Alameda County Courthouse for almost a year, despite having no search warrant.

 Questions About Fouth Amendment Rights

The agency was investigating the activities of an Oakland landlord. The surveillance extended to hidden microphones in light fixtures on steps outside the courthouse which captured the conversations of those who showed up for foreclosure auctions. Microphones and cameras were also placed in parked cars next to the courthouse.

The recording of conversations falls under the Fourth Amendment, which makes “unreasonable searches and seizures,” unlawful. It also makes for some interesting questions about what is unreasonable as it has been a long time since the writing of the Constitution and technology has moved on since.

Our Austin criminal defense lawyers represent people charged with a range of federal offenses including white collar crimes and drug offenses in Texas. If agencies like the FBI are using unreasonable searches and seizures, it could have a bearing on the case.

Key Questions about Search under the Fourth Amendment

1 Do They Have a Warrant?

Searches with a warrant should be reasonable, but questions linger about their legitimacy. For a warrant to be legitimate, it requires the signature of a magistrate, a description of the premises to be searched and a description of the items to be seized.

2 When is a Search Without a Warrant Lawful?

There are some circumstances in which police can conduct searches without a warrant. They include at checkpoints like international borders and airports, during an emergency or a police chase or when contraband is on full view. Most dog sniffer searches don’t require a warrant. However, a warrant is needed to search a cell phone.

3 Can Police Read Text Messages?

Texas has some strong laws about protection when it comes to privacy. The case of State v. Granville ruled police cannot search an inmate’s cell phone when he is in custody. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ducked the issue of whether police have a right to read your text message. If they don’t have a search warrant, they are on dubious legal ground.

4 When Can Police Search Your Home?

Some of the strongest Fourth Amendment protections concern the right to search a home. It offers considerable protection against an unwarranted search and the seizure of possessions. Unwarranted is not only without a warrant. Police must have an acceptable reason to search your home.

5 Can the Police Search Your Mail?

Your mail can be searched if police have a search warrant, and it’s based on probable cause. Mail is protected from searches without a warrant if it’s in your mailbox but not if it’s in your trash. Some other exceptions are detailed here by FindLaw.

6 Can You Be Lawfully Followed in Public?

If you are out in public, you don’t benefit from the same right for privacy as you have in your own body. Police can usually follow people without facing legal consequences if they are in a public place.

7 When Can Police Conduct Intimate Searches

A case in Irving Texas, in which two women were given cavity searches for littering in 2012, caused outcry and led to a lawsuit against troopers. These kinds of searches are usually only allowed when there is a reasonable suspicion that the suspect is hiding a weapon or contraband in the area that is searched. If a strip search or a cavity search is illegal, any evidence it reveals cannot be used in the prosecution of a suspect.

Our experienced Austin criminal defense attorneys are well versed in your Fourth Amendment rights and will fight against charges brought in violation of your rights. If you are suspicious about the lawfulness of the case against you, call us for a free consultation at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes

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