Monthly Archives: January 2017

States Opposing Obama’s Deferred Action Immigration Orders Ask for Delay so As Trump Can Consider the Policy

By Peek & Toland on January 31, 2017

Former President Barack Obama’s deferred action immigration orders that would have shielded as many as 4 million undocumented immigrants may be dead in the water, but they are still in the courts.

Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court was deadlocked on deferred action when the justices tied 4-4.

The policy ended up in the courts after 26 states led by Texas opposed the former president’s executive orders.

However, a Bloomberg report stated the states joined forces with the Obama administration and groups that support immigrant rights in late 2016. They sought to freeze a challenge to the outgoing president’s immigration reforms until Obama’s successor Donald Trump takes office.

Deferred action will end its life in the courts

Commentators say the attempted Obama immigration reforms are likely to die. Trump set illegal immigration as a major part of his campaign. On the campaign trail, he pledged to reverse Obama’s plan to shield in excess of 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and provide them with work permits. By working they would have qualified for federal benefits like Medicaid and Social Security.

We have written at length about the two programs that were intended to protect immigrants under Obama’s deferred action immigration orders.

DAPA is Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. The immigration order would have protected some classes of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and have children.

DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It’s aimed at undocumented people who came to the United States before June 15, 2007.

The parties to the legal action agreed it made very little sense to contest the policy given the change in administration, at a federal court hearing in Brownsville, Texas. They requested a judge give Trump a month in office before dealing with the states’ complaints that Obama overstepped his constitutional authority by reversing course on immigration policy without congressional approval.

A judge in Texas blocked the deferred action immigration executive orders as officials prepared to take applications in early 2015. A series of legal hearings led to the impasse in the Supreme Court last summer.

Trump is set to reverse Obama’s reforms, leading the states to drop their challenge, according to Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell University Law School.

The so-called “Dreamers” who qualified for the first phase of DACA in 2012 may not be affected by the change in direction and could be able to stay, the Bloomberg article states.

This is a time of extreme uncertainty for undocumented immigrants in Texas. If you are facing deportation you should contact our cancellation of removal attorneys as soon as possible at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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Court Rules Former Gang Members are Not Automatically Eligible for Asylum

By Peek & Toland on January 30, 2017

Migrants who have been persecuted for factors like race, religion and nationality can seek asylum in the United States. However, a recent court cause suggests membership of a gang is not an automatic qualifier for asylum.

Three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld existing federal immigration rules. These exclude former gang members from the social groups that can automatically claim asylum protection.

Former gang members have argued their membership of these dangerous groups will put them in grave danger if they return to their home countries.

The ruling is pertinent to thousands of immigrants have headed north to flee gang-related violence in Central America. Academics say many of these people were forced to join gangs in their home countries.

Court ruled on gang members and asylum

Being a gang member is not an automatic reason for aslyum

Fatma Marouf, a professor at Texas A&M University School of Law, said many of the asylum seekers from Central America were in gangs, often unwillingly.

The news channel KTTC reported on the ruling that stemmed from the deportation proceeding against a man from El Salvador. Wilfredo Garay Reyes escaped a gang in Central America and illegally entered the United States more than 15 years ago in 2001.

He was 18 at the time. He was shot in the leg by a gang leader who was unhappy at his defection. Garay sought asylum in the United States.

The categories of immigrants who are granted asylum are defined by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They are people who might be threatened because of their religion, race, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Gang Membership May Not Help With Asylum

Garay claimed a gang constitutes a “particular social group.” He warned the Mara 18 gang in El Salvador might use a preferred method of death on him. Typically, a gasoline-filled tire is placed around a victim’s neck and set on fire.

The court ruled that Garay did not automatically qualify to stay in the United States. However, the 9th Circuit ruled a separate law related to torture could prevent his deportation. The panel ruled an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals had been incorrect in discounting Garay’s concerns about being tortured upon his return to El Salvador.

Garay’s attorney was hopeful he could remain in the United States under the Convention Against Torture.

If you face torture or even death on return to your home country, your asylum application will be very important. You can read more from our Austin asylum attorneys here.

Although an attorney is not required for asylum this is a vital application and you will only get one chance. At Peek & Toland , we will make sure that you meet all the deadlines for filing as well as the criteria for to maximize your chances of success. Contact our office today to get started on your application.

Posted in Immigration

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New Austin Police Chief Won’t Reconsider Demanding Immigration Status During Traffic Stops

By Peek & Toland on January 27, 2017

Austin has a new police chief. He won’t be changing the department’s practice of not questioning the immigration status of people apprehended at traffic stops.

Austin interim police chief Brian Manley spoke to the KXAN TV station. He said questioning the legal status of people who are stopped has never been police department policy.

Manley took over the department in late 2016 from Art Acevedo. He pledged to continue his predecessor’s approach to not questioning the immigration status of people who are stopped.

Traffic stops are not the place to question immigrant status says police chief

Austin police won’t ask immigrant status during traffic stops

Not focusing on immigration status when someone is arrested for a crime is a policy that’s commonly associated with sanctuary cities, a target of the new Trump administration.

Manley said in the interview the police department has no reason to ask someone who is arrested about their immigration status. He said:

“We’re not going to get involved in their status as far as why they are in the country, how they are in the country whether they’re here illegally.”

Traffic Stops in Austin Will Focus on Criminal Conduct

The chief said the focus of his department will be on any criminal conduct that may have been committed and the need to keep local people safe from crime. The interviewer asked what the department would do if a lawmaker demand police ask suspects about their immigration status.

It’s a pertinent question with a bill intended to eliminate sanctuary cities set to be debated in the state legislature.

Manley said if a bill was passed the police department would need to look at how it could change its policies. He pointed to a longstanding tradition in Austin to focus on the criminal offense rather than the immigrant status of a suspect.

In Travis County, the new sheriff Sally Hernandez has taken a pro-immigrant stance. She has pledged not to honor detainer request made by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Detainer requests are often made without a warrant. ICE agents ask local jails to hold people suspected of being undocumented immigrants.

Over the next few months, we are likely to see major immigration reforms aimed at increasing deportations. Immigrants with criminal records will be in the front line.

Our Austin family immigration attorneys are well aware of the dangers of broad brush classifications. We know at first hand the importance of keeping families together.

If you need help with an immigration matter, please call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

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Sanctuary Campuses Are Being Created to Help Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on January 26, 2017

President Donald Trump has vowed to cut funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented immigrants. But some universities are following suit and labeling themselves as “sanctuary campuses.”

A report on KTTC stated colleges and universities in some states are reacting to fears of immigrant students and following the policies of sanctuary cities.

In New Mexico, the state with the highest percentage of Latino residents, college administrators are considering becoming sanctuary campuses and putting policies and protections in place to allow undocumented students to continue their studies.

There are also moves in Texas, California, Georgia, Illinois and Minnesota to protect immigrant students known as Dreamers.

Sanctuary campuses may help immigrants

Trump has pledged to end President Obama’s executive order that granted temporary status to undocumented immigrants. He has promised to set up a “deportation force” and withdraw federal funding from sanctuary cities. Trump has said little about sanctuary campuses.

Although the sanctuary campus term remains an unclear one, there is a push underway to protect undocumented students at universities and colleges across the country, noted The Atlantic.

The president of Wesleyan University reportedly said after consulting with the school’s legal counsel and its board of trustees that the college is going to become a sanctuary campus.

California State University system stated in late 2016 that it would remain a welcoming space for undocumented students.

While the university said it would not be using the “sanctuary” term at any of its 23 campuses in California, it made it clear it will not cooperate with a federal policy that targets immigrant students who live illegally in the country.

The University of California has announced steps to protect its undocumented students. It won’t be helping immigration agents or providing any confidential records without court orders. The university said it will refuse to give information for any national registry based on race, religion or national origin.

Over the next few years, we are likely to be seeing a protracted struggle between universities and cities and the federal authorities over the rights of undocumented immigrants.

Many of these young people have been in the United States for many years and deportations can rip families apart. Please see our Austin immigration lawyers’ success stories about how we have fought deportations.

To schedule a consultation please contact us via this link, or call (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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Should I renew my DACA application now that Trump is President?

By Peek & Toland on January 25, 2017

The election of a president who opposed his predecessor’s immigration proposals has led many people who qualified for DACA to ask if they should even bother to renew their DACA application under the Trump administration.

The answer is yes. While Donald Trump spoke about targeting dreamers during the election campaign, he hasn’t said much about it since he was elected.

While DACA is often discussed in relation to Obama’s unsuccessful attempts to extend the program, many people forget that 800,000 plus undocumented youths who came to the country as children were allowed to apply for DACA a few years earlier. They were made eligible for work authorization, stated U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Our Austin family immigration lawyers describe the program here.

Why you should renew your DACA application

There are many reasons to renew your DACA application

There are many good reasons for renewing your DACA application and not many for giving up.

Even if Trump were to rescind DACA, it usually takes time to abandon a major program of this nature. You could still benefit from having it until then. If you file an application and the program is terminated before the application is granted, you will get the fee back. You have nothing to lose if you file.

Typically, when a discretionary program like DACA or Temporary Protected Status is ended, the termination will not be immediate.

Bills to Protect Your DACA Application

There are also some moves to protect dreamers. In December, a bipartisan bill called the Bridge Act, was submitted to Congress.

It would grant the young people who were granted DACA status protection from deportation should Trump follow through with his pre-election pledge.

The new bill would put DACA recipients into a new status, “provisional protected presence.” They would be protected for at least three years from enactment.

If you don’t renew your DACA application you will be allowing Trump to inflict your worst case scenario on the basis of a pre-election threat. We have seen Trump backtracking on a raft of threatened immigration measures including the building of the wall between Mexico and the United States.

At Peek & Toland , our Austin immigration attorneys can advise you of your rights if you are facing deportation and help you plot a course of action.

Call us today for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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How Can An international Business Prepare for a Trump Presidency?

By Peek & Toland on January 24, 2017

Although there are many uncertainties about Donald Trump’s presidency, one certainty is it won’t be business as usual. The election shock has raised the question of how an international business can prepare for a president who has expressed opposition to free trade.

As long ago as June 2016, Forbes was urging international businesses to prepare for a Trump presidency, even though the Republican was trailing in the opinion polls.

Trump had already warned some companies of the dire potential consequences of exporting jobs or investment.

He described Ford Motor’s decision to build a $1.6 billion assembly plant in Mexico as an “absolute disgrace,” saying it would never have happened under a Trump presidency. He also threatened a 35 percent tariff on Ford’s Mexican exports to the United States, a move that would have required the repeal of NAFTA.

The Carrier air conditioning plant was threatened with tariffs for moving production out of Indiana to Mexico. Trump later claimed to have saved hundreds of jobs at Carrier in the United States by offering a $16 million investment in the Indiana factory, even before he became president.

An international business must assess risks under Trump

An international business should make changes

Forbes said international companies should adopt a “risk management approach” that will examine potential scenarios under the Trump presidency.

The agenda should be integrated in terms of public communications and government relations initiatives. Research and analysis should look at predictable impacts. These could include:

1 Implications for immigrant workers;

2 Punitive taxes;

3 Changes to trade agreements and international trade;

4 selective antitrust actions.

There are some major concerns about how an international business can adapt to Trump’s anti-immigration stance.

Many in the tech industry are concerned that the new president will kill the H-1B visa system. Companies like Microsoft and Apple rely on thousands of tech-savvy workers from countries like India.

Executives who rely on the H-1B program say it allows them to hire workers with specialized skill sets that they cannot find locally. Opponents complain that the system allows companies to overlook capable American workers in favor of foreign ones who cost less.

What An International Business Can Do Under Trump?

An international business must look carefully at its future skills needs and how to cope with the curtailment of a program.

Trump flip-flopped on H-1B visas as noted by the Washington Post. The inconsistency presents a challenge in itself.

It’s certainly prudent for businesses to prepare for change. For instance, Trump previously proposed increasing the prevailing wage for H-1B visas and adding a recruitment requirement that companies must try to find American workers before hiring foreign ones.

You can find out more about H-1B temporary visas for skilled workers here on our website.

Companies that are not using E-Verify to check the immigration status for immigrants would be wise to look into it.

About 650,000 employers are currently enrolled in E-Verify, It’s unlikely to be a voluntary system any longer. In a 2016 position paper on immigration, Trump said he would mandate E-Verify across the country. He said the move would “protect jobs for American workers.”

Although Trump’s unpredictability has been a trademark of his path to the presidency, the broad direction of his changes is clear. As an international business, you should anticipate the changes now and make contingencies.

As a family and corporate immigration law firm, we can help you adapt to changes. Call us today at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration

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Will Trump Presidency Harm Texas/Mexico Trade?

By Peek & Toland on January 23, 2017

Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign went big on barriers between Mexico and the United States. The proposal to build a wall between the two countries dominated headlines. It raises unsettling questions about the future of Texas/Mexico trade, according to some commentators.

An op-ed in D magazine states Trump’s policies may not be beneficial to Texas. The stance may harm the vibrant business relationships built up between the Lone Star State and its southern neighbor.

The oil industry faces a hard hit. By renegotiating NAFTA and opening up America’s oil supplies to global markets, the international trade that goes through Texas is at risk. If the price of oil is driven down further, it may spell bad news for Houston and other Texas locations that rely on petroleum.

Trump may hit Texas/Mexico Trade

Given Trump’s passion for fossil fuels and his disdain for renewables, a downturn in Texas’ oil industry would come as a surprise to many.

Independent oil drillers and the fracking industry are expected to benefit from the Trump presidency.

However, the article draws a distinction between Texas and other Trump-supporting places like the “rust belt” states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The Retreat from NAFTA Could Hit Texas/Mexico Trade Hard

Unlike the northern states, as many as one in five jobs in Texas is dependent on international trade. Any retreat from NAFTA could have serious consequences for as many as 3 million people.

Texas is America’s largest beneficiary of NAFTA. The article states the under-fire agreement pumps nearly $500 billion into the U.S. economy every year. Nearly half of that investment ends up in Texas.

More than 3 million trucks cross into Texas from Mexico each year and approximately 2 million big rigs head south. The article estimates that by the end of the decade, 70,000 trucks will cross the 70 miles between Austin and San Antonio alone.

To this extent, the border is porous. While immigration hogs the headlines, Texas/Mexico trade is seldom mentioned.

Putting a brake on trade between Texas and Mexico could do serious harm to the Texas economy which in turn could help meet Trump’s restrictive immigration aims, commentators state. If recession hit Texas, fewer migrants will want to come here from Mexico.

These are uncertain times for immigrants and other Texans. If you need help with your family or business immigration issue, call our Austin immigration lawyers today at (512) 474-4445.


Posted in Immigration Reform, Visas

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Travis Sheriff Highlights the Value of Keeping Immigrant Families Together

By Peek & Toland on January 20, 2017

The Trump administration’s unsympathetic stance to sanctuary cities will face staunch opposition in Austin. New sheriff Sally Hernandez has highlighted the value of policies intended to keep immigrant families together.

Hernandez ran her election campaign on a platform that included ending Travis County’s commitment to honor “detainer” requests. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) make these requests of jails.

When ICE makes these requests, federal agents ask county jails to hold immigrants if the feds suspect they might be in the country illegally.

Detainer requests are sometimes illegally placed and done so without a warrant.

New Austin sheriff wants to keep immigrant families together

Austin sheriff seeks to keep immigrant families together

In late 2016, a federal judge in Illinois ruled that ICE was exceeding its legal authority when it makes requests for local jails to hold non-citizen inmates. It’s a finding that could apply to the rest of the county if replicated by the appellate courts.

Hernandez’s stance in Travis County puts Austin on course to become the state’s first official so-called sanctuary city. According to The Intercept,  residents, activists, and Austin city officials support the move.

The term “sanctuary city” is not a precise legal term. Indeed, Austin has already appeared in lists of sanctuary cities in Texas.

These municipalities won’t allow the use of municipal funds or money to enforce federal immigration laws in a bid to keep immigrant families together.

Often government employees in these cities are instructed not to inquire about the immigration status of residents and told not to report undocumented workers.

Travis Sheriff Seeks to Protect Immigrant Familes

At a press conference shortly after the presidential election, Hernandez reaffirmed her stance against mass deportations. She said.

“The sheriff’s office will not be part of a deportation force that sacrifices hundreds and thousands of people, our neighbors, to a broken federal immigration system.”

Hernandez’s approach elevates the importance of keeping immigrant families together. Instead of deporting people who have committed minor crimes she puts the emphasis on family stability. As Austin family immigration attorneys, we know the difficulties new arrivals to the United States face. Studies have pointed out immigrants can revitalize and bring prosperity to struggling areas.

However, deportations split families apart, deprive children of parents, and families of breadwinners.

Supporters of Austin’s role as a sanctuary city already face a massive challenge. The Trump administration has promised a crackdown on sanctuary cities.

In Texas, Senator Charles Perry has submitted a bill that would require county jails across the state to cooperate with ICE when the agency seeks to deport undocumented immigrants

Writing in Breitbart, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took aim at Hernandez and claimed sanctuary cities imperil public safety and provide a safe haven for criminals.

However, our website contains numerous accounts of immigrant families who would have been split apart and children left without a provider, had we not successfully fought for cancellation of removal.

If you are facing family trauma due to a pending deportation, we can help you. Please call our Austin immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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Trump Calls For Comprehensive Immigration Reform – What Could It Entail?

By Peek & Toland on January 19, 2017

President Donald Trump wants a comprehensive reform package that goes further than a DACA bill. He has given some indications about what this immigration reform bill could entail.

Shortly after Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, last year he made it clear he wanted a more comprehensive reform, according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Later in a tweet, the president said he looks forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats on immigration reform.

A report on CNBC stated the president wants “responsible immigration reform.”

Sanders said he did not want to see just one part of the puzzle fixed. Instead, he wants a reform that’s responsible and lawful.

Immigration reform is backed by Trump

Trump wants immigration reform

Sanders said Trump wants funding for a border wall included in the legislation.

Other reforms Trump touted include a merit-based system of immigration.

Trump stated his support for the RAISE Act sponsored by Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga. last year.

This legislation represents an overhaul of the immigration system that would scrap the current lottery system to enter the U.S. and instead bring in a points-based system for earning a green card.

A number of factors would be taken into account including proficiency in English, well-paid job offers, academic qualifications and the age of immigrants. The number of legal immigrants to the United States would be cut by 50 percent over 10 years.

Trump said replacing the current system with a points system would boost the wages of natives and previous immigrants and lead to savings to the taxpayer.

The RAISE Act which made little headway in Congress would have cut back on family-based immigration. While it would retain immigration preferences for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent immigrants, it eliminates preferences for adult family members and extended family members of American citizens. These classifications include adult parents of citizens and married adult children of citizens.

Sanders did not say at the media briefing what would happen if Congress fails to pass an immigration law by Trump’s six-month deadline. She said it should do its job or get out of the way and let someone else do it.

When she was asked if Trump would veto a bill that only addressed DACA, Sanders merely said Trump wants responsible immigration reform that’s part of a package.

To find out more about immigration reform, call our Texas family immigration attorneys at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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Can Muslim Immigrants Imprisoned After 9/11 Sue?

By Peek & Toland on January 18, 2017

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many immigrant Muslims and other Arabs were rounded up, arrested and detained. Now immigrants imprisoned are seeking justice in the highest court of the land.

It has taken more than 15 years but immigrant Muslims imprisoned after 9/11 will have their case heard in the highest court of the land.

In October, The U.S. Supreme Court said it would decide whether Arabs, Muslims and other immigrants who were rounded up immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks can sue former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and other officials for violating their civil rights.

immigrants imprisoned after 9/11 sue the authorities

Last year FindLaw reported on how the Second Circuit ruled the immigrant Muslims and others could sue Ashcroft, an attorney general under President George W. Bush, and other officials in his administration for violating their constitutional rights.

A class action lawsuit was filed by a group of former 9/11 detainees. It claimed Ashcroft and fellow officials set up a discriminatory policy of arresting and detaining Muslims and Arabs and kept them in poor conditions. Many of them were immigrants.

The lawsuit claimed that after the attacks on New York and Washington DC, officials implemented a “hold-until-cleared” approach that meant non-citizen Muslim or Arab men who had violated their visas and fell under suspicion could be detained. It made no difference whether they legitimate suspects or not.

The class action lawsuit was brought by eight men who were held for up to eight months while they were never viewed as serious suspects. They were kept in a detention center with tiny cells and confined for 23 hours a day with little food in degrading conditions, they claimed.

The immigrants imprisoned after 9/11 said they were abused by the guards, their sleep was interrupted and they were strip searched. The court said the suffering endured by the detainees because they were “caught up in the hysteria of the days following 9/11 is not without a remedy.”

As well as Ashcroft, the case was brought against former FBI Director Robert Mueller, then-Immigration and Naturalization Service Director James W. Ziglar, and several prison wardens.

At Peek & Toland , we work with immigrants on jail release issues. We are well aware of how people from other countries are often discriminated against because of their background or their religion and views.

If you feel you have been discriminated against or need help with jail release in Texas, contact us here today.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

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