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Monthly Archives: December 2017

Repeat DWI Offender from Texas is Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison

By Peek & Toland on December 29, 2017

Multiple DWI offenses can land you in prison for long periods, even life. Earlier this year, jurors in San Antonio convicted 57-year-old San Juan Garcia of felony DWI in a crash in Jan. 2014.

A report on News Channel 5 contained a statement from the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors said Garcia was driving intoxicated when his vehicle hit a motorcyclist. Toxicology tests suggested Garcia had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit for driving in Texas.

It was the latest of numerous convictions for Garcia whose first DWI arrest was in March 1982. He was imprisoned for several later convictions.

big sentence for repeat DWI offender

Repeat DWI offender receives 30 years

Records show Garcia’s first DWI arrest was in March 1982 and that he served time in prison for several of his later convictions. In June, Garcia was sentenced as a habitual offender.

In the same month in Texas, a man who was convicted of driving while intoxicated seven times previously was sentenced to life in prison after a DWI arrest last year.

Richard Lee Pollard, 72, was convicted on felony charges of driving while intoxicated.

Reports on KXAN said Pollard was taken into custody on May 27, 2013 in Llano.

A police laboratory analysis found Pollard’s blood-alcohol concentration was more than twice the 0.08 BAC legal limit to drive in Texas. Jurors heard 911 calls from worried citizens who reported seeing Pollard’s car driving erratically down the highway and crossing into oncoming traffic along State Highway 81 between Brady and Llano.

You don’t need to be a serial drunk driver for a DWI conviction to turn your life upside down, we point out on our website.

Even if you are facing your first DWI in Texas, the authorities may treat you very harshly. You may lose your license, your livelihood and your family. A DWI conviction will cost you thousands of dollars.

Our experienced Texas criminal defense lawyers represent DWI clients in Austin, Laredo, Round Rock, San Marco, Bastrop, San Antonio and elsewhere in Texas. Please call us today at (512) 474-4445 if you have been charged with intoxicated driving or a similar offense.

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Nearly Half of All Immigrants Enter the US with a College Degree Survey Finds

By Peek & Toland on December 28, 2017

The perception that millions of unskilled and uneducated immigrants enter the United States, is challenged by data that suggests new arrivals are just as likely to be college educated than the native population.

According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, foreign-born people in the United States are as likely to be well educated as the local population. About a third of immigrants hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Of the immigrants who are college educated, about 15 percent of them earned a doctorate or a professional degree, outpacing the local population, the study revealed.

Newer arrivals are more likely to be educated than their parents, according to the study. The Economist stated:

“The result is that America has switched from importing people who are, on average less educated than the natives to people who are better schooled.”

In 26 states where immigrants arrived between 2010 and 2015, they were educated to a higher level than the local population. Almost half of them, 48 percent of adult immigrants between 2010 and 2015, held college degrees.

immigrants gain college degrees

Increasing numbers of immigrants gain college degrees

A study by MPI revealed from 2000 to 2015, the number of college educated Latin American immigrants doubled. Asian immigrants remain the group with the highest educational attainment. However, the 2.4 million workers surpassed European immigrants to become the second largest college educated immigrant group.

A paper from the Pew Research Center stated the elevated educational profile of newer arrivals is explained by several factors.

More immigrants are arriving from Asia and they tend to have the highest level of qualifications. About 57 percent of arrivals held at least a bachelor’s degree in 2013.

Although arrivals from Central and South America tend to be less educated, the number of migrants from these countries declined sharply from 2000 to 2013 at the same time as the number of immigrants from Asia rose.

The figures may impact moves by the Trump administration to implement a ‘merit-based” immigration system.

Trump has instructed the Departments of Labor, Justice and Homeland Security to examine immigration rules in the United States.

He has pointed to alternatives, touting Canada or Australia as models for America to copy. Canada became the first country to introduce a points system for immigration in 1967.

Canada and Australia give priority to would-be migrants with degrees, relevant work experience and fluency in a number of languages.

However, the report in The Economist suggested the points systems in Canada and Australia do not work particularly well.

Our Austin, Texas immigration lawyers can assist you with a wide range of matters and skilled worker immigration programs to help you succeed in the United States. Please call us at (512) 474-4445.

 

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The Process for International Adoptions

By Peek & Toland on December 27, 2017

In recent years, international adoptions from countries like India and China have become increasingly popular in the United States.

Americans adopt more kids from overseas than any other country and the number of adoptions doubled in the 1990s, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

Part of this increase has been driven by a reduction in the number of children available for adoption in the United States. However, recent restrictions have curtailed adoptions.

These international adoptions have become increasingly difficult and harrowing, reported the New York Post in 2016.

In order to adopt children from abroad, adoptive and prospective parents must be in compliance with immigration procedures initiated through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Intrnational adoptions

Outlining international adoptions

The process is described as intercountry adoption by USCIS.

USCIS points out adopting a child from another country is frequently a very complicated process. USCIS is responsible for:

  • Determining the suitability and eligibility of the prospective adoptive parents who are looking to adopt.
  • Determining the eligibility of the child to immigrate to the United States.

It’s not enough to simply locate a child in a foreign country and go to the U.S. embassy to obtain a visa. Prospective adopters must comply with USCIS requirements. An orphan cannot be brought into the United States without a visa which follows the approval of a petition (form I-600).

The New York Post described how international adoptions were difficult in the past but became more complex after the United States started to enforce the provisions of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

The Post referred to a bureaucratic nightmare and a steep decline in the number of international adoptions each year since the convention was taken on board. Recent data from The Hague found there were only 5,000 international adoptions by American families in 2015 compared with 23,000 in 2004.

The International Adoption Process

Specific adoption procedures vary from country to country. Most countries require a child to be legally recognized as an orphan or legally removed from their parent before they can be placed for adoption.

Most countries have adoption laws that require the full adoption of a child in the foreign court after he or she is declared to be an orphan or released by a living parent to an appropriate foreign authority.

Obtaining an Immigrant Visa for International Adoptions

When the adoption process is completed in the foreign country, the adoptive parent or parents can apply for an immigrant visa (IR-3) for a child adopted abroad. The equivalent document for a child to be adopted in the United States is IR-4.

The form must be applied for at an appropriate U.S. consular office abroad. As well as the notification of the approved I-600 petition from INS, specific documentation will be required for the consular officer to conduct an interview and issue a visa.

Adoption is a complex process. Our Texas family immigration lawyers can help you with every stage of the process. Read our success stories here or call us at (512) 474-4445.

 

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Gynecologist from Laredo is Arrested on Child Pornography Charges

By Peek & Toland on December 26, 2017

In Texas, any kind of child pornography charges can mean long periods of incarceration for defendants.

Over the summer a Laredo gynecologist was arrested on suspicion of possession of child pornography, according to a criminal complaint.

The complaint obtained by the Laredo Morning Times claimed Dr. Antonio Salinas allegedly confessed to investigators he had downloaded illicit material onto his computer.

The 63-year-old doctor is said to have told police a USB drive containing child pornography which was discovered by employees at a local car dealership, belonged to him.

In June, Salinas was served with a warrant charging him with possession of child pornography. He was released on bond later in the day.

Child pornogaphy charges are brough against Laredo doctor

Laredo doctor faces child pornography charges

A Laredo police officer reportedly responded to the car dealership after an employee said he was servicing a pickup when he found what he thought was child pornography in a USB drive in the truck. The workers said they used a laptop to check the USB drive because it appeared that the truck’s USB port was not working properly.

Court documents said the pictures depicted young girls aged between 11 and 14 in provocative poses, search warrants stated.

The case was taken over by Laredo Police Department’s special investigations unit. Media reports said an assistant district attorney suggested securing a search warrant for the seized USB device and the laptop belonging to the employee at the car dealership.

A search warrant was executed on June 15. Evidence was submitted to the investigations unit at the Department of Homeland Security.

Investigators executed search warrants at the doctor’s workplace and his place f residence reports stated.

Child Pornography Charges Are Sought by Federal Prosecutors

The Federal authorities have been devoting a massive amount of enforcement resources to prosecuting child pornography cases in recent years.

These offenses attract plenty of publicity and big sentences. If you have been charged with a crime of this nature, it’s imperative to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Laredo, Austin, San Antonio or elsewhere in Texas. Sex offenders typically lose their reputation and often family ties as well as their liberty. Contact us here.

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Texas Couple Exonerated For “Satanic Panic” that Never Happened

By Peek & Toland on December 25, 2017

The so-called “Satanic Panic” swept the nation in the 1980s and early 1990s. The idea became rooted in society that Satanists had infiltrated the childcare industry and were subjecting young people to terrible acts of abuse.

In reality, many of the victims were the accused who faced baseless charges. Recently, in Texas, a couple who were caught up in the Satanic Panic was exonerated of charges of child abuse.

An article in The Intercept noted Fran and Dan Keller were formally exonerated of the crimes on June 20 in Austin.

They were prosecuted in 1992 as the mass hysteria known as the Satanic Panic swept the nation.

The Intercept reported that from the 1980s, accusations flew that Satanists intent on sexually abusing and brainwashing young children infiltrated the childcare industry.

The Kellers paid a particularly high price for the misguided investigations.

Satanic Panic crime couple exonerated

Austin couple exonerated on Satanic Panic crime

The nightmare for the couple began in 1991. The couple ran a small drop-in daycare out of their home.

A three-year-old girl occasionally left in their care made an abuse claim. At first, she said Dan Keller spanked her. After repeated questioning by her mother and a therapist who treated her for behavioral problems before she attended the center, the accusation became more serious.

Soon the Kellers were being accused of a shocking catalog of abuse.

Three children described shocking episodes of sadistic abuse. Dan Keller was accused of sexually assaulted the little girl with a pen. Fran was accused of performing oral sex on her.

The Kellers were even said to have dug a grave and placed the girl in it. They were accused of decapitating animals and mutilating a baby and flying the children to Mexico where military officials abused them.

There was no evidence to corroborate any of the lurid claims, and little evidence to suggest the little girl ever suffered any sexual abuse.

Fran and Dan Keller were sentenced to 48 years each in prison for the alleged sexual assault of a 3-year-old girl.

In 2008, The Chronicle in Austin started investigating the case and found the evidence to be highly suspect.

The investigation found the only physical evidence tying the couple sexual abuse was the testimony of an emergency room doctor named Michael Mouw.

He looked at the girl and concluded there was damage to her vaginal area that could be caused by abuse.

Later he admitted he attended a medical conference and learned what he believed were signs of abuse were normal variations of female genitalia.

The couple was finally released from prison in 2013. DA Rosemary Lehmberg was head of the office’s child abuse unit at the time of the Kellers’ prosecution. She later agreed they had not received a fair trial and they were released just before Christmas.

However, it took until 2017 for the Kellers to be exonerated. Travis County DA, Margaret Moore concluded there was is “no credible evidence” in court papers.

In recent months, we have seen some high profile exonerations over alleged sexual abuse such as that of the San Antonio Four.

If you have been accused of a crime of this nature, our experienced Austin criminal defense team would like to hear from you. Please call us at (512) 474-4445.

 

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USCIS Brings in the Delayed International Entrepreneur Rule

By Peek & Toland on December 22, 2017

International Entrepreneur RuleA rule intended to make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the United States while they set up businesses is being implemented following a court decision. On December 14, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it will be introducing the International Entrepreneur Rule.

The International Entrepreneur Rule was created under the former Obama administration. However, the Trump administration sought to stall its implementation. A bid to delay the rule until March has been overturned by the courts.

The IER gives an unlimited number of international entrepreneurs a new avenue to apply for parole, enter the United States and use American investments to create and grow start-up businesses, states USCIS.

Parole is a discretionary grant made available by the Secretary of Homeland Security. It is awarded on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.

The rule was meant to come into effect on July 17, 2017. It was delayed because the Department of Homeland Security issued a final rule on July 11, 2017 putting back the IER’s effective date until March 14, 2018.

A lawsuit was filed by the National Venture Capital Association, a trade association, which challenged the delay in implementing the IER. The association argued the Trump administration bypassed proper procedures when it delayed the IER’s implementation.

On December 1, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the federal government in National Venture Capital Association v. Duke.

The rule establishes new criteria to guide the how parole applications from certain foreign entrepreneurs are dealt with. It provides them with temporary permission to come to the country.

However, the rule does not provide a path to citizenship, which only Congress can do.

What Does the Delayed International Entrepreneur Rule Do?

The IER is expected to help about 3,000 foreign investors a year to set up businesses in the United States, although no upper ceiling has been set.

The new rule smooths the path for start-up entrepreneurs to obtain temporary permission to enter the United States for 30 months or 2.5 years under parole.

The entrepreneur must be in the United States to start up a business. He or she may be granted an additional 30 months in the country to oversee the expansion of the enterprise.

The new rule was created to encourage entrepreneurs from abroad to set up successful start-ups in the United States via increased capital spending and the creation of jobs.

Eligible entrepreneurs should show their enterprise demonstrates a significant public benefit. Factors that can qualify an investor for “parole” include:

  1. Substantial capital investment
  2. A consistent record of capital investment;
  3. Grants from state, federal or local agencies.

The finalized IER allows up to three entrepreneurs to seek parole per business start-up entity. Their spouses and children can also qualify. However, entrepreneurs who qualify for parole are only eligible to work for the specific start-up business in the United States. They cannot seek another job in the country. Their spouses will only be eligible to apply for employment authorization once they arrive in the United States.

At Peek & Toland we advise investors and entrepreneurs who are seeking to invest in Texas how to take advantage of the International Entrepreneur Rule. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

 

 

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Man is Charged with Hate Crime in Texas Mosque Fire

By Peek & Toland on December 22, 2017

A man has been charged with a hate crime following a Texas mosque fire earlier this year.

Marq Vincent Perez was indicted on a hate crime charge for a devastating fire at a mosque in Victoria in January which was the scene of religious-based hatred several years ago.

Federal prosecutors accused Perez of starting a fire on January 28 that completely destroyed the Islamic center in Victoria, which is about 125 miles southwest of Houston.

Perez, 25, from Victoria, was indicted in the summer on two counts of hate crime-damage to religious property and use of a fire to commit a federal felony.

A report on CBS News said Perez from Victoria was previously been indicted for possession of an unregistered destructive device on an unrelated incident. He is accused of trying to set fire to a car owned by a former friend just over a week earlier on Jan. 15.

Federal hate crime charges carry a very heavy sentence. If Perez is convicted of the hate crime charge, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

Perez has remained in jail without bond since he was arrested back in March on the charge unrelated to the fire at the Islamic center.

Texas Mosque Fire

Texas Mosque Fire classified as a hate crime

Further details were revealed by prosecutors in that case about the mosque fire. Perez is accused of believing the worshippers at the mosques were terrorists. He may have been scoping out other mosques to attack, prosecutors claimed.

Rick Miller, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives relayed comments from an informant at the hearing, CBS reported.

The informant is said to have told authorities that he took part in burglaries at the mosque with Perez on Jan. 22 and 28.

The informant told the authorities, Perez, allegedly “hated” Muslims. He said the two men broke into the mosque to find out if worshippers were concealing weapons there, Miller testified.

Hate crimes can be brought on a federal level and under Texas’ hate crime statute, although these charges are frequently reduced in a plea bargain.

We noted an apparent increase in racially motivated attacks after last year’s presidential election.

The hate crime charge against Perez was welcomed by the Texas office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Mustafaa Carroll, executive director of CAIR’s Houston office said:

“We thank state and federal law enforcement authorities for their diligence in investigating and prosecuting this case.”

If you have been charged with a hate crime you may be facing decades behind bars. Call out Austin, Texas, criminal defense lawyers today for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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Youngsters Held in the U.S. Are Entitled to Immigration Hearings, Court Rules

By Peek & Toland on December 21, 2017

An important court decision in California has rejected the federal government’s argument that it has sole custody over minors who entered the country illegally, with the judges favoring judicial immigration hearings.

The ruling means thousands of young people in the custody of federal immigration services are entitled to judicial hearings that could lead to their release, The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled.

The decision in July in San Francisco rejected the federal government’s argument that laws after a 1997 lawsuit settlement gave a federal agency sole authority over the custody of unaccompanied minors who entered the United States illegally.

How youngsters are entitled to immigration hearings

Youngsters held in the U.S. are entitled to immigration hearings

The Office of Refugee Resettlement keeps young people locked up for months or even years, with no explanation why they are confined and no recourse to dispute their confinement, the court heard.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt referred to laws passed in 2002 and 2008 and sought to protect this vulnerable population by boosting their legal protection during the 3-0 ruling.  He said:

 “If Congress had intended to terminate the settlement agreement in whole or in part, it would have said so.”

Many of the young people escaped violence, poverty and an upsurge in gang activity in Central America. Nearly 60,000 unaccompanied minors were taken into custody after crossing the U.S. border in 2015 and 2016, stated U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

These young people have been subjected to numerous federal government crackdowns.

Attorneys representing the young people said their clients feared the aggressive immigration enforcement policies of the Trump era will increase their need for legal protection.

The minors would not be entitled to be released on bail if they appeared before a hearing, but they could find out why they are being held and challenge the claim of the federal government that they pose a threat, with the help of an experienced immigration lawyer.

If a judge finds a young person does not pose a danger, the Office of Refugee Resettlement would have to determine if he or she could be turned over to an adult or another agency.

The court heard some very young undocumented immigrants are being held. It cited the case of a 9-year-old boy who was detained for a year-and-a-half before being reunited with his parents in Texas.

Under the 1997 lawsuit settlement that led to the laws central to the July hearing, the government agreed to minimum standards for the housing and treatment of noncitizens under age 18. These standards included the right to a hearing before an immigration judge.

However, the Obama administration cut off the legal hearings in 2015, claiming more recent laws had voided the settlement. The ruling upheld the earlier settlement.

 

Many young people and families from Central America and elsewhere have been held for long periods of time in detention centers. However, even undocumented immigrants have rights to immigration hearings. Please contact our Texas family immigration attorneys to find out more.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Immigration

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Supreme Court Decision Means Fewer Children of Immigrants Will Gain Citizenship

By Peek & Toland on December 20, 2017

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June may mean fewer children of U.S. citizens are likely to gain citizenship themselves in the future.

The decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana was criticized in some sections of the media and the immigrant community.

An article in Think Progress blasted it as an “unfortunate case.”  The justices concluded U.S. federal citizenship law gives preferential treatment to the children of unwed U.S. citizen mothers. However, the children of unwed citizen fathers are at a disadvantage.

The article said the consequence of the high court decision in Morales-Santana is that fewer sons and daughters of U.S. citizens will gain citizenship themselves, and more people will be subject to deportation.

The man who brought the case, Luis Ramón Morales-Santana, faces deportation to a nation he has not lived in since 1975.

The case sheds light on quirks in the citizenship laws in the United States.

Court hearing impacts children of U.S. citizens

Children of U.S. citizens are less likely to gain citizenship

If you are born to a U.S. citizen, you do not automatically become a citizen yourself. At the time of Morales-Santana’s birth, the child of a non-citizen and a citizen born overseas was only granted citizenship if their parent had been physically present in the United States.

The parent should have been physically present in the country or its outlying possessions for periods of not less than 10 years in total. At least five years must have been after attaining the age of 14 years.

This residency requirement has been changed since. It is now cut down to five years, and two after age 14.

Under federal law, an exception is granted for unwed mothers who are U.S. citizens. They are able to transmit their citizenship to their children after just a year of continuous physical presence in the country.

Morales-Santana fell foul of these complex rules. His father is a U.S. citizen who was born in the U.S. and lived here until 20 days before his 19th birthday.

His father just missed meeting the requirement that allowed him to pass his citizenship to his children.

The gender inequality is highlighted by the fact that had Morales-Santana been born to a U.S. citizen mother who had lived in the United States for the same amount of time as his father, he would be a citizen.

The justices concluded the gender line drawn by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act is incompatible with the Fifth Amendment’s requirement that the government accord to all persons “the equal protection of the laws.”

However, the justices decided the Supreme Court is not equipped to convert change the statute and it falls to Congress to pass a law with no gender bias.

An article in Slate alluded to the paradoxical nature of the decision. On the one hand, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s opinion in the case struck a fatal blow against sex discrimination, it stated.

However, the court struck down the special rule for unwed mothers, applying a five-year residence requirement to all parents.

Is stripped Morales-Santana of the citizenship he was granted by the 2nd Circuit. Individuals in his position face the threat of deportation until the law is changed.

The court’s solution stands to exacerbate the problem of statelessness by making it more difficult for the children of unwed mothers living abroad to gain American citizenship, Slate concluded.

Acquisition of citizenship through your parents is one of the most complicated areas of the law. To find more talk to our Austin citizenship lawyers at (512) 474-4445 or see our resources on citizenship here.

Posted in Citizenship

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Immigration Lawyers’ Convention Leaves Texas over Controversial Sanctuary Cities Law

By Peek & Toland on December 19, 2017

Senate Bill 4, a controversial anti-sanctuary cities law signed by Texas Governor Gregg Abbott this summer has led an immigration lawyers’ convention to boycott the state.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association was planning to hold a three-day event in Grapevine, Texas. The AILA Grapevine conference was booked years ago, and could face financial penalties for pulling out.

However, the immigration lawyers’ convention was pulled in protest at what it termed “dangerous, destructive and counterproductive proposals” contrary to the group’s mission. About 3,000 people were meant to attend the convention in Grapevine.

Immigration lawyers’ convention boycotts Texas

Immigration lawyers’ convention pulls out of Texas

The association has 15,000 members. It comprises law professors and attorneys. The convention was held outside Texas in protest at Senate Bill 4, a contentious measure meant to crack down on sanctuary cities, the Texas Tribune reported.

AILA president Bill Stock told reporters during a conference many members felt unwilling to bring themselves or their families to Texas because of the legislation.

Stock said:

“Our members are U.S. citizens and green card holders, but many of them come from ethnic communities where they felt that they [would] being unfairly targeted.”

SB 4, a measure held up by the courts, has been criticized as a discriminatory measure by its opponents. It allows law enforcement officials to question the immigration status of people legally arrested or detained.

It also brings criminal sanctions against city and law enforcement officers who fail to honor detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the legislation in May, and it was scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 1. However, a federal judge held up key provisions.

A group of Texas cities joined forces to oppose the measure in the courts. They include Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, El Paso and El Cenizo and El Paso and Maverick counties.

Abbott and his supports say the measure is necessary to make Texas safer and crack down on illegal immigration. Opponents say its language is wide enough to lead to racial profiling and other discriminatory practices.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a suit against the bill on behalf of San Antonio City Councilman Rey Saldaña and three nonprofit groups: La Unión Del Pueblo Entero, the Worker’s Defense Project and the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education.

The American Civil Liberties Union has warned its members against traveling to Texas over the new legislation.

If you feel you have been unfairly questioned about your immigration status or are in a deportation action, please call our Austin immigration lawyers today at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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