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Monthly Archives: January 2019

Asylum Denials Hit Record High in 2018

By Peek & Toland on January 30, 2019

CBS News is reporting that the number of denials of asylum claims has hit a record high in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2018. According to data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University, 65% of immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. based on a well-founded fear of persecution in their native countries were denied this form of relief in the more than 42,000 cases decided during FFY 2018.

Over the past six years, the rate of asylum petition denial has continued to rise. In 2018, the denial rate is nearly 50% larger than it was in 2012. Most of the individuals who were denied asylum in FFY 2018 arrived in the U.S. well before the current administration took office.

 

Asylum Denials Hit Record High in 2018

Additionally, although immigration judges decided over 42,000 asylum cases during FFY 2018, which is a 89% increase from only two years ago, the backlog of pending immigration cases remains staggering. As of September 30, 2018, the backlog of immigration cases topped one million.

Some of the denials may be due to the Trump administration’s hardline stance on some asylum petitions. A new interpretation by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this year placed harsh limits on the ability of individuals fleeing domestic violence and gang-related violence in their home countries to establish the showing of persecution necessary to obtain asylum in the U.S. These limits primarily affect Central American immigrants, who historically have submitted a disproportionate number of asylum claims based on domestic and gang violence. Asylum claims by Central American natives have increased generally, as well. More than 80% of the asylum decisions issued in FFY 2018 concerned natives of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico.

The denial of asylum claims also remains heavily dependent on which immigration judge hears the case. In the San Francisco immigration court system alone, denial rates ranged from 10% to 97%, based on the judge hearing the case.

The Peek & Toland immigration lawyers are here to assist you with all your immigration needs. Trust us to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your immigration case.

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Shutdown Worsens Strain on U.S. Immigration System

By Peek & Toland on January 30, 2019

As the government shutdown drags on, the strain on the U.S. immigration system only continues to escalate. According to a recent Washington Post article, while tens of thousands of U.S. immigration officers and agents continue to work each day, they aren’t being paid. They’re pegged as essential employees who have been ordered to work without pay, based on the promise that they will receive their backpay at some point in future. Of the approximately 245,000 employees of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), only about 14% of them are being paid.

Although most U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) still working on processing immigration petitions and applications, the immigration court system has not been so fortunate. Many of the judges and clerks who process immigration filings have been furloughed, which is only adding to the one million backlog of cases already pending. With an average 2,000 immigrants arriving at the border daily, immigration officials have nowhere to detain them and no hopes of processing them through the immigration court system anytime soon. As a result, the federal government has been steadily releasing hundreds of immigrants onto the streets of border cities such as El Paso, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona.

Shutdown Worsens Strain on U.S. Immigration System

Meanwhile, when U.S. companies and employers seeking to strictly comply with federal immigration laws attempt to use the government’s E-Verify system to check the immigration status of prospective employees, they have quickly found out that the system is completely non-operational. For some employers, particularly those along the southern border who tend hire more immigrants than other employers, they are unable to complete the hiring process until the system is back up, thus leading to fewer employees trying to handle too much work.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain through your immigration problems. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout the immigration process. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your immigration law case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

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Types of Fraud Charges Under Texas Law

By Peek & Toland on January 28, 2019

Title 7, Chapter 32 of the Texas Penal Code covers criminal fraud offenses. While there are many varieties of fraud, a fraud offense always involves some sort of deceit or dishonesty with intent of personal or financial gain. Fraud is not all that different than theft, except that it usually concerns money and often does not have any element of force, violence, or physical taking or properly that may be present in a theft offense. For this reason, fraud is often referred to as a white collar crime.

One common type of fraud under Texas law is healthcare fraud. In many cases, healthcare fraud involves the Medicaid or Medicare programs, but also may involve private insurance companies in some cases. Healthcare fraud might occur when medical practitioners overbill these programs to gain excess funds for their own gain, or when practitioners create patient identities to allow them to submit false claims for services.

Types of Fraud Charges Under Texas Law

Identity theft is another common type of fraud that can occur in many different ways. As technology has advanced, so has the ability of individuals to commit identity theft by electronic means. Identity theft occurs when individuals steal others personally identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number, in order to apply for loans, credit cards, and other fraudulent financial documents that give them access to money. Unlawfully assuming another’s identity also may allow them to run up existing credit cards and obtain money from the person’s bank accounts without their permission. Identity theft often overlaps with credit card and bank fraud.

Embezzlement and misappropriation of assets are other types of fraud that primarily involve an individual who abuses the trust placed in his by an employer or client by taking funds for their own personal gain. These offenses encompass situations in which a cashier skims money from the cash register, when a clerk forges business records in order to pocket utility payments from customers, or a financial advisor wrongfully uses a client’s assets for his or her own financial benefit.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including fraud offenses. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

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Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Federal Immigration Law as Violative of First Amendment

By Peek & Toland on January 26, 2019

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has struck down a federal law that made it a felony offense for individuals to encourage an immigrant to enter or remain in the U.S. if they know that the immigrant would be doing so illegally. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the rule violates the First Amendment because it criminalizes a substantial amount of protected speech.

 

Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Federal Immigration Law as Violative of First Amendment

Although the law predated the Trump administration, it has taken on new meaning in light of the current administration’s focus on immigration enforcement efforts. Although attorneys for the government argued that the law targeted only a very narrow type of conduct and speech, the court disagreed, finding multiple situations in which innocent conversations between family members, attorneys and clients, and statements by speakers at public meetings could form the basis for felony prosecutions. The court stated that due to the broad nature of the statute as written, it could not rely on the U.S. Justice Department’s word that it would not enforce the statute in that matter.

The current appeal arose from a case in which a California immigration consultant was convicted of fraud for advising immigrants that they could obtain permanent residency under a program that already had expired. In connection with that matter, the woman also was convicted of two counts of encouraging immigrants to remain in the U.S. for financial gain. The woman and her lawyers appealed the conviction on the basis that the law was unconstitutional, which led to the Ninth Circuit considering the matter.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain through your immigration problems. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout the immigration process. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your immigration law case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

Posted in Immigration Reform

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Trump Administration Considers Charging a Fee to Apply for Asylum

By Peek & Toland on January 25, 2019

In a recent news article, a source who is reportedly close to the White House is stating that the Trump administration is considering charging some immigrants a fee in order to apply for asylum in the U.S. More specifically, those immigrants already living in the U.S. would have to pay a $50 fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to seek asylum. The fee, however, would not be applicable for immigrants who present themselves at a port of entry and attempt to enter the country based on a well-founded fear of persecution in their home countries.

Apparently, the current proposal contains no provisions for waiving the asylum fee for those individuals who are unable to pay the fee. Funding for USCIS is largely made up of immigrations fees, and there is a mandate in place for USCIS to review its fees, revenues, and costs each year. With the worsening backlog of asylum cases, it is possible that USCIS could use the fees to fund more personnel to process applications. Currently, the wait time for an asylum interview is between two and five years.

Trump Administration Considers Charging a Fee to Apply for Asylum

Traditionally, immigrants seeking humanitarian relief from the U.S. are not required to pay a fee, as is the case in the vast majority of other countries.

This proposal is only one in a constant slew of new policies and proposals by the Trump administration that are designed to crack down on immigration in general, which have often met with legal challenges. This proposal joins recent attempts to make any immigrants who cross the border between ports of entry ineligible for asylum, as well as threats to close the southern U.S.-Mexico border altogether due to alleged national security concerns. Many of these proposals have arisen from the so-called caravan of individuals fleeing violence in Central America and traveling to the U.S. in hopes of seeking asylum.

Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to helping both individuals and businesses resolve their immigration-related issues. Immigration law is a complex, ever-changing area of the law that necessitates legal advice from experienced immigration lawyers who keep up-to-date with all relevant changes in law and policy. We will work with you to achieve the most positive outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled immigration attorneys today.

Posted in Immigration Reform

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How Can I Remove Conditions From My Green Card?

By Peek & Toland on January 24, 2019

When you received your green card, or legal permanent residence in the U.S., you may have been granted conditional residency, which is valid for a period of two years. This can be due to receiving your green card based on marriage or as an entrepreneur. Whatever the case may be, you must take action to remove the conditions from your green card at least 90 days prior to its expiration. Otherwise, you risk losing your green card, no longer having a lawful immigration status, and being potentially subject to removal from the country.

 

How Can I Remove Conditions From My Green Card?

To remove the conditions on your green card due to marriage, you must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence. You generally are eligible to remove the conditions on your green card if you are still married to the same U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident after two years, if you are now widowed but entered into the marriage in good faith, your marriage was divorced or annulled, but you entered into the marriage in good faith, or if you entered into the marriage in good faith, but you or your child were battered or subjected to extreme hardship by your spouse. You also can include your children on your petition if they received a conditional green card at the same time that you did. However, if your child received a conditional green card more than 90 days after you did, then the child will need to file a separate Form I-751.

With a few exceptions, you generally must apply together with your spouse to remove the conditions from your green card. If you are no longer married to your spouse or you or your child has been abused by your spouse, then you can apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement.

When you or a loved one is facing an immigration law dilemma, you need legal advice and counsel from experienced Texas immigration attorneys. At Peek & Toland, we are here to help you with your immigration case. We will devote all our efforts to representing your interests, answering your questions, and calming your concerns. Don’t hesitate to contact Peek & Toland and schedule a time to meet with us today. We can help protect your rights and get you the relief that you need.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

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When Are Police Required to Read Me My Rights?

By Peek & Toland on January 24, 2019

Everyone who has ever watched individuals get arrested or taken in for questioning on TV is familiar with police “reading their rights.” This catchphrase refers to the rights established in the landmark 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona. Among these rights include a formal warning by law enforcement officers of the right to remain silent, the right to have a lawyer present during questioning, the right to be appointed a lawyer if you cannot afford one, and the right to terminate the interview at any time, as well as advisement of the fact that any statement that you make can be used against you in court. Police officers must read these rights to individuals prior to performing any type of custodial interrogation. If these rights are violated, then any statements made during the interrogation are not admissible in court, which can result in the dismissal of charges against individuals in some cases.

When Are Police Required to Read Me My Rights?

The key to determining when police are required to read Miranda rights to you is whether you are undergoing a custodial interrogation. Typically, this type of questioning occurs when you are under arrest and police are attempting to further the investigation of the crime for which you have been arrested. If you are in custody and being interviewed by police, you should be advised of your rights.

However, it is not always easy to tell when you are in custody or subject to a custodial interrogation, which can make it difficult to tell whether police should read you your rights or not. For example, if you voluntarily have gone to the police station to answer questions, but are not under arrest, then chances are that police are not required to advise you of your rights. However, anything that you say during this interview or conversation can later be used as evidence against you.

If you are facing criminal charges, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can ensure that all of your rights a protected at all stages of your criminal proceedings. At Peek & Toland, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and defending you any accusations of wrongdoing that you may be facing. We are here to investigate the facts surrounding your case, consider your options, and help you develop the strategy that is best designed to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Do not waste time attempting to handle legal matters on your own; contact our office as soon as you are charged with a criminal offense so that we can provide you with the help that we need.

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What Are the Two Different Types of Visas for Students to Study in the U.S.?

By Peek & Toland on January 23, 2019

There are two different available options for citizens of other countries who wish to travel to the U.S. to study. Whether these students need a F student visa or an M student visa depends upon their course of study and the kind of institution that they want to attend.

If you want to attend a vocational school or another recognized nonacademic institution, other than a language skills training program, you will need to apply for a M visa. For all other studies at elementary schools, high schools, universities, colleges, seminaries, conservatories, and other academic institutions, including language skills training programs, you will need to apply for a F visa.  

What Are the Two Different Types of Visas for Students to Study in the U.S.?

Your first step to obtain either type of student visa is to apply and be accepted by a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-approved school. You then will be registered for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and will pay a SEVIS fee. The school then will issue you a Form-120, which will enable you to make an appointment with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and apply for either a F or M student visa.

The steps that each U.S. Embassy or Consulate requires you to follow in order to obtain a student visa vary somewhat. In any case, you will need to complete online nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-60, upload a photo, and bring the confirmation page to bring with you to your interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You also will have to pay a non-refundable visa application fee and you may have to pay visa issuance fee, based on your nationality.

You can receive a new student visa up to 120 days before your course or program of study begins, but you cannot enter the U.S. any earlier than 30 days prior to the beginning of the program.

Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to work toward a resolution of your immigration law matter. The Texas immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of immigration forms, regulations, and policies, and get the relief that you need. Take the first step today and secure the future of your family in the U.S. Contact our office today at and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

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Consequences of a Felony Conviction in Texas

By Peek & Toland on January 23, 2019

Although a felony conviction would generally cause most people to expect a prison sentence, fees, and fines, there are collateral consequences of a felony conviction in Texas, as well. As a result, individuals may suffer consequences that remain in place long after they have served their criminal sentences for the felony offense.

First, a convicted felon may not vote or serve on a jury or grand jury. These rights, however, may be restored by a judge upon successful completion of a felony sentence and probation.

Individuals who have been convicted of a felony cannot hold public elected office. They also cannot possess a firearm for a period of five years following their release from incarceration, supervision, or parole.

Consequences of a Felony Conviction in Texas

Some felony convictions, such as those that involve refusal of a blood or breath test in a DWI case and habitual traffic violators, also may experience the suspension of their drivers’ licenses for a certain period of time.

There also are various employment opportunities that individuals who have been convicted of a felony potentially may be unable to pursue. These jobs may include auctioneer, insurance agent, dental hygienist, marriage counselor, registered nurse, chiropractor, or psychologist, among others.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may face special consequences related to your immigration status if you are convicted of or even simply accused of committing a felony offense. Depending on the existence of prior convictions and the nature of the felony offense, it is very likely that those with no lawful immigration status may be placed in deportation proceedings. Legal residents, or those with green cards, also are subject to deportation for committing criminal offenses in many cases.

If you find yourself charged with any type of criminal offense, you need legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. As the consequences of any criminal conviction may be severe, you should immediately contact a skilled defense lawyer for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for individuals who are charged with various crimes. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

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DHS Grants Temporary Extension of TPS for Four Countries

By Peek & Toland on January 22, 2019

Based on a preliminary injunction issued in Ramos v. Nielsen, a pending federal court case, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended temporary protected status (TPS) for four countries: Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador. Consistent with the court order, DHS has published its plan for compliance in the Federal Register.

Sudanese TPS holders originally were scheduled for their TPS to expire on November 3, 2018, and that of Nicaraguan TPS holders was set to expire on January 5, 2019. DHS automatically has extended TPS status for individuals from both of these countries until April 2, 2019.

DHS Grants Temporary Extension of TPS for Four Countries

DHS has not yet issued a further extension for TPS holders from either Haiti or El Salvador, as those TPS designations are not set to expire until July 22, 2019 and September 9, 2019, respectively. However, DHS indicated that it would issue further guidance as needed pending the duration of the litigation. So long as the preliminary injunction in the court case remains in place, DHS stated that it will continue to automatically extend TPS for all four countries as needed. The next time that it will address the issue, assuming that the litigation is still pending, is approximately 30 days prior to August 2, 2019, or the current extended deadline for Sudanese and Nicaraguan TPS holders.

TPS holders do not need to take any further action at this time to re-register or pay any fees. There is, however, the possibility of late re-registration for those individuals who may have not re-registered due in whole or in part to the termination notices that they received or the extension of TPS for Haiti.

DHS also has made it clear that if the preliminary injunction in the pending litigation is lifted, TPS will terminate for individuals from these countries 120 days following the date of the court order lifting the injunction, or the date that expiration of TPS already is scheduled to occur, whichever is later.

The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any type of relief or benefit under federal immigration laws, including asylum. We will determine the facts and evidence that are relevant to your case, evaluate your options, and help you decide the best course of action for your case. It is our intention to place you in the best position possible to achieve your goals. Contact our Texas immigration attorneys at our office today and learn how we can assist you through this complicated situation.

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