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Monthly Archives: April 2019

Texas Workplace Arrests by ICE Increase 4000% in 2018

By Peek & Toland on April 30, 2019

According to an article published by Houston Public Media, Texas workplace arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents rose almost 4,000 percent in 2018. The number of people whom ICE arrested in 2017 at Texas worksites was 13; in 2018, that number rose to 519. About one-third (1/3) of those arrests were on criminal charges, whereas the remaining two-thirds (2/3) of the arrests were of immigrants who were working in the U.S. without legal authorization to do so.

ICE agents in Dallas made the largest number of workplace arrests, followed by agents in El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio. The largest workplace raid took place in Sumner, Texas, a city in northwest Texas, which involved 160 arrests in August 2018.

The Texas workplace arrests represent about one-quarter (1/4) of the workplace immigration arrests made nationwide. The number of immigration workplace arrests rose over 700% nationwide during FFY 2018, which is the first full fiscal year of the Trump administration being in office, to a total of 2,304 arrests. Of these arrests, 779 were for criminal offenses, and the remaining arrests for administrative purposes, or failing to have legal documentation to work in the U.S. interestingly, however, criminal indictments and convictions have not increased as a result of the increased arrests.

Texas Workplace Arrests by ICE Increase 4000% in 2018

From 2013 to 2017, workplace investigations and arrests by ICE dropped precipitously, as the Obama administration has ordered ICE to focus on arresting criminal offenders rather than investigating workplace violations. When recently retired acting ICE Director Thomas Homan was in office, however, he called for a substantial increase in worksite investigations for possible immigration violations. As a result, ICE initiated 6,848 workplace investigations in 2018, which was four times the rate of investigations in 2017. ICE also launched 5,981 audits of workplaces in 2018. The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal representation of countless individuals facing various immigration-related issues. 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 immigration attorneys today.

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U.S. Government Reveals Reasons for Delays in Processing H-1B Visa Applications

By Peek & Toland on April 29, 2019

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released data showing the most common reasons for the high rates of delays in the processing and denials of H-1B visa applications. These visas are designed to allow highly-skilled foreign nationals to work for companies in the U.S.

Overall, the rate of H-1B visa approvals dropped from 96% in 2015 to 85% in 2018. Similarly, delays in the processing of these visas rose by 60%, due to the federal government’s “requests for evidence” to prove the legitimacy of the visa applications. Furthermore, delays in processing made it much more likely that USCIS ultimately would deny an H-1B visa request. The approval rate for delayed applications fell to 60% by 2018, as compared to 80% in 2015.

U.S. Government Reveals Reasons for Delays in Processing H-1B Visa Applications

The top reason given by USCIS for issuing requests for evidence from visa applicants is a failure of the petitioners to establish that the positions qualify as specialty occupations. Although the technology industry has heavily relied on H-1B visas to hire foreign nationals with special skills, the visa program has come under attack as being abused by outsourcing companies and used to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor.

Other common reasons for USCIS issuing requests for evidence, thus slowing the processing of H-1B visa applications, include a failure of the applicant to prove the existence of a valid employer-employee relationship with the foreign national or qualifying off-site work for the foreign national in a specialty occupation for the entire duration of the visa requested. Another common reason for delays in processing was the failure of an employer to prove that the foreign national was qualified to perform the services in a specialty occupation.

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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State Department Visa Denials Greatly Increased in 2018

By Peek & Toland on April 28, 2019

A recent Forbes article highlighted new data from fiscal year (FY) 2018, which shows that federal government policies that have hindered legal immigration have caused a significant decrease in the number of visas granted. Among other policies, “extreme vetting” of visa applicants, the Buy American and Hire American executive order, and changes to the State Department’s definition of “public charge” all have led to more potential immigrants receiving visa denials.

According to the National Foundation for American Policy, between FY 2017 and 2018, visa denials increased 39% for immigrants and five percent for non-immigrants, or those seeking only temporary visas. These denials resulted in the federal government issuing seven percent fewer temporary visas and five percent fewer immigrant visas during the same time period.

State Department Visa Denials Greatly Increased in 2018

These statistics also show that the number of denials based on “public charge” grounds increased over 300% during this time period, which is directly attributable to the administration’s changes in the policies in the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual. This amounted to 13,450 denials of visas on this basis. Almost 8,000 individuals were able to overcome the initial denial, but an unknown number of those are traceable to denials from previous years, rather than from the time period at issue. Plus, those who successfully overcame the initial visa denial simply could show new evidence, such as evidence of increased incomes since the time of the denial.

From the perspective of American businesses seeking to hire foreign workers, “extreme vetting” procedures have caused workers with approved temporary employment petitions to remain stuck in administrative procedures for months and months. This has an adverse economic effect on the U.S. economy. The more cases stuck in administrative processing results in even longer delays for immigrants seeking to enter the country for both employment and family-based reasons. 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 Visas

Texas and Other States Receive Millions in State Taxes from Undocumented Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on April 27, 2019

One of President Trump’s justifications for declaring a national emergency to justify the diversion of previously appropriated federal funds to build a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has been the “billions and billions of dollars” that undocumented immigrants cost American taxpayers. In a recent news article, one reporter shows just how untrue this justification is, despite the widespread belief of the American public in it.

In fact, not only do undocumented immigrants contribute billions of dollars in federal taxes each year, which helps keeps Medicare and Social Security solvent, but they also pay billions of dollars in state and local government taxes each year. According to a 2017 report by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, in 2014, which is the most recent year for which data is available, undocumented immigrants paid about $11.7 billion in state and local taxes. These taxes include not only state income taxes, but also sales taxes, excise taxes, and property taxes, which fund things like highway repairs, emergency services, state courts, schools, garbage collections, and other municipal services.

Texas and Other States Receive Millions in State Taxes from Undocumented Immigrants

Payment of state and local taxes by undocumented immigrants are highest in states with the largest populations, such as Texas, California, and New York. Estimates indicate that the state of Texas alone collected $1.6 billion in state and local taxes from undocumented immigrants in 2014. As a result, the federal government’s insistence on curtailing both legal and illegal immigration could be quite costly to individual states. The loss of undocumented immigrants, then, would be unlikely to result in financial savings to states. In many states, including in Texas, the absence of undocumented immigrants could result in the loss of billions of dollars in state and local tax revenue. Our goal is to assist you with your immigration concerns, whether family or business-based. We can evaluate your situation and develop the strategy that is most likely to be efficient and effective in your case. Regardless of the immigration matter that you are facing, the attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience, knowledge and reputation that you want and need to advocate on your behalf. When results matter most, contact us at (512) 474-4445.

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ICE Reportedly Detaining Alarming Number of Infants in Texas

By Peek & Toland on April 26, 2019

According to a recent Newsweek article, several immigration advocacy groups have accused U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of detaining an “alarming” number of infants at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. The groups also claim that ICE is failing to provide the legally required level of care for these infants.

The American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network all demanded that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intervene immediately in the situation and release those families being held in federal custody. In particular, the advocates point to the lack of specialized medical care for these infants in the detention facility, citing lengthy delays in treatment and insufficient follow-up care. The lack of adequate medical care is exacerbated by the fact that Dilley is located in a rural area that it is more than one hour’s drive from San Antonio, which is the nearest metropolitan area with the required specialized medical care.

ICE Reportedly Detaining Alarming Number of Infants in Texas

Additionally, the advocates noted that the DHS advisory committee on residential facilities, along with other medical and mental health experts, repeatedly have focused on the adverse effects of even brief detention on very young infants. Detained mothers have complained of abrupt changes in their infants’ formula, weight loss, difficulties feeding and sleeping, and other behavioral problems that continue to go unaddressed.

An ICE spokesperson indicated that ICE was looking into the matter, but that the agency was committed to providing the necessary care for all detainees, including infants. The spokesperson also stated that ICE spends more than $250 million annually to meet the healthcare needs of detained immigrants and ensures that all detainees have comprehensive medical care, including 24-hour emergency medical care. Our Texas immigration lawyers are here to offer you the experienced legal representation and advice that you need in order to resolve your immigration law matter. We can act as your guide through the complicated immigration process to obtain the relief that you are seeking. Call our office today and learn about the type of assistance we can offer you.

Posted in Immigration Reform

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Federal Government’s Plan for Reducing Immigration Court Backlog

By Peek & Toland on April 25, 2019

The American Immigration Council (AIC) recently received the results of its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which concerned the federal government’s comprehensive plan to reduce the staggering immigration court case backlog. The AIC’s analysis of the government plan, unfortunately, has led it to conclude that rather than increasing the efficiency of the immigration court system, the plan is to fundamentally alter the immigration system.

Pointing to the policies that the Trump administration already has put into place to drastically speed up deportations, the AIC claims that much of the comprehensive plan is designed to achieve the same goal. Some of the examples of the government’s focus on hastening the deportation process include the imposition of annual caseload quotas on immigration judges and the placement of limits on the ability of judges to continue and administratively close cases. The AIC also pointed to various opinions issued by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and EOIR policy changes that further limit the independence of immigration judges, as well as directives that curb the ability of individuals to seek continuances in order to retain legal counsel.

Federal Government’s Plan for Reducing Immigration Court Backlog

The AIC further pointed out that the federal government partially redacted the version of the plan that it received, even though it is a final agency document signed by the Deputy Attorney General. As these documents normally would be public, the AIC found it curious that the Trump administration would redact any portion of the plan. 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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USSC Decision Casts Doubt on Civil Forfeiture

By Peek & Toland on April 24, 2019

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has cast doubt on the nationwide practice of local law enforcement agencies seizing private property of citizens that is allegedly associated with criminal activity. Civil asset forfeiture, while allows law enforcement officers to take cash and other property from individuals, even if the individuals never are convicted of a crime or ever face criminal charges. Once law enforcement seizes these assets, owners of the property must take legal action to get their property back; in many cases, the property owners never regain their property.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans excessive fines, applies not only to federal government agencies, but also to state government agencies. As a result, local courts nationwide who are considering the constitutionality of civil forfeiture now must determine whether the seizure of a particular asset is excessive or highly disproportionate to the criminal activity in which it was allegedly involved.

USSC Decision Casts Doubt on Civil Forfeiture

Critics of civil forfeiture have long accused law enforcement officials of utilizing it as a mechanism to obtain revenue at the expensive of the public. Justice Ginsburg highlighted this criticism in her decision, identifying civil forfeiture as a source of revenue as opposed to mean of punishing criminal activity.

The recent Supreme Court ruling stemmed from the case of Tyson Timbs, an Indiana man who pled guilty to selling $225 worth of heroin to undercover police officers. Law enforcement officials then seized Timbs’ $42,000 Land Rover, which Justice Ginsburg noted was worth more than four times more the maximum fine of $10,000 that Timbs could have faced for his criminal offense. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled against Timbs. 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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Group of Bipartisan Former Senior U.S. Officials Refute Trump Administration’s National Emergency Claim

By Peek & Toland on April 23, 2019

President Trump recently declared a national emergency to justify the shifting of billions of dollars from other budget items to build a border wall to block immigrants from entering the country via the U.S.-Mexican border. In response, a bipartisan group of 58 former U.S. government national security officials have signed a joint declaration to directly refute the President’s declaration.

In part, the joint declaration states that although the signees fully support the power of the Executive Branch to mobilize funds in response to genuine national emergencies, they believe that there is no evidence to justify the declaration of a national emergency in this instance. As a result, they do not believe that the President is entitled to utilize funds to build a border wall that Congress specifically has allocated for other purposes.

Group of Bipartisan Former Senior U.S. Officials Refute Trump Administration’s National Emergency Claim

According to these former government security officials, current statistics show that there is no national emergency currently taking place at the country’s southern border with Mexico. Rather, the officials point to various statistics and facts that point to the opposite conclusion, such as the following:

  • Illegal border crossings are at a 40-year low.
  • There are no documented terrorist, national security, violent crime, human trafficking, or drug trafficking emergencies at the southern border.
  • Redirecting funds for a nonexistent emergency will undermine U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.
  • The lack of justification for the diversion of funds is an attempt to circumvent the congressional appropriations process.
  • Declaring a national emergency will only exacerbate existing humanitarian concerns at the border.
  • There is no need for either armed forces or a wall at the southern border.

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. 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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SCOTUS Halts Execution of Intellectually Disabled Man

By Peek & Toland on April 22, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued its decision in Moore v. Texas, which halted the planned execution of an intellectually disabled man in the state of Texas. In keeping with its precedent, the high Court ruled in this case that the state of Texas’s proposed execution of Moore was unlawful due to his intellectual disabilities. The Court reversed the lower state court ruling and found that Moore was ineligible for execution.

In its decision, the Court discounted the Texas court’s method of measuring intellectual disability. The state had relied on assessments concerning the man’s ability to lie and his leadership abilities, neither of which are clinically accepted methods of assessing intellectual disabilities. Rather, these assessments are extremely limited and rely on stereotypes about disabled persons in general. Texas also relied on IQ testing as a measure of intellectual disability, which also is a deeply flawed methodology for measuring intellectual disability. The decision, authored by Justice Ginsburg, specifically attacked the methodologies utilized by the Texas courts in determining the man to be fit for execution.

SCOTUS Halts Execution of Intellectually Disabled Man

The state of Texas has been attempting to execute Moore since 1980, when he was sentenced to death for his role in the robbery of a grocery store that led to a clerk’s death. The Texas Court of Appeals previously determined that Moore was not intellectually disabled due to his ability to mow the lawn, steal food, and use basic math. In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, and remanded the case back to the Texas court to assess the man’s intellectual capacity based on medical or clinical expertise, rather than subjective criteria based on a character in a John Steinbeck novel that the state court cited in its decision.

After Texas still determined that Moore was eligible for execution, the Supreme Court finally stepped in and ruled otherwise. Of particular note was the fact that the Texas court solicited the opinions of five experts in measuring Moore’s intellect. Four of the five experts believe that Moore was intellectually disabled. The fifth expert disagreed, and the Texas court ultimately adopted the findings of the fifth expert, despite the opinions of the other four experts to the contrary. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. 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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Texas Jails Have Failed

By Peek & Toland on April 21, 2019

State lawmakers have turned their focus in part to state jails, which they originally created 25 years ago in hopes of rehabilitating some occupants, such as low-level drug offenders, and keeping them out of prisons housing violent offenders. Unfortunately, state jails largely have failed in this respect, offering very few services, housing more serious offenders while en route to prison, and producing offenders who are more likely to reoffend than those offenders placed in the state’s general prison population.

After the results of a comprehensive study of the state jail system prior to this legislative session, which pronounced the system to be a “total failure,” lawmakers have prioritized the expansion of local pretrial and probation services instead. These efforts would focus on rehabilitative substance abuse and mental health treatment. To that end, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has requested $8 million in additional funds to address those needs as part of its 2020-21 funding request.

Texas Jails Have Failed

In fiscal year 2016, less than one-half of one percent of the total state jail population was released on probation or community supervision. This means that after spending an average of nine months in state jail, which is long enough to lose jobs, housing, and family relationships, but not long enough to complete effective treatment through the few services offered in state jails, individuals receive no services because they are not placed on any kind of probation. As a result, the re-arrest rate for these offenders is 63%, which is much higher than the 45% re-arrest rate for offenders released from prison statewide.

The legislative study of the issue identified many different potential solutions to these problems. For instance, some suggested abolishing the “12.44” provision, which is a provision in the Texas Penal Code that allows judges to sentence individuals convicted of state jail felonies to less than the 180-day minimum or drop the charges to a misdemeanor. As a practical result, this allows many offenders to serve far shorter sentences on a pretrial basis in county jails, so that they never go to state jail, or do not go long enough to receive any meaningful amount of services. Other suggestions included expanding nondisclosure laws that seal criminal records and adjusting the requirements of probation to be more effective and less onerous. If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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