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Monthly Archives: June 2021

Work Permit Approval for Pending U Visa Applicants

By Peek & Toland on June 30, 2021

We’re very pleased that the Biden administration announced a new policy granting legal protections pending U visa applicants. 

But who does this affect, and how? Victims of certain crimes, including domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Congress only allows the government to issue 10,000 U visas a year, leaving many other applicants on a waiting list for future years and vulnerable to deportation. 

Under the new policy, the government will review all U visa applicants and will begin the process of granting four-year work permits. 

This will give applicants the ability to “work and remain safely in the United States while they provide valuable support to law enforcement to detect, investigate or prosecute the serious crimes they have survived or witnessed,” the acting director of the United States Citizen said. 

 Must Be Bona Fide

 Immigration will be reviewing all applicants for U visas to consider their eligibility for a work permit, but only applications deemed bona fide.

 Well, what does bona fide mean? When it comes to U visa applicants, bona fide means that you are a qualifying victim under the laws of the U visa. A very clear list of crimes perpetrated against undocumented persons by a lawful permanent resident or US citizen makes an applicant bona fide. 

 The most common eligible crimes committed against an undocumented person are domestic violence, felonies, any felony-level assault, sexual assault, aggravated robberies, and mostly anything with the word “aggravated” in it.

 If you’ve ever been a victim of one of those crimes, you are eligible for this work permit consideration, but there’s one caveat.

 Cooperation

Having survived any one of these crimes is enough to make you eligible for the consideration, but only if you’ve cooperated with law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office throughout the investigation and in court.

 We all know that undocumented people are often fearful of coming forward to report wrongdoing, even if it’s something that has harmed them. This new policy will incentivize coming forward, which will help pending U visa applicants and help put violent and harmful criminals behind bars. Cooperation is imperative.

Timeframe

Unlike other immigration policies, this new policy applies to applications that have already been submitted and future applications, which is incredible news for our clients.

If you or someone you know has a pending U visa application or is eligible under the guidelines we’ve discussed here, it’s important to speak with an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible. Give us a call to discuss your options. We’d be happy to assist you with the benefits of this new policy.

 As always, we’ll continue keeping abreast of all the evolving immigration policies that are important to you. Keep following us on social media for updates on that news.

Posted in Immigration

Biden Memo Allows ICE Attorneys Prosecutorial Discretion to Drop Immigration Cases

By Peek & Toland on June 16, 2021

If you follow along with our immigration updates, you’re probably just as invested in the much-anticipated immigration policy change we’ve been expecting from the Biden Administration. Well, it’s here, and it could mean big things for your immigration proceedings. So let’s take a look.

Prosecutorial Discretion – What it Is and How it Can Help You

Prosecutorial discretion is leeway, flexibility, the room to decide how an immigration case is prosecuted, if at all. So, this guidance from chief ICE attorney, John Trasviña, appointed by President Biden, denotes an enormous change in how ICE pursues deportation orders. The prosecutorial discretion outlined in the May 27 memo emphasizes the discretion prosecutors have in court, which could lead to more immigrants having the ability to have their case postponed to a more favorable time or even dismiss their case entirely.

 Who is Eligible?

While the memo’s language allows for interpretation and discretion on handling cases by ICE attorneys, it is quite clear who is NOT able to benefit from this consideration, and there are three classifications of ineligibility.

This might sound disheartening, but it’s not to dash your hopes, and you’re likely not part of the groups who are excluded from this discretion. Let’s take a look.

First, anyone facing immigration proceedings classified as a national risk will not benefit from this new immigration guideline. What’s a national risk, you ask—think terrorists, spies, or anyone at risk of damaging the U.S. If you’ve been here, working hard, and staying out of trouble, you shouldn’t have to worry about this one. Most folks don’t.

Next, if you’ve been convicted of an aggravated felony, you aren’t covered by this new guideline. Notice how I said convicted. That’s important. So what is classified as an aggravated felony? There is quite a list for those but think of violent crimes, crimes involving children, drug trafficking, and burglary convictions with a sentence over a year. If you have some traffic violations or small criminal charges, you can still be eligible for the benefits of this policy change.

Third, and this is the disappointing one, this new guideline does not cover undocumented people who came to the U.S. after November 1, 2020. Only a small percentage of undocumented people arrived after November 1, 2020, so hopefully, that stipulation will not affect your case.

Strong Defense

If you are not excluded from this new guideline for any of the reasons I mentioned above, it is imperative that you speak with your immigration attorney immediately to cover any line of defense against deportation. This guideline offers allowanced for “compelling humanitarian factors,” such as whether or not someone is a caregiver, victim of a crime, or seeking asylum.

If your defense in those circumstances isn’t the strongest, you can certainly carry out your immigration proceedings and cross your fingers that the judge rules in your favor; however, this prosecutorial discretion allows your immigration attorney to make an argument as to why you may be deserving of some extra consideration, which could mean you’re staying in the U.S.

This ruling, which came down from the very top, allows immigration courts to reopen at a limited capacity and start their caseload rotation. We expect that to happen this fall, which will be here before you know it. If you or someone you know is facing immigration proceedings and would like more information about prosecutorial discretion, please reach out to one of our experienced immigration attorneys today.

Continue to follow along with us on social media to keep up with the latest immigration news that affects you.

Posted in Immigration

H-2B Visas Update: Biden Administration Announced More H-2B Visas

By Peek & Toland on June 4, 2021

The worker shortage in the U.S. has been flooding the news cycle for months now. So it comes as no surprise that employers are reaching out to us en masse to find out when, where, and how they can recruit immigrant workers to fill the void.

If you’re scrambling to complete projects and are frustrated with the lack of willing and able workers available, you’ll be happy to know that the Biden Administration has heard your cries and taken action. The Biden Administration recently made 22,000 additional H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers visas available to employers through the end of the second half of the 2021 fiscal year.

So what are the H-2B visas, and how do employers utilize this additional allotment of them?

H-2B visas allow skilled and unskilled, non-agricultural workers from outside of the U.S. to enter the U.S. with their spouse and children if they have a job offer and employee sponsorship. It’s a common misconception that migrant workers are strictly for agriculture jobs, but these H-2B visas are used for myriad types of employment, including construction, home health, and even professional sports and entertainment.

 So, why is it so difficult to fill the void of workers in the U.S.?

 H-2B visas are great, and they’re incredibly helpful. In fact, they’re so good they are in too high demand. Unfortunately, there is a limit on the amount of H-2B visas available each year. 66,000 to be exact; however, that’s still not adequate to cover the number of applicants in need of these visas.

These 66,000 H-2B visas are released in two parts: 33,000 twice a year. To wrap your head around this supply and demand issue, know that there were over 95,000 applications sent for the 33,000 H-2B visas released in January 2021—that’s nearly three times the amount of H-2B visas available for just one half of the year.

There is a lottery system through which H-2B visas may be obtained, but that’s certainly no guarantee or peace of mind for the countless employers attempting to stock their workforce. The good news is that the Biden administration released 22,000 additional visas to aid in the demand, but 16,000 of those are solely allotted to workers who have previously held the H-2B visa—not very lucky for new employers and workers. Also, the remaining 6,000 extra H-2B visas allotted are strictly for workers from the Northern Triangle of countries: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

The issue is that recruiting workers from that area has historically been difficult for employers here unless they personally know someone with friends or family in those countries. 

Facing the Challenge of H-2B Visa

If all of this sounds like less-than-stellar news, it’s not because we want to discourage you; more so, we want to make sure you are aware of the challenges you will face with this process.

H-2B visas are not a lost cause, and we’ve helped many companies acquire H-2B visas for their migrant workers. If you need to bring in workers for the October release of H-2B visas, now is the time to get all of your paperwork and requirements in order.

Please reach out to our trusted immigration attorneys and continue to follow us on social media for the immigration and criminal defense updates that affect you.

Posted in Immigration

Reopening Immigration Courts in Texas

By Peek & Toland on June 2, 2021

The pandemic has changed our way of life in every facet, and the court system is not immune to that change. As you might know, immigration courts here have not been open, but that’s all about to change.

 We’ve just learned that immigration courts in San Antonio are set to reopen right after the 4th of July holiday weekend on July 6th.

 We’re already into June, and July will be here before you know it. So, what do you need to know if you have an upcoming immigration court date? Let’s cover a few items.

 Courts Are Open, Somewhat

Yes, I know I just said that immigration courts in San Antonio are set to reopen, but it’s important to your case and future to understand that the courts will not be operating at full capacity. Only four immigration courts in San Antonio are going to open in July. Why is the decreased capacity of operational courts important to you? The trickle of cases into the court means more time to prepare a defense and look for policy change that can affect the outcome of your case—more on that later.

This small-scale court system means that the few judges who can preside over immigration cases will likely be focused on individual hearings, better known as removal hearings. This is the big one, the one most important to any undocumented person’s case and future.

 If you have an upcoming case in immigration court scheduled for July and the months following, NOW is the time to speak with an experienced immigration attorney to build proper defense and strategy, as these final hearings will be most prevalent.

 Possible Strategies

 If you follow along with us on social media, you know we’ve spoken in-depth about the Niz-Chavez v. Garland decision, which can quite possibly shield thousands of immigrants from deportation. If your attorney has not gone over this possibility with you, please be sure to read up on this decision in our blog and put it on your list of items to cover in your next defense strategy meeting with your attorney. It’s a big one that could be a stepping stone to secure your future.

Another strategy that’s worth mentioning is more or less a “fingers crossed” situation, but it’s a real option. Remember how we mentioned a possible policy change that could significantly affect your case in your favor? This is what I mean. The Biden Administration is facing pressure to reverse many of the Trump-era immigration decisions. The more you can prolong the time before appearing in immigration court, the more likely it will be that immigration policies will change in your favor. Fingers crossed, time is on your side. 

 You want to keep an eye out for and continue following along with us to see change, specifically regarding Administrative Closure. What’s Administrative Closure? Administrative Closure is a process by which the government can agree with the attorney or the immigrant to pause their removal proceedings and place them outside of removal proceedings for all purposes, allowing the immigrant to remain in the U.S.

We’re very hopeful that the Biden Administration will reverse some of those tough, Trump-era immigration policies. We cannot stress to you enough the importance of having experienced immigration counsel when facing possible deportation.

In short, try to stay here as long as you can in hopes of a policy change and create a strong defense strategy with your immigration attorney. If you are unsure of your court date or are in other areas of Texas, you must check the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) to see the status of the immigration courts near you.

If you or someone you know has an upcoming immigration hearing and has questions or needs a defense strategy, please reach out to one of our trusted immigration attorneys here, and continue to follow along with us on social media as we update everyone on the immigration and criminal defense news that matters to you.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

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