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Asylum

Asylum Rejection Rates Triple in America’s Largest Immigration Court

By Peek & Toland on May 1, 2020

In the country’s largest immigration court, located in New York City, the denial rate of asylum petitions has increased at a rate that is about 17 times faster than in immigration courts throughout the country. The New York court handles about one-quarter of the total asylum caseload in immigration courts nationwide and long has been a leader in the number of asylum petitions granted across the nation. At the end of federal fiscal year 2019, the court’s rate of asylum petition approval still hovered at 55%.

Nonetheless, asylum denial rates have risen precipitously from 15% in the fiscal year 2016 to 44% in the fiscal year 2019. In the rest of the country’s immigration courts, where asylum denial rates traditionally averaged 69%, denial rates have increased by about one-ninth, to 74%. A few other courts, such as those in Newark, Boston, and Philadelphia, also have experienced a dramatic increase in asylum petition denial rates. Still, their caseloads are very minimal in comparison to the sheer number of asylum cases that the New York handles.

Asylum Rejection Rates Triple in America’s Largest Immigration Court

The reasons for this spike in the New York court’s asylum denial rates is attributable to various factors, including:

  • More migrants are coming to the court from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and judges have been more likely to deny these individuals asylum relief.
  • Several veteran immigration judges have retired and been replaced with judges whose backgrounds are in criminal prosecution, military, or immigration enforcement.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has put extreme pressure on immigration judges to process cases more quickly, basing employee evaluations in part on their speed in disposing of cases.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions also narrowed the scope of asylum eligibility by issuing decisions in selected Board of Immigration Appeals cases, as has his successor. Since these opinions are binding, immigration judges have little choice but to issue rulings within these confines. When combined with the often-conflicting duties of maintaining impartiality in cases and being employees of the DOJ, immigration judges are caught in a bind that likely has contributed to the spiraling asylum petition denial rates.

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

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USCIS Launches Pilot Prompt Asylum Claim Review in Texas

By Peek & Toland on March 23, 2020

A recent Texas Tribune article detailed the launch of a rapid asylum review pilot program in Texas. The Trump Administration has introduced the pilot program as a means of both deterring migrants from trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border and pushing immigrants seeking asylum out of the U.S. more quickly. The new program, known as Prompt Asylum Claim Review, streamlines the asylum claim process by delivering decisions to applicants within ten days or less, as opposed to the months or years that it traditionally has taken immigrants to receive decisions on their claims.

Immigration officials are piloting the program in El Paso. Under the terms of the program, officials transport immigrants seeking asylum to a new Border Patrol facility, where they have one day to call family members or a lawyer. They then undergo a credible fear interview with an asylum officer to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution if they return to their home countries. However, the process undermines due process, as immigrants may not meet with lawyers in Border Patrol facilities, meaning that they have limited access to legal assistance, other than brief conversations with lawyers via telephone.

USCIS Launches Pilot Prompt Asylum Claim Review in Texas

If immigrants do not meet the credible fear standard, they can request a videoconference before an immigration court judge. Depending on the asylum officer’s findings and the judge’s ruling, immigration officials then either process the immigrants for deportation or place them in a detention facility. Currently, immigration judges located in New Mexico are reviewing the cases and holding videoconferences that immigrants in this situation request.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not respond to questions from the press about the new program, stating only that it would uphold the due process rights of immigrants in the immigration court system.

No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases every day and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to resolve your immigration law case successfully.

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U.S. Detains Record Numbers of Unaccompanied Minors

By Peek & Toland on February 4, 2020

At the end of federal fiscal year 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) had detained more than 76,000 unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border, which is a 52% increase over the number held in FFY 2018. About 10,400 of those children came from migrant, but the most significant percentage came from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The increase in total family units detained also increased exponentially from FFY 2018 to FFY 2019. CBP detained over 473,000 families at the border, as opposed to about 107,000 in FFY 2018, which represents a 342% increase.

The Trump Administration has unsuccessfully fought to deter unaccompanied minors from entering the U.S. by separating families at the border and making it more difficult for minors to apply for asylum. Mexico has experienced similar increases in the number of unaccompanied children attempting to enter that country. When Mexico detains children, however, they immediately go into the national child protection system to find them housing and care.

U.S. Detains Record Numbers of Unaccompanied Minors

Some experts say that it is the vast increases in detention rates for families and unaccompanied minors that have clogged up an already overburdened immigration court system. The current system of detention and court proceedings is not designed to handle families and children, which makes the current surges in migrant families at the border unsustainable.

While most migrant families and children now are returned to Mexico to await their chance to apply for asylum, conditions have worsened and grown more dangerous at the border. Mexico does not have the shelters, food, or other resources to handle the massive influx of families, who often must wait for months at the border before being able to apply for asylum. Crime also has increased in this area of the country, along with injuries and deaths to children and families.

The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any 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 situation. We intend 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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Migrant Camp on Texas Border Continues to Deteriorate

By Peek & Toland on December 13, 2019

In Matamoros, Mexico, a makeshift camp of about 2,000 migrants has formed gradually on the shores of the Rio Grande at the Gateway bridge. Tarps and trash bags form tents that do little to protect migrant families as they wait for decisions on their asylum claims. Many migrants have been living here for months as part of the “return to Mexico” program implemented by the U.S. government. Under this program, authorities return immigrants who appear at the border to apply for asylum to Mexico, pending their asylum claims or to await a time to file their applications. Migrants have reported that U.S. immigration officials have assured them of shelter in Mexico while they await asylum. However, most migrants in this situation have found no refuge.

Mexican immigration officials provide plates of food a few times each day, but they typically run out after feeding 40 or 50 people. Other migrants primarily rely on groups of religious organizations, immigration activists, and other donors who provide food, water, blankets, and other necessary supplies. There is no running water; two wooden shower stalls and fewer than ten portable toilets have led to steadily deteriorating conditions due to the steadily growing migrant camp. Migrants use the river for bathing, fishing, and drinking, and use a nearby wooded area as their bathroom.

Migrant Camp on Texas Border Continues to Deteriorate

Nonetheless, many migrants have reported that the outdoor camp is preferable to detention in the U.S., where they were separated from their children and continuously berated by immigration officials. The cells in which they were housed often became covered in human waste with no access to cleaning supplies or clean clothing.

The city of Matamoros initially planned to relocate the migrants to a stadium that is almost a two-hour walk from the Gateway bridge. However, migrants feared that they would miss their asylum hearings if relocated, and the city later scrapped plans for relocation, stating that they could not forcibly move the migrants due to their presence on federal land.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

Posted in Asylum, Immigration Reform

Local Governments Bear Burden of Migrants Dumped by Border Patrol

By Peek & Toland on November 26, 2019

According to a USA Today article, Border Patrol officers are increasingly dumping large numbers of migrants in border towns, including many in Texas. The large influx of migrants is leaving local governments no choice but to spend their own funds to support them.

For example, Border Patrol has delivered more than 31,000 migrants seeking asylum to San Antonio. Due to its location 150 miles from the Mexican border, the city had never dealt with a large influx of migrants and thus did not have the resources to deal with them. As a result, the city has spent more than $540,000 in local funds establishing a migrant processing center. They also provide food, medical screening, cell phones for migrants to contact U.S. relatives, and overnight shelter in partnership with local churches.

Local Governments Bear Burden of Migrants Dumped by Border Patrol

San Antonio is not the only government entity having no choice but to expend local funds to feed and house migrants. Border Patrol has delivered more than 7,500 migrants to Deming, New Mexico, which has a population of only 14,000. Likewise, San Diego County has spent $2.7 million in the first eight months of 2019 on food, medical care, and transportation for over 17,000 migrants, in addition to housing them on county property. Albuquerque, New Mexico, already was struggling to deal with a homeless population of 4,000 before Border Patrol dropped off another 4,000 migrants.

The USA Today in-depth review of the situation revealed that local communities spent at least seven million dollars over the past year to handle the influx of migrants dumped on their doorsteps by Border Patrol. Communities leaders believe they have a moral duty to care for the migrants who are largely homeless, penniless, and sick from being detained in poor conditions. Nonetheless, leaders across the political spectrum have expressed frustration over the unfunded mandate that the Trump Administration’s immigration policies at the border have created.

Our goal is to assist you with your immigration concerns, whether family or business-based. We can evaluate your situation and develop a 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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Trump Administration Reaches Asylum Deal with Honduras

By Peek & Toland on November 21, 2019

The Trump Administration has created yet another barrier in its quest to make seeking asylum in the U.S. more difficult for migrants. Recently, The Trump Administration signed an agreement with Honduras that could require asylum-seekers traveling through Honduras to apply for asylum in that country, rather than the U.S. The Administration signed a similar deal with El Salvador shortly before its agreement with Honduras, as well as a comparable agreement with Guatemala in July 2019. None of these agreements have gone into effect yet, but would affect any migrants traveling through those countries to the U.S., whether seeking protection under asylum laws or the Convention Against Torture, a United Nations treaty.

Collectively, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are the three countries that produce the most migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. at the Mexican border. Under each of these three agreements, the U.S. ostensibly can send migrants back to these countries if the migrants did not first apply for asylum in those countries when they traveled through them. However, the exact terms of these agreements are still unclear.

Trump Administration Reaches Asylum Deal with Honduras

Another point that is not clear is why Honduras would agree to such a deal. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez currently is facing prosecution in the U.S. after being accused of accepting campaign contributions from drug traffickers. The other curious element of these agreements is all three countries have extremely high rates of poverty, crime, and corruption, which calls into question the ability of these countries to keep migrants safe from harm. Although the U.S. supposedly plans to help the countries increase their capacity to safely accept asylum-seekers, current conditions would make it nearly impossible to guarantee the safety of migrants whom they accepted.

No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases every day and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to resolve your immigration law case successfully.

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National Association of Immigration Judges President Slams Tent Courts

By Peek & Toland on November 19, 2019

Under the Trump Administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which went into effect earlier this year, immigration officials have returned more than 45,000 migrants to Mexico to await asylum hearings. As a result, thousands of asylum-seekers have simply given up on their claims rather than risk the violence inherent in living in Mexican border towns.

Furthermore, in Laredo and Brownsville, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has enacted “tent courts” outside of the ports of entry. DHS has banned the public and the press from the proceedings held in these tent courts, which occur with an immigration judge presiding over cases by video teleconference. For journalists and members of the public to view these hearings, they must travel to the courts where the judges conducting the hearings are located.

According to one reporter for the Texas Observer who attended some of these hearings, many migrants simply did not appear in court as scheduled. Others pleaded to not be returned to Mexico, where they had been assaulted. Most migrants were confused, unclear about how to file for asylum, with very few migrants being represented by attorneys. Even worse, major translation errors seemed to plague the hearings, which migrants often unable to understand the judge.

National Association of Immigration Judges President Slams Tent Courts

As a result of these hearings, immigration judge and president of the National Association of Immigration Judges Ashley Tabbador has publicly denounced the tent courts. She pointed out several issues with MPP and the resulting court hearings, including:

  • Caseloads too large to handle and too many hearings scheduled at one time
  • Migrants overwhelmingly unable to access legal assistance
  • No addresses for migrants to send them correspondence about their cases
  • Tent court hearings run by prosecutors rather than by immigration judges, who are not even physically present for the hearings
  • No accountability to the public by conducted closed proceedings

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

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Federal Court Finds Trump Administration Asylum Ban Violates INA

By Peek & Toland on September 29, 2019

According to a recent CNN article, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled that a Trump Administration policy violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In this policy, the Administration sought to bar immigrants who had crossed the border without authorization from seeking asylum. The Trump Administration issued the policy back in November 2018, which would have limited asylum applications to those immigrants who lawfully presented themselves at official ports of entry into the U.S. According to the judge’s opinion, the federal government could not extinguish a statutory right to seek asylum under the INA simply by issuing a policy.

A nationwide injunction that prohibited the policy from going into effect has been in place since a California federal judge issued it last year. The federal government appealed the injunction to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high Court refused to stay the injunction by a 5-4 vote. So as a practical matter, the D.C. judge’s decision ultimately follows the injunction already in effect.

Federal Court Finds Trump Administration Asylum Ban Violates INA

This policy has been one of many that the Trump Administration has attempted to enact to significantly restrict the ability to apply for asylum, especially for Central American migrants. For instance, the Administration has expanded a policy designed to keep more asylum seekers in Mexico until their cases are processed. The federal government now has limited the number of asylum seekers who can enter a port of entry each day for processing of their asylum applications. The Trump Administration also attempted to deny asylum to all migrants who traveled through another country to reach a U.S. port of entry and to require them to first seek asylum in another country before coming to the U.S. These policies were specifically aimed at individuals traveling through Mexico from South America.

A California federal district court judge also entered a nationwide injunction regarding the requirement that migrants seek asylum in another country before seeking it in the U.S. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals limited the injunction to California and Arizona. On remand, the federal district court judge reinstated the nationwide ban after making the findings outlined in the Ninth Circuit order. However, most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the injunction pending litigation, which allows the federal government to go forward with denying asylum to this specific group of immigrants.

An experienced Texas immigration attorney can help you with all aspects of immigration law. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case and present your options. Finally, we can help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you, based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

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Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration Mandatory Detention Policy for Asylum-Seekers

By Peek & Toland on September 19, 2019

In April, Attorney General William Barr announced that the federal government would no longer offer bond hearings to detained immigrants. The new policy was aimed at the surge of immigrants appearing at the border to apply for asylum. Historically, individuals who passed the initial credible fear interview then applied for asylum and were released pending their court date.

Under the new policy, however, these individuals would remain detained until an immigration court heard their asylum claims. Barr stated that this policy would go into effect on July 15, 2019. The net result of the policy would be to keep between 15,000 and $40,000 immigrants in custody for six months or more while their asylum claims played out in the immigration courts.

Immigrant advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, immediately filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit to block the policy. These organizations claim that the move violates the Fifth Amendment right to due process. A federal judge in Seattle now has ruled that immigrants who enter the country seeking asylum are entitled by the U.S. Constitution to have a bond hearing.

Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration Mandatory Detention Policy for Asylum-Seekers

Typically, about half of asylum-seekers gain release on bond. To do so, they must prove to the immigration court that they are not a flight risk and pose no threat to the public. When asylum-seekers are released on bond, they may be able to reunite with family members and may have a better chance of obtaining legal counsel. These factors often make a significant difference in the outcome of an asylum claim.

No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases every day and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to resolve your immigration law case successfully.

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U.S. Ships Border-Crossing Immigrants to Other Cities for Timely Processing

By Peek & Toland on August 16, 2019

The Trump administration has taken the unprecedented step of sending immigrants who have crossed the border without authorization to other cities for processing at a rate of about 3,000 per week. As U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials struggle to keep up with the continuing surge of migrants, they are flying and busing thousands of immigrants to other locations. These sites include San Diego and Del Rio, Texas, as well as El Centro, California, and Laredo, Texas. Processing of immigrants at the new location consists of taking photographs and fingerprints and completing background checks and health screenings.

CBP is required to process immigrants within 72 hours of their arrival. At no time in history has CBP had to send immigrants to other locations due to an inability to process them within the 72-hour timeframe. They also have insufficient space to house the immigrants, which is available in other places. Most immigrants being sent elsewhere are coming from Rio Grande Valley, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona. Some CBP officials claim that the Trump administration also is considering sending the influx of immigrants to other locations in the U.S., including Florida, Detroit, and Buffalo, New York.

The exact number of immigrants being sent elsewhere is unknown. However, CBP reportedly is sending five planes per week to Del Rio and three planes per week to San Diego. Each plane holds approximately 130 immigrants. Four buses with about 47 passengers travel to Laredo every day. Likewise, vans carrying about 125 per day are driving El Centro.

U.S. Ships Border-Crossing Immigrants to Other Cities for Timely Processing

Although this change in logistics usually would be part of a plan approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the White House, CBP and ICE appear to have taken control of this venture out of sheer necessity. The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

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