Homicides Spike 11 Percent in US Cities

By Peek & Toland on May 23, 2017

Violent crime continued to rise in many American cities in 2016, the second year in a row that saw a jump in homicides, aggravated assaults, and robberies.

Data from the Major Cities Chiefs Association pointed to a homicides spike in many major cities in 2016. The increase was compared to the previous year when murders also rose.

While Chicago makes for the most alarming gun crime headlines, Texas cities also saw significant increases in homicides last year.

Homicides spike in major US cities

In Dallas, for example, city officials cited drug crimes and domestic assaults as factors in the increasing crime rates. The Dallas Police Department created a 170-member violent crime task force comprising gang units, K-9, and narcotics.

Some smaller cities with historically low murder rates saw a spike in homicides. For instance, Arlington, Texas, had 4 homicides in 2015 but 18 last year.

The news station KVIA noted significant increases in the homicide rate in Austin and San Antonio last year.

The number of violent deaths in 2016 for Austin was the highest in nearly two decades when the city racked up 39 homicides, the most since 1997.

San Antonio police investigated 151 homicides in 2016. While the percentage increase was not as high as Austin’s, San Antonio has considerably more violent crime.

Homicides Spike in Austin and San Antonio

Drugs and domestic violence fueled San Antonio’s homicides spike, police said.

Various theories are put forward to explain the rise in violent crime. Last year, we noted the perceived link between an influx of cheaper heroin and violent crime.

The Sinaloa Cartel from Mexico was the biggest player in the market. However, the arrest of the gang’s kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in 2014 is credited with creating more violence. Rival gangs fought to fill the vacuum his gang left behind in U.S. cities.

There are other theories including the so-called “Ferguson effect.” This assumes police are backing off enforcement for fear of provoking racial tensions as occurred in Ferguson, MO in 2014 after a police officer shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black man.

Another less well-known theory is advanced in a recent article in Mother Jones which claimed childhood exposure to lead may be linked to juvenile delinquency later in life.

If you have been charged with a homicide or a serious drug offense like trafficking, you will be facing the loss of your liberty. It’s important to contact an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. Contact us here or call (512) 474-4445.

Deportations Increased in 2016, States Department of Homeland Security

By Peek & Toland on May 22, 2017

The election of Donald Trump has renewed fears over mass deportations. However, Department of Homeland Security figures point to a rise in removals even before Trump arrived at the White House.

Figures released in December for the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 revealed the department apprehended 530,250 people in the United States and carried out 450,954 removals and returns of immigrants.

In 2016, border patrol picked up 415,816 people compared to 337,117 in 2015. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 114, 434 immigrants, compared to 125,211 the previous year.

The Department of Homeland Security in its press release said more people were apprehended in previous years, notably from the 1980s to 2008.

Deportations rose in 2016

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said the Obama administration was continuing to concentrate on deporting people who pose a threat to public safety.

He said:

“In FY 2016, we continued to better focus our interior resources on removing individuals who may pose threats to public safety—specifically, convicted criminals and threats to national security. “

President Obama took a relentless approach to deportations, particularly in the early years of his administration.

A report on ABC News noted in April that he deported more people than any other president of the United States.

From 2009 to 2015, the Obama administration removed in excess of 2.5 million people through immigration orders.

The figure does not include people who “self-deported” or were turned back at the border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

George W. Bush deported about 2 million people.

Deportations May Rise under President Trump

Donald Trump promised to deport as many as 2-3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records. It would represent one of the biggest round-ups in U.S. history.

Before the election, he floated the removal of as many as 11 million illegal immigrants.

You can read some of the important questions about Trump’s immigration reforms here.

If you have a concern about any aspect of immigration in Texas or are facing deportation, we can help. Call our Austin cancellation of removal lawyers today at (512) 474-4445.

More than Five Million Children in the United States Have Unauthorized Immigrant Parents, Research Finds

By Peek & Toland on May 19, 2017

More than five million children in the United States are growing up with unauthorized immigrant parents and it places them at a disadvantage, according to research.

Growing up with unauthorized immigrant parents means children are more likely to be exposed to poverty, limited English and lower preschool enrollment, states the Migration Policy Institute.

As many as a quarter of all children in the United States under eight-years-old are from immigrant families.

About 30 percent of these children grow up with unauthorized immigrant parents. Most of these children were born in the United States and are citizens.

millions of children have unauthorized immigrant parents

More than five million children have unauthorized immigrant parents

However, they grow up with the uncertainty of knowing that one or both of their parents may be deported. Many of these kids enter schools with unique needs that are different from those of U.S children overall.

Their challenges are different from those of children of lawful immigrants.

The report stresses they may face “linguistic isolation.” They are growing up in households that lack English proficiency and it affects their progress.

About 27 percent of children with unauthorized immigrant parents are limited English proficient. That compares with 16 percent of children of all immigrants.

The research from the Migration Policy Institute found the children of undocumented parents are far more likely to grow up in high poverty levels. While many children of immigrants fare well in the United States, it is not the same for children of unauthorized immigrant parents who are not legally able to work.

As many as three-quarters of children with undocumented parents are from low-income families at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. This compares to 51 percent of all children of immigrants and 40 percent of all children in the United States.

The report suggests a lack of advancement into higher-paying jobs for children of undocumented immigrants stems, in part, from their parents’ unauthorized legal status.

Last year, a report from the Pew Center found the percentage of children of undocumented immigrants is increasing in schools.

In 2014, about 3.9 million kindergarten through 12th-grade students were from undocumented families.

This was more than 7.3 percent of the total school population. The figures reflected an increase since the end of the recession in 2009 when these students numbered 3.6 million and accounted for 6.6 percent of the total.

At Peek & Toland, PLLC, we fight deportations and aim to give families a more certain and hopeful futures.

If you require help with an immigration matter in Austin or elsewhere in Texas, please call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

The NFL’s Problem with Domestic Violence is Exposed

By Peek & Toland on May 18, 2017

Domestic violence is a major issue in Texas as well as across the United States. It’s also a problem among some of America’s highest paid stars in the National Football League.

Headlines linking leading football players to alleged acts of domestic violence are plentiful.

In 2015, New York Giants kicker Josh Brown was charged with assaulting Molly, his wife at the time.

The New York Times cited police reports that alleged Brown assaulted her nearly two dozen times, including at least once when she was pregnant.

Brown was arrested in May 2015. He was charged with fourth-degree domestic violence. The charge was later dismissed. Brown was suspended for the opening game the season, instead of the baseline six games the NFL usually levies for a first domestic violence offense.

NFL players are linked to domestic violence

The Brown allegations resurfaced in news stories in October 2016 when the player admitted domestic violence in letters, emails, and a journal, according to police documents.

The Giants said they were unaware of Brown’s writing and had not read or heard about them before their release.

The revelations again raised questions about how seriously the league takes domestic violence. The league said it investigated the matter for 10 months, sending in a crack investigative team.

Players who have been accused of domestic violence and sexual assault include:

Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer

On Sept. 17, 2014, Dwyer was reportedly arrested for domestic violence offenses and charged with aggravated assault against his wife and 18-month-old child.

Dallas Cowboys Receiver Dez Bryant

Bryant was arrested on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge in Texas after he allegedly assaulting his mother. A judge later dropped the charges on condition he attend anger management counseling.

Baltimore Ravens Running Back Ray Rice

Rice was arrested in 2014 after a fight in Atlantic City with his fiancée. Video footage showed him dragging her out if an elevator while she was unconscious.

The player was indicted on third-degree aggravated assault charges, but he pleaded not guilty. He was sentenced under a pre-trial intervention initiative for first-time offenders. The NFL initially suspended him for two games but he received an indefinite suspension when more video evidence was obtained.

Former Dallas Cowboys Player C.J. Spillman

The former Cowboys special-teams player was sentenced to five years in prison last year over a sexual assault charge from a 2014 incident at a Dallas hotel.

Grapevine police said a woman reported that Spillman raped her in September 2014, at the Gaylord Texan Resort, where he was staying at the time.

Domestic violence offenses are taken very seriously in Texas. You can read more about the law in Texas here on our website. If you are charged with domestic violence in Texas, it’s important to hire an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call Peek & Toland, PLLC at (512) 474-4445.

Mexican Government Warns of New Deportation Rules in the US

By Peek & Toland on May 17, 2017

Mexicans living in the United States have been urged to “take precautions” by the Mexican government after a controversial and high profile deportation in Arizona.

The Mexican government issued a warning after the deportation in February of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos.

The 36-year-old was deported after she reported to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix. Her attorney said she showed up for a routine “check in” regarding an ongoing deportation case, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The detention and deportation of Garcia de Rayos sparked protests and made headlines in the United States and Mexico.

Mexico warns of new deportation rules

Mexican government warns of new deportation rules

Mexico said the deportation reflected the “new reality” for the immigrant community under the Trump administration. On Feb. 13, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement conducted a sweep in Austin that resulted in the arrests of 51 immigrants, 23 of them with criminal records, reported the Statesman.

The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Mexican community in the United States faces a more severe application of migration controls.

A previous identity theft conviction led to the deportation of Garcia de Rayos.

The Los Angeles Times reported she grew in a small Mexican town 20 hours from the U.S. border. Her children are both U.S. citizens. They joined their father, who remains in Phoenix.

Garcia de Rayos lived in the United States since she was 14. Immigration agents arrested her during a workplace enforcement immigration raid nine years ago and convicted her of felony identity theft for having false papers that she used to secure work.

The felony conviction resulted in her deportation. The Trump administration said it is targeting so-called “criminal aliens” as it changes the deportation rules. The Mexican mother’s case underwent reviews at multiple levels, immigration officials stated.

Deportation Rules Change Leads to Advice in Austin

The Los Angeles Times article pointed out the Arizona deportation has sewed seeds of anxiety in the immigrant community.

In Austin, the teachers’ union Education Austin sent its union members a flier with advice entitled “What to do if ICE comes to your door.”

The flier recommends immigrants against speaking with ICE agents or even permitting them entry. It urged them to remain silent.

The deportation of Garcia de Rayos alarmed immigrants because she was complying with the rules and her felony conviction was almost a decade ago.

At Peek & Toland, PLLC, we are committed to keeping immigrant families together. It’s a tough time to be undocumented in Texas. We have successfully fought many deportations. Read our immigration success stories here. Please call us at (512) 474-4445.

Department of Homeland Security Issues Amendments to EB-5 Investor Visas

By Peek & Toland on May 16, 2017

EB-5 investor visas allow foreign nationals and their families to gain green cards if they make a substantial investment in the U.S. economy.

However, a series of scandals in recent years led to calls for a tightening up of the program.

Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a criminal complaint against Regional Centers in Vermont. Two ski resorts were accused of being part of Ponzi schemes. The resorts went into receivership, leaving some innocent overseas investors facing possible deportation.

EB-5 investor visas face reform

Amendments to the EB-5 investment visas program were recently proposed by the Department of Homeland Security, in what was termed a Modernization Rule. A consultation period ended in April.

A foreign investor will need to bring more money into the United States than previously to benefit from EB-5 investor visas.

The EB-5 program gives green cards to foreign investors who create at least 10 jobs. The required investment amount was $1 million. Investors have also been able to make a $500,000 investment in a designated “Targeted Employment Area” (TEA).

A Targeted Employment Area is identified by a state as an area of high unemployment. It’s usually a rural area designated for economic development. The majority of EB-5 investors have set up businesses in TEAs.

However, an investigation last year pointed to potential gerrymandering that meant EB-5 investors were able to set up businesses in affluent areas for $500,000.

The new rule would:

  • Raise required investment amounts from $1 million to $1.8 million and from $500,000 to $1.35 million in deprived areas to reflect current dollar values; and
  • Allow foreign nationals to retain priority dates if an initial investment fails or stalls as they are waiting for a date to become current;
  • Give the Department of Homeland Security the power to designate regional centers. This would remove that responsibility from the states.

The changes were worked out in the final days of the Obama administration. They will be subject to review by the Trump administration.

If you are an overseas investor who wishes to bring job opportunities to Texas, it’s important to hire an immigration lawyer to help you with complicated EB-5 Investor visas. Please contact us for a consultation.

Improved Border Security and Enforcement is Promised

By Peek & Toland on May 15, 2017

President Donald Trump wasted little time in issuing an executive order on border security and immigration law enforcement.

The issues were the subject of two executive orders issued on January 25, 2017.

The orders were titled Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements. They directed the Department of Homeland Security to start building the wall between the United States and Mexico immediately.

Although the executive order called for an immediate start to the building of that wall, it’s not that simple. Initial funding for the wall could be derived from the existing Secure Fence Act. However, Congress would have to agree to foot the whole bill. By February the anticipated cost rose to $21.6 billion, reported USA Today.

Trump's executive orders promise greater border security

New orders promise greater border security

The figure is double that given earlier by Trump. The cost of acquiring private land, predominantly in Texas, pushed up the estimate.

Other aspects of Trump’s executive order on border security as follows.

  • The ending of the “catch and release” policy.
  • The hiring of more than 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents.
  • The setting up of increased detention space at the border to allow the return of detainees to their home countries.
  • Promotion of further agreements with local and state law enforcement to enforce immigration laws.
  • The identification of all sources of direct and indirect federal aid or assistance given to the Government of Mexico.

Border Security to be Bolstered by More Immigration Officers

The executive order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” focuses on enforcement. It includes provisions to:

  • Add another 10,000 immigration officers to perform law enforcement functions.
  • Compile a quarterly basis a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by undocumented immigrants;
  • Identify and defund ‘sanctuary cities.’
  • Establish an Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens which would provide support for family members.
  • Reinstate a Secure Communities Program focusing on the deportation of people who threaten to public safety.

The Secure Communities Program replaces the Obama Administration’s Priority Enforcement Program which more narrowly focused deportation on certain criminal offenders, gang members, and people judged to be a danger to national security.

Trump’s executive order provides a legal framework for increased deportations. At Peek & Toland, PLLC, we help immigrants in Austin, Round Rock, San Antonio and further afield with their cancellation of removal actions. You can read more about the process here.  Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Five Impacts of Trump’s Immigration Policies on Businesses

By Peek & Toland on May 12, 2017

President Trump’s immigration executive orders may have a dramatic impact on businesses. However, we won’t know the full impact until his immigration policies are finalized or the courts reach adjudications.

In January, Trump issued an executive order about 15 minutes before the close of business on Friday. It caused chaos at the airports the next day and led to legal action.

The so-called “travel ban” suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocked citizens of seven mainly Muslim countries – Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Libya from traveling to the United States. After legal setbacks, a new order was issued in March that removed Iraq and softened some parts of the original ban.

The original orders were resisted and fought in the courts where they were blocked.

immigration policies impact business

These executive orders and other immigration policies may have an impact on businesses. The main impacts could be.

1 Restricting the Ability of Businesses to Hire Foreign Talent

Technology and financial institution leaders were quick to condemn the travel ban in January. They included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive at Goldman Sachs and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

The business community fears the ban, whatever form it takes, may impact its ability to attract and retain talent. If global leaders are denied the world’s best talent, the U.S. may suffer and companies could relocate to other countries.

Michael Useem, Wharton management professor and director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management, said many companies hire refugees and people who are on non-immigrant visas. He said.

“So many companies hire refugees, people who are on special visas. It’s just who we are, and this seems to knock the air out of us.”

2 Impacting America’s Reputation for Being “Business Friendly.”

While Donald Trump’s proposals to restrict free trade are not directly linked to immigration there is a clear correlation. At one point, the White House appeared to float a 20 percent tariff on imports from Mexico to finance the building of the border wall to keep out immigrants.

Notwithstanding the trade deficit the U.S. has with Mexico, American companies export approximately $270 billion to its southern neighbor, reported Salon. The article said the idea of steep tariffs is alarming both business leaders and some lawmakers who fear the United States could become a more difficult place to do business.

Texas benefits from a large chunk of the cross-border trade with Mexico.

3 The Need for Greater Vetting of Workers

The president wants businesses to step up their enforcement of immigration laws to ensure they are not hiring undocumented workers. The system of E-Verify may become compulsory.

E-Verify allows employers to obtain electronic verification from the government of an employee’s authorized work status.

It is voluntary but became compulsory in places such as Arizona. In Texas, a bill to require Texas businesses to use E-Verify as a precondition to receiving state contracts, was earmarked as a priority by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

However, E-Verify proved burdensome and bureaucratic when Arizona and Alabama brought it in more than four years ago, reported the Huffington Post.

The Chinese restaurant P.F. Changs used E-Verify. It was still sanctioned for hiring workers who successfully beat the system and was forced to close eight stores in Arizona.

Some experts claim mandatory use of the system could significantly slow down businesses’ efforts to hire employees.

Immigration Policies May Impact Texas Economy

4 Creating A Disincentive to Overseas Investors

The importance of overseas investors to the U.S. economy is illustrated in recent data from the National Foundation for American Policy as we noted last year.

More than half of U.S. businesses valued at $1 billion or more were started up by immigrants, stated the nonpartisan public policy research.

NFAP said immigrants make up over 70 percent of the key members of management or product development teams. By stemming the flow of investment, the United States could lose out on foreign funding.

5 Posing Obstacles for Future Hiring

The initial travel ban instructed federal agencies to consider more in-person interviews. These were to be held at U.S. consular posts and immigration offices in the United States.

Agents were to be instructed to evaluate whether employer-sponsored foreign workers would become a contributing member of society and make a positive contribution to the national interest.

This would have been a “nebulous” test that gives considerable power to officials, stated an article in FastCompany.com.

Restrictions in H1-B visas will also impact hiring. A recent CNN report said the Trump administration is considering restricting spouses and children of H-1B visa holders from coming to the United States. The administration cut the fast-tracking procedure out of the visa program.

It remains to be seen what final shape Trump’s immigration policies and travel bans will take. However, a hostile and suspicious climate for overseas workers coupled with new restrictions to the visas system could exacerbate uncertainties in future hiring for Texas companies.

 If your company is facing uncertainties in hiring foreign workers to fill a skills gap, we can help. Please call our Austin immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

The Impact of Legislation on Texas Sanctuary Cities

By Peek & Toland on May 11, 2017

Texas sanctuary cities are on the front line of the new, more restrictive approach to immigration that’s sweeping the nation.

While President Donald Trump has threatened to defund sanctuary cities nationally, Texas has also initiated legislation.

A bill that withholds dollars from state coffers for sanctuary cities cleared the Texas Senate in February.

Texas ACLU Executive Director Terri Burke told CNN he would fight the bill all the way.

Funding threat to Texas sanctuary cities

Texas sanctuary cities like Austin could lose funds

Under the terms of Senate Bill 4, law enforcement in Texas municipalities and on college campuses would have to hold onto a suspect while US Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) checks his or her immigration status. Failure to do so could result in funding being withheld.

If the legislation proceeds the first big fight could occur in Austin. Sally Hernandez, the new sheriff of Travis County has pledged to no longer cooperate with detainer requests from ICE and to keep immigrant families together.

When agents make these requests, they ask county jails to hold immigrants if the feds suspect they might be in the country illegally. These detainer requests are controversial because they are often made without a warrant.

The term “sanctuary city” is not a precise one. Some commentators have suggested Hernandez’s stance makes Austin the state’s first sanctuary city. However, there are other cities in the state that take on some of the characteristics of sanctuary cities.

These are cities that will not sanction the use of municipal funds to enforce federal immigration laws.

Often government employees in these cities are instructed not to inquire about the immigration status of people they come into contact with and instructed not to report undocumented workers.

Governor Warns Texas Sanctuary Cities

Texas governor Greg Abbott announced plans to withhold $1.5 million in state law enforcement grant funding from Travis County after Hernandez laid out her proposals in January.

The state has already paid $300,000 to Travis County but will be withholding the rest.

Hernandez has kept her line about detainer requests. She said by focusing local officers’ time and resources on illegal immigrants, they could be compromising the safety of those they are sworn to protect.

Although she will work with immigration officials on some policy areas, she said her department will not honor detainer requests.

The funds were revoked after Abbott declared a “sanctuary city” ban an urgent priority for Texas lawmakers.

Abbot wants to deny Texas sanctuary cities state funds and even to have the power to remove locally elected officials who fail to comply.

If you have an immigration issue, please call our experienced Travis County immigration attorneys at (512) 474-4445.

Under Threat NAFTA Has Benefitted Texas, Studies Find

By Peek & Toland on May 10, 2017

Free trade came under fire in the U.S. Presidential elections and the new occupant of the White House wants to renegotiate NAFTA.

But while the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement may be unpopular in Michigan and Ohio, it’s a different story in Texas.

The Lone Star State’s export economy is the highest in the nation and Mexico is its biggest trading partner.

NAFTA supports Texas jobs

NAFTA supports the Lone Star State

In 2015, Texas exported $92.5 billion in goods to Mexico, stated the International Trade Administration.

As many as 382,000 jobs in Texas are dependent on Mexican trade. Many commentators in Texas fear they will be jeopardized if NAFTA is repealed or amended.

NAFTA has been in place for a quarter of a century. While President Donald Trump may exercise the power to unilaterally withdraw from the agreement, he may need the backing of Congress to renegotiate it.

Both Mexico and Canada, the other two parties to the agreement, have expressed a willingness to renegotiate it, reported the Statesman.

The article said if Trump withdraws from the agreement it may take some time for a replacement to be reached.  International trade deals are by their very nature complicated. Negotiations took more than four years to draw up NAFTA

NAFTA Helps Support More than a Million Texas Jobs

The Statesman article warned the withdrawal of the United States from NAFTA would disproportionately impact Texas. A staggering $118 billion – almost half of the state’s exports are to Mexico and Canada, and exports from the Lone Star State support over 1 million jobs.

Texas exports more than $45.3 billion alone in computer and electronic products. The petroleum and coal industries make up $42.7 billion and $39.8 billion respectively in exports.

We recently noted how Trump’s enthusiasm for fossil fuels may benefit oil drillers and the fracking industry in Texas.

Restrictions on NAFTA stand to jeopardize Texas’ role as a hub for international trade.

Barriers both real and economic may cause harm to trade in Texas. Every year, more than 3 million trucks cross into Texas from Mexico and about 2 million rigs head south.

To this extent the border between Mexico and Texas is the front line for international trade.

At Peek & Toland, PLLC, we advise businesses and families on immigration matters. Please call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.