How Social Media Can Lead to Criminal Charges in the State of Texas

By Peek & Toland on June 21, 2018

In the state of Texas, cyberbullying is defined as a person who uses any means of electronic communications in order to engage in bullying or intimidation of another person. As a result, messages and posts on widely-used social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, can constitute cyberbullying, which can lead to various criminal charges in the state of Texas.

For example, harassment is either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor under Texas law, depending on the circumstances. Harassment occurs when an individual intentionally communicates an obscene proposal, threatens, conveys a false report, or calls or sends a message that is intended to harass, annoy, alarm, embarrass, or torment another individual. Certain online activities, including messages and posts on social media, clearly could constitute harassment under Texas law.

How Social Media Can Lead to Criminal Charges in the State of Texas

A more serious criminal offense under Texas law may occur if an individual knowingly solicits a minor under the age of 17 via the internet, text messaging, or other electronic systems in order to meet in person for the purposes of engaging in sexual behavior. Again, sending these sorts of message through Facebook or Instagram definitely could result in a criminal charge of Online Solicitation of a Minor, which is a third degree felony, or, if the minor is under the age 14, a second degree felony. As a result, even if you think that you are corresponding with an adult online, you should be wary. If it turns out that you really are corresponding with a minor who has lied about his or her age, you could be asking for trouble. While there are certain defenses to charges such as these, it is best to simply avoid the situation altogether, if possible.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland pride themselves on aggressively advocating on behalf of those individuals who are facing criminal prosecution. We will obtain the necessary evidence on your behalf, build a strong defense in your case, and work with you to create the strategy to best handle your case. It is our goal to help you put your criminal charges behind you and move on with your life. Contact our office today and learn how we can help.

Trump’s Executive Order Provides for Detention of More Pregnant Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on June 20, 2018

Under the Obama administration, it was the policy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents not to detain pregnant immigrants except under extraordinary circumstances. The Trump administration’s executive order ordering a crackdown on undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., however, has resulted in the reversal of that policy. A new internal ICE memo curtails the automatic release of pregnant immigrants picked up by ICE, although Trump’s executive order did not specifically address the detention of pregnant immigrants. That executive order simply directed ICE to target anyone present in the U.S. without a legal immigration status.

According to ICE’s website, pregnant immigrants still will be eligible for release, but only on a case-by-case basis. As a general rule, pregnant immigrants will remain in detention if their “detention is necessary to effectuate removal, as well as those deemed a flight risk or a danger to the community.” However, it also states on the ICE website that they will not detain pregnant women during their third trimesters “absent extraordinary circumstances.” This policy change evidently took effect in December, 2017.

Trump’s Executive Order Provides for Detention of More Pregnant Immigrants

ICE reportedly has detained 506 pregnant immigrants since December; as of March, 20, 2018, 35 pregnant women remain in ICE custody. This is despite outcry by immigration advocates, who point that detention of pregnant immigrants is likely to lead to serious health implications for the mother and unborn child. ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations official Phillip Miller, who verified these figures, also indicated that ICE would not deport pregnant women during their third trimesters due to the risk of flying.

The attorneys of Peek & Toland know immigration law and the ins and outs of the immigration court system. We have the experience to guide you through any immigration proceedings in which you may be involved, no matter the circumstances. We are familiar with the different types of defenses that may be available to individuals facing deportation proceedings, and we have a great deal of experience in building cases in defense of individuals just like you. Contact your Texas deportation defense lawyers today, and discover how we can help.

DOJ Keeps Legal Orientation Program for Detained Immigrants in Place

By Peek & Toland on June 20, 2018

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it will keep the Legal Orientation Program in place, which provides legal assistance for immigrants detained in federal immigration detention centers. Although the DOJ originally had stated its intent to end the program as of April 30, 2018, it later agreed to leave the program intact at the request of Congress. However, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions still has made it clear that the administration plans to review the overall cost-effectiveness of the program.

The Legal Orientation Program has been in place since 2003 and is overseen by New York’s Vera Institute of Justice. The focus of the program is to help detained immigrants navigate the notoriously complex immigration system and secure pro bono legal counsel to help them in deportation proceedings. The program also conducts campaigns and workshops designed to educate immigrants facing potential deportation about their legal rights. Assistance through the Legal Orientation Program is available in 38 different detention centers, and the program’s efforts reach about half of the detained immigrants in the nation at any given time. In the state of Texas alone, immigration advocates estimate that these campaigns reach more than 30,000 detainees who are housed in about a dozen of the state’s immigration detention centers.

DOJ Keeps Legal Orientation Program for Detained Immigrants in Place

When the DOJ initially announced its intent to close the program, even the most conservative immigration judges defended the program for its effectiveness. Even if some detainees don’t receive pro bono legal assistance through the Legal Orientation Program, they still can assist with paperwork or translations

When you or a loved one is detained, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to access the legal help that you need. At Peek & Toland, we are here to help you with your immigration case. We will devote all of our efforts to representing your interests, answering your questions, and calming your concerns. Don’t hesitate to contact Peek & Toland and schedule a time to meet with us today. We can help protect your rights and get you the relief that you need.

Power of Attorney Signatures on Immigration Applications No Longer Valid

By Peek & Toland on June 19, 2018

U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new policy memorandum in mid-February, the provisions of which took effect on March 18, 2018. The memorandum concerns signatures on immigration applications, petitions, requests, and other documents filed with USCIS. More specifically, the memorandum reversed the policy in a previous interim memorandum that permitted power of attorney signatures on immigration documents. USCIS reportedly made these changes due to concerns about consistency, fraud, and program integrity.

Under the new memorandum, all individuals submitting an application, petition, request, or other document to USCIS must contain personal signatures. An individual’s signature must be a handwritten sign or mark in order to be valid; USCIS will not accept signatures with a word processor, typewriter, stamp, or another type of device. Although the original handwritten signature must be in ink, USCIS will accept a photocopied or scanned copy of the original signature. However, the memorandum does not affect the signatures of minor under the age of 14 or disabled individuals who are mentally incompetent.

Power of Attorney Signatures on Immigration Application No Longer Valid

If USCIS receives an application, petition, or other legal document with an insufficient or improper signature, it has the right to reject the filing altogether rather than to give the individual filing the document any opportunity to correct the deficiency. Furthermore, if USCIS doubts the legitimacy of the signature on a document, it can request evidence showing that the individual has the legal authority to sign the document. For instance, an authorized person must sign a petition or other legal document to be filed with USCIS on behalf of a corporation. The authorized person must be employed by the corporation.

At Peek & Toland, we care about keeping your family together and preserving your American home. We will focus all of our efforts on standing up for your rights and representing your interests as you seek to obtain a legal immigration status and avoid deportation. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering evidence to support your case and navigating the complex rules of the U.S. immigration system. Allow us to handle your immigration case by sitting down with us today and discussing your case.

Fifth Circuit Ruling Allows Most of Texas Senate Bill 4 Provisions to Go Into Effect

By Peek & Toland on June 18, 2018

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has ruled that most provisions of Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), a controversial piece of immigration enforcement legislation, can go in effect while challenges to the law play out in a lawsuit brought by the cities of El Cenizo, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, Maverick County, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas. As written, SB 4 allows local law enforcement officers to question individuals whom they detain or arrest about their immigration status. The law, which effectively eliminates the ability of Texas cities, counties, or other jurisdictions to enact so-called “sanctuary city” ordinances, also punishes appointed or elected government officials who fail to honor immigration detainers, which asks them to turn over immigrants subject to deportation to immigration officials. Punishment for violation of this law includes jail time, penalties in excess of $25,000, and possible removal from office.

Fifth Circuit Ruling Allows Most of Texas Senate Bill 4 Provisions to Go Into Effect

The only provision of SB 4 that remains on hold and subject to an injunction punishes local officials for “adopting, enforcing, or endorsing” policies that specifically prohibit or limit enforcement of immigration laws. However, the court made clear that the injunction applies only to the word “endorse.” The U.S. District Court that initially heard the suit issued an injunction that halted several portions of the law, largely based on the high potential for racial profiling that the law would create.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the ruling, which represents a victory for the Republican leadership that worked together to enact the bill. MALDEF and ACLU are now considering how to proceed in the pending lawsuit challenging the law.

Regardless of your immigration status, you are entitled to certain rights under the U.S. Constitution. We will devote all of our efforts to representing your interests before the immigration court, answering your questions, and calming your concerns. Don’t hesitate to contact Peek & Toland and schedule a time to meet with us today. We can help protect your rights and get you the relief that you need.

Should I Hire a Defense Lawyer if Police Are Investigating Me for a Crime?

By Peek & Toland on June 17, 2018

If law enforcement officers contact you about a crime investigation, you always should protect your rights by immediately contacting an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney for help. While you may be hesitant to consult with or even contact an attorney, perhaps out of fear that you may look guilty or because police officers may warn you against doing so, getting the proper advice is essential. In many cases, if you get a criminal defense lawyer involved at the outset of an investigation, you may be able to resolve the issue without ever having charges filed against you. This can save you time, money, and unnecessary worry about an arrest or criminal charges that very well can cloud your future.

If you are under investigation, you have basic rights that you can and should exercise, no matter what the situation may be. You have the right to remain silent, the right to privacy, the right to leave if you are not under arrest, and the right to retain counsel. While many individuals are tempted to try to explain a situation to police or cooperate with their investigation, doing so often can make things much worse. By speaking freely about a criminal investigation, you inadvertently may be giving the police evidence that later will be used against you in a criminal prosecution. Don’t help law enforcement officials build a case for criminal charges against you. Remain silent and exercise your right to consult with an attorney.

Should I Hire a Defense Lawyer if Police Are Investigating Me for a Crime?

Likewise, if police are questioning you about an ongoing criminal investigation and you are not under arrest, you have the right to remove yourself from the situation. If you are at the police station for questioning, you may leave if you are not in custody. If police are at your home or workplace for questioning or stopped by police, and they have not arrested you, then you have the right to ask them to leave. Do not put yourself in a situation in which you potentially may incriminate yourself. Exercise your right to leave and contact a defense lawyer right away.

At Peek & Toland, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and defending you from any potential criminal charges. We are here to investigate the facts surrounding your case, consider your options, and help you develop the strategy that is best designed to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Do not waste time; contact our office as soon as you become the target of an investigation.

USCIS Creates New Internal Division to Crack Down on Lenient Immigration Caseworkers

By Peek & Toland on June 16, 2018

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced to that it is creating an internal division designed to more closely oversee its own immigration caseworkers. According to information obtained by the Washington Post, this move may be prompted by a desire to rein in caseworkers who are more lenient with individuals who are seeking residency or citizenship. While the 19,000 USCIS employees and contractors have received no information about the structure of the new division, internal information suggests that some employees are being quietly reassigned to the division.

The new USCIS office, named the Organization of Professional Responsibility, will have three divisions to help oversee the estimated 26,000 immigration applications that USCIS adjudicates daily. One of these divisions will be an Investigations Division, which will investigate cases involving “fraud, waste, abuse, or misconduct by USCIS employees.” The new office will also have a Counterintelligence Division, whose goal will be to reduce vulnerability to penetration by foreign government and criminals, and an Inspections Division, which will “conduct independent reviews of specific aspects of agency compliance.”

USCIS Creates New Internal Division to Crack Down on Lenient Immigration Caseworkers

This announcement from USCIS is consistent with its other actions in recent months to move the agency away from serving customers and welcoming immigrants to abiding by increasingly stricter immigration laws. More specifically, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna has removed the phrase “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants” from the agency’s mission statement, and has instructed its employees to refer to immigrants as “applicants” rather than “customers.”

If you have an immigration case or court proceeding pending, you are entitled to certain rights. Whether you are detained or simply facing deportation proceedings, you need legal assistance today to fight for those rights and work toward the relief that you are seeking. We will put forth our full efforts to win your release from detention, defend you against deportation charges, and restore your family. There are a variety of defenses against deportation that may apply to your immigration case. The Texas deportation defense attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of deportation proceedings 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.

Trump Administration Immigration Policies Create Worker Shortages

By Peek & Toland on June 16, 2018

According to a new report by New American Economy, the Trump administration’s changes in immigration policies has created a shortage of skilled workers throughout the U.S. In some states, there are 15 open job postings for science, technology, engineering, and math-related (STEM) jobs for every unemployed STEM worker. With birth rates at all-time low, and Baby Boomers increasingly leaving the workforce, immigrants made up 16.9% of the American workforce in 2016. With immigration policies now consistently reducing immigration rates to the states, worker shortages are continuing to grow.

Given the length of time that it often takes to enter the U.S. as a skilled worker, some foreign workers are seeking other options, such as working in other countries, such as Spain or Canada, where the immigration is much easier. The Trump administration’s attempts to shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program also is likely to drive away well-educated, skilled workers who have grown up in the U.S. and currently contribute to the U.S. economy. With the uncertainty regarding the status of DACA over the past several months, DACA recipients are increasingly worried about their ability to remain in the U.S.; they very well could leave the country or go underground, taking their spouses and partners with them, which only adds to worker shortages.

 

Trump Administration Immigration Policies Create Worker Shortage

Furthermore, American immigration policy is not only creating a worker shortage in STEM industries. For example, National Public Radio recently reported that Maryland is experiencing a significant worker shortage in the seafood industry, just in time for crab season. Over the last 20 years, seasonal workers from Mexico have come to pick crab meat each spring, when they could obtain work visas on a first-come, first-serve basis. This year, the Trump administration changed those visa procedures to a lottery system, which effectively shut out some crab pickers that have used these visas for years. This labor shortage is likely to drive up the prices of crab meat and even shut down some suppliers. Plus, the attempts of some employers to hire American workers have largely met with failure, with some crab houses not even getting a single applicant following widespread advertising.

As worker shortages continue to grow nationwide, many immigrants and their families continue to face immigration court proceedings and other immigration-related issues. The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are facing deportation charges. 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. It is our goal 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 and your family through this difficult situation.

What is White Collar Crime?

By Peek & Toland on June 15, 2018

White collar crime is a classification for a wide range of crimes; typically, white collar crimes involve some sort of illegal deceit or breach of trust by a business or government professional, and do not involve acts of violence. Nonetheless, white collar crime convictions can result in serious penalties similar to those for more violent crimes, including long terms of incarceration, high fines, and payment of restitution to any victims. White collar crimes can be state law violations or federal law violations, depending on whether the allegedly activities crossed state lines. Some common examples of white collar crimes are bank fraud, identity theft, tax evasion, money laundering, mail and wire fraud, consumer fraud, and bribery.

What is White Collar Crime?

One common element of many white collar crimes is evidence showing that one individual or business is liable for the actions of one or more other individuals or businesses. In many cases, white collar crimes involve an individual who engages in criminal action on behalf of another, such as a boss or a corporation. Under certain circumstances, a corporation may be liable for the actions of its employees under federal law and under Texas law. Due to differences in federal and state law, it is easier for a corporation to be held responsible for its employees’ illegal actions than under Texas law. However, it is relatively common for one employee to be liable for the actions of another under Texas law; for this type of criminal liability, there need only be proof that a person forced another to perform the illegal act, solicited, attempted, or aided in the action, or had a legal duty to stop or prevent the action when able to do so.

The consequences of a criminal conviction can be serious, no matter what type of criminal charges you may be facing. As a result, you should immediately contact a skilled defense attorney for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for adults 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.

What Do I Do if My Conditional Residency is About to Expire?

By Peek & Toland on June 14, 2018

If you are an immigrant who has married a U.S. citizen, you are likely to have received permanent residency on a conditional basis, which means that it has been less than two years since your marriage occurred. As a result, your residency will expire two years from the date that you received it, unless you take action to remove the conditions from your residency.

To remove the conditions from your residency, you must file the proper application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 90 days prior to the expiration of your residency. This application form that you must file is Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence; you and your U.S. citizen spouse must sign and jointly submit this form. In order to do so, you must provide evidence that you are still married and that you are in a bona fide marriage.

What Do I Do if My Conditional Residency is About to Expire?

If you have divorced or your marriage has been annulled within two years of receiving your conditional residency, you still will need to file a Form I-751. However, you also will need to ask for a waiver of the joint filing requirement. The most common reasons to ask for this waiver include divorce after a bona fide marriage, abuse or battery by your spouse during a bona fide marriage, and a showing of extreme hardship if you must return to your country of origin. If you can provide evidence of a bona fide marriage, then USCIS often will grant your waiver. However, if evidence shows that your marriage was merely a business transaction designed to avoid immigration laws, or that you were the cause of your divorce because you committed adultery or abandoned your spouse, then USCIS may deny your request for a waiver.

If USCIS denies your request to remove the conditions from your residency, for whatever reason, or refuses to waive the joint filing requirement, you are likely to become subject to deportation. The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are facing deportation charges. 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. It is our goal 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 and your family through this difficult situation.

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