Nigerian Man Awaiting Deportation Sues Johnson County Jail

By Peek & Toland on August 24, 2016

A Nigerian national who was held in a Texas jail before being deported to his home country has filed a lawsuit against the facility operators, claiming authorities withheld treatment for his injuries.

The Dallas Morning News highlighted the disturbing case of the man from Justin who claimed he suffered bleeding ulcers and other medical problems when he was held in the Johnson County Jail.

Nigerian man sues Texas jail over treatment

As attorneys who help many immigrants fight against deportation in Texas, we were alarmed to read about the conditions Stephen Nwaogwugwu claimed he suffered at the jail.

The 56-year-old sued the operator of the Johnson County Jail. He was on probation for an obstruction of a roadway offense when he fell into the hands of the immigration authorities in January. He was deported to Nigeria.

The lawsuit stated Nwaogwugwu was suffering from no medical issues when he was incarcerated, but he subsequently developed ulcers and a condition called a rectal prolapse while he was being held in an immigration detention center at the Johnson County Jail. The center is run by a private company called LaSalle Southwest Corrections.

In the lawsuit that seeks $100,000 in damages, the Nigerian accused the jail of withholding medication and delaying treatment for his injuries. He said his condition deteriorated before he was deported to Nigeria in February where his condition was treated.

The Dallas Morning News report said Nwaogwugwu is married to a U.S. citizen.

Our Texas immigration attorneys regularly help permanent residents who face deportation being charged with a crime. See more details here.

Conditions at privately-run prisons have come under intense scrutiny over the last few months. Recently, a Mother Jones reporter went undercover at a privately-run jail in Louisiana.

If you are facing deportation, either as an undocumented migrant or a permanent resident, it’s important to get experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Our Austin-based immigration and criminal defense lawyers can help. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Survey Finds Obama’s Immigration Actions Are Popular with Americans

By Peek & Toland on August 23, 2016

There has been much speculation about how popular President Obama’s immigration policy is with the general population. When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its verdict on the President’s flagship immigration actions, it was a disappointing blow to the administration.

But while the justices were split over the decision that could affect more than 4 million undocumented immigrants, there is evidence of support for the deferred action measures outlined by the president.

Obama's immigration policies are generally popular

The 4-4 ruling in June came seven months before the President’s term in office ends. It means immigration reform is practically dead in the water until a new president is elected and appoints a ninth Supreme Court judge.

The Supreme Court considered the case of United States. v. Texas, a lawsuit brought by 26 states against the contentious executive actions allowing certain undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S.

The two deferred actions in question were Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). They would give deferred action status to some undocumented parents who lived in the US since 2010 who have children and some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children. DACA was set up in 2012 but its expansion was discussed by the courts. The expansion would make an additional 270,000 people eligible for DACA.

You can read more about the programs here on our website.

Notwithstanding the opposition of states, the programs appear to be less contentious and popular with the general public.

Take the PRRI/RNS survey from a year ago that found 73 percent of Americans support DAPA. Although much has been made of the opposition of Republican-led states, 65 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats were supportive of DAPA.

Research Found the DREAM Act was Popular

Research also found that 66 percent of Americans backed the DREAM Act, a policy that would allow undocumented immigrants who arrived in America as children to obtain legal status by joining the military or attending a college. The DREAM Act has stalled in Congress.

Last year, a CNN poll also suggested the President’s flagship policy was popular. It found just a quarter of Americans thought Obama’s immigration policies went too far, while half of those who responded agreed with it. Another 22 percent said deferred action did not go far enough in reforming the immigration system.

However, the survey found a majority of the respondents – 56 percent – thought the President had gone too far in using executive action to override opposition.

We are concerned that the alternative to deferred action is families being broken apart by deportation. The fact that deferred action not been implemented has left the lives of millions of immigrants in limbo at a time when they could be making a valuable contribution to the economy of Texas.

If you or a loved one is facing possible deportation, we can help you. Call our experienced Texas cancellation of removal lawyers for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

 

H1-B Visas Hike Has Not Hit Level of Requests

By Peek & Toland on August 22, 2016

India is one of the leading pools of overseas labor for U.S. companies that seek to bring skilled workers here on H1-B visas.

However, the Indian IT industry recently raised concerns about a recent hike in the H1-B visa fee.

An increase in the fees for certain for certain H-1B and L-1 petitioners was enacted in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 signed into law by President Obama last December. These petitioners have to submit an extra fee of $4,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $4,500 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions that were submitted post-December 18, 2015.

These additional fees apply to U.S. petitioners with 50 or more employees if more than 50 percent of those workers hold H-1B or L nonimmigrant status. Further details are provided here by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Economic Times, an Indian publication, noted the hike had raised fears in the Indian IT sector that fewer U.S. employers would want to hire skilled Indian workers.

Joseph M Pomper, Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs at the US Embassy, recently said this doubling of the fee had not dampened interest in the visas.

Hike in H1-B Visa Cost Has Not Deterred applicants

India has a massive outsourcing industry. The hike in visas is expected to tax it to the tune of about $400 million.

As well as the increase in the cost of H1-B visas, the fee for certain L1 visas, which are used for intra-company transfers, was raised to $4,500.

The scramble for visas this year suggested the hike has had little effect. Pomper said about 70 percent of all H1-B visas and 30 percent of L1 visas go to Indian companies. He said in the interview.

“The fact that more Indians happen to use that visa category is why they feel it more. It has not impacted H1B or L1 applications at all.”

We note on our website that demand for these specialty occupation visas is growing all the time and demand outstrips supply. The statutory cap for the financial year 2017 was reached in just under a week in April.

We set out what you will need to do if you are applying for an H1-B visa here in this blog.

At Peek & Toland, PLLC, we are familiar with the high competition for these skilled worker visas and all of the detailed requirements that you will need to complete. We can help you or your company to avoid the pitfalls. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 for a consultation.

How to Obtain Citizenship Through Military Service

By Peek & Toland on August 19, 2016

If you are serving in the U.S. military special rules apply that can expedite your path to citizenship.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorizes U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to speed up the naturalization process for current members of the U.S. armed forces as well as those who were recently discharged.

How military service can expedite citizenship

On our website, we note that service personnel or those recently discharged who qualify for citizenship due to military services are exempt from certain naturalization requirements. They are detailed in Sections 328 and 329 of the INA. Even if you are serving overseas with the U.S. armed forces, you have access to all aspects of the naturalization process. Certain “command-sponsored” spouses have the same rights.

It’s worth noting that those who leave the service under conditions that are other than honorable after obtaining U.S. citizenship could have it revoked.

 

Which Military Services Benefit from Expedited Citizenship?

Qualifying military service generally includes:

1 – Army

2 – Navy

3 – Marine Corps

4 – Coast Guard

5 – National Guard

Qualifications

A member of the U.S. armed forces must meet certain requirements and qualifications to become a citizen of the United States. He or she must demonstrate:

  • Knowledge of the English language,
  • Good moral character,
  • Knowledge of history and U.S. government, and
  • Attachment to the United States of America by taking the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.

USCIS states that since the beginning of October 1, 2001, it has naturalized 109,321 members of the military. Of those 11,069 became U.S. citizens during naturalization ceremonies in 34 different foreign countries.

There are special provisions for those serving during war and peacetime.

Service during War

Under Section 329 of the INA, all noncitizens who have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces on or after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were to file immediately for citizenship. The order which was signed by President George W Bush in July 2002, also applies to veterans of specified previous conflicts.

Service During Peacetime

Members of the U.S. armed services who have been discharged are covered by Section 328 of the INA. Overseas nationals who served in the past may qualify for naturalization if they have:

  • Served honorably in the armed forces for a minimum of one year,
  • Obtained lawful permanent resident status in the U.S., and
  • Filed an application for citizenship while in the service or within six months of leaving.

America’s servicemen and women have shown great bravery in some of the harshest conditions as the United States has taken part in protracted conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. At Peek & Toland, PLLC, we are happy to provide our nation’s service members with the all of the assistance they need to become citizens. Please contact us today so as we can help you and your family to take the next step.

New Figures Point to Growth of Immigrant Population in the U.S.

By Peek & Toland on August 18, 2016

Immigrants make up a sizeable proportion of the population of the United States. New figures point to growth in the immigrant population to more than 42.2 million by 2014, comprising more than 13 percent of the overall population.

Statistics from the United States Census Bureau were contained in a recent report by the Migration Policy Institute. The most recent figures available about immigration found that from 2013 to 2014, the overseas-born population of the United States increased by 1 million or 2.5 percent.

New figures point to growth of immigrant population

When the US-born children of immigrants are factored into the equation, the growth number rises to 81 million people or 26 percent of the overall U.S. population.

The 1.3 million foreign-born individuals who arrived in the United States in 2014 was an increase from 1.2 million in 2013. Although immigration from Mexico and Central America is constantly in the headlines, India was the leading country of origin for new immigrants, with 147,500 arriving from the Asian country in 2014, followed by China with 131,800 arrivals, Mexico with 130,000, Canada with 41,200 immigrants, and the Philippines with 40,500.

The Census Bureau defines immigrants as people born outside the United States, who resided abroad one year earlier, including undocumented immigrants, lawful permanent residents, and temporary nonimmigrants.

How Many Immigrants Obtained Green Cards?

Census-derived data revealed 1,016,518 immigrants became lawful permanent residents in 2014. The number of new lawful permanent residents increased by 3 percent in 2014, although it remained lower than 2012 levels. Just over 40 percent were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. New arrivals made up about 47 percent (481,392) of those who received green cards in 2014. The others were status adjusters who were already living in the United States. Their green-card applications were approved in 2014.

There are a number of different routes to apply for a green card which our Texas permanent residency lawyers explain here.

A report released last year by the Pew Research Center said immigrants and their children will be the ones who are driving U.S. population growth over the next 50 years, transforming America into a country in which no ethnic group is in the majority.

Although Mexicans are often cited in the ongoing immigration debate, they will not make up the largest immigrant group in the future.

By the year 2055, there are projected to be more Asian immigrants living in the United States than Hispanic immigrants – 36 percent compared to 34 percent.

Our Austin immigration attorneys can cite many success stories about how we have helped people settle in the United States. Call us at (512) 474-4445 for assistance.

Supreme Court Decision on Deferred Actions will Impact Temporary Work Permits in Texas

By Peek & Toland on August 17, 2016

One potentially detrimental impact on the economy of Texas of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in United States v. Texas is the way it has denied the state of thousands of new workers who might otherwise qualify for work permits.

The U.S. Supreme Court split 4-4 on President Obama’s deferred action proposal that would have allowed more than 4 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States. The policy is now unlikely to progress during his presidency.

Deferred action would have meant work permits for Texas immigrants

Deferred action would have meant more work permits for Texas immigrants

In a recent article in SETexas Record written before the court handed down its decision, Cornell Law School professor Stephen Yale-Loehr, said several hundred thousand people in Texas would be able to apply for temporary work permits if deferred action was backed by the justices.

Instead of being able to play a valuable part in Texas’s economy, these undocumented immigrants will now remain, in the words of Jose P. Garza, executive director of the Workers Defense Project, “living in the shadows.”

He said they would remain in constant fear of being separated from their families at any time and possibly deported.

Texas along with 25 other states filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas at the end of 2014 to block Obama’s proposed expansion of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Why New Work Permits Could Benefit the Texas Economy

The addition of hundreds of thousands of workers to the economy could boost areas with labor shortages.

The acute labor shortage in the building market was noted last year by the Houston Chronicle. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, many building workers left during the recession and are yet to return.

Almost half of the construction companies in Texas said they were losing their hourly craft workers to other local construction firms and 21 percent were losing them to different industries.

Although employers are barred by federal law from hiring people who are illegally in the country, undocumented immigrants can work for themselves or as independent contractors.

A report by the Public Policy Institute of California suggested increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants are opting to work for themselves. In Arizona alone, more than 25,000 undocumented migrants became self-employed in 2009. Texas has one of the largest populations of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

You can read more about the deferred action programs here on our website.  Our Texas immigration attorneys would be happy to deal with your questions or concerns. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Supreme Court to Review No Bail Policy for Immigrants Awaiting Deportation

By Peek & Toland on August 16, 2016

The Supreme Court is to decide whether immigrants who have been held in detention for at least six months awaiting deportation proceedings should be granted bail hearings.

The case of Jennings v Rodriguez will be held during the next term of the Supreme Court, which gets underway in October.

No bail policy for immigrants awaiting deportation to be reviewed by the Supreme Court

The justices will consider a federal appeals court decision that held immigrants in custody were entitled to a bond hearing after six months as well as every six months afterward.

The case of Jennings v. Rodriguez is also likely to consider when immigrants accused of having ties to terrorism should be released if the authorities are facing difficulties deporting them.

In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that immigrants who are facing deportation from the country should usually be held no more than six months in custody. However, the justices alluded to special circumstances, such as when immigrants pose a perceived threat to national security when some immigrants could be incarcerated for longer terms.

As experienced Texas bond lawyers, Peek & Tolland, PLLC, have years of background in jail release issues which we combine with our immigration practice. It’s important to know your rights about how long you can be held in detention if you are facing deportation.

Civil Liberties Union Accuses Justice Department over Bail Information

The American Civil Liberties Union has accused the Justice Department of understating the time immigrants are held to bolster its case before a previous case more than a decade ago.

The Supreme Court case of Demore v. Kim in 2003, upheld by 5-4 the controversial government practice of holding immigrants without bail, even U.S. residents who hold green cards who face deportation if they commit a crime.

The majority opinion relied on figures that showed the average detention was 47 days, while about 15 percent of immigrants who appealed their deportation orders had been detained for more than four months.

The ACLU disputed the figures that were provided by the Executive Office for Immigration Review. It argued the real number was 65 days after filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

The forthcoming case is important because a system that can hold immigrants for months on end without a bond hearing is a demoralizing one for immigrant families. Clear rules are needed to prevent abuse.

Please contact us today to find out more about our legal services and how we can help immigrants who are facing deportation to fight for bail hearings as well as cancellation of removal.

 

Immigration Lawyers Express Concern over Changes to E-Verify program

By Peek & Toland on August 15, 2016

Many companies use the E-Verify program to make sure prospective employees are eligible to work in the United States.

However, recent changes proposed to the system including the expansion of E-Verify to allow the reverification of existing workers have concerned lawyers.

E-Verify is an online system administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that compares a wide range of information on an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, as well as information on Social Security Administration and U.S. Department of Homeland Security records to confirm employment eligibility.

It’s used by more than 600,000 employers. USCIS boasts about its speed and accuracy. E-Verify is a free and fast online service that can quickly pull millions of government records and produce results in as little as three to five seconds.

In June 2016, USCIS announced a consultation on E-Verify including some of the key changes:

  • An employee may be able to receive emails about his or her case from the system.
  • The employer’s name will be added to email notices from the system to employees.
  • A process for reverification of employee work authorization for employees who have expiring temporary work authorization will be implemented.

The reverification provision has proved to be controversial with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which cited “legal and practical concerns.”

In a letter on June 20, AILA told USCIS it was disappointed that the agency had disagreed with its previous concerns.

Changes to E-Verify are concerning some lawyers

The immigration lawyers warned the expansion of E-Verify to include reverification of existing employees was no “simple revision” and amounted to a change in the mission of a congressionally supervised pilot program. AILA said E-Verify was specifically set up for the electronic verification of newly-hired employees.  It stated:

“The proposed reverification of existing employees exceeds the scope of what Congress authorized and appropriated for the E-Verify program.”

The letter said USCIS had many opportunities to inform Congress of its intent to expand E-Verify over the last few years and to add the reverification feature, but it had failed to obtain authorization for the major revision. They called for the rejection of the change.

Recently, Bloomberg noted many employers are only just starting to use the system. The article quoted a Seattle business owner who found almost 10 percent of his workforce was undocumented when he used the tool.

The prospect of losing workers who are undocumented has led some businesses to support deferred action, President Obama’s flagship immigration reform that has stalled in the courts.

Our experienced Austin immigration attorneys help many businesses with all aspects of immigration issues ranging from E-Verify to obtaining visas. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 for a consultation.

Poll Finds 81 Percent of Latinas will vote in 2016 Election

By Peek & Toland on August 12, 2016

Immigration has come to the fore in the 2016 election campaign after a proposal by prospective Republican nominee Donald Trump to implement mass deportation and to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. Now it seems Latinas are determined to make their vote count.

Predictably, Trump’s immigration proposals have provoked a strong reaction from Latino voters, in particular women.

Latinas are scrambling to vote in 2016

Recently, American Women reported that 81 percent of Latinas said they would vote in the 2016 election.

The article stated that Latinas are considerably more enthusiastic about voting in the 2016 elections than they were in the 2014 mid-term elections, and they have polarized feelings. Predominantly, they are anti-Trump.

Historically, Latinos have not voted in as high numbers as whites and African Americans. In 2008, the turnout rate for Latinos was nearly 50 percent and fell in 2012 to 48 percent.

However, most commentators believe the proportion of Latinos who vote will rise markedly this year.

Election Motivates Latinas and Spurs More Permanent Residents to Seek Citizenship

The likely scramble by Latinas to vote isn’t the only immigration-linked trend we have noted before this watershed election. The election has also spurred permanent residents to seek citizenship.

Associated Press reported on how the spike in naturalization applications occurred in the second half of 2015 compared to the same period in 2015. It came as Trump built up an unassailable lead in the GOP primaries.

Many permanent residents appear to fear that citizenship may become harder to achieve under a Trump administration. By becoming citizens, they can also vote.

As well as building a wall, Trump has pledged to deport as many as 11 million undocumented immigrants. Trump has been critical of Mexicans, although there is some evidence he has backtracked on his comments in the summer of 2016.

Latinas often face low incomes and social pressures. Large majorities of Latinas support policies that would allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States such as the deferred action recently proposed by President Obama. They also favor a path to citizenship. In a recent survey, Just 13 percent of Latinas said they supported the idea of a barrier being built along the border with Mexico; 83 percent oppose the idea.

There are many outdated ideas in immigration and the need for reform is paramount. Please contact our Austin immigration lawyers today for a consultation if you are facing any immigration-liked issue. Call (512) 474-4445.

Undocumented Youth from Central America Face Deportation

By Peek & Toland on August 11, 2016

Some of the saddest stories of deportation we see as Texas immigration attorneys concern those young people who arrive from Central America in the hope of a better life in the US only to be subsequently deported.

The wave of young people from Central America is a relatively new phenomenon. In 2014, violence and an upsurge of gang activity in countries like El Salvador and Honduras led to a migration of thousands of young people.

Young people from Central America face deportation

In a report, Center for American Progress noted how by July 2014, more than 57,000 children had arrived in the United States. It was a figure that was twice as high as the number of kids who reached the border in 2013. Many of them were alone.

The report noted that most of the unaccompanied children and families had started their long and dangerous journeys in part of Central America dubbed the “Northern Triangle,” where a combination of soaring levels of violence, gang activity, and poor economic conditions prevail.

Recently, the Citizen-Times described the plight of Elmer Reynoso-Reynoso, a former student from Asheville in North Carolina who was held in the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia

The report said he arrived in the United States two years ago as an unaccompanied minor. As many as 2,000 young people from Central America arrived in North Carolina alone around the same time.

Although the authorities said there is no reason to think Reynoso-Reynoso is a threat to public safety, and he recently became a father, he was picked up for missing a court hearing and hit with an order for removal.

Like many other migrants, he is in limbo. The backlog that’s faced by the immigration courts means it can take years to process the young people. Minors who have relatives in the United States are reunited with family while they wait for a hearing. Others are placed in detention centers and other temporary accommodations.

In 2015, along as many as 33,700 unaccompanied young people from Central America were placed in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Thousands of young people pay large sums of money and face many dangers to come to the U.S. However, they believe the risks are worth taking. The Citizen-Times interviewed Fatima Aguilar, Reynoso-Reynoso’s girlfriend, who is the mother of his child.

She made the hazardous journey from El Salvador as an unaccompanied minor at the age of 14 in 2014, facing severe heat under a car seat.

She said there are many more opportunities for Central American migrants in the United States.

Our Texas immigration attorneys have recorded a number of successes in cancellation of removal cases for immigrants from Latin America. In many cases, these migrants have few resources and can’t speak English.

Our bilingual attorneys can help you through every stage of fighting deportation. We realize it seems daunting at first, but we take over the burden of fighting your case. Call us today for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.