Immigration Reform

How Immigrant Crackdown Puts Domestic Assault Victims in Danger

By Peek & Toland on November 24, 2017

The recent immigration crackdown is intended to be a ‘get tough’ measure on crime that expedites the deportation of immigrants who offend. However, domestic assault victims may also be collateral in the crackdown, experts claim.

An article in Self noted how counselors at a domestic violence agency in Orange County in California report fewer and fewer undocumented immigrants are arriving at the agency to report abuse.

Adam Dodge, the legal director of Laura’s House, sees this as a worrying sign. He warned undocumented domestic violence victims are keeping quiet because they fear deportation if they speak out.

The trend became apparent in February.  Dodge said the agency experienced a dramatic change among about 80 people who use its services in a typical month. It went from up to 45 percent of the clients being undocumented to nearly zero.

Domestic assault victims and the immigration crackdown

Immigration crackdown may impact domestic assault victims

With immigration raids targeting cities like Austin, there is increasing evidence that undocumented immigrants are going underground. Some are no longer using services and others have taken their kids out of schools.

Dodge noticed a decrease in undocumented immigrants using services like counseling, legal aid and an emergency shelter in the wake of an incident in Texas.

In February, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained a woman claiming she was a victim of domestic violence in El Paso when she showed up at the courthouse to seek a protective order against her alleged abuser. The woman was deported.

Dodge said:

“That just spread like wildfire through the undocumented community across the United States and created this chilling effect where no one’s going in to seek restraining orders. People are just so scared of having their name in any system.”

He said the agency could not promise victims they would not be picked up by ICE if they showed up in court. Dodge said just one undocumented abuse victim sought the agency’s help after the El Paso incident and her situation was dire. A few more since trickled back but many did not return.

While many undocumented immigrants may have gone underground they may not be without support.

In February, some religious leaders vowed to set up a so-called “underground railroad” for undocumented immigrants, reported The Independent.

The report noted how the “Rapid Response Team”, a recently-formed network based in Los Angeles, is offering refuge to people sought by US Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), by buying houses for them to live in.

Los Angeles pastor Ada Valiente is overseeing the renovation of a house the network acquired to accommodate three immigrant families.

The El Paso incident appears to have created a new climate which is not beneficial for domestic assault victims. In March, video was shown of ICE officers apparently poised to make an arrest at a Denver courthouse where victims of domestic violence attend.

If you or a loved one has been apprehended by ICE agents, it’s important to seek help from an experienced Austin immigration lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us here.

 

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration, Immigration Reform

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ACLU Issues a Texas Travel Advisory over New Immigration Law

By Peek & Toland on November 8, 2017

The anti-immigrant law recently passed in Texas is so controversial, it has prompted a Texas travel advisory from the ACLU.

In May, the American Civil Liberties Union issued its “travel alert” following the signing of the anti-sanctuary cities bill in Texas.

It informed anyone planning to travel to Texas in the near future to look out for “the possible violation of their constitutional rights” if stopped by law enforcement officers.

The Texas travel advisory was prompted by the signing of Senate Bill 4, an anti-immigration measure that threatens to criminalize law enforcement officials who decline to comply with federal immigration requests.

Officials who fail to honor federal detainer requests to hold suspected illegal immigrants face being punished with a fine of $4,000 or up to a year in prison. Sheriffs, police departments, cities, and even college campuses can face civil penalties of up to $25,500 a day. Officials can be removed from office under the law.

Texas travel advisory issued by ACLU

ACLU issues Texas travel advisory

The ACLU was highly critical of the legislation and it faces legal challenges from a host of cities in Texas including Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.

ACLU officials said SB4 gives a green light to police officers in Texas to investigate the immigration status of a suspect during a routine traffic stop.

It claims this will lead to racial profiling and illegal arrests of citizens and non-citizens alike if they look or sound foreign.

The Texas travel advisory applies to all travelers to Texas, including American travelers from other states and U.S. citizens, stated the ACLU.

The alert applies to all encounters with state, federal and county law enforcement including local police and sheriffs.

The ACLU said the law was objectionable in a state that has strong links with Mexico.

Lorella Praeli, ACLU director of immigration policy and campaigns, said:

“The ACLU’s goal is to protect all Texans and all people traveling through Texas — regardless of their immigration status — from illegal harassment by law enforcement … Texas is a state with deep Mexican roots and home to immigrants from all walks of life.”

In recent months, places like Austin have seen immigration raids as the Trump administration sought to round up and deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records. There are, nevertheless, obstacles which we detail here.

If you have been impacted by new legislation in Texas or are facing an immigration challenge, please call our Texas immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

More than 30 U.S. States Have Legislation to Prevent Illegal Immigration

By Peek & Toland on November 1, 2017

A new law in Texas that aims to outlaw sanctuary cities has made headlines for being one of the toughest pieces of legislation against illegal immigration in the nation.

However, laws targeting undocumented immigrants have been introduced in more than 30 cities since the Trump administration took over.

A report in New American revealed at least 33 states adopted tougher immigration laws since Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The legislation reflects the Trump administration’s uncompromising stance on immigration which is stricter than that of his predecessor Barack Obama.

New American reported on how many U.S. states are keen to join the battle by passing laws requiring their cities and towns to cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. Policies in which cities and towns defy federal immigration authorities are consistent with sanctuary cities.

In a report in May, the Migration Policy Institute noted Texas is leading the way with laws intended to target illegal immigration. The bill signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott is slated to come into effect on Sept. 1, although it is facing legal challenges.

More than 30 states have statutes to prevent illegal immigration

Jurisdictions that fail to comply with ICE detainer requests face fines and law enforcement officials face being charged with crimes under the new law.

The Migration Policy Institute article noted America appears to be returning to a similar climate to a decade ago when states enacted a raft of anti-immigration laws.

That movement petered out when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down major planks of Arizona’s controversial Senate Bill (SB) 1070 law. Echoes of the Arizona law, which fostered a number of copycat laws in the Southeast, can be found in the Texas law, SB 4, say critics.

However, the court upheld the contentious part of the anti-immigrant law in Arizona, requiring police to determine the immigration status of an arrestee of someone who is detained when there is “reasonable suspicion” they are not in the U.S. legally, reported the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Texas law also allows police to inquire into the immigration status of noncitizens who are arrested or detained, as well as that of victims or witnesses to crimes in the state.

Three lawsuit were filled shortly after the Texas bill was signed. The legal parallels with SB 1070 mean the result and fallout of the law in Arizona will be carefully examined in the Texas case, reported the Migration Policy Institute.

Read more about sanctuary cities in Texas here on our website. If you require help with an immigration matter, please call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Lawsuits Are Filed over Texas Sanctuary Cities Act

By Peek & Toland on October 27, 2017

The recent Sanctuary Cities Act being drawn up in Texas is among the harshest of its kind in the country.

The legislation was enthusiastically backed by Governor Greg Abbott but is facing an uncertain future amid opposition from cities and legal challenges.

Austin and San Antonio have joined the list of cities suing the state of Texas over the immigration law which has been branded the harshest in the country.

An article in Think Progress noted San Antonio’s lawsuit was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

Lawsuit over Sanctuary Cities Act

Sanctuary Cities Act faces lawsuit

MALDEF is no stranger to bringing immigration lawsuits. The litigation was filed on behalf of the City of San Antonio and three nonprofits.

MALDEF argues SB4, which targets “sanctuary cities,” is unconstitutional.

Most controversially, SB4 opens up law enforcement officials who fail to comply with federal detainer requests to Class A misdemeanors.

The law was drafted with jurisdictions like Travis County in mind. In Austin, the new sheriff Sally Hernandez has implemented a policy to only comply with federal detainer requests in the case of serious offenders. The detainers allow people held in local jails to remain there for up to 48 hours while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) checks their immigration status.

Officials who fail to comply with the Texas law can be punished with a fine of $4,000 or up to a year in prison. Cities, police departments, and even college campuses can face civil penalties of up to $25,500 a day. Officials can be removed from office under the law.

MALDEF said the new law contains numerous constitutional violations.

In Austin, Mayor Steve Adler announced the city would also be challenging SB4.

The mayor described the new law as a danger to residents and said victims seeking police help might no longer come forward.

Adler took an uncompromising stance on the new Texas legislation. He said:

“We want our day in court because for far too long the Texas Legislature has been playing political football with the safety of our city and now we get to move to a different forum. One of the main impetuses behind the city filing suit is the keen and earnest desire to keep this community safe.”

Texas’ new law against sanctuary cities is in line with national efforts but it goes even further. The federal government is also seeking to crack down on sanctuary cities but it is limited in its powers to defund them.

These are uncertain and frightening times to be an immigrant. If you need help on any immigration matter, call our Austin family immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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Government Appeals to U.S. Supreme Court over Travel Ban

By Peek & Toland on October 26, 2017

The Trump administration has sought to impose two travel bans against predominantly Muslim countries. Both have been challenged in the courts and held up. Now the revised travel ban will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In June a second federal appeals court held up the revised travel ban, reported Bloomberg. The Supreme Court took up the case and allowed some parts of it to go ahead, reported The New York Times.

A report on NBC News stated the Trump administration saw the U.S. Supreme Court as offering the best hope of granting what the lower courts have so far denied — permission to implement the president’s executive order on travel.

U.S. Supreme Court to consider travel ban

The Travel Ban will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court

The government filed papers in early June appealing to the justices of the highest court in the land to take up its appeal.

It also wants to be allowed to enforce the contentious travel ban while the court decides whether to it will a full argument later on the legal merits of the case.

The NBC report said the Trump administration has some grounds for optimism. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court is back at full strength with the arrival of Neil Gorsuch, it is the most conservative body to consider the travel bans to date. The court has a reputation for deferring to presidents on national security issues.

However, the highest court in the land faces a tight timetable to consider the travel ban.

The initial travel ban that followed an executive order in February caused chaos at airports. Travel was blocked from seven mainly Muslim countries.

After President Donald Trump’s first order was blocked in the courts, the president signed the second one, imposing a ban on travel from Sudan, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for 90 days. Iraq was removed from the original list.

During the travel ban period, the federal government was to assess the reliability of background information from the six countries that the State Department relies on to evaluate whether to issue a visa.

The second ban was also blocked by the courts. The order has never been enforced and the government faces an uphill task to persuade the justices it will be permanently harmed if it can’t start enforcement right away.

NBC spoke to Prof. Steve Vladeck, a federal courts expert at the University of Texas at Austin.

He said in June it could take months before the U.S. Supreme Court conducts a full hearing into the executive order’s legality. He said:

“It’s going to weigh heavily on the minds of the justices just what it would mean to put the order into effect now, especially when we’re looking at such a lag time on when the court might hear courtroom argument.”

The original travel ban was intended to prevent refugees from the affected countries for 120 days. In the chaos after the ban even some green card holders were affected.

The swift intervention of the courts meant normality resumed quickly, but long-term concerns linger for visa holders and other people from the impacted countries who live and work in the United States.

If you been impacted by federal reforms in the immigration system, please contact our experienced Texas immigration lawyers here.

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Protection of Asylum Seekers in the United States is Failing, Says Report

By Peek & Toland on October 25, 2017

People who have faced persecution in their home countries may claim asylum in the United States. However, reports in recent years have undermined the adequacy of protection of asylum seekers in the United States.

The Migration Policy Institute warned the system was failing in a report a few years ago both for asylum seekers and refugees who seek a new life in the United States from abroad.

It said the U.S. refugee protection system, although generous in many respects, became less robust over the last two decades.

The Migration Policy Institute warned it was failing to meet the diverse needs of refugee populations.

Report questions protection of asylum seekers

Protection of asylum seekers is questioned

The report highlighted heightened concern about security, inadequate coordination between government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and policy tensions that remained unresolved concerning the goals of protecting the most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers ask for protection after arriving in the United States. Refugees are granted protected status outside of the host country.

The report found local communities were becoming increasingly concerned about the “integration capacities” of these arrivals. Often they appeared to be left to fend for themselves.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement was criticized in the report. It was found not to be keeping long-term indicators of refugee self-reliance, well-being or integration into the local community.

Asylum filings and grants fell from 2001 to 2011 due to the one-year filing deadline, heightened burden of proof requirements, and other stricter criteria after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A more recent report in Truth Out highlighted the obstacles that face asylum seekers in making a successful application to stay in the United States.

The report quoted an immigration lawyer who said the U.S. government granted asylum in only two of her cases in four decades.

One of the cases was a woman who faced genital mutilation and the other involved a Guatemalan Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. Barbara Hines is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

She said the woman experienced highlights the difficulties applicants for asylum face.

When applicants successfully receive asylum, they can remain in the United States because they have been victims of persecution as a result of religion, race, nationality, membership of a particular social group or their political opinions.

Hines said asylum cases are highly litigated and strongly contested and it’s not just enough to show harm.

If you are seeking asylum, please call our Texas immigration attorneys at (512) 474-4445. Find out more about asylum here on our website.

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First DREAMer Deported Under the Trump Administration

By Peek & Toland on October 9, 2017

The arrival of the Trump administration led to considerable speculation about the future of so-called DREAMERs. Recently, the first DREAMer deported under the new administration sparked increased concern.

DREAMERS are undocumented immigrants who were protected under Obama’s Dream Act.

Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, 23, was sent to his home country of on February 17 just hours after he failed to provide identification of his legal residency to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent.

Trump administration saw first DREAMer deported

The first DREAMer was deported under the Trump administration

A report in People said Montes was out with his girlfriend and waiting for a taxi when the agent came and questioned him. He said he’d left his wallet in a friend’s car. Because he was unable to prove he was protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), he was transferred into custody. Agents took him across the border a few hours later.

Alarm as First DREAMer deported under the Trump Administration

People who qualified for the DACA program have been concerned about its future under the Trump administration.

The program helps DREAMers who are foreign-born individuals brought to the United States. as children. Obama’s flagship policy gave them a two-year work permit, a social security number, and protection from deportation.

The People report said Montes applied for DACA status in 2014, then again in 2016. He was meant to be protected until 2018, because the program runs for two full years.

The Trump administration previously moved to reassure DREAMers they were safe under the Trump administration.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly said the DACA program is “alive and well.”

However, the deportation of Montes Bojorquez left the DREAMer community nervous.

In our blog we describe how the election of Trump left those who benefitted from Obama’s policy in limbo.

These are uncertain and difficult times for immigrants. If you or a family member is facing possible deportation from Texas and need assistance to fight the action, please call Peek Toland & Castañeda PLLC at (512) 474-4445.

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White House is Urged to Keep the International Entrepreneur Rule

By Peek & Toland on October 7, 2017

Concerns over the future of the International Entrepreneur Rule that allows business leaders from other countries to come to the United States more easily, have led American business leaders to put pressure on the White House.

An article in The Hill in June noted investors, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders are pushing the Trump administration to not block the rule that would smooth the way for entrepreneurs from other countries to come to the U.S.

We outlined the finalized rule earlier this year. Investors who can pump at least $250,000 into the U.S. economy can benefit under the International Entrepreneur Rule.

The measure was originally proposed by the Obama administration. It allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to evaluate whether or not business owners can relocate to the U.S. to grow their companies, on a case-by-case basis.

business community fights for the International Entrepreneur Rule

Almost 80 groups representing investors, startup founders, economic development organizations and civic leaders sent a letter in May to the White House. They urged the administration to not roll back the International Entrepreneur Rule due to go into effect on July 17. In the letter they argued:

“Immigrant entrepreneurs are a critical driver of increased economic activity, as they play an outsized role in new company creation in communities all across our country.”

Over the summer, administration officials held a meeting with the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), a Washington DC trade association that represents venture capital and entrepreneurial interests.

The Trump administration has not taken a stance on the International Entrepreneur Rule.

The groups believe the U.S. is missing out on potential investment from overseas. They say while the rule is not a substitute for legislation, it may be an important step to bringing entrepreneurial talent to the U.S., which has been declining in recent years.

At Peek Toland & Castañeda PLLC, our experienced business immigration attorneys can help you hire people from overseas or if you are using complex federal investment programs. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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Schools Back Drive for New Sanctuary Campuses

By Peek & Toland on September 28, 2017

More schools are pushing to become sanctuary campuses. However, some administrators fear the creation of sanctuary campuses could make immigrants targets.

A report on U.S. News highlighted a debate at Hood College in Maryland. It described how petitions demanding the school becomes a sanctuary campus are circulating.

It described how one student, José Galarza, asked college administrators to start a discussion about the issue of sanctuary campuses.

The merits of sanctuary camouses are discussed

Students discuss sanctuary campuses

Vice president of finance and treasurer Charles Mann, Provost Debbie Ricker and President Andrea Chapdelaine initiated the debate about what sanctuary status means to colleges and universities.

Hood hosted Janis Judson, chair of the Department of Law and Criminal Justice at Hood. The panel included Andrea Shuford, a Hood graduate and principal attorney at Shuford Immigration Law in Virginia. They took questions and talked what a sanctuary campus is, and what it isn’t.

Most sanctuary campuses are modeled after sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that limit the level of cooperation with government to enforce a wide range of immigration laws.

Judson, a constitutional lawyer, talked about immigration law and which bodies have the powers to set and enforce immigration laws. He pointed out it’s constantly evolving and was an issue which became a battleground for all three branches of federal government in recent years.

Judson said undocumented immigrants are frightened in the current era of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids with an uptick in deportations under the Trump administration.

Shuford advised students at Hood College who may be coming under pressure because of their immigration issues that sanctuary campus status has little meaning. She said the term sanctuary has little basis in law and zero legal status in federal law.

She pointed out limiting the college’s cooperation with law enforcement would not mean assisting or harboring a person who entered the country illegally. Shuford said it means the campus would not actively help law enforcement in detaining the immigrant.

We noted how sanctuary campuses are being set up to assist undocumented immigrants on our blog.

However, there are already moves to reduce funds to sanctuary campuses in the same way as to sanctuary cities.

If you need help with an immigration matter call our experienced Austin, Texas family immigration team at (512) 474-4445.

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Illegal Border Crossings from Mexico to the US Fall to a 17 Year Low

By Peek & Toland on September 27, 2017

The new Trump administration promised a tough approach to immigration. That approach may be linked to a fall in the number of undocumented immigrants seeking to cross the U.S. border from Mexico.

A report on BBC said the number of people arrested crossing the border into the US fell to a 17 year low by the spring.

The report noted fewer than 17,000 arrests of undocumented migrants were recorded in March. The figure was the lowest since 2000, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the decline reflected Trump’s tough stance on immigration in a briefing to Congress.

Illegal border crossings fall

Illegal border crossings decline

Kelly gave the figures in testimony to the Senate Homeland Security Committee in April. He spoke about an “amazing drop” in the number of migrants taking the dangerous route north from Central America.

Kelly said March marked the fifth straight month of declining numbers. The number of migrants arrested at the border is about 71 percent lower than the December 2016 total – 58,478, Kelly said.

He said the trend on illegal immigration was good news but the southern border remained a priority to protect the country from terrorists and other criminals.

In April, a report from the Pew Research Center found the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States has now dropped to its lowest level since 2009.

The research found the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the US in 2015 fell below the total at the end of the recession for the first time. The research found Mexicans represented a falling share of this population.

The Pew Research Center report appears to suggest the number of undocumented immigrants coming into the country from Mexico may have been falling before Trump was elected president.

The research found there were 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States in 2015. It was a small but statistically significant fall from the Center’s estimate of 11.3 million for 2009, the final year of the recession. The Center’s preliminary estimate of the unauthorized immigrant population in 2016 is 11.3 million.

 

While immigration from Mexico is falling, Undocumented immigration from Asia is rising. Undocumented Asians grew to 1.5 million in 2015 from 1.3 million in 2009.

At Peek Toland & Castañeda PLLC our Austin immigration attorneys can help you with your family immigration matters. Please call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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