Immigration Reform

Immigrant Harboring Measure to Come Before Courts in Texas

By Peek & Toland on March 24, 2017

An important case that threatens heavy sanctions for immigrant harboring in Texas has come under scrutiny in a federal court.

A report on NBC News noted how a national civil rights group for Latinos faced off with Texas officials when the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard oral arguments against controversial reform measures.

In 2015, the Texas legislature enacted HB 11. The legislation included an immigrant harboring provision. Individuals accused of harboring immigrants could be arrested and prosecuted for providing shelter or even renting a home to undocumented immigrants.

The courts prepare to look at immigrant harboring in Texas

Immigrant harboring is a key battleground in Texas

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an omnibus bill that contained sweeping enforcement measures against immigrants.

The Texas legislation does not directly target undocumented immigrants. However, it contains key provisions that can criminalize people who help immigrants.

The legislation singles out anyone who “encourages or induces a person to enter or remain” in the United States by shielding, harboring or concealing them.

As experienced Austin family immigration lawyers, we are concerned about the wide scope of this legislation. It has the ability to criminalize family members and creates a new classification of state felony offenses that did not exist previously.

Earlier this year, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in this controversial case.

Immigrant Harboring Case Followed a Challenge by San Antonio Landlords

Last year, Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fund (MALDEF) sued over the legislation. The civil rights group named Abbott along with members of the state Public Safety Commission and Public Safety Director Steve McCraw as respondents to the lawsuit.

MALDEF sued on behalf of two landlords who were in San Antonio and Farmers Branch. The landlords said it’s not their policy to ask tenants about their immigration status. They would not terminate their lease or evict the tenants even if they found they were undocumented immigrants.

Last April, a federal judge prevented Texas from enforcing the immigrant harboring provision as the MALDEF lawsuit proceeded. The state then appealed that ruling.

You can read more about this important case here on our website.

If you are concerned about a family immigration matter please contact us here. Our Austin immigration attorneys would welcome the opportunity to help you with your issue and to answer your questions. Call us at (512) 474-4445 for a consultation in English or Spanish.

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Trump’s Immigration Executive Order -– Should You Travel?

By Peek & Toland on March 16, 2017

Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration issued in January caused widespread chaos at airports and confusion.

Also known as the “travel ban,” the order was meant to keep refugees from entering the United States for 120 days. It would have kept arrivals from seven predominantly Muslim nations out for three months. The countries were Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. The ban on Syrians was intended to be indefinite. The order was derailed in the courts and replaced by a second order in March which removed Iraq from a 90-day travel ban, did not apply to green card holders and did not make Syria the subject of a blanket ban. Syrian refugees would be banned for 120 days, reported NBC News. Visas approved before the order were not revoked.

A Seattle-based federal district judge, James Robart, blocked major parts of the first ban on 3 February, in a ruling that permitted thousands of people to enter the country. Three judges from the ninth circuit court of appeals in San Francisco upheld Robart’s ruling. The panel said the administration failed to present any evidence that citizens of any of the seven countries carried out a terrorist attack in the US.

The immigration executive order was the “extreme vetting” Trump promised during the election campaign.

Why Trump's immigration executive order caused airport chaos

Trump’s immigration executive order caused chaos at airports

It sparked chaos, demonstrations and legal challenges. A report on CNN said the President’s team failed to run the travel ban past Justice Department officials.

There was widespread misunderstanding and confusion. The ban:

  • Impacted green card holders from the seven countries as well as those with valid visas;
  • Meant some people who were flying when the order was signed were not able to enter the United States.
  • Affected some people with dual nationalities which included passports from a nation, not on the list, were detained at airports.

The government appeared to backtrack on the ban in relation to green card holders 24 hours after the original immigration executive order was signed but suggested they would be subject to intensive vetting.

Lawsuits began to fly, and a federal judge temporarily and partially blocked Trump’s order.

Later, a federal judge in New York allowed an emergency stay for citizens of the countries included in the ban and ruled they could not be removed from the United States. A federal court in Washington issued a stay preventing travelers being detained from being returned to their home country.

In Boston, federal judges ruled officials did not have the power to detain people on the basis of the immigration executive order.

On Feb. 7, three federal judges from the ninth circuit court of appeals took evidence from lawyers from the Justice Department and Washington State about whether the judicial block on the travel ban should be lifted. They declined to lift it.

Should You Leave the County After the Immigration Executive Order?

These are confusing and difficult times for immigrants and those on visas. If you are from the seven affected countries, you should be wary of travel out of the United States, until the executive orders are clarified.

In early February, CNN reported Trump administration was easing restrictions on legal permanent residents who were initially affected by the travel ban.

The administration was reported to be close to closing an agreement with Canada. It would allow Canadian legal permanent residents with US visas to enter the United States.

This is a fast-moving situation. If you are from one of the seven affected countries, you should be careful about traveling unless you are a U.S. citizen. If you are a permanent resident, you should carry your green card with you all time. Keep a photocopy in a safe place at home. Non-immigrants who are lawfully present in the United States should also carry their documentation and have a photocopy in a safe place.

The legal framework should become clearer in the next few weeks but the legal stand-off may drag on.

Our Austin immigration lawyers can help you with questions. Read our frequently asked questions here to find out more about the firm or call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Immigrant Businesses Fear Workers Shortage May Get Worse

By Peek & Toland on March 8, 2017

Immigration was frequently couched in negative terms during last year’s presidential campaign. However, immigrant businesses pour billions of dollars into the US economy. Many of them are fearful after the election of Donald Trump as president, according to reports.

A recent report in Marketplace noted Trump’s anti-immigration stance helped pave his road to the White House.

It pointed out that immigrants made up a fifth of all entrepreneurs in the U.S. in 2014 and generated more than $65 billion in business activity.

Concerns of a lack of workers hit immigrant businesses

Immigrant businesses fear a worker shortage

The figures came in a study from The Partnership for a New American Economy. Even undocumented workers are a massive boost to the economy of Texas, studies state.

The Marketplace article quoted Mansoor Eskandari who operates a construction business in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

Immigrant Businesses that Employ Muslims Fear Worker Shortage

He was shocked and concerned by the election of Trump. He’s an Iranian immigrant who moved to the United States in the 1980s. As a Muslim, he has more reasons than most immigrants to be fearful of the Trump administration. He described himself as being in “double jeopardy.”

Immigrant businesses fear a negative impact from Trump policies. Eskandari hires immigrants for construction projects because it can be difficult to find local workers. He already experiences shortages. He fears the issue could be exacerbated under the Trump administration as more immigrants are deported.

Another business owner quoted in the story was Romy Khouraki, the owner of Altayebat Market, in Anaheim, CA. His business is found in an area dubbed Little Arabia. Khouraki fears anti-Islamic policies could harm the neighborhood and deprive businesses of workers.

Big business has also warned that the immigration crackdown could harm the economy. Many fear that Trump will curtail the H1-B visa system that allows companies to bring temporary skilled workers to the United States from abroad.

However, Trump’s stance on these visas that are a mainstay of the tech industry has been contradictory. He initially said he opposed H-1B visas for high-skilled immigrants, but then backtracked on his statements.

Sectors such as the hospitality and hotel industry which employ many low-paid immigrants are also likely to take a hit, reports the Washington Post.

Immigrant businesses are understandably nervous about the new political climate. If you are a business owner who has a pressing immigration issue, please call our Austin immigration attorneys today at (512) 474-4445.

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President Trump Announces Major Immigration Reforms

By Peek & Toland on February 15, 2017

President Trump signed two orders on immigration and border security on Jan. 25. They amount to major immigration reforms.

Although Trump’s pledge to press on with a wall between Mexico and the United States made headlines, his orders contained some other important immigration moves on areas such as sanctuary cities and immigrants who commit crimes.

Here are some of the main elements of the reforms.

Trump's immigration reforms

Building a Wall

Trump has instructed the homeland security secretary to take steps to design, plan and construct a “physical wall along the southern border.” The move is intended to assert greater U.S. control over the border.

Although Trump can issue executive orders, the funding for the project needs to be approved by Congress. The 1,300 mile long wall could cost $15 to $25 billion, reports CNN. Trump wants to pay for the wall up front and recoup the cost from Mexico. The Mexican government says it will not pay for the barrier.

Expanding Detention Centers

The orders envisage more undocumented immigrants being held in detention centers. Congress had funding for about 34,000 beds for the detention of immigrants at the start of the year.

The order instructs the Department of Homeland Security to build or establish detention facilities close to the border and staff them with asylum officers and immigration judges. Immigrants caught illegally crossing the border or in deportation proceedings would be housed in the centers.

In Texas, immigrant detention centers have faced legal challenges over the housing of women and children within their walls.

Defunding Sanctuary Cities

As part of his so-called “interior” security measures, Trump wants to stamp out sanctuary cities – jurisdictions that shield undocumented immigrants from federal law enforcement.

The order would remove federal grant money from the sanctuary states like San Francisco and Austin that harbor illegal immigrants.

The order declares that sanctuary cities would not be “not eligible” for federal grants. It directs the Office of Management and Budget to highlight federal grant money currently going to sanctuary jurisdictions.

An article on CNN said moves to strip sanctuary cities of money will almost inevitably face a legal challenge.

Increasing the Deportation Force

The orders support a larger deportation force to remove more undocumented immigrants.

The border security order instructs the Department of Homeland Security to hire another 5,000 Border Patrol agents. The order that focuses on the security of the interior of the nation seeks the addition of 10,000 immigration officers. It’s a pledge that’s subject to Congressional approval.

These are uncertain and difficult times to be an immigrant and these immigration reforms make it harder. However, we are not sure exactly how the immigration reforms will pan out and the timeframe in question. The family immigration lawyers at Peek & Toland, PLLC can help you out. Please call us at (512) 474-4445.

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The Biggest Immigration Cases in 2016

By Peek & Toland on February 14, 2017

There was no shortage of controversial immigration cases in 2016. With immigration a cornerstone of the new administration’s agenda, 2017 is also likely to be a frenetic year in the courts.

Law 360 recently profiled some of the biggest cases of 2016. Texas played a major role in what was undoubtedly the most significant legal battle of the year.

The biggest immigration cases of 2016

Texas Takes on the President

When President Barack Obama sought to extend his flagship immigration policy, he was blocked by Congress. He enacted executive orders on immigration, only to be blocked by Republican-led states. Texas was at the vanguard of the action. It was one of the biggest immigration cases of recent years.

The case of United States v. Texas concerned the fates of 4 million undocumented immigrants. Obama’s reforms would have bought many undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents temporary relief from deportation and the chance to work. It also entailed an extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) plan to protect undocumented children of citizens or permanent resident.

Last summer the orders failed when the U.S. Supreme Court was split 4-4. Obama’s attempts to appoint a ninth justice also failed. The reform is set to become history under the presidency of Donald Trump who is a fierce opponent.

You can read more about United States v. Texas here on our website.

Key Syrian Refugee Case is Heard in Texas

Attempts by the authorities in Texas to prevent the resettling of Syrian refugees in the Lone Star State were thrown out in June.

A Texas federal court rejected the attempt to bar Syrians, stating that a Texas agency lacked the basis to enforce a consultation requirement under the Refugee Act. The ruling was the latest setback for states that sought to restrict refugee resettlement. Indiana was also barred from stopping the arrival of refugees from Syria.

The state of Texas filed a lawsuit against the federal government and a nonprofit that supports refugees.

Abuse of the EB-5 Investor Visa Program

The EB-5 investor visa program is an effective way of bringing overseas investment into the United States but it remains controversial.

In April in a high-profile immigration case, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued Vermont ski resort owners and executives accusing them of taking part in an eight-year scheme that took $350 million from investors who hoped to obtain visas through the EB-5 program.
Under the EB-5 program, overseas investors receive green cards in exchange for their investments. However, in rare cases, the investors have lost their money without receiving any immigration benefit.

Battles over Immigration Detention Centers

Immigration detention centers remained controversial in 2016, particularly when women and children were housed in them.

Grassroots Leadership from Austin, an immigrant advocate group, gained a temporary injunction prevented the award of a child care facility license to South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley.

Judge Karin Crump in Austin prevented the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from issuing a child care license to the center at Dilley. More than 400 women and children were released from two detention centers by the federal authorities in December.

Texas was pivotal in the most important immigration cases of 2016. It is expected to play a central part in immigration battles in 2017. Often the authorities will try to treat immigrants in an unlawful way. It’s necessary to hire an experienced Austin immigration lawyer to protect your rights. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Undocumented Immigrant Deportations – Up To Three Million Removals Are Planned

By Peek & Toland on February 13, 2017

President Donald Trump wants to remove undocumented immigrants and to do it fast. His plan for undocumented immigrant deportations has alarmed many people who are unlawfully living in Texas.

Trump spoke of deporting large numbers of undocumented immigrants during the election campaign. He mentioned the figure of 11 million.

However, in his first television interview since winning the election, he said he planned to deport 2 – 3 million undocumented immigrants when he took office.

The statements came in a “60 Minutes” interview, reported WFAA8.

Trump has promised increase in undocumented immigrant deportations

Undocumented immigrant deportations are set to rise

In the interview, Trump made it clear he’s targeting undocumented immigrants with criminal records. He said:

“We’re going to get the people that are criminals, have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, – we have a lot of these people, probably 2 million, could even be 3 million, we’re getting them out of our country or we’re going to incarcerate.”

The WFAA8 report reflected the fears of undocumented immigrants who live in Texas.

They include Catalina Acuna. She lives in Irving where she moved from California. Acuna and her husband fled cartel violence in Mexico in 2000.

She has three children who were born in the U.S, and hence are citizens through birth.

However, Acuna is undocumented and fears deportation. As many as 1.5 immigrants in Texas are in the same category.

Acuna was more relieved to hear Trump appears to have reduced his deportation figure to one comparable with that of the Obama administration, which also placed an emphasis on deporting immigrants with criminal records in the last four years.

Austin Family Lawyers Help Undocumented Immigrants

 

Although Trump appears to have softened his stance on deportations, there are no guarantees for the undocumented.

Trump maintains he will secure the border between the United States and Mexico, although part of the promised wall could be a fence.

After securing the border, he will make a decision on what to do with approximately 9-10 million immigrants who don’t have lawful status in the United States but have no criminal background.

He suggested these immigrants are “terrific people,” but gave no indication about his future plans for them.

If you are slated for deportation you should not assume it’s a lost cause, even if you have a criminal conviction. These cases have to be processed by the immigration courts. It’s often in the best interests of a family for its members to be kept together.

You can read about our Austin family immigration lawyers’ record in cancellation of removal cases here. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

 

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Border Immigration Surges in Texas Post Election

By Peek & Toland on February 9, 2017

In the days after the presidential election border immigration surged in Texas and a second temporary holding facility was opened up.

In a report NBC5 noted another surge of families and unaccompanied children who were fleeing high levels of violence and poverty in Central America.

The TV station noted the temporary shelter at the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge in the Rio Grande Valley city of Donna will house as many as 500 new arrivals, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Border immigration surge is seen in Texas

Texas is at the center of a border immigration surge

Although the election of a president who has been a vociferous opponent of immigration is a new factor, we have seen previous border immigration surges. Most of the new arrivals are young immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The federal government has struggled to cope with surges from these countries that saw a spike in 2014.

Many migrant families are released from the centers after they have been processed. Nonprofit organizations help them reach relatives living in the U.S.

Reporters from NBC 5 visited a respite center in McAllen in Texas.

In more than two years of operation, volunteers helped more than 60,000 men, women and children crossed the border.

Workers at the center said many of the new arrivals turn themselves in when they cross the border. Patrol officers give them temporary permission to be in the United States before an immigration judge decides whether they should be returned to their home nations.

The center has been helping 250 to 350 migrants every day. Many of them have relatives in the United States who they go on to stay with.

Border Immigration Surge is Concentrated on McAllen in Texas

A CNN report suggested the surge was underway even before the election at the prospect of a Trump victory.

The Department of Homeland Security announced 46,195 people were apprehended in October 2016 at the southwest border in October. Many of them crossed the border near McAllen in Texas.

The number was up almost a fifth on the previous month. Officials sent 150 more agents to this part of the border in Texas to help handle the influx.

Many of the migrants are fleeing gang activity persecution and extreme poverty in Central America. Some of these factors could make them eligible for asylum.

If you are an undocumented immigrant you could face deportation and should contact our Austin cancellation of removal lawyers as soon as possible by calling (512) 474-4445.

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Detention of Immigrants Without Bonds is Considered by Supreme Court

By Peek & Toland on February 3, 2017

Late last year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that has been described as one of the most important immigration matters it considered last year. It related to the detention of immigrants without bonds.

The case started as a class action that was filed in California. It raises questions about whether the federal government has the power to deny some immigrants in detention the right for a neutral party to decide if they have the right to a bond.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, certain immigrants to the United States must be detained while their removal proceedings proceed.

Immigrant bonds considered by Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court tackled the issue of bonds for immigrants

However, some of them can be released on bond if they can demonstrate that they do not pose a flight risk or are a danger to the public.

The federal government detains many immigrants for extended periods without giving them an opportunity to request release on bond.

The case was brought by Alejandro Rodriguez, a lawful permanent resident who came to the United States when he was just one-year-old.

Immigration authorities held him in 2004 after he admitted misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to probation for the crime.

When Rodriguez wanted to be released on bond, immigration officials denied him the right to ask a judge. He was told he was ineligible for bond because of his controlled substance conviction as well as a joyriding conviction five years earlier.

The court report said Rodriguez was held for more than three years as he fought his immigration case, without once being allowed to request a judge for bond.

The refusal to allow him to seek a bond hearing flew in the face of his strong ties to the United States. His parents were U.S. citizens and he worked as a dental assistant.

He was eventually released from his detention but only after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a class action lawsuit. Rodriguez was subsequently granted cancellation of removal. He was allowed to remain in the United States as a permanent resident.

Court Rules in Favor of Hearings for Bonds for Immigrants

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that immigrants who are facing deportation from the United States should be held no more than six months in custody. The justices identified special circumstances in which an exception should be made. These include when immigrants pose a national security threat.

The Ninth Circuit has held that immigrants like Rodriguez, in addition to asylum-seekers who turned themselves in at the border, must be given bond hearings every six months. The onus is on the government to justify continued detention by presenting convincing evidence that an immigrant posed a danger to the community or a flight risk. The government challenged the decision and sought Supreme Court review, which was granted.

U.S. Solicitor General Ian Gershengorn defended the mandatory detention without bond saying it would ensure immigrants appear for their hearings and don’t commit further offenses.

The American Civil Liberties Union accused the government of understating the time immigrants are held to bolster its case before a previous case more than 10 years ago.

Our Texas cancellation of removal attorneys can help you in bond and other immigration cases. Please call us at (512) 474-4445 to learn more about our legal services.

 

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States Opposing Obama’s Deferred Action Immigration Orders Ask for Delay so As Trump Can Consider the Policy

By Peek & Toland on January 31, 2017

Former President Barack Obama’s deferred action immigration orders that would have shielded as many as 4 million undocumented immigrants may be dead in the water, but they are still in the courts.

Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court was deadlocked on deferred action when the justices tied 4-4.

The policy ended up in the courts after 26 states led by Texas opposed the former president’s executive orders.

However, a Bloomberg report stated the states joined forces with the Obama administration and groups that support immigrant rights in late 2016. They sought to freeze a challenge to the outgoing president’s immigration reforms until Obama’s successor Donald Trump takes office.

Deferred action will end its life in the courts

Commentators say the attempted Obama immigration reforms are likely to die. Trump set illegal immigration as a major part of his campaign. On the campaign trail, he pledged to reverse Obama’s plan to shield in excess of 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and provide them with work permits. By working they would have qualified for federal benefits like Medicaid and Social Security.

We have written at length about the two programs that were intended to protect immigrants under Obama’s deferred action immigration orders.

DAPA is Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. The immigration order would have protected some classes of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and have children.

DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It’s aimed at undocumented people who came to the United States before June 15, 2007.

The parties to the legal action agreed it made very little sense to contest the policy given the change in administration, at a federal court hearing in Brownsville, Texas. They requested a judge give Trump a month in office before dealing with the states’ complaints that Obama overstepped his constitutional authority by reversing course on immigration policy without congressional approval.

A judge in Texas blocked the deferred action immigration executive orders as officials prepared to take applications in early 2015. A series of legal hearings led to the impasse in the Supreme Court last summer.

Trump is set to reverse Obama’s reforms, leading the states to drop their challenge, according to Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell University Law School.

The so-called “Dreamers” who qualified for the first phase of DACA in 2012 may not be affected by the change in direction and could be able to stay, the Bloomberg article states.

This is a time of extreme uncertainty for undocumented immigrants in Texas. If you are facing deportation you should contact our cancellation of removal attorneys as soon as possible at (512) 474-4445.

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Sanctuary Campuses Are Being Created to Help Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on January 26, 2017

President Donald Trump has vowed to cut funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented immigrants. But some universities are following suit and labeling themselves as “sanctuary campuses.”

A report on KTTC stated colleges and universities in some states are reacting to fears of immigrant students and following the policies of sanctuary cities.

In New Mexico, the state with the highest percentage of Latino residents, college administrators are considering becoming sanctuary campuses and putting policies and protections in place to allow undocumented students to continue their studies.

There are also moves in Texas, California, Georgia, Illinois and Minnesota to protect immigrant students known as Dreamers.

Sanctuary campuses may help immigrants

Trump has pledged to end President Obama’s executive order that granted temporary status to undocumented immigrants. He has promised to set up a “deportation force” and withdraw federal funding from sanctuary cities. Trump has said little about sanctuary campuses.

Although the sanctuary campus term remains an unclear one, there is a push underway to protect undocumented students at universities and colleges across the country, noted The Atlantic.

The president of Wesleyan University reportedly said after consulting with the school’s legal counsel and its board of trustees that the college is going to become a sanctuary campus.

California State University system stated in late 2016 that it would remain a welcoming space for undocumented students.

While the university said it would not be using the “sanctuary” term at any of its 23 campuses in California, it made it clear it will not cooperate with a federal policy that targets immigrant students who live illegally in the country.

The University of California has announced steps to protect its undocumented students. It won’t be helping immigration agents or providing any confidential records without court orders. The university said it will refuse to give information for any national registry based on race, religion or national origin.

Over the next few years, we are likely to be seeing a protracted struggle between universities and cities and the federal authorities over the rights of undocumented immigrants.

Many of these young people have been in the United States for many years and deportations can rip families apart. Please see our Austin immigration lawyers’ success stories about how we have fought deportations.

To schedule a consultation please contact us via this link, or call (512) 474-4445.

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