Immigration Reform

Immigrant Indefinite Detention Case to be Heard by U.S. Supreme Court

By Peek & Toland on February 19, 2018

The issue of immigrant indefinite detention has occupied plenty of time in the federal courts.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would re-hear a case considering whether immigrants who were detained by the government have a right to a bond hearing to challenge their indefinite detention.

A report on NPR noted the case was originally argued in Nov. 2016. That was six months before Justice Neil Gorsuch filled the vacant seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia.

NPR reported this case has significant implications for legal permanent residents who the government is seeking to deport because they committed crimes. It also has an impact on asylum seekers who are seeking a court date after surrendering themselves at the U.S. border.

Attorneys and advocates acting for the immigrants claim many of them have the right to be free on bail until their case is heard.

The case sees David Jennings, a California-based field office director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in California go up against Alejandro Rodriguez a legal permanent resident, who came to the U.S. as a child and worked here as a dental assistant.

High court looks at immigrant indefinite detention

Supreme Court to consider immigrant indefinite detention

Rodriguez was convicted of joyriding when he was a teenager. At the age of 24, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.

Green card holders are not guaranteed the same protections from deportation as U.S. citizens. Committing a crime can lead to your loss of permanent residency, we note on our website.

The Rodriguez case is drawn out. More than a decade ago, in 2004, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement began deportation proceedings against Rodriguez. The dental assistant was detained for three years without being afforded the right to appear before a judge to ask for bond.

Rodriguez’s case was taken up by The American Civil Liberties Union. A class action lawsuit was filed. It was successful and Rodriguez won his release. He remained in the United States.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that immigrant detainees and asylum seekers cannot be detained indefinitely. They have a right to a bond hearing every six months.

The appellate court held that to hold these detainees, the government must make a case that immigrants would pose a danger or be a flight risk if they were released.

The Obama administration appealed the Court of Appeals ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. It insisted that Congress rather than the courts has the power to make immigration law.

The federal government is arguing the law allows the government to detain “criminal and terrorist aliens” as well as aliens who are seeking admission to the United States.

The administration argues detained immigrants should not be recognized as a class with the capacity to bring legal action. Justice Department lawyers said detainees instead should rely on individual habeas corpus petitions to challenge detentions.

The ACLU is contesting this approach. It argues that few detainees have access to legal representation and a backlog of these habeas corpus petitions means major delays in securing release.

Immigrant indefinite detention has become one of the key battlegrounds of the immigration debate. If you or a family member is concerned about a detention matter, please call our Austin immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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Supreme Court Gives the Go Ahead to Trump Travel Ban

By Peek & Toland on February 17, 2018

The Trump travel ban was one of the most contentious executive orders of 2017. In December, the U.S. Supreme Court finally allowed the ban to proceed pending more detailed legal challenges.

The justices allowed the third Trump travel ban to take full effect pending appeal.

It was the first time justices allowed the ban to go forward in its entirety. CNN reported the decision indicated the justices might be distinguishing the third version from previous iterations and might be more likely, in the future, to rule in favor of the ban.

The first two bans were derailed in the courts following claims they were discriminatory against Muslims.

The initial Trump travel ban was targeted at seven predominantly Muslim countries.

After President Trump’s first order was blocked in the courts, he signed the second one, imposing a ban on travelers from Iran, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for 90 days. Iraq was removed from the original list. Once again, all of the countries were majority Muslim.

Court backs Trump travel ban

The Trump travel ban wins a partial victory

The third travel ban included some non-Muslim majority nations. It banned various types of travelers from Libya, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela.

Lower courts again blocked the third ban issued in the fall of 2017.

The U.S. Supreme Court order was greeted as a significant temporary win for the Trump administration. The ban can be enforced while challenges to the policy make their way through the legal system

The White House has maintained the ban is not discriminatory against Muslims and is in the interests of national security. Solicitor General Noel Francisco stated:

“The Constitution and acts of Congress confer on the President broad authority to prevent aliens abroad from entering this country when he deems it in the nation’s interest.”

The challenges against the travel ban continue on two fronts.

In a case in Hawaii case, a district court judge has blocked the ban as it pertains to Venezuela and North Korea. However, a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals partially lifted that court’s order.

The appeals court permitted the ban to go into effect for all individuals from the two counties except for foreign nationals with a “bona fide” relationships with people or entities in the United States.

In a separate challenge in Maryland brought by the International Refugee Assistance Project, a US District Court Judge Theodore D issued a similar order partially enjoining the ban in the case before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The ban impacts different counties in slightly different ways, reported ABC news.

In relation to Venezuela, it only applies to the entry of certain Venezuelan government officials and immediate family members who arrive in the U.S. as non-immigrants on business. Tourist and business-tourist visas were also suspended,

In relation to Iran, entry into the country of Iranians as immigrants and as non-immigrants is suspended, except under valid student or exchange visitor visas. Even visa applicants are subject to enhanced screening and vetting requirements.

If you have been impacted by travel bans or other restrictions, it may make sense to talk to an experienced Austin immigration lawyer. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Trump’s Re-Tweeting of Anti-Muslim Material Could Harm Travel Ban Case

By Peek & Toland on February 10, 2018

Last November, U.S. President Donald Trump courted international condemnation when he tweeted details of right-wing anti-Muslim hate videos from the United Kingdom. Critics warned the action could further sour international relations and harm Trump’s travel ban case.

The re-tweet was of information originally posted by Jayda Fransen, an activist with a reputation for anti-Muslim extremism in the United Kingdom.

It came at a time when the President was seeking to claim his travel ban that was held up in the courts was not anti-Muslim.One of the central arguments against Trump’s travel ban was it took aim at Muslim countries so was motivated by a prejudice against Islam.

Lawyers for the Trump administration argued it was motivated by genuine national security reasons.

Travel ban case could be harmed by tweet

Could re-tweet harm travel ban case

Although Trump’s re-tweet caused an international outcry and drew a stiff rebuke from Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, it did not harm the travel ban at that time.

Just days later, the United States Supreme Court upheld the third and latest version of the Trump administration’s travel ban on Dec. 4. However, the court is due to make a final decision in 2018.

The decision restricts most citizens of Libya, Iran, Chad, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and North Korea, as well as some from Venezuela, from entering the United States.

The move legitimized the third ban published in September. It paved the way for restrictions that will bar citizens of the named countries from immigrating to as well as working, studying, or even vacationing in, the United States.

The nine-member U.S Supreme court granted the Trump administration’s request to lift two injunctions imposed by lower courts. These partially blocked the ban – the third version of a contentious policy that Trump first sought to implement a week after taking office in January. Two liberal justices dissented.

Trump promised as a candidate to impose a shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

The administration later backtracked on claims the ban targeted Muslims and added some non-Muslim nations like North Korea to the list on the ban.

If you or a family member is impacted by the travel ban please call Peek Toland & Castañeda PLLC at (512) 474-4445.


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Study Finds Mexican Immigrants Don’t Commit More Crime

By Peek & Toland on February 5, 2018

Mexican immigrants have been linked to an upsurge in crime from the outset of President Donald Trump’s successful election campaign. However, it’s a narrative that’s undermined by research.

An article by Penn Arts & Sciences points out since 1980 the foreign-born population of the United States doubled, rising from just over 6 percent to 12 percent in 2010.

The proportion of those immigrants born in Mexico also doubled. The Penn Arts & Sciences article noted this segment of the population quadrupled. It speculated that a majority of recent Mexican arrivals were undocumented.

The link between undocumented immigrants and crime has been made firmly by the Trump administration. The article said a narrow majority of Americans believe undocumented Mexican immigration has increased crime in the United States.

It’s not a theory with any scientific basis, according to the research. It found from an empirical standpoint, the relationship between immigration and crime is difficult to pin down.

Mexican immigrants and crime

Study considers Mexican immigrants and crime

Data on the nationality of prisoners in state jails is unreliable while police departments do not systematically collect information on where people who are arrested were born

An alternative strategy is to gauge what happens to crime rates in American cities when more immigrants arrive.

This strategy also has inherent pitfalls. The timing of immigration to the US is not random. Migrants are enticed by job opportunities. They may arrive in the country when crime rates are in flux for reasons that have little to do with the immigrants themselves.

The article alluded to a body of research on crime committed by Mexican immigrants. It states:

“The results of this research offer little evidence that Mexican immigration increases crime in the United States. If anything, there is some evidence that crime declines after immigrants arrive.”

This conclusion is supported by research from the Public Policy Institute of California on the racial composition of inmates in prisons in California. The research reveals Mexican immigrants are underrepresented in the state prison system.

The article also highlights the Texas city of El Paso. The city of about 700,000 people sits opposite the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s most dangerous cities.

More than four out of five of the occupants of El Paso are Hispanic. The vast majority are from Mexico. Although El Paso has one of the highest proportions of immigrants among U.S. cities and many are undocumented, it’s one of the safest cities in the country with a homicide rate of 2.4 per 100,000 residents.

Although Mexico remains the source of the highest number of immigrants in the United States, the number of new arrivals fell in recent years.

If you or a family member needs help with an immigration matter, please call us at (512) 474-4445.


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House Bill Could Speed Up Deportations

By Peek & Toland on January 28, 2018

The Trump administration has repeatedly stated its willingness to deport undocumented immigrants. However, the system of deportation hearings is cumbersome and there is a massive backlog for hearing. Legislation passed in the summer may speed up deportations.

Two hardline immigration bills were passed in June. This legislation will penalize illegal immigrants who offend and local jurisdictions that refuse to work with federal authorities to deport them.

The bills, Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, passed on party lines. President Trump tweeted that the legislation would make America safe again.

The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act is intended to prevent “sanctuary cities” that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement from receiving many federal grants. The Washington Post noted the law leaves sanctuary cities vulnerable to liability lawsuits from victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

Legislation may speed up deportations

Bills would speed up deportations

The bill is intended to prevent local jurisdictions from holding up detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and speed up the deportation process for unlawful immigrants who commit crimes.

An article in The American Prospect said the legislation “would facilitate the administration’s drive to conscript local police officers into its “mass deportation machine.”

The Trump administration is reported to be assigning extra immigration judges to 12 cities with high immigrant populations to speed up the deportation process. They include El Paso and Harlingen, in Texas.

Kate’s Lawn was named after a 32-year-old woman shot dead in 2015 by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times.

It increases prison sentences for criminal immigrants who re-enter the country illegally after being convicted and deported.

In June, John Kelly, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, said ICE deported nearly 66,000 people known to be or suspected of being in the United States illegally — representing a spike under the Trump administration. He said almost half of the immigrants who were deported had been charged with crimes or had gang affiliations.

Earlier last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a series of measures intended to speed up the immigration deportation process, we noted on our blog.

Sessions said these changes represented an “expansion and modernization” of the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP).

The revised IHP identifies undocumented immigrants incarcerated in federal prisons. It will allow immigration removal proceedings to proceed via video teleconference and removes the undocumented immigrant at the end of his or her sentence, rather than releasing them to an ICE detention facility or into the community pending an adjudication of status.

If you or a family member is facing possible deportation, call our Texas family immigration attorneys at (512) 474-4445.

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Federal Judge Derails Parts of Texas Sanctuary Cities Law

By Peek & Toland on January 23, 2018

A legal challenge against Texas’ controversial sanctuary cities law has left opponents questioning its full implications.

In August, U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia granted a preliminary injunction and blocked important provisions of Senate Bill 4, reported the Texas Tribune.

The law is intended to prevent sanctuary city policies in Texas. It forbids law enforcement officials like sheriffs, jail administrators and police chiefs from preventing a police officer inquiring about an arrestee’s immigration status.

The law would prevent local jurisdictions opposing federal detainer requests. It requires jail officials to honor all requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to hold inmates facing possible deportation for longer periods.

Texas sanctuary cities law under fire in the courts

Court dealt a blow to Texas sanctuary cities law

It forbids governments from adopting or implementing policies that limit immigration enforcement such as the one in place in Travis County where the sheriff will only comply with ICE detainer requests for people charged with serious offenses.

Garcia placed a temporary block on these measures. He argued a detainer request could violate a person’s Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The judge said stopping officials from crafting policies was an infringement of the First Amendment.

In September 2017, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans allowed officials in Texas to partly implement the law while awaiting a full hearing of the appeal in November. The next month Mexico joined the suit against the law.

However, the judge didn’t block the power in the bill for police officers to ask about immigration status. Some opponents of SB 4 fear this measure the most.

A Latino advocacy group told The Tribune this measure was unlikely to lead to a massive change in the way local law enforcement operates.

Thomas Saenz is the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

MALDEF acted for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He said these provisions are unlikely to alter day-to-day operations significantly. He said:

“These two provisions left in place largely replicate what is existing law … Judge Garcia made clear — that the rights and the ability of police to act on any information received extends only to turning that information over to federal immigration authorities.”

The Sanctuary City ban is controversial because it would criminalize officials who fail to comply with federal immigration law, we noted. This controversial law is likely to be fought in the courts for some time to come.

If you or a family member is subject to action by ICE agents, you should contact an experienced Austin cancellation of removal lawyer here to schedule a meeting.

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Missouri Governor Says DACA Recipients in the Military Should Get Path to Citizenship

By Peek & Toland on January 22, 2018

The DACA program has made headlines in recent weeks following the announcement it will be abolished. But not all politicians, even from Donald Trump’s Republican party are in favor of a wholesale scrapping of the program.

In Missouri, Gov. Eric Greitens said he wants to see Congress create a path to citizenship for anyone who joins the military, even immigrants who came to the United States unlawfully as children.

A report in the Kansas City Star last fall noted Greitens is a former Navy SEAL and a Republican. He made his comments the day after Trump revealed he would scrap the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in early September.

Call for citizenship for DACA recipients in the military

Should DACA recipients in the military gain citizenship?

Congress was given six months to enact an alternative to DACA by Trump. The Obama-era program allowed so-called

“Dreamers” who entered the country illegally when they were young to avoid deportation and obtain work permits.

The move will affect impact about 800,000 people, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Greitens said anyone willing to take a bullet for the United States should be given a path to citizenship. He urged Congress to take action, saying:

“I think that it’s really important for Congress to act. I think as they act we need to make sure we’re balancing our insistence on law and order with compassion. We need to make sure we’re making a distinction between violent felons who are in this country illegally and children who were brought here through no fault of their own, who have grown up here in America.”

Currently, it’s possible to secure citizenship through military service under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest Program.

About 5,000 legal permanent residents a year are recruited to the military under the program and may be eligible for citizenship.

Recruits under the MAVNI program must have a recognized immigration status to join the services such as being a green card holder or the holder of a visa. The military does not accept undocumented immigrants.

To find out more about citizenship applications, call our experienced Austin criminal defense lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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Trump Puts the Onus on Congress Over DACA

By Peek & Toland on January 18, 2018

The announcement last September that President Donald Trump will discontinue the DACA program was seen as a massive blow to so-called Dreamers who came to this county as children and know little else.

However, the ending of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on September 5 may not be the end of moves to legitimize these undocumented immigrants.

Trump gave Congress six months to pass legislation to safeguard the Dreamers and to allow them to continue to work in the United States. Trump was even reported to be working out a deal with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.

Given the recent failure of Congress to reach a consensus on a wide range of issues, the six-month window may well prove to be fruitless, according to commentators.

Trump clearly put the onus on Congress in the wake of the decision. His tweet the following day warned that if Congress would not legalize DACA he would revisit this issue.

There was some confusion about the meaning of the tweet. Politico reported an unwillingness on the behalf of officials to elaborate on the promise beyond an assurance from Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores that Trump would put more pressure on Congress.

Congress considers DACA

Trump Puts Onus on Congress over DACA

Many critics are skeptical that the President will do anything for the Dreamers. They noted his continued attacks on his predecessor Barack Obama on the issue and the re-emphasis on his commitment to the America First doctrine.

Congress remains the best hope for as many as 800,000 DACA recipients. Some of them will be eligible for deportation as early as next March.

Congress must act fast if it is to preserve the program’s protections before the DACA recipients begin losing their status in March.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he is hopeful that Congress will reach a solution in time. He said:

“It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country.”

Congress may also tackle the whole issue of immigration reform. It remains to be seen if it can act decisively given such a small window.

If you are impacted by the changes to DACA and need advice, please call our Austin family immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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Green Card Replacement is Now Easier Due to Phone App

By Peek & Toland on January 4, 2018

If you lose your green card, it’s natural to panic. The green card is evidence of your permanent residency and you cannot travel outside the country without it. However, a new phone app has made green card replacement easier.

In July, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the paperwork to replace a lost, expired or damaged permanent residence card can now be processed on a cell phone.

The app can be downloaded for free after creating an online account at It means green card holders are able to not only use their phones to download the I-90 application for a new one, but fill it out and send it back.

The app allows green card holders to take photos of any other document required with the I-90 such as the copy of a government-issued ID and to submit them along with the application.

Phone app eases green card replacement

Green card replacement is easier by phone

The new service was announced by U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in July.

In a press release USCIS stated:

“The new mobile-responsive design provides an intuitive method for answering questions, navigating through sections, and uploading evidence on a mobile device. Instructions for filing Form I-90 require providing certain evidence, such as a copy of government-issued identification. For those filing through a mobile device, it may be easier to take a photo of the evidence and upload it directly from their mobile devices. The redesigned online form also provides a more personalized experience, as users are directed to answer only those questions specific to their case.”

USCIS points out no substantive changes were made to the policy itself and the online content was the same as the paper forms.

You should always keep your green card in a safe place. However, green cards expire every 10 years. You should plan ahead and apply for renewal when the expiration date on your green card is six months away. If that date has already passed, you don’t need to panic. You are still a permanent resident. However, you should re-apply as soon as possible.

It’s a different scenario if you are a conditional resident whose card shows a two-year expiration date.

In this case, your status does expire in two years. The purpose of conditional residence is to allow USCIS to look again at whether the marriage that permitted you residency is indeed bona fide before you are allowed to stay in the U.S. permanently.

During the two years of your conditional residency, you benefit from all the day-to-day rights of a permanent resident. You are allowed to work, travel in and out of the country, and count your time here toward the three or five years of residence you have to accumulate before applying for U.S. citizenship.

Find out more about green cards here on our website. If you are seeking permanent residency or more information about green card replacement, an experienced Texas family immigration lawyer can help you. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Immigration Lawyers’ Convention Leaves Texas over Controversial Sanctuary Cities Law

By Peek & Toland on December 19, 2017

Senate Bill 4, a controversial anti-sanctuary cities law signed by Texas Governor Gregg Abbott this summer has led an immigration lawyers’ convention to boycott the state.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association was planning to hold a three-day event in Grapevine, Texas. The AILA Grapevine conference was booked years ago, and could face financial penalties for pulling out.

However, the immigration lawyers’ convention was pulled in protest at what it termed “dangerous, destructive and counterproductive proposals” contrary to the group’s mission. About 3,000 people were meant to attend the convention in Grapevine.

Immigration lawyers’ convention boycotts Texas

Immigration lawyers’ convention pulls out of Texas

The association has 15,000 members. It comprises law professors and attorneys. The convention was held outside Texas in protest at Senate Bill 4, a contentious measure meant to crack down on sanctuary cities, the Texas Tribune reported.

AILA president Bill Stock told reporters during a conference many members felt unwilling to bring themselves or their families to Texas because of the legislation.

Stock said:

“Our members are U.S. citizens and green card holders, but many of them come from ethnic communities where they felt that they [would] being unfairly targeted.”

SB 4, a measure held up by the courts, has been criticized as a discriminatory measure by its opponents. It allows law enforcement officials to question the immigration status of people legally arrested or detained.

It also brings criminal sanctions against city and law enforcement officers who fail to honor detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the legislation in May, and it was scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 1. However, a federal judge held up key provisions.

A group of Texas cities joined forces to oppose the measure in the courts. They include Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, El Paso and El Cenizo and El Paso and Maverick counties.

Abbott and his supports say the measure is necessary to make Texas safer and crack down on illegal immigration. Opponents say its language is wide enough to lead to racial profiling and other discriminatory practices.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a suit against the bill on behalf of San Antonio City Councilman Rey Saldaña and three nonprofit groups: La Unión Del Pueblo Entero, the Worker’s Defense Project and the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education.

The American Civil Liberties Union has warned its members against traveling to Texas over the new legislation.

If you feel you have been unfairly questioned about your immigration status or are in a deportation action, please call our Austin immigration lawyers today at (512) 474-4445.

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