Immigration Reform

Terrorist Attack Puts Diversity Green Card Lottery in Jeopardy

By Peek & Toland on April 17, 2018

The diversity green card lottery hit the headlines after a terrorist attack in New York in November 2017.

The diversity visa program, also known as the green card lottery, was criticized for allowing an attacker who was an immigrant from Uzbekistan, to come to the US.

Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov was from Central Asia but he had been living in the US since 2010, sources said. He is accused of driving a rented pickup truck down a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Center in Manhattan killing eight people, reported CNN.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he didn’t want the diversity green lottery to continue. He called for a switch to a merit-based immigration system.

Diversity green card lottery at risk post New York Terror attack

New York terrorist attack threatens diversity green card lottery

Notwithstanding the criticism, the diversity green card lottery has an unusual history, reported USA Today.

In 1965, The Immigration Act eliminated quotas that previously determined how many people could immigrate to the U.S. from any given country. This key piece of immigration legislation prioritized the immigration of people with close relatives living in the U.S. or the skills that employers wanted.

The provisions proved problematic for hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants who were escaping an economic crisis at home. USA Today noted a quota system was no longer in place. Most of the Irish people who wanted to head west lacked close family living in the U.S. or skills that were in high demand Stateside.

Nevertheless, many Irish immigrants came to the United States anyway and overstayed the terms of their visas. They ended up living as undocumented immigrants.

In 1986, the diversity visa lottery was put forward as a solution to the problem by Irish American members of Congress.

Thousands of Irish immigrants benefitted in 1986. By 1995, Congress had passed a permanent version of the law.

Although demand from Ireland dropped off, every year the program provides green cards to 50,000 people chosen randomly from countries with low immigration numbers to the U.S.

The program appeared to be living on borrowed time even before the New York terrorist attack.

Demand for these visas always exceeds supply. The countries of eligibility include Turkey, Poland, Italy Japan, Romania, Russia, Spain, and Nepal.

Most winners of the so-called green card lottery live outside the United States and immigrate through consular processing and the issuing of an immigrant visa.

Shortly after the terrorist attack, the diversity lottery was again under fire. Federal authorities moved to strip citizenship from four Somali immigrants who prosecutors claim lied about being a family, defrauding the Diversity Visa Lottery program.

The Washington Times reported that one woman, Fosia Abdi Adan, allegedly won the visa lottery in 2000 and then illegally brought three cousins, claiming two were her children and one was her husband to the United States. The feds claim the man was married to another woman at the time.

Removing citizenship is no easy task, although the Trump administration is seeking to make it easier. In the summer of 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court set the bar higher on citizenship stripping in the case of a Serbian woman who lied about her husband’s military service.

To find out more about the diversity green card lottery or citizenship please contact our Texas immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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Poll Finds More Texans Oppose Deportation of Dreamers

By Peek & Toland on April 13, 2018

The termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) raises the prospect of the deportation of Dreamers. It’s not a popular notion, according to a recent poll.

The University of Texas/Tribune Poll found most voters in the state are opposed to the idea of these young immigrants being sent back to their home nations.

The Dreamers are young people who came to the United States as children. Many were given temporary rights to work and be free from the threat of deportation under the Obama era DACA.

In September, the Trump administration signaled the end of DACA.

Three-fifths of the registered voters surveyed in the poll said they would continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. Just 30 percent said the program should end.

Unsurprisingly, there was a split along party lines. Democrats strongly favor continuation (86 percent.) However, 39 percent of Republicans would do so.

The study found more than a fifth of Hispanics said they would end the DACA program, while 64 percent said they’d keep it.

The survey found a narrow majority of Texans disagree that undocumented immigrants currently living in the state should be deported immediately.

Poll finds many oppose the deportation of Dreamers

Deportation of Dreamers is controversial

The partisan split was again present. Just 19 percent of Democrats agreed with deportation, while 64 percent of Republicans agreed. Fifty percent of white voters wanted deportation of undocumented immigrants. The figure was 37 percent for black voters and 36 percent for Hispanic voters.

Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, alluded to some nuance in the poll, the Tribune reported.

He said Hispanics in Texas are not known for being liberal.

In the survey, most Texans said local law enforcement agencies should cooperate with federal immigration authorities. They included 67 percent of white voters, 44 percent of Hispanic voters and 45 percent of black voters.

Men were found to be 10 percentage points more likely to support cooperation between federal and local authorities than women.

Strong support for Dreamers against deportation was shown in national polls. A poll published last October by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found just one in five people favored the deportation of Dreamers.

Approximately 800,000 young immigrants received a deportation reprieve under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan. Trump gave notice on the program in September. He gave Congress six months to act on a replacement.

About 60 percent of Americans favor allowing those young immigrants to stay in the U.S. legally, compared to 22 percent who are opposed, the national poll found.

If you have an immigration matter, please call Peek Toland & Castañeda PLLC. Our lawyers are passionate about our client’s legal needs. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Immigration, Immigration Reform

More than A Year After the Travel Ban The Issue is Mired in Court Proceedings

By Peek & Toland on March 28, 2018

President Donald Trump’s travel ban first issued in January 2017 caused widespread confusion and panic at airports. More than a year after the travel ban, the issue is still bogged down in the courts.

The Supreme Court is likely to finally weigh in on the legality or otherwise of the ban this year.  It allowed the executive order to fully go into effect in early December while federal judges in the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the 9th and 4th Circuits mull whether to halt enforcement of the third travel ban.

The Trump administration issued revised bans throughout 2017. They were routinely challenged.

In November, the Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to fully enact the travel ban after an appeals court in California ruled that only parts of it could go into effect.  The White House argued the latest ban “is based on national-security and foreign-affairs objectives, not religious animus,” according to Reuters. 

Courts are involved a year after the travel ban

More than a year after the travel ban uncertainty remains

A ban that was announced on Sept. 24 replaced two previous bans that were blocked in the federal courts.

The administration won a partial victory in November when the three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled the Trump administration could bar the entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries with no U.S. connections.

The court ruled the administration’s travel ban would only apply to people originating from Iran, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Chad and Somalia with no connections to the U.S.

The administration’s latest ban was announced on Sept. 24, replacing two previous versions that had been blocked by federal courts.  North Korea and Venezuela were added to the ban.

However, many of those the administration sought to ban have connections to the United States.

The connections are defined as relationships linked to families and formal, documented relationships with American entities like universities and resettlement agencies.

People with family relationships permitting entry to the country include grandchildren, brothers-in-law, grandparents, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people living here in the United States.

Trump’s first travel ban targeting a group of Muslim-majority was issued just a week after he took office in January. He issued a revised six-month plan after the first ban was blocked by the courts. The second one expired in September following a protracted legal fight and was replaced with another revised version.

Also in November, an internal watchdog report detailed the chaos and lack of planning inherent in the first travel ban.

A report by the DHS inspector general revealed that the leaders of Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency mean to implement the order had virtually no warning an order was to be issued or of its scope and was “caught by surprise,” NPR reported.

The early hours of the travel ban were marked by airport protests, along with delays and confusion until a court injunction was imposed, reported NPR.

If you have been impacted by a travel ban, you should consult an experienced Austin immigration lawyer. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Trump’s Major Immigration Reform Hits Opposition

By Peek & Toland on February 22, 2018

The Trump administration announced a major immigration reform in January and while the border wall made headlines, some of the other details are potentially more sweeping.

On Jan. 25, the administration offered a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

The policy change could help the so-called Dreamers who won a reprieve from deportation and the right to work under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The DACA issue remains held up in Congress with no vote forthcoming.

While the DACA proposal may have been acceptable to Democrats at Congress, other proposals to retreat from family-based immigration and to end the diversity lottery proved more divisive.

major immigration reform

Trump announced major immigration reform

Here are the key points of Trump’s major immigration reform. The White House said the measures are necessary to deal with the “rapidly growing surge of illegal immigration.”

  • The setting up of a $25 billion trust fund to finance a border wall system, including new ports of entry and exit, and other border improvements and enhancements.
  • Hiring new personnel to deal with the immigration backlog by finding more money for new DHS personnel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement lawyers, immigration judges, prosecutors and other law enforcement professionals.
  • Implementing pay and hiring reforms to facilitate the recruitment and retention of “critically-needed” personnel.
  • Deter migrants from illegally entering the United States by ending the catch-and-release policy and by closing perceived legal loopholes
  • Ensure the detention and removal of criminal undocumented immigrants, members of gangs, violent offenders, and aggravated felons.
  • Prioritize the prompt removal of illegal border-crossers regardless of their country of origin.
  • Deter visa overstays with efficient removal policies.
  • Prevent synthetic drugs such as the opioid fentanyl from entering the country.
  • Implement key immigration court reforms to boost efficiency and stamp out fraud and abuse.
  • Provide legal status for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as well as other DACA-eligible illegal immigrants. The time-frame of the program would be adjusted to encompass a total population of approximately 1.8 million people. Give a 10-year path to Citizenship to those who seek work, education and have a good moral character.
  • Promote nuclear family migration by limiting family sponsorships to the United States to spouses and minor children only. The policy would apply to relatives of citizens and green card holders, ending so-called extended-family chain migration.
  • Eliminate the diversity visa lottery and repurpose visas. The Trump administration said these programs allow people to come to the country with no consideration of skills, merit or public safety.

The move from family-based immigration to a more merit-based system is likely to prove contentious. According to CNN, experts say cutting these categories would reduce the roughly 1 million green cards given out every year by 25 percent to 50 percent.

If you or a family member needs help with an immigration matter, please contact our Austin immigration law firm today.

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Green Card Seekers Face New Hurdles From Trump Administration

By Peek & Toland on February 22, 2018

The Trump administration is considering adding a new obstacle to green card seekers by making it harder for members of Congress to help them become permanent residents.

Immigrants often seek help from congressional offices in Washington D.C. in dealing with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In many cases, a lawmaker’s office will communicate through a lawyer or family member.

However, an email sent by a top USCIS official on Dec. 18 which was obtained by The Daily Beast, revealed the agency will soon require multiple new forms. The documentation would include a handwritten and notarized signature, even when an immigrant is overseas, before accepting privacy waivers.

These waivers are required before an immigrant can seek the help of a Congressional office.

More hurdles for green card seekers

Green card seekers face more obstacles

A report on US News quoted USCIS legislative affairs chief Ronald Atkinson who wrote the new policy would help both USCIS and Congress handle inquiries in a more efficient and effective way while also protecting sensitive data and information.

Critics warn the new requirements are meant to be an additional barrier. They say they will impact applicants from out of the country, particularly when there is a language difference.

Atkinson has outlined at least four proposed changes. The documentation:

  1. Must be hand signed by the person intending to immigrate and notarized. Digital signatures won’t be accepted.
  2. It must name the congressional office as the only authorized recipient.
  3. Any non-English text must be fully translated.
  4. Each follow-up query sent over 30 days after a meaningful response is received from USCIS must include the new privacy waiver.

The changes represent the latest tightening up of the rules applying to green card seekers.

In August, the USCIS announced a change to require in-person interviews for people seeking to move from an employment-based visa to permanent residency in the United States, as well as making interviews a requirement for anyone with a visa who is a family member of a refugee or receives asylum before they receive provisional status.

Immigrants are facing more and more hurdles whether they are filing permanent residency applications or work-related visas. Visitors from certain countries are barred under the terms of travel bans.

Due to the increasing demands and paperwork, it makes more sense now than ever to hire a Texas green card attorney. Call us at 512-474-4445.

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Key U.S. Supreme Court Cases on Crime and Immigration in 2017

By Peek & Toland on February 21, 2018

Crime and immigration matter often dominate the deliberations of the highest court in the land and 2017 was no exception. The year saw a number of key U.S. Supreme Court cases to feature crime and immigration.

The alleged targeting of Muslims dominated the news in terms of President Trump’s attempts to impose a travel ban but claims of discrimination more than 15 years ago were also heard in the courtroom.

Major U.S. Supreme Court Caaes

U.S. Supreme Court cases in 2017

Constitutional Violations Against Officials

The Supreme Court rejected a damages suit brought against high-level federal officials, including a former FBI director and former attorney general.

The suit alleged they ordered a roundup of Muslim immigrants in New York after the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

In a 4-2 opinion, the justices said damages could not be awarded because they have not been authorized by Congress. Two justices of the then 8-member bench recused themselves.

The Trump Travel Ban

No fewer than three travel bans were imposed by the Trump administration against visitors from certain countries. They were all immediately appealed in the courts.

The U.S. Supreme court cleared the way for the Trump administration to enforce part of an executive order suspending for 90 days the entry of foreign visitors and refugees from six Muslim-majority nations.

The justices said the travel ban may not be enforced against foreign nationals with a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with an entity or an individual in the United States.

In December, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the third travel ban to proceed pending more detailed legal challenges. While the earlier bans had only targeted people from majority Muslim counties, North Korea, Venezuela and Chad were added to the list in the third ban.

Sex Offenders and Social Media

The high court unanimously struck down a North Carolina law that made it a crime for registered sex offenders to post a message on websites that may be used by minors. The case related to a Facebook post by a sex offender that was not of a sexual nature.

In the case of Packingham vs. North Carolina, the defendant was charged for posting the phrase “God is good” on his Facebook page after beating a traffic citation. The court struck down the law for being too wide and contrary to free speech.

Although 2017, saw some landmark decisions many important U.S. Supreme Court decisions on crime and immigration remained pending by the end of the year.

A case relating to whether U.S. border agent in Texas could be held liable for a fatal shooting across the border in Mexico was sent back to a Texas court for consideration.

The Supreme Court will re-hear a case to decide whether breaking into a garage or an empty home is a “crime of violence” requiring the deportation of a longtime legal immigrant, reported the Los Angeles Times.

If you require assistance with a crime or an immigration matter, please call Peek Toland & Castañeda PLLC at (512) 474-4445.

 

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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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