Immigration Reform

Texas Governor Seeks to Remove Sheriffs Over Refusals of Detainer Requests

By Peek & Toland on April 25, 2017

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is seeking the power to remove law enforcement officials who fail to comply with federal detainer requests.

The governor has aimed his comments at new Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez who has imposed a policy would limit compliance with federal immigration authorities in Austin.

Hernandez said she would restrict her staff’s compliance with federal detainer requests to hold undocumented prisoners.

Greg Abbott seeks to derail Travis County on detainer requests

Moves are afoot to clamp down on Austin’s status as a sanctuary city

The sheriff ran for office on a platform that included limiting compliance with these requests. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials make detainer requests of jails when they ask local law enforcement officials to hold inmates who may be illegally in the United States.

Detainer requests are sometimes illegally placed and done so without a warrant.

Hernandez’s stance is consistent with the policies of a sanctuary city. Austin’s police also have a policy not to ask people who are arrested their immigration status.

Abbott told Fox News he and other lawmakers will seek to push through new rules to remove Texas sheriffs from office if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials over the handling of individuals who are thought to be undocumented immigrants.

Abbott previously warned he will strip state grant funding from Travis County if Hernandez does not change tack. However, the sheriff remains defiant, according to media reports and has gained a national profile in the contentious immigration stand-off with the federal government.

The governor warned Texas sheriffs would also face criminal and civil penalties if they did not comply with detainer requests from ICE.

One opponent of the policy is Congressman Lloyd Doggett. He told The Statesman Abbott’s proposal was unlawful and neither the governor or the legislature has the authority to remove an elected sheriff from office.

Hernandez will honor detainers requests only in cases in which a suspect has been charged with a serious offense like murder, human trafficking or sexual assault. Federal agents obtain a court order or an arrest warrant.

Our Travis county immigration attorneys work hard to keep families together. If you have been hit with a detainer request, you may have rights. Contact us here for help.

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Austin Mayor Backs Campaign to Support Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on April 12, 2017

Austin Mayor Steve Adler has joined city leaders across the country in calling for better federal government support for immigrant families.

In December, Adler joined 30 other executives and mayors from across the nation. Last year, they called for outgoing President Barack Obama to increase his support for immigrant families, Community Impact reported.

The leaders were all members of Cities for Action, a coalition of more than 100 U.S. mayors and county executives. They urged the President and his administration to not only continue supporting immigrant families, but to take additional steps to protect them after the end of his term on Jan. 20.

Austin mayor Steve Adler defended immigrants

The Austin skyline

Adler said in a statement.

“As Mayor of Austin—as well as a former national board member of the Anti-Defamation League—I am proud that America cannot and will not use its power to persecute people based on their religion.”

His letter requested Obama to strengthen his support for young immigrants, so-called “Dreamers” under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Obama set up the policy in 2012. It protects some young undocumented immigrants from deportation and provides eligibility for them to work.

The future of DACA remains uncertain under the presidency of Donald Trump, but it certainly makes sense for those who benefitted from the program to seek renewal of their applications.

Austin Mayor Vows to Keep Immigrant Families Safe

Adler vowed to keep immigrants safe in Austin. He has also backed policies consistent with sanctuary cities.

He vowed to keep immigrant families safe. When Austin City Council officially approved interim police Chief Brian Manley last December, some council members were adamant that he should use police resources to fight crime rather than deport immigrants.

Adler is not the only senior official in Austin to vow to protect immigrants. Sally Hernandez, the new sheriff, ran her election campaign on a sanctuary city agenda.

She pledged to end Travis County’s commitment to honor “detainer” requests made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These requests have also come under fire in the courts.

ICE agents request county jails to hold immigrants if the feds suspect they might be undocumented.

In some cases, ICE places detainer requests without first obtaining a warrant.

Sanctuary cities do not allow municipal funds to be used to enforce federal immigration laws in an attempt to keep immigrant families together.

At Peek & Toland, PLLC, our Austin immigration attorneys do everything in our power to prevent families being split up. Call us for assistance at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

Legal Ruling over Family Detention Centers Leads to Release of Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on April 10, 2017

Our Austin immigration lawyers have written in the past about the ongoing legal battle over the housing of women and children in Texas family detention centers.

Recently, hundreds of women and children were released from Texas family detention centers after an important legal case concerning childcare facilities at the centers.

The releases were greeted as a victory for immigrant rights advocates, who argue that it’s inhumane and not necessary to lock up undocumented mothers and kids seeking asylum in the U.S.

The Texas lawsuit focused narrowly on the issues of emergency rules to allow the facilities to meet Texas’ child care licensing standards.

Family detention centers

Family detention centers include women and children

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released more than 460 mothers and children from family detention centers in Dilley and Karnes. Austin Judge Karin Crump ruled against allowing the two privately owned facilities a state license allowing them to function as child care facilities. Her decision was appealed.

Grassroots Leadership brought the state lawsuit. On the back of the ruling immigration supporters argued there was nothing preventing the release of the remaining families.

The ruling was made in the final days of the Obama administration. Some commentators believe immigration detention centers will be increasingly used under the Trump administration.

Most of the mothers and children at the centers are from Central American countries. They are often incarcerated for months as their cases proceed in immigration court, reported the Huffington Post.

Some of the women and children are released to sponsors, often family members, so as immigration authorities are aware of their location.

ICE denied the releases of women and children in December were related to the court ruling.

Spokesman Carl Rusnok said ICE is reviewing the ruling as it relates to an operational license for the South Texas Family Residential Center. The center remains operational.

The Dilley and Karnes detention centers would be required to make sweeping changes to qualify as child care facilities under Texas law. The centers hold many families together in a single unit. The housing of children with adults they are not related to is a prohibited practice in Texas childcare facilities because of the abuse risk.

Also, under Texas law, the children’s presence at licensed child care facilities is optional, meaning they could leave. However, children are not permitted to leave the detention centers at Karnes or Dilley unless an immigration judge or ICE releases them.

Our Austin, Texas cancellation of removal lawyers can help you if you are fighting deportation. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Extreme Vetting Fears Lead to Upsurge in Calls To Texas Immigration Lawyers

By Peek & Toland on March 28, 2017

Under Donald Trump’s presidency, more immigrants fear “extreme vetting.” In turn, it has led to an increase in calls to immigration lawyers.

A report in the Washington Post noted the trend. The fear is not restricted to undocumented immigrants. Green card holders are desperately eyeing citizenship to allay their fears of deportation and permanent residents who are Muslims fear “extreme vetting.”

The concerns were apparent before the controversial immigration executive order in January that banned arrivals from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 60 days. Even green card holders from those countries faced extreme vetting.

The article also highlighted the case of a Hispanic couple in the Washington suburbs. One of them is in the country legally, the other is not. They are weighing up whether to apply for a provisional waiver. The undocumented spouse faces being stuck south of the border if the waiver request is denied.

immigration lawyers receive more calls over extreme vetting

the increase in extreme vetting led to more calls to immigration lawyers

The Post noted how immigration lawyers say they have seen a surge in consultations, contact from immigrants and clients since Trump’s success on Election Day. The success of the anti-immigration candidate has alarmed arrivals in the United States. Texas immigration lawyers experienced a similar trend.

Immigrants fear many of Trump’s policies, including:

  1. The plan to create a “deportation task force.”
  2. The “extreme vetting” of immigrants from Muslim countries.
  3. The prospect of the 90-day immigration bans from seven counties being extended.
  4. Beneficiaries of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program who fear their applications won’t be renewed.

The “extreme vetting policy” has parallels with the period after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when Muslims came under intense scrutiny.

The Post spoke to Joung E. Lee, who chairs the D.C. chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Her group’s members saw a 20 to 25 percent increase in calls and requests for consultations since the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Texas Immigration Lawyers Can Help

An article in The Atlantic said some immigration lawyer have seen a ten-fold increase in calls since the election.

The lack of clarity in Trump’s immigration policies has not helped, leading to more uncertainty among immigrants. Trump threatened to deport millions of undocumented immigrants during the election campaign. More recently he said only undocumented immigrants with criminal records will be deported.

The Atlantic pointed out that Trump’s rhetoric about walls and religious bans has added to the anxiety felt by immigrants.

It’s sometimes forgotten that Obama was nicknamed the “deporter in chief.” He removed more than 2 million immigrants, more than all of the 20th Century presidents combined.

However, deportations slowed in the last four years of Obama’s term and he introduced immigration reforms to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to work in the United States. The bulk of his immigration reform was stymied in a deadlock in the Supreme Court last year.

We are well aware of the anxiety felt by immigrant families in Texas. We can offer concrete help and reassurance to immigrant families. See our success stories here. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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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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