Cancellation of Removal

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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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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Mother Makes Plea to ICE Not to Deport the Immigrant who Identified Son’s Killers

By Peek & Toland on January 12, 2018

Deportation can be undiscriminating. Earlier this year, a mother from New York made a plea to authorities not to deport an undocumented immigrant who help bring her son’s killers to justice.

Sofia Cuetlach, the mother of a murdered Brooklyn man, called on federal immigration officials to release William Siguencia Hurtado. He was arrested in June despite testifying in two Brooklyn homicide cases, including her son’s.

The mother’s call and the subsequent publicity may have had an impact because he was later released from ICE

Siguencia Hurtado is an immigrant from Ecuador. He is married to a U.S. citizen, has two children and has lived in the United States since 2002. Siguencia Hurtado was the only eyewitness in the murder trial of the killers of Cuetlach’s son.

Mother makes immigrant deportation plea

Mother makes plea over immigrant deportation

A report in the New York Daily News noted he was arrested during an annual check-in on June 29 at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New York. He was detained as part of President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Cuetlach said she would help him by testifying on his behalf to avert potential deportation.

In 2012, Siguencia Hurtado was a witness to the murder of Cuetlach’s 20-year-old son outside a nightclub. He helped police arrest the suspects when he noticed them again two weeks later.

Support for Siguencia Hurtado also came from Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. He sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, urging officials at the department to release the Ecuadorian.

The New York Post reported Siguencia Hurtado crossed the Mexican border 15 years ago. He was arrested in 2004 for harassment and statutory rape. The charges were later dropped.

A federal immigration judge ordered him removed from the United States in 2005, after he failed to appear for a deportation proceeding. However, he quietly built his life in Brooklyn where he has a 5-month-old son and a 10-year-old daughter with his wife.

Reports in the media in August, stated Siguencia Hurtado was released from detention after being arrested by ICE in July.

The reports noted he pays taxes, and is married to a US citizen who is attempting to legalize his status.

If you or a family member is facing deportation in Texas, you should contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445.

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Homeland Security Secretary Floats Citizenship for People Shielded from Deportation

By Peek & Toland on January 5, 2018

The Trump administration announced the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides a level of amnesty to some undocumented immigrants, last year. In the following months, the question of what should happen to those temporarily shielded from deportation has been discussed.

This month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen floated the idea of citizenship for people who were temporarily shielded from deportation.

The Homeland Security Secretary’s comments came as the future of so-called “Dreamers” was discussed.

Nielsen said the Trump administration would consider immigration legislation that might include a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young people.

However, Nielsen stressed no decision has been made on the issue of Dreamers and a border wall remains a priority. The so-called ‘wait and see’ policy as reported in VOANews represents little change in the official stance.

Help for people shielded from deportation

The White House is considering options for people shielded for deportation

 Almost 790,000 young people, many who came to America as children, gained the right to work, live and seek education under DACA. It gave them breathing space from deportation proceedings.

President Donald Trump has called for Congress to address the issue after his executive order ended DACA.

However, discussions in Congress were complicated by issues like the wall and wider immigration reforms.

In an interview, Nielsen said Congress is considering three options which include citizenship or permanent legal status for people who were shielded from deportation.

She said details on how these people would qualify for citizenship, including how many years they should wait and other pertinent requirements, would have to be addressed.

Nielsen said the president is open to different scenarios including citizenship but the White House had not made any decisions. Nielson indicated any protections for Dreamers should be limited to those who benefitted from the program that is being phased out rather than new recipients.

In September, Trump stated he would not consider citizenship for DACA recipients. Trump gave Congress until March to deliver a legislative fix.

Options being considered by Congress include permanent residency, defined as residency for a certain time period such as three or four years, subject to renewal, as well as citizenship, Nielsen said.

“It will be interesting to see where (Congress) can get comfortable with what they mean by what is a permanent fix but the idea would be that you move away from a temporary status.”

However, the Homeland Security Secretary maintained she is hopeful the White House and Congress can reach a deal including a border wall and immigration enforcement measures.

The wall between the United States and Mexico remains a contentious issue for Democrats and some Republicans in Congress. Nielsen said building a wall was “first and foremost.”

The administration has also targeted so-called “loopholes” on issues including the handling of asylum claims and local police co-operating with immigration authorities.

Nielsen and other senior officials in the Trump administration will discuss a potential deal with members of Congress this week. Trump met with senators working on a legislative fix over Dreamers on Jan. 4.

Trump had earlier attacked Democrats for doing nothing to protect DACA recipients. Nielsen said the president is also set to request $1.6 billion for the border barrier, as well as a similar amount to build or replace 74 miles of barriers in California and Texas. Barriers currently cover about a third of the border, just over 650 miles.

If you are impacted by immigration changes at this difficult time, please contact our Austin immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Citizenship, Deferred Action, Immigration

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Immigration Judge Calls for Quicker Deportations

By Peek & Toland on January 3, 2018

The immigration courts face long delays and backlogs. However, calls for quicker deportations remain controversial.

Recently, chief immigration judge MaryBeth Keller issued a memo calling all immigration judges and court staff to give priority to the quicker deportation of immigrants with pending court cases.

The information was contained in a recent U.S. Department of Justice memo.

Keller gave additional guidance to immigration judges to efficiently adjudicate their caseload as quickly as possible to decrease the growing backlog of court cases.

Keller warned frequent and lengthy continuances that give immigrants more time to present supporting evidence in their cases were contributing to the backlog.

Judge supports quicker deportations

Judge backs quicker deportations

She claimed some immigrants were abusing the system of continuances because it is to their advantage to remain in the United States. Keller wrote:

 “It is critically important that Immigration Judges use continuances appropriately and only where warranted for good cause or by authority established by case law. It is sound docket management to carefully consider administrative efficiency, case delays, and the effects of multiple continuances on the efficient administration of justice in the immigration courts.”

Keller supported a general policy of allowing at least one continuance for immigrants to find legal counsel.

Immigrants are not guaranteed legal counsel in immigration hearings.

Keller suggested judges should resist granting continuances for merits hearings unless there is a good legal basis.

The memo came at a time when the Trump administration is seeking to speed up deportations.

The administration has pressed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detain undocumented immigrants who pose national security and public safety threats for deportation proceedings.

However, officials have not exempted the detention of any category of undocumented immigrant in that time including those without criminal records considered low priority under the previous administration.

Keller’s memo draws attention to 610,000 pending cases on the dockets of immigration courts, points out Think Progess.

About half of these cases are in Texas, California and New York.

From December 2013 to 2016, former President Barack Obama tasked immigration judges to prioritize the deportation of thousands of children from Central America who had fled violence in their homes via a “rocket docket.” This required judges and attorneys to speed up court proceedings to process these immigrants.

As president, Donald Trump signed executive orders calling for more money to for detention centers to hold immigrants, cash for more immigration judges, and ICE agents.

Last year, we noted Texas has the largest backlog of immigration cases in the country – 89,000 and growing.

If you are seeking help with an immigration matter in Austin, San Antonio, Round Rock, Laredo or elsewhere in Texas, please call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Youngsters Held in the U.S. Are Entitled to Immigration Hearings, Court Rules

By Peek & Toland on December 21, 2017

An important court decision in California has rejected the federal government’s argument that it has sole custody over minors who entered the country illegally, with the judges favoring judicial immigration hearings.

The ruling means thousands of young people in the custody of federal immigration services are entitled to judicial hearings that could lead to their release, The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled.

The decision in July in San Francisco rejected the federal government’s argument that laws after a 1997 lawsuit settlement gave a federal agency sole authority over the custody of unaccompanied minors who entered the United States illegally.

How youngsters are entitled to immigration hearings

Youngsters held in the U.S. are entitled to immigration hearings

The Office of Refugee Resettlement keeps young people locked up for months or even years, with no explanation why they are confined and no recourse to dispute their confinement, the court heard.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt referred to laws passed in 2002 and 2008 and sought to protect this vulnerable population by boosting their legal protection during the 3-0 ruling.  He said:

 “If Congress had intended to terminate the settlement agreement in whole or in part, it would have said so.”

Many of the young people escaped violence, poverty and an upsurge in gang activity in Central America. Nearly 60,000 unaccompanied minors were taken into custody after crossing the U.S. border in 2015 and 2016, stated U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

These young people have been subjected to numerous federal government crackdowns.

Attorneys representing the young people said their clients feared the aggressive immigration enforcement policies of the Trump era will increase their need for legal protection.

The minors would not be entitled to be released on bail if they appeared before a hearing, but they could find out why they are being held and challenge the claim of the federal government that they pose a threat, with the help of an experienced immigration lawyer.

If a judge finds a young person does not pose a danger, the Office of Refugee Resettlement would have to determine if he or she could be turned over to an adult or another agency.

The court heard some very young undocumented immigrants are being held. It cited the case of a 9-year-old boy who was detained for a year-and-a-half before being reunited with his parents in Texas.

Under the 1997 lawsuit settlement that led to the laws central to the July hearing, the government agreed to minimum standards for the housing and treatment of noncitizens under age 18. These standards included the right to a hearing before an immigration judge.

However, the Obama administration cut off the legal hearings in 2015, claiming more recent laws had voided the settlement. The ruling upheld the earlier settlement.

 

Many young people and families from Central America and elsewhere have been held for long periods of time in detention centers. However, even undocumented immigrants have rights to immigration hearings. Please contact our Texas family immigration attorneys to find out more.

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What Happens in a Merits Hearing in an Immigration Case

By Peek & Toland on December 14, 2017

A merits hearing is the most important part of the removal proceeding for a non-citizen. It gives the non-citizen a chance to present arguments directly to an immigration judge and defend his or her right to remain in the country.

Failure to make a valid case is likely to end with the immigrant being deported.

Before attending the merits hearing, which is also called an individual hearing, the immigration judge must read the Notice to Appear (NTA) out loud to the immigrant or his or her immigration attorney. The immigrant must state whether they admit or deny each allegation and whether they agree to or refute the charge or charges of removability or inadmissibility

The parties must agree on the allegations. The immigration judge will then decide if there is enough evidence to deport the immigrant. The judge will ask for the reasons why the person in question should be deported.

outlining an immigration merits hearing

What happens in an immigration merits hearing

Often an immigrant will be put into removal proceedings even when there are valid reasons why he or she may stay in the country.

It’s, therefore, important to have an experienced Texas cancellation of removal lawyer to represent you and to find potential reasons why you should not be removed.

Once the allegations are agreed upon by all parties and the immigration judge decides there is sufficient evidence to find an immigrant removable or inadmissible as charged, the immigrant will be asked what form of relief from removal he or she is seeking.

Even if the immigration judge decides the immigrant is removable as charged in the Notice to Appear, he or she can legally remain in the country if a valid defense to the charges can be presented.

Common defenses include cancellation of removal, asylum, marriage to a U.S. citizen, or prosecutorial discretion.

An immigrant should have identified what type of relief to apply for by the time the Merits Hearing is held.

The immigration judge will have instructed the non-citizen to submit his or her application for relief along with all supporting documents to the court and to send a copy to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by a certain date.

A failure to submit all forms of relief, supporting documents and fees by the date ordered by the judge will result in the non-citizen being removed from the country before the merits hearing.

In recent years, the wait for an immigration hearing has increased dramatically and the courts have struggled with the workload.

As of the end of April 2017, the number of cases waiting for a decision reached an all-time high of 585,930.

On average individuals are waiting 670 days, and may wait considerably longer before their cases are heard. Nine courts account for a quarter of the national backlog requiring some people to wait for more than four additional years before a hearing is scheduled.

In San Francisco, the immigration court has 42,000 backlogged cases. Some individuals have waited more than five additional years, equating to 1,908 days longer for a July 21, 2022 hearing date. We noted on our blog how Texas has one of the largest immigration backlogs.

If you are facing possible deportation, please contact our Austin immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

 

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Prosecutors May Be Defending Immigrants From Deportation over Minor Crimes

By Peek & Toland on November 6, 2017

Prosecutors have plenty of discretion when they negotiate plea deals. While we often believe they want to hit defendants with the highest sentence possible, this is not always the case. A recent study suggested some prosecutors are defending immigrants from possible deportation.

A recent report on NPR suggested prosecutors in several U.S. cities are using their discretion to protect defendants who are immigrants from possible deportation down the line.

NPR spoke to Brooklyn prosecutor Eric Gonzalez. He still recalls the case of a legal permanent resident from Haiti who was arrested on a trespassing charge. Police also discovered a small amount of cocaine on him.

Prosecutors are defending immigrants

Prosecutors are defending immigrants in some places

He did not plead to the trespass charge but he admitted the drugs charge. The Haitian was sentenced to community service. He stayed out ad trouble and was able to hold down two jobs.

However, the old plea deal proved his undoing when he returned to Haiti in 2010 to check on his family after the massive earthquake. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials noticed his drug conviction on his return. ICE put him in deportation proceedings a decade after his plea deal.

Gonzales told NPR the immigrant would not have been deported if he had pled guilty to the trespassing charge.

Gonzalez is the acting district attorney in Brooklyn. The state’s first Hispanic district attorney warns immigrants face a form of double jeopardy and can end up deported years after serving their sentences on criminal charges.

He’s one of group of prosecutors who are defending immigrants future interests. He instructed his staff of about 500 prosecutors to consider the immigration status of a defendant when negotiating plea deals for relatively minor nonviolent offenses.

The NPR report said prosecutors in Baltimore have also been instructed to consider the collateral consequences of prosecuting immigrants for minor misdemeanors.

Attorney General Jeff Session has attacked prosecutors for defending immigrants by avoiding plea deals which may later lead to deportations.

Sessions said:

“It troubles me that we’ve seen district attorneys openly brag about not charging cases appropriately under the laws of our country so that – provides an opportunity for individuals not to be convicted of a crime that might lead to deportation.”

At Peek & Toland , we have successfully fought many removal actions. See our cancellation of removal resources here.

If you or a loved one is concerned a past criminal conviction will lead to deportation, please contact our experienced Texas cancellation of removal lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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

By Peek & Toland on November 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

More than 30 states have statutes to prevent illegal immigration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hurricane Leaves Houston’s Undocumented Immigrants Destitute

By Peek & Toland on October 27, 2017

Undocumented immigrants are among the most vulnerable members of our society. When disaster strikes, they can suffer the most significant losses. When the floodwaters rose in Houston during Hurricane Harvey earlier this year, Houston’s undocumented suffered widespread destitution.

A report on NPR noted how Rosa Sosa and her family who fled their apartment unit waited two days for the waters to recede in August. When they did, all their possessions were destroyed and they were left with nothing.

The family is from El Salvador in Central America. They escaped gang violence at home and escaped to the United States three years ago, making their home in Texas.

Sosa said the family could no longer afford food after the hurricane destroyed their home because they had to pay rent.

Hurricane impacted Houston's undocumented immigrants

Hurricane Harvey hit Houston’s undocumented immigrants

The NPR report noted Houston is the home to as many as 600,000 immigrants who are in the country illegally. They cannot legally work and earn money due to their undocumented status.

As many as one in 10 people in Houston are undocumented. NPR reported how they faced destitution after Harvey caused widespread flooding to the city.

To make matters worse, undocumented immigrants do not qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

However, Roxana Sosa was permitted to submit an application in the name of an American-born child. Advocates for the immigrants reported they were in a dire situation in the wake of the storm.

Although the federal authorities said they would not ask to see papers as people fled Hurricane Harvey, many immigrants declined to ask for FEMA help even if they qualified out of fear of deportation.  Sosa told NPR:

“We’re afraid. That’s why we don’t declare our losses. We haven’t even gone to the management office here at the apartment complex.”

Undocumented immigrants in Texas have been hit by a double whammy. Even before the storm, a combination of a federal crackdown and an anti-sanctuary cities law due to come into effect in Texas on September 1, left migrants afraid.

The Texas law was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in August.

Officials went to considerable lengths to reassure undocumented immigrants in Houston. For example, Mayor Sylvester Turner told them there would be no immigration enforcement at Red Cross shelters. Those seeking FEMA assistance in the name of a U.S.-born child were also protected.

NPR found undocumented immigrants in Houston were still fearful. The Sosas chose to remain in their sodden apartment rather than go to the Red Cross for food or shelter.

The public broadcasters spoke to Carlos Ramos, an immigrant from Honduras. During the storm, he said he joined several undocumented residents who left their apartment complex in Southwest Houston to seek food and help. However, the migrants said they spotted some immigration agents carrying out rescues. They turned back at the sight of the officials.

Supporters of undocumented immigrants warn a deadly combination of factors including poverty, immigration enforcement, lack of insurance, suspicion of the government and other factors mean the undocumented population of Houston is the most vulnerable post-Hurricane Harvey. The situation has also highlighted the need to non-profits and other help groups to step in.

If you need to speak to an experienced Texas family immigration lawyer, please call us today at (512) 474-4445.

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