H-4 and H-1B Visa Holders Remain in Limbo

Under an Obama administration-era rule, spouses of H-1B visa holders who are applying for legal permanent residence, or a green card, gained work authorization that generally was renewable from one year to the next. This rule allowed these spouses, present on H-4 visas, to get a job and further their own careers while in the United States. The ability to obtain work authorization also has been a selling point to recruit workers to come to the U.S. on H-1B visas; not only can H-1B visa holders bring their spouses and minor children with them to the U.S., but the spouses also can work. As a testament to the success of the program, there have been over 91,000 approved applications for work authorizations for H-4 visa holders.

H-4 and H-1B Visa Holders Remain in Limbo

The Trump administration announced its intention to revoke the work authorization for spouses of H-1B visa holders long ago. In February, however, as promised, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) submitted a proposed regulation to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that would remove work authorization from H-1B visa holder spouses. Until the rulemaking process is complete, the work authorizations for these spouses remain in place, but both H-1B visa holders and their spouses remain in limbo indefinitely, waiting to find out whether a final rule will go into place.

For some couples, the inability of the H-1B visa holder’s spouse to work is a deal breaker. In other words, some couple state that they would not have come to the U.S. if they knew that one of them would not be able to work. Many individuals also feel like the U.S. government has unfairly changed the rules in the middle of the game. These couples are awaiting their green cards and doing everything that they are supposed to, and now, one of the spouses suddenly cannot work to support the family or pursue a career. For the many couples that live in large cities that are known for the high number of tech jobs, the cost of living is high, and may be unreasonable if both spouses cannot work and contribute to household expenses. Our Texas immigration lawyers are here to offer you the experienced legal representation and advice that you need in order to resolve your immigration law matter. We can act as your guide through the complicated immigration process to obtain the relief that you are seeking. Call our office today and learn about the type of assistance we can offer you.

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U.S. Builders and Farmers Suffer Employee Shortages Due to Lack of Immigrants

In one of the tightest U.S. labor markets in decades, farmers and builders are having difficulties filling positions requiring lower skill levels. One of the primary reasons for these difficulties is the deportation of many individuals who previously filled these jobs. As a result, wage rates for these positions have increased about six percent over the last year, which is the steepest increase for this type of low-skilled labor in 30 years.

Increasingly harsh immigration policies over the past year have stopped the previous flow of immigrants coming from Mexico to the U.S. seeking work. Traditionally, these workers are the ones that have filled many of these low-skilled jobs in the building and farming industries. Recent threats of the Trump administration to close the U.S.-Mexican border only have added to these pressures.

U.S. Builders and Farmers Suffer Employee Shortages Due to Lack of Immigrants

The biggest problem for builders is that while the home construction recovery from the housing slump in 2008 has outpaced the recovery of the construction industry by far. While housing need has increased rapidly, the number of construction workers in nonsupervisory positions has increased only by about 40% since 2011. These numbers translate into not enough workers to meet the needs of the construction industry. This has resulted in increased home prices, as builders struggle to fill positions, even at higher wages, and caused delays in the completion of homes. Currently, immigrants account for about one out of every four constructions workers.The problems that builders are having in finding workers are hurting landscaping businesses and farmers, as well. Immigrant workers can make more in the construction industry than they can landscaping or working in the fields. As a result, these industries are searching to fill open positions, as well. Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to work toward a resolution of your immigration law matter. The Texas immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of immigration forms, regulations, and policies, and get the relief that you need. Take the first step today and secure the future of your family in the U.S. Contact our office today at and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

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Trump Administration Retreats from Threats to Close U.S.-Mexican Border

After making repeated threats via Twitter to close the U.S.-Mexican border, the Trump administration has backed off its threats, stating that Mexico will have a “one-year warning.” The federal government originally based its threats to close the border on the perceived failure of Mexico to stop the flow of immigrants entering the U.S. with no legal immigration status. The administration then altered the focus of its threats from stopping immigrants from crossing the border illegally to stopping the flow of illegal drugs across the border.

In its abrupt reversal on this issue, the Trump administration then broached the idea of placing a tariff on all vehicles coming out of Mexico, as well as other products, if the flow of illegal drugs across the border did not case. Now, however, the Trump administration has backed off those threats as well, deciding to “hold off” on any auto tariffs for at least six months. Auto tariffs would predominantly affect Europe and Japan, and the administration is using the threat of tariffs to pressure the two into making concessions in trade talks.

Trump Administration Retreats from Threats to Close U.S.-Mexican Border

Amidst a quickly spiraling trade dispute with China, the U.S. most recently made efforts to resolve ongoing tensions with Canada and Mexico by lifting import taxes on steel and aluminum. The move caused those countries to retract retaliatory tariffs that they had placed on various goods flowing into the U.S. These efforts cleared one of the roadblocks to a NAFTA alternative that the Trump administration has been working on since last year. One of the goals is to prevent cheap imports of steel and aluminum from entering North America, which primarily targets China. Many countries historically have criticized China for flooding markets with metal and driving down prices worldwide, which has hurt U.S. metal producers. When facing any immigration issue, you are likely to need the legal advice that only experienced Texas immigration attorneys can offer you. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for individuals, families, and businesses who are dealing with immigration problems. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

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ICE Arrests 280 in Texas in Largest Workplace Raid in a Decade

In April, Texas made national headlines when it became the site of the largest workplace immigration raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in a decade. ICE agents arrested over 280 employees on immigration violations when they raided an electronics repair company in Allen, Texas. The arrested individuals, who were predominantly women, were natives of 15 different countries, including El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, Nigeria, and Venezuela. ICE ultimately released a little over half the arrested workers with orders to appear, but about 110 of the workers remained in detention the day after the raid.

ICE executed a criminal search warrant at the company after receiving numerous tips that the company was hiring immigrant workers using fraudulent documents. The CEO of CVE Technology Group released a statement indicating that they were cooperating with federal authorities and had a long history of complying with immigration and employment laws. 

ICE Arrests 280 in Texas in Largest Workplace Raid in a Decade

Under the Trump administration, workplace immigration raids have become far more common. DHS initiated about 6,850 workplace raids last year, as compared with about 1,700 the year before. Arrests increased from about 140 to 800 during that timeframe, as well. The administration has taken the position that workplace raids serve as a deterrent for employees who are in the country illegally.

Typically, these raids have more consequences for workers than the companies themselves, as it can be difficult to prove that employers knew that individuals were working without legal immigration status or using falsified documents. Employers merely have a duty to ensure that documents presented by workers appear valid and they do not have the authority to request specific or different forms of identification from workers. The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any type of relief or benefit under federal immigration laws. We will determine the facts and evidence that are relevant to your case, evaluate your options, and help you decide the best course of action for your case. It is our intention to place you in the best position possible to achieve your goals. Contact our Texas immigration attorneys at our office today and learn how we can assist you through this complicated situation.

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Can I Record My Encounter with Police?

Since most individuals have a cell phone with them at all times, it is no surprise that some individuals have made a habit of trying to record their encounters with police, with varying success. Unfortunately, some police officers have made the news when they have ordered individuals to stop recording or photographing them, or when they otherwise have intervened to prevent individuals from doing so. As a result, many people may wonder if it is legal to record their encounters with police and if they will end up in trouble for doing so.

When you are in public, you generally have the right to photograph or record anyone or anything. On private property, however, the property owner has the right to set limits on what or whom you can photograph or record. If you disobey private property owners’ rules or directions about recording or photographing others, they can ask you to leave the property.

Can I Record My Encounter with Police?

Generally, police cannot confiscate your cell phone or demand that you show them your pictures or videos, unless they have a search warrant that allows them to do so. If you are arrested, the right of police to view the contents of your cell phone are a bit more uncertain. There are no circumstances, however, under which police can delete or erase pictures or videos from your phone.

There are some legal distinctions between visual and audio recordings of your encounters with police. In Texas, though, audio recording police when you are speaking with them is not a violation of wiretapping laws, because audio recording conversations are legal, so long as one of the parties consents to the recording. Since you are a party to the conversation, then you can legally record the conversation. Plus, even if you are not a direct participant in the conversation, most state courts have held that police officers have no expectation of privacy in the statements that they make in public. As a result, it is legal to record encounters with police officers in public, even if they involve people other than yourself. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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Defining Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

To convict anyone of a criminal charge, the state must prove that the person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest legal burden of proof available. The purpose of this required burden of proof is to help ensure that people who are innocent of crimes do not go to jail.

Under this burden of proof, a jury must presume that all persons are innocent, even if they have been arrested and even if they are charged with a crime. The state has the responsibility of proving each element of the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

In comparison, other legal standards of proof are far easier to reach. For instance, police only must have a “reasonable suspicion” that someone has committed a crime in order to stop or detain that person for a crime. This simply means that the police officer has articulable facts to support a reasonable assumption that a person has committed a crime.

Defining Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The next higher legal burden of proof is probable cause. Once a police officer has stopped a driver based on reasonable suspicion, for example, the officer then must have probable cause to arrest the driver for a crime. To establish probable cause, the officer must have sufficiently trustworthy or reliable facts to indicate that a crime has been committed.

Another higher burden of proof than either reasonable suspicion or probable cause is preponderance of the evidence. The most typical use of this legal standard of proof is in civil court cases. The plaintiff must prove that it is “more likely than not” that defendant did something to harm them. In other words, if it is 51% or more likely that an event occurred, then the event occurred by a preponderance of the evidence.The final burden of proof leading up to the reasonable doubt standard is clear and convincing evidence. Although this is a high standard of proof, it still does not require as much evidence as the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Clear and convincing evidence requires a strong conviction or belief that a certain event has occurred. If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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Do Police Need a Warrant to Test Your Blood that Was Drawn for Medical Purposes?

Normally, police officers must get a warrant signed by a judge to have the authority to draw your blood when they have arrested you on suspicion of DUI. Suppose, however, that emergency medical personnel transport a person to the hospital following a motor vehicle accident and law enforcement authorities suspect that the person was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of the accident. In this situation, are the police entitled to access the results of the blood tests that the hospital performed purely for medical diagnosis purposes or use the blood drawn by the hospital to perform independent testing without a search warrant? The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the highest state court that hears criminal cases, recently issued a ruling on this issue.

Do Police Need a Warrant to Test Your Blood that Was Drawn for Medical Purposes?

According to the court, individuals have no expectation of privacy in the results of blood tests performed by hospital personnel following an accident. HIPAA, the federal law that protects an individual’s right to privacy with respect to his or her medical records, has an exception for grand jury subpoena. Therefore, the state can use a grand jury subpoena obtain the individual’s medical records, including the results of any blood tests performed by the hospital without a need to obtain a search warrant.

However, individuals do have an expectation of privacy in the disposition of the blood drawn by the hospital. As a result, the police do need a warrant to take blood samples that the hospital has drawn for medical purposes if they wish to test the blood for the presence of alcohol or drugs. If police fail to obtain a warrant prior to obtaining and testing the blood, there is a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including charges involving bribery. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

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DHS to Issue Additional 30,000 H-2B Visas to Fill Seasonal Jobs

On May 8, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) published a final temporary rule that authorizes an increase to the cap on H-2B nonimmigrant visas for federal fiscal year (FFY) 2019. Specifically, the rule allows for up to 30,000 additional visas beyond the cap that they previously set for this classification of visa through the end of FFY 2019, or September 30, 2019.

To take advantage of these additional visas, American business owners must affirm that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm, or permanent and severe financial losses, if they do not receive the number of H-2B visas that they requested. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will grant these visas only for returning workers, or those who had H-2B visas in at least one of the last three fiscal years (2016, 2017, or 2018. The increased number of H-2B visas available does not apply to petitions not subject to the H-2B visa cap, such as those filed relative to a H-2B extension of stay request.

To be eligible for these visas, employers must meet the following criteria:

  • Employment start dates for the requested visas must be on or before September 30, 2019.
  • Comply with all existing H-2B visa requirements, including obtaining a temporary labor certification from DOL that is valid for the entire employment period
  • If filed 45 days or more after the work start date, conduct a new round of U.S. worker recruitment
  • Affirm under perjury that irreparable harm will occur if the employer is not granted all the requested visas and that all visas requested are for returning workers

Employers can continue to request premium processing at an additional cost, but USCIS will not begin the premium processing procedures until it determines from the petitions received in the first five business days of the filing period whether a lottery is needed and conducts that lottery. If approved by USCIS, the worker then would have to obtain the H-2B visa abroad at a local consular post before seeking entry to the U.S. at a port of entry.

No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases every day and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to successfully resolve your immigration law case.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

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How Can I Stop Someone From Sending Me Harassing Text Messages?

Harassment consists of any unwanted or repeated conduct, which includes harassing text messages. This definition also encompasses in-person contact, phone calls, emails, and any other types of contact via the Internet. In fact, the text messages or other unwanted communications do not have to be specifically threatening in any way to constitute harassment. So long as the contact is unwanted, the text messages qualify as harassment.

There are some practical steps that you can take to fight back against unwanted harassing text messages. First, you should take screenshots or photographs of the text messages. Go one step further to protect your documentation of the messages by protecting or locking them on your device and creating backups of the images so that you don’t lose them in the event of a system back-up or accidental deletion.

Next, download your cell phone activity records. If you have difficulty accessing these records, you can contact your cell phone service provider for help. Save the downloaded files and print out a hard copy to review. On the printed copy, you can make it easier for law enforcement authorities to review the records by highlighting the number of harassing text messages or phone calls that you have received.

If you have taken any action to stop the harassment yourself, you also should provide documentation of those actions. For instance, if you sent the harasser a text message asking him or her to stop texting you, you should include a screenshot of that text message.

As most people know the person who is harassing them, whether due to a prior relationship or friendship, co-worker relationship, or another context, you should detail the history of your relationship and contact with that person. If you exchanged Facebook messages, text messages, email messages, or had other forms of communication, you should document as many details as you can remember so that law enforcement authorities have a clear understanding of any prior relationship that you had with the person who is now harassing you.

Finally, you should make a copy of all your documentation for your own files, add your contact information, and go to the local police state to make a formal police report about the harassment that you are enduring. This is the best way to document your efforts to make the harassment stop.

When you are charged with any type of criminal offense in the state of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests from the very beginning of your case. Taking steps to get you released from jail and fight for your rights at the outset of your case is typically easier than waiting until your case has progressed. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

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Texas Department of State Health Services to Remove Hemp as Schedule I Controlled Substances

The Texas Department of State Health Services recently announced that it will remove hemp from its list of Schedule I controlled substances. Schedule I contains drugs that are highly dangerous, addictive, and typically have no accepted medical use. Other notable Schedule I drugs include cocaine, LSD, and heroin.

Nonetheless, the move does little to clarify the legal status of products containing hemp that many stores already sell in Texas, including gummies, creams, and oils. As of right now, hemp remains illegal. Hemp, unlike marijuana, contains low levels of THC, which is the psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant that produces a high in user. Nonetheless, state law currently prohibits the possession and sales of both hemp and marijuana as the same substance in most circumstances. Only patients with intractable epilepsy and prescriptions issued by two doctors can purchase cannabis products that contain up to 0.5 percent THC. Any other hemp products must contain no THC to be legal in the state of Texas.

The declassification of hemp as a Schedule I controlled substance only partially brings it into compliance with current federal law. Last year, Congress legalized hemp containing less than 0.3 percent THC. As a result, the Texas legislature would need to amend its current definition of hemp and the accompanying penalties for buying and selling it to comply with federal law. Although legislation is pending in the Texas legislature, it is debatable whether the proposed legislation will pass before the end of the current legislative session.

This continuing confusion under Texas law is leading to different legal repercussions for shops that sell CBD oil in different jurisdictions. While Dallas County has not prioritized enforcing laws regarding hemp on shops selling CBD products or consumers who purchase, the Tarrant County district attorney issued a statement that CBD oil is illegal. This statement led to police raids of shops selling CBD oil in Fort Worth. A complicating factor is that even if law enforcement authorities do file charges regarding the possession or sales of hemp products, they often end up dropping the charges because they must have each individual product tested to prove it is illegal under state law.

An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case, present your options, and help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you, based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes

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