Deportation of Criminal Noncitizens – The Obstacles Faced by Trump

By Peek & Toland on April 28, 2017

President Donald Trump detailed proposals to increase the deportation of criminal noncitizens in his first week in office.

Undocumented immigrants who commit crimes will be prioritized for removal.

Although he scaled down a proposal to remove as many as 11 million undocumented immigrants to concentrate on up to 3 million with criminal records, doubts linger about the viability of the policy.

Writing in the Washington Post, Kari Hong, a professor at Boston College Law School, said Trump’s policies won’t work.

Criminal noncitizens face deportation

He claimed the approach will be expensive, bureaucratic and unwieldly. He cited the following reasons:

1 Criminal Records May Not Define Violent Crime

Criminal records are not always effective at separating violent and non-violent offenders. In other words, they are a clumsy tool to identify dangerous criminal noncitizens.

There are, for example, green card holders who are fighting deportation due to a crime like petty theft decades ago.

Hong said the definition of “violent” has confounded federal judges for decades. Until the Supreme Court finally stepped in, many noncitizens were deported from the United States because courts incorrectly concluded that state convictions for driving under the influence were crimes of violence. In one case in Virginia, spitting at a police officer was judged to be a violent crime and hence grounds for deportation.

2 The Immigration Courts Are Under Severe Pressure

Recently, in this blog, we highlighted the severe pressures on the immigration courts.

With the national backlog of cases inching up toward 1 million, the courts have almost no capacity to take on another massive influx of cases.

Hong said every noncitizen is entitled to a hearing no matter how he or she is rounded up. It’s not a rubber stamping exercise. As many as half of all those who appear before immigration courts win their cases. You can read about our cancellation of removal cases here.

At present, many noncitizens are waiting as long as three years for their hearing.

3 Deportation is Expensive

The cost of incarceration of noncitizens is extremely expensive. Trump has already floated the idea of building new immigrant detention centers.

Hong said as many as 30,000 people are currently locked up at an annual cost of more than $2 billion.

The growth in the deportation of criminal noncitizens envisaged by Trump would add to the costs of incarceration. More immigration officials would be needed to round up those set to be deported.

Hong makes the point that deportation was stepped up under the Obama administration and more than 2.5 million people were deported over the course of his eight years in office. Obama was nicknamed the “deporter in chief.”

However, the level of deportations fell during his second term, partly because of the costs involved.

At Peek & Toland , we realize this is a stressful time to be an immigrant, even if you are a green card holder. Our Austin family immigration lawyers can help you. Please call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Immigration, Immigration Reform

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How America’s Busy Immigration Courts Would Swell Under Trump

By Peek & Toland on April 26, 2017

The nation’s immigration courts already face massive backlogs for deportation hearings. The pressures are predicted to grow further under the pro-deportation presidency of Donald Trump.

An article on 89.3 KPCC stated the burdens on the courts may grow exponentially over the next few months.

The station said America’s immigration courts were burdened by a backlog of half a million cases before Trump’s inauguration. The pressures in 2016 were unprecedented.

Cases being put on the calendar years from their initial hearing. More than 526,000 cases were stuck in the system stated the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. California alone has 100,000 cases with wait times of 2-4 years.

Immigration courts face a massive backlog

Immigration courts face a massive backlog

Last year, we noted Texas has one of the largest immigration case backlogs in the country.

Immigration courts have a backlog of 89,000 cases in the Lone Star State. In Houston alone, the number of cases held up in the courts rose from 6,423 to 36,136 from 2010 to 2016, according to the report.

The backlogs reflect an increased emphasis on deportations that took place under Barack Obama’s presidency. Trump has vowed to increase the size of the deportation force by employing an extra 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 immigration officers.

Jennifer Chacón, a law professor at the University of California, warned the crisis was likely to hit in 2017. She said:

“This is the year that the crisis really came to a head. We’ve had growing backlogs, but people are getting their cases calendered for years from now.”

Reports also point out there are too few judges to cope with the demands facing the immigration courts.

We noted there are just six immigration judges on the bench in Houston. The immigration court’s caseload is predicted to double by 2019 without more judges being taken on.

Funding for the immigration courts has continuously lagged behind that of federal enforcement, according to the Houston Chronicle. The publication states the courts are still struggling with the mass migration from Central America to the United States in 2014 when many unaccompanied children flooded over the border.

The pressure on immigration courts has made legal proceedings involving undocumented immigrants increasingly stressful and fragmented families. Our Texas family immigration lawyers can help with your case. Call us today at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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Trump Administration Considers the Expansion of Immigration Detention Centers

By Peek & Toland on April 6, 2017

The setting up and growth of immigrant detention centers was one of the most controversial parts of former president Barack Obama’s immigration policy.

His successor Donald Trump is considering an expansion of the centers.

In January, The Hill reported Trump’s transition team asked the Department of Homeland Security about the agency’s ability to expand the use of its immigrant detention centers.

The report was originally sourced from Reuters. It said the team requested a large dossier of immigration information including details of the aerial surveillance effort. This program was set up by Obama in 2010. The aerial surveillance was intended to apprehend drug trafficking and illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexican border. It was later discontinued by Obama.

Reuters reported the requests were made at a meeting on Dec. 5 between immigration officials and the transition team.

Immigrant detention centers may be expanded

The team was also reported to be seeking information about the feasibility of building a border wall.

Trump made the building of a border wall a centerpiece of his election campaign. He said he would make Mexico pays. He later suggested U.S. taxpayers would pay but he would force Mexico to reimburse them.

Mexico has consistently stated it will never finance a wall. Many prominent politicians said they are concerned about the cost.

The United States Has More than 180 Immigrant Detention Centers

The United States has as many as 180 immigrant detention centers, reports NOLO. Texas houses some of these facilities. Typically, they are in rural areas far away from cities.

There are government-run and private centers. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lists 21 of its facilities in Texas.

The centers are controversial.  Typically, families are broken up with men and women being housed separately. Some centers have immigration courts and asylum offices inside their perimeters.

Detention Watch Network says the United States already has the largest immigrant detention center network in the world. It says in 2013, about 441,000 people were detained in a “sprawling system.”

ICE is required to maintain at least 34,000 detention beds at any one time. It relies on a network of county jails and private facilities, states Detention Watch Network.

The network’s Expose and Close report in 2012 listed alleged poor conditions at many of these facilities including inadequate access to medical care and legal counsel.

The controversy over indefinite detention in these facilities was challenged in the case of Jennings v. Rodriguez in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016. The case concerned mandatory bond hearings for immigrants facing deportation hearings.

As well as looking at data on immigration detention centers, Trump’s transition team demanded all executive orders and directives sent to immigration officials by the Obama administration.

On the campaign trail, Trump pledged to deport every undocumented immigrant in the country.

He softened his tone in December when he said he would immediately focus deportations on up to 3 million illegal immigrants with criminal records.

His timetable would necessitate an expansion of immigrant detention facilities in the United States.

This is a time of extreme uncertainty for undocumented immigrants. If you are facing detention and deportation, we can help you. Call our Austin immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Immigration

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Court to Decide if “Crime of Violence” is Too Vague in Deportation Cases

By Peek & Toland on December 7, 2016

When an undocumented immigrant commits a crime of violence he or she faces deportation and loses possible recourse to fight it such as cancellation of removal or withholding of removal.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court is to look at the “crime of violence” definition amid concerns it’s an unconstitutionally vague term.

Recently, The U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari in the case of Lynch v. Dimaya. The justices will decide whether part of the definition of “crime of violence” is too vague and possibly unconstitutional following a hearing by the Ninth Circuit Court. The Ninth Circuit stated the deportation standard needs to be very clear.

Crime of violence definition to be ruled on by U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court will look at the “crime of violence” definition

The justices pointed to the harsh consequences of deportation. They noted the relief that’s available in other criminal cases isn’t available in deportation cases.

The “crime of violence” definition is important in the context of the Immigration and Nationality Act. When an undocumented immigrant is found to be guilty of an “aggravated felony” he or she is deportable. The immigrant is deemed to be ineligible for relief from deportation. This relief usually takes the form of.

  1. 1 Withholding of removal – a special order issued by an immigration judge for an immigrant who would face a 50 percent or higher chance of persecution on return to their home country.
  2. Cancellation of removal for resident aliens who are convicted of certain offenses.

At Peek & Toland we help many undocumented immigrants in cancellation of removal proceedings in Texas. In some cases, these immigrants have been convicted of crimes.

Aggravated felonies include convictions for “a crime of violence.” They are defined as offenses which carry a term of at least one year in prison.

Defining a Crime of Violence

The Immigration and Nationality Act defines a crime of violence as follows.

“An offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or (b) any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.”

It’s not as straightforward as it seems. The nation’s highest court has stated the analysis of offenses to ascertain if they meet a standard should entail the “categorical” method. This means the judge considers the category of crime and decides whether it fits into the standard for a crime of violence.

The case of Lynch v. Dimaya concerned burglary. While a resident may face violence during burglary if the burglar is confronted, it’s a gray area. The immigration judge decided it was a crime of violence and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and said the crime of violence definition was unconstitutionally vague and could lead to inconsistencies.

The U.S. Supreme Court will now look at this definition further. If the crime of violence phrase is deemed too vague by the justices, it may end up in the hands of Congress to work out a more precise definition.

If you are in need of cancellation of removal or withholding of removal our Austin family immigration lawyers can help. Contact us here for a consultation.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Criminal Defense

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Immigrant Who Used Fake SSN Wins Victory in Cancellation of Removal Case

By Peek & Toland on October 19, 2016

Cancellation of removal cases are seldom successful when an immigrant is convicted of a crime “involving moral turpitude.”

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals was incorrect in a recent ruling. It decided an undocumented immigrant wasn’t eligible for cancellation of removal because she used a fake Social Security number to work in the United States.

Undocumented immigrant wins cancellation of removal case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled on the case of Arias v. Lynch in August.

The case concerned the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under this legislation, the attorney general has the discretion to cancel the pending removal of an undocumented immigrant from the country unless the immigrant has been convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude.”

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the attorney general has the discretion to cancel an undocumented immigrant’s removal. But there are exceptions. A key one is when the immigrant is convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude.”

The Seventh Circuit held the Board of Immigration Appeals was incorrect. The board concluded the law relating to fake SSI numbers involves moral turpitude in all instances and negated cancellation of removal.

The decision was not a complete victory for the undocumented immigrant. The 2-1 decision suggested an undocumented immigrant who used a fake SSI number to pay taxes and support his or her family. However, the case was sent back to the Board of Immigration Appeals for reconsideration.

What is Cancellation of Removal?

Cancellation or removal is also called cancellation of deportation. Our Austin immigration attorneys write about it in more detail here.

There is a traditional form of cancellation of removal or deportation for a non-permanent resident or cancellation for an abused and a non-permanent immigrant.

Our attorneys have won many cancellation of removal cases. Our successes include the case of an undocumented immigrant arrested for assault. We were successful in securing cancellation of removal. In the case, we pointed out his wife, a U.S. citizen, was chronically ill and three children depended on him.

The term “moral turpitude” has been used loosely in the law and attempts to get a clear definition have failed.

However, the lack of clarity in the law means you should hire the services of an experienced Austin immigration attorney in cancellation of removal cases. Contact Peek & Toland here.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal

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Teen Immigrants from Central America are Targeted in Crackdown

By Peek & Toland on October 18, 2016

Teen immigrants from Central America are being targeted for crackdowns by the federal authorities. They are even being arrested when they are walking to school, according to media reports.

The teen immigrants recounted their ordeals to the 11Alive News station in Atlanta, Georgia. Our Austin cancellation of removal attorneys, are aware of similar stories across the country.

Teen immigrants from Central America face deportation

Operation Border Guardian is aimed at Central American immigrants who have just turned 18, 11Alive News reported. They came to the U.S. illegally as children and are now being lined up for possible deportation.

Although many of the teens live in the United States and go to school here, they face an uncertain future.

The report featured Pineda Chavez who recently turned 18 and faces the grim reality of being an undocumented immigrant living in the United States.

She was picked up in Atlanta and taken to a detention center in Irwin County, Georgia.

Teen Immigrants From Central America Face Deportation/h2>

The TV reporters spoke to Pastor Larry Campbell of Corners Church of Christ in Norcross, whose church has 14 Central American families who have teenagers facing possible deportation under Operation Border Guardian. They came to the United States as children.

The deportation of teens from Central America has provoked a furor among refugee advocates who point out many of these young people fled intimidation, gang warfare and violence at home. If you flee from persecution you can claim asylum. However, asylum applications must be filed within a year of entering the United States.

In an article on March 9, The New York Times reported more than 28,800 people from Central America who had been apprehended at the border were repatriated to their countries.

In January, federal authorities rounded up 120 migrants and targeted them for deportation, sparking anger from some Democratic lawmakers and refugee groups.

The New York Times reported many of these migrants were young children. Fewer than half of them were represented by lawyers in their asylum cases. Most of the migrants are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, three of the most dangerous countries in the world.

At Peek & Toland , we are concerned about the fates of these teen immigrants who are being held in detention camps only to be sent back to danger in their home countries.

If you need representation in an asylum case or cancellation of removal, please call us as soon as possible at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Immigration

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Nigerian Man Awaiting Deportation Sues Johnson County Jail

By Peek & Toland on August 24, 2016

A Nigerian national who was held in a Texas jail before being deported to his home country has filed a lawsuit against the facility operators, claiming authorities withheld treatment for his injuries.

The Dallas Morning News highlighted the disturbing case of the man from Justin who claimed he suffered bleeding ulcers and other medical problems when he was held in the Johnson County Jail.

Nigerian man sues Texas jail over treatment

As attorneys who help many immigrants fight against deportation in Texas, we were alarmed to read about the conditions Stephen Nwaogwugwu claimed he suffered at the jail.

The 56-year-old sued the operator of the Johnson County Jail. He was on probation for an obstruction of a roadway offense when he fell into the hands of the immigration authorities in January. He was deported to Nigeria.

The lawsuit stated Nwaogwugwu was suffering from no medical issues when he was incarcerated, but he subsequently developed ulcers and a condition called a rectal prolapse while he was being held in an immigration detention center at the Johnson County Jail. The center is run by a private company called LaSalle Southwest Corrections.

In the lawsuit that seeks $100,000 in damages, the Nigerian accused the jail of withholding medication and delaying treatment for his injuries. He said his condition deteriorated before he was deported to Nigeria in February where his condition was treated.

The Dallas Morning News report said Nwaogwugwu is married to a U.S. citizen.

Our Texas immigration attorneys regularly help permanent residents who face deportation being charged with a crime. See more details here.

Conditions at privately-run prisons have come under intense scrutiny over the last few months. Recently, a Mother Jones reporter went undercover at a privately-run jail in Louisiana.

If you are facing deportation, either as an undocumented migrant or a permanent resident, it’s important to get experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Our Austin-based immigration and criminal defense lawyers can help. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Jail Release

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Undocumented Youth from Central America Face Deportation

By Peek & Toland on August 11, 2016

Some of the saddest stories of deportation we see as Texas immigration attorneys concern those young people who arrive from Central America in the hope of a better life in the US only to be subsequently deported.

The wave of young people from Central America is a relatively new phenomenon. In 2014, violence and an upsurge of gang activity in countries like El Salvador and Honduras led to a migration of thousands of young people.

Young people from Central America face deportation

In a report, Center for American Progress noted how by July 2014, more than 57,000 children had arrived in the United States. It was a figure that was twice as high as the number of kids who reached the border in 2013. Many of them were alone.

The report noted that most of the unaccompanied children and families had started their long and dangerous journeys in part of Central America dubbed the “Northern Triangle,” where a combination of soaring levels of violence, gang activity, and poor economic conditions prevail.

Recently, the Citizen-Times described the plight of Elmer Reynoso-Reynoso, a former student from Asheville in North Carolina who was held in the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia

The report said he arrived in the United States two years ago as an unaccompanied minor. As many as 2,000 young people from Central America arrived in North Carolina alone around the same time.

Although the authorities said there is no reason to think Reynoso-Reynoso is a threat to public safety, and he recently became a father, he was picked up for missing a court hearing and hit with an order for removal.

Like many other migrants, he is in limbo. The backlog that’s faced by the immigration courts means it can take years to process the young people. Minors who have relatives in the United States are reunited with family while they wait for a hearing. Others are placed in detention centers and other temporary accommodations.

In 2015, along as many as 33,700 unaccompanied young people from Central America were placed in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Thousands of young people pay large sums of money and face many dangers to come to the U.S. However, they believe the risks are worth taking. The Citizen-Times interviewed Fatima Aguilar, Reynoso-Reynoso’s girlfriend, who is the mother of his child.

She made the hazardous journey from El Salvador as an unaccompanied minor at the age of 14 in 2014, facing severe heat under a car seat.

She said there are many more opportunities for Central American migrants in the United States.

Our Texas immigration attorneys have recorded a number of successes in cancellation of removal cases for immigrants from Latin America. In many cases, these migrants have few resources and can’t speak English.

Our bilingual attorneys can help you through every stage of fighting deportation. We realize it seems daunting at first, but we take over the burden of fighting your case. Call us today for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Immigration

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Trump’s Plan to Deport 11 Million People Would Pose Logistical Challenges

By Peek & Toland on July 15, 2016

Donald J. Trump’s vow to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and to build a wall between the United States and Mexico is seldom out of the news. However, less attention has been paid to how the GOP nominee for President would achieve his aim.

In a recent article the New York Times, a news organization that has been critical of Trump, wrote he has “typically provided scant details” on how he would meet his aims and his policies on immigration fail to add up.

Although Trump has promised to provide more details about his immigration plans, major questions remain.

Donald Trump's immigration proposals are controversial

Trump has outlined a number of key immigration proposals that were noted on CNN, namely:

  1. The United States would build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border.
  1. He would impose a nationwide system to verify workers’ legal status, increase the number of immigrations and customs enforcement agents threefold and put in place a tracking system to identify people who remain in the U.S. when their visas expire.
  1. He would reverse a U.S. law that gives American citizenship to any child born in the United States, regardless of whether the child’s parents are undocumented immigrants. Every year about four million children of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. become citizens because they are born here, states The Los Angeles Times.
  1. Trump would suspend the issuance of any new green cards, providing a pause for U.S. employers to hire from a “domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers.”
  1. He would remove about 11 million undocumented immigrants, deporting them to their native countries.

The deportation plan would present a challenge on a monumental scale and be a radical immigration reform. Deportations in recent years have peaked at about 400,000 annually, and 11 million would be unprecedented. Experts have warned just finding the immigrants alone would be difficult, and police officers would have to demand proof of residency or citizenship during random stops or traffic stops. It’s a scenario that threatens the development of a police state, critics say.

Michael Chertoff, who oversaw an increase in immigration enforcement when he was a Secretary of Homeland Security under former President George W. Bush, told the New York Times it was impossible to envisage the deportation of 11 million people without the apparatus of a police state.

Large scale raids would probably be required and the Obama administration’s focus on deporting those who had committed crimes would likely be muddied.

The New York Times article raises the prospect of a mass internment camp building program. At present, there are about 34,000 beds. There would need to be as many as 300,000, it states.

There’s also the issue of the judicial backlog. Presently, there are 57 immigration courts that face backlogs of as long as two years for a hearing. The federal government would face opening up dozens of emergency courts and appointing hundreds of new judges.

These logistical hurdles just relate to the deportation plans. The funding and building of the wall would be another massive headache and Trump’s insistence that Mexico would pay for it appears to be less than credible.

Recently, an article in Business Insider warned that in addition to the incredible human costs related to the deportation plan, losing 11 million workers and potential employees could lead to the loss of billions of dollars from the U.S. economy.

If you or a loved one is facing deportation, it’s important to talk to an experienced Austin immigration attorney as soon as possible. Contact the attorneys at Peek & Toland , to help you better understand your options and start the process of securing legal status in the United States. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Immigration Reform

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More than 19,700 Convicted Criminal Immigrants Were Released in 2015

By Peek & Toland on July 1, 2016

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) released almost 20,000 undocumented criminal immigrants who had been convicted of offenses last year with Texas and California seeing the most releases.

An analysis of the figures by the Center for Immigration Studies stated ICE released 19,723 illegal immigrants with a criminal conviction. They had 64,197 convictions between them.

  • Thousands of criminal immigrants are released

Between 2013 and 2015, Texas and California released 10,000 to 30,000 undocumented immigrants with convictions, the analysis stated.

The Center for Immigration Studies pointed out more than 200 people convicted of murder were released and more than 900 people convicted of sex crimes.

The Center for Immigration Studies is known for its tough line on immigration. However, it’s worth noting that traffic offenses and DWIs accounted for 12,307 of the offenses committed by those released last year.

Media reports also referred to the difficulties the U.S. can face in deporting undocumented immigrants who are convicted of serious crimes.

CBS News reported how the U.S. repeatedly tried to deport Jean Jacques to Haiti after he served more than 10 years in a state prison for attempted murder and violations of parole. Haiti would not take him back.

He was released last year by ICE and killed a young woman from Connecticut six months later.

Although these kinds of tragedies are rare, they make headlines. Donald Trump, the Republican Presidential nominee, has pledged to deport 11 million illegal immigrants. The difficulties ICE has faced getting countries such as Haiti to accept people with convictions confirms how difficult these mass deportations could prove to be.

Sarah Saldana, the Director of ICE, provided written testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in April that revealed how more than 86,000 undocumented immigrants who were convicted of criminal offenses were released from FY 2013 to 2015.

ICE appears to have made some progress in reducing the number of releases. The number of illegal immigrant offenders released fell from 36,007 in 2013 to 30,558 in 2014. It was down by another 10,000 last year.

Reports revealed about half of the 19,700 people who were released in 2015 were set free on bond by immigration judges. ICE pointed out it has no control whatsoever over the decisions of U.S. immigration judges, while 2,000 releases were in compliance with a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court 15 years ago which places a six-month cap on the time immigrants can be held in detention in absence of special circumstances.

At Peek and Toland, PLLC, we specialize in fighting deportations in Texas. We also defend those who are accused of crimes by federal agencies.

If you are facing serious allegations or deportation, we can help. To find out more about how the vastly experienced lawyers at Peek & Toland can assist you and your case, contact us at today (512) 474-4445.

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