immigrants

Federal Government Issues Civil Fines to Some Immigrants in the US

By Peek & Toland on September 20, 2019

The Trump Administration’s latest move to curb immigration involves assessing thousands of dollars in fines against some immigrants living in the U.S. who have no legal immigration status. The fines are against immigrants who are subject to a final deportation order, but who have failed to leave the country as ordered.

U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) officers are issuing letters to selected immigrants, alleging that they must pay almost $500,000 in fines to the federal government. According to ICE, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) has the right to impose civil penalties on immigrants who are subject to a removal order or agreed to voluntary removal. The fines can continue to accrue at a rate of $500 per day.

Federal Government Issues Civil Fines to Some Immigrants in the US

The letters, which are entitled “Notice of Intention to Fine,” give the recipients of the letters 60 days in which to respond before ICE will make a final decision on whether to assess the fine. ICE stated that they are issuing the notices on a case-by-case basis, considering the efforts that the immigrants have made to comply with the orders. Many immigrants who currently are living in the sanctuary of churches, for example, received the notices, which went to immigrants in seven different states.

Historically, the federal government has not used these extraordinarily high fines as a mechanism to enforce immigration laws. Some believe that the Trump administration is using financial penalties as a means of stoking fear and confusion in immigrant communities and inducing the targeted immigrants to leave the country. This belief may be accurate, as the immigrants targeted have no money to pay such high fines.

The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any 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 situation. We intend 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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OIG Finds Immigrants in Squalid Conditions at Rio Grande Border Facilities

By Peek & Toland on September 14, 2019

According to a recent article from The Hill, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Homeland Security found dangerous levels of overcrowding and prolonged detention of individuals at immigration detention facilities in the Rio Grande Valley. OIG visited five different facilities, at which about 8,000 immigrants were being held. About 3,400 of those individuals had been in custody longer than the 72 hours permitted by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) standards. Many adults had been in standing-room-only conditions for over a week with no ability to shower. Some reported being held for over a month without access to proper food, hygiene, or laundry facilities.

Of the 2,669 children in these facilities, 826 children had been there longer than 72 hours, and at three facilities, the children had no access to showers. Furthermore, the children had no access to hot meals and only limited access to change their clothing. Some children remained in detention for more than two weeks.

OIG Finds Immigrants in Squalid Conditions at Rio Grande Border Facilities

In its report, the OIG pointed out that not only were the current conditions dangerous to the detained immigrants, but also the health and safety of DHS agents and officers. DHS claims that it has been working on adding tent facilities to improve conditions for detained immigrants and expanding access to medical services.

This OIG report followed a similar report in May regarding an immigration detention facility in El Paso, Texas. Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan later referred to that report as “unsubstantiated.” These reports nonetheless have increased pressure on the Trump administration to find a better and more humane way to deal with the arrival of thousands of immigrants at the southern border. The Rio Grande Valley is the busiest area in the country for unauthorized border crossings. An experienced Texas immigration attorney can help you with all aspects of immigration law. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case and present your options. Finally, we can 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.

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Trump Administration Orders Crackdown on Public Benefit Rules for Immigrants

By Peek & Toland on August 12, 2019

In a May 2019 memo, the Trump administration announced its intent to crack down legal immigration by ordering various federal agencies to begin enforcing laws that require sponsoring family members of immigrants to be financially responsible for those immigrants who need public benefits. In other words, if a family member sponsored an immigrant to come to the U.S. legally, and the immigrant needed to draw food stamps or SNAP benefits, the sponsoring family member would be on the hook for paying for those government benefits.

The Trump administration also stated in the memo that it had ordered federal agencies also to consider the sponsor’s financial situation when determining whether a non-citizen is eligible for any public benefits. The net effect of enforcing these two policies is likely to be more disqualifications of immigrants from receiving public benefits, as well as a strong disincentive for immigrants to seek benefits at all.  These policies could lead to significant financial hardships for both the sponsoring relatives and immigrants. Furthermore, these policies also could affect the rate of family-based immigration, although this process is a perfectly legal form of immigration.

Trump Administration Orders Crackdown on Public Benefit Rules for Immigrants

These announcements are related to a previous announcement that the Trump administration made regarding the so-called “public charge” rule. Under this rule, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would penalize and in some cases prevent immigrants from obtaining permanent resident status, or green cards, if they have ever participated in public benefits programs, such as housing vouchers or SNAP benefits.

While immigrant children would remain eligible for benefits, immigrant families may be extremely reluctant to seek much-needed public benefits or to even seek reunification of their families in the U.S. due to increased enforcement of these rules. Although these policies do not change existing laws, the Trump administration has ordered the various federal agencies involved to strengthen their administrative rules so as to actively deter low-income immigrants from seeking any form of public assistance.

In the past, the federal government has inconsistently applied such policies. For instance, administrators of the SNAP program always have considered both the resources of the immigrant and his or her sponsor in determining eligibility, but not for the purposes of Medicaid eligibility. Even more concerning is that these rules also could apply to federal programs not typically thought of as public benefits, such as federal student loans. The Peek & Toland immigration lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your immigration issue.



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Influx of Immigrants in Texas Border Towns as Detention Centers Reach Capacity

By Peek & Toland on June 21, 2019

Various immigrant detention centers in the Texas Rio Grande Valley have swelled beyond capacity in recent months, which has led Border Patrol officials to release thousands of immigrants into the streets of these border cities at the direction of its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection. In just a few days in March 2019, Border Patrol released over 2,200 migrants from the government processing facilities with future dates to appear in immigration court.

The influx of immigrants has required the releases, despite the Trump administration’s clear directive to eliminate past protocols of “catch and release” of immigrants. The administration had vowed to focus on detaining immigrants who attempt to cross the border outside a normal port of entry until their deportation, rather than releasing them with a date to appear in immigration court.

Influx of Immigrants in Texas Border Towns as Detention Centers Reach Capacity

The release of these immigrants also has stressed migrant services facilities beyond their maximum capacity, as city officials struggle to meet the needs of large numbers of unexpected immigrants being released. In McAllen, for instance, a Catholic Charities immigrant respite center housed in an old nursing home is using every available inch to house these immigrants, at least on a temporary basis. Likewise, in El Paso, the release of 150 immigrants at once caused city officials to temporarily turn a public park into a staging area until they could find housing for these immigrants in local hotels, after shelters quickly ran out of space.

The influx of immigrants is seemingly endless, with most of them turning themselves in to Border Patrol and seeking asylum. In one 24-hour period, Border Patrol agents apprehended over 1,000 migrants in the McAllen area, most of whom were traveling in groups consisting of 200 or 300 people. Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to helping both individuals and businesses resolve their immigration-related issues. Immigration law is a complex, ever-changing area of the law that necessitates legal advice from experienced immigration lawyers who keep up-to-date with all relevant changes in law and policy. We will work with you to achieve the most positive outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled immigration attorneys today.

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

By Peek & Toland on June 18, 2019

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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New Report Shows Immigrants Contribute Billions to Houston Economy

By Peek & Toland on March 13, 2019

In a recent study from the New American Economy, a bipartisan research and advocacy organization, researchers found that there are more than 131,500 businesses in the Houston metropolitan area owned by individuals who were born in other countries. The study provides evidence of the positive economic impact of immigrants on the Houston economy. Houston has the highest foreign-born population and economic impact by immigrants of all cities in the state of Texas, both in terms of a $12.7 billion revenue in the form of local, state, and federal taxes and spending power of $38.2 billion.

In fact, immigrants in Houston are 53% more likely to start businesses in Houston than the native-born population. The impact of these businesses on the local economy is immense. Researchers also noted the strong city government leadership and community programs in Houston that attract immigrants seeking to build businesses.

New Report Shows Immigrants Contribute Billions to Houston Economy

Census data shows that Houston is now home to 1.58 million people, which is over 23% of the Houston metro population. The immigrant community has grown by over 34% throughout the last ten years. This growth rate is more than double the national average immigrant growth rate. Similar trends also are present in other large and diverse cities, such as New York City.

The rate of immigration from Mexico has decreased significantly in the state of Texas. Now, Cubans and Venezuelans are among the fastest-growing groups, with their growth rates more than tripling since 2010. African immigrants also have a growth rate of 80% during that same time period, with Nigerians being the most common immigrants. Only about 30% of the foreign-born population have no legal status; the rest are naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents, and individuals who are here legally on non-immigrant visas. Education and English proficiency rates also have risen among the immigrant population.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain through your immigration problems. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout the immigration process. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your immigration law case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

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Texas Ruling May Allow Licensing of Migrant Family Detention

By Peek & Toland on February 13, 2019

The 3rd Texas Court of Appeals recently overturned a lower court ruling that could allow the state to formally issue child-care licenses to two detention centers in the South Texas cities of Dilley and Karnes that house immigrant families. Since the centers are not licensed child-care facilities, the Flores settlement, a landmark court decision restricting the detention of immigrant children, requires the government to release immigrant children from them within 20 days of their detention, which also often resulted in the simultaneous release of their parents. These two detention facilities comprise most of the detention space available for immigrant families at the present time, or about 3,500 people.

The state of Texas had attempted to provide child-care licenses to these facilities via a special regulation shortly after they opened in 2016, but the ruling of an Austin judge halted those efforts. That ruling was based on the fact that the regulation would have allowed the facilities to function as licensed child-care facilities without them having to comply with statewide minimum facility standards with which all other licensed child-care facilities must comply. This includes standards that prohibit children from sharing bedrooms with unrelated adults.

Texas Ruling May Allow Licensing of Migrant Family Detention

The appellate court now has overturned that decision and dismiss the suit. The court based its decision on its finding that the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership and various parents who formerly were detained in the facility had no legal standing to challenge the decisions of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which is the state agency that issues child-care licenses. Therefore, the appellate court dismissed the entire lawsuit, ensuing that the regulation cannot be challenged.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain through your immigration problems. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout the immigration process. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your immigration law case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

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New Study Shows Unauthorized Immigrant Population Decreasing

By Peek & Toland on February 12, 2019

According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. has continually decreased from 2007 through 2016, based on the most recent statistics available. In 2007, Pew’s research indicates that there were approximately 12.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., but that as of 2016, there were only about 10.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

About 7.8 million of undocumented individuals are part of the American civilian workforce. Six states are the home to 58% of unauthorized immigrants: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. Between 2007 and 2016, the unauthorized immigrant population decreased in about dozen states, but rose in three states: Louisiana, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

New Study Shows Unauthorized Immigrant Population Decreasing

The biggest decrease in the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. was among Mexican immigrants, who as of 2016 made up about half of the unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. Those numbers decreased from almost seven million in 2007 to less than five-and-a-half million in 2016. Pew researchers attribute this trend to various factors, including a weaker U.S. economy, increased border enforcement, Mexico’s recession, and decreased birth rates in Mexico.

Nonetheless, the total number of unauthorized immigrants from other countries in the U.S. has not changed significantly, although there have been some slight increases in the number of undocumented immigrants present in the U.S. from Central America, including El Salvador, the Honduras, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. The average amount of time that unauthorized immigrants have spent in the U.S. also has increased, to 14.8 years, up from 7.1 years in 1995. In fact, two-thirds of the unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. have been living there for more than ten years, as opposed to only 35% in 2005.

Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to helping both individuals and businesses resolve their immigration-related issues. Immigration law is a complex, ever-changing area of the law that necessitates legal advice from experienced immigration lawyers who keep up-to-date with all relevant changes in law and policy. We will work with you to achieve the most positive outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled immigration attorneys today.

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Would your business survive an Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) audit?

By Peek & Toland on January 10, 2018

Would your business survive an Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) audit?Some convenient stores and other business owners are about to find out. Today, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) descended on 7-11 stores nationwide to perform immigration audits and interviews with employees and store managers.

“Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce: ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable,” stated Thomas Homan, ICE’s acting director in a statement to CNN.

Is your business prepared for an ICE audit?

Businesses cannot avoid an immigration audit, but they can take steps to ensure they are prepared for one. Our team of experienced immigration attorneys can walk your business through the entire process of preparation to ensure you are ready should ICE seek an audit of your business. Should your business be selected for ICE audit, Peek & Toland will help your business navigate what to do and how best to work with ICE to ensure your business can continue to operate during the audit.

Is your business in I-9 Compliance?

As part of I-9 compliance, it is illegal to knowingly hire or continue to employ unauthorized workers. A failure to comply with I-9 compliance may result in fines, forfeiture of company assets, and potential imprisonment. Those businesses that fail to comply may be criminally prosecuted or fined anywhere from $375 to $16,000 per violation. A penalty for failing to provide a Form I-9 can range from $110-$1,100 per violation. Can your business afford these penalties?

I-9 requires that employers complete an Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 (Form I-9) to verify the employees’ identity and eligibility to work legally in the U.S. This form must be completed with 3 business days of the employee’s first day in the position and employers are required to maintain this form for all current employees. Employers are also required to maintain former employee’s documents for at least 3 years for the day of hire or 1 year after the employee is no longer employed.

What is E-Verify?

To confirm the information on the employee’s documentation is correct, many employers use an online tool called E-Verify. Although E-Verify is currently voluntary for most employers, those businesses who maintain federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause are required to participate in E-Verify. It is anticipated that all U.S. employers will be required to use E-Verify in the near future.

What should business owners do?

The simple answer is to hire an experienced immigration attorney. If your business is worried about risk and a potential immigration audit, then hiring an experienced immigration firm like Peek and Toland to help prepare your business for a potential immigration audit is essential.

Should your business be selected for an immigration audit, it is paramount to hire an immigration attorney to advise your business right away.Our experienced immigration attorneys are well-versed in all areas of I-9 compliance and ICE audits.

Our legal services include:

  • Risk Assessment and Risk Avoidance
  • Internal and Third Party I-9 Audits
  • Reviewing and Correcting Mistakes on Existing I-9 Forms
  • Government Investigations
  • Internal Audits of Existing I-9 Forms
  • Obtaining and Maintaining I-9 Forms

To learn more about Peek and Toland can help your business or company with ICE audits, I-9 compliance, or E-verify, please call us at 512-474-4445.

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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.

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