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Immigration Reform

Trump Administration Grants Security Agency Designation to CBP

By Peek & Toland on July 2, 2020

As of January 31, 2020, the Trump Administration has granted the designation of “security agency” to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This change in policy gives a level of secrecy to CBP by shielding a great deal of information from public scrutiny. As a result, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will no longer compel CBP to disclose the names of their officers and various other records. Up until now, only agencies like the FBI and Secret Service have relied on this designation to protect their records.

The Trump Administration moved to change CBP to a security agency after a Twitter account was posting information about CBP employees that typically is available through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). OPM handles federal employee information, some of which is publicly available, including salary information. The Twitter account that triggered the change has since been suspended. The Trump Administration deemed the change necessary for the security and privacy of CBP employees. However, the change does not seem to have increased the authority of CBP in any way.

Trump Administration Grants Security Agency Designation to CBP

Advocates of government transparency see the move as troubling, as it is likely to make it more challenging to hold CBP accountable. Lawyers and others often rely on FOIA to get internal information that relates to policy changes and interpretation, even if the information is redacted. Now, FOIA requests directed to CBP are likely to be even more heavily redacted.

Furthermore, Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union have increasingly questioned the secrecy now surrounding CBP after the agency allegedly compiled a list of primarily American attorneys, reporters, and advocates that border agents should stop for questioning at border checkpoints. Likewise, CBP might also have placed alerts on the passports of people on the list.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

Posted in Immigration Reform

Trump Administration Announces New Restrictions on International Students in the U.S.

By Peek & Toland on June 29, 2020

The Trump Administration has announced new plans to limit the amount of time that international students can spend studying in the U.S. The new guidelines provide for a maximum period of authorized stay, so students now must obtain additional authorization to remain in the U.S. whenever their plans change. If a student does not graduate when expected, for instance, that student must undergo a reevaluation process, just as if the student were transitioning from college to graduate school.

The new rules would impact international students in the U.S. on student visas F1, F2, M1, and M2. Under current regulations, students can remain in the U.S. as long as they are enrolled in school and maintain their nonimmigrant status.

Trump Administration Announces New Restrictions on International Students in the U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claims that the change is necessary to prevent the incidence of visa overstays by international students. However, critics of the proposed rule change point out that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is already processing immigration applications at an exceedingly slow rate. Adding more applications and forms for individuals who already hold student visas are likely to add to the backlog of applications.

As participation by international students in U.S. educational programs has already declined precipitously amidst the Trump Administration’s crackdown on immigration laws, these changes could result in a further reduction in the number of international students coming to the U.S. for education. According to figures from the U.S. State Department, almost 1.1 million international students were studying in the U.S. during the 2018-2019 school year. This number constitutes about 5.5% of all students enrolled in American colleges and universities.  

Our goal is to assist you with your immigration concerns, whether family or business-based. We can evaluate your situation and develop a strategy that is most likely to be efficient and effective in your case. Regardless of the immigration matter that you are facing, the attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience, knowledge, and reputation that you want and need to advocate on your behalf. When results matter most, contact us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration Reform

U.S. Supreme Court Permits Enforcement of New Public Charge Rule to Move Forward

By Peek & Toland on June 22, 2020

Although the litigation over the policy change will continue, the U.S. Supreme Court has permitted the newly revised “public charge” to go into effect. The high court stayed the nationwide injunction against the new rule going into effect that a lower federal court previously issued.

Under the new public charge rule, the federal government may deny green cards or visas to enter the U.S. to individuals who are likely to rely on public assistance. To measure whether an immigrant is expected to become a public charge, USCIS will consider various factors about the applicant, including education, medical history, employment, and assets. Additionally, if immigrants have used any public benefit on an expanded list of such benefits, including Medicaid, SNAP, and more, for a specific number of months, they could be considered ineligible on public charge grounds.

U.S. Supreme Court Permits Enforcement of New Public Charge Rule to Move Forward

Most recently, U.S. officials have clarified that they will not apply the new public charge policy to any immigrants who use government benefits to seek care for symptoms of coronavirus. The move is likely designed to encourage immigrants to seek diagnosis and treatment for their symptoms to further avoid the spread of the virus. The fear is that due to the new public charge rule, immigrants may be reluctant to seek medical attention for themselves and their families. This situation could result in heightened dangers to public health.

Additionally, the public charge rule will not apply to immigrants who must seek public benefits as a result of the pandemic because they are unable to work or attend school. Federal officials advise that immigrants in this situation can later explain and provide documentation that they will take into consideration when applying the public charge rule.

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.

Posted in Immigration Reform

New Policy Intended to Fight “Birth Tourism” Could Have More Widespread Effects

By Peek & Toland on June 19, 2020

According to a recent NPR article, the Trump Administration has announced a new State Department rule designed to target so-called “birth tourism.” The State Department claims that the practice by which pregnant women travel to the U.S. to give birth so that they can secure U.S. citizenship for their children, is a threat to national security and often involves international criminal activity.

Under this new rule, which went into effect on January 24, 2020, consular officials can deny tourist visas to pregnant women if they believe that the primary purpose of their trip to the U.S. is to give birth. Furthermore, if consular officials have any reason to think that pregnant women will give birth while in the U.S., the rule states that those officials should conclude that obtaining American citizenship for their children is the purpose of the visit.

New Policy Intended to Fight “Birth Tourism” Could Have More Widespread Effects

In support of the new rule, the State Department alleges that thousands of children are born each year to foreign nationals visiting the U.S. on tourist or business-related visas. Nonetheless, the State Department was unable to point to any sources of this information or confirm the scope of the birth tourism problem.

The new rule places new restrictions on applicants for category B nonimmigrant visas or temporary visits for pleasure. However, the rule does not apply to natives of the 39 countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program. This program allows natives of these countries to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days at a time without a visa.

An additional portion of the new rule aims to ensure that natives of foreign countries who come to the U.S. for medical treatment have the resources to pay for their care. These visa applicants must provide proof to officials that they can pay for the medical treatment that they expect to receive while in the U.S.

The Peek & Toland immigration lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your immigration matter. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your situation.

Posted in Immigration Reform

Problems Continue to Grow One Year After Trump Administration Implements Remain in Mexico Policy

By Peek & Toland on June 12, 2020

One year now has passed since the Trump Administration implemented Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), colloquially known as the Remain in Mexico policy. MPP requires immigrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico until the immigration court is ready to hear their asylum cases. This policy has resulted in border officials sending more than 56,000 people back to Mexico when they arrive at the border to apply for asylum.

To handle the crush of people seeking asylum, the Trump Administration has erected two large pop-up tents in Brownsville and Laredo, Texas, to serve as makeshift immigration courts. These courts were not open to the public for some five months after they began operating, and even now, public access is minimal, with some onlookers reportedly being turned away for attempting to enter with a pen and paper. Immigration court hearings traditionally are open to the public, and border officials seem unsure of what policy or law that restricts access to the tent courts, where the same kind of immigration hearings are held as in courtrooms throughout the nation.

Problems Continue to Grow One Year After Trump Administration Implements Remain in Mexico Policy

Immigration judges are not even present in the tent courts for immigration hearings. Instead, they appear by teleconference from different locations. Members of the public also may not sit in at those locations for the hearings being conducted remotely in tents. These policies have prevented family members from being present during their loved ones’ immigration hearings, and also have prevented representatives of advocacy organizations from ensuring that justice is occurring during these hearing. 

The Trump Administration claims that MPP has enabled them to weed out false asylum claims and speed up wait times. In reality, however, more than 2,500 people are living just over the border in Mexico in a tent encampment in squalid conditions. When sent back to Mexico, these individuals have nowhere to go and nothing to do but wait for their court dates.

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.

Posted in Immigration Reform

DOJ Continues to Work to Address Increasing Immigration Case Backlog

By Peek & Toland on June 11, 2020

According to a recent AP news report, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is focusing its efforts on making an extremely overburdened immigration court system run more efficiently. With a historically high backlog of over one million cases, immigration officials are purchasing real estate to build new courts, hiring more immigration judges, and converting to an online filing system. Nonetheless, the immense backlog of cases continues to grow at an astonishing rate. In just two years, from October 2017 to October 2019, its monthly caseload more than doubled from just over 15,000 cases to almost 36,000 cases.

Currently, the wait time to resolve a case in which the immigrant is detained averages 130 days. For those immigrants who are not detained, however, their cases drag on for an average of 970 days, or nearly three years. Although the DOJ did inherit a backlog of cases, it has compounded its backlog numbers by a crackdown on illegal immigration and immigrants seeking asylum. The DOJ also ordered immigration judges to cease putting non-priority cases on hold, which has led to the reopening of hundreds of thousands of cases.

DOJ Continues to Work to Address Increasing Immigration Case Backlog

Meanwhile, EOIR has asked for a budget of $673 million this year, which is more than double the 2014 budget. While they still have positions for immigration judges available, they have no courtrooms to house them. They also plan to hire another 100 Spanish interpreters, as well as add Chinese interpreters,

Immigration judges report feeling pressured and forced into quotas as the Trump Administration urges them to handle more and more cases. These judges also are campaigning for an independent immigration court system, even as the EOIR is seeking to dismantle the judges’ labor union. As this labor dispute continues, the head of the unions feels that immigration judges have less power over their cases than ever before.

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 resolve your immigration law case successfully.

Posted in Immigration Reform

Trump Administration Reportedly Seeks to Deport Thousands of Hmong Residents to Laos

By Peek & Toland on June 10, 2020

Following reports that the Trump Administration is seeking to deport thousands of Hmong and Lao residents to Laos, Hmong community leaders have spoken out against the proposed move. A State Department employee did confirm that the federal government has contacted Laos about accepting deported U.S. residents and is exploring the funding of a reintegration program that would assist some individuals who need extra support in Laos.

The intended policy could affect more than 4,500 Hmong and Lao non-citizen U.S. residents who have criminal records or who have outstanding deportation orders. There are about 300,000 Hmong living in the U.S. nationwide, most of whom are now U.S. citizens. Those who are not citizens typically have green cards, having come from Laos as young children during refugee resettlements that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of these individuals have no connection to anyone remaining in Laos, nor do they speak any language but English.

Trump Administration Reportedly Seeks to Deport Thousands of Hmong Residents to Laos

Up until now, the U.S. has safeguarded these residents due to multiple human rights violations by the Community Laos government against the Hmong people. Many of these individuals fled Laos amid a civil war that involved nine years of U.S.-led bombing. Hmong community members report that family members who remained in Laos still are experiencing human rights violations, as Laos remains a Communist country.

In response to these reports, Congress has proposed a bill to block the Trump Administration’s proposed move. The Hmong and Lao Refugee Deportation Prohibition Act of 2020 would prohibit the federal government from deporting these individuals to Laos for 72 months. Additionally, the bill would require that the federal government reopen the immigration cases of all those affected individuals who have final orders of removal.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal immigration matters of countless individuals and businesses. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is to get the best outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

Posted in Immigration Reform

Trump Administration Expands Travel Ban

By Peek & Toland on June 9, 2020

Three years after it implemented its travel ban on selected countries, creating a controversy that ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Trump Administration has expanded the travel ban to include six new countries: Nigeria, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, and Myanmar or Burma. The newly developed ban does provide exceptions for immigrants from these countries who have assisted the U.S. in various ways. These countries join the seven other countries that are part of the ban to varying degrees, including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea. The country of Chad also was previously part of the travel ban but was removed last year after the Trump Administration acknowledged that the country had improved its security measures.

Unlike the original ban, the ban on traveling to the U.S. for natives of these countries is restricted to some members of specific classes of immigrants. For instance, while the travel ban applies to all immigrants from Burma, Eritrea, Nigeria, and Kyrgyzstan, it only applies to individuals using green card lottery visas from Sudan and Tanzania. Furthermore, the ban does not extend to students, tourists, and other temporary visitors.

Trump Administration Expands Travel Ban

The new travel ban went into effect on February 21, 2020. Based on 2018 data, a CNN report on the issue estimates that the newly extended ban will impact over 12,000 people.

Due to the new focus on African countries, some lawmakers and advocates have labeled extension of the ban as discriminatory and unjustified. Others pointed out the lack of national security justifications of the expanded ban are nonexistent.

The newly expanded travel ban has come into effect at the same time as travel bans related to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. Most currently, the U.S. has banned entry to all foreign nationals who have traveled to China within the last 14 days. This travel ban, however, has nothing to do with immigration status.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

Posted in Immigration Reform

Federal Judge Issues Nationwide Injunction Against Implementation of New Policy to Change Calculation of “Unlawful Presence”

By Peek & Toland on June 6, 2020

U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs recently issued a permanent nationwide injunction against a 2018 Trump Administration policy in which officials sought to make it more difficult for foreign natives to remain in the U.S. once their legal immigration status expires. The policy would have fundamentally changed how the federal government calculates the length of a foreign native’s “unlawful presence” in the U.S., or time spent in the country without legal immigration status. The change primarily would have affected over one million international students, instructors, and scholars, who sometimes lose legal immigration status when they switch schools or jobs. By starting the time clock running earlier on some immigrants in this predicament, the new policy would eliminate some of the existing avenues for these individuals to remain in the U.S.

In response to the policy, several presidents of American colleges and universities sued, arguing that the policy would jeopardize the legal status of these individuals. Judge Biggs entered a preliminary injunction in the case in May, which foreshadowed her ruling on the permanent injunction. In support of her actions, she found that the Trump Administration’s policy change impermissibly conflicted with existing immigration law. More specifically, the Administration should have published their proposed new procedures for public notice and comment before implementing them.

Federal Judge Issues Nationwide Injunction Against Implementation of New Policy to Change Calculation of “Unlawful Presence”

The ruling also put the propriety of nationwide injunctions squarely in the spotlight, as these orders have become an increasing target for the Trump Administration. Even some members of the U.S. Supreme Court have expressed concern over the use of these nationwide injunctions, causing some to wonder whether the high Court will address the issue in an upcoming opinion. Nonetheless, opponents of the previous administration also successfully sought nationwide injunctions to block proposed immigration policies, as well, such as the Obama Administration’s proposed expansion of immigration benefits for DACA recipients. 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.

Posted in Immigration Reform

Americans Sue to Overcome Travel Ban

By Peek & Toland on May 27, 2020

The Trump Administration’s initial travel ban has been securely in place for some time, which has led some Americans to challenge the blanket ban in court to bring their family members to the U.S. Although American citizens can request a waiver to the travel ban for family members, the federal court process of obtaining waiver is lengthy and fraught with unpredictability. Only a fraction of those potentially eligible for an exemption have sought relief in court. Many individuals are unaware of their right to request a waiver or do not have the funds needed to fight the necessary court battle.

Americans Sue to Overcome Travel Ban

From December 2017 to October 2019, the Associated Press reports that over 28,000 visa applications have been filed by people seeking waivers. Of that total, the government granted 11,325 waivers and denied 16,775 waivers. The waiver application process also is quite lengthy. Although the State Department has reportedly decreased processing times in recent months, many older applications are still pending in this highly bureaucratic system. In one case, the State Department granted a waiver for one child in a family, but not for the other child, which has resulted in protected family separations. The family ultimately sued to get a waiver for their daughter and eventually succeeded, but not before several months of separation already has occurred.

The recent expansion of the Trump Administration’s travel ban to include more countries undoubtedly will result in an increased number of waiver applications and increased processing times. As a result, families may have no choice but to turn to the federal court system for relief. Nonetheless, a lack of awareness about their options and a lack of funds could cause some families to remain indefinitely separated.

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.

Posted in Immigration Reform

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