Immigration Filing Fees Will Increase

By Peek & Toland on August 12, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security announced a final rule on the USCIS fee schedule. These changes will go into effect on October 2, 2020. Attorney Jeff Peek discusses a few of the changes that will affect most people. 

N-600/N-600K Application for Citizenship/Naturalization
Will increase $530 from $640 to $1,170 

I-130 Petitions for Alien Relative 
Will increase $25 from $420 to $535 

I-192 Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant
Will increase $815 from $585 to $1,400

Work Permits 
Will increase $140 across the board with one exception. Those with DACA are the exception, they will continue to pay $410. Everyone else will have to pay $550. 

I-601A Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver
Will increase $330 

Asylum application now has a $50 fee  

These are just a few main changes that will affect most people. However, there is a massive list of fee changes. You can view all the fee changes on the USCIS website: https://www.uscis.gov/archive/our-fees

View the new rule in its entirety: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2020-16389.pdf

If you have any questions about this matter or any immigration questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 512-474-4445 or visit our website www.peekandtoland.com

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Can Immigration Check Your Cell Phone? | Immigration Wednesdays

By Peek & Toland on August 5, 2020

Attorney Jeff Peek will discuss the following question often asked by clients:

Can immigration search yourself cell phone when you come through an international checkpoint or airport? 

Most of you are aware of the fourth amendment and protecting your rights against unreasonable searches and seizures from the government. The fourth amendment says, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…” 

There are two notable exceptions to the fourth amendment. 

The first exception is searches incident to arrest. Meaning you’ve been arrested. The cops handcuffing you, maybe let’s say a perfect example is driving while intoxicated. At that point, he’s going to pat you down. He’s doing that for his safety, for your safety to make sure there’s no contraband, make sure there are no weapons. But what happens when they find a cell phone in the pocket? At that point, historically, cops used to check your cell phone, which was used as a vital piece of information. But there’s a critical Supreme Court case, 2014 Riley v. California. For the first time, it protected a person from having the police officer check their cell phone if they had it on them during the arrest. Riley said if you have that kind of suspicion, you better get a warrant and show it. So it took away the ability to search a cell phone, from that exception to the fourth amendment. 

Another exception to the fourth amendment is, any time you come through the airport checkpoints or any port of entry to the United States after international travel. You’re subjecting yourself to revision at that point. You don’t have the right to say, “Oh, you can’t search my, my luggage; that’s my personal effects.” They have a right to search for it. And right up to this point, immigration officers and customs officials can search those cell phones when you come in. It was very uncomfortable for a citizen named George Anibowei, who recently came in through Dallas-Fort Worth airport. He’s a naturalized U.S. citizen and a lawyer. He was going through customs when they wanted to search his cell phone. That bothered this lawyer because, first, just the privacy violation, but also because he’s representing clients who are suing the federal government for various things. He had information potentially on his phone revolving those cases. So, he is currently with a lawsuit pending that’s in the fifth circuit on appeal right now.

This topic has already been meted out by a couple of circuit courts in the country:

  • The 11th circuit felt it was constitutional at border checkpoints, that border officers could indeed review your cell phone without a warrant. 
  • The 9th circuit says they at least have to have reasonable suspicion. 
  • The 4th circuit says, “Hey, that’s unconstitutional; you will need a warrant.” 

We now have various courts who have disagreements about the standard that should be used.

As somebody who greatly values his fourth amendment right, I hope that this 5th circuit comes back and says, “We don’t feel comfortable authorizing searches of people’s papers and effects that exist in these cell phones.” 

That’s all we have today, we’ll see you next Wednesday with more interesting immigration information.

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Options You Have If Your Visa Expires During COVID-19

By Peek & Toland on July 22, 2020

Many flights are getting canceled, and different countries are closing their borders due to COVID-19. A question our firm has heard frequently as of late is, what do I do if my visa is about to expire and I can’t go back to my home country because of COVID-19? 

Immigration Attorney Jeff Peek discusses three options that could apply to your case and help you avoid illegal presence in the United States.

1. Extension of Status 

Assuming your permit has not expired, you can file through USCIS and ask for more time. You will need to explain why it is that you’re asking for an extension. You’re going to need to show proof of your intent to return, a return ticket already purchased, your plans, where you’re going to be living, and what you will be doing. It might help if you have a sponsor who is a citizen or a resident to sign a letter.

From experience in the past years, this will typically give you about 5-6 months while they process your application and decide. Therefore, this allows you to be in the U.S. without an accumulation of unlawful presence. 

2. Change of Status 

Change of status is when you change to a different type of visa. This can be a little tricky because the visa you want to switch to has to be immediately available. For instance, if you change from a B1/B2 tourist visa to an F-1 student visa, you have to ask yourself, are you going to be able to enroll in the school immediately? Is the school willing to issue an I-20 to you even though you’re technically on a B1/B2 visa? Can you do that before your temporary visitor visa expires and before the school year starts? Maybe there are other visas like an investor visa or work visas that you could apply. Still, you have to keep in mind that it has to be immediately available. 

3. Adjustment of Status 

Adjustment of status is where you change from any non-immigrant visa to the intent to reside in the U.S. permanently, so you would apply for residency. There are lucky few who are eligible for adjustment of status. Those Individuals are spouses of U.S. citizens, parents of U.S. citizens, or minor children of U.S. citizen parents.

We recommend talking to one of our attorneys to see which option is the right fit. We’ve helped many families and individuals further their stay here in the United States legally, especially in the midst of this global pandemic. 

We hope this information has been helpful. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions. 

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Immigrant Population Growth at Slowest Pace in Over Ten Years

By Peek & Toland on November 13, 2019

According to recent findings by the Brookings Institution, the U.S. immigrant population growth rate in 2018 was the slowest that it had been in the past decade. The net increase of immigrants in 2018 was about 200,000, which is a decline of more than 70 percent from 2017 figures. Experts attributing the drastic drop in the growth rate to changes in the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, and many see it as a bad sign for the economic health of the country. Immigrant population growth has not been so slow since 2008 when the U.S. was in the depths of an economic recession.

The most significant declines in the immigrant population in America were among Latin American and Asian people who were not U.S. citizens. In 2018, a total of about 45 million people who were not born in the U.S. lived in America. Nearly half of these individuals were U.S. citizens, another quarter were legal permanent residents, and the remaining immigrants had no legal immigration status. Another significant drop in growth appears to be among Chinese students, which has caused substantial decreases in revenues for universities.

Immigrant Population Growth at Slowest Pace in Over Ten Years

Among the federal government policies that likely impacted these figures were the travel ban on individuals from specific countries, increased scrutiny of visa applications, and policies designed to discourage people from seeking asylum. New procedures for processing visa applications, which have caused significant backlogs in processing times, also may have contributed to the slowed growth.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released these figures as part of its annual American Community Survey, which is a small-scale census that depicts how the American population has changed year to year. Another key finding of the survey was that economic inequality has continued to increase and may be at a record high.

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 immigration case.

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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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Despite Immigration Crackdown, More Immigrants Obtained Citizenship Last Year Than Ever Before

By Peek & Toland on August 25, 2019

As American immigration policies have become harsher, more and more individuals appear to be seeking citizenship. Historically, naturalization number peaked in 1996 and 2008, according to data provided by the Department of Homeland Security. During the first three quarters of 2018, however, 544,000 immigrants became naturalized citizens, which was a 15% increase over the numbers from the same time in 2017. Some of the growth may be attributable to immigrants who now find citizenship to be a more urgent matter or at least one that they should not further postpone. Some immigrants also cited the desire to vote in last year’s elections as the reason that finally prompted them to seek citizenship.

Despite Immigration Crackdown, More Immigrants Obtained Citizenship
Last Year Than Ever Before

The most recent estimates available from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) showed that in 2015, there were about 13.2 million legal permanent residents (LPRs) in the U.S. Nearly nine million of these LPRs would be eligible for naturalization, which typically occurs after individuals have maintained LRP status for five years or have been married to a U.S. citizen for three years. Naturalization also requires paying a $725 fee and passing a citizenship exam.

The Trump administration also recently announced that it would be making changes to the citizenship test that naturalized citizens must pass. As of March 2019, the pass rate is 90%. USCIS reportedly is focusing on making changes to the civics portion of the test, although it may make changes to the English part, as well. The test features 100 civics questions; prospective naturalized citizens must be prepared to answer at least six out of ten questions that they are asked. Nonetheless, some are questioning whether the new test will be in line with the Trump administration’s hardline stance on all forms of immigration, including those that are legal.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you 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 case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

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Federal Government Extends Definition of Harboring Statute to Prosecute Volunteers Helping Migrants at Border

By Peek & Toland on August 18, 2019

The federal government is increasingly arresting and prosecuting individuals for “harboring” migrants along the border by sheltering or leaving food or water for them. In fiscal year 2018, the federal government prosecuted more than 4,500 people for violating harboring laws, which is a 30% increase in these prosecutions since 2015. The sharpest increase in arrests and prosecutions came after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to place a priority on harboring cases in 2017.

One such prosecution recently has been in the news concerning the 2017 arrest of a college geography instructor who works with a group called “No More Deaths.” The group routinely leaves food and water for migrants who may be crossing the desert. Prosecutors accused the man of three felony counts, including conspiracy to harbor migrants. The man claims that he was not part of any plan to provide shelter to migrants, but participated in leaving provisions for migrants in the desert. When the case finally went to trial in June 2019, however, it ended in a mistrial, because the jurors could not agree whether the man had committed crime. As of July 2019, federal prosecutors dismissed a conspiracy charge against the man, but plan to retry him on the remaining two felony harboring charges in November 2019.

Federal Government Extends Definition of Harboring Statute to
Prosecute Volunteers Helping Migrants at Border

There have been 250 migrant deaths in the Arizona desert since 2001. Most of the deaths were from migrants who suffered from exposure and dehydration while attempting to cross the 250 miles of desert.

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.

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U.S. Ships Border-Crossing Immigrants to Other Cities for Timely Processing

By Peek & Toland on August 16, 2019

The Trump administration has taken the unprecedented step of sending immigrants who have crossed the border without authorization to other cities for processing at a rate of about 3,000 per week. As U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials struggle to keep up with the continuing surge of migrants, they are flying and busing thousands of immigrants to other locations. These sites include San Diego and Del Rio, Texas, as well as El Centro, California, and Laredo, Texas. Processing of immigrants at the new location consists of taking photographs and fingerprints and completing background checks and health screenings.

CBP is required to process immigrants within 72 hours of their arrival. At no time in history has CBP had to send immigrants to other locations due to an inability to process them within the 72-hour timeframe. They also have insufficient space to house the immigrants, which is available in other places. Most immigrants being sent elsewhere are coming from Rio Grande Valley, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona. Some CBP officials claim that the Trump administration also is considering sending the influx of immigrants to other locations in the U.S., including Florida, Detroit, and Buffalo, New York.

The exact number of immigrants being sent elsewhere is unknown. However, CBP reportedly is sending five planes per week to Del Rio and three planes per week to San Diego. Each plane holds approximately 130 immigrants. Four buses with about 47 passengers travel to Laredo every day. Likewise, vans carrying about 125 per day are driving El Centro.

U.S. Ships Border-Crossing Immigrants to Other Cities for Timely Processing

Although this change in logistics usually would be part of a plan approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the White House, CBP and ICE appear to have taken control of this venture out of sheer necessity. 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.

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ICE to Establish Rapid DNA Testing at Seven Locations Along the Border

By Peek & Toland on August 13, 2019

According to a recent report from The Hill, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is seeking to establish rapid DNA testing at seven border locations under the guise of a project dubbed “Operation Double Helix 2.0.” The purpose of the testing ostensibly is to identify immigrants who are falsely claiming to have family relationships when they enter or attempt to enter the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claims that immigrants sometimes pose as fake families to engage in human smuggling operations or to attain release in the U.S. more quickly. ICE intends to utilize a private company to carry out the cheek swab testing, which should be completed in 90 minutes or less. The test results allegedly will help Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents identify immigrants who are violating the law.

ICE to Establish Rapid DNA Testing at Seven Locations Along Border

ICE declined to identify the seven locations in which they intend to launch the investigation, stating only that these areas have an influx of immigrants. However, the project did list California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico as potential “testing” locations. ICE also added that the project locations might change over time.

The initial project will involve the administration of 50,000 tests, with an additional 50,000 tests administered during option period one, if ICE chooses to exercise that option. Before seeking bids from contractors for Operation Double Helix 2.0, DHS operated a pilot DNA testing program in May 2019 to identify and prosecute false claims of family relationships between immigrants. Through the pilot program, HSI interviewed 561 families whose situation had indicators of fraud. Interviews yielded 95 fraudulent families, whereas the discovery of fake documents revealed another 176 fraudulent families. The adults were referred for criminal prosecution, and the children placed in the custody of Health and Human Services Department.

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

By Peek & Toland on June 17, 2019

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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