immigration

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.

Posted in Citizenship

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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.

Posted in Immigration Reform

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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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USSC Issues Ruling in Nielsen v. Preap

By Peek & Toland on May 19, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued its much-awaited ruling in Nielsen v. Preap. This case concerned whether a federal statute, or 8 U.S.C. 1226(c), provided for mandatory immigrant detention for a certain class of noncitizen immigrants. If the statute applied to these immigrants, then they would be subject to detention indefinitely without the opportunity for a bond hearing. These immigrants argued that mandatory detention without bond as provided for in the statute did not apply to them because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not take them into immigration custody until many years after they had been released from custody for a criminal offense. In many cases, these immigrants were legal permanent residents who had not had additional criminal charges or trouble during the interceding years. As a result, these individuals maintained that they should be entitled to a bond hearing to determine whether their detention was legal.

USSC Issues Ruling in Nielsen v. Preap

Unfortunately, a plurality of the Supreme Court agreed with the federal government’s argument that these immigrants fell within one of the four specifically-defined groups of immigrants contemplated in the statute. Therefore, the Court concluded that the lapse of time between the immigrants’ criminal detention and immigration detention was irrelevant and did not remove them from the application of the plain language of the statute.

The dissent criticized the broad reach of the ruling, as it effectively subjected a whole class of immigrants to indefinite mandatory detention without even a bond hearing to challenge their detention. Thus, even if the immigrants later prove themselves to be not subject to removal for one reason or another, they still will have spent months or even years detained without bond. The dissent saw this as a major constitutional problem. 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.

Posted in Immigration

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Federal Court Enjoins Removal of Voters Based on Lack of Citizenship Due to Faulty Data

By Peek & Toland on May 1, 2019

A federal judge recently blocked the Texas state election officials from removing individuals from the state’s voter rolls based on certain unreliable data regarding citizenship. Although counties can investigate the citizenship of voters, the court ruling prevents them from personally contacting the voters to demand proof of citizenship.

The pending lawsuit stems from acting Secretary of State David Whitley using reports from the Department of Public Safety stating that certain individuals were noncitizens to purge the state’s voter rolls. The Secretary of State’s office announced that 98,000 suspected noncitizens were currently on the state’s voter rolls, 58,000 of whom had voted at some point over the last 22 years. The office sent the names of these suspected noncitizens to county offices and urged them to demand proof of citizenship from the individuals. However, after civil rights groups pointed out that the list of suspected noncitizens likely contained naturalized citizens who became eligible to vote, the Secretary of State’s office quietly withdrew as many as 20,000 voters from its initial list.

Federal Court Enjoins Removal of Voters Based on Lack of Citizenship Due to Faulty Data

Although Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and President Trump quickly jumped to conclusions of widespread voter fraud in Texas, the federal court disagreed. The federal judge issuing the decision pointed to the state’s “well-intentioned”, but inherently “flawed results,” that caused the illegal targeting of naturalized citizens through threatening correspondence demanding proof of citizenship. Following the ruling, Whitley met personally with the plaintiffs, a group of naturalized citizens who claimed they were being unfairly targeted by the Secretary of State’s office.

Acting Secretary Whitley defended the program in his confirmation hearings earlier this year, but he did acknowledge that his office could have presented the program in a better way. Senate Democrats later announced that they had sufficient votes in place to block Whitley’s nomination as Secretary of State. 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 matter.

Posted in Citizenship

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Texas Workplace Arrests by ICE Increase 4000% in 2018

By Peek & Toland on April 30, 2019

According to an article published by Houston Public Media, Texas workplace arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents rose almost 4,000 percent in 2018. The number of people whom ICE arrested in 2017 at Texas worksites was 13; in 2018, that number rose to 519. About one-third (1/3) of those arrests were on criminal charges, whereas the remaining two-thirds (2/3) of the arrests were of immigrants who were working in the U.S. without legal authorization to do so.

ICE agents in Dallas made the largest number of workplace arrests, followed by agents in El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio. The largest workplace raid took place in Sumner, Texas, a city in northwest Texas, which involved 160 arrests in August 2018.

The Texas workplace arrests represent about one-quarter (1/4) of the workplace immigration arrests made nationwide. The number of immigration workplace arrests rose over 700% nationwide during FFY 2018, which is the first full fiscal year of the Trump administration being in office, to a total of 2,304 arrests. Of these arrests, 779 were for criminal offenses, and the remaining arrests for administrative purposes, or failing to have legal documentation to work in the U.S. interestingly, however, criminal indictments and convictions have not increased as a result of the increased arrests.

Texas Workplace Arrests by ICE Increase 4000% in 2018

From 2013 to 2017, workplace investigations and arrests by ICE dropped precipitously, as the Obama administration has ordered ICE to focus on arresting criminal offenders rather than investigating workplace violations. When recently retired acting ICE Director Thomas Homan was in office, however, he called for a substantial increase in worksite investigations for possible immigration violations. As a result, ICE initiated 6,848 workplace investigations in 2018, which was four times the rate of investigations in 2017. ICE also launched 5,981 audits of workplaces in 2018. The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal representation of countless individuals facing various immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys today.

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