What is the Australia Refugee Deal With the United States?

By Peek & Toland on May 25, 2017

The little-known Australia refugee deal with the United States made headlines recently when President Donald Trump became involved in a contentious phone call with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The deal reached before Trump became U.S. president was the cause of the acrimony.

A report on CNN stated Trump is under pressure to reject the deal. He attempted to temporarily halt refugee arrivals and ban immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries in an executive order in January. The order was stymied by the courts earlier this year. A second order applying to six countries was issued in March. It also ran into legal difficulties.

Turnbull sought reassurance from Trump that he would honor the deal signed by the Barack Obama administration.

What is the Australia refugee deal?

Questions over the US-Australia refugee deal

For his part, Trump was said to be angry about the Australia refugee deal. Sources told CNN the U.S. president described it as “a very bad deal” and complained Australia was attempting to send “the next Boston bomber” to the US.

The agreement is seen as controversial because Obama put it in place shortly after Trump won the presidential election.

Obama and Turnbull agreed in November that Australia would transfer around 1,250 refugees. They are incarcerated in offshore detention centers on Pacific islands. The leaders agreed the transfer would be administered by the UN High Commission on Refugees. Turnbull has described the Australia refugee deal as a “one-off” agreement that would not be repeated.

What Are the Nationalities in the Australia Refugee Deal?

CNN reported most of the refugees are from the Middle East and South Asia. The majority are from Iran.

Most of the refugees were detained after they arrived by boat. They were brought to Australia by human smugglers across a dangerous sea route. Thousands more lost their lives.

About 80 percent of the people in the centers are judged to be legitimate refugees.

Refugees found themselves targeted by the Trump administration.

Earlier this year, a temporary ban on the admission of all refugees was blocked by the courts along with a travel ban from arrivals from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Trump was said to be working on a new ban. Those opposed to the executive orders are concerned temporary bans will effectively turn indefinite.

They believe all of the countries targeted, as well as programs for Syrian refugees and other refugees, will be unable to meet the vetting standards that Trump decides allow the temporary bans to be lifted. The seven countries in question are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

If you are seeking asylum in the United States, it’s more difficult now than ever. An experienced Austin family immigration lawyer can help you. Call Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445.


Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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Federal Judge Tosses Out Texas Lawsuit Against Syrian Refugees

By Peek & Toland on September 1, 2016

Texas’ high-profile attempts to ban Syrian refugees from settling in the state has been thrown out by a federal judge in Dallas.

The judge dismissed the state’s lawsuit in the case of Texas Health and Human Services v. United States of America which was heard in June. The state filed a lawsuit agTexas sought to ban Syrian refugeesainst the federal government and a nonprofit group that supports refugees.

Texas led opposition to the resettlement of refugees from war-torn Syria in the United States last year after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

At the time, Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas, wrote to President Obama to inform him the state would not accept any Syrian refugees and implored him to stop plans to allow any more Syrians into the United States.

Despite the strong tone of the correspondence, the states have few powers to restrict the resettlement of refugees.

Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz said their call for a ban was based on security fears. They said they thought people with ties to terrorist organizations like ISIS were exploiting the refugee program.

In the Texas lawsuit officials claimed the State Department and other government agencies were violating the Refugee Act of 1980 because they had not consulted state officials before the resettlement of refugees. The International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit, was accused of breaching its contract with the state in the lawsuit.

Federal Judge David C. Godbey ruled the state’s claims had no legal merit. However, he did not rule on the question of whether federal officials violated the Refugee Act. A more narrow ruling found that Texas lacked the legal standing to enforce the requirement in the act for the advance consultation with states and Texas had not proved a breach of contract.

The American Civil Liberties Union claimed Texas’ lawsuit was about political posturing rather than a valid legal concern.

Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, suggested the judge’s ruling may not have put the matter to rest in a press release.

He said he was disappointed with the ruling and Texas is considering its options  to “guarantee the safety of Texans from domestic and foreign threats.”

Officials including Paxton and Abbott have questioned the adequacy of the screening program for refugees before they arrive in the United States.

President Obama has pledged to take 10,000 Syrian refugees. However, recent reports suggest the goal is in jeopardy and far fewer have arrived.

Refugees must show that they have suffered persecution in their home country or have a reason to fear future persecution to be accepted in the U.S. The same criteria must be shown by asylum seekers.

It makes sense to hire an attorney if you are seeking asylum. Our Texas immigration lawyers can help. Call us today for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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Texas Can Do Its Own Background Checks on Refugees says AG

By Peek & Toland on July 18, 2016

Texas appears to have been unsuccessful in its efforts to keep Syrian refugees out of the state, but it continues to court controversy by insisting it’s legal to conduct background checks on refugees.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton reaffirmed his stance that state officials can impose further security checks on refugees who move to the state, in a written opinion in May.

The opinion was issued just months after Gov. Greg Abbott wrote to President Barack Obama to inform him that Texas would not take in Syrian refugees in the light of last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris. It failed to recognize the state’s limited powers over where refugees can be placed.

AG says Texas can do background checks

Paxton’s written opinion relating to refugee dollars warned that while state background checks do not violate federal law, they could violate the guarantee of equal protection under the U.S. Constitution if based on race or gender.

Abbott had questioned the adequacy of federal background checks to pick up terrorists who might be hiding in an influx of immigrants. Paxton said the potential security risks posed by Syrian refugees should justify additional background checks in Texas.

At Peek and Toland, PLLC, we help those who are seeking asylum in the United States. Asylum seekers and refugees must satisfy the same criteria, but refugees apply when they are outside the U.S. and asylum seekers when they are on U.S. soil. Further details are provided in this blog.

You must show you have been persecuted or have a “well-founded fear” of persecution to be accepted as a refugee or an asylum seeker.

Paxton said in his opinion that there is “no question that security concerns” can be a legitimate basis on which Texas can distinguish between arrivals who pose a heightened security risk and those who do not.

Groups supporting refugees took issue with Paxton’s stance. Rebecca Robertson with the Texas ACLU said it was based on an “irrational fear” of those fleeing the war in Syria who need help rather than discrimination.

In legal terms, the opinions of attorney generals are not binding but are interpretations of legal questions.

To date, federal judges have rejected Abbott and Paxton’s request to impose an order that would prevent Syrian refugees coming to Texas.

If you wish to apply for asylum, or you or a family member is facing an immigration issue, our experienced Austin immigration attorneys can help you. Call us today at (512) 474-4445.

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Key Eligibility Factors for Asylum in the United States

By Peek & Toland on May 30, 2016

Asylum seekers and refugees receive special legal protections for good reason. They are people who have escaped from their home because they feared for their safety and are afraid to return.

Although the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’ are often interchangeable, and there is no distinction between the factors the two groups faced in their home countries, there is a legal difference.


Your classification as a refugee or an asylum seeker depends on where you are when you apply for protection.

People who have already made it to the border of the United States, perhaps through the use of a visa or by entering the country illegally, can apply for asylum status while those who apply from outside the United States, must apply for refugee status.

What You Must Show to be Eligible for Asylum

1 Persecution

You must demonstrate you have been persecuted in your home country or have a “well-founded fear of persecution.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services lists the relevant fields of persecution as the following:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Membership of a particular social group
  • Political opinion
  • 2 You Must be In the United States
  • You can apply for asylum if you are already in the United States or are at a port of entry.
  • 3 You Have Been in the U.S. for Less Than a Year.Generally, you will not be able to seek asylum if you have been in the country for over a year when you make your application. There are some exceptions based on extraordinary circumstances and changed circumstances.

    4 You Have Not Applied Previously

    Asylum seekers are only given one chance. If you have applied before and your application has been denied, you cannot apply again. You can appeal your denial through the courts system.

    5 You Have Not Committed a Serious Crime

    Some applicants are barred from receiving asylum in the United States if they committed serious crimes in the past such as posing security threats or committed aggravated felonies.

    If you receive asylum in the United States, you can stay and obtain a work permit. If your application is denied, you will face deportation from the country, unless you have other documentation that allows you to stay such as a nonimmigrant visa.

    An experienced Austin immigration lawyer can explain all of your options. If you are seeking asylum in the United States time may not be on your side. We can make a strong case for you to stay in the country, as well as avoiding the pitfalls. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.


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