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Judge Orders Monitoring of Migrant Children’s Detention Centers in Texas

By Peek & Toland on September 24, 2019

According to a recent New York Times article, a federal judge in California has asked an independent monitor, to ensure that the federal government immediately improves health and sanitation for children currently residing in immigration detention facilities in Texas. The judge appointed the monitor last year after finding that the federal government had violated the terms of the 1997 consent decree in the Flores case, widely known as the Flores Settlement.

Recent reports of the conditions in the detention facilities prompted the judge to order the government to take swifter steps to improve the conditions, which reportedly include a lack of proper nutrition, hygiene, and clean clothing for immigrant children. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) documented similar concerns after monitoring conditions in facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.

 For their part, federal government officials have claimed that the reports of lawyers who visited the facilities are false. They also stated that they are operating the facilities as best they can under the massive influx of Central American migrants seeking asylum. In response, some Democratic legislators have visited various immigrant detention centers to evaluate the conditions for themselves.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in the case, requesting that the court mandate immediate inspection of the facilities by a public health expert. The motion also asked that the federal government speed up the release of detained children to relatives or friends as their sponsors and allow medical professionals direct access to those facilities.

Judge Orders Monitoring of Migrant Children’s Detention Centers in Texas

The federal government and attorneys for the plaintiffs then reached an agreement for the federal government to remedy the conditions that the judge previously found violated the Flores Settlement. The government also will allow a pediatrician to access the various facilities to evaluate the health of the detained migrants and make recommendations to remedy the unacceptable conditions. The parties agreed to a deadline of August 29, 2019, for the doctor to submit a report to the independent monitor.

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

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Feds Seeking to Build Temporary Immigration Hearing Facilities in South Texas

By Peek & Toland on August 29, 2019

The U.S. has expanded the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “remain in Mexico” program. This program now includes the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border but lacks the infrastructure at that site to implement the program. Under this program, the U.S. sends migrants seeking asylum back to Mexico to have their asylum applications processed and await their asylum hearings. Confusion about the MPP program is abundant among migrants. The situation has become even more complicated for migrants as the federal government has ended the practice of providing immigrants with information about the asylum process and the immigration court system. As of late June, the government no longer allows attorneys or immigration advocates to conduct “know your rights” seminars to immigrants before their first asylum hearings. During July, the federal government cut off access to advocates or “friends of the court” to accompany immigrants to court hearings, who often explained basic procedures or provided translation services.

Feds Seeking to Build Temporary Immigration Housing Facilities in South Texas

To effectively implement the MPP program in El Paso, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are searching for locations to erect “virtual immigration courtrooms.” This move would allow them to hold more immigration court hearings. These tents or temporary, soft-sided structures would allow immigrants to have hearings in front of immigration judges via video conferencing. Each tent facility would house between 20 and 27 virtual courtrooms, all of which would process cases for individuals seeking asylum.

Federal officials reportedly are looking at locations in Brownsville, TX, Laredo, TX, and Yuma, AZ for these temporary structures. Local officials in Laredo are trying to persuade the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to utilize existing structures rather than erect large tents. DHS reportedly hopes to have these structured erected and operational in August 2019. Meanwhile, the population of migrants sent back to Mexico after submitting their asylum applications has swelled from about 2,800 to 7,600 in recent months. 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

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Immense Backlog Overwhelming Immigration Courts in Texas

By Peek & Toland on March 14, 2019

According to a Houston Public Media report, there is a historic number of pending immigration cases in Texas immigration courts, as well as in most courts nationwide. Texas courts have a backlog of 119,000 cases, a number that has grown by 30,000 cases since September 2018. Over the last two years, the number of pending cases nationwide has grown by almost 50%.

Some attribute the steadily increasing backlog of cases to the Trump administration’s many policy changes, including removing the authority of immigration judges to administratively close cases. The focus on deporting all illegal immigrants, as opposed to just those with criminal records, also has increased the number of deportation cases substantially. Many court dockets have been reshuffled and reallocated, which hasn’t helped the situation.

Immense Backlog Overwhelming Immigration Courts in Texas

As a result, immigrants are spending longer times in detention, as it now takes 173 days, on average, to resolve a pending immigration case. In some courts, court dates have been scheduled out to 2022. Houston immigration courts, alone, now have an increased backlog of more than 53,000 cases.
The backlogs of immigration cases only increased during the historically long partial government shutdown. The courts had no choice during that time period to push off hearings, some for months or years. During the shutdown, the immigration courts handled only the cases of detained immigrants; non-detained immigrants saw their cases put on hold indefinitely. Once the shutdown ended, the courts began the tedious process of rescheduling all of hearings.

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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Texas Sues San Antonio Police Over Sanctuary Cities Law

By Peek & Toland on February 7, 2019

The Texas Attorney General has sued William McManus, San Antonio’s police chief, for alleged violations of SB 4, which is the state’s immigration law that targets sanctuary cities. McManus, like other big-city police chiefs, has been a staunch opponent of SB 4, citing adverse effects on immigrants reporting crimes and assisting police. The law bars local law enforcement agencies from refusing detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), stopping officers from inquiring about individuals’ immigration status, or stopping them from cooperating with immigration authorities. The lawsuit seeks millions of dollars in sanctions.

The lawsuit alleges that McManus improperly handled a December 2017 human smuggling case, which involved 12 immigrants being found inside a tractor-trailer. Rather than accepting help from ICE, who often handles human smuggling cases at the border, McManus charged the driver of the tractor-trailer with state crimes, released the immigrants to Catholic Charities, and contacted a legal assistance group who assists immigrants who have been victims of a crime in seeking visas. The San Antonio Police Department’s official policy in similar cases is to refrain from referring immigrants to ICE unless they have federal deportation warrants and to assist immigrants in seeking visas as crime victims.

Texas Sues San Antonio Police Over Sanctuary Cities Law

In addition to other civil penalties, the lawsuit also seeks fines of $25,500 per day from the San Antonio Police Department since September 1, 2017, when its policy on human smuggling cases outlined above went into effect. A city spokesperson indicated that the department always has cooperated with federal authorities and will continue to do so.

The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any type of 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 case. It is our intention 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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Why Driver’s License Costs in Texas Are Pivotal in the Immigration Supreme Court Case

By Peek & Toland on May 17, 2016

The cost of driver’s licenses in Texas may appear to be a dull, secondary issue in the pivotal Supreme Court immigration case of United States v. Texas, but it’s likely to be a crucial factor in the case.

Oral arguments were presented last month in a hearing that is one of the most significant immigration cases to come before the nation’s highest court this century and could provide relief to as many as 4 million undocumented immigrants. More than half of the country’s states are opposed to two initiatives that are central to President Obama’s immigration policy, known as DAPA and DACA.

The cost of driver's licenses are key to Texas's case against Obama's immigration policy

The cost of drivers’ licenses is pivotal in U.S v. Texas

  • DAPA is Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. It’s an immigration policy that would give deferred action status to certain classes of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and have children.
  • DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It’s an initiative aimed at non-citizens who arrived in the United States as children and is explained here in more depth by Peek & Toland . Under DACA some people who came to this country when they were young and meet certain guidelines “may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal,” states U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

As the lead plaintiff in this case, Texas must show that the action would hurt it in some way. That’s where driver’s licenses come in.

Texas is arguing it would take a major financial hit when it processes driver’s licenses for immigrants who have an illegal status because their deportation would be deferred under the president’s executive action. The state expects an upsurge in driver’s license applications after granting work authorization to previously undocumented immigrants.

The office of Texas’s attorney general has claimed Obama’s initiative would cause an upsurge in applications for driver’s licenses, making them more costly to issue. Texas must show it suffered a significant degree of “injury” to sue, but there is considerable skepticism about the driver’s license argument amid speculation it is merely a smokescreen to clothe a naked political agenda against immigration.

The state’s arguments were recently undermined by a Reuters article that quoted Bill Beardall, of the University of Texas Law School. Beardall, who is also the executive director of the Equal Justice Center, said the state’s claims are “tenuous.”

Texas claims the additional driver’s licenses would cost $103 million. However, that figure is nearly three times what Texas currently budgets every year for all driver’s licenses to 27 million people, Reuters reported.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, states:

“Texas is engaging in legal obfuscation they hope others won’t notice. First, having work authorization wouldn’t make those with DAPA or DACA eligible for licenses. It’s having received deferred action that allows immigrants to apply for and become tested, licensed, and insured drivers.”

It remains to be seen if the judges will issue a decision based on the case’s merits. A decision is likely in June and there is speculation that the Supreme Court will be split. Many of last months’ arguments concerned whether the states have standing to sue over the executive orders in the first place which is why the seemingly obscure arguments about driving licenses in Texas could prove to be so important. To find out more about the immigration reforms,

If you are affected by DAPA or DACA, it’s natural that you will be experiencing a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. Our Austin immigration attorneys can help you understand the process and to find out about more about the process of securing legal status in the U.S. Contact us at (512) 474-4445.

 

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