undocumented immigrants

Undocumented Girl Who was Detained After Surgery Was Released

By Peek & Toland on April 10, 2018

The case of an undocumented girl held in an immigration facility after surgery in Texas sparked an outcry. The issue appeared to be resolved in November 2017 when a lawmaker confirmed the girl was reunited with her family.

Rosa Maria Hernandez, noted the Texas Tribune, has cerebral palsy. Immigration authorities detained the girl after gallbladder surgery. Although she is undocumented, she lived in Texas since she was 3 months old.

However, Hernandez was taken into federal custody after she and her family were traveling from Laredo in the fall of 2017. They passed through a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Freer.

The girl was having surgery. Federal agents escorted her to a Corpus Christi hospital after she and her cousin, a U.S. citizen, traveled through the checkpoint. The agents waited until Rosa Maria’s gallbladder surgery was over. They informed her family she could return to Mexico voluntarily or go through court proceedings.

Undocumented girl was detained after surgery

Undocumented girl had surgery in Texas

Customs and Border Protection said in a statement it is committed to enforcing the nation’s immigration laws. It stated:

“Due to the juvenile’s medical condition, border patrol agents escorted her and her cousin to a Corpus Christi hospital where she could receive appropriate medical care. Per the immigration laws of the United States, once medically cleared she will be processed accordingly. The Mexican Consulate has been advised of the situation by Laredo Sector Border Patrol.”

The episode provoked an outcry. Lawmakers including U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro called for the girl’s release.

On Nov. 3, Castro said the girl was united with her family, the Tribune reported.

Although he welcomed the fact federal agents backed off, Castro said the girl has an uncertain future ahead of her.

The case highlights the real uncertainties undocumented immigrants face in the United States in the current era. Although the Trump administration has pledged to prioritize undocumented immigrants with criminal records for deportation, others have been picked up in raids.

Although immigration centers are used to hold undocumented adults and families apprehended at the border, it’s unusual for a child living in the United States to be arrested. The New York Times reported it was almost unprecedented for a child with a serious medical condition to be held in this manner.

Rosa Marie was held 150 miles away from her parents in Laredo who are also undocumented.

Undocumented immigrants across the Lone Star State face difficult and frightening times. If you need assistance with an immigration matter contact our experienced Austin-based family immigration law firm.

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More than 30 U.S. States Have Legislation to Prevent Illegal Immigration

By Peek & Toland on November 1, 2017

A new law in Texas that aims to outlaw sanctuary cities has made headlines for being one of the toughest pieces of legislation against illegal immigration in the nation.

However, laws targeting undocumented immigrants have been introduced in more than 30 cities since the Trump administration took over.

A report in New American revealed at least 33 states adopted tougher immigration laws since Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The legislation reflects the Trump administration’s uncompromising stance on immigration which is stricter than that of his predecessor Barack Obama.

New American reported on how many U.S. states are keen to join the battle by passing laws requiring their cities and towns to cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. Policies in which cities and towns defy federal immigration authorities are consistent with sanctuary cities.

In a report in May, the Migration Policy Institute noted Texas is leading the way with laws intended to target illegal immigration. The bill signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott is slated to come into effect on Sept. 1, although it is facing legal challenges.

More than 30 states have statutes to prevent illegal immigration

Jurisdictions that fail to comply with ICE detainer requests face fines and law enforcement officials face being charged with crimes under the new law.

The Migration Policy Institute article noted America appears to be returning to a similar climate to a decade ago when states enacted a raft of anti-immigration laws.

That movement petered out when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down major planks of Arizona’s controversial Senate Bill (SB) 1070 law. Echoes of the Arizona law, which fostered a number of copycat laws in the Southeast, can be found in the Texas law, SB 4, say critics.

However, the court upheld the contentious part of the anti-immigrant law in Arizona, requiring police to determine the immigration status of an arrestee of someone who is detained when there is “reasonable suspicion” they are not in the U.S. legally, reported the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Texas law also allows police to inquire into the immigration status of noncitizens who are arrested or detained, as well as that of victims or witnesses to crimes in the state.

Three lawsuit were filled shortly after the Texas bill was signed. The legal parallels with SB 1070 mean the result and fallout of the law in Arizona will be carefully examined in the Texas case, reported the Migration Policy Institute.

Read more about sanctuary cities in Texas here on our website. If you require help with an immigration matter, please call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Hurricane Leaves Houston’s Undocumented Immigrants Destitute

By Peek & Toland on October 27, 2017

Undocumented immigrants are among the most vulnerable members of our society. When disaster strikes, they can suffer the most significant losses. When the floodwaters rose in Houston during Hurricane Harvey earlier this year, Houston’s undocumented suffered widespread destitution.

A report on NPR noted how Rosa Sosa and her family who fled their apartment unit waited two days for the waters to recede in August. When they did, all their possessions were destroyed and they were left with nothing.

The family is from El Salvador in Central America. They escaped gang violence at home and escaped to the United States three years ago, making their home in Texas.

Sosa said the family could no longer afford food after the hurricane destroyed their home because they had to pay rent.

Hurricane impacted Houston's undocumented immigrants

Hurricane Harvey hit Houston’s undocumented immigrants

The NPR report noted Houston is the home to as many as 600,000 immigrants who are in the country illegally. They cannot legally work and earn money due to their undocumented status.

As many as one in 10 people in Houston are undocumented. NPR reported how they faced destitution after Harvey caused widespread flooding to the city.

To make matters worse, undocumented immigrants do not qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

However, Roxana Sosa was permitted to submit an application in the name of an American-born child. Advocates for the immigrants reported they were in a dire situation in the wake of the storm.

Although the federal authorities said they would not ask to see papers as people fled Hurricane Harvey, many immigrants declined to ask for FEMA help even if they qualified out of fear of deportation.  Sosa told NPR:

“We’re afraid. That’s why we don’t declare our losses. We haven’t even gone to the management office here at the apartment complex.”

Undocumented immigrants in Texas have been hit by a double whammy. Even before the storm, a combination of a federal crackdown and an anti-sanctuary cities law due to come into effect in Texas on September 1, left migrants afraid.

The Texas law was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in August.

Officials went to considerable lengths to reassure undocumented immigrants in Houston. For example, Mayor Sylvester Turner told them there would be no immigration enforcement at Red Cross shelters. Those seeking FEMA assistance in the name of a U.S.-born child were also protected.

NPR found undocumented immigrants in Houston were still fearful. The Sosas chose to remain in their sodden apartment rather than go to the Red Cross for food or shelter.

The public broadcasters spoke to Carlos Ramos, an immigrant from Honduras. During the storm, he said he joined several undocumented residents who left their apartment complex in Southwest Houston to seek food and help. However, the migrants said they spotted some immigration agents carrying out rescues. They turned back at the sight of the officials.

Supporters of undocumented immigrants warn a deadly combination of factors including poverty, immigration enforcement, lack of insurance, suspicion of the government and other factors mean the undocumented population of Houston is the most vulnerable post-Hurricane Harvey. The situation has also highlighted the need to non-profits and other help groups to step in.

If you need to speak to an experienced Texas family immigration lawyer, please call us today at (512) 474-4445.

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President Trump Offers Possible Undocumented Immigrant Reform

By Peek & Toland on June 14, 2017

The first raids of President Donald Trump’s term caused fear in Texas’ immigrant community as undocumented migrants without criminal records were deported. However, the president has also offered hope of undocumented immigrant reform.

In February, before his speech to Congress, Trump hinted at reform in comments to TV news anchors.

An article in The Texas Tribune alluded to his desire to reach a compromise over immigration. However, the speech itself contained few clues about immigration reform.

Trump’s speech was greeted enthusiastically by Republicans from Texas including Senator Ted Cruz.

However, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said the President’s message was a dark and divisive one, although was encouraged by reports of private comments made by Trump. The President suggested he favors a softening of his approach and undocumented immigrant reform.

Trump gives hints on undocumented immigrant reform

The president was short on specifics. However, reform could include ways of making life in the United States easier for undocumented immigrants who have not committed crimes. Allowing them to work was one plank of the immigration policies of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama.

Castro said he hoped Trump would seek to reach a compromise on immigration.

Trump Gives Hints Behind Closed Doors on Undocumented Immigrant Reform

Commentators are divided on how significant Trump’s comments on reform will prove to be. During the election campaign, Trump stressed his opposition to President Obama’s deferred actions on immigration.

Obama’s reforms would have allowed about four million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States and find work. It was challenged by a group of states and stalled in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Writing in the Boston Herald, Linda Chavez said Trump raised the possibility of an immigration reform. It would result in legal status for as many as 11 million undocumented immigrants. However, the comments were made in an off-the-record briefing.

The caveat would be these immigrants would not have committed serious crimes. The president also said he thought “dreamers,” whose parents brought them illegally to the United States as children, should be given a path to citizenship. While the President then apparently suggested to White House staff that this change of policy should be referenced in his speech to Congress, it was not.

Chavez and other commentators were left asking why the speech was not re-written or Trump did not make a characteristic departure from the script.

Rather than softening his stance on immigration, he doubled down on highlighting crimes committed by unlawful immigrants.

Undocumented immigrant reform remains a fluid situation now. If you or a family member needs advice on an immigration matter, please call our lawyers at Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445.

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More than Five Million Children in the United States Have Unauthorized Immigrant Parents, Research Finds

By Peek & Toland on May 19, 2017

More than five million children in the United States are growing up with unauthorized immigrant parents and it places them at a disadvantage, according to research.

Growing up with unauthorized immigrant parents means children are more likely to be exposed to poverty, limited English and lower preschool enrollment, states the Migration Policy Institute.

As many as a quarter of all children in the United States under eight-years-old are from immigrant families.

About 30 percent of these children grow up with unauthorized immigrant parents. Most of these children were born in the United States and are citizens.

millions of children have unauthorized immigrant parents

More than five million children have unauthorized immigrant parents

However, they grow up with the uncertainty of knowing that one or both of their parents may be deported. Many of these kids enter schools with unique needs that are different from those of U.S children overall.

Their challenges are different from those of children of lawful immigrants.

The report stresses they may face “linguistic isolation.” They are growing up in households that lack English proficiency and it affects their progress.

About 27 percent of children with unauthorized immigrant parents are limited English proficient. That compares with 16 percent of children of all immigrants.

The research from the Migration Policy Institute found the children of undocumented parents are far more likely to grow up in high poverty levels. While many children of immigrants fare well in the United States, it is not the same for children of unauthorized immigrant parents who are not legally able to work.

As many as three-quarters of children with undocumented parents are from low-income families at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. This compares to 51 percent of all children of immigrants and 40 percent of all children in the United States.

The report suggests a lack of advancement into higher-paying jobs for children of undocumented immigrants stems, in part, from their parents’ unauthorized legal status.

Last year, a report from the Pew Center found the percentage of children of undocumented immigrants is increasing in schools.

In 2014, about 3.9 million kindergarten through 12th-grade students were from undocumented families.

This was more than 7.3 percent of the total school population. The figures reflected an increase since the end of the recession in 2009 when these students numbered 3.6 million and accounted for 6.6 percent of the total.

At Peek & Toland , we fight deportations and aim to give families a more certain and hopeful futures.

If you require help with an immigration matter in Austin or elsewhere in Texas, please call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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Undocumented Immigrants Are More Likely to Become Crime Victims – Austin Police Chief

By Peek & Toland on September 13, 2016

Support groups claim undocumented immigrants are more likely to become the victims of crimes and the recent U.S. Supreme Court stalemate over deferred action means the situation won’t get better any time soon.

A report on the KEYE TV channel suggested Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo worries that the blocking of President Obama’s deferred action plan would impair law enforcement in Texas.

Police chief is concerned undocumented immigrants could become victims

The report stated Acedevo fears that the key immigration ruling will impact public safety in and around Austin.

President Obama’s deferred action executive orders would grant temporary legal status to about 4 million undocumented immigrants. They were deadlocked in the U.S. Supreme Court this summer. The Obama administration has asked the court to consider the proposal again when it has an additional judge, Bloomberg reported.

Acevedo has joined forces with other law enforcement agencies across the United States to argue Obama’s proposals would boost public safety while blocking them could hamper law enforcement efforts.

KEYE TV alluded to a 13-page legal brief submitted in 2015. The police chief said undocumented immigrants are less likely to report crimes because they fear deportation.

The TV report noted a peaceful demonstration was heard outside the Governor’s mansion in Austin in light of the 4-4 Supreme Court ruling that effectively killed the prospect of immigration reform for the remainder of the Obama presidency.

Jose Garza, the Executive Director of the Workers Defense Project, said too many families had lived in fear for too long. He said the uncertainty meant undocumented immigrants could not feel secure in their communities and their schools. They remain vulnerable and are more likely to become victims of crimes, he said.

In the 2015 legal brief, Chief Acevedo makes the case that undocumented immigrants are less likely to report crimes.

One solution is a U Visa may be available to give a crime victim legal status for four years. It makes immigrants more likely to report crimes.

What Are U Visas for Undocumented Immigrants?

According to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, a U Visa can be set aside for victims of some categories of crimes.

Under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, U visas are available to victims who have suffered physical or mental abuse. The system is helpful to law enforcement or government investigators who are looking into criminal matters.

These visas are intended to assist investigators looking into the trafficking of immigrants, domestic violence cases, sexual assault, and other crimes. The visas are meant to protect the victims of crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse.

Garza says fear prevents many undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes. Immigration reform would make them more confident.

Our website contains a detailed analysis of the deferred action proposals.

If you are affected by a deferred action or are fearing deportation, please contact an experienced Austin immigration lawyer. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Library of Congress Will No Longer Use the Term “Illegal Aliens”

By Peek & Toland on July 8, 2016

In recent years, the term “illegal aliens” has increasingly been replaced by “undocumented immigrants.” In April, the phrase made headlines when the Library of Congress branded it offensive and said it would no longer be using it as a bibliographical term.

It wasn’t the end of the matter. More than 20 Republican members of Congress have since proposed legislation that would prevent the library removing the words “aliens” and “illegal aliens” from subject headings.

The term illegal alien has been banned by the Library of Congress

At Peek and Toland, PLLC, we are acutely aware of the rapidly changing nature of immigration and the fact terms that may have been commonly used a few years ago are now more hurtful and offensive to immigrants. We detail the rapidly changing nature of immigration here.

Why Did the Library of Congress Bar the Term Illegal Aliens?

The change was originally the response to a campaign from a group of students from Dartmouth College, who urged the Library of Congress to ditch the term.

The American Library Association joined forces with the group which is known as CoFIRED, for the Dartmouth Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality, and Dreamers. Although the action was only taken this year, the original request was made back in 2014. Some of the students who were from immigrant backgrounds said they found the term “illegal alien” to be racist.

The Los Angeles Times reported on how The Library of Congress established the catalog subject heading “aliens, illegal” more than 30 years ago in 1980 and changed it to “illegal aliens” in 1993.

It’s still a term that is used by politicians but it’s one that has fallen out of favor with the news media in recent years. Associated Press stopped using it in 2014.

An executive summary that was drawn up by the library in March noted the phrase has increasingly taken a “pejorative tone” in recent years.

Some news organizations made the change as well, including The Los Angeles Times, which no longer uses “illegal” to describe people but does use the term “illegal immigration.”

A bill that was introduced in the House in April sought to prevent the library jettisoning the term. The Blaze reported that it doesn’t force the Library to specifically use the phrases, but it mandates it to “continue using the term ‘illegal alien’ just as they were previously,” Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said.

The library would retain the headings “Aliens” and “Illegal Aliens” in addition to related headings in the same way as they were in effect during 2015, the bill states.

If you are an undocumented immigrant, you may be facing deportation or other issues. It’s important to seek the advice of an experienced Austin immigration lawyer. Many of our success stories involve cancellation of removal. You can read about them here.

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Study Finds How Immigrants are Boosting the Texas Economy

By Peek & Toland on June 9, 2016

Texas may be at the center of a legal battle regarding undocumented immigrants but one recent study suggests they give a sizeable boost to the economy of the state, which could face serious problems if they were deported.

Research by the Perryman Group, an economic and financial analysis firm, suggested Texas needs undocumented workers.

Texas led the opposition of the states against President Barack Obama’s deferred action executive orders which aim to reform the present immigration system by allowing nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants to live and work in the United States and gain temporary relief from deportation. The case of USA v. Texas was heard in the Supreme Court last month. Texas is claiming it would lose more than $100 million in additional costs to process driving licenses for immigrants, reported Reuters.

immigrants are boosting Texas economy

The analysis from the Perryman Group says Texas needs undocumented workers to keep its economy ticking over. It found the number of workers who lack documentation in Texas is about twice as the size of the total number of unemployed people who could work. Even if all of the people who are unemployed at present in the Lone Star State filled jobs that are now held by undocumented workers – which is an unfeasible proposition – the state would be left with a “glaring gap” equating to hundreds of thousands of workers.

The study said restricting undocumented workers in Texas would result in substantial economic losses to Texas and its businesses. The study estimated the total net fiscal effect of the state’s undocumented population results in benefits of $32.9 billion every year, specifically:

  • $11.8 billion to Texas
  • $20.1 billion to the federal government,
  • $0.9 billion to Texas’s local governments.

In 2014, the Center for Public Policy Priorities published a study called “Immigrants Drive the Texas Economy: Economic Benefits of Immigrants to Texas,” It considered the wider issue of immigration as a whole to the state, and pointed out that 4.2 million people, or one in six, are immigrants.

The report said about 1.7 million undocumented immigrants in the state paid more than $1.6 billion in state and local taxes as of 2010.

The lives of the undocumented immigrants in Texas remain in limbo as the Supreme Court mulls the legality of the deferred action orders. However, repeated studies have highlighted the important part undocumented workers play in the state. If the fear of deportation is hanging over you, you should consider talking to our Texas cancellation of removal attorneys.

Peek & Toland , has decades of experience in cases involving undocumented immigrants and other family immigration matters and works with clients across Texas. Call us at (512) 474-4445 for a consultation.

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Is Obama’s Austin Claim that immigration is at a 40 Year Low Correct?

By Peek & Toland on June 2, 2016

During a speech in March in Austin, President Barack Obama claimed that illegal in the United States is lower than it has been for 40 years.

The claim earned Obama applause at a Democratic National Committee reception in Texas, but it has been subjected to intense scrutiny ever since.

The view was at odds with those of the Republicans who are vying for their party’s nomination, in particular, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who say immigration is a massive crisis in America.

Obama has claimed immigraiton is at a 40-year low

President Barack Obama

Obama’s claim was looked into in more detail using Border Patrol figures by PolitiFact and found to be mostly correct. Apprehensions of immigrants at the U.S. border reached a 44-year low in 2015. The publication stated there are about 11 million to 12 million people living in the United States without legal permission to do so. The number of undocumented immigrants has held steady in recent years.

The article concluded Obama was referring to the flow of immigrants into the country which is always a difficult trend to quantify.

Obama Highlighted the Lowest Number of Border Apprehensions since the 1970s

PolitiFact considered a Border Patrol chart that lists total apprehensions nationally since 1925. The chart stated its 2015 apprehensions were the fewest since the agency noted 302,517 apprehensions back in 1971.

Apprehensions since 1960 near the Southwest Border found apprehensions in that sector in 2015 were the lowest since 2011. Overall you have to go back to 1972 to find a year in which fewer border-zone apprehensions were recorded.

Although the figures appear to back up Obama’s claims, there are certain caveats. Border Patrol had far fewer agents in the 1970s and there were no barriers such as the areas of fencing that were erected in recent years. Before the barriers on the U.S./Mexico border, more people tried to enter multiple times.

Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard replied to a request from PolitiFact. He said in 2014, there was a spike caused by the large number of families and children from Central America crossing the border. He stated.

“In FY 2015, the number of those apprehended on the southwest border was 331,000 – with the exception of one year, this was the lowest number since 1972.”

Separately, a report on MSNBC cited a recent study by the Center for Migration Studies that estimated there were 10.9 million immigrants living in the country without authorization as of January 2016. The figure represented a 13 year low and was the first time numbers had fallen below the 11 million mark since 2004.

Although immigration appears to be declining, there are still many people arriving in this country who face a very real struggle and a long path to citizenship. At Peek & Toland , we are well versed in the complexities of immigration laws and would like to help you. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes

By Peek & Toland on May 20, 2016

Many people mistakenly believe undocumented immigrants fall outside the rules other residents abide by and are a drain on the resources of the nation. In fact, they pay taxes – more than $11.6 billion a year, according to a recent study.

A report released in April 2016 by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy gave an indication of the full scale of the contribution made by undocumented immigrants.

The report provides detailed state-by-state and national estimates of the contributions made by about 11 million undocumented immigrants who were living in the United States as of 2013. If all of these immigrants were granted legal status under President Obama’s deferred action initiative, their contributions would increase by an additional $2 billion.

Undocumented immigrants pay taxes

In Texas, undocumented immigrants paid $1.54 billion in state and local taxes in 2013. That figure would jump to $1.69 billion if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), executive orders are backed by the Supreme Court.

How Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes

The figure of $11.6 billion paid in taxes every year is based on research by think tanks. It includes:

  • Sales and excise taxes on bills or other purchases;
  • Property taxes from about a third of undocumented immigrants who own homes;
  • Personal income taxes.

In other words, undocumented immigrants are helping their local governments in cities like Austin, Temple and Killeen. They are helping to fund public schools, police, fire services, road repairs and federal and state programs.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says as many as 5 million, or 46 percent of America’s undocumented immigrants, would pay an additional $805 million a year in state and local taxes if DACA and DAPA become law.

Those opposed to the executive orders claim the costs of the immigration system outweighs its tax benefits.

For instance, The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which is opposed to amnesty, claimed that immigration costs about $113 billion a year, as of 2010. It claimed the cost at local and state level was almost $84 billion and immigration costs almost $29 billion at the federal level. The study claimed tax receipts from illegal immigrants failed to get close to the “level of expenditures” by local and national government on behalf of undocumented workers. There is clearly a need for further research on this contentious issue, but we are pleased that last month’s study has highlighted a positive contribution made by undocumented immigrants.

Many of Austin’s undocumented immigrants have lived here for decades and make a positive contribution to the economy. If you are seeking legal status in the Austin area, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced immigration attorneys at (512) 474-4445.

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