Appellate court calls for immigration injunction to stay in place
The historic plan to prevent the deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants encountered yet another legal obstacle earlier this week thanks to the holding of a federal appeals court.
To recap, the Attorneys General of 26 states asked a federal judge in Texas to issue a preliminary injunction shutting down the immigration actions back in February on the grounds that it exceeded executive authority.
The federal judge ultimately granted the preliminary injunction and later refused a request by the Department of Justice to lift it while the matter was pursued on appeal, holding that no irreparable harm would result.
The DOJ subsequently filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, requesting that it not only lift the injunction but allow the immigration programs to take effect during the pendency of the litigation.
In recent developments, a three-judge panel denied the DOJ’s request for an emergency stay or, at the very least, an order limiting the effect of the injunction to the 26 states challenging the executive authority.
Specifically, in a 2-1 ruling, the court dismissed claims by the DOJ that the AG’s of the 26 states lacked legal standing to file the lawsuit and that irreparable harm would result if the immigration initiatives were not permitted to be rolled out.
“The actions were designed to bring greater accountability to our broken immigration system, grow the economy and keep our communities safe. They are squarely within the bounds of his authority, and they are the right thing to do for the country,” said a White House spokesperson in response to the ruling.
It should be noted, however, that legal experts are indicating that this panel’s refusal of the DOJ’s request for an emergency stay doesn’t necessarily forecast a defeat on the larger issue of the agency’s appeal of the injunction. Indeed, a different panel could side with the government and lift the injunction.
It will be fascinating to see what transpires in the coming months concerning the plans to limit deportation. Oral arguments are currently scheduled.
How big is the backlog facing the federal immigration courts?
The unfortunate reality for those people with cases pending in the federal immigration courts is that they are likely going to have to wait a long time for any sort of legal resolution allowing them to move forward due to a sizeable case backlog.
Interestingly enough, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University recently published an eye-opening report examining why the federal immigration courts are so backed up.
What did the report say about the size of the backlog?
According to the report, the backlog in the federal immigration courts stood at 445,706 cases in April. This not only constitutes a 30 percent spike since the beginning of the last fiscal year but an all-time record.
What’s behind this dramatic spike in the federal immigration court backlog?
The report indicates that the arrival of over 68,500 unaccompanied children from Central America and close to an equal number of family units from the same region put more pressure on the already strained federal immigration courts.
While the cases of the unaccompanied minors were expedited, there are still over 70,000 cases — comprising roughly 16 percent of the total backlog — yet to be resolved.
Which states currently have the largest backlogs?
The report determined that the states with the largest backlog in the federal immigration courts are California, Texas, New York, Florida, and New Jersey.
Is there any solution on the horizon?
Experts indicate that over 230 immigration judges are hearing cases across the nation with another 68 expected to be hired. This is significant, as immigration judges are believed to handle 3,000-plus cases per year.
However, they also found that close to 100 judges may be retiring in the coming year, something that could delay hearings.
It will be interesting to see what is done to help tackle this very serious issue. In the meantime, remember to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you have any questions about how the federal immigration courts work or U.S. immigration law.
Is the new federal program just a sequel to Secure Communities?
The administration drew praise from both law enforcement officials and immigrant advocacy groups when it was announced the termination of the Secure Communities program and the introduction of the Priority Enforcement Program, which is focused on deporting “felons, not families.”
Interestingly, praise for the Priority Enforcement Program is now waning over criticism that it is perhaps not all that different from its predecessor.
Under Secure Communities, a database operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement was linked with local jails, such that people booked into custody had their fingerprints run.
In the event they were flagged in the system, an “ICE detainer” would be issued asking locals officials to keep them in custody until such time as they could be picked up by agents — sometimes beyond the length of their jail term.
Given that Secure Communities resulted in the deportations of not just violent, repeat criminals, but also vast numbers of undocumented — and innocent — immigrants, around 250 cities and counties passed legislation strictly limiting involvement in the federal program.
In recent developments, officials with both ICE and the Department of Homeland Security have recently been traveling to cities and counties across the nation to pitch the advantages of the Priority Enforcement Program, which they’ve been touting as “a kinder and gentler” version of Secure Communities.
Thus far, however, it appears as if many communities — and immigrant advocacy groups — have been unresponsive to the Priority Enforcement Program, which they say is perhaps just too similar to Secure Communities.
Specifically, they have the following questions:
Will the Priority Enforcement Program continue to have ICE agents examine fingerprints?
Will the Priority Enforcement Program truly focus on violent, repeat criminals and leave those whose only crime is entering the U.S. illegally alone?
For their part, both ICE and DHS are arguing that while they are indeed committed to deporting “felons not families,” they need some degree of cooperation from local law enforcement in order to make this happen.
Stay tuned for updates on this fascinating story …
If your loved one is being detained on an immigration violation, be certain to consider contacting an experienced legal professional to learn more about the law and the available options.
SOCTUS decision enhances due process rights of immigrants
Anyone who has had to navigate the court system here in the U.S., whether for a civil or criminal matter at the state or federal level, knows firsthand just how mystifying the experience can prove to be.
As bewildering as this experience can prove to be for everyday citizens, imagine how much more so it can be for immigrants who must place their complete trust in their attorney to guide them through the process effectively and efficiently.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that sometimes the attorneys in whom immigrants place their trust can fail to fulfill this duty, effectively leaving them with little recourse and hopelessly adrift in an unfamiliar system.
Fortunately, a recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States should help rectify this situation by strengthening the due process rights of otherwise vulnerable immigrants.
A Mexican man who had lived in the U.S. for 15 years as an undocumented immigrant pleaded guilty to domestic assault charges. Shortly thereafter, deportation proceedings were initiated and the presiding judge ordered him removed from the U.S.
He sought to challenge the deportation decision via the Board of Immigration Appeals, but his then-attorney failed to file the necessary paperwork within the applicable 90-day timeframe.
He then hired a new attorney and asked the BIA to reopen his case on the grounds that he wasn’t made aware of his prior attorney’s malpractice until it was too late. The BIA, however, dismissed the appeal.
An appeal was then filed with the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals arguing that his due process rights had been denied and requesting that the deadline for filing an appeal be extended. The 5th Circuit, however, declined to do so, claiming it lacked jurisdiction over the matter.
He then appealed to SCOTUS, which in an 8-1 decision issued earlier this week, held that the federal appellate courts do indeed have the necessary jurisdiction and therefore can extend deadlines in deportation cases predicated upon ineffective assistance of counsel.
This is truly a groundbreaking and highly encouraging decision for immigrants, who no longer have to worry quite as much about their case being effectively closed due to their attorney’s negligence.
Some families may find immediate family immigration helpful
There are many different reasons a person could have for wanting to come to the United States. For some, such a desire is rooted in wanting to reunite their family.
Sometimes, a family ends up being separated, with one of the members being in the U.S. and having U.S. citizenship and the other members being foreign citizens and being outside of the United States. Families in this sort of situation sometimes have a strong desire to be reunited here in the United States. Among the things such families may wonder is what options they have for trying to bring about such a reunification.
What U.S. immigration options family members of a U.S. citizen have depends on many things, including what their exact familial relationship is with the U.S. citizen.
For example, certain close relatives of a U.S. citizen may qualify for the immediate family immigration process. Minor children, parents, and spouses of U.S. citizens are typically eligible for this process. Also, there are some circumstances under which stepchildren, stepparents, and adopted children of U.S. citizens can have eligibility for this process.
As this underscores, U.S. family immigration law is a very complex area of law with many different potential avenues, and many different things can have the potential to be impactful in family immigration matters.
Given this, it can be very easy for a family to feel daunted, confused and intimidated when it comes to family immigration matters.
Thankfully, families that are seeking to be reunited do not have to try to navigate the complex web of U.S. family immigration law on their own. Immigration law attorneys can help such families understand what immigration options they have and can help them in pursuing their available options.
Our firm is very knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to matters involving U.S. immigration law and can provide families with legal services when it comes to immediate family immigration law matters and other family immigration matters.
You don’t need to panic if your petition is denied
There’s no question that it can be utterly devastating to be on the receiving end of an otherwise unfavorable decision handed down by either an immigration judge or an official with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Indeed, imagine learning that your attempt to secure U.S. citizenship via the naturalization process has been denied or that your bid to secure a nonimmigrant visa has been denied after months of anxious waiting.
As discouraging as all of this can be, it’s imperative to understand that this may not be the end of the road, as you may have viable legal options in these situations.
For instance, depending on the circumstances, you may be able to file a motion to have your case reopened and the denial reviewed, or even file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Our firm understands how difficult this uncertainty over immigration matters can be for people and their families. As such, we always conduct a timely yet comprehensive review designed to determine whether an appeal or motion to reopen is appropriate in a given case and, if so, take the necessary measures.
Our founding attorney has considerable experience with all manner of immigration law issues and has successfully reopened immigration cases. He is prepared to help with any and all immigration appeals.
It is important to note, however, that any appeal must be undertaken within 30 days of the immigration judge’s decision, meaning time is truly of the essence.
Providing strong legal advocacy and representation to individuals facing deportation
The United States was founded by immigrants who, despite their many differences, all shared a common dream–having the opportunity to build a better life. Despite the fact that our country’s founding fathers were all immigrants, today’s U.S. immigration laws are often restrictive and punitive for those who come to the U.S. and hope to build a better life.
For today’s U.S. immigrants, laws that govern the immigration and naturalization process are often complex and difficult to comprehend. It’s advisable, therefore, to seek the advice and assistance of an attorney.
From an individual who wishes to obtain a green card or visa to an individual who is seeking asylum, an attorney who is well-versed in all matters related to U.S. immigration and naturalization can explain the process, assist in obtaining required documentation and represent individuals who face immigration challenges.
For anyone who is attempting to stay and live in the U.S., the threat of deportation is often very real. In cases where an individual receives a summons to appear at an immigration removal hearing, it’s critical to secure strong legal representation. An individual may face the threat of deportation for a number of reasons including criminal charges or convictions as well as other visa or green card violations.
For U.S. immigrants who are facing deportation, an attorney at our Law Office can provide strong legal advocacy and representation. Our attorneys exclusively practice immigration law and are committed to assisting individuals who wish to come to and stay in the U.S. to do so by following the correct legal procedures.
A closer look at the process of securing a Green Card
It can be a dream come true when the federal government grants a person authorization to both work and live here in the U.S. on a permanent basis, a reality evidenced by the issuing of a permanent resident card, or, as it is more commonly known, a Green Card.
As exciting as the prospect of someday holding a Green Card can be, however, it’s important to understand that the process of getting there is by no means easy thanks in large part to a rather complex set of eligibility requirements mandated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
At the outset, anyone looking to secure a Green Card should know that there are four eligibility requirements that must be satisfied, including:
Eligibility under an immigrant category set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act, including family, employment, refugee/asylum and other special categories
Filing and approval of a qualifying immigrant petition
Availability of a visa
Admissibility to the U.S.
Immigrant category eligibility: Family
Those seeking to secure a Green Card may be sponsored by a relative who has secured either citizenship or permanent residency here in the U.S.
In fact, those who qualify as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens — including spouses, unmarried children under 21 and parents — will not be required to wait for a visa, as Congress has placed no limit on the number of these visas issued in a given year, and can file their application for a Green Card immediately.
As for those family members who don’t qualify as immediate relatives, a relative who has secured either citizenship or permanent residency here in the U.S. can still sponsor them. However, these relatives will have to wait for a visa to first become available before they can file their Green Card application.
What are the new rules governing H-4 visas?
The H-1B visa has proven to be an invaluable tool for U.S. employers looking to add individuals with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to their workforce. Indeed, the visa has helped immigrants from all corners of South Asia secure valuable work experience and forge lasting connections here in the U.S.
Interestingly enough, however, the experience of the spouses of these H-1B visa holders, the vast majority of whom are women with their own education and experience, has been decidedly different. Indeed, these spouses, known as H-4 visa holders have long been denied the chance to pursue any sort of career.
What are the restrictions governing H-4 visa holders?
Immigration law has long dictated that H-4 visa holders were not eligible for work authorization, meaning many otherwise highly educated and skilled people were unable to secure any type of employment during the six-year term of their spouses’ H-1B visas.
This inability to work and, by extension, contribute to the marital household resulted in many H-4 visa holders referring to it as a “golden cage.”
Are H-4 visa holders still subject to these restrictions?
H-4 visa holders are able to apply for work authorization.
The change came about thanks to a provision contained in executive actions on immigration.
Do H-4 visa holders then have carte blanche to seek work authorization?
No, H-4 visa holders can only seek work authorization under the following scenarios:
Their spouse is in the process of applying for a green card.
Their spouse has received an extension on their H-1B visa.
How many people will benefit from these new rules?
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, it is estimated that over 180,000 applications for work authorization will be filed by H-4 visa holders over the coming year, leveling off to around 55,000 per year thereafter.
If you have questions or concerns regarding H-1B visas, H-4 visas or any other employment-based visa, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.
ICE issues new guidelines for transgender detainees
While the detention policies of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have long faced criticism from both immigration advocates and human rights groups, one policy, in particular, has recently been drawing intense condemnation: the treatment of transgender detainees.
According to statistics, there are roughly 60 transgender detainees currently being held in ICE detention centers across the country. Of these 60 transgender detainees, close to 25 are being held in a special unit in a California-based facility, while the rest are kept in the general population according to their biological gender, not the gender with which they identify.
Experts indicate that this latter practice of keeping transgender detainees in the general population is not only problematic from a human rights perspective, but from a safety perspective as they are at an increased risk of assault.
Fortunately, it appears as if real changes are now in the works following the issuance of new guidelines by ICE to its detention staff this past Monday.
These new guidelines call on detention staff to consider the preferences of transgender detainees when making decisions related to everything from pronoun use to housing and clothing.
Furthermore, the ICE guidelines indicate that detention staff will be trained on how to draft individual detention plans accounting for important items like safety and hormone therapy and that the agency itself will start gathering more data on this important issue going forward.
While many have acknowledged this guidance from ICE as a good start, still others are less than enthused. Indeed, groups like Immigration Equality argue that in light of the fact that transgender people make up such a small percentage of the overall detainee population, yet face such a heightened risk to their personal safety, it makes the most sense for them to be offered detention alternatives much like those suffering from serious health conditions or pregnant women.
It will be interesting to see whether this guidance is indeed adopted by detention staff. Stay tuned for updates.
If your loved one was picked up by ICE and is now being held in a detention center, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about the law and your options.
Form I-130 and the road to legal immigration
There are many benefits afforded to an individual who is born outside of the U.S. and decides to take steps to become a U.S. citizen. In addition to being able to legally live and work in the U.S., an individual who is granted permanent U.S. citizenship status is also allowed to sponsor relatives who wish to immigrate to and become U.S. permanent residents.
For anyone who wishes to immigrate to the U.S., it’s important to abide by the strict regulations and protocols established by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This is especially crucial for individuals who are sponsored by a relative who is a U.S. citizen and who wish to also eventually become a permanent or naturalized U.S. citizen.
The process of legally immigrating to the U.S. can be a long, complicated and frustrating one. It may be wise, therefore to consult with an attorney who handles immigration matters and who can assist in ensuring that an individual’s application, forms and required fees are completed, filed and paid in a timely manner.
For an individual who has a spouse, parent, adult child or sibling who is a U.S. citizen; he or she must agree to be a sponsor. A U.S. citizen who agrees to sponsor a relative who wishes to immigrate to the U.S. must be able to prove that he or she has the financial means to sponsor or support a relative until that relative is legally able to work in the U.S. A form known as an I-130 is the first step in the legal immigration process.
It’s important to note that the filing of a Form I-130 does not permit an individual to immediately immigrate to the U.S. Rather; an individual must wait until a request to legally immigrate and obtain a Green Card is granted. In cases where a relative is already legally in the U.S. at the time an I-130 is filed on his or her behalf, he or she can submit Form I-485 which is an application to register permanent residence or adjust status.
Coerced into signing voluntary return forms, Mexican citizens allowed to legally return to the U.S.
America proudly declares that is it the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” The unalienable rights of U.S. citizens are well-documented in the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. Under the decrees of these and other founding U.S. documents, citizens are protected from governmental overreaches related to unauthorized search and seizure and the right to due process.
In the U.S., issues related to immigration continue to be extremely contentious and controversial. This is particularly true when it comes to immigrants from Mexico as, according to data from the Pew Research Center, nearly six million unauthorized immigrants from Mexico currently reside in the U.S.
Despite their illegal status, many Mexicans who come to the U.S. illegally have strong U.S. ties including spouses, children and other family members that were either born in the U.S. or who legally immigrated to the U.S. The vast majority of unauthorized Mexican immigrants are hard-working and law-abiding individuals who simply want to stay with their families and be afforded the opportunity to have a chance at a better life.
In an effort to crack down on illegal immigration, units from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol routinely travel to areas that are often hundreds of miles from the U.S. and Mexican border. Consequently, through methods that often involve abuse, deception, and coercion; Mexican citizens who have been in the U.S. for years without issue or instance are sometimes ensnarled in raids and subsequently detained at immigration centers.
Last February, a Southern California federal judge ruled that ICE and Border Patrol agents employed deceptive tactics to coerce “hundreds, if not thousands, of noncitizens,” to sign forms agreeing that they would voluntarily return to Mexico. Due to the illegal actions of ICE and Border Patrol agents, these individuals were stripped of their rights to have their cases, many of which would likely have been successful, decided by an immigration judge.
Recently, six of these individuals walked freely over the U.S. and Mexican border and into the arms of waiting loved ones. They are among the first of likely many who in the coming months will be allowed to return to the U.S. to reside with family members while their immigration case is pending.
Is the Priority Enforcement Program the solution to the illegal immigration problem?
U.S. Immigration is a hot-button issue with strong and opposing positions on both sides. From those U.S. residents who contend that the U.S. must clamp down on all immigration to those who argue for more lenient and humane policies, the issues related to immigration are complex and polarizing and unfortunately there is no right or simple solution.
While the administration’s attempts to pass legislation that would have allowed many illegal immigrants the ability to legally stay in the U.S failed, the recently enacted Priority Enforcement Program should provide the majority of illegal immigrants a level of protection against deportation. Many illegal immigrants have lived, worked, and raised their children in the U.S. for years. It is these individuals who immigration advocates contend must be protected.
In past years, the Federal government’s Secure Communities program required that local police departments notify federal immigration agents when an illegal immigrant was arrested and that they detain the man or woman until agents arrived. The program, however, was later ruled to be unconstitutional and shut down. Today, roughly 300 U.S. cities have also “passed laws limiting cooperation with federal authorities,” with regard to the notification and detention of illegal immigrants.
A replacement to the Secure Communities program took effect. Under the administration’s Priority Enforcement Program, only those illegal immigrants who pose threats to national security, are known gang members, commit felonies, or have recently been caught illegally crossing the border are subject to deportation. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security estimate that approximately 13 percent or 1.4 million illegal immigrants are included among those now being targeted for deportation.
How K-1 or fiancé visas can complicate love
They say that love knows no boundaries. This includes national boundaries and is something that any U.S. citizen who has ever met someone special while traveling abroad knows and understands all too well. However, even when it comes to love, the U.S. government has many boundaries and rules with regard to immigration procedures and such policies often prevent U.S. citizens with fiancés from other countries from being together.
For a U.S. citizen who wants to clear the way for a foreign-born fiancé to come to the U.S., a K-1 or fiancé visa must be obtained. However, like all U.S. immigration laws, there are strict conditions and eligibility requirements that must be followed and met.
Upon filing a Form I-129F or a Petition for Alien Fiancé, an individual must prove that he or she is a U.S. citizen and that both parties who intend to marry are not currently married. Additionally, a U.S. citizen must prove that he or she met with a fiancé in person at least one time within the last two years. Lastly, the U.S. citizen and foreign fiancé must marry within 90 days, or roughly three months, from the date that a fiancé enters the U.S.
For some couples, complying with the 90-day marriage requirement can pose many challenges. However, if a couple fails to comply with this requirement, a fiancé’s visa expires and he or she is legally required to leave the U.S. voluntarily or face deportation.
In cases where a U.S. citizen’s Petition for Alien Fiancé is not approved and a K-1 visa not issued, it’s important to investigate what happened and why the petition was rejected. Universally, U.S. immigration forms are notoriously complicated. Therefore, even one small mistake or oversight may keep a fiancé out of the U.S. and delay marriage plans.
An attorney who handles immigration cases can assist individuals with obtaining a K-1 visa and assist couples who run into problems along the way.
A case for why the U.S. asylum process must be overhauled
A recent Buzzfeed article entitled, “The U.S. Asylum System is Completely Overwhelmed,” highlights the many problems facing what critics charge is an outdated and woefully inadequate part of the U.S. immigration system. In recent years, individuals fleeing the gang and drug violence that has ravaged many Central American countries and Mexico have flooded across U.S. borders. In an effort to stay in the U.S. and avoid deportation back to what for many may be certain death, the number of U.S. asylum cases has grown exponentially.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported that some 95,000 asylum cases were pending. Despite the significant increase in the number of persecuted and desperate individuals seeking to stay in the U.S., the number of asylum cases being processed and decided has not kept pace. Consequently, many asylum seekers are caught in limbo and those who are already in the U.S. are not allowed to legally work or collect any type of federal benefits.
With violent wars and conflicts being waged throughout the Middle East and North Africa, millions of displaced people are fleeing to Europe. As European countries struggle to take in people fleeing from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya; the U.S. has come under criticism for doing too little with regard to helping with the resettlement process.
USCIS records show that currently, the U.S. has granted asylum to a total of 1,078 Syrians. This number pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands that European countries like Germany have pledged to take in and adds legitimacy to the notion that the U.S. asylum process isn’t only overwhelmed, but—bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape—also broken.
Individuals who wish to seek asylum in the U.S. are often quickly overwhelmed and discouraged by the complicated and lengthy process. An attorney who handles immigration matters can assist in filing an Application for Asylum and for Withholding Removal and provide strong legal advocacy.
The economics of U.S. immigration policies
There’s no doubt that the United States’ immigration policies are complicated and controversial. Increasingly, the issue has also become highly political with the majority of Republicans favoring anti-immigration policies and Democrats, less restrictive immigration policies.
While it’s easy to become distracted by all of the political posturing and rhetoric, when discussing U.S. immigration, it’s important to examine the issue from an economic standpoint. There were an estimated “11.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.” Increasingly, these immigrants are women and children who are fleeing the drug-related violence that is ravaging much of Central America.
While some politicians favor the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, the repercussions and costs associated with these types of actions are significant. Both conservative and liberal political think tanks estimate that the costs of deporting the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants would total between $104 and $304 billion. Additionally, the U.S. would also lose out on the estimated $11.84 billion in annual tax contributions made by undocumented immigrants.
Currently, annually the U.S. spends approximately $5 billion each year to arrest, detain and deport an average of 403,563 undocumented immigrants. In contrast, the Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that a comprehensive reform of existing immigration policies would “reduce federal deficits by $1.2 trillion,” and “spur economic growth by 4.8 percent,” by the year 2035.
When examined, anti-immigration policies including mass deportation ultimately only serve to harm the U.S. economy. Despite this compelling evidence, the issue of U.S. immigration is likely to continue to be a divisive issue in the presidential elections and for many more years to come.
Why the rights of U.S.-born children are being ignored
Under the United States Constitution, regardless of a parent’s immigration status, children who are born in the U.S. are considered citizens and therefore entitled to all of the same rights and privileges afforded to other U.S. citizens. This declamation was born out of a need to protect the rights of individuals whose parents immigrated to the U.S. and chose to settle and start families here. Today, however, this Constitutional right is being challenged in a state that is no stranger to controversy when it comes to immigration issues.
State officials in Texas have begun denying “U.S. birth certificates to the children” whose parents are suspected of illegally entering the U.S. While Texas officials previously accepted the Mexican-government issued document known as a matricula consular card as proof of the identification of a child’s parents, recently state officials stopped accepting this document.
Without a birth certificate, the parents of these U.S.-born children are encountering difficulties when trying to access healthcare for a child or enroll a child in school. In response, the immigrant parents of 32 U.S.-born children filed a lawsuit against the state. However, despite the fact that Texas officials are blatantly disregarding the Constitutional rights of the plaintiffs, an appellate judge recently denied an emergency order to force officials to accept the Mexican-government-issued I.D. documents.
As the United States as a country and individual states like Texas attempt to deal with immigration challenges, the Constitutional rights of children who are born in the United States must be upheld.
State Department error affects thousands of highly-skilled H-1B immigrants
As the United States’ immigration policy continues to be a hot-button political and social issue, the focus is often on those who come to the U.S., both legally and illegally, from poor and often violence-ravaged countries. There are, however, many other highly-educated and skilled immigrants who come to the U.S. to fill positions in specialized fields like technology, science and medicine.
These individuals are sponsored by a U.S. employer and are able to work and live in the U.S. via an H-1B visa. A significant percentage of H-1B visa holders have dreams of becoming green card holders, which would allow them to break ties with an employer and change jobs. However, because U.S. immigration policy states that “no country can have more than 7 percent,” of employment-based green cards, it can take years for H-1B visa holders from certain countries to obtain the coveted documents.
Early last month, “tens of thousands of highly skilled legal immigrants,” were informed by the U.S. State Department that their long wait for a green card was finally over. However, the vast majority of these same immigrants received notice that the decision to grant them green cards had been reversed. Caused by a reported miscalculation by the State Department regarding green card quotas, the news left thousands of H-1B visa holders confused, devastated and angry.
Annually, immigration officials are only allowed to issue 140,000 employment green cards. Somehow, an error was made and tens of thousands of H-1B visa holders were notified that they were among those who would finally receive a green card. Several immigrants who were affected by the egregious error have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. government, charging that the administration’s actions were “arbitrary and capricious” and that they have suffered monetarily as a result.
Individuals who are in the U.S. on H-1B visas may have many questions and concerns about the U.S. immigration process. From assisting with the green card process to defending against possible deportation, an attorney who handles immigration matters can provide advice, assistance and strong legal advocacy.
Path to U.S. citizenship is often complicated and full of roadblocks
According to the Migration Policy Institute, roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population are “first or second-generation” immigrants. As countries to the south and across the Atlantic continue to be plagued by economic hardships, violence and political and religious conflicts; it’s likely that the number of people attempting to immigrate, both legally and illegally, to the U.S. will continue to increase.
While the issue and associated problems of illegal immigration are widely publicized, less so are the issues facing the millions of immigrants who attempt to navigate the U.S. immigration process legally to become naturalized U.S. citizens.
According to CNN, annually, an average of 7,000 people become naturalized U.S. citizens. For most, the process to legal U.S. citizenship is a long, complicated and frustrating one. Depending on an individual’s situation, there are a few different paths to U.S. citizenship. For example, in cases where one of a child’s parents is a U.S. citizen, the child is also considered a U.S. citizen regardless of where he or she was born. Additionally, even if a child’s parents are unauthorized immigrants, if born in the U.S., he or she is considered a U.S. citizen.
For an adult who wishes to become a U.S. citizen, the process typically requires the status of being a permanent resident. In order to be considered a permanent resident, an individual must have a valid green card and live in the U.S. for at least five years. Additionally, an individual must be at least age 18, have been physically in the U.S. “for at least 30 months out of the five years,” be of “good moral character” and be able to read, write and speak English.
However, even individuals who fulfill these requirements aren’t guaranteed U.S. citizenship. There may be many roadblocks along the way including green card problems, denied applications, and threats of deportation. For these reasons, an individual who has the goal of becoming a U.S. citizen is encouraged to seek the advice and help of an attorney who handles immigration matters.
Helping individuals and families overcome immigration challenges
According to the Migration Policy Institute, an estimated 41.3 million immigrants were living in the United States. Historically, the U.S. has been the preferred destination for millions of foreign-born individuals and families who are seeking a better life. In fact, while the U.S. “represents less than five percent of the global population,” an estimated 20 percent of the world’s immigrants come to the U.S.
Perhaps more than ever, the U.S. is deeply divided over whether or how to accommodate the influx of foreign-born individuals. While, in recent years, the Administration has made attempts and some headway with regard to immigration policy reform, for many, the immigration process remains a long, convoluted and often futile process.
Whether an individual is in the U.S. illegally and facing deportation or is engaged to a U.S. citizen and is making plans to come to the U.S. on a fiancé visa, an attorney who handles immigration matters can assist. There are numerous forms, deadlines and requirements that must be properly filled out and met. In some cases, a simple error or misunderstanding can delay or derail an individual’s plans to immigrate to the U.S.
Individuals can contact our Law Office to obtain high-quality legal representation. We have helped individuals and families who are facing numerous types of immigration issues and problems. We are well-versed in all areas of immigration law and take a personal stance in every case and are committed to helping individuals successfully overcome immigration challenges.
As drug sentencing guidelines change, concerns mount over the rights of foreign inmates
According to The Sentencing Project, an estimated 2.2 million people called a U.S. prison or jail home. This number is higher than incarceration rates in any other country and equates to a 500 percent increase within the last three decades. In an effort to reduce the U.S. incarceration rate, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to “redraw federal sentencing guidelines for some drug offenses.” In accordance with the new sentencing guidelines, thousands of nonviolent drug offenders who are serving out prison sentences are slated for early release.
Under the new sentencing guidelines, the release of the first wave of inmates has begun. Over the course of the next few weeks, a total of 6,112 individuals, many of whom were serving lengthy prison sentences for drug offenses, will be released from prisons across the U.S. Of those individuals scheduled to be released, an estimated 1,780 are not U.S. citizens.
Upon their release, these foreign nationals will immediately be handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement agents. While the administration insists that a transfer to ICE custody is “a routine occurrence,” there is growing concern among immigration rights advocates about the fates of these individuals and whether their legal rights to due process will be respected and upheld.
Of those foreign inmates scheduled for early release, deportation orders have already been issued and finalized for 763. The remaining foreign nationals will be handed over to the ICE officials and transferred to detention centers where members of the American Civil Liberties Union worry they will not be afforded the “opportunity to consult with an immigration attorney and contest their removal in court.”
Why are asylum seekers being detained at immigration centers?
In the United States, citizens are fortunate to enjoy many freedoms and opportunities. These include freedom from persecution with regard to religion and freedom of choice with regard to personal views and political ideologies. Sadly, millions of people around the world don’t enjoy these same freedoms and spend their lives fearing persecution, violence and death.
Under U.S. immigration laws, foreign-born individuals who have suffered or fear persecution due to their religion, political views, race or nationality can seek to stay in the U.S. via the asylum process. While the asylum process is meant to help those who fear for their safety and very lives, recent strikes at several U.S. immigration detention centers indicate that, once in the U.S., many asylum seekers continue to face persecution.
Roughly 34,000 immigrants are currently being detained at U.S. immigration centers while they await asylum decisions. For these individuals, most of whom have already suffered great trauma back in their home countries, the conditions at the facilities as well as the fact that they are locked up and treated like criminals is almost too much to bear.
Recently, asylum seekers at several detention centers around the U.S., have staged protests and strikes to call attention to their plight and treatment. At an all-women’s detention center in Texas, as many as 500 women from countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras are reported to be on hunger strike. The women are seeking release from the facility as well as protesting their overall treatment.
At another Texas detention center, more than 50 asylum seekers went on a hunger strike that lasted roughly two weeks. The immigrants at this facility had already lost their asylum cases, but were never given copies of the official court order “which is needed to file an appeal.” While the detainees eventually received copies of their orders, most missed their deadlines to appeal.
Depending on one’s circumstances, the asylum process can be challenging. It’s wise, therefore to hire an immigration attorney who can ensure that all necessary documents are submitted on time and that administrative procedures are followed. Additionally, an attorney will advocate on one’s behalf and fight to win a positive asylum ruling.
Know your rights: tips to avoid possible removal and deportation actions
There have been recent raids conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the government’s continued attempts to deport individuals from violence-ravaged Central American countries who are seeking asylum in the U.S. While some people may previously believe that only hardened criminals or those who enter the U.S. illegally have to worry about being deported, ICE’s recent actions prove otherwise as the targets were primarily women and children.
In truth, any individual who was not born in the U.S. or who has not gone through the process to legally become a U.S. citizen can face removal and deportation. It’s important, therefore, to understand what types of actions may violate U.S. immigration laws and the terms of your current immigration status and put you at risk of being deported.
For example, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, but not a U.S. citizen yourself; you may face immigration issues if you subsequently divorce your U.S. spouse. Additionally, individuals who are in the U.S. on an employee-sponsored work visa may face problems if they quit or change jobs, allow a visa to lapse or fail to update or renew other required documentation. Other activities that may constitute a violation of your immigration status include seemingly minor traffic violations and misdemeanor crimes.
To avoid immigration problems and possible removal proceedings and deportation actions; individuals who have questions or concerns about their immigration status and U.S. immigration laws should consult an attorney. An attorney can answer questions, provide advice and assist in ensuring an individual is compliant with immigration laws. Additionally, in cases where an individual is facing possible deportation, an attorney can fight on one’s behalf in court.
U.S. Supreme Court might take on immigration executive action
The legality of an executive action taken may soon be under scrutiny by the U.S. Supreme Court, which was set to meet today to determine whether to hear the case. The executive action called for the protection of over 4 million immigrants from deportation. The appeal involves an executive order passed after Congress was unable to approve bipartisan legislation dealing with the matter.
The executive action was specially aimed at immigrants without criminal records whose children are American citizens. The order would allow such individuals to work in the United States and receive certain federal benefits, though states would not be required to provide any benefits.
Republican lawmakers disapproved of the president’s efforts to bypass Congress in passing the measure, and the order ended up being blocked by lower courts based on the argument that the president went beyond the scope of his constitutional powers. The decisions have been criticized on the grounds that it effectively allows states to prevent the federal government from enforcing immigration laws. The question, though, is whether the executive action was mere enforcement of immigration laws or a rewriting of the same.
Should the executive order eventually win approval, it will afford relief to many families. Under current immigration law, family-based immigration allows U.S. citizens or legal residents to obtain legal resident status for family members. Immediate family members are not the only persons who can benefit from family-based immigration. Those who are interested in looking more into how their family might benefit from this aspect of immigration law should contact an experienced attorney to have their case evaluated.
Women and children among those detained in recent ICE raids
Regarding rumored impending raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to find undocumented Central American immigrates – this past weekend, ICE raids commenced in three states and ended with 121 people being taken into custody where they are awaiting deportation back to their violence-ravaged home countries.
The most troubling aspect of these raids is that the majority of those individuals who were rounded up and detained are women and children whose desperate claims for asylum in the U.S. were denied. This most recent round of ICE raids has struck fear among immigrants across the U.S. and specifically among Central American immigrants who entered the country illegally or whose claims for protection and asylum were denied or are pending.
As these terrified families await deportation, troubling questions and concerns have been raised about their legal rights to due process and the fact that they are not being allowed access to an attorney. Instead, family members and those directly impacted relay reports of harsh treatment at the hands of ICE officials, threats and being coerced into signing documents that clear the way for deportation.
In response, immigrant legal advocates across the country are advising immigrants to become educated about U.S. immigration laws and their corresponding rights. For example, an individual should not open his or her door until and unless an ICE agent is able to produce an order that is signed by a judge. Additionally, he or she should remain silent and request the opportunity to contact an attorney.
Individuals who have questions or concerns about ICE raids and the asylum, detention or deportation process are advised to contact an immigration attorney.
Central American immigrants prepare for rumored ICE raids
The administration has been vocal about plans to reform U.S. immigration policy. However, absent the support of Republican members of Congress, they have been unable to pass any sweeping immigration reform. However, invoked executive power can make certain changes to existing immigration laws.
These measures include focusing on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border and taking action to require undocumented immigrants to pay U.S. taxes. Additionally, that deportation efforts will focus on “felons, not families,” and specifically those individuals with criminal records or links to gangs or terrorism. However, If recent rumors of the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to “round up and deport families deemed illegally present in the U.S.” are true, it appears as those the administration’s promise to not target families has been broken.
Thousands of men, women and children fleeing the violence in Central America have poured over the U.S.- Mexican border. In many cases, these families and individuals have sought asylum in the U.S. and are allowed to stay with relatives until their cases are decided. Sadly, and often for unknown reasons, the asylum claims of many are denied and they face deportation.
Recently, there have been reports of impending widespread raids on these families by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. For these families, many of whom likely lack any legal advocate and have not taken action to appeal a denial for asylum, returning to their home countries is akin to a death sentence.
Individuals who are planning to apply for asylum in the U.S. or who have had an asylum claim denied are advised to contact an immigration attorney. The U.S. immigration system is notoriously complex and many individuals who attempt to gain protection under the asylum program are not aware of their rights.
H-1B visa controversy and requirements
Immigration is bound to be a major and divisive issue in the upcoming presidential election. While much of the media’s attention is paid to the issue of illegal immigration and how to handle the millions of undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the U.S., concerns have also been raised about those individuals who come to work in the U.S. on H-1B visas.
While opponents of this employment visa program argue that it only serves to take jobs away from Americans, proponents contend the program is necessary to ensure that U.S. companies remain competitive. Additionally, those who support the program also assert that U.S. companies are struggling to find enough qualified workers and that the visas are provided only to highly educated and skilled professionals in their respective fields.
In order to obtain an H-1B visa, an individual must be sponsored by a U.S. employer and be able to unequivocally demonstrate that an employer has the ability to “hire, pay, fire, supervise” and otherwise control one’s employment. H-1B visas are intended for individuals who possess at least a bachelor’s degree and are considered to be highly specialized in their respective fields.
Annually, only 65,000 H-1B visas are issued and the first 20,000 petitioners who possess a master’s degree or higher are exempt from this cap amount. Due to the cap on the number of H-1B visas that are issued, employers and employees who wish to participate would be wise to ensure that they submit all of the necessary paperwork and documentation in a timely manner.
An attorney who handles employment immigration matters can answer questions and assist in the H-1B visa application process. Additionally, for employees who are already in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, an attorney can assist in sorting out any issues related to a change in status or employment.
Recent deportation case raises concerns about DACA protections
In 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program went into effect. The program, which was championed by the administration, allows undocumented individuals who came to the U.S. before they turned age 16 to obtain permission to stay and work in the U.S. for a two-year renewable time frame. In addition to coming to the U.S. prior to turning age 16, DACA applicants must meet a series of other requirements related to their age and current removal or deportation status.
The recent deportation case of a 32-year-old mother of three, who was protected under the DACA program, has raised many red flags among other DACA program participants and U.S. immigration lawyers. According to the Huffington Post, the 32-year-old mother went through the process of obtaining what she believed was documentation that would allow her to travel to her native Mexico to visit family and then return to the U.S.
The re-entry permit, which is known as advance parole, allows undocumented individuals with DACA status to return to the U.S. for humanitarian and/or other sanctioned reasons. However, upon arriving at the U.S. airport, the mother was denied re-entry and deported back to Mexico. She was accompanied by two of her three children whom she was traveling with, both of whom are U.S. citizens.
According to the woman’s attorney, the mother was deported. However, “the deportation order had not disqualified her from receiving her DACA authorization.” Additionally, she was able to obtain an advance parole permit and therefore had every reason to believe that she would be allowed to return to the U.S.
While U.S. immigration officials refused to commit specifically on the woman’s case, a spokesperson stated that “applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the U.S.” The woman’s attorney stated that, while her client is being allowed to return to the U.S., she will likely face deportation and be forced to go through the process to “redetermine her DACA status.”
This woman’s story illustrates the numerous challenges that undocumented immigrants face under the contested DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs. Individuals who have questions or concerns about these programs and their specific status and rights would be wise to contact an immigration attorney.