California Voters Support Legalization for Undocumented Immigrants

September 17, 2014,

undocumented.jpgVoters in the state of California who participated in a survey conducted by the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California showed that they would adamantly support any measure that would provide the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants a means of becoming legal citizens. That works out to almost three out of every four voters surveyed who favors a major overhaul of the current federal immigration policy that would favor unauthorized immigrants living in the United States.

Unaccompanied Children Still a Serious Issue

Despite the overwhelming support of legalization provisions for undocumented residents, however, there was significant disagreement among those polled over what should be done with the thousands of children who have been crossing the border coming from Central American countries and without any adult accompaniment. Almost half of the respondents favored the immediate deportation of unaccompanied children while a nearly equal number of respondents said that they should be able to remain in the country until their immigration court appearance.

The nearly even split represents the belief that the current presidential administration needs to not only take action on the matter but do so in such a way that won't lead to more foreign nationals having incentive to make an attempt at crossing the border illegally. Representatives from the polling agencies stated that the results also show that California voters have a very high level of compassion for individuals and families who are living in the US illegally. Nevertheless, they still feel that the problem of illegal border crossing needs to be addressed. According to the poll reps, voters are indeed compassionate but they do not advocate an open border.

Border Patrol Facilities Not Wanted

According to the poll results, both voters as well as the California state electorate have developed a significant tolerance for illegal immigrants over the years, particularly since legislators passed Proposition 187 which prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving services that are funded by taxpayers. But despite the fact that Proposition 187 was all but invalidated by the state courts after it was passed, more than 70 percent of the respondents in the poll believe that illegal immigration is a substantial problem for the state of California and for the United States. Additionally, there was very little disagreement on that particular point between those of different races, nationalities, income levels, or political affiliations.

The problem of unaccompanied children crossing the border has reached near-epidemic proportions despite decreasing numbers over the past few months. It has been the focal point of the current national debate on immigration and has been covered ad nauseum by the media. It has become so problematic, in fact, that residents in Murrieta, Texas this summer protested the lax policy by blocking federal busses that were transporting both adults and children who had crossed over illegally from Central American countries. The busses were carrying the immigrants a Border patrol facility. On this issue there was some discrepancy among races. Almost half of white respondent and 57 percent of black respondents would not want a Border Patrol facility in their community while only 41 percent of Latino respondents would not want one.

If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding an immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.

Immigration Reform is Stagnant as November Elections Approach

September 15, 2014,

Immigrationliberty.pngFor political officials as well as observers, immigration reform is likely to become a defining issue for the Republican Party in the near and distant future. This is particularly true in states like Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas as well as in non-border states like Colorado, all of which have a significant Hispanic population. But while that is certainly the conventional expectation, it has not proven to be the case during the current midterm cycle. Many state representatives claim that their constituents are far more likely to be concerned about other issues like the nation's economic woes or gun control than they are about immigration policy. According to those representatives this is even the case for constituents in largely Hispanic areas.

Politicians Getting Comfortable on the Fence

That's not to say that immigration reform is not still a key political issue because it obviously is. But it has become such that over the last several months it has generated such vehement debate that no one seems to want to address it in too much depth for fear of alienation or political fallout. Many politicians try to appease both sides and in so doing end up expressing little more than obscurity regarding their position and intent about immigration. In that regard, neither Republicans nor Democrats really have much of an edge on their opponents.

It has reached the point to where many political officials won't even broach the subject in a public forum unless they are specifically asked to by media reps or citizens. Democratic House Speaker Andrew Romanoff of Colorado has stated that he doesn't hear about policy reform unless voters express their displeasure about Congress's lack of progress on it. To him, he says that it is as though Congress has all but withdrawn itself entirely from the issue of immigration reform and doesn't seem to want anything to do with it. And even with the November elections just around the corner, many political officials are steering clear of expressing any kind of firm stance on immigration in their campaigns for election or re-election.

Even Hispanics Have Other Priorities

Nevertheless, there is still a degree of mudslinging going on as Republicans accuse Democrats of being lax on immigration-related issues like border security. Conversely, Democrats are quick to point out the lack of reform progress on the part of Republicans. From the standpoint of the public, polls indicate that more Americans now feel that immigration is "the most important problem" in the United States than felt that way just a few months ago. Barely 3 percent of American polled in May felt that immigration reform should be the Obama administration's top priority but in August that number had jumped to more than 15 percent.

Surprisingly, even Hispanics in the United States tend to feel that there are more pressing issues facing the nation than immigration reform. Polls show that issues like jobs and the economic condition of the country are more important than immigration. Nevertheless, it is enough of a hot-button topic that it has caused unprecedented division in both political and social circles across the country.

If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding an immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.

Number of Families and Unaccompanied Children Crossing US-Mexico Border Declining

September 9, 2014,

US-Mexico-Border.jpgFor the better part of 2014 the southern border of the United States was being inundated with unaccompanied minors crossing over into the country, many of them having made the unimaginably long and arduous trek from Central American countries through the Mexican desert. But over the last two months there has been a gradual decline in their numbers, according to officials at the US Department of Homeland Security. The announcement, which came this week, stated that the number of youth immigrants who have crossed the US-Mexico border without adult accompaniment is the lowest it has been since February of 2013.

Lowest Number in 18 Months

Immigrant children have been crossing the border into the United States in record numbers over the last 18 months with the highest numbers coming in late Spring and early summer of this year. In May and June 10,580 and 10,622 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the southern border, respectively, while the month of August only saw 3,141 unaccompanied children trying to cross over. The number of families apprehended has also gone down with more than 16,000 being apprehended at the border in June and fewer than 3,300 being apprehended through the month of August.

There has been a tremendous amount of political mudslinging around the immigration issue with members of the Obama administration calling out Republicans for "exploiting" the situation of the influx of children and families crossing the border in record numbers. The President himself has stated that he will not be revealing any plans for immigration policy reform until after the November elections and likely until after the New Year. This comes literally one day after he promised to make a move in one direction or another "very soon". The broken promises on the part of Obama have frustrated immigration advocates to the point that many have issued threats that they will not vote in the elections unless the President follows through on his promises.

Latino Community Feels Betrayed

Meanwhile other members of the administration have stated that Obama will indeed act by the end of the year but the precedent that has been set in that regard to this point leaves immigrants and their advocates skeptical. The Latino community has expressed its frustration in the media and has said that their enthusiasm for voting in November is waning as a direct result of the President's waffling. Meanwhile, a rally is planned for next week by the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition and is scheduled to be held just outside the office of Colorado Senator Michael Bennett. The rally is, according the organizers, an attempt to "express the anger and disappointment" that the Latino community is feeling as a result of the Senate Democrats and their role requesting that the President put off taking executive action in favor of bipartisan politics.

The consensus is that President Obama has continued to lie his way around the immigration issue and policy reform and illegal immigrants in general and the Latino community in particular feel collectively and individually betrayed. To hear many advocacy group leaders tell it, the President has been filling their hearts and minds with "false hopes and false promises" long enough.

If you or someone you know is interested in receiving legal counsel for any immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.

Obama's Broken Immigration Reform Promises Frustrating Immigrants

September 7, 2014,

statue.jpgPresident Barack Obama has made no attempt to hide the fact that he is keen on delaying moving forward on immigration reform for the foreseeable future; at least until after the November elections and in all likelihood until 2015. Advocacy groups on both sides of the immigration argument have expressed their frustration with the delay but perhaps none have been more flustered than the immigrants themselves; those who are directly affected by his indecision. The lack of movement on reform indeed has an impact on every illegal immigrant in the United States but it particularly affects those who were saved from being deported by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an initiative that was passed into law under Obama in 2012.

Hopes for the Expansion of DACA

DACA, as it is commonly referred, gives illegals who were brought into the United States as children by their parents the privilege of staying in the country for up to two years without the possibility of being deported. Additionally these DACA immigrants can obtain work permits which many of them have done and are now working or going to college or both. Many immigrants have hoped that Obama would revise DACA so that it would include a provision for the parents of those children to also be allowed to stay in the country, if only for a specified period of time.

The fact that Obama has promised reform only to renege on that promise to the dismay of immigrants from coast to coast has left many of them feeling like they are caught in a political volley. They feel like they have been played for fools and the frustration within the immigrant community is mounting exponentially.

The announcement made to delay reform spread across social media channels like wildfire with immigration lawyers and advocates condemning the President's decision and many even going as far as to accuse him of secretly desiring deportation for immigrants. The consensus seemed to be that Obama was making politics a bigger priority than the lives of those illegal immigrants who have been hoping against hope that reform would come quickly and in their favor as well as ahead of the lives of those who have already been and continue to be deported on a daily basis.

More Disappointment

The President promised in June that by the end of the summer he would act on immigration of his own accord rather than work with Congressional leaders, this after a bipartisan immigration bill was not taken up by House Republicans after being passed by the Senate in 2013. If it has been, the majority of the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants would have had an unprecedented opportunity to obtain citizenship and legal status in the United States. Obama recently said that he would be deciding what his next course of action would be o the immigration front "fairly soon." Shortly after, however, the White House announced that plans would not be revealed until closer to the end of the year.

If you or someone you know is interested in receiving legal counsel for any immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.

Deportation Settlement Gives Opportunity to Mexican Nationals

August 27, 2014,

flag-day-mexico.jpgNine migrants from Mexico who were sent back to their home country voluntarily from the United States have been informed that they will be given the opportunity to argue against their deportations in a US immigration court. The announcement comes as part of an agreement that was established this week involving the American Civil Liberties Union, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The migrants had their case argued for them by the ACLU who made allegations against officials from both immigration agencies that they were intimidated into consenting to what was referred to in the lawsuit as "unlawful coerced expulsion". They allege that officials neglected to inform migrants who were possibly going to be deported of the ramifications that were inherent to them agreeing to their "voluntary" deportation.

Stipulations of the Agreement

Migrant essentially forfeit their right to fight their deportation when they are deported voluntarily. They are typically sent back to their home country right away and have no recourse in any court, US or otherwise, after they have been removed. Under the agreement which was announced last week, ICE and CBP agents are mandated to provide migrants with detailed information regarding voluntary deportation and the process involved and are forbidden from pressuring them to accept a voluntary departure. The agreement also requires the implementation of a phone line that migrants can call in order to receive accurate information about voluntary deportation. Additionally, migrants will be allowed to make phone calls, they will be afforded up to two hours to make a decision regarding voluntary removal, they will be provided information on immigration-related legal provisions, and they will be allowed to speak with their legal representatives while in detention.

The Provision of Accurate Information for Migrants is Essential

All of these changes became effective immediately upon the agreement being reached last week. Technically speaking, voluntary deportation is used by immigration agencies as an alternative to the standard deportation process for undocumented individuals. A spokesperson for ICE stated that despite the provision, coercion and deception are unacceptable methods for obtaining agreement to the terms of voluntary removal. She also stated that the agreement was put in place in an effort to make certain that foreign nationals have a complete and thorough understanding of the potential ramifications should they decide to accept being removed voluntarily.

Mexican nationals who were deported between June of 2009 and August of 2014 have the opportunity under the agreement to return to the United States and make an appearance in immigration court to have their cases heard. However, while this class provision has received preliminary approval, it still requires court approval which may or may not be granted. Those who would be eligible for this provision include Mexican national who were deported but who has established residency in California and who have familial ties to the United States as well as youths who were brought into the country illegally by their parents.

If you or someone you know is interested in receiving legal counsel for any immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.

White House Delays on Immigration Won't Stop Supporter Efforts

August 25, 2014,

the-white-house-1413242-m.jpgPresident Obama has received an inordinate amount of pressure in recent weeks regarding what advocates feel is a much needed and long overdue immigration overhaul. Said advocates made promises last week to continue to pressure the White House to take decisive and definitive action to revamp immigration policy after indications were made by officials that deportation policy changes may be postponed until after the elections in November. Such sentiments have not gone over well with immigration supporters and many have made it clear that they want the President to "stop the deportation of our families" and that they plan to hold him to account until such changes are made.

Walking a Fine Line Between Congress and Immigration Advocates

For the President's part, he has s expressed his growing frustration with Congress's lack of forward progress on immigration and has stated that he is ready and willing to use his executive power to implement policy changes if he doesn't see movement soon. The White House, however, as well intentioned as it may actually be is struggling with a significant amount of legal and political problems inherent to making the kinds of significant changes that are needed in order to appease supporters and trying to do so without approval from Congress. As a result, Obama declared that he may actually push back the end-of-the-summer deadline that he imposed on reform so that he would have more time to do what he feels needs to be done.

The executive director of one immigration advocacy group in particular intimated that the expectations among supporters are unprecedentedly high. He also added that if there is indeed additional delay as the President has alluded to, the emotional upheaval and disappointment is almost certainly going to be "profound". Other advocate group representatives issued what essentially amounted to warnings that any delays will be a detriment to those individuals who are undocumented as well as to their families because they will not be able to remain together. On average, there are about one thousand deportations out of the United States every day.

A Plan That Would Appease Democrats in Republican States?

There is a proposal being discussed that would push decisions regarding several of the more controversial changes until after November. This plan would see Obama making an initial announcement regarding steps that the administration would take to more stringently enforce current immigration laws followed by delaying a decision about a more expansive and detailed reform package until closer to the end of the year, one which has the potential to prevent deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. Such a plan would appease Democrats in Republican states who have stated that they are opposed to Obama's unilateral immigration plans and who believe the President should wait for Congressional legislation.

For now, Congress will be returning from recess after the Labor Day holiday and will be passing legislation for government funding, a task that is required to be completed by the end of September when the current law expires. What happens beyond that remains to be seen.

If you or someone you know is interested in receiving legal counsel for any immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.

Travel Management Company Settles With DOJ Over Citizenship Status Claims

August 22, 2014,

planes.jpgA private airline charter company in Indiana agreed to settlement terms with the United States Department of Justice regarding claims that the company violated the Immigration and Nationality Act. Travel Management Company was accused of discriminating against individuals based on their citizenship status by maintaining a US citizenship requirement in certain of its job postings. The DOJ conducted a thorough investigation into the matter and found that TMC maintained the requirement for prospective pilots despite never being authorized by any law, government contract, or other official ordinance to make such a stipulation. The IMA dictates that employers are not allowed to make hiring decisions based in whole or in part on a prospective employee's citizenship status unless it is required by law.

The Settlement Terms

The department's findings also stated that TMC had willingly taken applicants out of the running for pilot positions who did not have official US citizenship. The settlement calls for TCM to pay a civil penalty of $22,000 to the United States as well as to make changes to its hiring policies that are more in line with the Immigration and Nationality Act. The company must also take steps to ensure that its human resources department complies with the INA and will be required to report its compliance measures for the next two years.
A spokesperson for the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General's Office reaffirmed the INA by stating that employers are required to "give all eligible candidates an equal opportunity to compete for employment and cannot create unlawful discriminatory barriers to work." The spokesperson also stated that the Department of Justice maintains a strong commitment to "ensuring that employers do not unlawfully discriminate against U.S. citizens and other work-authorized individuals based on their citizenship status." The non-discrimination element of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the enforcement thereof is the responsibility of the Civil Rights Division of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices.

Enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act

The INA was enacted to prevent exactly the kind of systematic hiring and recruiting practices that Travel Management Company was found to be engaged in. The Act was passed into law in 1965 and its supporters made bold claims about its potential for changing the ethnic landscape in the United States. Its supporters at the time, however, were relatively few and far between as most Americans were not convinced of the merits and potential benefits of such legislation and many made the claim that enacting such a low would do little if anything to positively affect American culture and race relations. In the case of the DOJ and Travel Management Company, many political officials believe that the settlement is an example of the effectiveness of the law and the enforcement thereof.

The Department of Justice as well as the nation's immigration attorneys take the Immigration and Nationality Act and its enforcement very seriously. If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding an issue directly or indirectly related to the INA or any other immigration law, please contact the immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.

Obama's Proposed Immigration Actions May Be Unpopular but They Are Not Illegal

August 20, 2014,

deport1.jpgThe vast majority of right-wing conservatives are unhappy with the way President Obama is handling the issue of immigration reform in the United States. One element of the issue that has them particularly displeased is his unapologetic claim that he may use his executive authority to keep undocumented immigrants from being deported. The stalemate status of immigration reform for 2014 seems to be a foregone conclusion at this point and it remains to be seen what plans, if any, the current administration has for addressing it in 2015. But despite the outcry from both sides of the aisle regarding immigration, from a legal standpoint President has not crossed any lines in his moves toward legalizing undocumented immigrants.

Would Obama's Moves Make Deportation a Thing of the Past?

There has been little indication of what specific actions President Obama may take toward protecting illegals from being sent back to their home countries but there has been speculation that he will order any action against undocumented immigrants who have children that are US citizens or have been consistently employed in the country to be deferred. In essence this would mean that the nearly 5 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States would not be pursued for deportation but would instead be notified that they will not be pursued for a specified period of time and will be allowed to work in the country during the interim.

Public reaction to the President's proposed actions has been icy at best, with some reports accusing him of engaging in what they call "domestic Caesarism" and committing an "extraordinary abuse of office" that is essentially the equivalent of taking it upon himself to rewrite immigration laws. On the other hand, there are those who offer a reminder that existing laws don't preclude him from doing the things that is threatening to do. There is a bevy of statutory authority that gives the President sweeping power to take certain actions such as those which would allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the country for as yet unspecified periods of time.

Legalizing and Failing to Prosecute are Not One and the Same

The issuance of work permits, to hear conservatives tell it, would essentially result in the legalization of the undocumented immigrants who receive those permits. Other disagree with this assertion by saying that barring the enactment of laws that would allow such immigrants permanent residence in the United States, subsequent presidents could just as easily nullify those work permits and deport the individuals to whom they were issued.

But when all is said and done, it is more cost effective to allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country than to deport them. The process of deportation is a long, arduous, convoluted, and expensive one. Many feel that if illegals are going to remain in the United States that they should be given the resources they need to establish gainful employment and make a social and monetary contribution to the country rather than rely on government handouts.

If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding an immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.

Immigrants Released Due to Deportation Costs

August 13, 2014,

detention.jpgA report issued this week by the inspector general for the US Department of Homeland Security said that officials at the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) released more than 2,000 immigrants who were on the verge of being deported apparently because it would have been too expensive to follow through on deporting them. The Secretary of the DHS was kept unaware of the immigrants' release and the Obama administration subsequently denied rumors that the plan to do so was in place and being carried out. The report also stated that there was insufficient planning on the part of ICE for greater numbers of arrests of immigrants and that the budget thereof was grossly mishandled.

According to reports published by The Associated Press in early 2013, approximately 2,200 illegal immigrants had been released into American cities over a roughly two week period and that the Obama administration was at that time in the midst of carrying out plans to release several thousand more because of budgetary concerns. The initial reaction from White House and DHS officials was denial about the claims made in the report. But in Mid-March, the now former director of ICE told Congress that more than 2,000 illegal immigrants had indeed been released from holding facilities because the department lacked the necessary funds to keep them there.

The director also told Congress that the release of the prisoners and the decision to do so had not been shared with anyone in the Obama administration nor with anyone at the DHS. One DHS official, however, stated that the AP report was inaccurate and that the numbers of immigrants released was closer to being in the hundreds rather than in the thousands.

Regardless of the oversight, of perhaps more likely because of it, GOP lawmakers heavily criticized the release of the illegal immigrants, adding to their already critical stance that the current administration has been lax in its handling of border security issues and has not done enough to enforce current immigration laws or work toward any kind of reform. Additionally, earlier in 2014, a report was published by the US government stating the DHS had released more than 36,000 immigrants with criminal records who had been facing deportation, some of whom had murder and sexual assault convictions. These particular immigrants are still facing deportation and are required to report to immigration authorities on a regular basis.

Several political officials have expressed deep disdain for the way the White House and the Department of Homeland Security have handled the entire immigration issue in general and this issue in particular. One official stated that the DHS has a duty to protect the public from immigrants with criminal convictions but had "failed to live up to" that duty in this particular instance. The official also stated that because of the negligence demonstrated by the current administration, it can no longer be trusted to the extent that it once could and that the failure to properly address the release of these immigrants played a significant role in the administration's capacity to move forward with any reform measures.

If you or someone you know is interested in receiving legal counsel for any immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.

Lebanese Man Lived in US for Over 20 Years on Someone Else's Passport

August 11, 2014,

bazzi-.jpgA 71-year-old Lebanese man who was arrested in July for coming into the United States more than 20 years ago using someone else's passport indirectly and unintentionally admitted his involvement in the torture and ultimate murder of two Irish soldiers. The man, Mahmoud Bazzi, who has been living in Dearborn, Michigan and working as an ice cream salesman, had initially denied any wrongdoing but eventually agreed to be deported. The illegal immigrant became a suspect in the deaths of the soldiers which occurred in 1980 as well as in the shooting of another soldier which occurred in his home country of Lebanon. The man has stated that he is innocent of any wrongdoing and says that he was made to confess to the crimes by military officials in Lebanon.

During his trial, Bazzi declared his love for the United States and told the immigration judge that he would be going home to Lebanon with an American Flag among his belongings. His attorney has stated that the deportation agreement that his client has with the US government dictates that he is not allowed to make any stop overs anywhere in Europe during his flight back to Lebanon. He is expected to leave the United States sometime in the next month or so.

Officials with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) office in Detroit stated that they are privy to the allegations levied against Bazzi regarding the shootings but they say no formal charges have been filed against him. It has not been made clear either by officials in the United States nor by those in Lebanon whether he will face charges in his home country. Bazzi's daughters, however, stated that they are confident that he will not be charged or tried for any war crimes. One of his daughters, 26-year-old Malak Bazzi, stated that Mahmoud had been living in Lebanon for at least a decade after the Irish soldiers had been tortured and killed and had not faced any prosecution. As a result, she believes that he is in fact innocent of the crimes despite the fact that US officials have stated that he indirectly admitted his involvement in them.

The incident in question took place during a civil war that was going on in Lebanon during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Ireland had been part of a peacekeeping mission led by the United Nations in that country aimed at bringing the conflict to a peaceful end. The three Irish soldiers had been part of the peacekeeping efforts and Bazzi is accused of having been part of their capture, torture, and killing of the two and the wounding of the third. The third soldier, John O'Mahoney, stated in July of this year that Bazzi was part of a group of armed Lebanese men who ambushed their convoy during the conflict in 1980 and said that it was Bazzi who shot him.

If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding an immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.

Risks of Deportation a Serious Issue for Underage Immigrants

July 30, 2014,

underage.JPGThere have been literally thousands of stories coming out of US border states about immigrant children, adolescents, and teenagers who have crossed over the US-Mexico border into the United States and are hoping for permission to stay in the country. One such story involves a Central American youth who has been living in Dallas-Fort Worth with his grandmother for almost a year and who was given a summons to appear in immigration court in late July. The young man does not speak English and neither he nor his grandmother has enough money to be able to afford an immigration attorney. He told reporters through an interpreter that he simply did not know what he was going to do.

This young man's story is one that is becoming all too common in the United States, particularly over the last several months. The country has been inundated with young people under the age of 18 coming from Central American countries like Honduras and Guatemala, traveling through the Mexican desert and crossing the border into the US, many of them without adult accompaniment. In order to remain in the country legally, these children have no choice but to give account to federal authorities and each faces the risk of being deported. If they do not appear for their court date, judges have the legal right to send them back to their home country.

There have been nearly 3,000 deportation orders for underage immigrants through the first seven months of 2014. That is double the number that there were just five years ago and roughly 30 percent of those deportations were the result of the immigrants failing to appear for their scheduled court dates. Immigration advocates say there are several reasons why most of these children fail to show up for their court appearance including relocation (presumably within the US), confusion about their situation, an inability to find or pay for an immigration attorney, or they are just plain scared.

Many of the children are afraid of being deported, less because of not being able to live a better life in the United States and more because they say that they will be killed upon returning to their country if they do go back. But who exactly do they fear being killed by? For many of them, it is the street gangs that have become an epidemic in Central America and Mexico - gangs like MS-13. These youngsters say they are forced to join gangs in their neighborhoods or risk being hurt or killed.

That is the dilemma these immigrant children face. Federal immigration courts have been all but overwhelmed over the last 12 months as nearly 60,000 youth traveled the long journey and crossed the border into the country without any adult accompaniment. That is to say nothing of the ones who came with their parents or other adults. Central American youth are legally entitled to a court appearance before they can be deported. They are not, however, entitled to legal representation, which many advocates argue is the one thing they desperately need.

If you or someone you know would like legal counsel regarding this or any other immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas by visiting their website or calling their offices at 512-215-5225.

Immigration Advocates and Opponents Both React Strongly to Tough Republican Bills

July 28, 2014,

senate.jpgThe Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a number of immigration bills last week that are not likely to get passed into law but nevertheless have become the subject of strong criticism from both sides of the aisle as well as from immigration advocates and opponents. One of the bills which was adopted with only a single vote from the Democratic Party, called for the allocation of $694 million for the modification of a law against human trafficking that was passed in 2008. The modification would lift certain immigration restrictions and make it easier for unaccompanied underage children who cross the US.-Mexico border to be deported. The bill also has a provision of $35 million in reimbursement funds for governors in border states who have been deploying the National Guard to further fortify the border.

Another bill would disallow the current presidential administration to continue the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. DACA is an executive action put forth in 2012 that automatically defers the deportation of immigrant children who arrived in the US prior to 2007. It also keeps the administration from further funding DACA, offering any new programs similar to DACA, or giving authorization of work permits for illegal immigrants.

Immigration advocate groups denounced the bills and claimed that they were simply put forth as a means of appeasement toward the Republican Party's affiliation with the tea party. Those advocates say that the bills are little more than a collection of orders to send immigrant children fleeing from violence, rape, and murder in their home countries back into those environments from which they traveled a long hard road to get away. Supporters, on the other hand, claim that the legislation, if passed, would mean that young people would have no reason to come to the United States because they would learn that DACA was no longer applicable and deportation would be inevitable which they claim would quell the flow of illegal immigrant children coming into the US without adult accompaniment.

The lawmakers responsible for writing the bills - Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, (R-California) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Jefferson) - have argued that the current "catch and release" policy that is employed has been a disaster. The policy essentially dictates that illegal immigrants who are caught crossing the border are taken into custody and then released to either family members living somewhere in the US or to shelters. The lawmakers say that doing so has given added incentive for others to try their luck at coming to the US and being allowed to stay and that many of those who are caught, particularly young people, are indeed released to places throughout the country and are never heard from again.

As for the Obama administration, the President has stated that he wants to begin working with the leaders of these Central American countries where the majority of immigrants are coming from to address the problems and issues in those countries that are causing these people to want to flee.

If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding this or any other immigration issue, please contact the Austin immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas by visiting their website or calling their offices at 512-215-5225.

What You May Not Know About Immigration Checkpoints in the US

July 23, 2014,

bordercheckpoint.jpgThe US Border Patrol is considered one of the most important elements of America's national security infrastructure. But the Border Patrol doesn't operate the same in all of its many locations around the country. Agents who are stationed at airports and other locations along the southern border of the United States have a bit of a different modus operandi than those at other locations. This was evidenced during a recent incident involving Pulitzer Prize winner and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas when the former journalist was detained at an airport in south Texas following questioning by Border Patrol agents regarding his citizenship status.

Unlike Border Patrol agents in other locations, those stationed at airports within 100 miles of the border work closely with the Transportation Security Administration and typically do not wear uniforms. They help to monitor passengers flying within the United States and more often than not do not have offices within the airports in which they work. They assist TSA agents in checking the various forms of identification that are required by passengers including green card, travel visas, and passports to determine the authenticity of these documents and subsequently of the identities of the individuals carrying them.

When Mr. Vargas arrived at McAllen/Miller International Airport in McAllen, Texas, just a few miles from the southern border, agents noticed that he did not have any kind of US government-issued identification. He only had his passport from the Philippines - his native country - and admitted to agents that he was in the United States illegally. After being arrested, he was released but not before being served with a notice to appear before a judge in immigration court at a future date.

But airports are not the only locations that Border Patrol agents operate checkpoints. They are also responsible for running checkpoints all over the southwestern United States where illegal border crossings have become a serious issue over the last several years as well as at locations in several northern states like Washington. Most of the inland checkpoint locations are set up along highways and smaller roads, many of which have become the subject of resident protest because of what is perceived as overzealous agent protocol. Residents of Arivaca, Arizona, for example, have complained and have staged several protests about the Border Patrol's requirement that residents pass through the checkpoint there every time they leave town.

The problem with the situation in Arivaca, residents say, is that they leave town on a daily basis because the town itself does not have its own schools or supermarkets. Additionally, the vast majority of the residents have jobs outside the town so simply commuting to and from their places of employment means having to go through the routine at the checkpoints at least twice per day.

The situation with the US Border patrol has reached a fever pitch in terms of the agency's relations with citizens located near its checkpoints and many feel that situations like that of Jose Vargas are starting to reach epidemic proportions. If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding an immigration issue, please contact the Austin immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm by visiting their website or call their offices at 512-215-5225.

Unaccompanied Children Migrating to the US from Central America in Record Numbers

July 21, 2014,

minors.jpgOver the past few years there has been an unprecedented influx of Central American children crossing the US-Mexico border and coming into the United States unaccompanied by an adult. Immigration attorneys all over the country are being inundated with calls requesting counsel for children who have made it into the US but have done so either alone or with other underage individuals. The problem of children crossing the border illegally and without adult accompaniment has grown significantly as of late but political concern is not just for the children once they arrive in the country but has just as much to do with the long and extremely dangerous journey that they take from their Central American homeland through Mexico in order to get to the US-Mexico border.

At the root of that concern is the need to determine what exactly it is that is causing these children to leave their native countries and traverse the thousands of miles of unforgiving Mexican landscape that separate them from the United States. Migrants of all ages point to what are being called "push factors" as their motive for leaving home.

Two of the most prominent of these push factors are the extreme poverty and gang-related violence that are rampant in places like Honduras and Guatemala. Economists and immigration officials in the United States say that this recent influx of migrants shouldn't come as any surprise considering the environments from which they are coming. Honduras's second largest city, for example, San Pedro Sulas, has been tagged over the last several years as the "murder capital of the world" which is just one of many reasons natives there are willing to risk the trek across the Mexican desert for the chance at a better life in the US.

According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, there were 90 murders for every 100,000 people living in Honduras in 2012 which equates to the world's highest homicide rate. By comparison, there were only 5 murders for every 100,000 citizens in the US during the same year. Economists see income growth as being a major contributing factor in the rising number of migrants leaving their home countries. While it would seem that higher average incomes would keep people from leaving, the truth is that the higher income levels are seen by people in these countries as a means to finance a faster more comfortable trip across Mexico and into the US.

As rampant as poverty is in these Central American nations, people will often do whatever they feel is necessary in order to get to America. One woman in Honduras, for example, paid a human smuggler $7,000 to get her and her young daughter through Mexico and into the United States. That amount is nearly three time Honduras's average yearly income per-capita.

There is some hope that the influx of migrants may slow down in the months and years to come. Mexico and Honduras have experienced significant GDP growth in recent years which experts believe will cause people to want to stay in their native countries once the effects reach more of the population. Nevertheless, the problem of children migrating without adult accompaniment is on the rise and it is a problem for which there seem to be few solutions.

If you or someone you know needs legal counsel regarding this or another immigration issue, please contact the Austin immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm by visiting their website or calling their offices at 512-215-5225.

Ban on Migrant Driver's Licenses Overruled by Court

July 16, 2014,

driver-901196-m.jpgThe governor of Arizona's order to deny driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants who have obtained work permits via President Obama's deferred-action program was blocked this week by the 9th District Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision was a tremendous boon for immigration advocates who have argued that Arizona's unequal treatment has harmed young immigrants. Many in the state of Arizona believe that the decision is politically charged and even the governor, Jan Brewer, made it clear without directly stating a political bias, that the panel of judges who had rendered the decision had been appointed by Democratic presidents including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter.

Brewer believes that the decision could possibly set a dangerous precedent for the president and the courts making the nation's laws rather than Congress. She stated that it is particularly unsettling considering the southern US border has been inundated recently with record numbers of migrants crossing into the country illegally. Representatives for the Arizona Department of Transportation say that the ruling is being reviewed and Governor Brewer is also considering any and all appeal options. Representatives for the American Civil Liberties Union, one of several civil rights groups that brought the lawsuit against the state of Arizona, say that the policy of denying driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants was politically motivated largely because of the Governor's salty relationship with the current President.

In June of 2012 the Obama Administration launched the DREAM program - the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors program - which was implemented in an effort to address the issue of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who had been brought into the United States as minors. Under the DREAM program, individuals who are approved receive permission to stay in the US for two years and receive employment authorization documents which essentially amount to work permits. The very day the program went into effect in mid-August of 2012, Governor Brewer issued the order for state agencies not to issue driver's licenses to immigrants who receive approval under DREAM.

Advocates argued in district court in May of 2013 that the governor's policy was unconstitutional because it violated federal law. That argument was rejected, however, and federal Judge David Campbell said that there was a good possibility that advocates would be able to successfully argue that Arizona allowed some immigrants to obtain driver's licenses and denied others, particularly those who were protected under Obama's DREAM program. Advocates made the argument that the governor's policy expansion made it extremely difficult for immigrants to support themselves and become upstanding, contributing members of the community.

Conversely, attorneys for the governor stated that the policy preventing immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses was the result of concerns about giving licenses to individuals who are not authorized to be in the US and the risks involved in such individuals using driver's licenses to access public benefits to which they are not entitled.

If you or someone you know would like information on this or any other immigration issue, please visit the Lyttle Law Firm's Austin immigration attorneys by going to our website or call our Austin offices at 512-215-5225.