With the Threat of Deportation Hanging Over Their Heads, Families Have Difficulty Staying Together

November 20, 2014,

cuffs.jpgThe reality of deportation is something that American citizens who were born and raised in the United States think little about. But that reality is all too pronounced for people like Sara Martinez who has been living in Brooklyn since 2005 when she and her husband and one of her two daughters came to the country from Ecuador on tourist visas. Her youngest daughter was born in the country after the family arrived and she and her husband sent their oldest daughter away to lives with friends outside of New York because they were concerned that immigration officials would find her and send her back to Ecuador.

The Stress of Living in Hiding Takes its Toll

Back in 2011, Ms. Martinez and her husband were facing the possibility of themselves being deported when they were taken into custody by Border Patrol agents while traveling through New York State. They were handcuffed and taken away by agents in front of both of their daughters before being detained by the agency for one day and then released. The trauma of the situation took its toll on the family in general and on Ms. Martinez's marriage to her husband. It wasn't long before the emotional strain of living in constant fear of immigration officials led to end of their marriage.

Currently living in a dilapidated apartment with only her youngest daughter with her, Ms. Martinez's story is not an uncommon one among undocumented immigrants living in various places throughout the United States. And it is exactly the kind of situation that President Obama is intent on eradicating by taking unilateral action on immigration policy reform. The executive authority he has promised to use would allow people who are undocumented but who have children who are US citizens or legal residents to themselves stay in the country with their family members for a limited period of time and obtain work permits.

Ms. Martinez is Not Alone

Throughout the United States there are several million undocumented immigrants in situations similar to that of Ms. Martinez. According to the advocacy group The New York Immigration Coalition, there are anywhere from a quarter million to 350,000 living in the state of New York alone. The common denominator for virtually all of these people enduring this plight is family; they are looking for more than just freedom from the oppression of their home countries and refuge in the US, they also want to remain with their loved ones. But to hear people like Ms. Martinez tell it, the non-monetary costs associated with such an endeavor sometimes don't seem worth it.

Over the last few years, she has lost her marriage and essentially one of her two daughters and is working a menial job that doesn't require her to show papers of any kind, just to be able to have the bare essentials. She has stated in an interview that she isn't sure everything she has endured and continues to endure is worth the struggle because for her - and millions of others like her - "family is everything."

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.

2 Previous Presidents Who Acted Regarding Immigration Reform

November 17, 2014,

Undocumented-Immigrant.jpgOver the last 30 years there have been two presidents who have taken unilateral action on immigration reform - Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush - by allowing so-called "amnesty" to the family members of undocumented immigrants. Fast forward to the current president who is on the verge of possibly - or as some believe, probably - taking the same action by exercising his executive power to ensure that millions of undocumented immigrants are protected from deportation.

Things were much different back in the 1980s when Reagan and Bush made their respective moves. For one thing there was not near the influx of immigrants flooding through the southern border that there has been over the last two years and hence there was no controversy about providing amnesty. There was also solidarity in Washington surrounding the issue of immigration and the belief that reform was necessary. Today that solidarity, both in Washington and throughout the country, is a distant memory as the issue of immigration reform has been divisive at best.

The GOP Not Happy With Obama's Stated Intentions

There are currently between 11 million and 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States and the president has expressed his desire to expand protective measures to those individuals as well as their family member in order to keep them from being deported. Meanwhile, the Republican Party - to which the previously mentioned former presidents both belonged - is essentially a proverbial ticking time bomb that will most certainly explode if Obama does indeed follow through on his promise. His intended course of action has been described by those in the GOP as "unconstitutional, cynical, and [a violation of] the will of the American people." As a result, there has been talk in certain circles within the party about possibly calling for the president's impeachment.

An Immigration Timeline

Between 1986, when Ronald Reagan was in office, and today the issue of immigration has played out in the following manner:

In 1986, 3 million undocumented immigrants who had been in the country since 1982 were granted legal status as the result of policy reform enacted by President Reagan. Immediate family members who tried to come after 1982 were denied which caused advocates to protest, claiming that the reform measures were breaking up families.

In 1987, an amendment to the law that protected family members failed which ultimately led to Congress trying to make additional changes to the law.

In 1990, President Bush moved to allow family members living with an immigrant already in the US prior to 1986 protection from deportation as well as to allow them to legally work in the country. An estimated 1.5 million people were covered by the move and later that year the protections were made permanent.

In 2012, President Barack Obama approves a policy that protects from being deported some immigrants who were brought into the US as children by their parents.

In summer of 2013, major immigration reform is implemented which allows immigrants who meet specific standards to apply for citizenship.

And in 2014, Obama makes the announcement regarding his intention to exercise executive authority to overhaul immigration policy in the form of extending deportation protection to family members of US citizens and permanent residents.

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.

Obama's Immigration Executive Action Q & A

November 13, 2014,

logo-president.jpgThe country waits as President Barack Obama readies his series of executive actions which are expected to provide deportation relief to up to 5 million or more undocumented immigrants. As political analysts, the immigrants who would benefit from the actions, and the rest of the nation waits, there are many questions surrounding the President's perspective executive actions. Though the President has not yet announced his program, here we will take a look at some questions and answers based on information which has been reported in the media.

Q: Who would benefit from the President's executive actions?

A: While President Barack Obama has not yet announced the details of his immigration plan, it has been widely reported that his executive orders will cover parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents, essentially delaying deportation for them and allowing them to remain in the United States. Additionally, it is thought that the program will expand the DACA program to cover up to an additional 500,000 people.

Q: What kind of relief is being proposed?

A: Media reports indicate that the President is considering delaying deportation for the targeted undocumented immigrant groups, taking away the threat of deportation, and allowing them to apply for social security numbers and to work legally. But, because this relief will come as the result of executive orders, and not congressional legislation, it could be rescinded by executive order by a future administration.

Q: Will this action give citizenship to undocumented immigrants?

A: The proposals being reported in the media do not indicate that the President will attempt to give citizenship or full residency to undocumented immigrants.

Q: Will there be an application process that undocumented immigrants must follow?

A: Several news outlets have reported that the Obama Administration will require undocumented immigrants to apply for delayed deportation relief. Furthermore, there is some indication that the administration may provide an incentive to undocumented immigrants by offering a 50% discount off the application fee for the first 10,000 applicants.

Q: Will undocumented immigrants be able to return to their home countries, and then legally reenter the United States?

A: In order to enter the United States an immigrant needs a valid U.S. visa. Based on the current reporting, the President's executive orders will not provide undocumented immigrants with such visas. Hence, should a person apply for and receive delayed deportation, they will likely be unable to reenter the United States legally, should they decide to travel abroad.

Q: When will the president release the exact details of the program?

A: President Obama has promised to take his executive actions by the end of the year if Congress does not pass comprehensive immigration legislation before then.

If you, or someone you know, are looking for expert immigration assistance, contact the Austin immigration attorneys at the Lyttle law firm by calling 512-215-5225.

The Country Waits for Obama to Make a Move on Immigration

November 10, 2014,

immigration-flag.jpgThe fight over the nation's immigration policy is heating up as the President promises to take executive action designed to help normalize the immigration statuses of millions of undocumented immigrants. Supporting him are millions of undocumented immigrants and their families, as well as much of the nation's democratic political leadership. Opposing the President's plan are many of the nation's Republican leaders and their supporters.

The one of the key questions relating to President Barack Obama's plans to issue executive orders which will shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation is when the President will take this action. With the Congress set to pass a budget for the nation on or before December 11, the President's plans put him on a potential collision course with the Republican dominated House of Representatives. Specifically, many analysts wonder if Republican leaders will risk shutting down the nation's government, as happened in October 2013, as a way to dissuade President Obama from taking the executive actions.

News reports indicate that the President could act as early as Friday, November 21. Should the President issue his executive orders before the month of December the republican leadership in the House of Representatives, where all appropriation bills must the begin, will essentially have the opportunity to attempt to block funding needed for the implementation of the President's executive orders. However, considering the fact that the President may veto any bill which defunds his orders, passing such an appropriations bill could lead to a stalemate and a partial closing of the U.S. government.

Some supporters of the President are encouraging him to wait until after an appropriations bill is passed to the issue his executive orders. They argue that, once the appropriations bill is passed, there is far less risk of a governmental shutdown. However, other supporters urge him to take action immediately.

Shutting down the government, or at least contributing to its eventual shutdown, holds unknown political consequences for both the President and the Republican leadership. While the 2013 shutdown seemed not to hurt the Republicans, and may have even buoyed their chances in 2014, it is not clear how another shutdown would play with the voting population. But, considering the fact that President Obama's supporters are overwhelmingly in favor of his executive actions, it seems highly likely that the President will act sooner rather than later.

If you are looking for assistance with an immigration related matter, it is best to seek the assistance you need now instead of waiting. For example, even under the President's proposed executive actions, undocumented immigrants would receive a reprieve from deportation, but would not be able to travel back to their country of origin and then reenter the United States legally. If you are looking to normalize your immigration status called the Austin immigration attorneys at the Lyttle law firm at 512-215-5225.

Republicans Ask President's Attorney General Nominee to Weigh in on Immigration Plan

November 6, 2014,

As President Barack Obama gears up to take executive action, in and attempt to at least partially fixed the nation's immigration woes, the president also finds himself in need of an Attorney General to help them implement his plan. This is because Obama's current Attorney general of six years, Eric Holder, is retiring, and the president has decided to replace him with standout attorney Lorretta Lynch. Despite the fact that no one questions Lynch's qualifications to be the nation's top lawyer, some Republicans nevertheless wish to know her opinion on Obama's immigration plans before confirming her.

Lynch.jpgLoretta Lynch is currently the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She was nominated by President Barack Obama in early November to replace the retiring Holder. If confirmed, Lynch would be the first African American woman to hold the powerful position of U.S Attorney General. But in a time of increase rhetoric surrounding the nation's undocumented immigrants, Lynch's nomination could potentially be held up by her professional opinion relating to the legality of Obama's proposed executive actions on immigration.

Republican senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, joined with others from the GOP, have indicated that they would like to know Lynch's professional legal opinion as to whether or not President Obama has the constitutional authority to normalize the immigration status as of millions of undocumented immigrants through executive action. It is not immediately clear whether or not Lynch's answers to this line of questioning will affect her overall likelihood of being confirmed. However, the fact that she will face such questions on the record is significant.

With Eric Holder retiring, president Obama is in a position where he needs an Attorney general. Should the Lynch nomination be derailed as a result of her answers to questions about Obama immigration executive actions, not only would such a situation put the president's ability to nominate an Attorney general in doubt, it would also cast a shadow over his ability to issue such executive actions. Therefore, though it is currently not predicted that Lynch will fail to be confirmed specifically due to this reason, should her nomination fall as a result of the president's plans, the already murky situation for immigrants in the country will likely become even less clear.

If you, or someone you know, are looking to receive immigration help, it is best that you contact a qualified Attorney. The Austin immigration attorneys at the Lyttle law firm have the expertise, experience, and dedication required to help you though your immigration situation. Call us now at 512-215-5225.

Mid-term Loss Puts Obama Immigration Executive Action in Doubt

November 3, 2014,

immigration-.jpgBefore the midterm elections in early November, President Barack Obama promised that if Congress did not take legislative action toward a comprehensive solution to the nation's immigration problems he would take executive action in that regard. But, as his democratic party was facing severe backlash against any potential presidential action immediately before the elections, Obama decided to delay his executive order until after the midterms. Now, with the democrats having lost significant seats in both houses of Congress, Obama is faced with a changed political landscape. Many wonder if he will go forward with his immigration executive actions despite the country's seeming rebuke of his party.

Having lost the Senate, and having lost further ground in the House of Representative, president Obama now seems to be in a more precarious political position as it relates to taking executive action to help clarify the country's immigration situation. Though the president never announced exactly what kind of action he was considering, many experts believe his executive order would at least temporarily normalize the immigration status is of up to five million undocumented immigrants. However, congressional leaders are promising that any action taken by the president will likely make the situation worse.

Supposing that the president does go ahead with a plan to normalize the legal status as of roughly five million undocumented immigrants, what could Congress do in order to block the actions' effectiveness? Experts have said that Congress could vote to deny funding to the implementation of the president's executive actions, essentially allowing them to stand but taking the teeth out of them. Another option could be congressional legislation which directly challenges the president's executive actions. However, any legislation passed by the Congress will likely need the president's signature to become law. It is therefore doubtful that Congress will be able to overrule the president legislatively, as he is not likely to sign legislation which directly challenges his executive actions, and congressional Republicans currently do not have a majority large enough to override a veto.

Some critics believe that the president's threat of executive action is meant to spur his opponents to work with him towards finding a reasonable immigration solution. For example, the House of Representatives currently has an immigration bill which was passed by the Senate several months ago. Should the House leadership allow a simple vote on the legislation, this action alone may be enough to forestall the president's executive action, whether or not the House votes to approve the immigration bill.

The United States continues to face significant challenges in overhauling its immigration system. Meanwhile, tens of millions of undocumented immigrants and perspective workers continue to face uncertainty. For those looking for the best outcome for their immigration related situation, it is advised that you not wait until finally passes a comprehensive bill. Instead, seek legal counsel by calling the Austin immigration attorneys at the Lyttle law Firm at 512-215-5225.

Harvard Student Falls Foul of Immigration Law Trying to Save Mother's Life

October 30, 2014,

hu.jpgHaving been born in Mexico, Dario Guerrero was brought by his parents from Mexico City to California when he was just two years old. Once there, they all overstayed tourist visas but nonetheless he was an excellent student and even earned a scholarship to a John Hopkins University summer school program when he was just 13. However, luckily for him, a 2012 administration order from President Obama gave him a reprieve from the threat of deportation along with hundreds of thousands of other young undocumented immigrants. Now, aged 21, he was studying film studies at Harvard University when he mother became very ill with cancer and was thought to be dying.

She began having treatment in the United States, but when the treatment began to fail, Guerrero researched and found clinics offering alternative treatments in Mexico. This gave him and his family hope and he decided to take her back to Mexico. As he knew that under the deportation waiver he could not leave the United States without government approval, he submitted two requests for fast-tracked permission to leave. However, he was asked to give more information and documentation about his mother's medical condition and as her condition was deteriorating and he felt they could not wait any longer, they made the decision to just go. As it happens, he could have tried to plead his case personally to try and get the decision before he left but instead he took her to clinics in Mexico before the approval was granted, knowing that he had broken the rule which stated that he could not leave the country without federal authorization.

The treatment was not successful and Guerrero's mother died in Mexico in August, with him by her side. However, when he hoped to come back to the United States, his initial request to return was denied and he had to stay with his grandparents in a poor suburb in Mexico City while hoping the government would change their mind. He appointed lawyer Alan Klein, who requested that the government take humanitarian reasons into account and last Tuesday Guerrero was allowed to return to the U.S. and his studies.

In hindsight, Guerrero says that he regrets his actions. Not only for the immigration issues, but he knows that his mother would have preferred to spend the last days of her life in Southern California with her husband and her children. However, he said that while there was hope that she might be saved he had to take the risk, immigration issues or not. His lawyer said he just did the best thing he thought he could do at the time.

If you need help with an immigration issue, we know that the law - and the U.S. bureaucracy - can seem like they are against you. This is one reason you are highly advised to consult with an attorney firm for help on every immigration concern you may have. Give the Austin immigration attorneys at Lyttle law firm a call today at 512-215-5225, and get the help you need.

Undocumented Immigrants Complain About Artesia Detention Center

October 27, 2014,

homelandsec1.jpgThe Artesia detention center was set up around three to four months ago in the New Mexico desert as a temporary place home to the increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants from Central America, who had crossed the U.S. - Mexico border earlier this year. The undocumented immigrants, including women and children from Central America, mainly El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, did not have visas to enter the United States and many fled from their own countries in fear of their lives or other dangerous situations, including sexual abuse, and are claiming refugee status. Several of them were subsequently picked up by customs officials but were then later released and told to keep in contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. However, it is thought that around 70% of those released ceased all contact with immigration officials and simply disappeared or moved on to other towns and cities within the United States.

The Artesia center was supposed to be merely temporary, but according to a recording of a confidential meeting between a government official and immigration advocates, given to the Associated Press, it appears that the facility could remain open until next summer and probably until August next year. The original purpose of the center was simply to process the immigrants and reduce the numbers who were entering the United States without proper documentation.

There are around 479 detainees at the center at present and more are expected to arrive shortly. It is thought that to process this number, plus those still arriving will take until next year. So far, according to ICE, 324 detainees have been deported back to their countries in Central American since the center opened.

But those detainees who have been made to stay at the center have been growing increasingly frustrated that they are being held with no idea when they can leave. This has led to a rash of complaints not only by the women themselves, but also by human rights attorneys who have said that the conditions at Artesia are increasing trauma to people who have already been traumatized by violence and death threats from their own countries.

The detainees feel that they have a problem due to the fact that they are refugees. This means it is very difficult for them to enter the United States legally. The legal methods include gaining an immigrant visa which is difficult and time consuming, or one of the employment based immigration categories. The majority who come to the United States legally gain their immigration status via a family visa.

The United State is in the middle of a full-blown immigration crisis. In order to give yourself the best chance of navigating the system, you are highly advised to consult qualified counsel as you work through your own immigration issues. In order to obtain the assistance you need, please contact the Austin immigration attorneys at the Lyttle law firm at 512-215-5225 or visit our website.

High Praise From US Military Members and Immigration Advocates for 'Policy In Place'

October 20, 2014,

army.jpgLast November, a change in America's immigration policy was implemented by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Director which allows the undocumented family members of US military personnel to escape deportation. The change in policy is essentially a policy in and of itself that carries the unconventionally lengthy title "Parole of Spouses, Children and Parents of Active Duty Members of the US Armed Forces, the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, and Former Members of the US Armed Forces or Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve and the Effect of Parole on Inadmissibility under Immigration and Nationality Act ยง 212(a)(6)(A)(i)".

The short version of the policy title is "Parole in Place" and it is at its core a provision of parole status and authorization for those undocumented family members to be able to stay in the US and according to reports took three years from inception to the issuance of the policy. With the policy in place now for almost a full year, the US Department of Homeland Security now has the authority to grant entry to noncitizens temporarily and on a case-by -case basis. The decisions to grant parole for each individual case are to be based on "urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit."

What Parole Authority Entails

For Homeland Security, having the authority to grant parole involves authorization to allow undocumented citizens to come into the United States at a specific border station, airport, or other official point of entry. Additionally, DHS has the authority to confer parole status to undocumented individuals who are already living in the country illegally. The latter provision is the crux of the meaning of "parole in place".

From an historical standpoint, there have been several different kinds of situations in which parole has been implemented, particularly before the Refugee Act was passed. Prior to this, parole was effectively the means by which people who were fleeing persecution in their own countries could come into the United States. The purpose of the policy change that was implemented last November is to provide a much needed service for those current armed forces members as well as veterans who have "sacrificed for and served the country".

Policymakers have stated that servicemen and women who have undocumented family members living in the US experience a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress because of the status of those family members. As such, they say, military preparedness and ultimately execution of duty are significantly compromised and adversely affected when US Armed Forces personnel have to carry such a heavy burden of worry about their loved ones.

The idea that prompted the policy to begin its journey toward implementation in 2010 was that the Department of Homeland Security needed to identify "tools" that would allow it to assist those dependent upon certain military personnel to "secure permanent immigration status in the United States as soon as possible." According to the Department Secretary at the time, Parole in Place was identified as a means of minimizing the length of time that military personnel and their family members are separated from one another as well as to make a provision for adjusting the status of immigrants who are already living in the US and who have active or veteran family members.

Uncertainty About Parole in Place Among DHS Insiders

Despite the fact that those at the highest levels of Homeland Security have made the policy and its purpose clear, several offices within the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have expressed doubt about granting Policy in Place to family members of particular servicemen and women actively serving in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, in any branch of the Armed Forces, or veterans of the US military.

When the policy was granted to family members of military members and veterans, there were questions among individuals within the USCIS and other relevant departments about whether or not the DHS had the legal power to allow status to be adjusted for individuals based on the Policy in Place. This instability among officials within these offices resulted in inconsistencies in how the policy was executed and it was ultimately determined by the USCIS that clarification of the policy was necessary and that clarification should come in the form of a policy memorandum.

The problem with the clarification memorandum was that it was announced to the USCIS offices before it was actually issued. Subsequently, while the clarification was being drafted, most offices of the USCIS put applications for PIP-based status adjustments on hold until the final memorandum was issued. Since the announcement about the adjustment was made when the initial policy was implemented in 2010, several US service members and their loved ones have been waiting for the last several years to have their applications processed and to get word of their status.

Because so many applicants were forced to wait for so long for their status approval, many military personnel had their security clearances revoked and became unable to advance their respective military careers which also played a significant role in negatively impacting the morale of the service members and their "readiness to serve".

A Long Wait Comes to an End

With the passage of the policy clarification last November - which for all intents and purposes became a new policy in and of itself - the waiting for those service members and their families finally came to an end. That is not to say, of course, that all of the applicants have been approved for Policy in Place or that all of those who are still waiting will receive approval, but it does mean that the wheels of the approval process are back in motion. PIP has been confirmed by the USCIS as a "discretionary remedy" and that approvals essentially amount to a "cure" for those servicemen and women who have served the United States and needed the assurance of the citizenship status of their family members.

Several Undocumented Migrants in New Mexico Released from Detention Facility

October 15, 2014,

artesia.jpgDozens of undocumented migrants who were being held at a facility in New Mexico have been released, according to Philip Burch, the mayor of the city of Artesia. Burch recently told reporters that 68 of the nearly 500 detainees at the Artesia Family Residential Center were release last week with 14 of them being deported. Immigration officials working the facility said that there are still about 480 migrants being held at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center - an annex of the Family Residential Center - with several more expected to arrive at the facility over the next few days.

Officials at the facility in Artesia were briefed by officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding the release of the detainees and the expected arrival of others in the coming days and weeks. A spokesperson for ICE said that since the Family Residential Center opened in Artesia back in August, more than 300 detainees have been sent back to their respective native Central American countries.

Facility to Remain Open Longer Than Intended

The facility in Artesia - which is an almost completely isolated desert town in Southern New Mexico - has become the subject of increasingly intense scrutiny over the past several weeks from sources both outside the facility as well as from within. It was originally intended and billed as a temporary facility for housing of women and children from Central America who are captured crossing the US-Mexico border into the United States illegally. There has been an influx of Central American migrants crossing the harsh Mexican desert and attempting to come into the US over the last 8 months that has become a topic of heated debate among both sides of the immigration debate.

Officials revealed recently, however, that while the facility was indeed only intended to be a temporary solution to the housing needs of the migrants, it will likely remain open to receive detainees well into next year, possibly until the end of next summer. One government official told immigration advocates during a confidential meeting that while "all of us would love to see the doors close in Artesia", the reality is that it will likely need to remain open until August or 2015, the end of what is known as "high season" for migrants crossing the southern border.

Frustration Mounting Among Detainees

Additionally, frustration has been mounting among detainees being held at the facility because they feel they are being kept there without any indication of when they may be released, particularly in light of the fact that migrants who had crossed the border shortly before they did have already been released. Those who were released previously received orders to contact immigration officials at a later date.

The facility in Artesia was opened this summer after it became apparent to federal officials that the thousands of migrants who had been caught since the beginning of the year and released with orders to meet with immigration officials had simply disappeared into the country. The vast majority of them never showed up for the scheduled meetings with ICE officials.

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

Obama Petitioned to Give Undocumented Immigrants Access to Affordable Healthcare

October 13, 2014,

obamacare.jpgLast week, leaders within the nation's Hispanic community formally requested that President Barack Obama allow certain undocumented migrants to have access to Obamacare. They say that the justification for such an allowance stems from the fact that certain "dreamers" who have been granted temporary work permits are paying taxes and therefore should be entitled to certain government benefits. "Dreamers" is a colloquialism for the several hundred thousand young adults who were granted temporary legal status by the President two years ago but who were brought into the country illegally as minors by their parents or other adult relatives. As such, they are still considered 'undocumented'.

A Lawful Presence

Current government policy dictates that undocumented migrant are not allowed to purchase insurance through Obamacare and roughly half of the states in the Union also have laws against them obtaining Medicaid benefits. According to the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, however, those migrants who are no longer in danger of being sent back to their home country should be considered "lawfully present" for essentially the same benefits that natural born citizens enjoy including government benefits and health care.

Well over a half million undocumented migrants had received approval for temporary legal status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals which was passed in 2012. DACA status essentially means that those individuals will not be sent back to their native country for two years from the time the status is approved. Those with DACA status are also allowed to apply for renewal of their status every two years. Additionally, they have been issued temporary work permits and almost all states have allowed them to apply for a driver's license.

Immigration advocates have been asking the President for several months now to broaden his program for deferred action so that undocumented migrants who are parents of US citizen children and parents of "dreamers" can also be included and receive benefits and health care. If Obama does in fact allow such a policy expansion it would likely mean that millions more individuals would become eligible for health care under Obamacare.

American Taxpayers are the Deciding Factor

Immigration opponents, such as those with the anti-immigration organization known as NumbersUSA, say that US taxpayers should be the deciding factor in the determination about who should and should not be eligible for health care benefits that those taxpayers are funding. They say that the entire reason that Congress has not passed legislation that would allow undocumented workers and migrants to have those benefits is because taxpayers "are not in favor of that".

Earlier this year the President had announced his intention to take definitive action that would expand his policy for non-deportation but he has since backed off from that due to what his administration believed could cause a severe backlash from voters. According to White House officials, Obama is waiting until after the November elections so that any decision he makes in regard to immigration in general and to the expansion of deferred action in particular will not affect him or the Democratic Party because of voter reprisal.

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

Child Immigrants Facing Deportation In Desperate Need of Legal Counsel

October 8, 2014,

child immigrants.pngThere is a crisis that is playing out in immigration courts across the country, particularly in large metropolitan areas like New York City where children from Central America who crossed the southern border into the United States without adult accompaniment await their respective hearings. More than 66,000 Central American youths have crossed the US-Mexico illegally border over the last 12 months, many of them in an effort to get away from what they describe as rampant gang violence in countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua. It is estimated that in New York City alone there are upwards of 6,000 illegal immigrant children with the majority of them staying with relatives while they await their court hearings.

A Desperate Situation

The problem that is rearing its ugly head for these children is that according to the Legal Aid Society, nearly half of them do not have any manner of legal counsel to represent them in their hearings. And without legal representation, the likelihood that they will be sent back to their Central American homeland increases exponentially, a situation which immigration advocates call "desperate". One attorney with the Legal Aid Society's Immigration Law Unit stated that she and her colleagues are working 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to try and meet the demand but that it is virtually impossible to do so.

The New York City Immigration Court has been inundated with unaccompanied children from Central America for the last year in general and particularly since the Obama administration started increasing deportation hearings for migrant children this past summer. Since that time, attorney and volunteers from the Legal Aid Society have been utilizing whatever unused rooms the Immigration Court building has available on a day-to-day basis to connect migrant children - and in many cases their mothers or even entire families - with representatives from several areas of Social Services including homeless shelters and mental health counseling.

Overwhelming Caseloads

The caseloads for attorney, however, have become overwhelming with each counselor taking on as many as 60 cases or more. Joseph Landau, an associate law professor at Fordham University specializing in immigration, said that the crux of the problem for these children is that under current United States law they have no right to government appointed legal counsel. He added that deportation is often times a worse fate for foreign nationals than going to jail. The President's administration has estimated that it costs taxpayers more than $2 billion to either care for the children in these situations or to reunite them with their relatives already living in the United States.

According to the children who are in these situations as well as their mothers - the ones who crossed over with parental accompaniment - going back to their Central American homeland is the equivalent of a "death sentence" and immigration advocates say that many of those who come into the US from the region show signs of severe physical and emotional trauma. They are often victims of gang violence or rampant sexual assault and while those advocated admit that the children are in fact refugees in the country illegally, they are still children and "they cannot represent themselves".

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

Frustration Among Immigrant Detainees Growing at Detention Center in New Mexico

October 6, 2014,

bunks.jpgThe small and isolated desert town of Artesia, New Mexico has recently become the home of a federal immigration detention center that includes such amenities as a soccer field, a basketball court, and video conferencing capabilities for detainees to have their cases heard by immigration judges in Denver, Colorado. The facility also included several trailers that have been put in place around the main building to serve as a makeshift school because the center itself is intended to serve as temporary housing specifically for women and children from Central American countries who have been crossing the Mexican desert and coming into the United States illegally.

Center Will Likely Stay Open Well Into 2015

According to Border Patrol officials, the detention center is likely to remain open at least until the summer of 2015. One official told reporters that while the majority of Americans and government officials would like to see the facility done away with, the ongoing influx of illegal immigrants from Central America is making it a necessity and as such it will probably be up and running through August of next year.

There have been reports recently that frustration among the detainees at the Artesia Family Residential Center has been mounting because they are beginning to feel as though their "incarceration" is indefinite. Those sentiments are compounded by the fact that migrants who crossed the border into the country prior to the facility being set up have already been released and have been ordered to make contact with immigration officials at a later date.

The facility was coordinated and set up in response to the overwhelming numbers of migrants from Central American countries who have been crossing the US-Mexico border over the last several months. Federal officials came to the realization that the majority of the individuals and families who crossed into the United States simply vanished into the country and failed to report for their scheduled meetings with officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). There are no official numbers yet but one ICE agent estimated that as many as 70 percent of those who were released into the country have simply disappeared.

Facility Considered 'Effective and Humane'

The agent went on to explain that contrary to what many of the detainees at Artesia may think, their ongoing detention at the facility is not of a punitive nature and is not intended to be viewed as a deterrent for other Central American immigrants who might be considering coming into the United States illegally. According to the Citizenship and Immigration Service, fewer than 38 percent of the detainees at Artesia qualify for asylum which is a far cry from the national average of nearly 63 percent. Nevertheless, officials say that the frustration of the detainees is somewhat unwarranted because despite the fact that over 500 women and children are housed there at any given time, it is being run in an "effective and humane" manner, especially considering that there has been such an unprecedented and overwhelming influx of migrants crossing the southern border into the US.

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

Department of Defense Will Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Serve in the US Military

October 1, 2014,

march.jpgThe Department of Defense announced last week that it will allow a relatively small number of undocumented immigrants to serve in the US military. The new policy is the first of its kind in several decades and expands on a current program that allows military officials to recruit foreign nationals that possess specific skills that are in high demand such as certain health care skills and foreign language capabilities. Immigrants who came to the United States with their parents before their 16th birthday and who do not have proper documentation will be allowed an opportunity to join the program known as MAVNI, an acronym for the Military Accessions in the National Interest.

Service and Citizenship Under MAVNI and DACA

There has been some speculation among political officials since the announcement was made that the new policy may be an initial step by the federal government toward creating new ways for immigrants to become citizens. President Obama has expressed his displeasure with Congress over its lack of immigration policy reform and has made promises to use his executive powers to make changes to how those policies are implemented.

According to some estimates, there are between 1.2 million and 2.1 children and teenagers currently living in the United States illegally and who meet the criteria for either the MAVNI program or the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) which allows, with certain restrictions which differ from MAVNI, children under the age of 16 to live in the country with their relatives without documentation for a limited period of time.

Most Qualifying Immigrants Will Be Non-Latino

Currently the Department of Defense is allowed to recruit no more than 1,500 immigrants with DACA status but some of those may also end up being eligible under the MAVNI requirements as well and may include people who are in the country with either tourist or student visas. Interestingly, students who are recruited into the MAVNI program will more than likely not be those coming from Mexico or Central American countries but rather those who have language skills that would be beneficial to the DoD's national security efforts such as people who speak Chinese, Persian, or Arabic.

One of the problems with that, however, is that it is difficult to tell with any degree of accuracy how many immigrants from countries that speak those languages actually are proficient enough in those languages to be of service to the military. These are largely recruits who have been living in the US for most or all of their young lives and as such, despite being around family members who likely speak their native tongue, they may not be as adept at the languages as the military would need them to be.

Upon serving in the United States military, foreign nationals become eligible to have their citizenship expedited. Over the last 13 years, there have been more than 90,000 servicemen and women in the US military who were born somewhere other than the United States and who were granted citizenship during their service time.

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

Hiding in Churches Becoming Increasingly Common Among Undocumented Immigrants

September 29, 2014,

church-aguirre.jpgWith the recent influx of undocumented immigrants from Central American countries that has taken place over the last several months, one of the emerging trends among them is hiding from immigration authorities in local churches. One such immigrant from El Salvador did just that after having been in the United States for almost twenty years. Francisco Aguirre has been living as an undocumented immigrant in the US since 1995. He has two children who were born in the country during that time and who are, as a result, US citizens. Aguirre faces being deported, however, for the second time since he first arrived because of a conviction for drug trafficking several years ago that got him sent back to El Salvador. He spent the weekend last week hiding out in a church in Portland, Oregon.

Churches Providing Sanctuary

During the nearly two decades that Aguirre has been living illegally in the United States he has become ensconced in his community in Portland. He is the coordinator of a nonprofit organization called VOZ Workers' Right Education Project and has become a staple of the city's immigration activism scene. But Aguirre's situation is not unique. Over the last ten years there have been scores of undocumented immigrants hiding out in churches all over the US. Some estimates have as many as 300 of them claiming a willingness to receive immigrants with open arms because church administrators - and the immigrants themselves - know that Immigration officials typically refrain from making arrests inside places of worship.

Aguirre a Priority for ICE Officials

In the case of Francisco Aguirre, he has stated that he is prepared to remain inside the church in Portland until his immigration case is heard and he is currently being processed for what is known as a U-Visa - authorization for illegals who have been the victims of criminal acts and who have assisted law enforcement in prosecuting other cases.

Aguirre began his time in the United States working as a day laborer and helping to start the workers' rights project. He also works from his home running a computer repair business. According to immigration officials, though, he was convicted of drug trafficking in 200 and sent back to El Salvador. Shortly after being deported, Aguirre came back to the United States and entered illegally once again and has been living in Portland, Oregon ever since. He was arrested in August of this year for driving under the influence and has been a target for immigration officials for the last two months.

But Aguirre is more than just another target for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. He is a priority because of his drug trafficking conviction, his previous deportation, and his recent arrest. ICE considers him to be a threat to public safety and as such he is being sought with extra effort with the intent of being deported once again. He has maintained his innocence in the drug trafficking case for the last 14 years since his conviction but was told by his lawyer at the time to enter a plea of 'no contest'. He now says that he wishes he had not taken his attorney's advice at the time so that maybe he wouldn't feel the need to hide out in a church now.

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