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HispanicIt has been approximately one month since Barack Obama announced his plan to allow amnesty to eligible undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States and in that time it appear as though the Democratic Party is on the upswing following a less-than-favorable midterm election. The reason is not because the President’s plan for deferred deportation went over well with the general public. In fact, the plan was overwhelmingly opposed by the vast majority of American adults according to several polls. Where it is popular, however, is with the nation’s Hispanic community which is decidedly relevant and which has proven that it clearly has a vested interest in the issue.

Increased Support Among Hispanics

The reason Democrats will benefit from such overwhelming support from a “minority” group is that the Hispanic community in the US is only a minority in the technical sense of the word. That is to say, they are hardly a minority anymore and when it comes to immigration reform, they are the ones who care about the issue. That is enough to make them a collective force in how things play out. According to a poll conducted by Pew Research recently, more than 80 percent of Hispanics said they supported the President’s plan. In another Gallup poll, nearly 54 percent expressed support for the plan.

As a result, Obama’s approval rating among Hispanic adults has increased with polls showing that it is currently in the mid-60 percentile after spending the better part of the last several months in the low-50 percentile. The increase in approval rating among this particular targeted demographic is virtually unprecedented. He did win about 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election but through the course of the two years between then and the immigration policy announcement last month, his approval number dropped roughly 20 points. This was seen by the Democratic Party in general and by the Obama administration in particular as a means by which this important demographic could be won back.

Any Victory is a Good Victory

Many on both sides of the aisle in Washington consider it a small victory for the President and his Party, but still a victory nonetheless. Democrats admittedly will not be able to rest on the laurels thereof for very long and in all likelihood the veritable honeymoon that resulted from the announcement of the plan has already begun to wane. While this may not do much for the Obama administration for the remainder of his term, it does indicate that Democratic voters who have shied away from supporting Obama over the course of his presidency may in fact return to a pre-Obama level of support for the Party before the 2016 elections.

Despite the good news among political officials, many still wonder if the announcement was more a genuine attempt to help undocumented immigrants or rather to garner much needed support from an increasingly relevant demographic. Already there has been some uproar from immigration advocates who say that the President’s plan does not do enough to support the cause of the Hispanic community because not enough undocumented immigrants are eligible for the provision. Only time will tell how things play out.

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.

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us philsThe announcement of amnesty as part of President Barack Obama’s immigration reform plan came as welcome news for millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. The details behind the executive action, however, have been slow in coming and many have found them to be somewhat confusing which is why a number of organizations within the nation’s American-Filipino community have initiated public information drives in response to the President’s announcement in an effort to educate the public in general and the potentially eligible immigrants in particular regarding the specifics of the plan and how it could impact them and their families.

Education is the Goal

So far there have been two public forums to provide information about the policy changes, both in the New York/New Jersey area. One was held in Jersey City and the other in Queens and both were standing room only. The goal of the forums, according to officials with the Filipino Immigrants and Workers Organizing Project, is to assist members of the Filipino community in the Northeastern United States and across the country to develop a clear understanding about the new immigration policy. They want undocumented Filipinos and their families to be as informed as possible “about the resources [available to them] and [the] help that they can get.”

The organizers of FILIWOP say that they recognize the need to educate the community so that they will not become the victims of fraud. Many have already reported having been taken advantage of by people who claimed to be able to help them with their eligibility for the plan’s benefits but who ended up simply “taking the money and running.”

The President’s plan was announced on November 20th and involves what essentially amounts to a three-pronged change in the country’s immigration policy involving increased security at the southern border, a substantial upgrade to the current visa programs in an effort to attract high-tech workers, and relief from the threat of deportation for undocumented immigrants who meet certain eligibility requirements.

DACA and DAPA Policy Changes

Currently there are more than eleven million such immigrants living in the United States, five million of whom it is estimated meet the requirements for amnesty. This would allow them to remain in the country and work legally. The US Department of Homeland Security estimates that of the eleven million undocumented immigrants, just over 300,000 are of Filipino descent. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is still “finalizing guidelines and the application forms”, according to immigration attorney Cristina Godinez, and as such applications are not yet being taken.

USCIS will begin accepting applications in mid-February for the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) expansion while applications for the Deferred Action on Parental Accountability will start being accepted in mid-May. Immigrants who have their DACA or DAPA applications approved will be given relief from the threat of deportation for three years and will also be eligible to work legally. The DACA program expansion in particular will benefit eligible immigrants by taking away the age restriction and pushing the date-of-entry requirement back to a later as-yet-unspecified date.

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.

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texas starRecent studies have shown that the legalization of immigrants would be valuable to the Texas economy.  Many native-born Americans often mistakenly believe that immigrants decrease the chances of them getting a job, but studies have shown that this is far from the truth. In fact, immigrants complement them in the work force.

Immigrants supply workforces in employment markets where there is traditionally a shortage of workers.  The average American is a medium-skilled worker, which means there is a shortage of labor in the work force for both low-skilled and high-skilled jobs. Immigrants would fill this need. A good example of this can be found in the sales and services industry. 24% of native U.S. citizens are employed in the sales industry, while only 17% of immigrants are employed in the same industry. Sales is considered a medium-skilled job, while services are considered low-skilled. More immigrants are employed in the service industry (approximately 25%), while only 17% of native U.S. citizens have jobs in the service industry.

Presently, immigrants are starting more businesses in the United States than native-born citizens. In fact, since 2012, immigrant owned technology firms have generated $63 billion in sales and employ approximately 560,000 workers. Many lawmakers contend that by allowing more immigrants to live legally in the U.S., more businesses would open, which would in turn create more jobs.  More jobs would mean less people relying on welfare to survive.   This type of economic growth would need some time to come to surface, but experts believe that increasing the legalization of immigrants could provide long-term – and sustainable – economic growth. Despite the fact that the positives are more than clear, reforms will be necessary. Recommendations on the table include:

  • Allowing foreign students who study in the United States and hold a visa the ability to convert it to a green card.
  • Allowing seasonal workers the ability to leave the country without using their legal status.

A more controversial measure being discussed includes disallowing legalized immigrants eligibility for very specific welfare programs that discourage working.

The bottom line is that legal immigrants are contributing tremendously to the economy and that it’s a win-win scenario if more immigrants enter the workforce legally.

Are you in need of an immigration attorney? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas. Call our experts today at 512-215-5225.

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economygraph.jpgLast week President Barack Obama announced his plan to allow amnesty to certain undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. His policy reform was met with a significant amount of criticism from the GOP as well as from the American public but many feel there is one aspect of the changes that may be a bright spot for the United States regardless of how popular or unpopular the President’s plan may be. That bright spot is the boost to the US economy that allowing amnesty to nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants will provide. Considering the concerns that many Americans still have about the slow pace of the country economy, this potential impact could help sway those who were not in favor of Obama’s immigration policy reform.

It Could Help, But How Much?

On the surface it sounds like a true upside and it may very well be. Of course only time will tell. But if the new immigration policy changes do in fact end up helping the US economy, the next logical question becomes just how much of a benefit could be provided. The President’s proposal that would give upwards of 5 million undocumented immigrants a possible path to legal status could also revamp the visa process that gives opportunities to highly skilled workers – particularly those in the tech fields.

According to a study conducted by economists at the University of California at Los Angeles, these policy changes would have significant short term effects on the economy to the tune of 160,000 new jobs, nearly $7 billion in labor income, and upwards of $2.5 billion in tax revenue. The long term effects, according to a study conducted by officials at the White House, estimates that the President’s plan would provide a much needed shot in the arm to the gross domestic product by between 0.4% and 0.9%. That translates to between about $90 billion and $210 billion over the next decade.

Two Modes of Impact

Most economists in the US who have contributed their opinion and analysis to the various media outlets have stated that there are essentially two modes of impact that the new immigration changes could have when it comes to the economy in the United States. The first would be by the wages paid to low-skilled workers and the second would be through the increase in productivity that would result from higher numbers of highly skilled workers in the country’s labor force. Back in the mid-1980s when then-President Ronald Reagan made a similar amnesty allowance for undocumented immigrants, the impact on those immigrants affects was that their wages went up between 5% and 10%, according to some studies.

The reason for the boost in wages was believed to be two-fold. For one thing, undocumented workers knew they would be in the country for a long time so they became more invested in their training and abilities. Also, with the fear of deportation lifted, they were able to switch jobs and find work more suited to their higher skill sets.

The problem is not knowing how many eligible immigrants will actually participate since Obama’s order does not grant full legal status. If only about half of those eligible participate – which is about the same as who participated in Reagan’s plan 30 years ago – then it may not provide quite the beneficial impact after all. Once again, only time will tell.

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.

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immigrationpaper.jpgPresident Barack Obama followed through last week on his promise to execute executive authority on US immigration policy that would effectively provide almost 5 million undocumented immigrants with protection from deportation. The action came as very welcome and long-awaited relief for immigration advocates but it leaves a gaping chasm of uncertainty for the remaining 6 million to 7 million undocumented immigrants who are currently in the country regarding whether or not they will be allowed to stay. The announcement was bitter-sweet for advocacy groups and those they represent as they promised to sign up as many immigrants as possible while at the same time knowing that there would be just as many if not more who they would have to turn away.

Who Qualifies?

Among those ineligible for amnesty include undocumented immigrant adults without children, those who arrived in the United States within the last five years, those whose children were not born in the United States, those with criminal records, and gay immigrants. The president put strict and specific qualifications on his allowances that put something of a damper on the changes for undocumented immigrants and their supporters. In order for individuals to qualify for Obama’s new deferred action program, an undocumented person must have been living in the US for at least five years and have a child who is either a US citizen or a legal permanent resident.

The president’s existing deferred action program was expanded to include childhood arrivals which essentially eliminates that age limit to allow for any undocumented persons who were brought to the country before their 16th birthday to qualify. As a result of these requirements, the administration has estimated that about 5 million of the nation’s undocumented immigrants will qualify for amnesty.

The Reasons Behind the Requirements

It is unclear why the president chose the age and child restrictions that he did and since the announcement last week there has been a substantial amount of debate about his reasons. Many have called certain of these elements arbitrary, such as the requirement that an individual must have been in the country for at least five years, and claim they are not based on any specific or compelling difference between someone who has been in the US for four years as opposed to someone who has been here for six.

Additionally, there is something of a “gray area” when it comes to certain other elements that advocacy groups say should be used as determinants of whether or not an individual qualifies such as their involvement and contributions to the community. These types of elements are difficult to judge and are inherently too subjective but others argue that the length of time an individual has been in the country is also a matter of debate. For example, someone who has lived in the US for six years and has a child but has made no “significant” contribution to the community is automatically eligible but someone who has been in the country for ten years and has contributed substantially to the community but has no children is not. Despite the executive action, the latter is still in danger of being deported despite possibly having a family in the country and being a valuable member of his or her community.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.