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.

Department of Justice to Address Influx of Migrants Crossing US/Mexico Border

July 14, 2014,

doj1.jpgThere has long been a consistent stream of migrants crossing the border from Mexico into the United States illegally and it has long been a serious point of contention both in American politics and in relations between the United States and the rest of the world. But the problem has reached epidemic proportions over the past several years as there has been an almost overwhelming increase in the number of migrants crossing the border and politicians have been under extraordinary pressure to do something about it. To that effect, last week the Justice Department made an announcement that it plans to implement a number of steps geared toward addressing the issue and quelling the waves of migrants trying to gain access to the US via its southern border.

Some of the plans that were announced by Deputy Attorney General James Cole include increasing the efforts of several federal agencies in conjunction with the DOJ and the Mexican government to investigate and prosecute anyone who is apprehended bringing migrants across the border, addressing violence in Central American countries by providing training and support, and allocating resources to speed up the court process involved in adjudicating recent cases of illegal immigration. Refocusing these resources will involve prioritizing cases of illegal migrants that have already been places by the Department of Homeland Security into removal proceedings so that these cases can be processed more quickly but still be processed fairly.

Speeding up the judicial process will also involve hiring more immigration judges and there are already measures in place that will allow for the appointment of "temporary" immigration judges. It is unknown at this point how long these judges will be needed but even if it is for several years to come until the migrant numbers are quelled, these judges would only have a temporary designation. Additionally, individuals who are in the midst of removal proceedings would have better access to legal resources and assistance as part of several expanded legal programs.

The Department is also planning to request new funds for assistance in fighting crime and criminal gangs on a transnational basis in Central America. The request for these funds is part of an overall strategy by the Department to address the issues within several Central American countries that are seen as the cause for migrants wanting to flee in the first place.

There is also a very high level of interest in increasing the efforts of the Department in conjunction with Mexican authorities to identify and arrest individuals who are helping to bring unaccompanied children across the US border. This has been a particularly relevant issue that has been the cause of a great deal of media scrutiny for the Obama Administration recently. Also, several US Attorneys in border states will be meeting with the Deputy Attorney General to discuss ways in which the efforts of criminal organizations that transport unaccompanied minors across the border can be disrupted and the organizations themselves dismantled.

If you or someone you know has questions about this or any other immigration issue or are in need of legal counsel regarding immigration, please visit the Austin immigration specialists at the Lyttle Law Firm by visiting our website or calling our offices in Austin, Texas at 512-215-5225.

Obama Under Even More Pressure to Act on Immigration

July 9, 2014,

US-Mexico_Border.jpgAmericans are becoming more impatient with each passing day regarding the number of foreign nationals who have been attempting to cross over the US-Mexican border and enter the United States illegally and President Obama is feeling the heat. Advocates for immigration reform are demanding that Obama act immediately on not only addressing the issue of the exploding numbers of people coming into the country illegally but on definitively putting a stop to it. The President declared this week that he would bypass Congressional approval and take action himself in order to make changes to the nation's immigration policy that he feels are overdue.

One of the biggest issues within the overall immigration issue is the unprecedented number of children from Central American countries who are trying to cross the border unaccompanied by an adult. Since October of 2013, there have been more than 52,000 children who have crossed over alone and been taken into custody by Border Patrol agents. Many of them have left home to get away from domestic abuse and other adverse conditions but few have made it successfully into the country without being captured by the Border Patrol. Obama has used the epidemic of unaccompanied children as the focal point of his argument for the need for massive immigration reform. Republicans,, however, blame Obama's policies for causing the problem in the first place.

Despite the fact that many of the children are trying to get away from abuse, gangs, and poverty, the US government as well as officials from several Central American governments agree that something must be done to stop the influx of children into the US.

Recently in California, protesters stood en masse on a US highway and blocked several Homeland Security transport buses from proceeding to an immigration processing center in San Diego. The buses were carrying children who had crossed into the country illegally and without adult accompaniment. They were flown there from the border in Texas as a means of helping to relieve the pressure on Texas agents who have been inundated in recent months with unaccompanied children crossing illegally.

The number of people deported during Barack Obama's presidency is higher than it has ever been. Several political officials have made a promise to bring political sanctions down on Republicans who don't take action on immigration. While Obama has threatened to bypass Congress and make policy changes without its approval, he has also stated that his preference is to work with Congressional leaders in order to come to amicable changes and pass legislation that is mutually agreed upon. Both the Homeland Security Secretary as well as the Attorney General have been asked by the President to offer their recommendations on what action should be taken and to do so by the end of the summer. One suggestion that has already hit his desk is focusing on deporting individuals with serious criminal histories but that has already been attempted and it didn't work out well.

If you or someone you know needs immigration legal counsel in Texas regarding this or any other immigration issue, please visit the Lyttle Law Firm website or call their offices in Austin, Texas at 512-215-5225.

Heated Immigration Issue Amplified by Boy's Death

July 7, 2014,

bordercrossing-e1323693965124.jpgThe body of an 11-year-old boy was recently discovered in South Texas. It is tragic enough when any child is found dead but this youngster had traveled from his home country of Guatemala and had died trying to cross the border into the United States. The belt he was wearing had a phone number scratched on the back of it. It was the phone number of his older brother who lives in Chicago. The young boy, identified later as Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez, had been found less than a mile from the closest residence and his body was badly decomposed.

While it unfortunately is not an unusual occurrence to find dead bodies along the border between Mexico and the United States, this particular instance is especially troubling because it shines an unwelcome spotlight on the epidemic of children attempting to enter into the United States illegally and, worse, unaccompanied by an adult. Over the last several years there has been a record number of children who have crossed into the US illegally and the federal government is trying to find ways of dealing with the problem without fanning the flames of an already hot button topic.

This week President Obama declared that he will be proactive in making changes to the nation's immigration policy and would not wait for Republicans to take action. Meanwhile, there have been over 52,000 children who have crossed the border into the United States illegally and unaccompanied by any adults since October. The majority of these children are coming not from Mexico but from Central American countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The situation has stretched the resources and capabilities of the US Border Patrol to its breaking point. Federal law requires that children who are captured trying to cross over without adult accompaniment are to be turned over to the US Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours but they are coming over in such unprecedented numbers that it is virtually impossible for Border Patrol agents to meet that requirement.

Most children who cross over without an adult turn themselves in to law enforcement officials as soon as they are able to locate one. As such, it was unusual to find a child in an area that is as remote as the one that young Juarez was found in. Officials notified the boy's brother in Chicago using the number that was found on his belt buckle. The brother subsequently gave authorities the number for their father in Guatemala who then confirmed the boy's identity through the descriptions of his clothes. It is not yet known what the cause of death as but many familiar with the case suspect it was likely that the boy had suffered heat stroke. His father had said that he had last heard from the boy a little less than a month before his body was discovered. At that point the boy had informed him that he was in a town in Northern Mexico waiting to cross the border.

If you or someone you know would like more information about this or any other immigration issue or would like legal counsel regarding an immigration issue, please visit the Austin immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm website or call their offices in Austin, Texas at 512-215-5225.

Unaccompanied Minor Immigrants Present Big Challenges

July 2, 2014,

kid-border-patrol-fence-CNS.jpgCurrent immigration law in the United States dictates that children who are caught and detained by Border Patrol agents for crossing the US-Mexico border illegally and are unaccompanied by adults are required to be remanded to the Department of Health and Human Services. The Department then finds housing and counsel as to what their legal rights are throughout the process of deciding their case. In order to help speed up the process and quicken the deportation of children who have crossed over illegally, President Obama is trying to change the law that in such a way as to give Border Patrol agents the power to make deportation decisions themselves and send these children back home.

Officials at the White House have confirmed that the current administration is working to amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 - or TVPRA - in an effort to streamline the process of deporting children back to their home countries who have tried to cross over the US-Mexico border illegally. The officials insisted that the administration is not interested in making any changes to the law's stipulations that guarantee the protection of children from trafficking and says that it is committed to continuing to ensure that they are not sent back into dangerous conditions or situations.

The changes are necessary, however, because as the administration sees it, the law was written and enacted at a time when there was not nearly the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing over into the United States that there is today. So far in 2014 there have been over 50,000 minors who have been captured trying to cross the border into the US without any adult accompaniment. The vast majority of these children come not from Mexico but from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The changes that have been proposed to the law have caused outrage among many individuals and groups, namely the nation's immigration attorneys who disagree with making changes to a law intended to protect children who could become victims of violence and human trafficking.

The goal of the administration's actions in this regard is to more quickly resolve all of the immigration cases that end in deportation or with approval to stay in the US. Both children as well as adults end up waiting several months and in some cases even years to have their cases resolves as the country's immigration courts are severely backlogged. Border Patrol agents currently have the authority to make a determination about a minor's eligibility to stay in the US if they are crossing over from one of the contiguous countries, i.e. Canada or Mexico. The fact that these children can be remanded back to officials from their own country safely and directly makes very quick work of the overall process. Children from counties outside of North America, however, there is far more preparation involved in sending a child home.

Current immigration law does not require that these children have their cases heard by an immigration judge but according to immigration attorneys that is exactly what is happening because these children end up having to stay in the US for so long in order to hear a decision about their case. If you or someone you know would like information about current immigration law or you require legal counsel regarding an immigration issue, please visit the Austin immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm website or call our offices in Austin, Texas at 512-215-5225.

Access Denied: Immigration Facility Deemed Off Limits to Lawmaker

June 30, 2014,

accessdenied.jpgLast week a republican representative from Oklahoma was denied access to an immigration detention center in his state. Representative Jim Bridenstine drafted a strongly worded letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services blasting officials there for his having been refused permission to enter the facility when he visited there. The center, located in Fort Still, Oklahoma, holds more than 1,100 children who have been captured crossing the US-Mexico border illegally. The lawmaker said in his letter that DHHS supervisory personnel at Fort Still told him that he would need to make an appointment for later in the month to visit the facility. He also said that the Department's Deputy Director of Public Affairs had refused to take his call.

The detention center is of three such locations that have been built over the last several years specifically for the purpose of housing the scores of undocumented and unaccompanied children who cross the border into the United States every year. It is estimated that more than 60 percent of the 52,000 children that have already been detained in these facilities so far in 2014 are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Bridenstine recalled in an interview about his failed visit to the center that he had stood outside the building on the grounds where the children were actually housed and noticed that there was a newly erected fence and some kind of material covering any windows in order to obscure the view into the building.

Bridenstine wants to know what they are "trying to hide" by making it so difficult for a US Congressional leader to not only be admitted to a federal facility in his state but to even see inside it. Federal law dictates that underage persons who are captured at the border go through processing first and then are given educational as well as recreational materials and activities until they can be placed with relatives inside the country to wait for deportation. President Barack Obama requested $2 billion from Congress in order to increase the capacity of these detention centers for children as well as to provide the necessary resources to further streamline the screening and deportation processes.

The issue of illegal immigration is certainly nothing new in North America and has been one of the major hot button topics for the last fifty years in particular. But the issue has taken on a somewhat newer controversy as the focus has shifted to children trying to cross the border illegally. And these are not just children being dragged over by their parents or other relatives but rather children who cross the border by themselves. It has become a veritable humanitarian crisis and certain Congressional leaders have blamed the current President's administration for fanning the flames by creating an immigration policy that promotes and encourages children to seek refuge in the United States. If you or someone you know would like more information about US immigration policy or require legal counsel for an immigration related issue, please visit the Austin immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm website or call their offices in Austin, Texas at 512-215-5225.

Do Americans Want immigration or Not?

June 25, 2014,

A new survey by Gallup has shown that more Americans appear to want there to be less immigration to the United States, with the percentage of those anti immigration rising to 41 percent today, from 35 percent a couple of years ago. However, those results do not paint the whole picture as it relates to American's attitudes about immigration.

Looking at the data by party affiliation, the Gallup poll found that 50 percent of Republicans felt that there should be less immigration, as compared to only 32 percent of Democrats.

The new results come as the immigration debate is at the forefront of the minds of the country's citizens after the recent debates in Congress and the problems at the border with Mexico where tens of thousands of children have recently been caught entering the country illegally.

However, the overall figure of 41 percent, as highlighted in the survey, does not tell the whole story and it should not be assumed that Americans are becoming more anti-immigration. A New York Times poll from May this year showed 46 percent of Americans thought all immigrants should be welcomed to the United States, which is an increase over 2010 when the figure stood at 33 percent - and almost double from 2007 when it was 24 percent. In addition, 66 percent of respondents said that immigrants contribute to the country, whereas twenty to thirty years ago the poll showed that the majority thought immigrants were more likely to cause problems than make a positive contribution.

Also, 2010 a CNN/Opinion Research poll showed that 60 percent of Americans thought that those in the country illegally should simply be deported, rather than given the opportunity to legalize their status. Now, the position has changed with only 41 percent thinking they should be deported. And one more study, this time from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, showed that 54 percent of Americans thought that the addition of immigrants to the country made the U.S.A. a much stronger nation overall, which is an increase of 13 percentage points over 2006.

The overall shift appears to be that the country is becoming more tolerant towards immigration. But old divisions continue, with many continuing to believe that illegal immigrants should be deported. But, at the end of the day, the United States is a country of immigrants and immigration is at the very heart of the American people and what the country represents. However actually deciding on what the specific policies of immigration and deportation should be and how they should be enacted will continue to be a bone of contention, especially amongst those with different political leanings. If you need help with an immigration issue, call the Austin immigration lawyers at the Lyttle Law Firm at 512-215-5225, or visit our website today.