* Dramatization
* Dramatization
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gavelLast month, a man named Elionardo Juarez-Escobar, who is originally from Honduras, sparked a national debate on immigration policy.  In April 2014, Juarez-Escobar was charged with driving drunk in Beaver County, PA. Police released him but in July, he was arrested again because he had already been deported from the United States back in 2005.

In early December, he pled guilty to this charge and was held in custody. On December 16th 2014, Judge Arthur J. Schwab of the U.S. District Court issued a ruling stating that President Obama created a violation of the law due to his executive order in regards to delaying alien deportation. As a result, Judge Schwab gave Juarez-Escobar the option to remove his guilty plea or proceed forward with sentencing.  He opted for the latter and will receive his sentencing of time served later this month.

Once sentenced, Juarez-Escobar will be released to U.S. Immigration and Customs, which will likely trigger the deportation process.  His lawyer has stated that he can challenge the proceedings on the grounds that his mother and brother are legally in the United States and he earns money to send to his family in Honduras.

The Justice Department maintains that Obama’s executive order has no significance on criminal cases like Juarez-Escobar’s. Even still, prosecutors have not appealed the judge’s ruling. In the event that this happens, the case will likely be delayed and Juarez-Escobar’s lawyer will petition for his release on bond.

What Does the Obama Executive Order Do?

Obama’s executive order offers relief to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are undocumented and have lived in the United States for at least 5 years. This means that they will no longer have to live in constant fear of deportation. They would also be allowed to obtain work permits, giving them the right to work legally in the United States.

It also expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which started in 2012.  This program allows immigrants under 30 who came to the United States as children to file for deportation deferral. Under this new legislation, immigrants over 30 and those who have arrived more recently qualify as well.

Obama’s executive action includes facilitating visas for immigrants who plan on pursuing degrees in technology, science, math and engineering. In addition, it modifies federal detention processes for immigrants and increases resources in efforts to heighten border security.

Are you in need of immigration advice or want more information on President Obama’s Executive Action and the expansion of the DACA program?  If so, please contact the Lyttle Law Firm in Austin Texas by calling (512) 215-5225.

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immigrationorderRepublicans appear to be determined to block President Obama’s undocumented immigration executive actions and sources are saying that a House vote may come as early next week.

GOP House Leaders Meet with Colleagues to Discuss Changes

When they met on Thursday, House GOP leaders discussed building a consensus on a bill that would essentially defund Obama’s initiatives.  According the newest budget deal, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will only be receiving funds through February 27th.  Republicans want to use this deadline to prevent additional immigration spending.

In the Senate, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the new chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a bill Thursday that would block funding for Obama’s immigration executive order. He said the measure would “stop unelected bureaucrats from using the dollars of hard working taxpayers to implement the president’s unconstitutional executive actions.”

Game Plan for New Legislation

These actions will undoubtedly result in yet another battle with the Obama administration, literally days after Congress fell under control of the Republicans. Members of both the Senate and House of Representatives are already pressing forward in legislation on the Keystone pipeline and ObamaCare, which the White House has vowed to veto.

President Obama has promised to fight to maintain the funding for his executive order on immigration, which would prevent millions of undocumented immigrants from being deported and allow them to remain in the U.S. to work or seek employment.

DHS Funding Concerns

Congressional members who are adamantly pushing the “defund” this immigration legislation will now have to contend with homeland security funding due to the recent terror attacks in Paris.  DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson stated Wednesday that not funding the DHS in a prompt manner could prevent the U.S. from stopping new, smaller scale terrorism attacks like what took place in France. Speaker of the House John Boehner asserted that his party would ensure funding was still provided to DHS for such initiatives.

Given the often difficult-to-navigate waters of government agency funding, Republicans are now drafting a bill that will change the law so that undocumented immigration related benefits and services would be subject to Congressional approval.

If you or someone you know would like legal counsel regarding President Obama’s executive order on immigration or need assistance on another type of immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas by visiting our website or calling us today at 512-215-5225.

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mexicoUSPresident Obama met with Mexico’s president, Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto, on January 6th, to discuss common state matters, including immigration. The visit from Mr. Peña Nieto to Washington comes at a time of mutually increased cooperation between the two countries. This is in concurrency with the efforts being made by both the US and Mexico to normalize their respective relations with Cuba.

President Obama and President Nieto on US immigration

Amongst the issues that were discussed during the visit was the topic of undocumented immigrants crossing the border from Mexico into the US. President Nieto expressed his gratitude towards President Obama and his administration for having taken steps that will protect millions of immigrants (11.2 million as of 2012) from being deported. Obama also thanked President Nieto for his part in educating Mexicans on the facts outline in the executive action on immigration, which was announced on November 20th, 2014.  President Obama has been steadfast in his contention that Mexicans understand that the protection from deportation is being offered only to undocumented immigrants who have been in the US for years.  He has also been very clear regarding another topic: taxes. Undocumented immigrants who have resided in the US for over five years will have to start paying taxes upon successful registration.

President Obama has also gone on record to state that border patrol efforts will be intensified to try and curb future incidences of undocumented immigrants. Those caught trying to cross borders illegally will be sent back to their respective countries of origin. The President’s actions will also allow for the deportation of individuals who are a threat to national security and/or public safety. Immigration enforcement has been given the greenlight to “place anyone suspected of terrorism, violent criminals, gang members, and recent border crossers at the top of the deportation priority list.”

Immigrant Children

Following the widely publicized images last summer of children being detained as they await deportation to their respective home countries, President Obama is eager to find solutions that will avert these types of cases of migrants. The Obama administration is keen on trying to reduce and eventually eliminate immigration of children. The White House reflected on the partnership with President Nieto, who stated that there has been a reduction in the stream of immigrant children.

If you or someone you know would like legal counsel regarding the executive action on immigration or any other immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas today. You could also call us directly at 512-215-5225.

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QuinnGovenor Pat Quinn has announced two executive orders that will help to make undocumented immigrants feel more welcomed in Illinois.

On Monday, Gov. Quinn instructed the Governor’s Office on New Americans to elect a liasison for every state agency to get the most benefit from President Obama’s newest executive action concerning undocumented immigrants. This action cuts back on the numbers of deportation and allows work permits to immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally. Quinn also states in the excutive order “community policing efforts are hindered” when immigrants who are victims of, or witness, crimes are wary of cooperating because they fear they will be deported.

Welcoming Centers to Help Undocumented Immigrants

Quinn also stated that the 10 Welcoming Centers in Illinois should help people who are trying to apply for federal action, and that all state agencies need to provide information on how to get the necessary records in order to move forward.

4% of Illinois Population Will Be Helped

Govenor Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, states that about 4% of the population of Illinois could receive help from President Obama’s action.

An order was also issued by Quinn prohibiting state law enforcement officers from detaining a person just on the basis of an immigration detainer.

The state will have a new governor in less than a week but Quinn wanted to make sure that Illinois was welcoming and helpful to undocumented immigrants.

Building Relationships Between Undocumented Immigrants And The Law

Another executive order would help to build relationships between undocumented immigrants and local law enforcement. Quinn has stated we should embrace immigrants and be thankful for their contributions to the United States.

Welcoming People From Different Places

Quinn states, “I can’t forget Jakub from Poland. He came to America with his mom and became a Marine. He lost his life in Iraq. It’s important to welcome people from other places. Just like three soldiers, all Mexican-American. They became Marines and lost their lives far away. When I went to their funerals, I remember the mayor of Aurora saying those who are bashing immigrants ought to take a look at the surnames of these Marines and what they mean to our country. It’s everybody in and nobody left out.”

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.

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ca-dlAlthough thousands of immigrants residing in California are eager to get their driver’s licenses, many others are being told to think twice about it.

Advocates for undocumented immigrants state that most illegal aliens will be able to get their driver’s licenses without issue.  They are warning others, however,to contact a lawyer before seeking a new drivers license if they have used a false name or social security number in the past.  The same advice holds true for immigrants who have a criminal record or past deportation order since law enforcement and federal immigration officials have full access to the Department of Motor Vehicles files and data during investigations.  This advice given is certainly not meant to scare immigrants since many are already risking getting a ticket because they are driving their kids to school or are going to work. But, it is also important that immigrants understand that there are some risks involved.

Immigrants Driving Without Licenses

The most populated statein the US is gearing up to begin issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally to try to ease the fears of over a million people and to make the roads a safer place to travel. The California program eclipses the scale and scope of programs approved in nine other states, including Colorado, Illinois and Nevada.

California expects over 1.3 million people to begin applying for their driver’s licenses over the next three years. The amount of people who have applied for license appointments has more than doubled to 379,000 in the first two weeks immigrants have been allowed to sign up.

No Major Problems With Program For Immigrants Driver’s Licenses

Advocates for immigrants do not foresee any major problems with the program because the state has had more than a full year to prepare and has allocated a total budget of $141 million over the next three years.  Colorado did not have enough funding to begin issuing licenses and could not keep up with the demand, leading to waiting periods that were over two months long.

Concerns have been voiced by critics over how the state will be able to verify the identities of immigrants.  Just like all other applicants, residency and proof of identity are required.  Those who do not have a consular identification card or a passport are able to submit types of documents, which will be reviewed by a DMV investigator to see if they are acceptable.  Advocacy groups and Mexican consulates have been holding driver’s license preparation classes for several months.

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.

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liberty Undocumented immigrant parents will now be able to avoid deportation by the American government with the Deferred Action for Parental Accountibility (DAPA) program. The DAPA program was initiated by President Barack Obama instituting an executive action on November 20, 2014.

The DAPA program will allow the parents of undocumented immgrants to ask for a postponement in deportation and garner employment authorization if the person lived in the United States since January 1, 2010, and a parent of a U.S. citizen or a permemant resident born on or before November 20, 2014—which is the same exact day of President Obama’s executive address.

The third rule that must be passed is that the undocumented immigrants parent must pass and have a clean criminal background check. The same individual must not have an enforcement priorty for deportation on or before Nov. 20th from the United States.

The management of the DAPA program has been given to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by President Obama. All applications will be handled individually by USCIS and government officials believe that applications will be accepted beginning in May 2015.

Although the DAPA program seems like a great initiative for immigrant parents there is an application fee of $465.00. This fee would be used to cover the cost of work authorization and biometrics.

Many believe the new DAPA program is a huge step forward from the older immigration policy, even though there are still a few problems that need to be addressed. Some people feel that the parents of undocumented immigrants may be afraid to come forward because they are not aware or do not have a full understanding of the new DAPA program.

With the new law being approved it is important to note that there is no finalized application form for the DAPA program at this point in time. USCIS will release the final application after all of the requirements have been determined. Preliminary criteria that has been released by USCIS are proof of identity, proof of residency since January 1, 2010. Documents that will be accepted are phone bills, credit card statements, lease agreements, school records and medical records.

Are you in need of legal advice on the new DAPA program or its requirements? If so, don’t hesitate to contact the immigration attorneys at Lyttle Law Firm in Austin Texas. Call our experts at 512-215-5225.

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immigrantsThe changes that will result from President Obama’s immigration reform have created quite some controversy. President Obama is not the only one who has been working towards a more flexible immigration policy, however. Federal courts have been coming down hard on states with controversial policies, including Alabama and Arizona.

Utah officials recently announced that the state will be dropping some controversial parts of its current immigration legislation. Experts predict that this will be the first of numerous states to gradually retreat from what many consider to be controversial immigration laws.

The strictest part of the Utah immigration law is the so-called “show me your papers.”  This rule demanded that law enforcement officers check the immigration status of anyone who committed a serious crime, as well as minor infractions, including traffic violations. Many believed that the “show me your papers” law encouraged racial profiling and also caused fear in the immigrant communities of Utah. Luckily, Utah officials have now decided to scrap the “show me your papers” law from the states current immigration legislation.

Restrictive immigration laws, such as the ones in Utah, only started to gain popularity in 2010. Many states were trying to restrict illegal immigration in the U.S., but adopted a policy of fear instead.

Alabama has also decided to adjust its immigration policy. In 2013, the Department of Justice forced the state of Alabama to remove several parts of its immigration law, including a requirement that immigrants register their status with the state and another measure that treated transporting illegal immigrants as a criminal offense.

With the general immigration law becoming a lot more flexible in Utah, immigration lawyers wonder if this is the start of a snowball effect. Many contend that changes to immigration laws at the national and state level are far overdue, since they incorporate a state of fear instead of helping immigrants become better contributors to the U.S. economy, culture and society.

Do you need advice on immigration law in Texas? If so, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Lyttle Law Firm.  We’re based in Austin Texas and well versed in all aspects of immigration. Call us today at 512-215-5225.

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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.