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.

Immigration Reform Stalled

June 23, 2014,

immigration-bill.pngThe U.S. Senate passed an aggressive immigration bill a year ago, but the hopes for any actual reform have faded. Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez from Illinois, who was the leading person backing the bill, has said that in his opinion there is no hope that any reform will happen this year, and that he is throwing in the towel.

Speaking to the Republicans in the House, he said that they had lost their chance to decide how immigration and deportation policies should be carried out, and that the only option left was for President Barack Obama to take action himself to stop the current level of deportations- which are higher than ever. The immigration bill offered the possibility of becoming an American citizen to a staggering 11.5 million people currently residing illegally in the United States. It also well as would have improved security along the border and amended the rules to allow more people to come to the United States on a legal basis. Those against the legislation argue that these 11.5 million should not be given any preferential treatment.

Guttierrez, a major campaigner for the legislation, spent months working with Republican legislators to ensure the work was carried out, but a small and vocal group stymied every move forward. The reasons for the blockage appear to be partly due to the fact that 52,000 children travelling alone have been stopped near the border since October last year as they attempted to enter the country from Mexico. Many have blamed Obama for this, saying that his policies such as DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, have encouraged such immigration. Now it is thought that Obama will be lobbied to try and limit the number of deportations and to expand DACA, although the current situation on the border may put an end to that idea.

Some still think that there is hope, including Senator John McCain, who suggested that the increased numbers of children trying to cross the border is not an excuse to stop immigration reform. He went on to say that if the Republicans want to regain support from Hispanic and Asian voters in order to win presidential elections, they have no option but to back immigration reform. He then stated clearly, that without the necessary reform, the Republicans would quite simply not win another election.

President Obama remains confident and has predicted that Congress will pass an immigration reform bill before the end of his presidential term and he would like to see it done this year.

The immigration situation in the country took a sharp turn towards becoming more difficult recently, as rhetoric increased following the defeat of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Now, more than ever, immigrants to the U.S. must ensure that they give themselves the best chance to navigate the country's difficult immigration system. If you have an immigration situation and need assistance, contact the Austin immigration attorneys today at the Lyttle Law Firm by calling 512-215-5225.

Immigration Still a Hot Button Topic Among Americans

June 18, 2014,

passport1.jpgThe issue of immigration is alive and well in America and has been picking up steam exponentially throughout the course of the current President's term. One of the many topics within this contentious issue is that of whether or not illegal immigrants who are living in the country should be allowed to stay and pursue legal residency of one kind or another. A recent survey showed more than 60 percent of Americans believe that they should be allowed to become full on citizens and that nearly 20 percent believe that illegals should indeed be allowed some type of residency but not be allowed citizenship. Nineteen percent of those surveyed believe they should not be allowed to remain in the country at all.

The same survey showed that about 45 percent of Americans believe that illegal immigrants actually are beneficial to the nation's economy in that they essentially provide cheap labor. Nearly as many, however, believe that illegals are a detriment to the economy because they drive down wages. This is compared to just over one year ago in March of 2013 when it was found that 56 percent who were of the belief that illegal immigrants were a detriment to the economy.

Regardless of the opinion trends and the relative importance placed on the issue of illegal immigration in the United States, the survey also showed that it is not nearly the priority among Americans that health care and the economy are. For consistency, the same households were surveyed in both the 2013 as well as the 2014 nationwide poll. Additionally, the survey found that nearly 60 percent of Americans believe that the influx of immigrants over the past several years has worked to strengthen society in America while 37 percent believe that it is detrimental to society because it serves as a threat to traditional American values.

An interesting element of the survey was in relation to what factors seemed to influence public opinion in regard to the issue of illegal immigration in America. It was found that opinions against citizenship for illegals among respondents correlated heavily with their admission that they rely on FoxNews as their primary source of political and current events information. This is well in line with the findings that showed that support for deportation was most abundant among Republican respondents. Conversely, respondents who claimed to rely on the more leftist MSNBC for their news were found to have more favorable views toward immigrants and immigration.

In the end, while no direct correlation between negative opinions about immigration and the current President's job performance could be found, the survey did show that certain minority groups were less likely to vote in the upcoming midterm congressional elections partly because of their disappointment with Barack Obama.

If you or someone you know is in need of counsel or representation regarding any immigration issue, please contact the Austin Texas immigration pros at the Lyttle Law firm at 512-215-5225 or visit their website.

ACLU Reports Blasts Private Immigration Prisons

June 16, 2014,

aclu.jpgThe American Civil Liberties Union recently released a scathing report on the nation's private immigration prison system that took to task the Bureau of Prison, its contractors, and America as a whole. In the report, the ACLU claimed that the Bureau and its contractors had managed to generate a private prison system for illegal immigrants that was essentially unregulated and which incentivized companies to hold prisoners in solitary confinement for profit. It also made claims of rampant abuse throughout the system and accused those in authority or being allowed to get away with those abuses.

The 104-page report is the culmination of several years of research into the private immigration prison system in America in general and focuses particularly on five facilities that are located in the state of Texas. For-profit private prison companies received upwards of $600 million in 2013 from the Bureau of Prisons in exchange for running what has been termed "privately operated institutions". When asked by the ACLU for comment about the report, two of the major private prison companies denied that abuses were taking place in their facilities and one of the corporations refused to respond.

The report found that in the forty years between 1970 and 2009, the prison population in the United States grew by over 700 percent with the majority of that growth coming from the drug war in America during the first two decades in question. Since the turn of the century, however, that trend has shifted from most of the prison population growth resulting from the war on drugs to resulting from immigration offenders. Over the last several years, immigration has become the single most prosecuted federal offense in the United States whereas in the years leading up to the millennium illegal border crossings were treated as a civil offense. Border-state politics is believed to be largely responsible for that shift.

The ACLU report accuses the private prison industry of reaping outrageous profits as a result of the criminalization of immigration. It states that federal prisoners who do not have citizenship or resident status are typically separated into what are known as "Criminal Alien Requirement" prison facilities after they are prosecuted. These prisons have certain attributes that other non-immigrant prisons do not. The first is that they are among the only federal prisons in the country that are operated by for-profit corporations rather than as federal institutions. Secondly, they only hold non-citizen inmates, and third, they have lower security requirements than higher security prisons that are directly operated through the Bureau of Prisons.

The report also accuses the federal government and the private prison industry of using the contracts with the private for-profit prison companies to escape public records laws and to avoid media scrutiny. According to the Union, the Bureau of Prisons does not provide adequate oversight and require accountability of the for-profit companies and goes to great lengths to see that the public is not made privy to the facts about these private immigration prisons.

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

Sheriffs Increasing Setting Suspected Undocumented Immigrants Free

June 11, 2014,

undocu.jpgAcross the nation sheriffs are increasingly releasing undocumented immigrants instead of keeping them locked up, as federal authorities would like. One of the reasons for the change is that sheriffs have become aware, after a series of court decisions, that Department of Homeland Security's directions to hold on to the immigrants amount to mere suggestions or requests, instead of being warrants as the sheriffs had originally believed. The clarification has left the sheriffs with very little choice but to allow the undocumented immigrants to walk free.

Under the Constitution, once a person has completed their time served in jail or prison they must be set free. In other words, sheriffs are not able to lawfully hold a person after they have served their time or posted bail - even if the person is a suspected illegal immigrant - solely due to the fact that DHS requests them to do so. In fact, some sheriffs have actually gone as far as announcing that they would no longer honor the detention requests, called "detainers", which are issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security. One such sheriff, Boulder County, Colorado Sheriff Joe Pelle, recently joined others across the country that are increasingly rejecting the requests.

The tide against honoring the detainers is turning as a result of several court rulings. For example, in April a federal court ruled that Clackamas County, Oregon violated the Fourth Amendment rights of a woman who was held on a detainer, even though she was eligible to post bail. As a result thirteen counties in the state have changed their policies to comply with the ruling. Other counties in the country are also taking notice, such as Sonoma County, California, which changed its policies in May.

For its part, ICE says that releasing the undocumented immigrants poses a danger to public safety. According to a recent USA today article, the policy of releasing the immigrants may have led to the death of at least one woman, when her boyfriend allegedly killed her after having been released in Chicago. That city stopped honoring the ICE requests in 2011. In all, the story says that almost 350 immigrants have been released since Chicago changed its policy to reject the requests.

These developments continue to underscore the difficulty the country is having when attempting to come up with a comprehensive immigration policy. Now even counties are fighting with the federal government. And due to recent political developments, things do not seem as if they will change soon.

If you need immigration assistance, you are recommended to choose to work with a qualified team of attorneys. The Austin, Texas immigration attorneys at the Lyttle Law Firm have the experience necessary to assist you. Call us now at 512-215-2552, or visit our website.

Shattering Myths about DACA Immigration Amnesty

June 9, 2014,

daca123.jpgDeferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will help at least 560,000 people who are not U.S. citizens. This act, recently renewed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, applies to non-U.S. citizens who came to the country through a parent's illegal actions. DACA allows such people, as long as they have not developed a significant criminal record, to get a Social Security Number and work authorization in the United States. In most areas of the country including Austin, TX, these non-citizens can obtain a driver's license.

New DACA applications as well as renewals are only available to people who have continuously lived in the United States since June 15, 2007. One or both of their parents must have chosen the route of illegal immigration to gain entry into the United States. Anyone convicted of a felony, three or more misdemeanor crimes, or who poses a credible threat to national security is ineligible for immigration amnesty.

An applicant must be at least 15 years old to apply; exceptions may be made for children who have had previous contact with immigration authorities in the Austin, TX area or beyond. No one born after June 15, 1981, will ever become too old for DACA, as long as their illegal presence in the country is the result of a parent's choices. Those who have left the United States for any period of time are ineligible for immigration amnesty.

Education is a vital component of the DACA program. Applicants who have dropped out of high school are still eligible, but only if they attend a GED, English as a Second Language, career-training program, or literacy program. The aim of DACA is to help people who did not voluntarily break immigration laws to become productive members of American society. Thus, education is a key component of the program.

As of June 2014, the filing fee for a new or renewal DACA authorization is $465; this fee includes the cost of the required fingerprinting and criminal background check. Those who currently have an immigration amnesty should apply for a DACA renewal at least four months before their current permit is scheduled to expire. Though DACA currently serves 560,000 people, the Immigration Policy Center estimates that 1.8 million people may be eligible for this assistance.

Older applicants for immigration amnesty are statistically more likely to be denied DACA, so getting the advice of a qualified Austin, TX immigration lawyer will dramatically improve an applicant's chances of legally remaining in the United States. If you, or someone with whom you are acquainted, need aid with a U.S. immigration or naturalization complication, contact the Lyttle law firm today by calling 512-215-5225.

The Changing Face of Immigrants to the United States

June 4, 2014,

immigrationstamp.jpgFor centuries the United States has been the top immigration destination globally. Immigrants from such countries as Germany, China, Ireland, and Italy have all come to the country in order to seek better lives. But while the country continues to be a strong immigration draw, over the years the demographics of those immigrating to the U.S. has changed significantly. For example, in the late 1800s and early 1900s Europeans made up the bulk of those immigrating to the United States. But by the late 1900s Latin Americans had become the top immigration demographic.

In 1910 Germany was the top country immigrating to the U.S., and accounted for approximately 18% of all immigrants to the United States, 2.5 million people. In that year those from countries belonging to the former USSR accounted for approximately 11% of all immigrants to the country, 1.6 million people. Though those from south of the border did immigrate to the United States in the early 1900s, their numbers were far fewer than those seen in more recent years.

In 1965 Congress voted to open the U.S. borders, attracting large numbers of immigrants from Latin America and Asia. This changing of the guard led to dramatic demographic changes in different regions of the U.S. For example, in 1860 almost 40% of immigrants to California were from China. Similarly, New York and New Jersey saw approximately 30% of their immigrants come from countries of the former USSR in 1910. By contrast, Mexican immigrants now far outnumber Chinese immigrants in California and Latin American immigrants have similarly superseded Eurasian immigrants in New York.

The United States continues to attract immigrants from all over the world. Indians are coming to the country and settling in such states as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, while Canadians are calling Maine, Vermont, and Montana home. Filipinos are settling in Hawaii and Alaska. These stats point to the fact that there is no one face of the U.S. immigrant. Instead, the United States attracts people from all over the world, people who are looking to come and participate in the American experiment and seek a better life for themselves and their families.

If you, or someone you know, would like help regarding an immigration or naturalization matter in the United States, contact the Austin, TX immigration lawyers at the Lyttle law firm by calling 512-215-5225.