Question and Answers

Month: August 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

Edward Schumacher-Matos: Why We Need the Dream Act : Immigration Law Answers Blog

This opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News is by Edward Schumacher-Matos, the Robert F. Kennedy Visiting Professor for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. 

Of all the political fights over immigration, the one that makes the least sense concerns children who came here illegally with their parents and then graduated from American high schools.

Based on statements to the media, most of the heartless Scrooges who want to kick these innocent youths out of the country – even though most are culturally and patriotically American – are Republicans.

But the dirty little secret is that Democrats have been as responsible for short-circuiting these young lives – and for denying the nation their talent after having already paid for their schooling.

They have done so in Congress by holding hostage the so-called Dream Act, which would give these young people a pathway to citizenship by joining the military or going to college. For the past decade, this bill has been seen as a motherhood-and-apple-pie measure that would help sell comprehensive immigration reform.

That logic once made tactical sense, but no more. The immigration debate has become so toxic that, spurred by Arizona, it now threatens to turn into a downward spiral of national paranoia about immigrants, particularly Hispanics. Periodic bouts of such hysteria pockmark our history – Japanese living in America during World War II, Germans before World Wars I and II, Italians and Slavs in the 1920s, and Irish and Chinese before that.

The Dream Act is urgently needed to help break this dangerous dynamic by reminding Americans of the positive side of immigration. The terms of the immigration debate have to be changed from what now is one of enforcement – and unfounded fears, largely of crime and terrorism – to an honest assessment of costs and benefits, and of the moral responsibility of immigrants and employers.

Only Obama can do this, in alliance with Democratic congressional leaders and some sympathetic Republicans. Most of our leaders have become cowed instead by the loud, often virulent anti-immigrant backlash. Obama himself says the right things but is reluctant to act.

Opposition to the act comes in part from the hard right and the normal cabal of talk show hosts who call the bills “amnesty light.” They add, as Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas wrote three weeks ago, that the Dream Act “will result in illegal immigrants taking more of the limited number of spaces available for students at public universities, crowding out deserving American students.”

Opponents on the hard left, meanwhile, charge that, given the low numbers of Latinos in college, the offer of citizenship through military service will become a popular default choice that condemns them to fighting in Iraq.

Nearly 115,000 immigrants are in the military today, and the Pentagon says it indeed would welcome more. Being an immigrant and a Vietnam War veteran myself, I agree with paying your dues or proving your loyalty. The immigrants don’t have to stay.

But going to a university and using your learned skills is a contribution, too, and we are amazingly foolish to kick out youths in whom we already have invested so much.

Arguments such as Smith’s are misplaced. States subsidize tuition because college graduates stimulate economic growth. There may be a point where those costs outweigh the benefits, but the relatively small number of students involved and the fact that they are already in each state’s education system suggest that we are nowhere near this point. What the opponents are doing is shrinking their state talent pools, a recipe for decline.

The youths themselves best make their case. As a 22-year-old wanting to join the military told The Boston Globe, “We don’t want a handout, just the opportunity to prove ourselves.” 

I-130 : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Adopting children from all over the world has steadily increased in the past decade. Over 20,000 inter-country adoptions are taking place per year in addition to the more than 200,000 foreign-adopted children already living in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is proud to play a key role in the inter-country adoption process.

Prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with inter-country adoption processes before they begin filing applications for a particular child. A good place to start is with the booklet, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adopted Children.

Prospective adoptive parents may find the services of an adoption agency helpful for guidance and assistance with the immigration of orphans and adopted children. While USCIS cannot recommend specific agencies, we strongly advise prospective adoptive parents to seek out a reputable agency with established foreign adoption experience and/or competent legal representation in their efforts to bring foreign-born orphans into the United States. One place to start looking for an agency is through the adoption advocacy community.

There are two legal ways to bring an adopted child into the country. Please review the differences, as they are important to your successful adoption.

  • Immigration/Adoption of child based on 2-years residence through submitting Form I-130: If you adopt a child before the child turns 16 (or 18, as described below), and you live with the child for two years as the child’s primary caregiver, then you may file an I-130 petition for an alien relative. The petition may be filed after the 16th (or 18th if a sibling) birthday, and the two years may culminate after the 16th (or 18th) birthday. (Please note that, generally, all qualifying criteria must be established BEFORE the child may enter the U.S.)
  • Immigration/Adoption of an orphan through submitting Form I-600: If you adopt or intend to adopt a child who meets the legal definition of an orphan, you may petition for that child at any time prior to the child’s 16th (or 18th, as described below) birthday, even if the adoption takes place subsequently (and in certain cases, the adoption does not occur until the child comes to the U.S.).

If you are interested in adopting a child from a particular country, we suggest that you consult the Department of State Website web pages addressing Country-Specific Adoption and Important Notices.

These materials alert prospective adoptive parents to conditions that may develop or already exist in foreign adoption cases. International adoption is essentially a private legal matter between a private individual (or couple) who wishes to adopt, and a foreign court, which operates under that country’s laws and regulations. U.S. authorities cannot intervene on behalf of prospective parents with the courts in the country where the adoption takes place. The adoption of a foreign-born orphan does not automatically guarantee the child’s eligibility to immigrate to the United States. Also, the adoptive parent needs to be aware of U.S. immigration law and legal regulatory procedures. An orphan cannot legally immigrate to the United States without USCIS processing.

Adopting Older Children – “Aging Out” of Eligibility to Immigrate Through Adoption.

If you are considering adopting an older child, you should be aware of the age limits on eligibility for adoptions and immigration, regardless of whether or not your state laws permit the adoption of older children (or even adults).

U.S. law allows the adoption and immigration of children who are under 16 years of age, with two exceptions:

  • Biological siblings of a child adopted by the same parents may be adopted if under 18 years of age; and
  • Orphans over the age of 16 may be adopted, as long as the I-600 petition was filed on their behalf before their 16th birthday (or in the case of an orphan who is the sibling of a child adopted by the same parents, before their 18th birthday).

What forms does my wife need to get a Green Card if she came over on a student visa? : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Home > Questions We Get > What forms does my wife need to get a Green Card if she came over on a student visa?

Q: My wife and her three children came to the states from England on my wife’s student visa in 2003. We have now been married for two years (as of last November). We have an 18 month old son together. What forms do we need to do so that my wife can get her green card?

A: Based on the information you provided, it sounds like you and your wife are eligible to use the DORA program which would allow her and her children to become permanent residents of the United States. This program is designed to have a decision reached in a case within 90 days of an interview. In many cases, it helps to have a lawyer prepare the documents, as they are quite a few and all documentation must be fully complete before you and your wife would be accepted into the DORA program.

Six Counties in Texas Join “Secure Communities” Program : Immigration Law Answers Blog

On January 22, 2009, we posted a blog message discussing the Secure Communities program administered by U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement (ICE) that facilitates the process for ICE to determine if an individual in local custody is a potentially deportable criminal alien. When an individual is detained, as part of the booking process their fingerprints are taken. With the Secure Communities program, the fingerprints are simultaneously checked for criminal and immigration records.

Now, six southwest Texas counties have joined the Secure Communities program to identify criminal aliens in the counties’ jail systems and process them for deportation. The six southwest Texas counties are Zavala County, Uvalde County, Maverick County, Val Verde County, Kinney County, and Real County.  Additional information on the Secure Communities program is available at http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/0902/090202sanantonio.htm.

Births by Midwives are Causing Citizenship Questions : Immigration Law Answers Blog

The Dallas Morning News reports that the citizenship of hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who insist they are U.S. citizens is being called into question because they were delivered by midwives near the Texas-Mexico border. Here are excerpts from the article:

The federal government’s doubts come as many try to meet a June 1 deadline to obtain U.S. passports so they can freely cross the border. Up until that deadline, a driver’s license and birth certificate will do.

People delivered by midwives have documents such as birth certificates and medical records. But the agency that grants passports is challenging the credibility of those papers, citing a history of some midwives fraudulently registering Mexican-born babies as American.

The questioned passport applications include those of children of Mexican women who crossed the border to give birth in the United States.

The government has “effectively reduced to second-class citizenship status an entire swath of passport applicants based solely on their being of Mexican or Latino descent and having been delivered by midwives in nonhospital settings in Southwestern border states,” according to a federal lawsuit against the State Department filed last year in McAllen. Immigration attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union hope to have the case certified as a class action.

If the lawsuit is not resolved before June 1, families “will have to choose if you’re going to live in Mexico or you’re going to live in the U.S. You won’t be able to cross,” said Lisa Brodyaga, the attorney who filed the lawsuit.

Approval Notice of Form I-539 Left Blank – Correction On the Way : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Home > Temporary Visas > Approval Notice of Form I-539 Left Blank – Correction On the Way

Posted on February 2, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

A foreign national in the United States on a non-immigrant visa requesting either to extend status or change from one non-immigrant status to another must file Form I-539. If you filed Form I-539 and received an blank approval notice from the Vermont Service Center (VSC), the VSC has corrected the error, and will send your correction notice shortly. Approximately 200 faulty approval notices will be corrected.

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New Form DS-160 Submitted Online – Ciudad Juarez, Mexico : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Non-immigrant visas are for foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States for a temporary period of time. The type of visa a foreign national will apply for will depend on the purpose of the trip. Non-immigrant visas can be for study, tourism, or business, to name a few. Individuals who applied for a non-immigrant visa in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and are scheduled for an interview after January 20, 2009, must now use the electronic form DS-160 which is available online at ceac.state.gov/genniv.   This recent change requires all applicants, regardless of the type of visa applied for, to submit the form online prior to their appointment at the Consulate General. Once the form is submitted online, the applicant is required to print the confirmation page and take the confirmation page to their appointment.  

Please visit the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez’s Web site for more information:  http://ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov/non-immigrant_visas.html.

Immigration Law Answers Blog : December 2008

Home > December 2008

Posted on December 31, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Lawful permanent residents (LPR) who are outside the United States for a short period of time, and seek entry back into the U.S. must present their permanent resident card (“green card”). If an LPR is going to be outside of the U.S. for more than one year, then the LPR must apply for a re-entry permit. The re-entry permit must be applied for in the United States, and the LPR must remain in the United States until biometrics (fingerprints) are taken.   If you applied for a re-entry permit, and departed the U.S. before the biometrics were taken, the permit may be denied as abandoned. Before departing the United States, a request to expedite scheduling of the required biometrics appointment may be made.  

Please call us for more information on expedited biometric appointment scheduling.

Posted on December 30, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Non-immigrant visas are for foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States for a temporary period of time. The type of visa a foreign national will apply for will depend on the purpose of the trip. Non-immigrant visas can be for study, tourism, or business, to name a few. Individuals who applied for a non-immigrant visa in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and are scheduled for an interview after January 20, 2009, must now use the electronic form DS-160 which is available online at ceac.state.gov/genniv.   This recent change requires all applicants, regardless of the type of visa applied for, to submit the form online prior to their appointment at the Consulate General. Once the form is submitted online, the applicant is required to print the confirmation page and take the confirmation page to their appointment.  

Please visit the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez’s Web site for more information:  http://ciudadjuarez.usconsulate.gov/non-immigrant_visas.html.

Posted on December 29, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Here’s a bit of good news from Immigration and Customs Enforcement – ICE is reducing the number of deportees they sedate, and is using less-powerful drugs when they do sedate people. Here are excerpts from an article in the Dallas Morning News:

Federal immigration officials, over the past year, have dramatically curtailed the controversial practice of sedating deportees with powerful anti-psychotic medication.

The move followed court challenges and a public outcry over the practice, which often involved the use of Haldol, a drug used to treat schizophrenia.

Over the past six years, through October, federal immigration personnel sedated 384 deportees, an average of 64 a year, the government disclosed. Of those cases, 356 involved the use of Haldol.

Critics said there had been no effective oversight of the process, and some continue to say that the policy violates medical ethics. They praised the use of the court order and sedation restrictions.

Though the agency has dramatically reduced its use of Haldol to sedate deportees, the practice remains controversial.

Haldol is used to treat schizophrenia and such psychotic symptoms as hallucinations, delusions and hostility.

Medical authorities say the use of Haldol carries potential complications. The drug can trigger such adverse reactions as muscular spasms and a condition known as neuroleptic malignant syndrome that can result in a coma and even death if left untreated.

Posted on December 23, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Individuals who applied for U.S passports, paid the additional $60 for expedited service, and have reason to believe they did not receive the expedited service, may request a refund of the $60 expedited passport fee. Refunds are determined by the Department of State on a case-by-case basis. If you applied for your passport, paid the $60 expedited service fee, had a planned trip, did not receive your passport in time for the trip, and reasonably believe the service was not expedited, e-mail your refund request to refundsatpassportservices@state.gov.  

Please visit the Department of State’s Web site for more information.

 

Posted on December 18, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

An editorial in the Dallas Morning News today reaches the opposite conclusion than my earlier posts on the new Texas drivers licenses for immigrants. The News believes this will reduce profiling, and I think it will increase discrimination against legal immigrants.

We don’t ask FBI agents to stop searching for kidnap victims in order to write speeding tickets in school zones, so I don’t know why we should ask local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws. Here are excerpts from the editorial:

There are reasons to be squeamish about the new “temporary visitor” licenses and ID cards that the Department of Public Safety now issues to legal immigrants. There are also strong justifications, and, on balance, they outweigh the drawbacks.

The vertical layout of the new card is designed to distinguish its holder as someone deserving of extra scrutiny, which doesn’t sit well with many people. Immigrants might feel they’re getting a mixed message. We tell them to assimilate, but we issue them a special ID that says: You’re not one of us.

Yet this new format and the security measures behind it are necessary. There are 12 million or more illegal immigrants residing in America, and according to a 2006 Pew Hispanic Center study, nearly half of them arrived legally but overstayed their visas.

The new cards specifically address this problem, getting rid of the standard expiration periods that allowed immigrants to drive legally or present a valid ID even though they were in the country illegally. Instead, temporary visitors’ licenses will expire when their visas expire. The vertical format – the same one used for minors – tells law enforcement personnel to be extra vigilant.

Critics say the vertical card unnecessarily stigmatizes immigrants. Besides, the expiration date is all that really matters. But when officers in most cities stop drivers and see that the license expiration date has lapsed, the driver will receive only a misdemeanor citation. No arrest occurs.

With horizontal licenses, officers have no way of quickly determining whether a “foreign-looking” driver should be detained or allowed to leave. Ethnic considerations come into play as the officer decides whether an immigration check is necessary. The horizontal ID invites racial profiling. The vertical ID dramatically reduces that problem.

Posted on December 16, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

There is an interesting twist to the continuing sage of the Farmers Branch, Texas efforts to restrict housing in that city to legal residents, and to exclude illegal immigrants. The latest census data show that Hispanics are now the largest demographic group in Farmers Branch, edging out whites. This was the subject of a story in the Dallas Morning News, and here are excerpts:

New census data shows the complexion of Farmers Branch is changing dramatically, giving activists fresh ammunition for their legal efforts and adding fuel to the debates over representation and illegal immigration in the city.

The estimates, released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau, reveal that Hispanics have eclipsed whites to become the city’s largest demographic group. Residents overall are skewing older, and the median household income has declined.

On the city’s biggest issue – its ongoing efforts to drive illegal immigrants from the city – the information is far less conclusive.

The figures, part of the American Community Survey, represent a composite of surveys taken from 2005 to 2007. It provides the first look at Farmers Branch socioeconomically and demographically since the 2000 Census. A Dallas Morning News analysis of the statistics showed:

•Hispanics accounted for 46.7 percent of the city’s population, while whites made up 46.1 percent. In 2000, whites accounted for 55.8 percent, compared with 37.2 percent for Hispanics.

•The number of residents who speak Spanish at home increased, while the number who speak only English decreased.

•Home values have risen, but the majority of homes are valued at $150,000 or less.

Experts caution against drawing too many conclusions from the data, because some of the figures are built upon estimates with a significant margin of error. But they agree that the information draws a compelling picture of change.

Council member Tim Scott, who reviewed the census figures, said the statistics show a city in desperate need of renewal.

Residents who lived in their homes for decades have moved out, leaving aging houses that draw new residents with lower income and education levels, Mr. Scott said.

“That’s just not sustainable as a city going forward, which is why we need some wholesale revitalization,” he said.

Besides the voting rights lawsuit, Farmers Branch has been tied up in litigation over efforts to ban most illegal immigrants from renting apartments and homes.

Posted on December 15, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

U.S. citizens residing abroad may qualify their personal servants or domestic workers for B-1 status during a temporary trip to the United States. Temporary trip usually means six months or less. Since the foreign domestic worker will engage in employment in the United States, he or she will apply for work authorization once admitted in the United States. One of the requirements for this visa category is that the domestic worker must have worked with the U.S. citizen prior to the U.S. visit. Additionally, there must be an employment contract providing the domestic worker with free private room and board, and guarantee the “prevailing wage” for the area of intended employment.  

Are you a U.S. citizen residing abroad and have a temporary trip to the United States? If you want your personal or domestic worker to enter the United States with you on this temporary trip, please call our office and we will provide you with all the requisite information.

Posted on December 11, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Did you enter the United States on a B-2 tourist visa, file an extension of status in the U.S., and a decision on the extension of status application is still pending? U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is currently taking eight to twelve months to adjudicate a B-2 extension of status application. Individuals with pending extension of status applications should be very cautious when leaving the United States. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will not admit individuals back to the United States if they left more than six months after the application for extension was filed. There are serious consequences and appropriate measures should be taken.  

Please contact us if you have questions about B-2 visas or any other aspect of immigration law.

Posted on December 10, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

I’ve written before about the new Texas law requiring foreign nationals to use a different form of driver’s license than that used by U.S. citizens. Now opponents of that law are calling on politicians to rescind the rule. The Dallas Morning News had a good story on this subject today. Here are excerpts.

Under the new requirements, which were approved by Texas’ Public Safety Commission and went into effect Oct. 1, foreign nationals are forced to provide documentation of their immigration status before getting a license and each time they renew.

The licenses and identification cards, which are now vertical instead of horizontal for immigrants, are stamped with the words “temporary visitor” and list the date the person’s legal residency expires.

Supporters say the new guidelines — which ban the Department of Public Safety from issuing or renewing licenses for any immigrant who is here illegally, or who has permission to stay in the country fewer than six months — are necessary to protect the country from terrorist acts. The Sept. 11 attacks were carried out by hijackers who had valid driver’s licenses despite having expired visas.

“I strongly support the recent DPS rule changes that ensure public safety and national security, and am confident the vast majority of Texans feel the same way,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. “…Those who criticize these new rules fail to acknowledge the realities of the world in which we live, where we must know who is in our state and nation, whether or not they mean us harm.”

But opponents say that the changes constitute “institutionalized racism” and that the “temporary visitor” language on the card could affect immigrants’ chances at renting housing or securing a loan.

And they say the Public Safety Commission overstepped its authority by passing something akin to immigration policy. Several lawmakers are planning their own legislation to try to counter the new guidelines.

DPS officials deny that the new rules have caused trouble. U.S. citizens don’t have to provide any additional evidence; birth certificates and other information already on file with the state is sufficient. Nor have online and mail-in renewals been disrupted for citizens.

And they say it’s certainly not a profiling tool. People who are living in the country illegally and try to get a driver’s license are simply being turned away – not arrested.

The rules are an effort to get Texas in compliance with the federal REAL ID act, which requires states to ensure driver’s licenses are issued only to people who are lawfully in the country by late 2009. Changing the appearance of the licenses is not a federal requirement, and U.S. homeland security officials say they have no records on how many states have done that.

Posted on December 8, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new interim rule today allowing certain visas holders in “T” and “U” classification to adjust their status to lawful permanent residents. The rule also provides for adjustment of status for family members of a principle T or U visa holder.

Certain foreign nationals who are victims of a severe form of human trafficking are eligible for “T” visas. In order for individuals in “T” visa status to adjust their status to lawful permanent residence, the individual must have three years of continuous presence in the U.S. or a continuous period during an investigation or prosecution of the acts of trafficking.

The “U” visa classification is for victims of certain crimes who are willing to assist government officials in the investigation of the criminal activity. “U” visa holders must be physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of at least three years since the date of admission to apply for lawful permanent residence. Evidence of continuous physical presence can be provided by college transcripts, employment records, utility bills or other supporting evidence during the requisite three year period.

Individuals with both “T” and “U” visas, must be in valid status at the time they seek to adjust their status. There is a 5,000 annual cap for “T” visa holders, and no numerical cap on adjustment of status for “U” non-immigrants.

The rule becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Please stay tuned for the latest developments.

Posted on December 7, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

That’s the premise behind the Web site WeHireAliens.com. You can go there and report any business you suspect hires illegal aliens. You need not have any evidence at all, and you certainly don’t have to leave your name or reason for reporting the business.

The site was the subject of a recent article in the Dallas Morning News. Here are excerpts:

Hundreds of Texas employers, and thousands around the nation, have inspired Internet publicity they didn’t court: They’re accused of hiring illegal immigrants.

A Web site, www.wehirealiens.com, lists companies from Pilgrim’s Pride to Swift & Co. as “alleged” employers of illegal immigrants. Both those food companies have had employees at their Texas operations arrested for immigration violations and document fraud, but many other companies listed on the site have not.

And that has employers angry that the founders of the Southern California-based site publicly accuse them of breaking laws. The founders contend they established the site in 2004 in frustration over what they call ineffective action by the federal government. There are now nearly 5,000 “illegal employers” listed from nearly every state.

The Web site reflects one more way that technology is amplifying the national debate over illegal immigration. Scores of sites have gone up in the last few years to defend, to denigrate, and to discuss civilly the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

The federal government won’t divulge its tipsters. “ICE doesn’t confirm special sources, but we use various sources to obtain intelligence,” said Carl Rusnok, spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Dallas. “Then we determine if follow-up action is appropriate.”

ICE runs its own hotline – 1-866-DHS-2ICE – and information there keeps the Department of Homeland Security agency very busy, Mr. Rusnok added. Mr. Mrochek said they send information to ICE, the FBI and the Social Security Administration. He also said that information is vetted and less than a third of the complaints they receive are actually posted on the Web site.

Dallas-based La Madeleine Bakery, Cafe and Bistro is also listed on the site. Officials at the privately owned restaurant chain said they have tried to get the chain’s name removed from the site and that they comply with federal immigration laws. “It would appear that they never remove these postings and do not verify if the allegations are true,” said CEO Mike Shumsky. “This, as you might expect, is concerning.”

Posted on December 5, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Bulletin from Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Struggling to find enough doctors, nurses and linguists for the war effort, the Pentagon will temporarily try to recruit foreigners who have been living in the states on student and work visas as well as on refugee and political asylum status.

Officials say Defense Secretary Robert Gates is authorizing the armed forces to recruit certain legal aliens whose critical medical and language skills are “vital to the national interest.”

In doing so, he is using for the first time a law passed three years ago.

The military previously has already been taking recruits who have green cards. But the new move allows the services to start a one-year pilot program to find up to 1,000 aliens who have lived in the states legally for at least two years on certain types of temporary visas.

Posted on December 5, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

In what is becoming a financial disaster for the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch, a judge has now ordered collection of more electronic documents from the city. As everyone probably knows, Farmers Branch has been trying for quite a while to enact city ordinances banning illegal immigrants from living there. Each attempt has been met with lawsuits, always resulting in more legal fees for the city and much wasted productivity.

This is more evidence that the federal government needs to step up and take responsibility for immigration law enforcement and reform. We can’t continue to have cities and states waste valuable resources trying to do the work of the federal government. Here are excerpts from a Dallas Morning News story about the latest Farmers Branch immigration news:

State District Judge Bruce Priddy ruled that a third party would be hired to collect the city documents because initial efforts had not been satisfactory. He also ruled that the city would have to pay all the costs, at least initially.

Attorneys for the plaintiff said the ruling was a sanction against the city for failing to comply with a court order to turn over all documents related to the city’s ordinances. A lawyer for the city said Farmers Branch had prevailed in its efforts to keep some documents privileged. “This ruling goes to the heart of the matter,” said William A. Brewer III, who represents a Farmers Branch resident suing the city. “The city continues to frustrate the public’s right to know. … The lawsuit complains that the city is doing business not in public, when it drafts and deliberates and debates city business.”

Resident Guillermo Ramos has alleged that the city violated the Open Meetings Act in deliberating and acting on the various anti-illegal immigrant ordinances it has passed since 2006.

This week’s action is the latest development in the city’s efforts to ban rental housing for illegal immigrants.

Farmers Branch initially passed an ordinance in November 2006 requiring apartment managers to obtain documents showing that tenants are U.S. citizens or legal residents. The city subsequently repealed that ordinance, then approved a similar one that was also put up for a citywide vote.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, but it was challenged in court. In August, a federal judge ruled against the ordinance. While that case was working its way through the courts, the Farmers Branch City Council adopted another ordinance, but its implementation has been halted pending the outcome of a lawsuit.

The latest ordinance requires people renting a home or apartment to declare their citizenship or that they are in the country lawfully and to obtain a city rental occupancy license. Information from noncitizens would be verified through a federal database.

Posted on December 3, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Acting Director for USCIS has resigned, close on the heels of the resignation of the head of ICE. The Administrative Appeals Office is also without a leader. Who’s running the show up in Washington these days? Anyone want to apply for a job that will probably end on January 20, 2009? Here is the official statement from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertof:

For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary

Contact: 202-282-8010

Today is Jock Scharfen’s last day as Acting Director for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Jock has demonstrated remarkable dedication to this department during his tenure as Acting Director and as Deputy Director, and has helped guide the agency’s transformation into a 21st century service-driven organization. 

Jock has made lasting contributions to homeland security, including processing a record number of naturalization petitions, effectively eliminating the FBI name check backlog, and welcoming thousands of Iraqi refugees that supported the U.S. overseas.

I am grateful for Jock’s service to our nation during his tenure at the department as well as his distinguished 25-year career as a U.S. Marine. On behalf of the department, I thank him for his many contributions to improving the services we provide legal immigrants and in naturalizing thousands of new U.S. citizens.

Posted on December 3, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

That was a headline in the Dallas Morning News, and let’s hope it comes true. This country desperately needs the federal government to step up to the plate and take responsibility for passing and enforcing immigration laws. As is, we have a hodgepodge of states and municipalities trying to pass conflicting laws regulating immigrant behavior. If the federal government would just do what we pay them to do, the cities and states wouldn’t have to worry about this issue. Here are excerpts from the article.  

As governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano pushed the federal government to take more responsibility for illegal immigration. When it didn’t do so, she signed a state law that filled the vacuum, establishing the nation’s toughest penalties for companies that hire illegal workers.

Analysts expect Ms. Napolitano, introduced Monday as President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for secretary of homeland security, to lead an effort to reassert federal authority over immigration. Her record as a proponent of enforcement signals that Mr. Obama will balance border-security concerns with the demands of employers wanting more foreign labor, they said.Ms. Napolitano has supported the concept of a “virtual fence,” or using surveillance and technology to monitor smugglers.

“The governor understands that immigration is a federal responsibility, and she has made that pretty clear by asking for federal help,” said James W. Ziglar, senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and a former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Of the border fence, Ms. Napolitano famously said: “You show me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.”

Ms. Napolitano has supported the concept of a “virtual fence,” or using surveillance and technology to monitor smugglers.

Her nomination was applauded by business groups who think she’ll support efforts to expand guest-worker programs.

As governor, Ms. Napolitano pushed for so-called comprehensive immigration reform. She has supported a temporary worker program and called for a national employer-verification system.

Posted on December 2, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The New York Times has a good editorial about the selection of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for homeland security secretary. The Times is in favor of Napolitano, and so am I. I think she’s a good, moderate voice in the immigration debate. I hope she can find a middle ground between the enforcement-only crowd and the open-the-borders crowd. Here are excerpts from the editorial:

It would be a relief to see the job go to someone with a solid understanding of immigration and all its complexities and political traps. As governor of a border state, Ms. Napolitano knows the landscape intimately. She has a cool head and a proven willingness to pursue policies that conform to reality, rather than the other way around. For years, the country has stumbled in a state of immigration panic, using harsh tactics to create the illusion of control while rejecting comprehensive strategies that would attack the problem at its roots.

Getting comprehensive reform passed may be a difficult slog for the new administration. But it can move quickly to repair what has gone awry with the enforcement-only regime, starting with reining in state and local crackdowns. Ms. Napolitano would do the country a huge favor by taking a withering look at a fellow Arizonan, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has used the federal 287(g) program, which delegates immigration enforcement to the local police, to terrorize immigrants in Phoenix.

Ms. Napolitano is famously skeptical of the border fence, the Bush administration’s 700-mile, multibillion-dollar desert speed bump. The fence was never going to be the zip-lock seal its defenders clamored for, and is hardly worth the expense or environmental damage it has caused. Ms. Napolitano is well aware that the way to get tough at the border is to bring the visa supply in line with reality and give the Border Patrol the resources to catch drug smugglers and other bad people.

The federal crackdown on illegal hiring is a similar mishmash of hastily erected rules, including much-criticized systems of checking workers’ names against error-plagued databases. Ms. Napolitano would do well to ensure a slow, judicious rollout of electronic workplace enforcement, to avoid mistakes that could ruin the lives and livelihoods of thousands of legitimate employees.

The immigration detention system, which has been scarred by horrifying accounts of neglect and mistreatment, is in dire need of reform to ensure humane standards of medical care. And perhaps most important, the new administration should abolish the disastrous campaign of raids that have sundered families and spread terror through immigrant communities while making no meaningful difference in the undocumented population.

Posted on December 2, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports that Rio Grande Valley property owners are having trouble finding property appraisers – key witnesses in hearings that will determine how much the government pays for the land it uses to build the border fence. This is going to be a major problem in the battle between the property owners and the U.S. government over the construction of a border barrier. Here are excerpts:

The limited supply of qualified appraisers for this sort of work in the valley, the cost of bringing in an appraiser from elsewhere, and the fact that the government grabbed the valley’s premier appraisal firm for its side could lead to fewer landowners holding out for a trial, said lawyers involved with the cases.

The Justice Department expects about 270 condemnation lawsuits against valley landowners. Most have settled, but federal lawyers say about 80 holdouts could carry their cases all the way to trial, scheduled to begin next spring.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is trying to complete 670 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. It will not meet its end-of-year deadline, but has promised to have all sections under contract by then.

Posted on December 1, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Dallas Morning News has a good editorial about obstacles to be faced in enacting immigration reform legislation with a new administration and new Congress. Bottom line – it won’t be easy, but it must be done. Here is the editorial:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid perked up some ears last week when he told Gannett News that Congress will follow up on the post-election agreement between President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain to move forward on reforming immigration laws.

We weren’t in the room when those erstwhile rivals met, but hallelujah, if that’s what they agreed to do. States like Texas and cities like Flower Mound live daily with Washington’s failure to create saner immigration laws, including a temporary guest-worker program and a way for illegal immigrants to earn citizenship.

What worries us is that this task may be more of a battle than Mr. Reid envisions. The Nevada Democrat says he doesn’t expect “much of a fight at all.”

True, some circumstances have changed since the Senate failed to overhaul immigration laws in 2006 and 2007. For one thing, there are fewer illegal workers because of stronger enforcement of our borders and our economy’s retreat.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Obstacles remain.

Interestingly, the bigger ones could come from the left, rather than the right. In the Senate’s previous debates, labor, civil libertarians and other parts of the Democratic left were content to largely let the Republican right kill the reform effort.

Now Democrats run Washington, and Mr. Reid must fend off his left flank if immigration reform is to have any meaning. That includes ensuring that labor doesn’t sharply restrict the number of guest workers, which union leaders quietly tried to do in 2007.

Another obstacle is the economy. Mr. Obama must balance various constituencies as he lines up votes for his economic plans. That includes winning Republican votes, which are needed so partisanship doesn’t overrun efforts to stabilize the economy. Getting them could be made trickier if Mr. Obama presses too hard on immigration.

That said, Mr. Reid’s comments encourage us. Certainly, Mr. Obama needs to deliver. He handily won the Hispanic vote, largely because Latinos considered him the stronger champion of fair immigration laws. He has a tricky task ahead, but we all have a stake in him making good on his promise.

Posted on December 1, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

 The Associated Press reports that nearly 1 million Mexican migrants living in the U.S. are expected to head home for the holidays, but relatively few are returning loaded down with gifts and cash this year. This could have a profound effect on the upcoming immigration debate, but of course this situation will reverse when the U.S. economy improves. Here are excerpts from the story:

Many are simply moving back after losing their jobs in the U.S. economic crisis, a disappointing turn for an annual journey that has become a cherished tradition in towns and villages across Mexico.

Wearing an Old Navy sweat shirt, Enrique Gonzalez, 38, said all he was bringing back to Saucillo in northern Chihuahua state was his deported uncle’s furniture.

“There are no gifts, thanks to the recession,” said the Phoenix, Arizona, hotel employee as he waited for a permit for his truck and trailer at a Mexican Customs office in Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

Mexican Immigration Commissioner Cecilia Romero expects the usual number of Mexicans to return between Thanksgiving and Christmas, despite a spike in drug violence along the border, but says “some who are coming back are deciding to stay in Mexico for awhile.”

Greater border security, the U.S. crackdown on its undocumented population and the economic downturn have discouraged would-be migrants from heading north, legally and illegally. The Mexican government says emigration has dropped 42 percent over the last two years.

Many Mexicans already in the U.S. also are giving up on the American dream. Even before the economic crisis, in first-quarter 2008, Hispanic unemployment was at 6.5 percent, well above the 4.7 percent rate for all non-Hispanics. Another key indicator is that money migrants send home — Mexico’s second-largest source of foreign income — has fallen this year for the first time since record-keeping began 12 years ago.

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Napolitano Chosen As Secretary Of Homeland Security : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Posted on November 20, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Washington Post reports that Janet Napolitano will be appointed as Secretary of Homeland Security:

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D), whose handling of immigration issues brought her accolades from fellow governors, is President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to serve as secretary of homeland security, Democratic sources said late Wednesday.

Napolitano, 50, was an early supporter of Obama and was the only elected official tapped to serve on his transition team. She was reelected in 2006 to a second term as governor of Arizona, the home state of Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in the race against Obama. Napolitano previously served as U.S. attorney and state attorney general for Arizona; she was the first woman in both of those posts.

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ICE Detains Fewer Suspected Illegal Immigrants from Irving Jail : Immigration Law Answers Blog

As reported by the Dallas Morning News, federal immigration agents since October have cut back by about 50% the number of suspected illegal immigrants removed from the Irving city jail. The city of Irving began running citizenship checks in 2006 on all people arrested by Irving police.

There seems to be some confusion about the reason for the decrease in immigration holds. Here are excerpts from the newspaper article:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and Irving police disagree on the cause of the drop. Irving police say that federal officials are no longer detaining scores of suspected illegal immigrants who only have class C misdemeanor charges.

“Nothing changed in terms of our practice,” Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said. “We still share information with everyone who is arrested in Irving.”

Immigration officials say they continue to place immigration holds on suspected illegal immigrants accused of low-level crime. They suggest Irving jailers are the ones who have made an alteration.

“We haven’t stopped taking any sort of referrals at all,” said Carl Rusnok, an ICE spokesman.

Irving has turned more than 5,600 people over for deportation since the city began using the Criminal Alien Program in 2006. The program allows federal authorities to check the immigration status of inmates in the city’s jail.

Irving officials brag that with the program, they have turned over more suspected illegal immigrants than any other city in the country. Demonstrations supporting and opposing CAP helped the city become the backdrop for America’s discussion on illegal immigration nearly three years ago.

Rusnok said the agency will take only people charged with more serious crimes if resources such as beds, time or manpower are scarce. But, he said, there have not been the kind of long-term resource shortages to explain the sudden and sustained drop in detainers in Irving.

Boyd maintains that his jailers have said that ICE no longer seems able or interested in taking suspected illegal immigrants charged with the lowest level of crimes. Boyd said ICE has taken about 82 percent fewer Irving people charged only with class C misdemeanors this year compared with last year.

The Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity last year released a report that found “strong evidence” that Irving officers racially profiled Hispanics in order to process them through CAP. Boyd disputed the study. The report from the institute, which is part of the law school at the University of California-Berkeley, was released the month before last year’s drop in detainers.

Boyd, who has disputed the study’s finding, said it had nothing to do with the decline in immigration holds. He said the study also has not changed the average number of inmates or the crimes for which arrestees are held.

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