Question and Answers

Month: March 2011

Editorial: Flawed, Divisive Immigration Bills : Immigration Law Answers Blog

The Dallas Morning News ran an excellent editorial today about some of the proposed new immigration legislation in Austin. This is important enough to reprint in full:

Picture a Texas where city police officers become foot soldiers in a push to corral and deport people who are in the country illegally. Picture neighborhood schools as part of the screening process to sort out who has immigration papers and who does not.

It’s a jarring picture that radically changes the jobs that cops and educators already work hard to get done.

Yet it’s the image we get from lawmakers in Austin who have filed – with dramatic flourish – bills to put local officials in the business of immigration enforcement.

They represent a wedge issue in next year’s legislative session. Lawmakers’ attention will be dominated by the painful job of chopping up to $25 billion out of the state budget. Even so, some of the most conservative lawmakers are creating a sideshow out of their vows to pass Arizona-type laws to crack down on illegal immigrants.

There is no doubt that local taxpayers pay the bill for services for people in the country illegally, and Texans have justification to be steamed at Washington’s refusal to piece together a workable immigration policy. But these Austin proposals would do nothing to pay for services, secure the border or deal systematically with millions of people who overstay their visas.

What the proposals would do is make cops on the streets responsible for determining whether someone is in the country illegally before making the arrest. The problem with that is the naive notion that cops can do this job with little chance of racial profiling.

An arrest could come only during a stop on a separate infraction, but it would require the police officer to check with federal immigration officials on a suspect’s status. The problem is the time and energy that would take from officers who should concentrate on catching dangerous people.

The author of the legislation filed in the House is Debbie Riddle, aRepublican from the Houston suburb of Tomball. One of her bills, she said, would require “school districts to report the number of illegal aliens attending their schools.” Local educators don’t need a time-consuming new mandate from Austin and the distraction of becoming de-facto immigration inspectors. Schoolchildren shouldn’t be caught in the middle of document searches and background checks. Education should be the priority.

Riddle filed her legislation with much stagecraft. She camped outside the House – yard chairs and all – so she could be first in line for her bill filings.

Politicians like to say that Austin is different from other state capitals, that members put aside party differences “for the good of Texas.” New House Speaker Joe Straus, a centrist Republican, was able to restore some of that spirit last year.

Going into the 2011 session, the GOP majority in the Legislature is bigger, bolder and farther to the right. What’s certain is that lawmakers will have some of the most polarizing political battles imaginable. These battles will be not so much “for the good of Texas” as they will be for the good of people’s political resumes.

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Hazleton's Immigration Ordinances : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Many of us in the Dallas area are closely following the Hazleton, Pennsylvania saga regarding that town’s ordinances aimed at keeping illegal immigrants away. We do this because a local suburb, Farmers Branch, is doing essentially the same thing. Neither city is having much luck, as they keep getting shot down by the federal courts.

An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer provides details of Hazleton’s latest setback. Here are excerpts:

In a high-profile Pennsylvania case that helped spark the ongoing national debate over immigration policy, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the City of Hazleton has no right to punish businesses or landlords who hire or rent to illegal immigrants.

The ruling, by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, upheld a 2007 lower-court decision prohibiting Hazleton from enforcing local immigration ordinances.

The judges said federal immigration law preempted Hazleton’s controversial 2006 initiatives.

“Federal law simply does not prohibit landlords from renting [in the ordinary course of business] to persons who lack lawful immigration status,” Chief Judge Theodore McKee wrote. “Nor does federal law directly prohibit persons lacking lawful status from renting apartments.”

The ruling sets up a likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We’re over the moon,” exulted Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania, who successfully argued the case. “Hazleton pioneered a wave of these divisive laws across the country that tore communities apart along racial and ethnic lines.”

The appellate ruling, Walczak said, “is a pointed repudiation of such local anti-immigrant laws, and should serve as a warning to other communities considering similar misguided legislation.”

But Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, who pushed through the ordinances, becoming a folk hero to many, vowed that the fight was not over. Saying he was “not disillusioned” by the ruling, Barletta pledged to take the case to the Supreme Court.

“Hazleton was the first, and became the symbol of hope for many around the country,” the three-time Republican congressional candidate said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “Since I proposed this law more than four years ago, we have seen the growing frustration all across the country.”

“It is . . . not our job to sit in judgment of whether state and local frustration about federal immigration policy is warranted,” McKee wrote. “We are, however, required to intervene when states and localities directly undermine the federal objectives embodied in statutes enacted by Congress.”

In the court’s view, that’s what happened in 2006, when Hazleton began passing a series of ordinances aimed at undocumented immigrants.

The laws gave the city the right to fine employers and suspend their business licenses for hiring such immigrants. Similarly, landlords “harboring” illegal immigrants could have their rental licenses pulled and be prohibited from collecting rents.

Hazleton also required anyone 18 and older to obtain a permit, predicated in part on their immigration status, before being allowed to rent an apartment.

Because of ensuing legal challenges and court injunctions, the ordinances have never been enforced.

Your Rights As A Lawful Permanent Resident : Immigration Law Answers Blog

Attorney Eugenia Ponce recently wrote a blog post here cautioning Lawful Permanent Residents to keep their trips abroad relatively short. Here is the text of that post: Lawful permanent residentsMore…

Lawful permanent residents (LPR) of the United States (green card holders) need to keep their trips abroad to a relatively short period of time. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)More…

At Kraft & Associates, we receive many questions from individuals and employers regarding immigration laws and procedures. Here are some of the most recent questions we’ve received, and our answers.More…

Editorial: Don't Be Fooled By Immigration Decline : Immigration Law Answers Blog

I wrote earlier this week about a Pew report indicating a decline in illegal immigration from Mexico. But the Dallas Morning News warns that the problem is not yet solved, and will not be solved until our elected representatives find the courage to debate and pass comprehensive immigration reform. The editorial is good enough to reproduce in full here:

The estimated number of illegal immigrants in the United States sank by nearly a million to 11.1 million from 2007 to 2009, suggesting that the tide has turned in efforts to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform already are claiming that new migration statistics from the Pew Hispanic Center vindicate their position that tougher enforcement, not reform, is the solution.

There’s no disputing the trend toward lower numbers. Major indicators, however, point to the economy as the principal driver, bolstered by a growing anti-illegal immigrant mood across the nation.

The 2007 slump in homebuilding, a major magnet for low-cost migrant labor, set off the wave. The subsequent national recession further soured the migrant job market. However, the number of illegal immigrants in Texas continues rising – largely because our unemployment rate remains lower than the rest of the country. Analysts say it appears that some migrants aren’t necessarily going home but are relocating to states where the jobs are.

At the same time, American companies are facing tough new sanctions for employing illegal immigrants, making them far less inclined to take that risk. The Obama administration also has dramatically stepped up efforts to remove illegal immigrants in federal custody, having deported 389,000 last year and aiming for a record 400,000 this year.

Finally, the danger of sneaking into the United States has grown dramatically because of border-area violence. Drug gangs are kidnapping northbound migrants and holding them for ransom. The recent mass murder of 72 Central and South American migrants in the state of Tamaulipas underscores the intolerably high risks.

These factors have combined to produce the remarkable numbers in the Pew report. Problem solved, right? Hardly. Remember: A whopping 11.1 million illegal immigrants remain. And when the U.S. economy improves, jobs will lure other migrants back. Mexican gangs vying for control of border smuggling routes eventually will see they have a financial stake in increasing, not deterring, the flow of migrants northward.

That’s why comprehensive immigration reform remains the long-term solution – along with sustained, tough enforcement – to ensure that migrants seeking entry into this country do it by the book, while those already residing here understand there’s no choice but to legalize their status and pay for having broken the law.

Employers must have access to a predictable supply of legal, low-cost migrant labor, which can be guaranteed only through a scheduled system of temporary work visas envisioned under comprehensive reform.

These numbers point to signs of short-term progress on immigration, but don’t be fooled. This problem is far from solved, and it will keep coming back until Congress gets serious about comprehensive reform.

“AgJobs Bill” Proposes Amnesty For Up To 1.35 Million Farm Workers : Immigration Law Answers Blog

On Thursday, May 14, 2009, Senator Diane Feinstein introduced a bill, nicknamed the “AgJobs Bill,” that seeks to grant amnesty for up to 1.35 million farm workers working in the country illegally, primarily in California. Feinstein and other legislators proposed the AgJobs Bill numerous times over the last decade but were met with fierce opposition. However, supporters of the bill – including the United Farm Workers of America and other worker advocates – are now hoping the legislation will become a legal reality under the Obama administration.   Generally, the AgJobs Bill would allow foreign farm workers who have been working illegally in the United States for at least two years to earn a path toward becoming legal permanent residents.  Workers’ family members would also be eligible for legal permanent residency, which could bring the number of legalized farm workers to approximately two million people. The bill would also focus on overhauling a program that aims to recruit foreign workers for seasonal jobs on American farms, where profitable construction jobs have tended to lure workers away.  

For more information on Senator Feinstein and the AgJobs Bill, please visit: http://feinstein.senate.gov/public. For additional information on this news story, please visit: http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_12370678.

New Passport Agency Located in Dallas, Texas : Immigration Law Answers Blog

U.S. citizens throughout the southwest border region who suddenly have an urgent travel need now have access to a new passport issuance facility. On July 13, 2009, the 22nd U.S. passport issuance facility opened in Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Passport Agency joins the Houston Passport Agency in providing in-person passport services to U.S. citizens and issuing the passport books on-site to qualifying applicants.  

The Dallas Passport Agency is located at 1100 Commerce Street, conveniently located in downtown Dallas. For more information regarding passport costs, and applications, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s Web site at www.travel.state.gov.

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