Law Office of Valdez & Monarrez
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The Law Office of Valdez & Monarrez helps families in the Rio Grande Valley & Houston area with immigration, citizenship, naturalization, deportation defense & visas. We can also help with cases involving criminal defense, injuries, divorce or other legal matters.

McAllen Texas Immigration Law Blog

9th Circuit rules on asylum seekers' right to appeal

Immigrants who have come to Texas seeking asylum might eventually be able to appeal a rejection under a new ruling although it will only take immediate effect in states under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit. The initial test for asylum seekers is establishing a "credible fear" of returning to the home country. This is decided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers.

Under U.S. law, asylum seekers can only appeal the decision on technical grounds. However, on March 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that this violates the constitutional protections afforded to non-citizens in many other cases and that migrants should have the right to appeal before an immigration judge. The ruling allows asylum seekers in Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Hawaii, Alaska, California, and Arizona to immediately appeal a rejection.

Work permits for H-1B visa spouses may be ending

Spouses of H-1B visa holders in Texas may no longer be permitted to work if a rule change is successful. The change, which was first discussed in 2017, has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget from the Department of Homeland Security. From there, it may be returned to the DHS, or it might be submitted to the Federal Register for a public comment period of anywhere from 30 to 90 days.

The H-1B visa is intended to bring specialized foreign workers to the United States. Many come from India and China. Preventing spouses from working could discourage some from accepting jobs and may reduce the talent pool coming into the country since the change would force them to live on just one income.

Supreme Court takes no action on DACA protections

The Supreme Court took no action on a case that may decide the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This program allows undocumented immigrants in Texas and other states to stay in the United States as long as they reported their status entered the country under the age of 16 by 2007. The Trump Administration intended to shut down the program in 2017, but a lower court ruling on the issue prevented them from doing so.

Nicknamed the Dream Act, DACA affects the immigration status of some 700,000 people. Several circuit courts have upheld the program against efforts to terminate by reasoning that deferred action has been an integral part of the immigration system for decades. Deferred action helps the government give more resources to enforcement issues that actually affect national security rather than a group of immigrants that cause no harm.

Immigrant children allegedly harmed in detention

The Trump Administration has held more than 10,000 immigrant children in detention at facilities in Texas and other states along the border, and the treatment of these kids has come under major scrutiny. Several lawsuits allege that the administration did not meet the minimum standard of care, which requires the least restrictive environment possible. The plaintiffs claim that the government did this purposefully to punish immigrant families.

Many of the migrant kids were locked up in federal facilities even though they had family in the U.S. who could take them in according to advocates. Most underage migrants come to the country as teenagers, with or without parents, fleeing violence in Central America. Even though they are seeking asylum, advocates say some asylum seekers are being treated as criminals in the U.S. justice system.

What to do if you are stopped by police or immigration

It is a difficult and probably more than a little frightening time for immigrants in the United States. This is doubly true for any visitors who are undocumented. Fortunately, everyone in the United States has constitutional rights to protect them regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.

Being approached by an American police officer can be very intimidating. Even when you have done nothing wrong, the experience can still leave you shaken. Below are a few of the basic rights you have while in the country – do not be afraid to use them.

Government shutdown cancels over 40,000 immigration hearings

Many immigrants live in Texas, and those who have been waiting for their immigration hearings will have to wait longer. The government shutdown that began in December 2018 has forced immigration courts to cancel 42,726 hearings according to figures collected by the Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse.

These cancellations have happened to people who have already waited two to four years for their hearings. Now their cases will probably fall to the bottom of the list of people awaiting immigration hearings. The cases clogging immigration courts have already ballooned to over 800,000 cases. If the government shut down persists until the end of January, TRAC predicts that 108,112 immigration cases will suffer continued delays.

Changes impact H-1B work visa process

Employers and employees in Texas may be concerned about potential changes to the H-1B work visa program. Obtaining an H-1B visa can be an important step toward a lucrative professional career as well as the ability to obtain permanent residency. Unlike other forms of work visas, H-1B visas can be transitioned into green cards for eligible immigrants. On an annual basis, there are 85,000 of these work visas issued. While 65,000 go to people with a bachelor's degree, 20,000 are designated for those with a master's degree or other advanced education.

Applications are opened for H-1B visas in early April. During this time, there is usually an overflow of applicants so great that the program is oversubscribed in the first week. In 2018 alone, 200,000 petitions were received in the first week of open applications. Because of the high level of demand, the government uses a lottery system to choose successful applicants from among the candidates eligible. H-1B visa holders have become an important part of the economy; major tech corporations like Microsoft, Intel and Google hire many H-1B workers. These companies warn that a cutback in work visas could lead to increased competition from foreign companies.

Credible fear asylum claims on the rise

Residents of Texas who have questions about immigration should be aware that credible fear asylum claims have climbed, according to research concerning the figures released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. From 2017 to 2018, claims of credible fear climbed 67 percent. Credible fear is the first step toward asylum and can be used when a person fears for his or her personal safety if he or she is sent home.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection released the numbers publicly as more migrants continue to seek asylum to gain entry to the country. For example, a caravan of more than 6,000 migrants, most of them from Honduras, attempted to seek asylum in San Diego. One commissioner explained that, for the most part, asylum claims are generally unsuccessful in immigration court. However, judges granted asylum in 21 percent of cases in 2018.

Federal judge refuses to back down from asylum ruling

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar refused to suspend his earlier ruling blocking the Trump administration from imposing new conditions on asylum seekers at the southern border, including the border with Texas. The Department of Justice had asked the federal judge to allow the administration to grant asylum only to those migrants who crossed the border with Mexico under new conditions imposed by Trump. However, the judge said that the administration had failed to meet its burden to show that its policy is legal under U.S. immigration law.

In addition, the judge highlighted the material harm that asylum seekers could face under the proposed restrictions, especially people with legitimate claims. The ruling came after several migrant rights groups filed a lawsuit to block a proclamation by President Trump on Nov. 9. The proclamation declared that the government would no longer allow applications for asylum from people who crossed the southern border without documents or a legal process. However, existing asylum law explicitly allows for asylum applications regardless of the legality of a given person's entry into the country.

Judge orders halt to controversial Trump asylum policy

Many Texas residents are aware that a caravan of immigrants from Honduras has been traveling to the U.S. border over the past several weeks. About 3,000 of the caravan's members have now made their way to Tijuana, and reports indicate that many of them plan to seek asylum in the United States. President Trump has vowed to prevent this from happening, and he issued a presidential proclamation on Nov. 7 that would deny asylum to any individuals who cross the Mexican border illegally.

Trump's proclamation contradicts asylum protocols established by international law and codified by Congress. Therefore, the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Constitutional Rights have filed a lawsuit against the proclamation in court. On Nov. 19, a federal judge ruled that the president does not have the authority to rewrite the nation's immigration laws. This led to a temporary restraining order that prevents authorities from enforcing the proclamation.

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