Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Whatever Happened to Immigration Reform?

After the U.S. witnessed such an enormous influx of unaccompanied minors earlier this summer, Americans were left wondering "what’s the next step for immigration reform?"  "Do we let them stay?"  "Do we send them back?" "How will this effect the President's proposed 'Path to Citizenship' for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants?"

While some are simply labeling this movement as a border crisis, others - primarily the immigration activists - see this as more of a “humanitarian crisis.”  Many of the now 60,000+ unaccompanied minors who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border were escaping violent acts brought upon by gangs and cartels in their South American hometowns and villages. There is even talk of allowing such individuals to be granted asylum status in order to give them temporary, or maybe even permanent, status in the United States.

All the while, record-breaking rates of deportations are happening under President Obama's watch.  Currently, 1,100 illegal immigrants are being deported every day, and immigrant communities, as well as activists for these communities, are pleading for Obama to make it stop.  They believe having to wake up every day and not knowing if their families will be broken because ICE may find one of them deportable is an “inhumane” act.  They feel they are refugees attempting to save their own lives, not simply “illegal immigrants.”  On the other side, you’ve got your believers who think if someone has been committing a federal crime for the past five years by being in this country illegally, the only thing they deserve is a bus ticket back to their country.  What do you think?

Unfortunately, President Obama has failed to live up to his word of taking executive action, with respect to immigration reform, by the end of Summer 2014.  It is now looking like said executive action(s) may have to wait until after the November elections.  While we all anxiously await his decision, are you thinking about how this may be affecting you directly?  If you or a loved one is being affected by this movement in some way, please call 949-440-3240 or visit our website by clicking on the link below: 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What's Next for Immigration Reform in 2014?

January 14, 2014: Comprehensive Immigration Reform never really materialized in 2013. After the Senate passed its version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, optimism abounded that finally something would be done to overhaul the nation's flawed immigration system. But then a potential military strike on Syria happened. Then the Obamacare website had numerous rollout issues. Then Thanksgiving, Congress's winter recess, and here we are in 2014, immigration reform stalled and at a standstill.

The President hinted that the Democrats would now be willing to pass immigration reform in steps late in 2013, but rather than then get the discussion started again by offering a rather large concession to House Republicans, numerous other political issues took center stage. And we now find ourselves in 2014, an election year, does this mean the end (at least short-term) for immigration reform?

Well that depends on who you ask. For example, Speaker Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) both want to reform immigration laws, but in a gradual, step-by-step process (contrary to the Democrat's vision of comprehensive reform, a very unlikely scenario now). They have forwarded, rather quietly, several pieces of immigration reform legislation to committees. But fierce opposition to any immigration reform, be it piecemeal or comprehensive, is firmly entrenched within the GOP's own ranks. In a recent Wall Street Journal piece, influential Republican Congressman Steve King (R-IA) made clear his stance on immigration reform by stating "[i]t would be a colossal mistake for us to take up anything that would end up just changing the subject and getting it off Obamacare and on to something that splits the Republican Party." Indeed, as has been mentioned before, House Republicans from "safe districts" (i.e. no viable threat from Democrats and/or immigration reform supporters) have made it all too clear they will not pass a bill that gives undocumented immigrants, as they put it, "amnesty" (i.e. "path to Citizenship).

The road ahead for immigration reform is far from certain. Opposing ideologies, Obamacare, and most importantly, an election in November, all point to the fact that very little will be done regarding immigration reform this year. What is a possibility is that Congress will pass a bill making it easier foreign-born science and technology grads to move to, or remain, in the US. One other likely scenario is that Congress will pass a bill to strengthen the Southern border with Mexico. But, as for the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants in the United States, their futures are still up in the air and any path to legal status in the US (at least with respect to 2014) remains very unlikely.

If you or a loved one has an immigration matter that needs expert attention, please call 949-440-3240 or visit our website by clicking on this link: Orange County Immigration Lawyer. Happy New Year to all my loyal readers, I hope to have some good news regarding immigration reform very soon.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Obama Suggests Immigration Reform Could be Done in Steps

November 21, 2013 -   Speaking at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Summit, President Obama on Tuesday indicated he would be willing to accept immigration reform in stages, rather than the all-inclusive comprehensive immigration reform he's been touting for close to a year. Cognizant of the fact that the Republican-led House of Representatives and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) have openly signaled they are opposed to a comprehensive immigration reform bill, President Obama said "They're suspicious of comprehensive bills. But you know what? If they want to chop that thing into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don't care what it looks like."

This stands in start contrast to the numerous statements he's made over the course of this past year suggesting he would oppose any legislation that fell short of a comprehensive immigration bill. As this author has noted time and time again, one side had to budge, and it appears as if the President and his Democrat allies in Congress will be the ones to do so.

Speaker Boehner, who supports immigration reform, albeit a piecemeal approach, stated last week that he is "trying to find some way to get this thing (immigration reform) done", but he alluded to the fact that any immigration legislation could face fierce opposition in the House, adding it is "not going to be an easy path forward.

Immigration reform now appears as if it will take place in steps, rather than a full-blown comprehensive plan that Democrats thought they had after the November 2012 Presidential elections. The botched roll-out of "Obamacare" and misstatements regarding the plan have damaged the President's credibility and his signature legislation is danger of becoming unraveled. Perhaps his acquiescence now to a piecemeal approach to immigration reform is indicative of the troublesome past few months he's faced - some form of immigration reform would at least serve to divert attention from the troubled Affordable Care Act and provide him with a much-needed boost in his approval ratings (at an all time low of 37% according to the latest CBS poll).

Now the next question is when would any immigration reform bill make its way into the Congress. With Thanksgiving around the corner and Congress's Winter Break soon to follow, it is unlikely any immigration reform bill would be considered until 2014.

So, as has been mentioned frequently on this blog before, existing US immigration laws are still being enforced. These laws, especially regarding removal (deportation) are very harsh. For example, did you know that a Green Card holder, say one who has been here since he was 2 years old and is now say 50,  can be deported for having only one specific misdemeanor? A misdemeanor that may have not even resulted in any jail time can lead to his removal? With little to no hope of relief? Yes, neither did I until I became an immigration attorney. That is why it is so critical to consult with an experienced Orange County Immigration Lawyer. If you or a loved one is not a US Citizen and is charged with ANY crime, call 949-440-3240 and speak to a licensed immigration attorney, one who fully understands the immigration consequences of state crimes. Visit www.kpimmigrationlaw.com for more information.

Also, for readers in Texas that are facing immigration matters, please consult with a Dallas Immigration Attorney, Vinesh Patel, a graduate of a top-ten law school (University of Michigan) and an attorney who is specializes in removal and deportation issues in Texas.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform Dead?

I've been blogging close to a year about comprehensive immigration reform, and while there's been ups and downs for immigration reform, I haven't seen it this close to dead since the discussion began in earnest (right after the Republicans took a thumping in the November 2012 Presidential election). So, is immigration reform really dead? The answer to that depends upon who you ask. Immigration reform activists continue to remain hopeful that Republicans in the House of Representatives will get their act together and show the Hispanic electorate that they are in tune with the problems and issues facing the growing Hispanic population. However, this is wishful thinking at this point.

In June, right after the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" reached a consensus on immigration reform, which allowed for passage in the Senate, I remained cautiously optimistic that we would have a comprehensive immigration reform bill on the President's desk by about Thanksgiving. Back then, the major hurdle to overcome was House Republican opposition to perceived amnesty (i.e. a "Path to Citizenship" for the 11 million undocumented immigrants). With conference committee talks, backdoor negotiations, and President Obama using his bully pulpit if and when needed, I thought that in due time, both sides would eventually come together with some type of agreement.

That was then, this is now. Enter the Syria chemical weapons showdown, government shutdown, and most recently, the debt ceiling crisis - all-in-all taking up about 2-3 months of congressional time, replete with the typical bickering, blame game, and finger-pointing - and we end up back where we were in June, with little progress in the House. We've scarcely heard from the media about immigration reform with those three issues dominating the news cycle. Now that those crises are over, there appears to be little momentum from the House Republicans regarding comprehensive immigration reform. It doesn't look better moving forward either.  Don't forget the Holiday season is upon us, the "Obamacare" website has glitches, Congress will take another monthlong vacation, and the government shutdown/debt ceiling crises will again be front and center in 2014 when the Senate and House reconvene after Winter recess. Doesn't leave much time to pass a landmark immigration overhaul bill does it?

And not to add fuel to the fire, but Washington politicians primarily care about themselves, their lobbyists, and their powerful jobs. It's not going to help that we're about to enter another election cycle in 2014, which will be dominated by debates about spending cuts, entitlement programs, the debt ceiling, budget, and of course, Obamacare. Politicians will have little stomach, especially House Republicans in competitive districts, to engage in talks about such a hot-button issue as immigration reform. Oh, and then there's the Tea Party.

What does this all mean? It appears likely that a true comprehensive immigration reform bill is as good as dead for now. Whether the Congress can pass certain measures - such as heightened border security, enforced E-Verify compliance, and perhaps some form of probationary status for the undocumented immigrants - remains to be seen. Democrats have by and large indicated they will not pass piecemeal immigration reform measures, but after these last battles, may be willing to compromise a little.  But don't hold your breath waiting for comprehensive immigration reform anytime soon. Existing US immigration laws remain in force, many of which are quite harsh for those convicted of a whole host of crimes. If you or a loved one is facing deportation, don't think immigration reform will help you. You need aggressive representation now, contact an Orange County Deportation Lawyer now or call 949-440-3240. Thanks to all my loyal readers out there and feel free to leave comments (note: comment spam will be deleted).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fiscal Crisis Over: So What's Next for Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

October 17, 2013: With the House and Senate finally agreeing on a bipartisan bill to end the budget and debt ceiling crisis, Congress's focus will now hopefully shift to other pressing national priorities. And one of the most important issues Congress will have to tackle is comprehensive immigration reform. Stalled by debates on a Syria intervention, and for the past month, the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis, comprehensive immigration reform has by and large taken a back seat. But that's about to change. Speaking on Univision this past Tuesday, President Obama indicated that Comprehensive Immigration Reform would again become a top priority once the debt ceiling crisis was over. "Once that's (debt ceiling crisis) done, you know, the day after, I'm going to be pushing to say, call a vote on immigration reform" the President said to the Spanish language news network.

A comprehensive immigration reform bill passed the Senate in June, due in part to the efforts of the "Gang of Eight" - a bipartisan group of senators including Sens. Marco Rubio, John McCain, Charles Schumer, and Dick Durbin - but has been stalled in the House, due in part to Republican reluctance to so-called "amnesty" or a path to citizenship. Recent world and domestic events have only served to delay any bipartisan negotiations, but it didn't stop President Obama from again pointing the blame to House Speaker John Boehner. "We had a very strong Democratic and Republican vote in the Senate," the President said, but added "[t]he only thing right now that's holding it back is, again, Speaker Boehner not willing to call the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives." Boehner has, on numerous occasions, indicated that the Senate's bill would not pass the House, and that the House was committed to its own version of comprehensive immigration reform, minus a pathway to citizenship and in a "piecemeal" fashion, something Senate Democrats and the President have said is unacceptable.

Just like the recent debacle in Congress involving the economy, the passage of comprehensive immigration reform (if it passes at all) will endure plenty of back and forth between the House and the Senate, spurred on at times by the White House, with each side blaming the other for any lack of progress. But unlike the debt ceiling crisis, which had almost the entire country, if not the world, united to see Congress increase the debt ceiling and avert a financial meltdown, comprehensive immigration reform does not have that "Armageddon-like" feel to it. And without a significant grassroots push to see its passage, comprehensive immigration reform may succumb, much like the other failed attempts at immigration reform, to public and political indifference. Adding to the uncertainty, there's only a few months left before the Congress has to yet again deal with budget and debt ceiling issues.

Will comprehensive immigration reform ever become a reality? The jury is out on this one and this author simply does not know as of yet. Let's just hope no other crisis flares up and pushes immigration reform back to the end of the line again. Keep checking this weekly blog for updates and insight into comprehensive immigration reform, and another important news concerning US immigration matters. And should you need to speak to an Orange County immigration lawyer, please call 949-440-3240 or visit www.kpimmigrationlaw.com.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

California Governor Brown Signs Sweeping Immigration Bill

October 9, 2013: Late last week, California governor Jerry Brown signed one of the most sweeping immigration bills in the nation's history, allowing undocumented immigrants to become lawyers, prohibiting law enforcement from "detaining" people charged with minor crimes (commonly known as ICE holds), and making it a crime for employers to threaten to report someone's immigration status. And just the previous day, the governor also signed a law allowing undocumented workers to get their California drivers licenses. 

"While Washington waffles on immigration, California's forging ahead" Brown stated in response to the federal government's lackluster progress on comprehensive immigration reform.

As expected, critics of the new laws were quick to point out that the bill would send the wrong signals to those seeking to enter the country unlawfully. "It's sending the wrong message to the world" said Robin Hvidston, Executive Director of We the People Rising. "This is a message to the global community to come to the state of California illegally and you will get documentation and protection."

Immigrant rights activists saw things differently however. "Today marks the dawn of a new era in California's immigrant communities", said Reshma Shamasunder, Executive Director of California Immigrant Policy Center.

Among other provisions of the law are new protections for those that use the services of immigration law professionals in gaining legal status, a measure that was seen by some immigration attorneys as actually hindering immigrant rights by placing more burdens on practitioners.

But the major impact of the law will be felt by those who come into contact with law enforcement. Under the federal government's "Secure Communities" program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "request" that local law enforcement "hold" undocumented immigrants (prior to their release) for up to 48 hours so ICE can make a determination on whether to take the person into federal immigration custody. But the "Secure Communities" program had the effect of deporting many low-level criminal offenders, much to the anguish of immigrant rights activists. From now on however, only those individuals charged with violent felonies or certain crimes would be subjected to an ICE hold.

Stay tuned to this blog to see how the law plays out and to find out the latest on comprehensive immigration reform. And if you need to speak to an experienced and trusted Orange County immigration attorney, please visit www.kpimmigrationlaw.com or call 949-440-3240.

Friday, September 27, 2013

San Bernardino County Sheriff to Partner with ICE in Immigration Enforcement

September 27, 2013 - According to an article in the Press Enterprise, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved, without debate, a controversial program wherein the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department will receive training in immigration enforcement from the US Immigration and Custom's Enforcement agency, commonly known as ICE. Under ICE's 287(g) program, state and local law enforcement enter into a partnership with ICE under a joint memorandum of agreement and receive delegated authority from the federal government for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.

San Bernardino County is one of only 35 or so law enforcement agencies nationwide that participate in the program. Sheriff's Deputies will receive training on how to determine whether any of their inmates are in the US illegally. The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department already participates in ICE's "Secure Communities" program, which screens the fingerprints of all incoming inmates through a federal immigration database. However, those who recently entered the country illegally or who have had no prior contact with law enforcement, would not show up in the Secure Communities database. Hence, 287(g) proponents advocate its use as another tool in apprehending those who are in the country illegally.

Already, nine San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department employees have received ICE training on conducting immigration interviews with potential immigration violators who enter the county jail system. Opponents of the program say that the 287(g) program unfairly singles out Hispanics for extra scrutiny and makes no distinction between lower level crimes and felonies. Opponents also state that programs such as these diminish the community's trust in law enforcement, especially when they see local law enforcement collaborate with ICE.

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department, whose agreement with ICE ended July 22, has yet to make a decision on whether to enter a new 287(g) agreement with ICE, and as such, has stopped conducting immigration interviews at their jails.

In the world of removal (deportation) defense, convictions for certain crimes can carry severe immigration consequences, with many crimes making one removable (deportable). It is therefore essential to consult with an immigration attorney the moment you or a loved one are arrested for most any crime. For example, a simple plea down to battery can avoid the deportation consequences associated with domestic violence, a removable offense per INA 237(a)(2)(E)(i). Only an Orange County immigration attorney who has the experience and familiarity with the immigration consequences of state criminal law should be trusted to handle a criminal matter for those aliens, documented or undocumented, given the extreme outcomes of certain convictions.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or is in immigration proceedings, contact an Orange County Immigration Lawyer at 949-440-3240 to speak with a licensed attorney about your immigration or criminal matter.

To read the Press Enterprise article, click on the link below.