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Mark Kinzler, P.C.

Austin Immigration Law Blog

Judge orders changes at Texas immigrant detention facility

The Trump administration's controversial immigration policies suffered another legal setback on July 30 when a federal judge ordered that all children being detained at the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Texas be removed from the facility unless a psychiatrist or psychologist determines that they pose a risk to either themselves or others. The judge also ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to no longer administer powerful psychotropic drugs to children unless they have obtained permission from their parents or legal guardians.

The judge made the rulings after hearing accounts of children being denied water, prevented from making telephone calls and being prescribed drugs including Prozak and Risperdal without their parents' consent. The DHSS says that secure facilities like Shiloh are necessary to deal with children who could harm themselves or others or suffer from serious mental health conditions. The ruling comes less than a month after another California federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite thousands of immigrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Judge's deportation ruling offers reprieve to immigrant families

Many Texas residents are aware that the federal government has been widely criticized for its policy of swiftly deporting reunited families of undocumented immigrants. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking to give undocumented families more time to prepare their asylum claims or legal defenses, and the district court judge hearing the cased ruled on July 16 that deportations should cease temporarily. Attorneys representing both the ACLU and the government will now have the opportunity to argue whether or not the order should be extended permanently.

The authorities have been working to reunite detained undocumented immigrant children with their parents. However, government figures reveal that the parents of 71 children have not been located and the parents of hundreds of other children have still not been identified. According to official estimates, more than 2,500 children between the ages of 5 and 17 were separated from their parents at the Mexican border by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Questions surround treatment of detained immigrants

Those who have relocated to the United States with the hope of staying may be paying close attention to immigration headlines, and particularly those relating to the treatment of immigrant detainees. While much of the recent media attention involving immigration covered children separated from their parents, the San Diego Tribune is now calling attention to another immigration-related issue: the treatment of detained immigrants across all age groups while in custody.

According to the publication, immigrant detainees and their advocates have lodged more than 800 complaints alleging hate-related abuse and discrimination while in government custody.

Government faces lawsuit for detention of green card applicants

Some people in Texas might be concerned that an attempt to obtain a green card could result in deportation instead. When a man in New Jersey who was an undocumented immigrant went to his appointment at Immigration and Customs Enforcement to apply for a green card, he was instead placed in a detention center. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the New York Civil Liberties Union have filed a lawsuit against the government because of the man's detention.

On June 22, a judge placed a block on the man's deportation although he remains in detention. An attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union says a law passed during the Obama administration that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for green cards without being deported is still on the books. According to her, the actions of the Trump administration, in this case, violate the policy.

Sessions' asylum guidelines could lead to risks

Immigrants in Texas with asylum applications may be concerned about recent remarks made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said on June 11 that certain asylum seekers would no longer be granted protection. In particular, victims of domestic and gender violence and gang violence will not be protected, as Sessions classified these types of attacks as "personal crimes" rather than targeting for one's social position. This is a distinct shift from existing practice, which recognized these types of violence as a social phenomenon rather than one that is purely individual.

Sessions stated that asylum is appropriately granted in cases where people face persecution or a fear of persecution based on their membership in a social group, but exempted these types of crimes from that category. In addition, he stated that the horror of the crimes from which people fled was beside the point, citing a case from 2016 in which a woman from El Salvador was a victim of severely violent domestic abuse. Sessions' comments that the asylum process is not a "general hardship" statute drew fire from civil rights and migrant justice advocates.

Understanding different types of asylum applications

When people living in Texas apply for asylum in the United States, there are two different types of asylum applications: affirmative and defensive applications. The decision as to which one to pursue depends on whether the immigrant making the application is subject to formal removal proceedings. There are similarities between the applications as well as differences; both provide a means for foreign nationals to escape persecution in the United States.

In order to qualify for asylum under either an affirmative or defensive application, the applicant must be a refugee, as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act, who would face persecution if they returned to their home country. The persecution must fall under at least one of five designated protected areas. Both applications are used when the asylum seeker is already in the United States. In order to make an affirmative application, a person must submit Form I-589 to USCIS within one year of the person's arrival in the country. After this, the asylum seeker will have a meeting with an asylum officer and a hearing before an immigration judge if their application is denied.

Requirements for naturalization

Permanent lawful residents in Texas who want to become naturalized U.S. citizens must meet strict requirements. However, the requirements may be waived in some cases, and others might meet exceptions to them.

Most lawful permanent residents must wait for a minimum of five years before they will become eligible to apply for naturalization. There is an exception for the spouses of U.S. citizens. They may be eligible to apply to become naturalized after they have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least three years while being married to the same U.S. citizen spouse. The U.S. citizen spouse must have been a citizen for the entire three-year period. The residence requirement may be completely waived for lawful permanent residents whose U.S. citizen spouses are employed abroad while working for the U.S. government, a recognized U.S. religious organization, an officially recognized U.S. research institute or other specified employers.

What to do when ICE is at the door

ICE has become a prominent institution within the last couple of years. Earlier this year, one ICE raid in northern Texas and Oklahoma resulted in the arrests of 86 people. While ICE has been effective at finding criminals, many people the organization targets are simply in the United States illegally. 

ICE has detained and deported numerous people over the years, including those who came over to the country when they were young. If you worry about ICE potentially knocking at your door, it is important to understand your rights. 

Applying for a fiancé visa? Beware of these challenges.

In 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received more than 55,000 applications for K-1 fiancé visas. Of these applications, more than 20,500 were refused. The K-1 visa rejection rate has been climbing in recent years—representing one of the highest refusal rates of any U.S. visa.

Government officials are becoming extremely wary that foreign individuals will use illegitimate marriage as a means of entering the country. For this reason, it’s particularly important to dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s when you submit your application—in order to create the strongest possible case for yourself. In this post, we provide a few key factors that immigration authorities will examine closely:

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