Just The Facts of The U.S. Travel Ban

Confusion has been swirling in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s immigration orders. To clear up some of that confusion, here are the basic facts behind the travel ban and what has happen since it was signed into effect.

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  • On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen to the United States for 90 days.
  • The ban also blocked refugees from entering the U.S. for four months.
  • The order demands a review of the Visa Interview Waiver Program, which lets traveling citizens from 38 foreign countries renew their travel authorization without participating in in-person interviews.
  • Since September 11, 2001, no one from the seven targeted countries has carried out a terrorist attack against the United States. However, there are three non-lethal incidences in which perpetrators are connected with Somalia and Iran.
  • Immigrants from the seven countries listed in Trump’s ban were also given travel restrictions by a law signed into effect by the Obama administration in December of 2015.
  • Immediately after the order was signed into effect, mass protests erupted at airports across the United States. Lawyers stepped in to do pro bono work for travelers impacted by the new ban.
  • On January 28, 2017, federal New York Judge Ann M. Donnelly blocked part of the order. The following day, a Massachusetts judge issued a temporary restraining order against the executive order. That same day, Trump attempted to defend his order.
  • On January 30, 2017, the State of Washington filed a complaint against Trump, the Department of Homeland Security and its secretary John F. Kelly, and Acting Secretary of State Tom Shannon. The State asked for relief from parts of Sections 3 and 5 of Trump’s executive order.
  • On the same day, Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by Trump for refusing to defend the executive order.
  • In early February of 2017, federal district judge James L. Robart ruled in favor of the State of Washington and blocked some restrictions set forth by the executive order, allowing thousands of immigrants to enter the United States.
  • A week after Trump’s travel ban was partially blocked, a three-judge federal appeals panel unanimously turned down the bid to reinstate Trump’s executive order, citing that the ban would not improve national security and that there is no evidence to suggest anyone from the seven blacklisted countries had committed acts of terrorism in the United States.
  • On February 21, 2017, news broke that President Trump once again plans to unveil a revised version of his executive order to ban immigrants and refugees from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. This was confirmed by Secretary Kelly, who claimed that the new order will be a more streamlined edition of its predecessor.
  • Kelly stated that the new executive order will not restrict those with Green Cards or visas from re-entering the United States. It also will not impact foreign travelers coming to the United States at the time the order is enacted. Instead, there will be a brief phase-in period for those individuals coming into the U.S.
  • It is currently unclear as to whether the revised executive order will actually be a ban on Muslims. Trump has previously claimed that preference will be given to Christians fleeing religious persecution.

An Overview Of The History Behind Birthright Citizenship

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One of the biggest political issues that is circulating in the news lately is birthright citizenship. With all of the controversy going on, it can be hard to keep track of the exact details of the laws  in question.

 

Birthright citizenship is the citizenship that a person is granted based on the location and other circumstances of his or her birth. Any person born in the territory of the U.S. is granted citizenship. This right is called “jus soli.” U.S. citizenship is also granted to a child born overseas to U.S. citizen. This social policy is called “jus sanguinis.”

 

A person’s citizenship is governed by federal law, which is a large part why the issue has caused national disputes throughout history. The first time that a Supreme Court focused on the issue of citizenship was during the Dred Scott case. In 1857, the ruling that declared that black people were not U.S. citizens, even if they were the children of freed slaves. In 1868, this was changed and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The first sentence states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” The ruling in the Dred Scott case was overturned and black Americans were legally U.S. citizens.

 

But there were still a number of unanswered questions. The 14th Amendment contained the clause “subject to the jurisdiction thereof”, which was ambiguous. People were unsure whether the children born to Chinese immigrants were conferred birthright citizenship, since they were once under law not permitted to become naturalized citizens. There was also confusion as to whether the law applied to Native Americans born on sovereign reservations.

 

The questions were settled in the 1898 Supreme Court Case United States v. Wong Kim Ark. The court decided that the concept of jus soli should be applied to the 14th Amendment with a few exceptions. Children born to diplomats or hostile occupying forces, as well as those born on foreign ships, were not included in the 14th Amendment. Most legal scholars feel that these restrictions do not exclude children of undocumented immigrants from gaining automatic citizenship, and current jurisprudence follows suit, giving citizenship to U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants.

 

When it came to Native Americans, the court ruled that the Amendment did not give birthright to those born on reservations because they aren’t subject U.S. jurisdiction. However, this changed years later. The Nationality Act of 1940 stated that all Native Americans born in the US are citizens.

 

The U.S. is different from the rest of the world. The majority of other countries provide people with citizenship based on jus sanguinis, which follows the mentality that people are bonded together by ancestry, according to sociologist John Skrentny. Skrentny states that the U.S. follows the idea that you are bonded by your current location and the ideas that you might share locally.  
One of the biggest conversations surrounding immigration is that of birthright citizenship. With everything happening in the U.S. currently, it’s important that we keep in mind the history of birthright citizenship.

Immigration Reform and Hillary

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The Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump election is at its peak. The candidates have been in hot water every now and then over controversial statements regarding their opinions. However, one of their most important stances is the one on immigration. With the final showdown not too far off, it is more important than ever to know who stands for what and how much the two candidates differ on one of the most serious issues.

While Donald Trump has called for a ban on immigrants who seek asylum from terrorism in their homelands, Hillary’s plan differs substantially.

Trump’s plans of building a wall along the Mexican border and calling Mexicans rapists and murderers has been a central point of his campaign. Trump says U.S. immigration rules should focus entirely on American citizens only. Keeping their safety as the only priority. His three core ideas for the immigration reform are:

  1. Building a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border.
  2. Increasing enforcement of immigration laws.
  3. Focusing on American workers.

Clinton, on the other hand, has presented herself as an advocate for comprehensive immigration legislation. She stresses the importance and pledge to keep immigrant families together. One of her most important initiations includes creating opportunities for undocumented laborers a chance to “come out of the shadows”.

On the matter of immigration legislation, Hillary Clinton supports new immigration legislation that would create the opportunities and address the hindrances such as the time restrictions on undocumented immigrants. Clinton argues that this policy weighs heavy on the families in which members having dissimilar legal status are told to leave the United States before returning legally.

Clinton encourages immigrants to become naturalized citizens by making it easier for people to become U.S. nationals. She aims to do this by increasing fee waivers for the estimated 9 million people eligible for citizenship, as there are many people are only being held back due to lack of funds. Her plan further includes the growth of education’s outreach. This will help potential citizens in communication while their process takes place. She vows to reduce education, language, and economic barriers. And one of the basic steps for this would be to teach immigrants English.

Clinton has kept the same stance on immigration for quite a while now. On speaking about the immigrant situation in 2014 she said, “As a senator, I was proud to sponsor the national DREAM Act and to vote for it. I am a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and I believe that we have to fix our broken immigration system. We have to keep families together. We have to treat everyone with dignity and compassion, uphold the rule of law, and respect our heritage as a nation of immigrants striving to build a better life”.

Her position on immigration policies and the future of immigrants living in the United States represents a far better image of the future of millions than that of Donald Trump. But with Clinton’s past of being involved in donation conspiracies, voters face a serious doubt over what her intentions may be. What could be the outcome now?

 

How to Find Your Immigration Lawyer

Finding a lawyer at the best of times is difficult, but when immigration and citizenship is involved it can seem so much harder. Here are some tips to get you started:

Knowledgeable:

This is key when you are in the market for any lawyer, obviously, but it is so important it bears listing first and foremost. Law practice is complex, and laws are added, amended, changed, or made obsolete every day. It is important that they not just understand the law as they knew it when they passed the bar, but the law as it stands today, with all the changes that have taken place. Also key is making sure that your lawyers is trained in the specific laws of your state, as many laws vary based on location. If your lawyer doesn’t have the right information he or she can’t provide you with the best legal representation.

 

Resources:

Your State Bar, National Immigration Law Center, American Immigration Lawyers Association are all good places to start. Your local state bar will be able to connect you with licensed lawyers in good standing, and point you in the direction of specialty practice if you have specific needs. NILC is a non-profit organization devoted to assisting low-income individuals with immigration services they can afford. AILA is a national association of attorneys and legal experts who can teach and/or practice immigration law, so this is a good place to begin a search and feel good that you are finding someone well-versed in immigration policy. An AILA membership is not required to practice immigration law, so membership can show that they have dedicated themselves specifically to the practice.

 

References:

Ask friends, coworkers, family, or anyone else you know if they know an immigration lawyer. Even if they haven’t been through immigration processes themselves, they may know someone who has, or have heard of a success story in your area. People love to talk about good experiences, and love to talk about bad ones even more. Word of mouth, online reviews, and references from clients of the lawyers are all helpful when beginning your search. When you interview your lawyer, make sure to ask them for references from former clients, a reputable lawyer should be happy to introduce you.

 

Speaks Your Language:

Literally and figuratively. It is important that you fully understand your lawyer and that they understand you. Multi-lingual immigration lawyers exist is most places, and it is important to make sure that they are fluent in the language you speak natively. It is also important that you speak with them in person, trust them, and feel comfortable putting your future into their hands, so make sure that your personality and goals as client and lawyer are a good match. Honesty is key, and so is communication. Make sure that they are willing to educate you on your case so that you full understand their responsibilities, and your own.

 

Costs:

Make sure that you understand the fees and costs. Some attorneys charge hourly fees while working on your case. Some charge a fee per task, set in advance. Some charge one single fee for the entire case, beginning-to-end. Make sure that you understand the pricing of your lawyer, and that you compare prices of more than one attorney to ensure you get one that fits your budget.

Senate Democrats Block Bills To Take Funds Away From “Sanctuary Cities”

city-restaurant-lunch-outsideOn Wednesday July 6th, Senate Democrats blocked a bill that would have taken away federal grant money from “sanctuary cities.” These cities protect undocumented immigrants from being sent to federal agents for deportation. These cities will continue to operate in this way thanks to the Democratic block.

 

Democrats also blocked an immigration-related bill by Senator Ted Cruz. The bill would have increased prison sentences for any undocumented immigrants who repeatedly enter the US without legal permission to do so. The law was dubbed “Kate’s Law.” Senators voted 55 to 42 to advance that bill, but since 60 votes were needed to advance it, the bill was blocked.

 

As the Senators were voting, the White House issued veto threats. Both of these bills were very similar to legislation that Democrats blocked last year. Some Democrats claimed that Republicans were just bringing these issues up again to give Republican Senator Pat Toomey an issue to fight for in this challenging re-election fight against Katie McGinty, the Democratic challenger.

 

Republicans said they were trying to save lives with “Kate’s Law.” In fact, the law was named after Kate Steinle, who was killed by an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. The case led to national outrage as it was discovered that the man charged with Steinle’s murder had been deported five times for a number of felonies and was released from a San Francisco County Jail without being turned over to federal immigration authorities.

 

San Francisco has policies that prohibit keep undocumented immigrants in custody for federal agents unless the agents in question have a court order or warrant. In cities with large immigrant popular, police say that residents will not trust them enough to report crimes if police are seen as immigration agents who will help in their deportation.

 

Under Toomey’s bill, local governments with sanctuary policies would not have received community development block grants. These grants go toward providing housing to low-income and moderate-income families, creating jobs, and helping communities recover from natural disasters.

 

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said that he felt that Senator Toomey was intentionally using this bill as something to to talk about in his re-election campaign, and maybe even in a speech as the Republican National Convention. Harry Reid, a Democratic Senator Minority Leader, said Republicans’ desire to pass this legislation was an attempt to follow Donald trump’s rhetoric in criminalizing immigrants and Latino families.

 

Reid felt that Toomey’s bill would take away from the local law enforcement’s ability to police their own communities and maintain public safety. It would also deny millions of dollars in community and economic development funding to any areas that refuse to target immigrant families.

 

For an undocumented immigrant who re-entered the U.S. after being deported or denied admission, Kate’s Law would have increased the maximum prison term from two years to five years. It would have also created a maximum 10-year term in prison for any immigrant who re-entered the U.S. illegally after having been removed three or more times previously.

 

Reid also felt that the mandatory-minimum sentences enacted by the bill would cost billions of new dollars, take funding from state and local law enforcement, and increase the prison population. He also felt that it would take away from bipartisan efforts to change the nation’s criminal justice system for the better.

 

Democrats have blocked the bills, thus allowing sanctuary cities to continue getting funding and preventing the prison population from skyrocketing.

 

Immigration Raids to Continue in US

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In a political climate rife with contentious and emotional immigration debate, with coverage from everyone from NPR, to USA Today, to BuzzFeed covering the presidential election and the centralized issue of immigrating, U.S. Immigration has announced earlier this month that officials plan sweeping raids throughout May and June in an effort to deport immigrant families who have entered the country illegally.

 

According to statements from the Homeland Department the raids are part of a plan implemented in January of removals and targeting “convicted criminals and others who constitute threats to public safety and national security, as well as recent border crossers.” The department described the recent border crossers as those who were caught at the border after Jan. 1, 2014, “have been ordered removed by an immigration court, and have no pending appeal or pending claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief” under U.S. laws.

 

They have said that in all but emergency cases the Department of Homeland Security would avoid arresting migrants at “sensitive locations,” such as schools, hospitals, and places of worship. They are removing families that the administration says did not show up for their court appearances or those who have refused to comply with orders to leave the country. They also said that the raids are in response to a surge of undocumented immigrants from Central America. From CBS News: “Apprehensions at the southwest border are up, with 32,117 family units (a child with an adult family member) for fiscal 2016 through March, compared to 13,913 for the same time period in 2015. Similarly, in fiscal 2016 through March, 27,754 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the border, compared with 15,616 last year in the same period.”

 

However, all of this is ignoring the fact that the focus here is undocumented mothers and children. The Department of Homeland Security is is making targets out of women and children who should be protected rather than deported. These mothers and children from Central America are not coming here to work, they are coming here to flee the brutal and violent situation in their home countries. Instead of seeing these Central American immigrants as refugees or asylum seekers, we are currently treating them as undocumented workers smuggling themselves over the border. In fact, there are more and more cases of women walking across the border openly and appealing a case to stay to the Border Patrol agents.
From CNN: “Defending the raids, on Friday White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “If this serves to discourage people from considering to make this journey, that would be a good thing.” Still, nothing can change people’s minds when they are literally fleeing for their lives. The women and children targeted by the Obama administration are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, three countries that regularly rank among the world’s most dangerous nations. In these countries, forced gang conscription, sexual violence and homicides are a fact of daily life; one El Salvadoran dies every hour due to violence.”

Federal Authorities Make a Fake College To Catch Visa Scam

visa-applicationA fake university was recently created order to catch people suspected of running a visa scam. The university was called the University of Northern New Jersey, and while it was not real, it had a very convincing website. It claimed to offer “exceptional” education for students from other countries wishing to study in the U.S.

The federal authorities were behind this project, creating the phony university’s website in order to arrest 21 people on charges of conspiring to assist over 1,000 foreign people in fraudulently keeping or obtaining student or work visas. There is, however, one unexpected twist. The defendants who were arrested knew that the school was phony and so did the foreign people who allegedly pretended to be students at the university in order to remain in the U.S.

What they didn’t know was who was behind the fake school. This university was set up by undercover agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Most of the foreign “students” who benefitted from the visa scam were already in the U.S. on student visas. They have been identified and while they will not be prosecuted, they could face deportation.

The 21 people arrested were considered recruiters, employers, and brokers. These 21 people were charged with “conspiracy to commit visa fraud and to harbor aliens for profit”. The latter of the two charges carries up to 10 years in prison. Most of these defendants are in the U.S. legally, residing in New York, New Jersey and California. One lives in Georgia and another lives in Illinois.

The University of Northern New Jersey’s website was very elaborate, with appealing photos, a message from the “president”, and links to academic programs. The website stated that the “president” was a man named Dr. Steven Brunetti, Ph. D. The site even had a school seal which appeared to have been based on Princeton University’s seal, but the fake institution’s colors were green and bluish-purple instead of Princeton’s orange and black. The university even listed an address. This address was that of a real building about 15 miles outside of New York City in Cranford. The University’s site was taken down on the afternoon of Tuesday April 5, 2016.

You may be wondering how exactly the undercover agents caught the middlemen that are currently under arrest. The 21 people who are now arrested paid the undercover agents who were running the school to create paperwork that made it appear as if the foreign people were enrolled at the University of Northern New Jersey. This way, the students would be able to keep their visa status without going to class. Overall, the middlemen paid the undercover agents thousands of dollars.

This is not the only example of a fake school being created for visa-related purposes. Immigration officials have looked into hundreds of possibly fake schools in recent years. Some of these investigations have already led to charges. Officials at one school in Georgia and two schools in California have received prison sentences due to these investigations. One of these officials even received 16 years in prison for visa fraud in addition to other charges. This case differs from the other cases because the federal authorities created their own phony institution, but it reveals a phenomenon that is occurring throughout the country.

Obama Fights For Immigration Reform

Despite the fact that our country was founded by immigrants, America has always had a complex and tumultuous relationship with its newcomers. Yes, Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus,” and its famous promise to take in the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” may be engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, but the truth is, over the past few hundred years, we’ve consistently taken measures to ensure that we are doing the exact opposite. These measures have made it very difficult for people who were not born in the USA to become naturalized citizens. From the Act of 1875, which banned convicts and prostitutes from entering the country, to a multitude of federal laws that have prevented various races and nationalities from obtaining American citizenship over the past few hundred years, the messaging of America’s personal brand has always been directly at odds with the actions of our federal government when it has come to taking in people from other countries who want to become naturalized Americans.

Unfortunately, we are still experiencing this phenomenon today. Even though President Obama unveiled his proposal for immigration reform – a proposal that sought to protect the rights and interests of the over 5 million law-abiding immigrants who reside in the US – 14 months ago, we are still awaiting the Supreme Court’s verdict on whether or not it will be put into practice. Thankfully, it was announced this week that the Supreme Court is finally ready to discuss President Obama’s plans for reform, and that the future of his proposal will be decided upon this term. The anticipated timeline of this decision is that it will be reached by summer of 2016, and, if the Court decides to move forward with Obama’s policy, then it will be implemented before he leaves office next year.

One component of the proposal, Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), would allow included residents – most commonly the parents of naturalized citizens who do not have American citizenship themselves – to apply for, and receive, “temporary residency,” which would come with the ability to apply for work authorization and some benefits. The other component would be an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which protects children and teenagers who were born outside of America but raised within its limits.

Since the President’s initial announcement, his proposal has been widely challenged by House Republicans and vocal opponents, who believe that with this suggestion for reform, President Obama has behaved unconstitutionally and with blatant disregard for the governmental checks and balances meant to limit a sitting President’s regulatory power. Still,  the Supreme Court’s announcement about bringing this immigration reform proposal to the floor and giving it the due diligence it should receive is good news for the millions of hardworking, honest residents of the US who contribute to America’s economy and well-being but are not being adequately recognized or compensated for their contributions today.

Texas Denying Birth Certificates to U.S. Born Children

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Based on a federal judge’s ruling earlier this month, Texas can continue denying undocumented immigrants the ability to obtain birth certificates for their children born in the United States. There is no immediate relief while the legal issue is sorted out. In a complex case, the District Judge behind this current decision has gone on to explain the tough predicament he found himself in.

The US District Judge Robert Pitman did not give a preliminary injunction for the civil rights lawsuit which was filed back in May against the state of Texas. The suit began when the state decided to not adhere with the 14th Amendment which grants citizenship to anyone who is born on U.S soil irrespective of their parentage.

Citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants was raised as an issue during the primary debates and primary campaigns in November 2016, where the Republican candidate Donald Trump questioned how citizenship can be automatically granted and Jeb Bush was criticized heavily on his comments about the matter.

Two non-profit organizations, the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. filed a lawsuit on behalf of the 6 children & their parents who were immigrants. They were denied birth certificates because the parents did not have what the state considered proper identification. In some cases, parents attempted to present an official ID card, a matricula, which is issued through Mexican consulates as well as Mexican passport. But the lack of a U.S. visa makes it so that the state refuses to accept those forms of ID.

The groups which filed the lawsuit argued that the entitlement for birth certificates was one of the constitutional rights, which was being violated in Texas. In this case, Judge Pitman had to weigh whether or not to force the state to accept those forms of identification.

While the legal procedure is taking its course in the court, the group had asked the judge to give a preliminary injunction that will make the state take two forms of identification that the mother can easily provide to issue birth certificate to her children.

Judge Pitman acknowledged that the evidence that has been raised points to extremely grave concerns on how children who were born in the United States to immigrant parents are treated. But he also said that a preliminary injunction is a very extreme relief and he could not issue it without further exploring the case. Furthermore, the Judge has upheld that the State does have a right to ensure that the forms of identification that it accepts are reliable and valid.