Austin Chronicle by Tony Cantu
Austin Chronicle by Tony Cantu
President Obama, as part of his Executive Action on immigration, has announced an expansion of the immigrants who can apply for a provisional waiver of the 3-10 year bar for unlawful presence.
Q - What is a provisional waiver?
A - Many undocumented immigrants who are beneficiaries of a family petition are required to leave the U.S. in order to apply for permanent residence. Once they leave the U.S., they are barred for 3-10 years because they have been unlawfully present in the U.S. They can apply for a waiver or "pardon" of their unlawful residence, but in the past were required to do so once they had left the U.S. and had their interview at a consulate. This resulted in prolonged family separation while waiting for waivers to be approved.
The provisional waiver program was established in 2013 to allow spouses and children under 21 of U.S. citizens to apply for a waiver while in the U.S. ("stateside"), and to spend less time separated from their family members in the U.S. in order to apply for permanent residence.
In his memorandum dated November 20, 2014, Secretary Jeh Johnson instructed DHS to amend the 2013 regulation to expand the provisional waiver program to others eligible for immigrant visas and a waiver: spouses and children of permanent residents, and children over 21 of U.S. citizens.
Q - Who can apply?
A - Undocumented immigrants who have (1) an approved immigrant petition; (2) an immigrant visa immediately available; (3) a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent who will experience "extreme hardship" if they are not allowed to remain in the U.S.
Secretary Johnson also instructed U.S.C.I.S. to clarify the factors that are considered in determining whether the "extreme hardship" standard has been met.
Q - When can I apply?
A - Spouses and minor children of U.S. Citizens can apply for a provisional waiver now.
Spouses and children of permanent residents and children over 21 of U.S. citizens must wait for the regulations to be revised by U.S.C.I.S. No deadline was given for the adoption of these new regulations.
NOTE: Parents are not included in the category of immigrants who can apply for a waiver of unlawful presence, and will not be included in the provisional waiver program.
Last night, President Obama announced that he is acting administratively to improve the immigration system. One of the changes will expand the number of people who can request deferred action.
Q - What is deferred action?
A - Permission to stay in the U.S. and obtain authorization to work legally. The grants of deferred action will be made for 3 years (an increase from the 2 years previously offered for DACA).
Q - Who can apply?
A - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will be revised to allow immigrants who came to the US prior to their 16th birthday and before 1/1/2010, to request DACA regardless of their age at the time that President Obama made the announcement. (Currently, those who were born before 6/15/1981 can not apply). Deferred Action for Parents (DAP) will allow immigrants who have U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident children to apply for deferred action.
Q - When can I apply?
A- Those newly eligible to apply for DACA will be able to apply in 90 days (Feb. 2015). Those eligible for DAP will be able to apply in 180 days (June 2015).
I will continue to monitor the developments on deferred action and let you know what I discover.
The Monitor Commentary by Sandra Sanchez
To understand the border, one must come here and realize the tactical and humanitarian considerations that agents and immigrants face.
FREE: DACA Immigration Clinic
September 23, 25, and 30, 2014 & October 2, 2014
Baylor Law School will offer free assistance to immigrants who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and for those eligible to renew DACA.
When? September 23, 25, and 30 & October 2, 2014 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
What are some of DACA’s benefits?
Who qualifies? Immigrants who:
When you contact us, our law students will help you determine if you qualify for DACA and our services. While our services are completely free, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services charges an application fee of $465. Translators will be available. Baylor Law School will not provide additional services after the scheduled clinics. We will help with DACA renewals.
For an appointment, call or email us at:
The Visa Bulletin for August 2014 was released yesterday. All of the family categories from Mexico EXCEPT 2A (spouses and children of LPRs) moved forward at least 2 weeks. The F2A category for Mexico remained at March 15, 2011.
NPR News by John Burnett (Austin)
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued the federal government Wednesday for its failure to provide legal representation to immigrant children in deportation proceedings.
The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight immigrants — ages 10 to 17 — who the ACLU says have not been able to find a lawyer. But the complaint applies to the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who have illegally crossed the Southwest border in recent years and have ended up in U.S. immigration court.
In this country, immigration courts, unlike criminal courts, do not provide lawyers for immigrants who are fighting deportation. This leads to remarkable scenes like the one that unfolded in Courtroom No. 4 in San Antonio last week.
Waco Tribune-Herald by Stephanie Butts
A nonprofit organization that provides legal counsel for asylum seekers says Waco’s Jack Harwell Detention Center should not be used to house immigration detainees prior to deportation.
Officials from American Gateways, formerly the Political Asylum Project of Austin, toured the Harwell facility in April.
They are urging U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to discontinue using it because detainees with no criminal records were being held in a jail, said Stephanie Taylor, an American Gateways attorney.
“It is clear that this is a penal institution,” Taylor said. “It houses individuals in criminal custody, and it’s very different from the other ICE facilities that our organization does work at.”
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The Harwell Detention Center on Highway 6, operated by LaSalle Corrections, held 274 immigration detainees Monday.
Loss of the $55.50 per detainee per day that ICE pays to house them would put a dent in operating revenue, officials say.
“Every little bit is important to us. . . . We definitely want to continue using ICE,” said Tim Kurpiewski, LaSalle’s director of finance. “It would definitely impact our businesses.”
LaSalle pays McLennan County about $4 million per year to cover the bond issue used to build the jail. LaSalle earns that by housing inmates from different governmental institutions, McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said.
The facility needs to hold about 600 inmates in order to cover expenses.
The McLennan County Jail sends its overflow inmates to the Harwell facility for $45.50 per day per inmate. Johnson County and the U.S. Marshals Service also send inmates to Harwell.
Taylor said Gateways simply is telling ICE to follow the guidelines its director, John Morton, set in 2009.
“The system will no longer rely primarily on excess capacity in penal institutions. . . . ICE will design facilities located and operated for immigration detention purposes,” the ICE website says. “These same reforms will bring improved medical care, custodial conditions, fiscal prudence and ICE oversight.”
ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said the organization is open to discussing any concerns with partnering agencies, but the Harwell facility has passed all its inspections.
A statement released by ICE said “independent detention inspections are conducted by private contractors with extensive corrections experience to ensure quality assurance over the review process, consistency in the application of detention standards and verification of corrective actions, if any.”
Taylor said the tour of Harwell revealed no outdoor recreation space, no contact visitation room and outdated law materials. “When you have materials that are that outdated, it really affects the ability of an individual to represent themselves before an immigration court,” she said.
Other concerns, Taylor said, were the lack of information given detainees about how long they would be held, their lack of access to an asylum officer and a confusing phone system.
“If an individual is afraid to return to their home country because they are going to face persecution, they have a right to see an asylum officer,” Taylor said. “Only one out of the 30 or so individuals we spoke to even knew this was a possibility.”
Felton said he doesn’t think ICE will remove any of its detainees from Harwell because it is a well-run and well-maintained facility.
“I would think it would be one of the last places they want to pull out of,” he said.
(AUSTIN, Texas) — Attorneys in Austin and Waco are sounding the alarm over the conditions at an immigrant detention center in Waco. They say the Jack Harwell Detention Center is not an appropriate place to house immigrants in detention and that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have not done enough to fix serious problems at the facility.
“Our interest in the Harwell Detention Center stems from a history of concerns about the facility.” said Denise Gilman, a University of Texas-Austin law professor. “There were strong incentives for the county and the private facility management company to seek contracts with ICE whether or not the facility was appropriate for immigration detention.”
In fact, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards found multiple non-compliance issues at the facility in 2012. The facility is run by a private prison company who expected that the federal government would supply enough immigrant detainees to ensure that the facility was profitable.
“If any facility is unable to comply with the standards, ICE should ensure that immigrants are not detained there.” said Barbara Hines, also a University of Texas law professor. “It does not appear that ICE officials adequately considered the situation at the facility before sending immigration detainees there.”
According to ICE’s own proclamations, a penal environment is not appropriate for immigrant detainees — the majority of whom have recently crossed the border and have no criminal history at all. “It is very clearly a penal institution,” added Hines.
A recent visit to the Harwell Detention Center found several serious problems including a lack of access to an adequate law library and that what little legal materials are available are out-dated. People detained also report a lack of access to telephones to call legal service providers and inadequate visitation procedure for non-legal visits.
Under the National Detention standards, a facility holding immigration detainees "shall permit detainees access to alaw library, and provide legal materials, facilities, equipment and document copying privileges."
"None of the detainees whom we interviewed during our visit to the Harwell Detention Center knew that the legallibrary existed," said Susan Nelson, an immigration attorney in Waco, Texas. "Access to legal information is particularly crucial for people in immigration detention."
A lack of clean uniforms and little recreation options and time outdoors were also reported.
A troubling compliance inspection report, issued by the Office of Detention Oversight at the end of 2012, indicated that ICE management had not visited the facility in a year and that ICE did not keep proper records regarding communications with detainees housed there.
“Given the seriousness of the problems with the Harwell Detention Center, we have asked ICE to discontinue placement of immigration detainees at the facility,” said Stephanie Taylor, a staff attorney at American Gateways. “However, ICE has offered no response to our overarching concern that the facility is not appropriate for the detention of civil immigration detainees who do not present any security threat.”