June 2009 Archives

As of June 1, 2009, drivers who cannot prove their lawful status in the United States will no longer be able to get a Maryland drivers license. Maryland had been one of just four states that granted driver's licenses to illegal immigrants (the others are Washington, New Mexico and Hawaii). It is no longer. Law makers made the change out of concern that the state would lose federal funding by not complying with the Federal Security Act, known as Real ID.

Law makers did reach a compromise which will benefit some illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants who already have a license may renew. The licenses will be marked "not acceptable for federal purposes", meaning they cannot be used to board airplanes. This compromise still leaves Maryland in the minority among states on this issue. Additionally, Maryland allows illegal immigrants with a tax id to apply for a "driving privilege card". This is not accepted federally.

This change will impact illegal immigrants charged criminally with driving without a license. Previously, many jurisdictions in Maryland were willing to dismiss the charge if a meeting was scheduled with MVA. Since no more meetings can be scheduled these cases will no longer end in a simple dismissal. An attorney should be consulted since jail time is now a consideration in these criminal cases.

Information on Release from Detention

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The detention process can often be the most confusing and troubling facet of our immigration system.  In many cases, aliens are taken into custody on immigration charges and have little knowledge of their rights or how they can secure their release from custody.  If you or a loved one find yourself in a situation where you are being detained on immigration charges, it is important to have a basic understanding of the immigration bond system.

DHS can detain an alien if they are a citizen of another country who does not have the right to be in the U.S.  Certain aliens are subject to mandatory detention and can't be released on bond.  Aliens in that group include those who were convicted of a removable offense and terrorism suspects among others.  Aliens that are eligible for release on bond are generally those who have overstayed visas, missed deadlines in filing applications or violated the terms of their visas.   

When an alien is taken into detention, it is required that he/she be given a document called a notice to appear (NTA) within 48 hours.  This document should provide the charges against the alien and the facts in support of those charges.  At some point soon after being taken into custody, a detention officer should be assigned to the alien.  The detention officer is an important person in this process, as he/she has the discretion to release the alien on their own recognizance without setting a bond amount.  Initially, there are two ways to secure the release of an alien.  The first way would be by persuading the dentention officer to release the alien, which would involve a demonstration that the alien is not a risk to society and that the alien is likely to appear at future hearings.  The second option would be to pay the initial bond amount, which also should be set some time shortly after detention.  The minimum amount that can be set is $1,500.   

If you are unable to secure the release of the alien through the detention officer, and unwilling to pay the initial bond amount, then a bond redetermination hearing can be requested.  The request, and documents in support of the request, should be sent to the immigration court with jurisdiction over the alien in detention.   At this hearing, evidence should be presented showing that the alien is not a threat to society, and is likely to appear at future immigration proceedings.  Examples of valuable types of evidence are letters from friends and relatives, proof that the alien has a history of appearing at prior immigration proceedings, demonstrations of community involvement and any documents that tend to show good character on the part of the alien. 

If you or a relative of yours has been detained and is eligible for release, please contact the law firm of Portner & Shure for more information. 

Immigration and Unemployment Rates continued

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Apparently, I wasn't the only one who took note of the recent study conducted by the Immigration Policy Center on the effect of immigration on unemployment rates.  I came across an article today in the Des Moines Register that had a similar take on the study as I did a few days earlier. 

The Des Moines Register's review of the IPC study makes one key point that is worthy of discussion.  When discussing the impact of this study on potential immigration reform, the article stated that any discussion on reform should be based on facts and not fears.  It seems to me that many who are focal on the political front regarding immigration reform are inclined to purvey a theme of fear of the unknown.  The simple, black and white view of immigration reform that is commonly disbursed is that foreigners come to the U.S. and take jobs and money out of the pockets of American citizens.  Reality, however, indicates that the answers on domestic unemployment and on the impact of immigration on the U.S. are much more complex in nature.  More than anything else, it is my hope that any action taken to reform the immigration system be based on fact and reality rather than by blanket assumptions that are widely unsubstantiated. 

For information on specific immigration law issues and on how to obtain immigration benefits, please consult our website.

Immigration and Unemployment Rates

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There is a common misconception in American society today that immigrants are stealing jobs from U.S. born workers.  These negative sentiments toward immigrants have only been heightened recently as the country has experienced an economic downturn and the steady rise of unemployment rates.  However, a new study has been published that examines the relationship between unemployment rates and immigration, and concludes that the two are virtually unrelated. 

The study examines several factors before making its findings.  The primary method used by the study is determining what the immigration levels are in areas of high unemployment, and what the unemployment rates are in areas with high levels of immigration.  Many would suspect that areas with high unemployment rates would be flooded with immigrants.  However, the study revealed that unemployment rates were virtually the same when comparing areas with high amounts of immigration to areas with low amounts of immigration.  Similarly, the study showed that areas that were experiencing high unemployment rates, namely rural and industrial urban communities, had low levels of immigrants within their population. 

I believe that a study like the one described above is very important.  Vocal opponents of immigration reform often cite a general fear that immigrants will come to the U.S. and steal jobs from American citizens.  However, the individuals making this argument often have little in the way of evidence to support claims that immigrants are putting American citizens out of work.  I am not surprised that when a study was actually conducted, the results revealed little to no connection between immigration and unemployment. 

For more information, I recommend reading the study that I provided a link to above.  For general immigration information, please visit our website

The U Visa: Legal Status for Victims of Violent Crimes

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Being the victim of a violent or sexual act can often be very traumatizing.  With the harmful effects that these crimes can have on their victims in mind, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) in the year 2000. 

The VTVPA is relevant to immigration law because within its contents, the U Visa was created.  The U Visa allows victims of certain crimes, mostly violent or sexual in nature, to secure legal status in the U.S.  New regulations clarifying the VTVPA have made it possible for U Visa holders to apply for a green card once their U Visa is granted.  Unlike most other types of visas, illegal entrants are also eligible to receive the benefits of a U Visa provided that they meet the necessary requirements.

There are four requirements that must be met in order for an individual to receive a U Visa, which are provided below: 

1.  The applicant must show that they have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of criminal activity;

2.  The applicant must possess knowledge concerning the criminal activity that they were the victim of;

3.  The applicant must have been helpful or is willing to be helpful to law enforcement officials in their investigation of the criminal activity;

4.  The criminal act committed against the applicant must have occurred within U.S. territory.

The two elements that must be clearly documented are suffering of physical/mental abuse and willingness to help law enforcement.  Physical/mental suffering is generally proven by submitting medical records to document injuries or mental health issues related to the violent or sexual act.  Helpfulness to law enforcement officials is proven by submitting police documentation of the victim's communication with law enforcement, and in some cases, affidavits submitted by the officer(s) assigned to work on the victim's case. 

An interim final rule, passed on December 8, 2008, has now made it possible for U Visa holders to apply for a green card solely on the basis of their U Visa.  Prior to the interim final rule's passage, Congress had demonstrated an intent to allow U Visa holders to apply for green cards.  However, because the Department of Homeland Security had not drafted specific regulations describing how a U Visa holder may apply for a green card, the intent of Congress to allow U Visa holders to apply for green cards had not been fulfilled.  The December 2008 interim final rule has provided that all U Visa holders that have resided continuously in the U.S. for 3 years prior to filing their I-485 adjustment application are eligible to receive a green card

For more information on securing a green card, or for general immigration information, please consult this website.  

 

 

 

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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