Immigration Bill Passes Senate Judiciary

On May 21, 2013, the Senate’s Immigration Bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Most bills die in committee so this is a significant step towards passing meaningful immigration reform.

Today, Senator Chuck Schumer (D- N.Y.) stated that the Bill will be passed by the Senate by July 4, 2013. Then it will move on to the House of Representatives. The Bill was authored by a bipartisan group, known as the Gang of 8, of 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans.

The trouble will come when the Bill hits the House of Representatives. Many believe that it won’t survive or will be changed dramatically from it’s current substance. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R- FL.) stated that the Bill will be stalled in the House. The House is planning on reviewing and writing their own immigration bill, piece by piece. This could hinder the passing of any immigration reform until the beginning of next year.  The Chair of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte (R-VA.) stated that it is better to look at the Senate’s Bill and review it  piece by piece, step by step and add the House’s own priorities.

Keep in mind that Democrats control the Senate and Republicans control the House of Representatives.

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Senate Immigration Bill and Path to Citizenship

A Group of 8 Senators, known as the “Gang of 8”, both Republican and Democrat, have devised a new immigration path to citizenship.

The three ways to get your green card are:

  1. Dreamer
  2. Standard Path
  3. Agricultural Worker

All paths require registration as a Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI)

Dreamer

Under this path to citizenship, the fastest track to citizenship is 5 years (5 yearsto get green card, then apply for citizenship). You must have been under the age of 16 when you came to the US and have completed high school or got your GED. Also, you must have completed 2 years of college or served in the US military for 4 years. You may also be required to pay back taxes if you worked at any time and did not pay taxes. 

Standard Path

Under this path, the fastest track to citizenship is 13 years. Your RPI status will last 6 years before you must reapply. To reapply for RPI status, you must not have been unemployed for more than 60 days or haven’t spent more than 180 days out of the country AND you aren’t likely to become a public charge, AND your income is higher than the federal poverty level for all six years. After 10 years, you can apply for your green card if you you met all the requirements listed and your income has been 125% of the poverty guideline for the last 6 years. After 3 years as a green card holder (Legal Permanent Resident), you can apply for Citizenship.

Agriculture Worker

This track is also known as the “Blue Card” path. Under this path, the fastest track to citizenship is 8 years. To qualify for this track, you must have worked 100 days between 2011 and 2012 as an agricultural worker. You will receive your Blue Card, then after 5 years, you can apply for your green card if you performed agricultural work for at least 150 days for 3 out of the last 5 years as a Blue Card holder. You must pay any back taxes if you worked and did not file taxes. Three years after you receive your green card, you can apply for Citizenship.

FOR ALL PATHS:

You  must first register as a Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI). Also you must meet the requirements below:

  • never been convicted of a felony
  • never been convicted of 3 or more misdemeanors
  • never been convicted of unlawful voting
  • never been convicted of an offense under foreign law
  • not be considered a potential terrorist by DHS
  • not arrived in the US in 2012 or 2013
  • not lived in another country in 2012 or 2013
  • paid all back taxes if worked in US and not paid taxes in US

Questions?

Contact Immigration Attorney Jennifer A. Gutierrez at (713) 974-1151 

Office/ Ofincina:

Jennifer A. Gutierrez

2909 Hillcroft, Suite 350

Houston, Texas 77057

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Temporary Protected Status for Nicaragua and Honduras

Department of Homeland Security USCIS has extended Temporary Protected Status  for Nicaragua and Honduras for 18 months from July 6, 2013 through January 5, 2015.

Immigrants that currently have TPS can re-register to extend their status. Also, employment authorization cards (EADs) are extended for another 6 months from July 5, 2013 through January 5, 2014,

Honduras:

“The extension allows currently eligible TPS beneficiaries to retain TPS through January 5, 2015. The Secretary has determined that an extension is warranted because the conditions in Honduras that prompted the TPS designation continue to be met. There continues to be a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in Honduras resulting from Hurricane Mitch, and Honduras remains unable, temporarily, to handle adequately the return of its nationals.”

Nicaragua:

“The extension allows currently eligible TPS beneficiaries to retain TPS through
January 5, 2015. The Secretary has determined that an extension is warranted because
the conditions in Nicaragua that prompted the TPS designation continue to be met. There continues to be a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in Nicaragua resulting from Hurricane Mitch, and Nicaragua remains unable, temporarily, to handle adequately the return of its nationals.”

Questions?: For further information on TPS, including guidance on the application process and additional information on eligibility, please visit the USCIS TPS Web page at
http://www.uscis.gov/tps.

Or contact immigration attorney Jennifer A. Gutierrez at (713) 974-1151 for a free consultation.

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Obama Immigration Plan

Yesterday President Obama spoke about his plan to fix the broken immigration system in the United States. His plan was similar to that of the Senate. Below are the highlights from President Obama’s plan:

· Continuing to Strengthen Border Security: Increase border security by increasing Border Patrol Agents (President Obama has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents since 2004) and enhancing the infrastructure and technology to prosecute criminals and catch and prosecute national security threats.

· Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers: Stop businesses from hiring undocumented workers and prosecute those that do. Create or enhance the current system to provide employers a reliable way to verify their employees work status in the United States.

· Earned Citizenship: Provide undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship and the encourage them to come out of the shadows, pay taxes and a penalty, and learn English before being granted citizenship. Criminal and national security background checks will also be required. Undocumented will still have to go to the “back of the line.” Allowed undocumented children who were brought here as children a  way to earn their citizenship faster if they join the military or pursue a higher education.

· Streamlining Legal Immigration: Simplify the immigration system. Encourage entrepreneurs and graduate students in science and math to come to America and stay.

 

It will be interesting to see if and how this plan changes the current immigration system. There are currently 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. As a practitioner of immigration law, Obama’s plan does not lay out the specifics of how the plans to allow undocumented immigrants a way to stay or to obtain citizenship. Currently, a person who is undocumented may joint the armed forces and at the end of boot camp, obtains their citizenship. This is nothing new. Let’s see if Obama stands true to his word and really reforms our broken immigration system.

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Senate Immigration Plan

January 28, 2013, the United States Senate proposed what they are calling a comprehensive immigration plan. The plan can be found here: http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/28/politics/immigration-plan-framework/index.html

The plan includes registration and work authorization for millions of undocumented immigrants, but only after border control and a crack down on overstayers is first addressed. Here are the highlights (excerpted from Immigration Impact)

  • Creating a pathway to U.S. citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States. Implementation of this provision is “contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays,” which leaves open the question of exactly how much enforcement will be deemed sufficient for a legalization program to begin. Nevertheless, unauthorized immigrants would first register with the federal government and receive “probationary legal status” if they pass a background check and pay a fine and back taxes. Once new enforcement measures are in place at the border and an entry-exit system has been created for the nation as a whole, immigrants with probationary status would be sent to the “back of the line” for a green card and, after that, U.S. citizenship.  Because current backlogs for immigrants applying for family and employment based visas can cause delays of twenty years or more, the proposal also acknowledges a need to reduce existing backlogs.  Backlog reduction and a more reasonable number of family and employment based visas will constitute an important, but as yet unknown part of the forthcoming legislation. Separate and less arduous pathways to citizenship would be created for unauthorized immigrants who came to this country as children (the DREAMers) and for unauthorized agricultural workers.
  • Reforming the legal immigration system and attracting the “best and brightest.” Channels for legal immigration to the United States would be revamped so that they are more responsive to labor demand, especially at the high-skilled end of the occupational spectrum. Green cards would be given to foreign students who earn a graduate degree in science, engineering, technology, or mathematics from a U.S. university. In addition, backlogs would be reduced for both family-based and employment-based immigration applications.
  • Strong employment verifications. A mandatory system of employment-eligibility verification that is capable of detecting identity fraud would be put in place to prevent future unauthorized immigrants from obtaining jobs in the United States.
  • Admitting new workers and protecting workers’ rights. U.S. employers would be allowed to hire an immigrant if an American worker cannot be found to fill a position, within the context of strong labor protections for all workers, both immigrant and native-born.
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President Obama to Outline Path to Citizenship

Obama to Announce Immigration Plan

January 29, 2013 – President Obama is set to announce an immigration plan today that will outline how many undocumented immigrants can seek citizenship. The path to citizenship is an important issue among both Democrats and Republicans as the President tries to bring both sides together to reach common ground regarding the issue of illegal immigration.

In June of 2012, the President used his executive order powers to grant deferred action for people who were brought over as children and who had little or no criminal record. Although this order did not give people any sort of status in the United States, it did allow people to apply for a work permit, which would have never been available to them in the current immigration system.

It will be interesting to see what President Obama’s plan includes. Under President Obama, there have been a record number of deportations – more than any other president. Only time will tell if that number continues to climb or if the Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will cooperate with the Obama Administration and focus on enforcement priorities, including criminal aliens.

Talk to an attorney to explore the opportunities that will soon be available for immigrants, both documented and undocumented alike.

Attorney Jennifer A. Gutierrez provides free consultations – call 713-974-1151 to speak with her.

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Voluntary Departure vs. Voluntary Return vs. Deportation

Many people believe that there is no difference between a voluntary departure, a voluntary return, and a deportation. When, in fact, there is a significant difference between each on of them and each has a different immigration consequence if and when  a person decides to seek admission to the United States.

Voluntary Departure : This type of departure can take place at the border, a port of entry, or anywhere in the United States, including immigration court or detention. It can be given by border patrol or by ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

  • If at the border, typically there is a short detention period, usually less than 6 hours, fingerprints and pictures are taken, and a paper is signed. After which the person is allowed to go back to their home country. This type of immigration procedure is common at the border between Mexico and the United States if you are a Mexican national. It is also common if the person is not a habitual immigration violator and does not have a criminal record.
  • This type of immigration procedure will not harm a person if they apply for a visa or a green card.

Voluntary Return : This type of departure only takes place at the border It can be given by border patrol.

  • At the border, there is a short detention, usually less than 30 minutes, fingerprints are taken but nothing is signed. Basically, border patrol turns the person back around and sends them back to their home country (typically Mexico) without gathering any data or very little data about the person.
  • This type of departure will not harm a person if they apply for a visa or a green card.

Deportation or Order of Removal: This type of departure takes place at the border, port of entry, or any immigration court in the nation.  It can be given by border patrol or ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

  • If at the Border or Port of Entry, a deportation is called a Expedited Removal. This type of order is allowed to be given to a person by border patrol within 90 miles of the border. A person will not be able to see a judge or contest an Order of Expedited Removal. It is up to border patrol alone whether or not to give someone an expedited removal order. A person’s fingerprints will be taken, notice will be given, and the person will sign something. Detention is usually more than 24 hours.
  • In  immigration proceedings, if the Judge determines that a person is not eligible for a certain type of relief or denies a person’s relief, an Order of Removal will be entered. If not detained, a person will receive a bag and baggage letter stating a place and time to report to in order to be deported.
  • This type of departure will harm someone if they apply for a visa or a green card. An expedited removal order bars a person from applying for admission into the United States for five (5) years. An order of removal bars a person from applying for admission for ten (10) years.
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