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Ignoring Alternatives & Increasing Detention of Families

Although the number of families being detained on the U.S.-Mexico border has dropped, the government is moving forward with plans to increase its capacity to detain families, with plans to open a new facility to house 2,400 women and children in Dilley, Texas, next month. Many of the women and children who would be housed in this facility are fleeing domestic abuse or gang violence. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement has the option of releasing individuals on bond or providing an ankle monitor, detention is clearly the preferred solution. Detention is not only an expense that falls on the shoulders of tax-payers; it also exposes detainees to the risk of sexual abuse. In fact, a complaint from earlier this month alleges recent sexual abuse in the Karnes City, Texas, facility, and other centers were previously closed after numerous allegations of abuse. Meanwhile, an alternative program from 2004 known as ISAP (Intensive Supervision Appearance Program) has proven to be widely successful, with 93% of participants showing up to their scheduled hearings on their own accord.

Bond determinations are made based on an assessment of an immigrant’s potential danger to the community and the risk that they will not attend their removal proceedings, but instead going into hiding. In many of these cases, women and children have come to this country seeking protection and have turned themselves in at the border. They have very few resources. The chance that they will post a bond and not attend future court hearings is highly unlikely. A denial of bond, or a very high bond, should be reserved for individuals with a criminal history who have already proven that they pose a danger to society, or that they are likely to not show up for a scheduled hearing.

Expense and risk are not the only issues that cause concern to many; detention in these remote facilities means less access to paid or pro bono legal services. Although detainees at the Artesia center are provided a list of pro bono services, the services listed are hours away and the detainees often have no means of contacting them. If they elect to hire private counsel, they will have to look elsewhere as well, as the nearest immigration attorney is approximately an hour away from the facility. Volunteer attorneys who have traveled to Artesia to offer pro bono services note that there is not even a business center in the town of Artesia where an attorney can make photocopies or send faxes.

In response to the proposed development of the Dilley facility, several prominent Democratic senators recently wrote a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security. In that letter, found at http://www.leahy.senate.gov/download/101614-to-johnson-re-dilley-detention-center, the senators wrote:

“The administration’s practice of opposing bond in all of these cases, even those cases in which credible fear has been established and where there is no evidence of danger to the community or risk of flight, furthers the injustice for those families detained and unnecessarily increases the demand for bed space. Concerns over flight risk can be ameliorated through Alternatives to Detention (ATD), which help ensure the appearance of asylum seekers in immigration proceedings and are more cost effective.”

From the outside, it certainly seems that inexpensive and humane alternatives are low on the administration’s priority list, and one can’t help but wonder why – or wonder what priorities are more important. Several Democratic senators, at least, are left wondering.

Immigrant Flood Victims Should Seek Assistance

Were you affected by the recent floods in Colorado? Even undocumented persons are eligible for federal and local assistance.

If your home and belongings were damaged or destroyed, you are eligible for assistance from the federal government through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Although people without immigration status do not qualify for cash assistance from FEMA, they can receive benefits in many other forms. FEMA is encouraging all flood victims, regardless of status, to register for assistance. If one member of the household is a citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR), the entire household may qualify for assistance from FEMA, since only one member of the household must be eligible for assistance. An attorney can assist you in determining if you qualify for FEMA assistance. To apply for more information on FEMA’s program, go to: http://www.disasterassistance.gov/.

Other benefits available to undocumented persons include crisis counseling, disaster legal services, transportation, emergency medical care, food, water and other emergency supplies. Many large charities, including the Red Cross and the Salvation Army will also assist any victim of the floods without revealing their immigration status. You can receive medical assistance, food and supplies from these and other organizations.

If you are an immigrant and flood victim in need of legal services, free legal assistance is available through Colorado Flood Legal Relief.  Aretz & Chisholm Immigration has offered their legal services through this non-profit effort. For assistance, you may contact the hotline at (855) 424-5347 or request help online:: http://colofloodlegalrelief.org/contact/.

For more information on the situation of immigrants affected by recent flooding, see http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_24126943/flooding-brings-fear-and-devastation-colorado-immigrants.

TPS Re-Registration Periods Closing Soon

Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) is currently available to nationals of the following designated countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria.  TPS has been extended for Syria and El Salvador, and the re-registration periods are closing soon. Re-registration for El Salvador ends July 29, 2013, and TPS protection has been extended through March 9, 2015. Re-registration for Syria ends August 16, 2013, and TPS protection has been extended through March 31, 2015. Please keep in mind that continuous presence dates have changed, and the last day for initial registration for Syrian TPS is December 16, 2013.  Applications must be post-marked by that date.  For more information, visit http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/, and select “Temporary Protected Status” in the “Humanitarian” category.

Breaking News for DREAMers!

Immigration Denver News

Aretz & Heise Immigration, an office of Denver immigration lawyers, is pleased to provide young immigrants with the most up to date information available regarding President Obama’s new deferred action program for youth!

Just today, August 3, 2012, Immigration held a nation-wide teleconference for immigration lawyers and advocates, providing new information on this program for DREAMers, and Aretz & Heise Immigration was there to capture all the details.

First, the basics.  On June 15, 2012, President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security announced a new program for certain young people who were brought into the U.S. as children, known as DREAMers.  Individuals who qualify for this program will receive what is known as “deferred action.”  Deferred action means that, for two years, the DREAMer will not be placed in removal proceedings, and will be eligible for employment authorization.  At the end of two years, the individual will need to reapply to remain in deferred action status.

One of the important things to understand about this program, now known as “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” or “DACA,” is that it is not a law.  It is a program.  DACA does not provide DREAMers with lawful permanent residency, citizenship, or a path to lawful permanent residency or citizenship.  It does, however, provide recipients of the program with relief from risk of deportation, as well as work authorization, as long as the person is eligible, and has been approved under the program.

In order to qualify for DACA, you must demonstrate that you:

1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16thbirthday;
3. Resided in the U.S. continuously for the last five years, up to the present (except for     brief, casual trips abroad prior toAugust 15, 2012);
4. Are currently enrolled in school, have a high school diploma or GED, or are an honorably discharged veteran;
5. Have a clean criminal record (no felonies, serious misdemeanors, more than three  misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security); and
6. Are not in lawful immigration status.

Now, the big news.  Starting August 15, 2012, USCIS will begin accepting applications for DACA. 

Aretz & Heise Immigration is prepared to help you every step of the way.  We are now offering consultations to determine your eligibility for DACA.  Starting next week, we will be able to give you a DACA Package so that you can get started!

We expect Immigration to be flooded with many applicants.  We highly recommend that you contact us right away if you believe you are eligible for DACA, so that we can give you a consultation and get you started in the process!  Call Denver immigration attorneys at Aretz & Heise Immigration TODAY to schedule your initial consultation at 303-495-2013.

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